Lost in Translation

I’ve heard expats here in the UAE complain many times about frustrating conversations where no one understands each other even though everyone is speaking English.  I too have had some pretty exasperating experiences, but I’ve always felt grateful I didn’t have to learn Arabic when we moved here. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to study Arabic, but I know that practically speaking, having to conduct day-to-day affairs in Arabic would have made the transition here infinitely more difficult.  Luckily, English is widely used instead.

I find myself becoming too comfortable (or some might say lazy and presumptuous) during conversations, not considering that most people to whom I’m speaking likely learned English as a second (or third, fourth, etc.) language.  I usually talk like I would to any of my friends or family back home, regardless of who I’m addressing.

When I went to get my hair cut the other day, I was thinking how nice it would be to have my hair all fixed and pretty for when my sister arrived.  I always love running away for my rare outings to the hair salon because it’s one of the few things I do without kids in tow. I enjoyed a coffee and noticed that the Burj Khalifa was looking particularly  handsome that day, so I snapped a picture with my phone.  Life was good.

Burj Khalifa

I’ve been to the same hairdresser, a super nice guy from Morocco, a few times.  I sat in the chair and casually mentioned, “I’d like my bangs to be the length of my eyebrows more or less when they are dry. Just follow the general cut you’ve done before.”  Well, maybe he heard, “I’d like my bangs to be an inch above my eyebrow, or more but not less, before they are dry.  Just don’t follow the general cut you’ve done before.” Maybe he doesn’t know what bangs are since the British version is fringe. Maybe he only heard ‘wuah wuah wuah wuah’ like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

My cheery mood abruptly ended and a twinge of panic set in immediately after the first “snip.”  I hoped that somehow my new, seemingly very short wet bangs would miraculously defy the laws of physics and get longer, not shorter when they dried.  They didn’t. I can’t explain where the communication broke down.  All I know is that after he cut my hair a few months ago I looked like this:

img (1)

 

and this is me now:

img (2)

I was so mortified by my reflection that as soon as I stepped out of the salon, I scrambled for a clip.  A clip is apparently no match for my stubbornly short bangs and they quickly escaped its grasp.  I sighed with relief when I found my new best friend in my bag, my trusty, cheap plastic headband.  We are inseparable these days.

I learned my lesson.  I certainly will be showing a picture of my desired cut next time.  It also reminded me to stop assuming that everyone can understand me and my southern accent, especially when I get comfortable and slip into ultra speed mode.  Maybe I need to slow down.

My foul mood was short-lived though because my sister arrived soon after. It was so nice to have family here visiting.  It’s really fun to show people around and refreshing to see the city as new again, but even more satisfying to see my children’s excitement about sharing mundane, daily activities with their aunt.  There’s something really special about family experiencing our daily routine when we live so far away from each other.  Now when we talk or text, she can visualize where we are – I just love that and so does she!   I’m so glad you came Diana!  Here are a few highlights from her visit.  Some of the pics are very similar to things I’ve posted before, but what can I say, the colors of the souk and the interesting skyscrapers never get old.

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* Thanks to the Hedonista for the tip on climbing the (rickety and steep) ladder to the top of the restaurant Bait al Wakeel for that panoramic shot of the creek.

**self-portrait Jim Carrey pic via huffingtonpost.co.uk

 

Posted in Day-to-day living in Dubai | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

What Sand? Defying the Lack of Water in the Desert

Since spring is officially here now, I’ve been thinking about our version of the season and how there is plenty of green around even though we live in the desert.  When you’re on the ground in Dubai, at times it’s easy to forget you live in the “sandpit” as many expats call it. Take a short drive outside of the city or look out a window a few floors up and your perspective will change.

