Day 150 – Sharm El Sheikh

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Posted by Juliane | Posted in Travel | Posted on 27-11-2009

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Tuesday November 27th, 2009

My sweet Andrew spent the better part of 3 days researching prices and hotels for our trip to Sharm. He finally decided on the Marriott Beach Resort (http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/ssheg-sharm-el-sheikh-marriott-beach-resort/). Not only was it directly on the beach, it had a fantastic pool with seats in the water for their poolside restaurant! How awesome is that?! Anyone who knows me knows that I get excited very easily and I was exceptionally excited about our “”honeymoon” vacation to the beach! Andrew and I spent the flight reading and grinning with anticipation. Andrew grinned more at my anticipation grins but nevertheless, we were both grinning.

As a kid, I longed to have one of those people waiting at the airport with my name on their sign. Because we always had a friend or family member pick us up from the airport or we rented a car ourselves, I never experienced this. But as the glass sliding doors graciously opened at our arrival to Sharm El Sheikh, I spotted an Egyptian man holding a sign – “The Haleys”. That’s all it took, I was grinning again! We spent 15 minutes riding in the back of a tricked out jeep/hummer thing, and Andrew had his own reasons to smile. Our smiles however, would not last long.

As we stood at the reception desk being told we were not staying at this resort but the mountain resort across the highway, my heart dropped. How could our perfectly planned honeymoon to the beach be spent at a mountain hotel? This would not do. The clock was nearing 10:00pm and we were getting the last room available. This would have to do. As a gentleman pulled our suitcase and led us out of the beach resort and towards the mountain resort, I tried to push down my sad feelings like I’d learned from Hank Hill. We arrived, got our keys and went to our room. It was the farthest room possible from the beach but the closest to a giant fake rock blocking our view of the actual mountains. I then sat down and cried. A little melodramatic I’ll admit, but when you are expecting a Ruth’s Chris steak and end up getting one from Waffle House, it’s a bit overwhelming at the moment. Andrew took me out for Chinese and we were able to salvage the evening.

We spent a portion of everyday snorkeling in the Red Sea and every evening walking the path parallel with the shore that led to Naama Bay. Naama Bay looks similar to a ghost town during the day but at night is packed with tourists dining, dancing and shopping. Most of the restaurants are open-air and lit up by tons of decorative lights. Many of them have large pillows to sit on and shisha to smoke. It is a beautiful sight to see after twilight when music fills the air and dancers entertain the many guests.

One morning we took a boat trip to Ras Mohammed National Park for more snorkeling. The trip included lunch, three 45 minute snorkeling sessions and a guide. There were roughly 30 people in our party and it turned out to be a fabulous experience. While on the boat we were able to see much more of the coast and ate a wonderful Arab lunch while listening to a Middle Eastern/Eminem remix. On a more serious note, I don’t understand why any boat would play the Titanic theme song. It’s not something you want to think about while sitting on a boat in the middle of a massive expanse of water. I think there should be some kind of boating law against it.

All in all, we had a marvelous time revisiting our favorite restaurants and shops while spending time together. Yay for vacations.

Day 139 – London

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Posted by Juliane | Posted in Travel | Posted on 16-11-2009

Monday November 16th, 2009

In order to properly write about our first moments in Sharm El Sheikh, I need to go back to March 2008 and a little trip we took to London. Andrew left from Fort Benning in December 2007; we hadn’t seen each other since, with an exception of Skype. Clayton State’s spring break began at the end of February, if my mind recalls correctly. Andrew and I had planned to meet in London. Thanks to my father’s retirement from ASA, I could fly for nothing but the cost of taxes. I had all the directions from Andrew printed. I was to fly to Gatwick Airport, go through customs, find the service that would take me to the Hilton, and meet Andrew at the hotel several hours later when his flight arrived – great plan.

I boarded the 7 hour flight and sat next to a man who works for NetJets International. He, like me, was a talker and we didn’t run out of conversation the entire flight. It made for an enjoyable flight but caused me problems later on. After arriving at the Hilton Hotel very early in the morning, I tried checking in just in case they had a room ready. They did not and I found a cozy seat by the door to wait for Andrew. After the doorman woke me up for the third time a little irritated that I kept falling asleep in his lobby, I realized that Andrew should’ve been here by now. As a woman in a foreign country – alone – I was able to remain relatively calm, for the moment. But after several failed attempts to use the foreign phone with the foreign change, I went back to the lobby to hear the concierge say my name to someone on the phone.

