Monthly Archives: February 2014

Eloquent Words: Realities of Being an Ex-Expat

My mom is so good at finding these exceedingly accurate, not to mention moving, articles about expat life. You may remember my post on “trailing spouses” and being an expat housewife, and now I bring you another article that is sure to strike a chord with my fellow expats, ex-expats, or anyone that has moved during their life!

Lisa + World puts the realities of being an expat in the “real world” in such an honest light – each of the items on the list really hit home for me (I’m sure my parents and sister would say the same).

The travelin’ Simpson clan (in Thailand – Christmas 2006, I believe?)

 

Having grown up as an “expat brat” and having enjoyed the international stints (probably more so in retrospect than as a surly teenager), I knew that this was something I wanted to continue in my “grown up” life. To that end, when Barr and I got married (heck, even when we dated) we discussed over and over how much we both wanted to live abroad, especially once we had children – exposing ourselves as well as any offspring that we should have (inshallah) to different cultures, languages, cities and people is central to our little family. That being said, living an expat life is not without its hurdles – and that is what I feel Lisa’s post puts so eloquently: we expats want that lifestyle, and yet you still wax nostalgic for your home country (whatever that means!), being close to family, and truly putting down roots in one place. I’ll be the first to admit that a part of me is always jealous of those who are still best friends with their kindergarten best friend or childhood next door neighbor – that is something of which I have very little concept (even Barr, who is so close to his high school friends – that’s another special bond that I lack). Home is such a transient place to me, but I feel blessed to continue my journey as an expat, and also find someone like Lisa who so concisely articulates what being an ex-expat is like.

Barr and I exploring the world (in this instance, Hong Kong)

Speaking of “home”, I’m off to another one of my homes this weekend – bon voyage Dubai and bonjour Houston (followed by Los Angeles and Nashville)! I couldn’t be more excited to see my parents, grandmother, fur baby, and friends – and of course celebrate two dear, loving and amazing friends from college (one wedding and one bachelorette/hen party). Until next time…

My friend, Elise (the bride to be) and me

My friend, Elise (the bride to be) and me

The other bride to be and I (dont worry Sas - there are more old school pics where this came from!)

The other bride to be and I (dont worry Sas – there are more old school pics where this came from!)

 

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Dubai Neighborhoods: Bur Dubai & Bastakiya

And I’m back on schedule..kinda! At least I am keeping with the weekly Dubai neighborhood update, anyway…albeit, a few days later than I had hoped, but better late than never (a shocker for me, as I am rarely, if ever late for stuff). But I digress.

Part of the entrance display at the Dubai Museum in Bur Dubai

Part of the entrance display at the Dubai Museum, alongside the Al Fahidi Fort 

Today I had to make a trip to Bur Dubai (literally translated: mainland Dubai) to pick up some souvenirs for friends and family in the states (I’ll be reporting to you for the next 2 weeks from good ole ‘Merica), and what better place to find some authentic (and not so authentic) goodies than Bur Dubai? By way of explanation of the post’s title, Bur Dubai is the actual “neighborhood” I suppose you would say, with Bastakiya being a smaller subset of Bur Dubai…more of a historic quarter (as “historic” as one can get in Dubai anyway!)

My favorite mosque in the city: the famous, blue-tiled Iranian mosque - the colors and patterns get me every time!

My favorite mosque in the city: the famous, blue-tiled Iranian mosque – the colors and patterns get me every time!

One of the things about this part of town that really intrigues me is that while there are historical buildings, walls, and museums, the actual construction in Bur Dubai is relatively new. The area dates back to the late nineteenth century, but once Dubai began its gung-ho development (particularly in the 1970s), many of the original buildings were destroyed for new construction. Bummer! But fear not, my friends, because in the late 1980s, the realization hit that some of the old/original stuff should be preserved (what was left of it anyway…and by this point, very little!) and/or reconstructed in that same architectural style. So voila! Dubai can construct the world’s tallest building and reconstruct their original, ancient buildings. Kind of cheating the system a bit, but they’re trying! And you absolutely get a more old time-y feel in Bur Dubai and Bastakiya, even if it is a bit contrived.