Burj Khalifa from Safa Park

What sand? Just look at that impossibly green grass. (taken from Safa Park)

view from Burj Khalifa

Reality check (view from Burj Khalifa)

Dubai suffers from a bit of a Napoleon Complex in the water department; there seems to be a need to overcompensate for the lack of fresh water in the area by creating anything one can possibly imagine that requires a ton of water.  I’ve never seen so many water parks in a 90 minute driving radius. (five of them!) The landscaping can be over-the-top with flower lined highways and immaculately maintained neighborhood gardens.  There’s even the world’s largest flower garden featuring millions and millions of flowers laid out in geometric shapes and patters, called Miracle Garden. (some people call it “awe-inspiring” as in the linked article, but I find it sterile and too artificial).  There’s also the man-made Marina and the man-made islands which are occupied by hotels, houses, shopping and dining areas, all within a stone’s throw from water, of course.  Even the names of neighborhoods play into the fantasy:  Discovery Gardens, The Greens, The Meadows, The Green Community, Arabian Ranches, the Springs.  Can’t you just smell the freshly cut grass and visualize the expansive pastures?

Dubai is also peppered with plenty of parks.  Even though all the manicured flowers, grass and bushes generally make me feel uneasy because it’s so out of sync with the natural landscape of the region, I do enjoy the city’s green spaces.  When I lived in Austin and Houston, Town Lake and Memorial Park were a short drive from my house and were my favorite places to run (ahem, when I managed to run).  Safa Park is likewise encircled by a running track (a bit short at just over 2 miles, but nice and cushiony).  On Fridays through June, there is a food and craft market featuring organic produce and countless gourmet goodies, treats to eat, cookbooks and fresh flowers to buy.  The food section follows the crafts area which is bursting with products to browse including toys, clothes and decorative items for children, soaps, jewelry, artwork, and pet items.  It’s a great place to people watch as Dubai’s diversity is on full display.  Absorb countless languages, variations of accent and styles of dress, all while enjoying a delicious snack and a leisurely shopping experience.  What a fun way to spend a Friday afternoon.

Signs along Sheikh Zayed Road (the major highway that runs parallel to the park on one of its sides) indicate that major construction is about to begin to extend Dubai’s creek through Business Bay, cutting across Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah Beach Road and lead out to the ocean. Part of the transformation includes reducing Safa Park’s green space to include more, you guessed it, water.  This is unfortunate because on weekends when the weather is nice, it’s already packed wall-to-wall with families barbecuing, people playing soccer and Frisbee, and children playing.  (Especially if you have lived in Dubai at some point, check out this article in Time Out to see a graphic of what it will look like, and then click through the slide show to see other up and coming projects.  This city is changing at warp speed.)  The parking lot near entrance 5 of Safa Park is already closed due to construction and I suspect this new project is the reason.  Of course, this new extension of the creek plays in nicely with the water motif, as there will plenty of new shopping areas, biking trails, homes and hotels along the canal.

A few pics of Safa Park and Ripe’s Market follow.  If you haven’t been to the market yet, check it out before temperatures become unbearable.  Tick tock!

For more info about Safa Park, check out this post from fellow Dubai blog, Abby’s Roads.

Safa Park

soccer Safa Park

children’s soccer class

Ferris Wheel Safa Park

This ferris wheel stands as an iconic marker just inside the gate of the park, but I’ve never seen it move in the 3+ years we’ve been here.

jogging track Safa park

Jogging track around the perimeter of the park. It offers great views of the buildings along Sheikh Zayed Road. This stretch is shady but other parts are not.

Safa Parkyellow flower safa park 2 petunias Safa Park bougainvilla Safa park 2

crowds at the farmer's market

crowd at the food and craft market

farmer's market safa park ( Ripe market Safa Park

paella Safa Park

what’s left of a giant paella

Coconut water safa park

Coconut water sells like crazy. Stick a straw inside to hydrate after shopping.

Hello Kitty Ripe Market Safa Park

Hello Kitty was very popular.

pillows safa park flowers safa park Farmer's market safa park dresses Ripe Market Safa cookies farmers market safa park

Posted in Day-to-day living in Dubai, Photo Journal, Playing tourist - attractions and activities | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Let’s Rodeo!

texas longhorn

1) rodeo noun: an event in which people compete at riding horses and bulls, catching animals with ropes, etc.

