Tuesday, February 10, 2015

UAE Falconry Festival

One of the national past times for the local population here is falconry (so is camel pageantry, but we haven't been fortunate enough to make it to one of those yet), as it in AWESOME. Adam loves the birds far more than I do, and I find it fascinating. Such agile and fierce creatures that absolutely enrapture and captivate us. There is an annual festival brings falconers in from all over the world, so you can catch a glimpse of how it is done from over 50 different countries.
The best part was the exhibition field where they would walk around with the birds (No, not just falcons) and then show them in action releasing them to "attack" a robotic rabbit.

The other awesome part was that some of the falconers allowed to hold and touch the birds. They are so beautiful.

I have a feeling that we will be attending many of these. I also know that, if we ever stayed somewhere long enough or were not so obsessed with traveling, that Adam would have a bird-of-prey to take care of. Especially with how much he loved our day with the falconry crew in Scotland.
Want to come play?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Christmas: Expat Style

Everyone worries about us "poor expats" being so far from family during "the holidays'. Honestly, there is nothing sad about it. Yes, we dearly miss our families, and No, the holidays don't quite seem the same without the traditions you spend your life being raised in, but we are constantly blessed here.
First and foremost, we live in a culture of Islam, so Christmas is not really high on their list of things to celebrate. Despite this, there are more than enough expats around to make sure that the "Holiday Season" is somewhat of a thing around here. After working a full day, the holiday festivities kicked off at our place with a Secret Santa gift exchange. A raging success all around, for sure. I think I solidified myself as the group "mom" with my PERFECT gifts of an apron (to cook more Rosewood Family dinners with) and a fancy cocktail mixer (which Adam has been putting to frequent and tasty-result use)! Adam's Santa cemented a place in my man's heart with a fine bottle of scotch. He is certainly easy to please. Adam even made it more "real" by streaming a digital fire on the TV.  The gathering progressed down to another Rosewood apartment to meet up with more people, before heading out to a grand dinner on the beach at Emirates Palace.
Does it feel weird being able to go sleeveless on Christmas? Yes. Would I change it for anything in the world....Mmmmm, maybe, but leaning towards No. We ALL know that I am a supreme wuss when it comes to anything less than 80 degrees, and would gladly live the rest of my life without experiencing another snowflake in my life. Yep, snow is pretty to look at. Other than that, I am just fine to be without. You can keep your four seasons and sweaters paired with knee high boots. I will just wait for you over here with my flipflops, maxi dress, and sunglasses.
My studly reindeer

Beach night Christmas dinner

I would also like to take a moment to recognize our BELOVED Dave, who won for "best dressed" as the man came out in FULL TUXEDO for the occasion. Oh yes, silken stripe down the side of the pants and all! It was enough that Johan felt the need to leave to change! Oh dear God how much I love our group!

Allison and Debbie

Chris, Dave, and a warm digital fire

Noting an exchange theme

Christmas Love

Elena and Johan, making it look damn good

Hey there

A bromance

Sara and Allison

Adam and Debbie, cheesy and awesome

The Greenhalgh's and their ridiculous cuteness

The Bergenas-McGoverns

Mayer Love
Family and friends on the US side, we love and miss you, but fear not, we felt your love from afar. We did not lack being surrounded by those we care about and who care about us in return. The true essence of the holiday season! Join us in celebration next year?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Nora and National Day

Oh what a hiatus this has been. No worries though, we are alive and well. Life has just been crazy busy with work and then thoroughly enjoying every moment not spent working, that it has come at the expense of keeping up with the blog. So it looks like we have some catching up to do dear friend.
While Adam was back in PA for the annual retreat to Camp for deer season, my best friend Nora came to keep me company. We got to hang out TWICE in single year, a trend that I hope to keep up!
First, I want to exclaim loud accolades for my BFF, who successfully defended her thesis in November and completed her doctoral degree! She has worked extraordinarily hard on this for more years than we both care to count, but I am so excited for and proud of her! Cheers to Dr. Nora!
To celebrate, she and her boyfriend decided to run away to New Zealand for 3 months, but she laid-over here with me on her way there, so I could enjoy celebrating with her as well!
It was a fantastically short but wonderful time showing her around Abu Dhabi, Dubai, the deserts of Liwa, and she was able to enjoy the UAE's 43rd National Day. What I really enjoyed most, besides spending never-enough-time with her was introducing her to our awesome friends that we have made here, bringing two of my favorite worlds together.