A local wind tower, an architectural element ubiquitous with Bur Dubai; these towers are traditionally designed to catch cooler breezes that occur at a higher level above the ground and to direct it into the interior of the buildings - smart, huh? Especially in 100+ temps!

A local wind tower, an architectural element ubiquitous with Bur Dubai; these towers are traditionally designed to catch cooler breezes that occur at a higher level above the ground and to direct it into the interior of the buildings – smart, huh? Especially in 100+ temps!

Where: Check out the top right corner of this map, just below of Port Rashid to the left of the creek. Like many (all?) cities’ first/original cities, even Dubai sprang up from right by the water. What better place to pearl dive?

Brightly colored fabric in one of the many textile shops

Brightly colored fabric adorns one of the many textile shops

What: One of Dubai’s oldest and most historic districts, just bordering the famous Dubai Creek. The neighborhood comprises narrow alleys and lanes, traditional wind towers, a number of mosques, residential apartments/homes, the textile hub and shops, as well as innumerable souvenir shops!

Can I interest anyone in a sari?

Can I interest anyone in a sari?

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Highlights:

  • Al Fahidi Fort – the oldest building in Dubai, dating from the 1780s!
  • The Dubai Museum – very close to the Al Fahidi Fort, and a great place to learn a bit more about the cultural, tradition and history of Dubai
  • Majlis Gallery – a great gallery for local artistic fare
  • Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) – my personal fave!
A narrow lane of Bur Dubai

A narrow lane of Bur Dubai

Fun Facts: Check out this video with super dramatic music for more!

Until next time…

 

Filling My Day

I suck – I havent done my neighborhood post this week, but it’ll come later this week, I promise! In the meantime, how have I been filling my day you might ask? I started substitute teaching! Having come from corporate America, a job where the whiteboard looks like the below vs. a conference call that always goes like this (CAN I GET AN AMEN?!), I have been a pretty happy camper lately. Subbing is good for one’s ego! 😉 Until next time…

Thank you for thinking I have blond hair!

Thank you for thinking I have blond hair!

AD Birthday for AB

On our wedding day, I felt sick to my stomach. No, I wasnt nervous about who I was marrying, if it would rain (okay, I was a little worried it would rain), nor was it cold feet: I just really dont enjoy being the sole center of attention. Following the ceremony, I was just fine – it was just the thought of walking down the aisle, all eyes on me that freaked me out. The same anxiety kind of comes with my birthday. Don’t get me wrong, of course I love celebrating and hearing from those I love (this year more than ever!), but the idea of the attention being on me is very daunting! I’m a weirdo, right? Oh well.

Well, in the aforementioned event of our wedding, I definitely made the right choice as my husband was the best ever on my 27th birthday! 🙂 He planned such a fabulous weekend in Abu Dhabi, leaving no stoned unturned – not to mention the hotel was immaculate! We hit the road to Abu Dhabi (“AD”) after the work day was done (an easy hour drive), heading to the St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort (those Starwood points do pay off!) Here are some initial shots:

Would you look at that turquoise water!?

Would you look at that turquoise water!?

View from the balcony in our room

View from the balcony in our room

Saadiyat Island is being tapped as Abu Dhabi’s cultural center, with a Louvre and Guggenheim museum both under construction on the island. There are also commercial and residential buildings in place and under development as well, and I’ve got to say, it is a little paradise in Abu Dhabi!

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We arrived at the hotel just in time for cocktail hour, but first dropped by the room to freshen up, and lo and behold, the room’s butler was already on the ball, having decorated the room with balloons, signs, flowers and cupcakes (gluten free, of course!) That husband of mine – such a planner! 🙂

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The service was beyond fabulous at the hotel – I can’t rave about it enough. That brings us to the food 🙂 We had a celebratory cocktail at the Manhattan Lounge (did you know that the original St Regis hotel in NYC invented the Bloody Mary cocktail? Each St Regis has its own signature Bloody Mary, in fact!) in the hotel before our dinner reservation at Koi (on the island, adjacent to the hotel).