2) rodeo verb: to participate in rodeo activities as a competitor or spectator

Never heard of rodeo used as a verb?  Then maybe you haven’t spent much time in Texas. Don’t worry, I won’t hold it against you.  I saw online that The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo starts today and it has put me in a lone star state of mind.  It also got me to thinking about how I’m a poor excuse for a Texan.  I don’t own a pair of cowboy boots, I don’t know how to two-step, and I was never all that in to country music, especially the newer variety.  But like most from my lovely state, I have a healthy amount of state pride. One of the reasons I love being from Texas is because people who have never been have the silliest ideas of what Texas is like.  I like playing “cultural ambassador” and explaining away misconceptions or answering questions.

Let’s get a few things straight:

  • The majority of people don’t own horses, and they certainly don’t ride them to work, unless they happen to work on a ranch. (yes, I’ve had to address this one before.) Incidentally, every time I have ridden a horse, I was not  in Texas.
  • Family life for most looks nothing like the experiences of JR Ewing and crew on Southfork.  Erase the show Dallas from your mind.
  • Texans like to do other things besides rounding up their cows and drinking beer. For example, big cities have world-renown museums and thriving arts scenes.  In fact, Houston has more theater seats in a concentrated area than any other place in the US after Broadway.
  • Not everyone is a gun-toting, super-conservative, but they certainly exist.
  • The population is not ethnically homogeneous and Houston is, according to a Rice University study, the most ethnically diverse city in the country, even surpassing New York.  (This segment on NPR (with a great photo of Buddhist monks in front of a strip mall) references the study.)
  • Not everyone owns a gun but they are popular.
  • Texas is not made up only of small towns such as Cut and Shoot and Comfort. (Yes, those are real towns.  Doesn’t Comfort, Texas have a nice ring to it?)  Houston, Dallas and San Antonio are all in the top 10 of largest cities in the U.S.
  • Texas is not full of homophobic racists (in fact, Houstonians elected one of the first openly gay mayors in the U.S.), but again, they do exist.
  • The landscape is not defined by desert and tumbleweeds. Its diverse geography includes pine-covered hills, rolling plains, canyons, mountains, and rivers.
  • The accent.  Not everyone with a southern drawl is from Texas.  Every time my British husband comments on what he considers to be a crazy” Texan accent of someone on TV, the person is actually from Kentucky or Georgia or somewhere else in the South.

What do you think of when you think of Texas? Maybe you think of oil rigs.  Oil is big in Texas, can’t deny that one.  Chances are, if you’re an expat in the UAE, you know someone who has lived in Texas because of the oil connection it shares with the UAE. This article in Forbes about the oil production in Texas states that if it were an independent country, Texas would now rank as the 9th largest oil-producing country in the world, surpassing countries like Kuwait and Venezuela.  If production continues at its current pace, it will surpass the UAE and other oil-rich nations.  Who knew?

I don’t take offense when people share with me a less than informed opinion of Texas (and often times, it’s not too flattering). Even though we all try hard not to be presumptuous, it happens from time to time.  In my opinion, discovering the opposite of what I had assumed about people and places is one of the fun things about traveling and living overseas.

Do people have misconceptions about where you are from? Or have you traveled somewhere expecting one thing, only to experience another? Leave a comment below! And if you’re in Houston,

photo via sheplers.com

photo via sheplers.com

Posted in Articles to Read, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Hogs in the UAE

My husband loves motorcycles but unfortunately for him, I don’t love the idea of him riding them.  He used to own a bike but once we had kids, he sold it.  Poor, deprived soul.  (ahem, for the record, I didn’t force him to sell it, although I may have dropped a few subtle hints here and there. :)  ) As it turns out, he’s not alone though because several friends I’ve talked to have said, “Oh my husband used to have a bike, but he sold it when we had kids.” Apparently this is a common phenomenon!  

