Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Day 22 - Shopping Day

Today I went over to the Indian government shopping bazaar. It is a collaboration of Indian textiles, jewelry, furniture, etc. and is about three to four stories. It is located across the street from our hotel. I found some neat things while I was there.

Quite honestly, today was the first day that I ventured out of hotel compound area. I really didn't think I was up for more of what we saw on the way to Delhi. I kind of had to weave on and off the sidewalk, past street vendors to get to the end of the block to cross the street. Surprisingly, very few people tried to get my attention to hire a cab, give them money, or buy something like they were in Agra.

Tomorrow we leave for Nepal. I am really excited about this little excursion. I don't have any expectations for what Nepal will be like other than cold. I know we will be traveling very carefully as there is a travel warning for Nepal due to kidnappings and extortion. Let's hope the kidnappers and extortioners pass us over!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Day 21 - Not much to report

Today has been relatively uneventful, which is kind of nice. I've been thinking about the constant blare of car horns outside my window. There seems to be very little order to traffic, and most everyone who drives here is horn happy. It isn't in an ugly way, but rather just to say "Look out I'm behind you". No one seems to care about right of way, it is more like continuous merging and weaving through lanes.

Last night we ate at The Spice Route, which is located in our hotel. Apparently, it is world renowned and ranked in the top 10 restaurants in the world. It was really good, but not nearly as good as that skewered chicken I had in Dubai. I'll dream of that chicken for the rest of my life.
Just want to thank those of you who commented on yesterday's post. Your words were really encouraging. Believe it or not, reading the comments you leave is one of the things I look forward to every day. It's almost as good as having yous here with me!

On the subject of food, what one thing do you miss, get to eat so rarely, or is something that makes you weak in the knees just thinking about it? For me it would be nutella crepes. I think I might be like Esau and sell my birthright (not that I have one to sell) for one. When I get one it almost brings me to tears it tastes so good!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Day 20 - Reunited

I got my luggage back!!! What a relief! I knew it had to show up, but four days in the same clothes was kind of wearing on me. It looked as though someone had done some serious digging, but so far all is accounted for. I cannot tell you how good it was to put my own pjs on last night.

It was kind of a rough night last night after leaving Agra for Delhi. We traveled by train and the train was an hour late getting there. I can honestly say that we saw some of the saddest things while waiting for the train. While we waited we were constantly being asked for money. One heartbreaking thing we saw was a man with no legs scooting himself around on his bottom begging us for money. Another was a tiny woman curled up in a blanket, lying on the ground where stray dogs had used the bathroom. I didn't even know there was a person there for a long time, until I saw a dog walk by her.

The porters who helped us with our luggage were a sight to behold. They had these long pieces of cloth that they rolled up and put on their heads. Then they proceeded to put 60 lb pieces of luggage on their heads, one suitcase stacked on another. Next, they put duffle bags to carry on their shoulders. I was dumbfounded.

We loaded on the train once it came and moved on down the road. I have been drinking a lot of water lately because my throat has been really scratchy and I have been coughing. So needless to say, I had to use the bathroom. I made my way to the back of the car to the bathroom. Once I got in the bathroom and got situated water started dripping all over me from the ceiling and was running down the wall. I have no idea what it was or where it came from, but I got out quick and left with a sick feeling in my stomach.

As we got to Delhi and were making our way to the car the hotel sent for us, I saw the saddest thing I have ever witnessed. There were people all over the train track digging through the trash from the train, eating food and drinking the little water at the bottoms of water bottles that had been thrown out. The stray dogs were right in there with them. I cannot even begin to describe the magnitude of the poverty here. I have never witnessed anything so sad in my life. Everywhere we go we see how these destitute people live. I was not prepared for how bad it would be here. It is all very humbling.

I am having a hard time reckoning how we live in a time where we have instant access to nearly anything and there are still people in the world who are eating out of the trash left on the train tracks. How is it that there are some of us so blessed and yet so many so hopeless? I know there are no easy answers to these things, but it is really overwhelming to me right now. It doesn't seem right.

