Monday, August 31, 2009

Since We've Been Back.

Because it took me a week to catch up on blogging from our vacation, I haven’t mentioned anything much about being back here.

So, here’s a photo-blog about being back! :) Specifically for the grandparents. Hehe

Stu's playdough snowman! :)
My boys lounging around.
Capitalism at its best.
Kaden discovered a new way to view the world.

Here he is fresh from nap time!

And here's an update on the countdown chain! :) The one below was the original chain. Making slow, but steady progress.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Gulf: The NEW "Dead" Sea?

I've been preaching for months to anyone who will listen about how sick the Gulf is becoming and this article illustrates exactly what I've been saying: the Gulf is sick and dying, it is polluted, and it is now, according to the article, threatening to become too salty to use for desalinization and therefore, drinking water for the UAE. Nice.

I don't eat seafood from here because the fishing industry here is practically criminal (and literally would be if held to global standards). "Sustainable fishing" is a nearly unheard of term and you have to acknowledge that it effects the product of that fishing. The available seafood is the sickly, leftovers of the populations, not healthy, strong species. Add to that the issues with red tide we had here for about 7 months, which killed even more marine life, and you can see the serious problems the Gulf is facing. I wonder what it will take for any real change to happen?

Our Address.

I think I have mentioned on here before how there are no street addresses in this city. None. No numbers on buildings, and no numbered blocks on street signs.

So, it is Ramadan and I don't like to cook EVERY day. The only other option during this month is to order in because none of the restaurants are open until after sunset (and we eat WAY earlier than that with our 9:00 bed time). So, as most AD residents are aware, to get your food delivered, you must help the driver to find your building through a series of landmarks and they must do the same for you to find them.

I don't REALLY want to put directions to my house on here for obvious reasons, lol. But I will share a similar story about trying to find a place to develop our film last week.

We headed down to where I swore I remembered seeing a sign for "Kodak" about a year ago. Sure enough, the sign was there, but it was a printing and laminating shop. No film developing. So we asked an Emerati man in his Land Rover where we could get 35 mm film developed in town and he sent us to Carrefour. When we got there we learned that you could BUY 35 mm film there, but not develop it. So we asked the guys in electronics where to find a place to develop it.

"Oh yes, very simple. Go down, away, take first roundabout and go right. At past second light, go right, it is beside the fruit stand. Very simple."

So Stu set off going "away"... but the wrong "away" and we ended up on the outer rim road (which, those who haven't gotten lost down there lately, it's finally open and will actually take you back to Abu Dhabi now!). We made our way back to about where the shop should be, but by very different directions, and we found a different one after scanning the store shop names of about 3 blocks worth of stores. The fun part ended up being trying to remember we'd left our film when it was time to pick it up.

I hope in the near future they figure out a good way to address (pun intended) the address system here. So I never have to say another time, "You know Al Wahda Mall?" ("Yes.") "You know Abu Dhabi bus station?" etc. when I just want a pizza or Chinese.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sarah's Vacay Videos

So, for some reason, the videos Sarah took on her camera and shared with us to take back home won't upload on here. She found a way to make them a smaller size so they upload, but until I figure out what to do about my uploading issues, I can't get them on here. So, in the meantime, check out Sarah's brand new blog for some videos of Kaden and Co. while on vacation! They are adorable!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

August 19th: The Final Day

After we got up, Mom made pancakes, eggs and toast for breakfast before we finished packing up and said our goodbyes. I hate that part and especially this time after as much fun as we’d had.

The drive between the beach and Raleigh. I will definitely miss all that green!

The drive to Raleigh was smooth except it ended up being an hour shorter than Google maps told me it was. After we got back home I Googled the route again and it was right, so I have no idea why our route said an hour longer. Anyway, no harm done. It just meant we were super early to turn in the car.

Kaden, a half hour after we left the house.

These are some convicts cleaning up the freeway. I love community-minded projects like these. :)

The whole process of turning in the car, riding the bus to the airport, checking in, and going through security all took less than a half hour (since we’re superstars at security checkpoints these days, hehe) so we got to the waiting area about 3 ½ hours before our flight boarded. Stu and I took turns going on walks with Kaden to give the other a break. Kaden was full of energy (always a great thing when he must then sit for the next whole day…) and was pretty whiny, but ok considering what we could have been up against. We took advantage of being in Raleigh and the last opportunity to have NC BBQ, and we had barbeque sandwiches and coleslaw for dinner at the airport.