When his 40th birthday rolled around, I figured he could use a little something to remind him of those carefree, independent days.  So I hopped on the internet, looking for motorcycle rental companies.  This is when I came across Prestige Motorcycles.  They offer Harley rentals and tours (visit their website for more info). I am a nervous type and will think through every possible terrible scenario so you can imagine what I was thinking when I was considering sending my husband, who hasn’t ridden a motorcycle in ages, out on a bike in a country full of completely self-absorbed, idiotic drivers.  As soon as I saw that they offered tours I thought, “A-ha! Perfect! At least he’ll be more visible in a group and he’ll likely be with experienced riders.”

I called and spoke to Serge, a Canadian man who owns the company with his family.  He could not have been more friendly, reassuring and knowledgeable.  He really put me at ease and got me excited about my gift.  I drove out to the Green Community where the showroom is located and marveled at the big selection of beautiful bikes.  They were shiny, massive and just gorgeous!  He asked if my husband likes loud bikes. “Nah,” I said. “He doesn’t care too much about that.” “Really?”  he asked, skeptically.  Then he cranked one up and I have to admit even I got excited by the rumble! I knew he’d love it.

He ended up going on the East Coast tour which leaves around 8 am and returns around 6 pm, going through Hatta and Fujairah.  It’s a great combination of scenery: beach, desert and mountains.  There are a few pit stops for coffee and lunch, so it’s a leisurely pace, but there’s plenty of riding time.  Other tours are available to Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and more.  Check the website for more info.

This is a unique and exciting way to see the UAE if you or someone you know has a motorcycle license.  Serge and his team are so accommodating and attentive and go out of their way to make the day an unforgettable experience. He had a personalized gift certificate made to present to my husband on his birthday and was understanding when I wanted to change the date of the ride.  At the end of the tour, he gave my husband a disc of video clips and photos from the day, along with a laminated certificate of sorts that featured some cute pictures.  These special touches and his genuine interest in making it a special day really made the experience memorable. My husband and I both highly recommend it.  Check it out and have fun on your hog! :)

motorcycle tour Dubai

Sheikh Zayed Mosque Fujairah

Sheikh Zayed Mosque Fujairah

motorcycle tour Dubai

**Photos courtesy of Prestige Motorcycles.  This review is an honest account of our experience and was not sponsored.

Posted in Playing tourist - attractions and activities | Tagged , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Heritage Village Abu Dhabi

Heritage Village in Abu Dhabi is an open museum that showcases traditional ways of Bedouin living.  I always enjoy thinking and learning about what it was like to live in this part of the world before modern conveniences made it so comfortable and easy.  It’s especially fascinating since this traditional way of living was a part of daily life here only 40 years ago.

Heritage Village is very touristy and could use more informational plaques or displays. However, we really enjoyed the view of the Abu Dhabi skyline from the beach and the little workshops that display traditional crafts.  Kids enjoy exploring the grounds and they can ride a horse or camel for 10 dhs.  (Click here to visit the website.)

Here are a few pics from our visit to Heritage Village and a few from other areas in Abu Dhabi.

dhow abu dhabi skyline heritage village

Dhow and Abu Dhabi skyline

dhow Heritage Village Abu Dhabi

Interior of dhow on shore of Heritage Village

Abu Dhabi skyline from Heritage Village

Abu Dhabi skyline

Heritage village Abu Dhabi glass

glass making shop

Heritage village abu dhabi carpet

in the carpet making shop

Heritage Village Abu Dhabi

Heritage Village Abu Dhabi Mosque

men leaving the mosque

He's thinking, "Sigh.  Another tourist, another photo."

He’s thinking, “Sigh. Another tourist, another photo.”

I felt a bit intrusive when I took this man’s picture.  He seemed sincerely annoyed by having to take yappy children and camera-crazy adults for a ride on his camel.  His body language shouted that he wanted to be anywhere but Heritage Village.  When it was time for someone to ride the camel, he was all business. He led the camel with a purposeful gait, walked one loop around, and then made the person get off, completely oblivious to the rider’s inevitable excitement.  In contrast, the man with the horse taught the children a bit about controlling the horse, suggested certain places to take a nice picture and leisurely walked all around the enclosed space.  I don’t like to take pictures of people when they seem miserable, but I couldn’t resist snapping a couple quickly.  I wonder what he’s thinking?