So lost luggage seems terribly insignificant.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Day 19 - The Taj Mahal

I can honestly say that I have never beheld such beauty crafted by the hands of man. The only other man made structure that has even come close to impressing me as much as the Taj Mahal is St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice.

So, I'll give you the abridged version of the tour as I remember it. The Taj Mahal was constructed in the 17th century, and is made entirely out of Makrana marble, which is native to India. It is apparently considered the best marble because water cannot penetrate it. It was built as a tribute by the Emperor Shan Jahan to his beloved wife, Empress Mumtaz Mahal. She was one of his three wives, and his favorite. The emperor was Muslim, and so the architecture is considered Indo-Islamic. It cost approximately $1m to build, which was extremely expensive in those days. Originally, only the empress was entombed there. However, the couple's third son killed all his older brothers and imprisoned his father in order to get his hands on his father's fortune. When the emperor died, he was entombed beside his wife. It took 20,000 laborers 22 years to construct, and the emperor lived to see it finished.

Everything about the Taj Mahal is perfectly symmetrical, except for the tombs of the emperor and empress. Since it was built for the empress, she is entombed in the very center, and after the emperor died he was laid to rest to the side of her.

The spire on the top was originally made of pure gold and stood 10m high. Now it is made out of brass. The tour guide told us the gardens were filled with brightly colored flowers, however when the British came in they replaced the gardens with more green foliage, that was easier to maintain. I can only imagine how beautiful those gardens were.

To the west of the Taj Mahal is a mosque, no longer in use. To the east, is an exact copy of the mosque, but it is not called a mosque it was just built to continue the symetry.

The outside of the structure is inlaid with lapis, malachite, onyx, and other such stones. Around the arches are verses from the Koran. Inside, there are ornate marble partitions, surrounding the tombs, all of which are very intricately inlaid with these stones. I cannot even describe to you just how intricate the inlay is. We could not take pictures of the inside. The outside design is a square, and the inside is octagonal.

After our tour, we went to a large store where they make marble inlaid tables and such. Only 300 families exsist in India who know how to do this work. It is passed from father to son, and even the women are not allowed to know how it is done because a daughter might tell her husband.

So now I will leave you with the pictures. Mind you I just have a little digital camera, and it was hazy, so the pictures do not even do it justice.

Main Gate to the Taj Mahal made out of native sandstone.

It is actually closer behind me than it looks. Please keep in mind that my luggage is still missing, so very little grooming was done before the tour.

India claims the seventh wonder of the world.

The mosque to the west.

These camel carts are everywhere in Agra.

Craftsman etching the design on marble. The brown on top of the marble is used to help the craftsman see what he is etching, and is later removed.

My favorite table at the store. It was magnificent! It reminds me of peacock feathers. Too bad it won't fit in the carry on bins on the plane, oh and I can't afford it unless I sell some vital organs.

Another inlaid table. Too bad you can't see the work up close, because I couldn't get zoomed in that much.

Just an update on my luggage. British Airways has said it has been delivered to the hotel where we will be tonight in Delhi. However, the hotel says it has not arrived, and the employees of British Airways in Delhi have decided to go on strike! So the luggage saga continues. And for those of you who got a good laugh out of the distress outfit, it belongs to the hotel and sadly I cannot bring it home. That doesn't really hurt my feelings because I sort of felt like a refugee wearing them, and they were not that comfortable. The pants were kind of like scrub pants, only the inseam came to my knees. Very awkward. I was glad to get my only set of clothes back from the laundry!!!!

Day 18 - Still no luggage!!!!

Ok, so my luggage has not shown up. I am trying to tell myself, that it will turn up, it has to! Meanwhile, I have made use of the distress kit. The distress kit included the outfit shown below, a toothbrush, and comb.

In the meantime, I went into town and got some essentials. I thought I could find some sort of shop that had all sorts of things, similar to Walgreens. Mind you I was not expecting Walgreens, but I thought there might be some sort of drugstore. The driver took me first to this roadside shop, if you will, that was like a very run down, dirty concession stand. The men behind it didn't understand me and motioned me away. The driver of the car who took me there said he thought I was looking for medicine, even though I had explained on the way that I was looking for some toiletries and a hair brush. So he takes me to another place, which is very crowded with people and stuff. I look around and find a brush, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and lotion. The man totaled up the items and it was 920 rupies (around $20). What I failed to mention is that all the bottles looked dirty and as if they had been dragged through the street. Mind you I know the hotel has shampoo and conditioner, but I have been using hotel stuff for a couple of weeks and my hair felt stick-like and dry. I was looking for something familiar that I know would help with the icky hair. Oh, while I was in the store, the electricity went off.