I have never been drunk but after a night with no sleep, I felt that the drowsy haze I was in slightly resembled that of alcohols induced bewilderment. I walked straight up to the man and said, “Who are you talking to? I’m Juliane!” In short, Andrew had missed his plane and wouldn’t be to London for another day. He had called the hotel while I was still in flight to tell them the situation and leave a note for me. Having already paid for the hotel, this shouldn’t have been an issue. HA! Whenever something shouldn’t be an issue, it usually is. It’s the same as saying, “”Oh, you can’t miss the building.” But you inadvertently do in spite of the prefaced subliminal message of “If you miss the building you are clearly a moron and can’t operate either your head or your eyes, in which don’t bother turning around because all we’ll do if you ever do find the place is cock our head and replay every inch you drove. Followed with instructions as to what you should’ve done at such-in-such, but never mind, you’re here now you idiot so come on in.”

…back to the hotel. At this point, I had talked to the people behind the counter 3 times. The problem now, since it was well past check-in time, was that even though the room was prepaid, I could not check-in without Andrew and his credit card because I may decide to order room service. Eventually I was able to convince them that my credit card would do and that some version of my name was on the reservation. You know those moments where your success gets so quickly shot down by your stupidity that you wish you wouldn’t have had any success in the first place? This is one of those moments. The credit card that I ordered specifically for a situation like this was in my wallet but not activated. Lo and behold – you can’t activate from London. I don’t remember the specificities, whether it was the location, time or phone number, only that it couldn’t be done.

In the end, Andrew had to email a copy of his credit card to his mother in the states. She then had to fax it to the Hilton in London. And I, well I had to stand there demanding to see the manager to find out the woman I was currently speaking with was the manager. As a girl, I learned a skill from watching my mother. We were continually subject to stupid stubborn people with ridiculous rules. What always worked was making a scene. I used to think that it was a talent she had but as I stood at the desk in the lobby exhausted, enraged and a bit embarrassed after I saw that my hair was half pulled out of my bobby pins and sticking 3 inches above my head, I realized that it wasn’t a skill but a last straw. When the snarky woman told me the fax was too dark, I began to shake. Tears rolled down my cheeks while the most authoritative, firm voice emerged from my body – no quiver to be heard.

Minutes later, I had people carrying my things to my room and I fell into a 16 hour sleep. Andrew hasn’t missed a flight since.  🙂

Day 132 – Things that go cock-a-doodle-doo in the night

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Posted by Juliane | Posted in Kuwait | Posted on 09-11-2009

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Monday November 9th, 2009

Some things you never contemplate when moving to Kuwait. Even after they occur you think, no, I still can’t imagine having this problem here. Thus was the situation the first morning we slept in the villa.

At 5:00 am Andrew and I awoke. What was that? It can’t possibly be a rooster crowing, could it? Then, there it was again. I didn’t recall a farm out the window last time I looked. Who would have a rooster here, the equivalent of an American subdivision? There was no mistake though, it was here and a crowin’ with no barn in sight!

A few weeks later when our landlord took us on our Kuwaiti adventure and I saw his roosters I said, “Roosters! I cannot believe there are roosters here! I can’t get away from them!”I turned to him and said, “There’s one right outside our villa! Have you heard it? It starts crowing at 5 in the morning – wakes us up every day!” He smiled but didn’t say anything, and we left without another mention of a rooster. The next day, we didn’t wake up to the rooster. Later that morning we heard him, but he sounded further away – distant. When we left for dinner, we saw him. There he was strutting around in a cage near our landlord’s front door. Boy did I feel sheepish!

The rooster still crows at all hours of the night and day, but his cock-a-doodle-doos don’t wake us up anymore. Sometimes talking too much pays off!

Day 130 – The Proposal Part II

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Posted by Juliane | Posted in Travel | Posted on 08-11-2009

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Sunday November 8th, 2009

Andrew had scheduled a night hike up Mt. Sinai to watch the sunrise. We left the hotel at 10:00pm and arrived at the base of the mountain near 2:00am. Andrew and I wore nearly everything we had packed on the trip but the sharp cold of the mountains still cut through our layers. It was going to be a long night. I decided to use the bathroom before we began our trek. To my astonishment, two people sat at a table loaning out toilet paper! We’re not in America anymore! After I paid for my turn with the toilet paper roll, our group set out up the mountain.

We made several stops at tea and snack shacks for five minute breaks. At 5:00am we reached the peak of Mt. Sinai. Men and women stood weighed down with blankets for rent. Andrew and I struggled our way near the edge of the mountain to wait for the sun to rise. As we waited, the group in front of us shot pictures of themselves and then of a scraggly cat that had managed to make its way up the mountain.

The sun rose and the mountains surrounding us turned from ash silhouettes to magnificent burnt red rock stretching as far as we could see. Within minutes people were herding down the narrow pathways, descending to Saint Catherine Monastery at the base of the mountain. Andrew led me to a secluded area behind the path, away from the masses. Withholding all the wonderfully mushy sentiments that were expressed, he proposed with the sun creeping further and further down the peaks of the mountains surrounding us below.