Cheers!

Cheers!

Koi: the food was out of this world. The rolls were delicious, the lobster tacos were unreal delicious, full of lush cuts of lobster – in fact, all the dishes were chock full of the fresh fish, and each bite better than the next. I’ll admit that we were a tad disappointed with the service at Koi; we felt that the food and drinks were a bit rushed – we didnt have time to enjoy even a sip of our drinks before the food was upon us – a bummer as we would have preferred a more leisurely meal whilst on vacation, but c’est la vie! We had a no cell phone rule at dinner, so unfortunately no shots of the food this time around.

DSC_0639 DSC_0645 DSC_0636On Friday, we decided to flashback to our honeymoon and do exactly NOTHING – and we loved it! (In actuality, the Captain of Industry did churn out some emails poolside), but with scenery like this, who can complain?

Where we posted up for most of the day!

Where we posted up for most of the day!

Saturday were our individual personal days – golf for him, spa for moi! The spa was lovely, and Barr deemed the Saadiyat course one of the most beautiful he had ever played.

DSC_0655 DSC_0638 DSC_0652 DSC_0658Not to shabby, eh? Next time, I want to play the course as well! The St Regis at Saadiyat was one of the best hotels I have had the privilege to stay – no stone was left unturned.

All in all, it was such a spectacular birthday week: so chill, beautiful, and lovely – Barr put a lot of thought into the weekend, and I couldnt have felt more blessed by his love or by the influx of emails, Facebook messages, and texts I got over the weekend. It makes me miss everyone even more! 🙂 Here’s to my 27th year – toot toot. Until next time…

Happy – Dubai Version

Happy Tuesday, all! To those that have seen and heard Pharrell’s new jam, Happy, you know what a joyful and fun song it is – and now, Dubai has its own version, starring 29 (!) different nationalities as they dance around various areas of the city as the backdrop of the video (the gentleman getting down in his suit and tie is my personal fave). I love this song – I put it on in the mornings sometimes and literally do feel happier starting a day with it.

Thanks to the Dubai Confidential site for putting this video together. I dare you not to smile watching these folks spread happiness around Dubai. Enjoy and have happy weeks! 🙂

Pantry Cafe

I know, I know…radio silence, again. Last week was a bit hectic between some meetings with the All 4 Down Syndrome group, an interview with a local celebrity (I can’t disclose all the details yet, but hopefully soon!), and the week culminated in my 27th (!) birthday and a trip to Abu Dhabi to celebrate 🙂  All in all, a fab way to start February…a month that will continue to pick up steam…and I cant wait!

The relaxed interior of the Pantry Cafe in Al Wasl Square

The relaxed interior of the Pantry Cafe in Al Wasl Square

So I’ll rewind a week or so to a great lunch I had last week when I visited Safa Park; I finally tried out Pantry Cafe in Al Wasl Square, just adjacent to the park. Like Comptoir 102, this was another great lunch spot. The ambience was exceedingly relaxed, with lots of natural light spilling in from the primarily glass building, overlooking the busy street and park nearby. There were only a handful of patrons eating inside the day I stopped by, all of whom we’re enjoying a leisurely lunch, coffee, and presumably, a bit of work.

Next time, I'll be stopping by for their breakfast!

Next time, I’ll be stopping by for their breakfast!

The front page of the festive (and extensive) menu

The front page of the festive (and extensive) menu

In addition to the extensive menu (breakfast, all day dining, coffee, drinks and sweets), the Pantry Cafe also boasts a fabulous selection of takeaway items in the deli counter – I’ll definitely be returning to bring home a macaron or 2…ahh who are we kidding…definitely 5 (I’ll share, I swear!)