When I got home I washed off the bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and lotion. Then I took a long hot shower and put on my distressed outfit. I sent my only set of clothes to be cleaned, and ran into Melissa who told me to treat myself to something at the spa. Oh joy! I've booked a massage for this evening.

I know there are worse fates than loosing one's luggage, and it is sad how much I depend upon my worldly possessions. It has really thrown me off, not to have "my" stuff. I feel very immobilized. Thankfully the hotel staff have been super accomodating and are hunting down my luggage relentlessly! Our hotel is amazing, and having my own room has been nice. So really what do I have to complain about? It could be worse, it could have been my bag with all my electronics (computer, camera, iPod, etc). I think I would shrivel up and die!

View of the Taj Mahal from my window!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Day 16 and 17 - London to India

We flew out of London last night into Delhi. I slept pretty much the entire flight. When we arrived in Delhi, we went though customs and on to pick up our bags. Everyone else got their bags loaded, and we waited and waited and mine never came around. So I have the suitcase with all my teaching materials, but no clothes or toiletries.

After flying into Delhi, we drove 4 hours to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. I have never seen such poverty. The slums go on for miles connecting towns. I am not sure anything can prepare you for India. It is beautiful, but it is so sad to see how so many live here. I wasn't quite prepared for the amount of livestock freely roaming the streets either.

Today is India's Republic Day, so I can hear the festivities from my room. I have my own room for the next couple of days, and you can see the Taj Mahal from my window. It is beautiful. I just came from the concierge desk and they are sending me a "distress kit" since I have no luggage.

For now I'll leave you with a couple of pictures of Hannah!

Hannah and her super cool boyfriend, Nick

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Day 15 - Old Friends

I have to say that even though I haven't felt 100%, today has been the highlight of my trip. I got to spend some time with my friends Stuart Holgate, Hannah Whitcombe, and her boyfriend, Nick Hudson. We had a lot of fun wondering around Covent Garden catching up.

Hannah is well and it was so good to see her. Her boyfriend, Nick, is so cool. He is in the British Marines. It was fascinating to listen to his stories about his adventures with the Marines.

I am having some unfortunate trouble with my computer. The charger is hit and miss, so I am afraid that I may end up with a dead computer. Don't fail me now baby. So if I am not posting for a while, that would be why.

Also we are leaving for India and it will be a really long trip, so I won't post for a couple of days.

God Bless!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Day 14 - London

I want to be sure and keep up with my posts, but I think the next few days will be short. I am really busy here in London, taking the boys around to all the neat educational sites in London, and then meeting up with friends later in the afternoon and evening.

It is COLD here! I guess it is more of a shock to my system since just the other day I was on the beach! I still can't quite shake this cold that has taken hold of me. I have stocked up on nearly all forms of over the counter medication possible.

I love London! It is such a fun city. I don't normally like the bustle of the city, but there are a few exceptions including London. I love riding the tube and walking along the streets. Tonight my friend, Stuart, and I went to Soho for tea and dinner. Soho is a trendy part of London, famous for great coffee shops and restaurants. If you have been there, you know what I mean.

Earlier in the day, I took the boys on a tour of London and we had our own tour guide. Even though I have been in London several times previously, I learned a lot on this tour. Our guide really knew his stuff!

It is getting late, so I think I'll turn in.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Day 13 - Travel Day

Today is a travel day. We fly to London. So I'll be out of pocket until we get situated there. Skype should work better there as well!!! Say a prayer for our safety, and I'll update you when we are settled.

Day 12 - Abu Dhabi

I think today could be considered the most exciting on the trip so far. We took the helicopter from the top of the hotel to Abu Dhabi, another UAE city. We landed at the Emirates Palace, where we had a wonderful buffet lunch. Here is the direct link to see the palace It was a sight to behold.

