When a Writer Drinks

When a Writer Drinks

Occasionally, when I drink, I start to write.  I often believe that the writing is profound, in a Truman Capote kind of way.  Then, I show it to Eric after, he reads it, shrugs his shoulders and I realize it was quite possibly, complete crap.  Because when a writer drinks, often times, it’s crap. On our way from Abu Dhabi to Dublin, we flew sheer across the Gulf.  Something I have never done during the day.  We were flying home to family, for a funeral, and certainly not the most celebratory of trips. That may have been why I had two, very good pours, of whiskey before 11 am.  Eric joined me.  At least I was not drinking alone. There was part of me that enjoyed the banter between Eric and I.  The discussions about our seat neighborhoods, the other people who boarded the plane, the fact that there was a window in the bathroom of our Etihad flight.  I think that we each relished the moment where we could pretend that this was a normal flight, a normal trip to Ireland, instead of a rushed, last minute booking to celebrate, and bury, someone who Eric thought of as a brother. I recognized how strange the flight was, even as we pretended to be normal.  Eric noticed that I had become fascinated with the landscape out the window.  As we made our way north, we flew over Kuwait City – so much beige, and in complete contrast to our landscape in Bali. Then, the map function on the Etihad entertainment system told me we were crossing over Baghdad. I...
The Animals of Petra – a Photo Essay

The Animals of Petra – a Photo Essay

It can be difficult to find cute animals in the desert, or at least interesting animals in the desert.  In Petra, I figured we would see at least a few, though, with all the stories of the horses, donkeys, and camels offering tourists entertainment at Petra.  Unfortunately, we heard about the aggressiveness of the touts, the animals’ owners, who often try to fleece the tourists, and even worse, the mistreatment of the horses. As we made our way further into the park, you could tell there were a lot of animals in Petra.  Well, you could smell there were a lot of animals around.  I, unfortunately, will always associate Petra with the smell of poop. I was very much on guard, and even once I started snapping photos of the animals of Petra, I did it on the sly, lest a tout demand that I pay for a picture of the animals.  I was certainly more ready to delete a photo than pay.  After all, we had already paid so much just to get into the park. I managed to sneak a few photos though, of donkeys. I tracked down a few horse drawn carriages – some waiting for fares, others barreling down the siq, the cavernous passageway leading to the famous Treasury.   This carriage, almost hit a cute cat that was stupid enough to cross his path. I can’t go anywhere without taking cat photos.  I just can’t help it. And, there’s no suprise that I end with some camel shots.  This is a desert in Jordan, after all. A face only a mother camel could love....
Arabian Adventures Night Safari in Dubai

Arabian Adventures Night Safari in Dubai

I really don’t have a bucket list per se, and don’t even really believe in the concept.  But, I once put together a travel to do list – years ago.  Once in a blue moon I look over the list to see if I am on the right track.  In all those years, one thing remained on my to do list – riding a camel.  I have ridden an elephant a couple times, I mean who hasn’t?  But, a camel, now that is something. When we were offered the opportunity to tour Dubai courtesy of Dubai Tourism, they asked us what, specifically, we were interested in doing in Dubai.  The first thing that came to mind – I wanted to ride a camel.  It did not need to be a lengthy trip across the desert, a la Lawrence of Arabia, but enough for me to sit on top, bop along, and knock it off my travel to do list. Dubai Tourism delivered.  And then some.   After our disappointing evening on the Dhow dinner cruise, my hopes were set on having a lovely evening for our last night in Dubai.  Our guide, Yafei, picked us up from the hotel, where Eric was waiting in his desert chic attire.  We were ready for our Arabian Adventures Night Safari. Yafei escorted us about an hour outside of the city, explaining about the safari and some history of Dubai.  We even drove past the practice grounds for camel racing on the way.    When we arrived at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, we pulled over with the other Arabian Adventures cars, and deflated...
Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding – Dubai

Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding – Dubai

I consider myself fairly educated and world traveled, although I know I have a lot more to learn, and a lot more to explore.  One region that we have not explored, and know so very little about, is the Arab world.  It is challenging to try to learn the reality of Islam in an American media-driven world.  If I accepted what FoxNews preached, I would be holed up in a bunker in Kansas, afraid to see daylight.  At least, though, I understood what I did not understand when landing in Dubai, our first stop in our tour of the Middle East.  As part of our tour, we were invited to the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding, where the motto is open doors, open minds.  Set in a traditional wind house in the rebuilt, historic center of Dubai, the goal of the center is to encourage understanding of the Emirati people, traditions, culture, and the Muslim religion.   Visiting an Emirati Mosque First, we visited a mosque with our guide, Nasif, who in quite a humorous and matter of fact way, explained some of the lesser known theories behind Islam, and how it compares to other religions.  His goal was to debunk some of the rumors that surround the Muslim world, in a way everyone can understand.   We all removed our shoes, and the women were asked to wear a head scarf.  As the only mosque in Dubai which is not only open to the public six days a week, but is dedicated to receiving non-Muslim visitors, I wondered how traditional this mosque really was, particularly as men...
Sugary Sweet Desserts in Amman, Jordan – Photo Essay

Sugary Sweet Desserts in Amman, Jordan – Photo Essay

After a lovely evening of cheap Shawarma in Amman, Jordan, we walked back to our hotel, in no particular rush to get back to the room.  We had walked by a huge sweet shop, and although we are not big dessert people, we wandered into Al Sahil Al Ahkdar Sweets.  I could smell the sugar in the street.  WE followed the saccharine smell and ordered some desserts in Amman. All we saw were enormous, round, metal sheets, loaded with every combination of the local sweet ingredients – sugar, nuts, filo pastry, honey, and more sugar. There were no signs or prices, so we just started pointing to various desserts saying two of those, two of those, two of those. One of the employees behind the counter even threw in two extra treats, he said “just for visiting.” It was another example of the friendliness of the Jordanian people.  Once we felt how heavy the little tray was, we were concerned that we had just bought 20 dollars worth of sweet desserts in Amman. Instead, it rang up at less than $3.00.  Wow.  I was simply amazed at the good value of the food in Amman.  So, we lugged our tray back to the hotel, ate almost everything on the tray.  Then, I swore I would go to the dentist once we were back in Kuala Lumpur. Thank you Amman, for the sweet treats. If you are familiar with any of these sweets, please let me know their names – we have no idea what we...
Etihad Airways Business Class on Jet Airways Aircraft!

Etihad Airways Business Class on Jet Airways Aircraft!

What goes up must come down.  Good things don’t last forever. I am sure there are more metaphors, but I was amazed at how quickly our customer service experience with Etihad Airways soured.  At least they waited until our second flight.  After attentive customer service while on the ground in Amman, due to some Twitter exchanges, we landed at Etihad’s home base in Abu Dhabi, and things just went south. Earning and Redeeming Frequent Flier Miles We spent years collecting the miles we have, and I am a little stingy with how I use them.  I only redeem my miles for saver awards, meaning there is less availability, but when the seats are available, it is a steal.  Similarly, I only redeem miles for an upperclass award, like business class or first class, on a really good airplane, on a long haul flight. When we were figuring out how to get from Kuala Lumpur to London and back using miles for some of the legs and doing stop overs in the Middle East, our flight planning became like a giant logic puzzle.  Add in my trip to Dublin for TBEX, and it was a downright nightmare.  With miles on American Air, United, US Air, Delta, and British Airways, it became a search for who flies where, with which partners, and how can we book it, and what is the best value for our miles.  It’s a little fun to figure it all out, I won’t lie, but can be frustrating nonetheless.   Initially, we planned to fly from Dublin to Istanbul to Amman on Turkish Airlines using our United...