The flight to London was pretty easy. Stu and I didn’t get any sleep, which is really never good, but Kaden slept quite a bit and skipped both provided meals. I got to watch a movie (17 Again is just as good the second time around) from start-to-finish, which must be some sort of record with the Monk.

We landed in London and went through security where they “confiscated” our 118 ml bottles of children’s Tylenol and Benadryl. Now, I have been through the London airport two other times before this (and countless other airports), carrying the SAME exact bottles in Kaden’s diaper bag, however this is the first time I pulled them out while I was pulling out his sippy cups (which they just made me pretend to sip and then let pass no problem). They made a huge deal out of it saying we could only carry 100 ml bottles through security (though the actual liquid in them was far less than 100 ml total). So stupid. So we went to a little store and paid more (it turned out) for empty plastic bottles than for a new, full bottle of Benadryl. Nice. We made it back to the bitch at security and poured the scant contents of the bottles into new bottles and were on our way. The moral of the story? Keep your contraband in a pocket in your bag and they probably won't find it anyway. Ugh!

Due to our longer-than-planned stay at security, Kaden’s too-full diaper had leaked through his diaper and through his clothes (and through his stroller, if we’re being quite honest) so we had an emergency rendezvous with the changing room.

We tried to catch an earlier flight to Abu Dhabi, but due to our frugality when purchasing the tickets, they were unchangeable and would require us to go out to the front of the airport to the kiosk, re-buy tickets, and get back through security and boarded all within the half-hour remaining before the flight left. Lame. So we settled in for an 8-hour layover.

Having been through Heathrow a couple times now, we know right where everything is located, so we headed back to the uncrowded bathrooms and then to wait in the special assistance room (which also happens to be the only place in the whole airport that is properly air conditioned) to wait out our time. They have little cot-like seating here that you can stretch out on, so Stu and I again took turns walking Kaden around in his stroller and then we ate breakfast at TGIFriday’s, which has become something of a tradition for us. Lol.

After another hour or so of fussy Monkey, he finally fell asleep in his stroller on my walking shift and then I took him back to where Stu was laying down. I hooked my foot through his stroller and rested it on his lap and we all got a little snooze for about an hour or so, which turned out to be amazingly important after so many hours of no sleep. Kaden woke up just in time for our gate to be assigned and we headed down to wait to board the plane.

Stu and I briefly discussed the pros and cons of giving Kaden more Benadryl, but agreed that because it says it can be given every 4-6 hours (it had been about 12 hours), if he got upset again, we’d just do it and deal with future sleeping issues when we got home. Sure enough, he began to lose his mind about two hours into the flight (after watching the same episode of Barney 4 times in a row on the TV[ thank you, thank you, wonderful Etihad for being so passenger-friendly]). He got his sleep and Mom and Dad watched more TV and ate more food in peace.

I would like to take the opportunity here to say how seriously wonderful Etihad is. There are plenty of things about this country that irk me, but when it comes to airlines, they are at the head of the pack. Our flight attendants, once again, were amazingly helpful and courteous (ours was an obviously gay slight black man who asked me if I was Canadian and was bummed when he found out that I was not, too, of America's Hat). It's impossible to be uncomfortable or bored on Etihad and I'm telling you, if you ever get the chance, fly with them. I feel so strongly about it that I have become willing to pay nearly double for our last flight home in a few months just so we can avoid European airports (just shoot me, please) and American carriers. Etihad flies direct to New York and Chicago and I'm determined to get on one of those flights.

We got to Abu Dhabi around 2:30 AM and sluggishly made our way through immigration and got to the baggage claim to find no baggage. After an hour of back-and-forth with the lost baggage lady, when I had already decided that we would file a claim and worry about it later, (I needed sleep BAD) they figured out that they put about 4 families’ baggage on the wrong carrousel. So we headed down to “4” which is in a different area of the airport and finally got all of our bags.