Our pilot was, incidently, from Dublin. I enjoyed a good long chat with him. He said there was actually a large population of Irish in the UAE.

On our flight we flew over two out of three of the palm islands, and on the way back flew over the world islands. I've posted pictures below, but they just don't do justice to how magnificent they are. As we were flying I saw several flamingos and camels on the ground. The zoom on my camera was not powerful to get a good shot of them, and we were pretty high up at that point. We also saw many mansions and palaces on the way there.

So I'll just leave you with the meager pictures. Hope you enjoy!

Red carpet up to the helipad.

Trunk of Jumeria Palm Island

The darker part is man made canals for shipping.

Emirates Palace

Homes along the palm leaves of the Jumeria Palm Island. The cost roughly $1.5m each.

Abu Dhabi

World Islands

The only island in the world islands that is complete. I believe it is Greenland according to a hotel staff member.

Coming in for the landing!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Day 11 - Just a relaxing day at the beach!

This was the most beautiful day we have had so far here in Dubai. The wind was calm, the fog lifted, and it was not too hot. The boys and I spent most of the day at the resort water park and at the beach.

I logged on to to look at the weather in the South Plains. It doesn't seem like fun. I am sad I missed the snow, but can live without freezing rain! So I tried to soak up as much sun as I could for everyone.

There are a few pictures I thought some might enjoy seeing. I took some video of the hotel water fountain, but I can't quite get it loaded on my blog. If you know how I can do that, please let me know. It is quite impressive!

Stay warm and safe!

I am trying to better my photographic skills. I took this picture today because I wanted one of the hotel and water together.

The water was so crystal clear today.
The sunset over one of the Palm islands. I took this from my bedroom window. It was AMAZING in person!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Day 9 and 10 - More sickliness and hazy weather.

I kind of got behind on my blogging and am clumping two days together. I'm not in AIM anymore, so I can clump when I feel like it! I intended to get out yesterday after my workout, and go back to the shopping center where I offended everyone, however I began feeling ill again. Stuffy head, runny nose. So I tried my own home remedy, Zycam AND Benedryl. It seemed to do the trick.

Today I was going to attempt the shopping center, but it is a bit of a walk, and we are having some cool and windy weather. Not quite like the winter storms making their way into Texas now. So I decided to go to the pool side cafe and have a lite lunch. I did sit outside, but had to move in a little closer to the cafe in out of the wind.

I took my book with me. I am rereading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. He is a Brazilian author, and while I have not read anything else of his I liked, I can highly recommend this book. It is in my top five favorites. Many of you know Todd Patten. I worked with Todd at the Children's Home of Lubbock and he recommended the book to me. Glad I followed his recommendation.

The story takes place in Southern Spain/Northern Africa. It is about a young shepard who meets some mysterious people who tell him he needs to find his treasure at the pyramids. As he goes along on his journey he meets an alchemist who is instrumental in helping him live out his dreams.

I wanted to read it while I was in the middle east to get an authentic feel for the story. The book I have was Todd's (Todd if you want it back, I'll be glad to send it to you.) and before that it was Andrew Moore's. It is really neat because both of them have made notes in the margin, which help me to read it from more perspectives than just my own.

There are several lines in the book that are profound. I'd like to share one with you because the past couple of days have seemed sort of hum drum here with the fog and the sickliness, and it could have not been more appropriate for me to read.

". . . and when each day is the same as the next, it's because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their own lives every day that the sun rises."

I needed to be reminded of that. I should be thankful for every sunrise the Lord provides to me, and realize His blessings in each day!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Day 8 - Lazy, Hazy Day

Every morning the sky is foggy, so this morning I thought it would be the same thing. However, the fog loomed throughout the day. We had class, then went to the restaurant in the hotel by the pool. The view from the pool side cafe is of the world islands. Really all you can see from this angle is land and cranes (the kind you build things with, not the rare bird).

Actually there are cranes everywhere. I hear that 20% of cranes in the world are being used here in Dubai. I thought that was an amazing statistic. We have all pondered how the cranes make it to the tops of the extremely tall buildings, and just concluded that it had to be by helicopter.