Of course there was the obligatory visit to the mosque, one of my favorite places in all of the Emirate. After two visits, we finally have the BEST timing down. Be there about 30 minutes before sunset so you can enjoy the mosque in the sunlight, the sunset, and the nightfall. It is an absolutely stunning building no matter what the time, but my simple camera caught some absolutely breathtaking shots....though they pale in comparison to seeing it without your own eyes.

Emirates Palace

Elena's parents also happened to be visiting at the same time (all the way from Vermont!), so we met up with the crew at Emirate Palace for tea and coffee. While it is not an actual palace, but rather a grande hotel, it is still quite a unique place. We even splurged on a cup of cappuccino with camel's milk with some shave gold leaf over the top. You know, because why wouldn't you order a cup  of coffee with gold!?!?! Opulence. Extreme opulence.

Emirate Palace

For National Day, it was decided that a day of walking would be great, since the weather is fantastic here during the "winter". Friends met up with us here to walk over to join other friends for lunch, to further join more friends for the festivities. National Day is  H U G E thing here. They have so much pride for their country, it is inspiring. That and I was grateful for the "free" days off from work so I could enjoying Nora being here, since I was still on probation and had no leave days to use. We went to lunch at the fantastic Middle Eastern restaurant and enjoyed tapas shared amongst the table. Nora is practically vegan and we had no issue easily finding food to keep her full.

Dave is worried, Nora is excited.

Me, Elena, Johan, and Micah
Once satiated, we wandered over to sit out on the water to await the air show. The Blue Angels use to perform annually while we lived out in Hawaii, and in the days before the "big show" we would get to enjoy them practicing flying out over either our house or apartment. The same thing happened here, and it was awesome. These were the UAE version of the Blue Angels and they did not disappointed. There were even a few stunts that were done that had us on the edge of our seats and holding our breaths....you knew it was a part of the show, but it was still so risky and so easy for thing to NOT go as planned.

McGovern Parents, Nora, Dave and I

Kurt being awesome and smart in the shade

There were hours between the air show and the sunsetting for us to enjoy the much anticipated fireworks show, so we set out to enjoy some libation and find some dinner. We found the fantastically quaint little pub in one of the hotels (that we still need to make it back to!) where we enjoyed several hours laying back in the comfy leather seating and just talking. Honestly, we are blessed with being surrounded by awesomely interesting and engaging people. The hours always pass by like they are minutes, you mind is constantly stimulated, while your stomach aches from all the laughs.

Micah, Dave, and the great "pints"

Love my Nora! Over a decade of best friendness!

Much to Adam's jealousy, we made it show to Shish Shawarma for dinner, one of our favorite "cheap eats". Fortunately for me, Nora shares my obsession with all things hummus. I am pretty sure that we had hummus at every single meal we share while she was here....quite sure actually.
Following the tastiness, we meandered back to hang out on the beach to await the show. In true UAE extravagance, it did not disappoint!

For one of the days, we escaped out to the desert and went out to Qasr al Sarab Resort. This was the best way for her to see and experience the dunes and camels. Fortunately, it was SIGNIFICANTLY cooler than when we went out in August when Shawna visited, and we were able to hike out on the dune and not feel like you were dying from the heat or burning yourself with the sand. A nice casual afternoon of lazy car rides, tasty poolside lunch (yes, there was hummus involved), and some walking around.

So that makes two journeys of her coming my way, so that means I have a trip or two to make her direction this year, and I am SO excited. She has to get her butt back from New Zealand to do that though.
Stayed tuned, many more posts to come as I catch up on the past 2.5 months. I hope this finds you all enjoying a wonderful start to 2015! Lots of love coming from the Mayer clan!