We took the bus to the rental car place and got our car easily and were on the road home. After such a long day of travel, it felt comforting to see the endless sand and familiar roads and trees and landmarks. Stu already started feeling down about being back, but I was curiously lifted by the fact that this place had become our home, for now, and that being back, though it definitely has its downfalls, was oddly comforting to me.

We got to our building, which Kaden calls “the place” (not sure where or why he picked that up, lol) and he sleepily announced, “Ooohh, the place!” He totally recognized his home and sounded relieved to be back. We went in and aside from a suspicious 2-foot pile of about 200 dead gnats and a broken air conditioner, it was just as we’d left it.

After much-needed showers for everyone, I vacuumed the gnats (at 3 AM) and stripped to the bare essentials and we all went to bed. Our nasty, uncomfortable bed has never felt so comfy or been so large! We’d been sleeping in a double sized bed for a week and it felt nice not to HAVE to touch! Haha. (And with having an air conditioner broken, it was also a necessity.)

Of course, upon our return, the house and country problems all started again with a vengeance, but I am pleased to say that after a week, our A/C was fixed and they also made good on the promise of a “new” washer for our apartment! It works (today at least...) and I hope other than doing bed sheets, I’ll never have to use the ones upstairs again (though I’m probably not that lucky).

The day after we got back, Ramadan officially started, marking the beginning of the end of the misery for me here. I have associated the “end” with Ramadan both because of the restrictions on eating and drinking, etc, and because of the heat of the summer. After Ramadan is over, it will again be cool enough to go outside and play, we can picnic again, and Kaden can play at the parks. It also means we’re one month closer to going home. So here’s to surviving the holy month without much more added damage! We’re one week down, three to go! Ramadan Kareem!

August 18th: Day Fourteen

After breakfast, Stu and I headed to Food Lion to pick up a disposable camera for the deep sea fishing trip. I didn’t want our camera to go in case it got dropped in (that boat goes incredibly fast and you HAVE to hold on). So we settled for a disposable.

The boys got the boat ready and everyone except Mom, Kaden and I went (the sleepy head and the two motion-sickers. Stupid). I decided it would be unwise to get back on a plane already motion sick, so I opted out of the trip. After they left, Kaden thrilled himself with spraying Momma E with the water hose and then soaking himself. I cleaned up the house and did the dishes and then joined them out under the gazebo where Kaden took his lunch (ah, the life).

Getting ready to head out!
Bye bye!

These next 6 Stu took with the disposable while they were out there (talk about a quality difference, sheesh):

Granddad driving the boat.

The open sea.

This is an Army Corps of Engineers boat for dredging the bottom of the waterway so it stays deep enough for the boats to go through.

She's the Queen of the world!

Stu said they did a lot of this because the fish weren't biting. :)

I finally got a chance to drive all by my lonesome and went to the Crab Pot to pick up some SheCrab soup for my Mom and me for lunch. Kaden had gone down for nap by the time I made it back with the soup and the two of us enjoyed an eerily quiet lunch while we got to catch up on our respective books in peace with no one else around. Mom laid down on the couch to rest and I knocked out half my book before also turning in for a wonderful afternoon nap in the sunshine coming in our room.

After nap we headed to pick up some fudge to send home for Grandma Jan (Mike’s wife, who’s Dad is dying so she couldn’t come down to the beach). Then we went to the store to get some snacks for our return journeys back home (which we realized was about the same number of hours… us on a plane and layovers, them driving straight through. 32 hours. I can’t imagine that one!). We got back to the house right after the boat made it back home (unfortunately they didn’t catch anything).

Here they are coming back in.

While Stu started the coals, Mom and I went to work on dinner which consisted of clam chowder, fried flounder, apples and onions, broccoli, baked potatoes, and salad to accompany our (Stu) grilled steaks (it was our last night and the food all needed to be eaten). After dinner, Granddad, Stu and I took Kaden out to the dock to feed the fishies the dinner leftovers. Then we gathered up all of our stuff and got pretty well packed and ready to go.

Cooking fools. :)

The living room at the beach house.

Kaden walking with Great Granddad out to feed the fishies the leftovers from dinner.