There is a building being built downtown that will be the tallest building in the world. The taxi driver told me it was about 97 stories now, and wasn't even half finished. Maybe something was lost in the translation, but I have a really hard time believing that. It is a really narrow, round building. I don't understand building infrastructure, and I certainly don't see what is keeping it from tipping over.

I am getting over my cold, although my nose is running away with me. Thankfully, between me and the family we have an entire pharmacy at our disposal! I appreciate all the home remedies. I don't mind trying home remedies, but when I feel icky, I just want to be unconscious! Although the pear - sugar concoction sounds really tasty!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Day 7 - Battling a Cold!

My alarm clock!

View of the hotel from the beach at sunset!

Looking up from the 18th floor.

Nothing too interesting to report today. Slept most of the day because I'm battling a cold. I took some Zycam, and man does that stuff work! I had only heard about it, but now I can give a first hand account. I don't think it is supposed to make you drowsy, but it knocked me out for the afternoon!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Day 6 - Gold Souk

Today we journeyed into the heart of Dubai. We took a cab into the city center to the Gold Souk. It is a large area, similar to a mall, where there are hundreds and hundreds of shops to buy gold jewelry. My task was to buy two bracelets for my mom's friend, Brenda.

I had been told to haggle a bit with the salesmen. So I put on my negotiator's cap and got busy haggling! After going to several shops, I finally found one that would give me what seemed to be a good deal. Mission accomplished.

It was while we were in the city center that I really got more of an "authentic" feel for Dubai. The hotel and resort is a bit of a bubble with tons of other people who look like us. Most of the time I have stayed close to the hotel, venturing out to the beach and shopping center occasionally. They really make it easy to stay close!

On the way home, I think we stumbled on the CRAZIEST taxi driver ever. I have seen the way people in Europe and Mexico drive, but this guy takes the cake. He reminded me of Andre the Giant a bit, and he had serious halitosis issues. I was just praying for us to get to the hotel safely. He narrowly missed rear-ending someone at upwards of 40mph, only to swerve into the next lane and SLAM on the breaks to avoid running the red light. At one point he was driving so fast, that his meter began beeping loudly and a blinking hand appeared. It was horrifying! All the taxi drivers here drive a little crazy and I feel as though I should get on my knees and thank the good Lord for getting me to my destination safely. It's like they'll give anyone a license.

The good news is that we got to the hotel safely and I enjoyed a relaxing evening. I think I am past the jet lag, thankfully, which seem to help the homesickness. Lisa emailed me something that said Rest=Rational. Couldn't say it better myself!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Day 5 - Just a little under dressed!

Today was a really nice day because I finally got Skype to work in spurts. It was talk to my mom and Daniel. I think mom was getting desperate because she sent me an email with the subject "Call Collect". We talked for a long time!

This afternoon I dressed to go to the beach in my swimsuit, shorts, and a t-shirt. I have seen more European people, and considering what some of them were wearing on the beach, I felt safe to venture out. Don't get me wrong, I love Europeans, just not their beach attire! I wanted to go back to a shopping center we went to last night, and go to the beach from there. It is all in our resort area, which is protected by a main gate. So I thought I was pretty safe to go about in shorts and a t-shirt. Modestly dressed according to western standards. Shortly (no pun intended) after arriving at the shopping center I realized I was sadly mistaken. There were many more traditionally dressed, Middle Eastern men, and certainly more women in burkas than there had been the night before. I have never been looked at with such disgust in my life. It was quite blatent. I honestly had just gone to pick up a few post cards, and decided to sit, have some Morrocan tea and do some writing home. Some of the stores I went in would not even acknowledge my presence, other than to let me know with the stares what they were thinking.

This is the second time on this trip I made a similar mistake. When we went skiing in the mall, they gave us our ski gear to change into. I went into the women's changing room (much like a locker room) to change into my ski gear. I could feel all eyes in the place on me, but continued on about my business. When I had finished skiing I took my regular clothes in the changing room to put them back on. I looked up to see a notice, in plain sight and in English, stating that when changing clothes to use the private changing rooms.

