Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year 2011

2011 is here!

Keeping with tradition, it's time for the annual "Highlights/Lowlights." (This post is for you, Momma!)

Lowlights: missing out on so much life happening back at home (weddings and babies and milestones, oh my!); unclear expectations at work; probably spending too much money on travel; the nagging feelings and negative consequences of disorganization and lack of time

1.Camping trips (Jan.) 2.Thailand (Feb.) 3.Emerging writers (Mar.)
4.Hump Day Dinner Group (Apr.) 5.Egypt (May) 6.India (June)
7.Charlie (Jul.) 8.Mountains (Aug.) 9.Turkey (Sept.)
10.My students (Oct.) 11.Nepal (Nov.) 12.Dear friends, both near and far

Highlights: the little people in my life (like 4 special redheads and about 100 adorable first graders); being able to drive; camping trips; moleskin notebooks; snuggling under warm blankets; sunsets; learning new words in Arabic; the color of the water in the Gulf; bicycles; trapping cats; blissful summer months in Washington; letters from grandmas and grandpas and friends; mountains; breakfasts at Old Town; doing things I didn't think I could do; friendships forged while traveling; when my little girls write stories; creating 'family' in Abu Dhabi; rock climbing; hosting Caitlin in Abu Dhabi; Glee; hearing "I love you, Miss Molly" from my sweet students; paddleboating at the beach in December; small-group; going to faraway places I never really believed I would ever get to see; balmy, sunny days; riding a happy, healthy Charlie; Chacos; Hump Day Dinner Group; friendships that have lasted despite the distance and spordic communication; my dear family . . .

. . . aaaand all the great folks who stop in and visit my little blog. Thanks for being a highlight in 2010. I so appreciate your kind thoughts, your friendly reminders, and for sharing in such a big year.

Wishing you much beauty and light in 2011!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Believe Me

Even though she may look crazy, this lady actually makes a pretty great travel partner.

Thanks for so many fun trips! Looking forward to making new memories with you in 2011!


P.S. Sorry if you object; I just couldn't resist posting this!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

She's Here! (Day 6)

We spent Caitlin's last full day in the UAE between Ras al Khaimah, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi.

Our first outing of the day was to Al Zaabi Island or Jazeera Al Hamra (Red Island). This island used to be the domain of the Zaabis before most of the tribe relocated to Abu Dhabi in the late 60s.

Our host showed us his former home. Although originally in disrepair, the brothers decided to refurbish it so that they could visually share their "rags to riches" story with their children.

This simple compound is where S. (and his parents, siblings, aunt, uncle, and cousins) all lived. (Quite different from where he lives now!)

S. in the room where he was born.

Most of the village is in ruins.

Late that afternoon, we headed back to Abu Dhabi. We stopped in Dubai to visit the Emirate's epic "Global Village". We all did a little bit of shoppin' . . .

Caitlin and her cool sandals from India.

Some sight seeing . . .

Boats and canals

The crew heading towards the rides.

And a whole lotta eatin'. . .

Rose-water and rice flavored ice-cream from Iran.

Donut holes from the Emirates (My fave!)

It was truly was a wonderful weekend. I'm so thankful that Caitlin was able to meet S. and S., to spend time learning about new customs and traditions, and to have the rich and rare experience of being with an Emirati family. It was all very special.

Many thanks to our hosts!!

P.S. After our RAK trip we headed straight to Jordan. When we got back from Global Village we only had 5 hours to pack, clean the apartment, shower, and sleep before we needed to turn right around and leave again!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Greetings 2010

Merry Christmas!!!

Last year, our Christmas present to you all was a a little 'gift God wrapped in beige'. This year we're giving you 12 days of non-stop U.A.E. goodness in the form of another music video. Give us one more year and I think we'll be ready for MTV Arabia.

(Although we were hoping to serenade you through the song, things got complicated and it was much easier just to read the lyrics aloud. If you give it a listen, there's no doubt about it: We definitely sound like two elementary ed teachers. Consider yourself warned.)

None of this would be possible without the talented and lovely Ms. Jill. Many thanks for the inspiration, the directing, the editing, and for staying up super late on a school night to finished the voice-over.

Wishing you MUCH love and Christmas cheer from our little corner of the world,

Saturday, December 18, 2010

She's Here! (Day 5)

Our weekend in Ras al Khaimah was pretty outstanding.

With the sheiks.
Clockwise from the top left: the late Papa Zayed (beloved founder of the UAE); Sheik Khalifa (President of UAE and current Sheik of Abu Dhabi); Sheik Mohamad (Vice President of UAE and Sheik of Dubai); the late Sheik Saqr (Sheik of Ras Al Khaimah*; Sheik Saud (the current Sheik of Ras Al Khaimah)**; Sheik Mohamad (Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi)

My former vice-principal and her husband may be some of the kindest people I've ever met. They are welcoming, fun-loving, thoughtful, generous, and absolute aces in the arena of hospitality.

After a breakfast of pancakes and special mountain honey, we headed off to the market to buy
fish for our big Friday meal.

When the menfolk went to the mosque around 1:00, the ladies started cooking. S. grilled the fish, I chopped up the salad, and together with the maid, we made two different types of rice. By the time they came back, we were ready to sit together on the living room floor and eat (and eat and eat!).

