silly American

I'm a sucker for anything remotely American, especially patriotic songs. In 2004, our home office had the Imperials come for 4th of July, and when they sang Lee Greenwood's biggest hit, I cried the whole way through it. At our last baseball game before leaving the country, I cried during the national anthem. Actually, there's usually a 50% chance I'll cry during any rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, leaving the country or not. And when an American Olympiad wins a gold medal, that percentage jumps to about 90%. I'm an emotional cheesefest when it comes to America.

So I shouldn't have been surprised at my actions in the Dubai airport, but oh, I was. Before leaving South Asia, we had changed our local currency into US$. During our layover in Dubai on our way to Tanzania, I saw that they had a Starbucks. (that word is always followed by a choir of angels in my head) Not having a single Starbucks in our country, I of course had to get some, and realized to my dismay that we only had dollars, not dirhams. "No problem, we take US$," the cashier told me. I laid the $20 on the counter (they've changed since we've been gone!), and something came over me. I hadn't even looked at American money in a year, not to mention bought anything with it. So as I looked at Andrew Jackson, my eyes filled up with tears. I am not exaggerating, I started crying over a stinking piece of currency!

I think I've taken patriotism to a new level.


the ironies of monsoon

We have no water in our house pipes. Never mind that it rained for 3 days straight after we got back from vacation. Somehow, our house has the only drought in all of South Asia. The city hasn't pumped water in our tank for 3 days, with no explanation. I was only able to do 2 loads of laundry (and that's coming-back-from-vacation laundry) before we ran out.

So today, of all days, was the first day since probably mid-July that we've had a sunny day. I immediately thought, Finally! My clothes can dry on the line and not next to a heater. But of course, on our one day of sun, we have no water to wash clothes with. Ah, the irony.


the vacation of a lifetime

We're back! It was the trip of a lifetime, and I think we'll never have such a cool vacation again. I mean, Tanzania and Dubai! So here are some of our highlights, with pics, and of course words, because I'm a Babbling Brook (Dr. Chapman, anyone?:).

We arrived in Dar es Salaam on the east coast of Africa, ready to see our friends and explore! The very next day, they whisked us off to a secluded beach to join the retreat of some of their (and our) coworkers. It was kind of hard to swim with all the rocks, but who cared with such a beautiful view?

The next day, we drove 4 hours to Mikumi National Park for a safari! We stayed in these awesome mud-type huts, and rode around late afternoon to check out the wild animals. We saw zebras, hippos, impalas, baboons, a warthog, buffalo, a baby croc, and my favorite, the giraffes! The place we stayed included a delicious dinner (consisting of course of beef!) and after dinner, we played Hand and Foot until the electricity went out. But what was so cool was there was a feeding pond within viewing distance of the cafe where we played cards, and we could hear some animal dying, and then a lion roared! So even though we saw no lions, we did get to hear them! The next morning, before dawn, we went out on a prebreakfast safari, and saw animals as the sun rose over the plains.
Zanzibar After the safari, we went to Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania. We shopped in Stonetown, a really cool old town in Zanzibar. The streets were narrow, the alleys were full of shops selling all sorts of things, and the buildings were white with red-painted tin roofs. It was scenic to say the least. That night, they took us to a place to eat, which I'm not calling it a restaurant, because as Brad and Alison said, that would be using the term a bit loosely. In actuality, it was tables and tables of fishermen selling their days' wares. The swordfish, red snapper, baracuda, octopus, squid, lobster, and more, were precooked and on kebabs, and you just walked up to a table, told them what you wanted, and they grilled it for a few minutes. They placed the fish on paper plates and then we sat on a rickety table on the shore a few meters away. Definitely one of the coolest eating experiences of my life! Not to mention the most tasty fish I've ever had. The next day we went to the most beautiful beach I've ever seen. I've been to Hawaii, which is stunning, but overcrowded. Zanzibar is secluded, and just as beautiful. We also got to fly back to Dar es Salaam in a little 12 seater plane!
Dar es Salaam They also took us shopping! There are such cool markets in Africa, where you can find wood carvings, tinga tinga paintings, and more modern things as well. There are many more restaurants to choose from in Dar as well. I loved this city and country, because it had some modern conveniences but seemed untouched by the technicologically booming world around it. With the exception of their fancy cell phones, of course! The people were always smiling and the women still walked around with buckets and baskets on their heads. What a cool place!