So I am sad to say I haven't done much for the female Western culture on this trip other than to perpetuate the already popular notion that we are. . .well . . . less than modest, obnoxious westerners. I guess they didn't catch a glimpse of the speedos I saw the other day!

On a more positive note, we went to a cocktail reception hosted by the manager of the hotel. It was nice, and then we went to the top floor for dinner. I had ravioli with leeks and saffron rice pudding for dessert. Different, but tasty! I have to say, the view of this city is breathtaking. I am amazed at just how beautiful it is here. A true oasis!

So my question is this. . . what cultural faux pas have you committed? Can't wait to read this!

P.S. I just got into my laundry that I had sent earlier today to be cleaned. DUDE! They ironed my pajamas!!!!!!!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Day 4 - Relaxing Day

Today was very relaxed, since I slept passed breakfast and lunch. I took two Benedryl last night to try and get some sleep, and sleep I did. . .14 hours! That is more sleep than I had gotten in the previous four nights! I had intended to make it to the beach or pool, but only made it down the hall to ask the concierge to photocopy something for me. Most of the afternoon was spent getting ready for next week's lessons.

We ate at this place called The Meat Co. tonight. I'm not normally a big meat eater, but I have to say tonight was the best I have ever eaten. I wish Ina Rea Robertson (Charles and Lisa's mom) were here to help me to put together some colorful words to describe it. I order Marinated Skewered Chicken. It came out on this giant, dangling, metal skewer with a plate of chips (British fries) underneath it. It was the hit of the table. Everyone tried it and we all went on and on about it. I opted out of desert because I was determined to eat the entire thing. They ordered me a stretcher to take me home and had to widen the doorframe of the hotel room to get me in. I have never eaten so good! I think we are going back before we leave.

I go to bed with a happy, happy belly!

BTW, if I sent you a video that says "Hey girl!" at the beginning and you are not Lisa, then I sent you the wrong video. SORRY! I was playing around with my camera this morning (well, afternoon) and thought I was attaching a general "Hello" video instead! And SORRY Lisa, for sharing the video I made especially for you to the entire world! Tim Rush just made me aware of that!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Day 3 - Some New Pics

This is one of the floral arrangements provided by the hotel. They make the most extravagant arrangements. I spoke with the florist who was delivering flowers to all the rooms and he was telling me all about each orchid and the agave they use to design. He told me the floral shop is in the hotel.

This photo I took from the beach. A helicopter is taking off from the landing pad of our hotel. The weather here is absolutely perfect!
This is an orchid growing near the resort pool. I couldn't resist!
Here is the view from our living room. It is breathtaking. I find myself staring out the window constantly. In the background you can see one of the 3 Palm Islands.
The twin bedroom.
Ah! The shower! It is my favorite place in Dubai! A truly amazing experience!

The espresso machine. My best friend in Dubai. He never fails me! I think he may have something to do with why I couldn't sleep!

I have really been struggling with the jet lag. I could not sleep, nor was I tired. I think I got maybe 12 hours of sleep since Monday night. I took Benedryl on the flights over, thinking if I could get some sleep the jet lag would not be as bad, however I was wrong. I may have slept a combined total of 2-3 hours out of the 18 hour flights.

I am amazed at how beautiful and international Dubai is. Everyone speaks English, which is fortunate for me. The people are very friendly. There are loads of Europeans here, and I rode the ski lift the other day with a guy from Australia. This seems to be the place to do business.

When we went down to the beach, I immediately felt as if I were in Europe. I can never get used to seeing men in Speedos and women in bikinis that should have reconsidered. It just seems wrong, but then no one asked me.

We ate in a fabulous restaurant tonight called Teatro. It was mostly Asian food, but also had pasta and pizza. I had a type of fried rice, and I couldn't stop eating it. We were seated at the table next to the window of the kitchen. I enjoyed watching them cook Nan bread in the tandoori basket ovens.

The night before we ate at a place called Spetra. It was a spectrum of cuisines including Arabic, European, Indian, Chinese, and Japanese. I had some type of Shish on flatbread because I wanted to try the local fare. It was really amazing! I like to experience the food of the culture, but I wouldn't say that I'm adventurous when it comes to eating exotic things. Don't expect me to hear about me trying cricket when we're in China!