Heritage Village Abu Dhabi camel trainer bw

Coastline Heritage Village Abu Dhabi

Coastline near entrance of Heritage Village

sunset and skyscapers from Yas Island Abu Dhabi

sunset and skyscrapers from Yas Island

Posted in Playing tourist - attractions and activities, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

Granada

I first went to Granada around 14 years ago (Gulp! I’m getting old) to stay out too late and eat Kinder Buenos every day diligently study Spanish.  It was one city of several I visited during a trip I took as a young single gal after I saved all my pennies from my whopping salary of $26,000 a year.  Granada really impressed me.  The Arabic influence in architecture and daily life was fascinating and seemed so new and exciting.  I also met one of my best friends who is still like a sister to me. (Hi Chels!)  When it was time to go home, I was devastated.  8-5 job? Bills? REAL LIFE?  No thank you!  I cried and cried into my pillow.  I thought I would never return.

Little did I know I would see Granada’s lively plazas and mysterious, winding streets again.  I happened to marry someone whose family lives in the area.  I ended up going back with my husband and his sister, I took my parents and one of my sisters there, and now I’ve seen my children run along the very same streets that so enchanted me the first time around.  Isn’t it funny how you never know where life will lead you?  That road doesn’t always go to happy places, but luckily in this case, it did.

Here are a few pics from our last visit. Next time it’s back to the UAE where this blog belongs! :)

Granada albaicin street black and white

street in the Albaicin (the old Moorish quarter)

Granada architecture black and white

Plaza Nueva fountain Granada Spain

Plaza Nueva

Granada shopping Albaicin

Some of the items for sale in the little touristy shops in the Albaicin

orange trees Granada

The orange trees in southern Spain are like little happy faces smiling at you when winter skies are gray and overcast

Granada street view Spain

Granada outdoor cafe

One of the things I miss (a lot!) while living in Dubai: sitting at outdoor cafes and having a beer or glass of wine.

Granada crowded street

I love how crowded the streets become after siesta.

Granada Plaza Nueva

Teteria in Granada

“Teterias” (Morroccan-style tea houses) are popular in Granada

expect a variety of teas on the menu and try several!

expect a variety of teas on the menu and try several!

Granada arabic door albaicin

door in Albaicin

Sierra Nevada rooftops Granada Spain

Sierra Nevada and rooftops

View of Alhmabra from the Mirador de San Nicolas.  undoubtedly a touristy spot, but undoubtedly a jaw-dropping view

View of Alhambra from the Mirador de San Nicolas. Undoubtedly a touristy spot, but undoubtedly a jaw-dropping view

Posted in Photo Journal, Travel | Tagged , , , | 25 Comments

Top ten tips for surviving long-haul flights with kids

Please excuse this break from our regularly scheduled program… Granada is coming next, promise.

I typically avoid writing about my kids or kids in general because part of the reason I started the blog was to do something that was intentionally not kid-related since I’m a stay-at-home mom.  But I just came across this picture from our last flight and it inspired me to write this post.

Flying Solo wine-2

Oh this made me chuckle.  If only I had been flying solo!  We had a 4 am start time that morning and were about half way through our 14 hour journey when the flight attendant handed me this bottle of wine.  I remember taking a sip, closing my eyes while trying to remember those blissful pre-kid flights…. and then was playfully smacked on the cheek back to reality by my 18 month old.  Yes, that’s her sippy cup in the background. Her two brothers were there next to me as well.  I certainly was not flying solo.

I’ve noticed on mom discussion forums that the topic of how to make flights with kids more bearable comes up a lot.  This is one area of parenting where I have a fair amount of experience, as do most parents who live in Dubai.  We travel by plane with the kids… a lot. It definitely comes with the territory of expat life in the Gulf.