Dubai is a booming city in the desert of the United Arab Emirates. Not that we've ever been to Vegas, but it reminded us of that desert city. There are 1.1 million people living in Dubai, and 80% of them are expats looking for a tax free, crime free modern city to live in. Not to mention that these people must be all millionaires, because that city is the richest I've ever been to, and everything costs an arm and a leg. Just check out all the Armani and Gucci and other haute couture shops in the malls! And speaking of the malls, they all seemed to have a theme. One we went to was done in different countries of the world, and done lavishly at that. Another one has a snow-skiing place inside of it, and if they didn't have an official theme, they still had an unofficial theme of We All Have Money. It was insane. We also got to swim in the Persian Gulf, eat a Middle Eastern feast, check out the gold souk, and the best part, go on a Desert Safari.
Desert Safari I was highly nervous of the desert safari, namely because of the dune bashing. The rest of it I was extremely excited about, but unfortunately, I had to endure the dune bashing first. What exactly is dune bashing? you may be thinking. Well I'll tell you. Husband and I picked up at our hotel in a Land Cruiser, complete with rollover bars, which he thought would reassure me, but all I could think of was, so there is a reason to have these? We drove about an hour out of Dubai to the desert, and they deflated our tires before we drove off the road into the dunes. There was a caravan of Land Cruisers, full of crazy people like ourselves, ready to subject themselves to this rollercoaster on sand. We flew over dunes, and slid down them at crazy speeds, bumping all the way. More than once found me yelling, "Omigoshomigoshomigosh" and "We're sideways! We're sideways!", and everytime we stopped to take a pic of the otherwise serene desert, I hoped we were done.
After the dune bashing, they drove us to a bedouin camp where we rode camels, went sand surfing, ate a bbq, and I got henna done. After the bbq, a belly dancer came out, and at one point, pulled husband up on the Persian-carpeted stage, and made him belly dance with her too! I was sad when it was time to leave.


ballet, anniversaries, and travel

A very quick post with a few things:

1. The ballet class has been approved! I'm so excited. However, the director warned me that the class may be very small since not many people here even know what ballet is, so I'm sending money that the right girls that the boss has prepared will come to class, and it will still be fun, even if it's small.

2. As of today, we've been in country for exactly one year! Wow, time has flown! And, we're celebrating by...leaving the country. It's time for a vacation! Although we live a life that to some may seem like it's vacation already, we still need a physical and mental break. We're flying out to Africa to go visit our good friends and coworkers tomorrow. That leads me to the third point...

3. Please send money for our safety. This isn't the best week to be flying, but we know all of life is in the boss's hands, and how could I get through life without that fact? Please ask that he'll keep us safe through our travels for the next 2 weeks.

See you (with pics!) in 2 weeks.


love and the unloveables

South Asia, like most of Asia, has a 'shame' culture. Just as powerful as a jail sentence for a crime is for the person to also be shamed in public for his felony. So, it appears also when someone does something stupid, it is not ignored, but pointed out. Case in point: About a week ago, I was walking up one of our many narrow streets. There were two teenage girls walking near me, and an army truck (huh?) coming up the road. Now in South Asia, the pedestrian does not have the rightaway, no matter how much they claim to value life here. This truck was taking up almost the whole road, and these two girls weren't exactly paying attention. Though I'm still not sure how they managed to drown out its incessant honking. The driver, as he passed one of the girls, yelled at her to move. Of course he was going too fast for his yells to make a difference, and one of the many tires on this monster ended up scraping her arm, giving her a nasty road rash, bruise, and possible strain. I immediately went over to the girls to see if they needed help as dozens of people stared at this girl. Then a man walked by, stuck his finger in her face, and although I didn't understand what he was saying, I just knew from his tone of voice he was lecturing her about "her" mistake. So, in a moment of pure, unadulterated un-love, I stared at the man and said, "I think she knows!" Oops.

Also, last week when I was walking in the rain, I stepped on a slippery part of a hill, and I not only slipped, but fell. Everything in my hands went flying and I was sprawled on the ground. I gotta say, not my most dignified moment. As I was picking myself off the ground and dusting the mud off my clothes, a man walked up to me and said, "Why were you walking there? You should not walk there." Hey thanks, buddy, but I think the kerplat on the ground helped me figure that out without your help. Luckily this time I didn't say what I was thinking. Next time, I'll have to work on not even thinking it!

Something I'm learning is what the boss said about love. It's easy to love the loveable, he said. But can you love the unloveable? Not that South Asians are unloveable, but there are times when any foreigner is living in a new culture, those little nuances, like shaming an already repentant person, can drive them nuts. On the flipside, think of the typical overly hospitable South Asian family moving to America, and none of the neighbors ask them to dinner or come over to visit. It's hard, no matter where you live. So I'm learning, one mistake at a time, how to love the (sometimes) unloveable.