On the way back to the hotel there was a Rolls Royce with a bride and groom in the backseat. There were cameras all around, and traffic stopped. I got a good look at them, but did not recognize them.

The comments you have been posting have been the highlight of each day here. I am having some trouble with homesickness. It is not necessarily connected to the culture, but just not having access to those I love. It is a lot harder being away from everyone than I ever expected. I haven't talked to Daniel or Lisa, and that has been hard. The hotel is blocking Skype, so I may have to buy an international calling card. I find myself thinking, so and so would love this. So I would appreciate your prayers in that regard. I have been praying that the Lord will keep me strong and that I can take solice in knowing I'll be back to you all soon! After all it is only the 3rd day here, so buck up little camper (the self pep talk)! I keep singing in my head "Be strong and courageous, and do not be afraid. The Lord goes before you each and every day. . . he'll never forsake you. . ." I know the Lord brought me here and I want to take advantage of every opportunity he gives me to learn from Him.

Keep the comments coming. I have been trying to respond to all the emails I get, so if you email, I will respond as quickly as I can.

Love you guys!!!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Day 2 - Ski Dubai

I have to say that today was one of the most surreal days I have ever experienced. I didn't sleep much last night because I am still on Texas time. If you've been around me you know I usually can't stay awake after 9:30 pm, however tonight I am the last one up. I woke up this morning stumbling around looking for a good cup of coffee. I found an espresso maker down in the kitchen, but had to call in reinforcements to figure out how to run it. What can I say, I'm a small town girl.

I taught only a couple hours this morning since we are all jet lagged and slept in a bit. Afterward I unpacked and organized my clothes and teaching materials. Next, I had lunch in the coffee shop of the hotel. I was excited to find Chicken Shwarma (sp?) on the menu. Chicken Shwarma has become a weekly treat for me in Lubbock, as that is the special at Lite Bite Mediterranean Cafe every Friday. It was really good, the waiter said it was the best in Dubai, and for good reason.

On my way up to the hotel room I ran into the boys and their mom, who asked me to go to the Mall of the Emirates with them to help them find a birthday present for their dad. So I thought I'd tag along. Incidently, there is a ski slope actually in the mall with a lift and everything, in the middle of the desert mind you. The boys really wanted to go, so I volunteered to accompany them. So now I can say that I have officially "Skiied Dubai". They provide all your gear and equipment, except hat and gloves. It was actually really good skiing.

It has been awesome getting all the emails from everyone. They are so encouraging and make it a little easier to be away from everyone I love. Thanks for all the kind words, they truly make my day!!!

By the way, if you want to leave a comment, you shouldn't have to sign in or open an account. Simply click the "Other" option after you type your comment. Just be sure to leave your name.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Day 1

Well I made it to Dubai, safe and sound. It is unlike anywhere else I've been. Everything is lit up like Christmas. Our hotel is unbelievable! The pictures do not even come close to doing it justice. When I arrived I was greated by a hotel representative even before I went through customs. He walked me through customs, grabbed my luggage, and escorted me to the BMW waiting to take me to the hotel. The driver was dressed in a starched white suit and hat. He greeted me with a bouquet of flowers and showed me the sights on the way to the hotel. An interesting fact he told me was that only 20% of all people living in Dubai are natives.

When we arrived at the hotel, an entourage of people welcomed me as I got out of the car. It was Ms. Floyd this and Ms. Floyd that, and none of them were asking if they could go to the bathroom! I felt really out of place, because I dressed very casual for the plane ride, you know, straight out of Old Navy. But no one acted as if they minded. I can tell, I didn't pack enough nice clothes!

I am sure I am not the only person who watches people in the airport. It would make for a great case study. I love watching people! Anyway, the winner for the day was the guy dressed like Ali G (an alter-ego of Sasha Baron Cohen) listening to his MP3 player, which incidently was blaring "Country Road" by John Denver. Twilight Zone?!

Besides watching people, the other flying ritual I have is ordering gingerale. Don't know why, but it just seems like what I should be drinking when I fly. I can honestly say that I don't ever drink it any other time.