Even when we lived in the US, we had family in Europe who we took the boys to see. When we moved to Dubai, they were 2 and 3 years old.  I took that first 15 hour flight alone with them. (If you want to get nostalgic, it’s actually the subject of my first post ever on this blog.)  I’ve done the transatlantic flight a few times alone since then, most recently over the summer with all three, and of course many other flights with my wing man (hubby) along. Is it my favorite way to spend 24 hours? Definitely not.  But just remember, it’s sorta like child-birth.  It might be toe curlingly, teeth grittingly awful for many, many hours, but it can’t last forever.  And honestly, I’ve never regretted it.  Don’t let having to travel with kids deter you from going places. When you’re eating gelato on the Spanish Steps in Rome, who’s going to remember a bout of loud crying on the flight? When you’re hugging your mom for the first time in six months, does the annoyed passenger who gave you the evil eye really matter? Of course not!  And anyway, most times you’ll get off the flight and think, “Well, that wasn’t that bad.”

So if anyone’s out there looking for some suggestions, I’ve listed a few below.  None of them are earth-shattering revelations, but maybe you’ll find an idea or two that might make the trip a bit easier.

First, some general observations:

Traveling with 0-6 month olds:  Enjoy their non-verbal, not too mobile company and pretend they are not there while they rest in the bassinet.  They might cry at times, but as far as kids go – this is an easy stage.

Traveling with 7 month olds-2 year olds:  One word: hell.  This is by far the toughest stage. New-found mobility and desire for independence coupled with a non-existent attention  span makes the confines of your row very boring (or downright maddening, depending on his/her temperament) for little ones of this age.  If you want to splurge, consider buying a ticket for the little tot.  Incidentally, I’ve never done that and have lived to tell the tale.

Traveling with 2-4 year olds: Not terrible, but not stress-free either.  They will still need a lot of help with things and will get irritable, but at least Dora or an iPad game will hold their interest for longer than 2 minutes and they will keep headphones in place.

Traveling with 5 year olds and up: Still prone to spill things (see #4 on the list) but super manageable.  You’re on the road to watching a movie all the way through again!

And one last thing:  Minor inconveniences or discomforts that normally wouldn’t matter can send an over-tired child into a tantrum.  You know what makes your kid tick (or ticked off) so keep this in mind when packing your carry-ons.

So without further ado, here is my list:

1) Bring a baby carrier if traveling with a baby under 2 years old.  For some silly reason, many airlines will not give your stroller back at the plane when you disembark.  (Emirates does have complimentary strollers to use, otherwise, you’ll be reunited with your stroller at baggage claim.) You then find yourself carrying a grumpy 25 pound child through what feels like endless miles of airport halls and while waiting in lines. 25 pounds quickly begins to feel like 50 pounds. It’s so much easier to negotiate the airport, not to mention it’s less exhausting, if you can stick that baby in a sling or harness.

2) Take care of before-the-flight tasks: 1) change the baby’s diaper and send older children to the bathroom immediately before boarding 2) let the kids run around to burn a little energy 3) If you’re traveling alone with a lap baby: eat a hearty meal.  In my opinion, it’s just not worth having the tray down for what seems like f-o-r-e-v-e-r to try to eat on the plane while holding a grabby baby.  If it’s a really long flight, bring granola bars or grab some fruit or bread rolls from the flight attendant.

3) Limit toys and other in-flight entertainment.  Don’t bother with a backpack full of different toys and gadgets.  It just ends up on the floor after a few minutes and makes for more stuff to carry.  For 2 years and older, I opt for electronic entertainment. This is not the time to work on that New Year’s resolution of reducing screen time.  I always put a few new games on an iTouch that they see for the first time on travel day.  Works like a charm.  Consider buying kid-sized headphones because nothing is more annoying than readjusting falling headphones over and over again.  Pack one or two other small entertainment options.  I usually bring colors and a new coloring book.  For use on the plane, look for the triangular-shaped crayons like these so they don’t roll off the tray.  For that tough 1-2 year-old group, I bring a couple of books (new ones they haven’t seen before; lift-the-flap books and sticker books are a hit) and a small bag of random household items. (Things that are not a choking hazard, obviously, and things you don’t mind losing. I haven’t had measuring spoons in months because I left them on a plane.)  I have found that “real” toys that are small enough to bring on the plane just don’t hold their attention long enough.  They will spend most of their time playing with the remote control anyway.