Andrew and I were the last to make it down the steep steps on Mt. Sinai to find our leader and group laying on the ground waiting for us. Perhaps it’s because we kept stopping to look at my newly ringed finger. 😀 What a wonderfully tiring day.

Day 129 – The Proposal

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Posted by Juliane | Posted in Travel | Posted on 06-11-2009

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Friday November 6th, 2009

Because I will soon be writing a post about our upcoming trip to Sharm El Sheikh, I thought I’d reminisce about our last. To start, Sharm El Sheikh is at the top of the Red Sea in Egypt. It is not the part of Egypt with pyramids and sphinx, but an area south of Mt. Sinai created to accommodate tourists. It is home to world class scuba diving and snorkeling. The areas embracing the Red Sea are separated into different strips. In December ’08 we stayed on the strip titled Naama Bay at the Camel Dive Club & Hotel (http://www.cameldive.com/).

The hotel rooms surrounded the pool that we would spend time in – learning scuba diving techniques! Neither Andrew nor I had scuba certification. We were both excited about the experience. Andrew handled our training majestically. I, on the other hand, nearly had a panic attack while resting my knees on the pool’s coarse white flooring. I contemplated the threat of drowning in the pool, all decked out in my scuba getup, surrounded by 5 other people. There was no doubt in my mind; it was going to happen! I looked around the group through my mask in slow motion. Our instructor, Chico, was helping the also panicking German woman. Her fingers were pressing into Chico’s wetsuit causing her knuckles to turn white in the cold water. I remembered our bookwork – deep slow breaths. My breathing elongated and my head felt lighter as I gazed at each member or our group. They all calmly watched the German woman struggling against her desire to knee Chico in the crotch and standup. I looked to Andrew – I was gonna die. I could feel the threat of impending doom throughout the water pressing heavily against my body. Was this Andrew’s plan? What kind of gift was this? It’s not natural to breathe under water. It just isn’t so. I thought of the money already spent and decided my lift was worth more. Giving the group one more passing glance for assurance and Andrew’s hand a tight squeeze, I stood up.

After much deliberation and many prayers Andrew and I got certified and experienced our first two dives in the warm clear water of the Red Sea. It was a tiring two day course but, in hindsight, well worth it.

To be continued…

Day 128 – The Peephole

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Posted by Juliane | Posted in Kuwait | Posted on 05-11-2009

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Wednesday November 5th, 2009

Remember my peephole, the one I use every time I hear someone in the hall? In case you thought I was crazy, in case you thought I was the only one to do that, think again…

Last night my wonderful, 6’4”, burly husband and I were relaxing in the living room when the suction from the elevator was heard. Andrew was up from his all stretched out, hands behind his head lounging position in two seconds. The man he is transformed into a little kid as he quickly shuffled his bare feet across our tile flooring, rushing to get a peek at the mystery person behind door #1. But as the child was running, the man tried to stop and ended up smacking his head against the door as he went for the peephole. With the neighbors turned and looking at our closed door and Andrew looking back at them through the peephole, I burst out laughing from the sofa. What an adorable husband I have!

Day 127 – A Kuwaiti Halloween

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Posted by Juliane | Posted in Kuwait | Posted on 04-11-2009

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Tuesday November 4th, 2009

With a beautiful day outside, Andrew, Shayne and I were off to the grocery store in search of festive food! We were hoping to find something resembling pumpkins or the makings for Shayne’s pumpkin cheese cake. To our surprise, we found both! In Kuwait, in order to buy fresh produce you have to bag it and then take it to a cashier who weighs it and prints out a barcode with the price. As we stood in line, there behind the register in a large bin were Iranian pumpkins! I immediately left the cart and others behind in search of my future Jack-o-lantern. Soon Andrew and Shayne were alongside me pulling disfigured pumpkins out and digging deeper and deeper into the container. Almost every pumpkin had a hole from its previous owner and few were in the shape of the American pumpkin but the three of us managed to find three small pumpkins, one even had a stem! Of course the one with the stem just had to be mine. (It’s the simple pleasures of womanhood I enjoy most.) Andrew and Shayne readily gave up their claim to the stemmed pumpkin at my first burst of excitement.

We quickly found canned pumpkin and were amazed at our successes. The Mexican section of the Sultan Center consists of one shelf in one section. It had refried beans, seasoning and queso dip but no Tostitos and no salsa! Unlike Andrew, I was surprised! I was determined to make my mother’s dip and by gosh by golly somehow we were going to make it! Shayne, having worked at a Mexican restaurant in the past, suggested we go to Chili’s. So we became those people who ordered chips and salsa to go. In the end, we had a marvelous time of fellowship and cooking and a wonderful Halloween in Kuwait. No, we didn’t have trick-or-treaters and we didn’t dress up, not because I didn’t encourage it, but we spent time with the ones that we care about and that are close enough to hug. I think that’s what Christmas, I mean Halloween is all about!