Well I should go to bed, even though my body thinks it is 10 am. Thanks so much for all the prayers on our behalf! They really made a difference!

More to come!

Monday, January 8, 2007

Nervous Excitement

Well folks, this will probably be my last post before I leave for the big trip. I fly out tomorrow (Tuesday) around 1pm. I am a little nervous, but excited at the same time. I tend to be a bit of a nervous flyer, which has been something that has developed in more recent years.

I am at my mom and dad's right now, spending some time with them before I head back to Lubbock. It is always relaxing to be home and enjoy a little home cooked food! We're having homemade waffles for breakfast! Aren't you jealous?!

Just want to ask that you keep our trip in your prayers. We will be in some less stable parts of the world. Also please keep my family in your prayers. The past year, with mom's cancer, has been a challange to say the least. It will be hard to be away from her, and vice-versa for this long, considering what she has been through.

I do want to say a very special thank you to Connie Palmer. She is my friend Paige's mom, and lives in OKC. Connie has been such an encouragement to me lately with her beautiful, prayerful emails. They are powerful and a source of comfort to me. She is a woman of such faith, and I feel honored to have her taking my requests before the Lord. Wish you all could know her. Her daughter is really awesome too!!!

I'll get something posted in a few days, once I settle in. Thanks in advance for your prayers and encouragement. I know y'all have me covered!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

New Year, New Adventures!

This one is a bit long winded, so grab your coffee and have a seat. . .

The holidays have been busy to say the least. They always are, except this year it seems like things are a little busier. I can't quite put my finger on why, though. Christmas at mom and dad's was really good. A lot of eating and napping and spider solitaire. I got for gadgets for my trip.

Everyone took turns trying on mom's wigs!

Dad just took it all in!

I made a trip to Waco to "meet the parents". I've been dating Daniel since July, and went home with him. Very nice family, really great guy!

While I was there I got to see my mom's dear friend Becca. Becca is a nurse practitioner and she and mom did their master's together. Becca's own mother died of ovarian cancer. So when we found out about mom's diagnosis, Becca was a huge help. She was especially helpful during the worst of mom's treatment; talking me through everything, telling me what to do and what questions to ask. Mom has always been the one to take care of the rest of us, and we were all helpless when it came to caring for her. Becca was a great source of comfort and reassurance.

On our way home we stopped at Dublin, Texas and got some Dr. Pepper made from cane sugar. I've heard people talk about how much better it is, so I expected great things. It was ok, but not spectacular like I was expecting. They sure do think a lot of their Dr. Pepper because I nearly coughed up a lung when they told me the total. It was like $5 a six pack.

We also went through Crawford, Texas and had coffee with W. He was a lot shorter than I expected, but very hospitable. Man, that first lady can bake some cookies!!!

New Year's was a trip. I spent the evening with Amanda and Ryan Gray, and the Wiggingtons. We went to the Elk's club for this musician we used to go see when the Grays lived in Lubbock. None of really knew anything about the Elk's club and weren't sure what to expect. It was definitely interesting to say the least. We were the youngest people there by 30 years. I can honestly say that up until that point I have never seen anyone two step to Billy Jean by Michael Jackson. We toasted the New Year around 12:10 and were served champagne out of dixie cups carted around to the tables in a John Deere wagon. I'm talking high class, y'all! The guy who did the toast was about 2 sheets to the wind and was telling us to raise our glasses in honor of our troops serving in KO-REE-UH. You know because we have all those troops in Korea. Nonetheless, it was just amazing to spend time with the Grays and Wiggingtons, and watching others make fools of themselves.

I just found out we are spending a few days in London on our trip. I am so stoked! That means getting to hang out with my friend, Stuart. He is a good friend that lived in Dublin when I was there. London is my favorite city, and am anxious to stock up on Cadbury's, Galaxy, Hob Nobs, Digestives, Kinder Buenos, Hoola Hoops, etc. and have proper tea!

Good news! I have my suitcase a little over half packed. I weighed it and am under 25 lbs at this point. However, since we will be in London, I may have to pack a few heavier clothing items.

So leave me a note and tell me what made your holiday great!