4) Take extra clothes.  Yes, they are bulky and take up lots of space, but essential for all kids, even older ones.  Those flimsy plastic cups they use on flights are just begging to be knocked over. Pack the thinnest options possible.  I bring two changes of clothes for the diaper-wearing passengers.  If you are a super-folder and can squeeze it in, bring a shirt for yourself too if traveling with a baby.

5) Bring the sleep buddies.  When your child is having a meltdown because they are exhausted, it’s always reassuring to them to see their lovie.   Just make sure to collect all lovies before leaving.  For babies, if you don’t already, start singing the same lullaby every time you put him/her down to sleep (naps and night-time) for a couple of weeks before the trip.  On the plane, they will probably resist going to sleep, but at least if they hear the song while cuddling their lovie, it’s a cue that sleep should be happening.

6) Bring an assortment of snacks.  Some people say “Keep it healthy.”  I say, “Keep them happy.”  Sure, healthy snacks are great, but if a bag of M&Ms is going to give me 5 minutes of peace and derail an impending meltdown whereas raisins will just end up on the floor, I choose candy. (Within reason, of course.  I don’t want to make them nauseated, either.)  I also like to make flying seem like fun so I like packing things that are a special treat.  If your kid is a raisin fanatic, though, by all means, pack what they like.  If you fly Emirates, don’t bother bringing these because they provide a great snack pack for kids.  For babies, bring the usuals.  I prefer small pieces that take a long time to eat, like cheerios or goldfish.  Bring a variety.

7) Keep them hydrated.  Encourage them to drink water to keep headaches at bay, even if they say they are not thirsty.  Maybe it’s just my kids, but all three of them get red itchy skin during long flights all over their bodies, but especially on their face and around their lips.  If you really want to be on your A-game, bring a small tube of lotion and a lip/face balm like this one.

8) Pack your own necessities in your pockets.  For me it’s eye drops, pain reliever and lip gloss.  When you’re holding a sleeping baby but your contacts are glued to your eyeballs, the last thing you want to do is disturb the baby to rummage through a bag.

9) Treat ear pain. Lately I have been using ear plugs with great success. Get the wax kind that cover the entire ear like these.  Also try gum (for the older kids obviously) and a pain reliever.

10) Ignore people around you.  Letting those dirty looks bother you only makes you anxious which inevitably will rub off on the kids.  Don’t let your children act like little untamed animals, but if they have a moment of fussiness or crying, just focus on getting them settled.

There you have it – lessons learned from umpteen hours flying with the six and under crowd.  If you have any more tips, please leave them in the comments section.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Jaunt to Gibraltar

view from upper rock of Gibraltar

View from the upper rock, Gibraltar

 

Gibraltar is fascinating for a few reasons: 1) Its strange terrain.  Most of the land area is covered by limestone and like the UAE, its residents rely on desalinated water.  2) Its location – jutting into the Mediterranean with a view of Africa.  3) Its history and political status.  It’s a territory of the UK, despite being located in Southern Spain.  Make sure to bring your passport if you plan to visit.

Gibraltar

Gibraltar street

We went on a Sunday so most things were closed, but the streets still looked charming.

The Barbary Macaques (the tailless monkeys that live in the upper rock) are creepy.  I’m not a fan, but I knew the kids would love ‘em.  They are known to jump on people and cars, grab your belongings and might bite, so don’t get too close!  Legend says when the monkeys leave the rock, so will the British leave Gibraltar. Ha!

Gibraltar monkey in rocks

Can you spot the monkey?

Gibraltar monkey riding on car

This one hitched a ride on our car!

A couple of views from the upper rock.

Gibraltar view at sunset

Gibraltar view at sunset

There is a lot to do in Gibraltar that is not pictured here: tour the tunnels dug during WWII by the British, explore a great cave with impressive stalagmites, or wander around an old Moorish castle.  Click here for more information.  Next up: Granada.