Z helps me figure out if I need to add more salt to our Arabic salad.

In the late afternoon we headed out to the desert for a picnic. (Yes, I know--we're eating again! We pretty much ate all weekend.)

We stopped en route to visit some camels.

We also took a spin on the boys' "daraja" or dirt bikes.

M and I after our turn.

A giving Caitlin the bike basics.

M posing after the picnic.

The day also included several games of Uno, shopping at the old souk, a trip to the beach, and trying more traditional Arabic treats like uber sweet date pudding and thick, milky, red-seed syrup. It was late by the time we built a fire and sat around eating dinner under the stars. Although we started with some bonfire story-telling, the entertainment quickly turned to joke-telling. Not sure if I can remember the last time I laughed so hard. Maybe you had to be there, but we all found these and these and these to be irresistibly funny.


* Sheik Saqr passed away in October; at his death, he was the "longest-serving ruler" in the world
**Want to read about a coup attempt? Head here to get the scoop on the non-violent tussle between Sheik Saud and Sheik Khaled.

She's Here! (Day 4)

After making Caitlin come to work with me once again, she finally got a break when my former vice-principal and her husband showed her a little VIP treatment. They graciously dispatched their driver, who picked Caitlin up at school and then took her to the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.

While she was there, she took a tour, took a turn in the abaya and sheila, and took over 200 photos. Here are a few of the highlights:

Sheila-ed and abaya-ed up!


View of the courtyard

A chandelier in the main prayer hall

Archways and corridors

Women's prayer hall

The VIP treatment didn't stop there . . . The rest of the day involved the "Walk" at Jumeirah Beach Residences, Caitlin's all-time favorite burgers at the New Zealand "Burger Fuel" restaurant, ice cream, a trip to the Atlantis Hotel, and the start to a weekend at my vice principal's vacation house in Ras Al Khaimah.

She's Here! (Day 3)

Caitlin's third day in Abu Dhabi started bright and early. I happened to drag her to school with me and quickly put her to work. She was a laminating, organizing, and reading champion. (Thanks for your help, HB!) She even wore an abaya.

Caitlin helping with Reading Centers.

As soon as the bell rang, we headed out to the beach for a little fun in the sun.

19th Street Beach

Paddle-boating time! It was pretty windy and hard to paddle.

As the sun set, we grabbed a quick dinner with friends and then headed to the Emirates Palace for dessert.

Caitlin ordered the famous "Emirates Palace Coffee." (Yes, it comes with real gold sprinkles.)

The gold sprinkled opera cake was also pretty nice.

We also stopped in the lobby to check out the most expensive Christmas tree in the world: $11million USD worth of jewelery definitely adds a certain sparkle that you just don't get with tinsel.

I think my favorite quote from the night was, "Caitlin--wipe your mouth. You've got gold on your lip."

Living the high life!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

She's Here! (Day 2)

On Caitlin's second day, I was hoping to take her to the beach. However, strong winds, cooler than normal temps, and a few errands, led us to "Heritage Village" instead.

"Heritage Village" is a living history museum depicting pre-oil life in the UAE. If you haven't noticed, MUCH has changed in the last 50 years.

No more hauling water from the well.

No more sleeping in tents.

No more getting from point A to point B courtesy of a camel.

No more life without AC!

"Heritage Village" also offers a lovely view of Abu Dhabi.

City Skyline (and sandy skies)

Our next stop was a Hump Day Dinner Christmas Party at Jill's
It was a lovely evening: fire a-roasting, soups a-simmering, gifts a-giving, candles a-glowing, snowflakes a-cutting, and a lot of stories and chatter.

This lady even made another guest appearance as Ms. Claus.

The results of our snowflake making contest.

Merry Christmas, Caitlin--UAE Edition!


Monday, December 13, 2010

She's Here!

My sister, Caitlin, arrived safe and sound the night before last.

As soon as I got home from work, we piled in the car and kicked off our UAE sightseeing tour with a road trip to Dubai.

We enjoyed watching the fountain and light show at the Dubai Mall . . .

Sharing nice meal outside in the cool evening air . . .

Touring the tallest building in the world . . .

And most definitely having a jolly ol' time.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


A bit cheesy, but still relevant.

This clip reminds me that there is so very MUCH to be thankful for and so many reasons to live a simple, generous life.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Also known as . . . THANKSGIVING!

Although I may be 1/2 way around the world for the big day, possibly wearing a shayla, or trying to practice my extremely limited, hybrid Arabic/English while eating, I've still been able to enjoy some pretty special Thanksgiving celebrations the last two years.

My fond Turkey Day memories from 2009 and 2010 include . . .

(L: Molly, 2009; R: Sarah, 2010)

(L: Jill, 2009; R: Sarah, 2010)

(L: Molly, 2009; R: Sarah, 2010)

(L: Jill singing "Albuquerque Turkey," 2009; R: Sarah capturing a round of Thanksgiving Trivia: American Edition, 2010)

(L: Jill, 2009; R: Sarah, 2010)

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. Shukran + Jaziilan + Thanksgiving = Shukranjaziiling!
(Thank you) (Very Much)