Back to this meal. I was feeling a bit vegetable deficient and for some reason was craving mushrooms, so I opted for the Paprika and Rosemary Chicken Salad with a side of the sauteed mushrooms, as well as a skinny latte for a mid afternoon caffeine fix. The coffee was served promptly and festively, I might add:

My lovely latte...was feeling the birthday love

My lovely latte…was feeling the birthday love

I enjoyed one of the Hello! magazines from the rack while I waited for the main event, and was not disappointed with the generous salad (mixed lettuce, tender chicken strips, asparagus, tomatoes, kidney beans, and  peppers) and extra yummy sauteed mushrooms (served simply, and topped with a bit of grated cheese)…nom nom nom:

photo 5 photo 3Following my meal (I unfortunately couldnt make it through more than half of each dish – guess my eyes were too big for my stomach!), I perused the cookware and unique food items that the cafe offered, reminiscent of a smaller Dean & Deluca. The only downside to this spot I can mention would be the service – it was a tad subpar, particularly given that I went at a very slow time of day; I had to flag someone down several times to get the bill.

That being said, I’ll definitely be back to Pantry Cafe, as I find myself in that area of town more and more, and there were many items that I wanted to try on the menu, service notwithstanding. And now that I’m hungry (again) after posting these pictures and writing about food, I’m going to try to recreate the salad above (though it inevitably wont compare!) Until next time…

My little place mat which outlines some of the food tenants of the cafe

My little place mat which outlines some of the food tenants of the cafe

Dubai Neighborhoods: Al Safa Park

Yall! Staying true to weekly post, I bring you the next “neighborhood” in Dubai: Al Safa Park. You read that right: there is a beautiful, green park smack dab in the middle of the desert that is Dubai – this city never ceases to amaze!

There is a running/walking track that loops around the park

There is a running/walking track that loops around the park

The park has undergone several updates over the last 20 years, and now, as you can see below, there are plenty of skyscrapers that create great views from the park:

Burj Khalifa and the two towers on the right are the tallest hotels in the world: Marriott Marquis

Burj Khalifa and the two towers on the right are the tallest hotels in the world: Marriott Marquis

Where: From this map, you can find the park right in the middle of the city – a perfect location!

What: Safa Park is one of the many parks in Dubai, but it is the largest, about 160 acres, containing 3 lakes, plenty of bird wildlife, and 16,924 different trees and bushes (per Wikipedia!). The park is covered in 80% of grassy knolls, which offer plenty of amazing views of the park itself as well as the Dubai skyline.

Highlights: I love the Archive restaurant situated in the center of the park – it offers great coffees, yummy food, free Wifi, and just a generally chill atmosphere. There’s also plenty of playgrounds, football (ahem, soccer) pitches, tennis courts, a waterfall and lakes, and  little walking trails that sprawl throughout the park. Also, on Friday, there is a fab farmer’s market!

The Archive

The Archive

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Not too shabby for February!

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Fun Facts:

  • The park was originally built waaaay back in 1975 (practically ancient by Dubai standards)! And prior to the park’s creation, that area was one in which many illegal immigrants congregated – read more on that here
  • Tuesdays (during the day) are designated for children and women only
  • Bring some food and have a BBQ – there are plenty of grill stations to go around!
  • The park entrance fee is AED3

Until next time…

The view from my spot in the park this afternoon :)

The view from my spot in the park this afternoon 🙂

Sportsing

Short and sweet this Sunday…Super Bowl Sunday! Below is a funny little cartoon I saw on Instagram, and pretty much sum up how sports commentary sounds to me. Given the the below, it should go without saying that I will not be getting up at 4AM to watch the Broncos battle the Seahawks, but will be cheering in my dreams for Denver – home of my little sister.

Okay, okay, maybe I’ll get up a leettle bit earlier than usual to watch the last quarter, but without the commercials, snacks, and friends, Super Bowl just isnt the same in my mind! I know that no matter the outcome, I will be able to find 10 hours of sportsing analysis somewhere. 😉 Until next time…

My overall sentiments towards sports – go teams!