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Happy Three Kings Day!

Malaga cathedral

It’s tradition for me to snap a picture of the Malaga cathedral every time we go.

Today is a holiday in Spain known as Dia de Los Reyes (or simply Reyes) and commemorates when the three kings visited baby Jesus.  Spanish children receive gifts on this day instead of Christmas.  In recent years, a little something may be given on Christmas as well, but January 6th is the day for opening presents.  The Spanish are proud of this tradition and generally resist and are even critical of the idea of Santa Claus (Papa Noel) encroaching on their gift giving holiday. Usually the night before Reyes, Roscon de Reyes is served which is very similar to king’s cake popular in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.  Here are a few pictures from our recent trip to Spain to celebrate this holiday.  More on Spain next time.

Spain

Olive tree Spain

Sierra Blanca

Unfortunately, that animal is not real. Tempting, but I couldn’t lie! :)

view of Marbella

View of Marbella. I love how the ocean blends into the sky.

big meals, lots of wine

orange tree Spain

Lelo’s pretty orange tree dripping with countless oranges!

DSC_0768-2

A Spanish New Year's tradition - eating one grape for every chime of the clock at midnight.  It's good luck if you can eat them all in time.  It's tough!

A Spanish New Year’s tradition – eating one grape for every chime of the clock at midnight. It’s good luck if you can eat them all in time. It’s tough!

Pretty Christmas lights in central Malaga

Pretty Christmas lights in central Malaga

christmas lights Malaga (2)Christmas lights Malaga

 

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Holiday spirit

I’m not sure what happened this year, but this has turned into one of those holiday seasons where I’m constantly behind, rushed and frazzled.  I think it started when my son broke his arm the day before Thanksgiving.  Then my 18 month-old decided to start catapulting herself nose-first out of her crib, which necessitated a move to a toddler bed.  Frankly, I greatly prefer the safety and confinement of her miniature jail spacious crib, ideally for the next two years.  Apparently, she disagrees. Who has time for teaching a baby to stay in the bed when there are presents to buy and Christmas cards to write? (apologies to anyone who doesn’t get a card this year!)

After I realized I hadn’t posted anything all month, I thought I’d cheat and just link to an older post I wrote about what Christmas is like in Dubai (and the UK).

And here are a few pics of the Christmas season so far this year.

Wafi Mall

Wafi Mall, Dubai

Winter in Dubai: opaque, cloudless skies and 80F

Winter in Dubai: opaque, cloudless skies and 80F

I realized this year that Christmasy camels are taking over my holiday decor.

And lastly, I had intended to write a “thank you” post in the spirit of Thanksgiving, but since that boat has sailed, I thought I’d write a Christmas card of sorts to readers and take a minute to thank people for reading my blog.  It’s coming up on three years (hard to believe) and I so appreciate everyone who takes the time to read through my posts.  Thank you!

I’d like to specifically thank the following two bloggers  who have nominated me for the Shine On and Liebster awards.  I’m sorry I never answered the accompanying questions, but  I am very grateful nonetheless!

Top of the Tent (a well-written blog by Irish expat in Ras Al Khaimah)

We’ll Always Have Casablanca (a interesting perspective of Morocco from American expat)

I also wanted to send a special thanks to people who comment on posts. I think everyone who writes a blog can agree that comments make blogging so much more interesting. I realize everyone is busy and reads countless things on the internet, so I am really grateful when someone takes the time to write a thought or two.  To the “top commenters,” I very much appreciate your feedback! (These include: Expatriate Life, (a useful blog featuring expat tips and anecdotes about expat life) Marthafied (a fabulous lifestyle blog out of London that keeps me up to date on pop culture, fashion and countless other things), Writing Just Beacuse (an interesting blog about writing, publishing and expat life),  Live Clay (a witty blog about life in New Mexico, chickens :) and beautiful ceramics/art) and In Flow (thought-provoking blog by a talented professional photographer). Even if you’ve just left one comment along the way, thank you so much for expressing interest in this little project of mine.

Happy holidays everyone!

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