Tossing in an orange slice!

Fishies love oranges, who knew?

August 17th: Day Thirteen

No one got enough sleep but Mom made biscuits and gravy for breakfast and then mercifully took a teething and crabby Kaden (and Alli) to the beach so the rest of us could eat in peace. When they got back, Stu, Hayden, Granddad and I went out on the boat so the boys could go tubing. It was fun watching them and other than ending up sore, they had a great time. We came back and Stu, Hayden and I went souvenir hunting. Stu and I found a magnet (we collect them from the places we’ve been) and Stu got another sleeveless t-shirt because he’s wanted a few more.

Getting ready to leave to go tubing.

Kaden having the best time spraying Momma E with the hose. Look at the joy on his face! lol

We stopped for lunch at a little local diner called Mollie’s and then headed back. We all loaded up on the boat this time and rode out to a deserted island where the waterway touches the open ocean and hung out and hunted for seashells (they’re bigger and less broken there because it’s their first stop). We got to see a sting ray in the water and of course, I got seasick on the way back to the house. (Trolling along for over ten minutes just doesn’t work for me… and we trolled for about a half hour, ugh) I felt like crap through dinner which sucked because we had barbeque, chicken, and fixin’s for dinner. They boys were all tired from the day so we decided to forego flounder gigging that night. Hayd and I shared some pizza rolls before bed and then we all called it a day.

August 16th: Day Twelve

Kaden was up at 6, which meant and early rise for most everyone else too. Momma E and Kaden fed the birds in the morning and then Mom made bacon, eggs, grits, and toast for breakfast. Then we headed to the beach. The waves were so awesome this day. Probably ten or so feet high with a killer undertow. We all had a hard time swimming back once we were tired and had to stick together for that reason. My siblings, as with the whole trip, were so much fun and so funny. We had such a great time and generated so many inside jokes (i.e. “Activity Request”). It was great. We saw a couple of dolphins playing in the waves near us (like ten yards away at one point). When I first saw them I was kind of freaked out and Stu called me a chicken. Then when they got so close he said, “Maybe we should get out.” Lol! Who’s the chicken now? :)

Kaden and Momma E feeding the seagulls.

We went back home for lunch and to let Kaden nap and then relaxed for a bit in the afternoon. Kaden got brave enough to get in the boat with his grandparents and he had a great time driving the boat.

A view of the canal from the dock at the beach house.
Stu and I "napping" (goofing off with the camera instead).
Coming back in from crusing around the waterway.
Captain Kaden.
Steve and Dad.
While they were out cruising around, Steven, Brook and Alli arrived and we headed back to the beach where the waves were HUGE. We saw a small sand shark (about 3 feet long) and fought 10+ foot waves. I taught Brook how to dive into them when they are too high and she was brave and ventured out into the deeper water with us big kids.

Then we came back and had hotdogs and hamburgers for dinner (Stu was the grill master of course). Then Stu, me, Steve, Dad, Maddy, Hayd, Brook and Alli headed out to go flounder gigging. Stu and Hayden each caught one, but then after about an hour and a half, I of course had to get seasick. They were wonderful enough to drop me back at the house (stupid body) around 12:30 AM. They made it back (with two additional fish) around 2 AM. Apparently my hair had been hanging on to the sand from the waves, in spite of like 5 showers a day, because, that night when it finally dried, it released it all into the bed (and I’m talking a SHIT TON of sand). I slept terribly between brushing the sand out every hour or so and bizarre dreams all night long.

Stu with his big flounder.

The stab marks!

August 15th: Day Eleven

We got up around 9 AM and Mom made pancakes and sausage for breakfast. Then Dad, Mom and I went grocery shopping (something, btw, that I don’t think has EVER happened in my life. Just the three of us shopping…).

When we got back we all went to the beach. We didn’t end up staying long because Kaden was ready for a nap and was a grouch (he was also teething) so Stu and I went on another lunch date. We went to a place called The Crab Pot and it was so yummy. Stu had shrimp scampi, hush puppies, sweet potato fries, and pasta salad. I started with SheCrab soup (holy yum) and then had the shrimp and grits (best I’ve EVER had), fried green tomatoes, and sweet potato fries. It was all scrumptious.

