August 27, 2013

And... I'm Back

I saw this beautiful orchid and had to capture it. in five days. It's hard to believe that my summer break is almost over. Where has the time gone?
Ok, so I know I may sound a little greedy considering that it was practically a three month break from the kids but it still feels too short. I want more, more I tell ya!!!

Being back in the UAE feels normal, like I am home. Weird but it feels more home than when I went back to NY.
Maybe it's because I am back in my apartment that I decorated. When you've invested so much time and energy into a place, you feel a certain attachment to the place that is difficult to sever.

I've been trying to make the best of this last week of freedom. Lunching with friends who I didn't have a chance to see before going home and going to the gym
I have to make an attempt to undo the damage I did in NY and Paris. I ate like a beast, but man was it all worth it. NY is another year away, had to take advantage of the yummies that were there. And Paris, well who can diet in Paris??? Absurdity.

I am going to give Paleo another try. It seems easy enough once I get past the initial few days of sugar withdrawals. Let's hope I can survive the next thirty days. If I get through those then I think I will have a greater chance of succeeding. Fingers crossed.

Oh, I got my UAE driver's license. The process was super easy. When you're from the US, UK or Ireland all you have to do is get the license from your home country translated and then pay a few bucks and they give you a license for the UAE. I was in and out in thirty minutes.
Hahaha, surprisingly hassle free and uncomplicated.
I am so nervous about driving here. Plus, the idea of driving alone in the car scares me but I can't let my fear get in my way again. I know I will be fine, lots of praying and trusting in God.

August 24, 2013

Missed Flight and Bedbugs, A Travel Story

Hey folks,  happy to report that I am finally back in Abu Dhabi in my apartment. yay!
Unfortunately the process of getting back was less than pleasant.

My arrival time was for Friday at 8:20 pm but I  didn't get back until 8:30 am on Saturday; had to spend over 12 hours sitting around in the airport.

It all started when I got to the check-in window promptly 2.5 hours before my set departure time.
I knew I would have to pay for my extra bag plus the extra weight, I was prepared to pay what I knew was no more than one hundred and sixty bucks. Imagine my surprise when the agent told me that I would need to pay almost five hundred dollars for my extra 20 kilos.
The thing is that I was traveling on Etihad airlines back to AD. Etihad charges 20 Euros per kilo. Ridiculous.
My ticket was purchased through American Airlines so I tried explaining to her that American Airlines bag policy should apply.  She wasn't having it. After more than twenty minutes of her making phone calls and us going back and forth she directed me to the payment window.
I was told to wait on line and waited in what I thought was the line to pay excess baggage fees for over thirty minutes only to be told once I got to the window that I was on the wrong line.
It was now boarding time and I still hadn't checked in or gone through security.
Panic was beginning to set in.

I got to the correct line but there was nothing to be done there either. I did not have five hundred bucks to shell out for my bag. The agent suggested that I call my friends to have them pay...ummm no ma'am.
She made a few calls, talked to a bunch of people in French and kept asking me to find the money from somewhere.
Time was going by quickly with no solution in sight. I watched in horror as the ticket agents began closing up, signaling that my chances of getting on that flight were as slim as my chances of finding five hundred bucks in my pocket.

At this point I was a crying frustrated mess. Not only were they telling me I had to find money to pay for my bag but now I would have to find money to get myself on another flight.

The lady finally made a phone call to her manager who told her that since it was an AA flight they could do nothing to help me. She sent me on my way to go figure it out with AA.

To be honest I didn't expect much help from AA but I kept praying that God would work things out.
I was still skeptical. Things just looked so dismal at this point.

I got to the AA window and had the most patient agent help me. He made so many phone calls and did it with a smile.
Surprise surprise, Etihad had been wrong. Turns out all I had to pay was one hundred and twenty bucks for my luggage because AA baggage policy was in effect.
He got me on the next flight out and even had his manager waive the fee to change my ticket.
God is super amazing!

I had to wait until 10:30 for my flight which kinda sucked but at least I was going home.

The time came for boarding and it was pretty smooth sailing or rather flying.
I was finally on the plane and all was good but this wouldn't be a real fun story without more drama.

Exhausted but happy I fell asleep almost immediately. The plane was chilly so I wrapped myself in one of the very snug looking blankets provided. I woke just in time for dinner.
Wanting something different, I got the lamb.
Shortly after eating I reclined my chair and was about to go back to sleep when my arms and hands began to itch.
Great, I was having an allergic reaction to the bloody lamb was my first thought. Then my back began to itch, the allergy was spreading. The itching intensified and I couldn't go back to sleep. I kept praying that it wouldn't turn into anything worse.