We got back and Stu took a nap while I read some until Grandad Mike arrived and we took both boats out for a run around the canal and intercoastal waterway. The big boat was so fast I could literally feel my eyelids and cheeks flapping in the wind, lol.

We got back and had pizza for dinner (with Catalina dressing for me. Oh I missed that!) and it was awesome. Then Stu, Hayden and I went to Food Lion to pick up a couple half-gallons of ice cream for dessert for everyone. Then we watched Cops and American’s Most Wanted and went to bed.

Watching Cops.

August 14th: Day Ten

It rained in the morning, just like every other day, but because we’ve missed rain so much, it really was a nice change of pace for us. The rain was still warm so you could go outside and spend time in it and wear shorts no problem so it wasn’t miserable at all.

I organized our stuff a bit and then had super yummy Captain Crunch for breakfast. Stu and my Mom went clamming again while Kaden and I hung out and he played with water in a bucket.

Because of the rain, Stu, Hayden, Maddison and I went shopping to get out of the rain and the house. They each got to pick out a food prize each and then we dropped them back at the house and Stu and I went on a lunch date to “Nikki’s Chinese and Sushi bar”. It was just ok, the sushi we get here in Abu Dhabi is WAY better, but you can’t get sweet tea with your meal here, lol.

We tried to take a nap afterwards (I say tried because it was a fail with the noise) and then we went back to the beach and found sharks teeth and swam again. Sorry there are no pics of the times we went to swim. Everything was so sandy every time we got in and out of the water that I was afraid of messing up the camera. So just imagine us in bathing suits and screeching like little school girls in the waves and you have the right picture. :) Kaden got even braver around the water and was going in and out of the surf on his own.

We went back home and Mom made a yummy penne with tomatoes and cheeses and a salad and garlic bread for dinner (this is DEFINITELY a recipe I will be stealing and trying on my own… if you follow my food blog, stay tuned for that one). We watched We Are Marshall (sad EVERY time) and my Mom made us “wine-a-ritas” (like a margarita but with wine instead of tequila… of my God, soooo yummy!) and we had some spinach and artichoke dip and then called it a night.

Kaden watching We Are Marshall with "Dad-dad" (Granddad)

Monday, August 24, 2009

August 13th: Day Nine

We got up and headed right out after breakfast. Mom and Stu went clam digging in the sandbar in the canal while Kaden and I explored the property. Maddison joined them in the canal for a swim and afterwards we planned to fish but it started storming again, so we went inside for some pizza rolls (yay!) and a special about Alaskan gangs on the History Channel. After a while, Maddy and I decided to brave the cold and she and Stu and I went out and fished in the rain. It was fun, though moist.

Mom and Dad went for a drive and Stu and I soon followed suit and ended up at Long Island Pizzaria where Stu had a sub sandwich and I had a garlic cheese bread appetizer. Then we went to Waves and picked up some t-shirts (Topsail) for us and some Crocs and a water floaty toy for Kaden. Stu got a pair of Carona flip flops.

The entrance to Waves is an alligator (the one of the other side of the island is a shark)

We searched for shark teeth on the beach and Kaden finally got comfy enough to get in the water. We swam in the afternoon for a while again until Stu felt like he was getting burned again.

We had for barbecued pork sandwiches and tons of sides for dinner and then we went on our beach walk again and got ice cream for dessert at one of the local shops in town.

We ended the day playing cards (Hayden, Mom, Stu, Dad and I… Kaden and Maddison went to bed earlier) and stayed up until almost midnight playing. I think Hayden won, if I remember correctly.
Stu on the bridge over the dunes, heading to the beach.

Kaden admiring his uncle "Haynen".
Letting the water touch his toes.

Happy, happy beach baby!

Looking for shark teeth
I have to remind Stu that the only way I can prove I was there too is to be in at least one picture, lol.
Wading pool.

Splashing himself in the face.

Daddy splashing Kaden!

Pretty beach and dunes and sky.

Pretty boy!

"Taynen and Mom-mimi" (I figure that's close enough to "Momma E" because she's right between his Mom and his Mimi!)

My dork brother. Lol