It wasn't until I got home and really took a look at the swellings that dotted my arms that I realized that the itching wasn't hives but bedbug bites. WTH???
They must have been in the blanket. Guess who is never going to use an airline blanket again.

Oh and when I got to the airport I couldn't find one of my bags, had to wait over twenty minutes to track it down.
What a day.

The important thing though is that I am home safe and mostly sound.
The itching is no joke!

August 20, 2013

Bonjour from Paris

Hey guys or should I say bonjour?
I am in Paris and loving it entirely. We have two more days to go. Sadness.

Mom and I have crossed off all the major attractions on our list.
Everything is so beautiful and the architecture is beyond amazing. My favorite is the Sacre Coeur Basillica in Montmartre. The view of the city of Paris from the Sacre Coeur is stunning.
My mom loves Notre Dame. We were amazed at how much work must have gone into building it with all the details and intricacies of the stone work. 

The apartment we rented on Airbnb worked out pretty well, in my book at least. My mom is a bit hard to please and she wasn't so impressed but she is ok now.
It is a typical Parisian apartment. Kinda small and no AC. It isn't the fanciest but it is clean and convenient. 
It's perfectly located with access to two major metro lines and buses which take you to all the main attractions. I couldn't ask for more.

I was worried that it would be hot here but it has been surprisingly cool. Yay! With all the walking we've been doing, it's been nice having such lovely weather.

We've feasted on tons of yumminess. Our unanimous favorite being French Onion Soup at a random cafe overlooking the Seine. We also had really good Asian food from a cafe along Rue Cleur.
I have consumed more cheese than a person should be allowed as well as bread and gelato.  I see a major cleanse happening in the very near future. Yikes!!!

There are so many things I could say about this beautiful city but words wouldn't do it justice. If you ever get the chance to visit, you must. Save, beg or borrow so you can experience it for yourself. It is absolutely worth it.

Can't wait to share the photos with you.

August 12, 2013

Vacation Planning Headache

Happy Monday folk!
Hope you had a wonderful weekend.

I love vacations but hate the whole planning process.

The search for flights and hotels is the most frustrating and time consuming aspect of travel and I absolutely detest it. Am I the only one?

On Friday, I am heading off to France with my mom.
My own portion of the trip was planned months ago.
I bought a multi-city ticket for my journey home.
From Abu Dhabi to New York for a month. Then mom and I are off to Paris then a week later I am back to Abu Dhabi.

Planning my mom's part of the trip was the tough part. My mom is still a citizen of Jamaica which means in order to go to France or pretty much any European country, she needs a visa.
Instant headache.
I couldn't just buy her ticket when they were cheap, she had to wait until after she had gotten her visa. Literally a week to the day we were set to travel.

Getting all the documents together was a pain. The consulate required a faxed reservation confirmation from the hotel.  Can you imagine, how many people actually have a fax machine? Not I. Luckily my mom's boss allowed her to have it faxed to his office.
The hotel messed up the spelling of her name which freaked me out because I thought it would be a problem at the consulate.
Actually they messed up the fax twice. I emailed them about the misspelling issue and never heard back from them. NEVER, even though I explicitly stated to them in all my emails how important it was to get the fax for the interview.
Needless to say as soon as the interview was over and my mom got her visa, I promptly cancelled with that hotel.

Then there was finding a ticket that didn't cost an arm and a leg. Difficult to do when you are traveling in a week.
Originally, my mom and I planned for her to leave the same day. I ended up making a mistake and bought the ticket for the following day.
The difference of a day was over five hundred dollars.
Unfortunately she will miss a day with me but on the positive side, she saved that money.

Now that we had her ticket, we needed a place to stay. I ended up booking an apartment on Airbnb.
The young lady seemed cool and the price was cheaper than a hotel with all the wonderful added amenities such as access to her washer and dryer, a full kitchen and a bigger space.

Thankfully, everything seems to have fallen into place.
Mom and I are super excited to have this opportunity.
It has been her dream and it is wonderful to see her so happy.

Fingers crossed that our apartment experience will be awesome.
We can breathe a sigh of relief now.

August 7, 2013

Please Let Me Testify

Hey folks,

I have some awesome news to share with you.

If you've followed my blog for a bit, you know that it has been a goal of mine to get my driver's license.
I started taking lessons from a cousin over a decade ago but after a traumatic experience, I pretty much resigned myself to public transportation. Living in NY was the perfect excuse, you don't need to drive here.

I was simply too terrified to get behind the wheels and drive. The very thought of driving on the streets set my heart racing and I just pictured all sorts of crazy stuff happening.
So for the last ten years I've been putting it off because of fear.

Deep down I knew it was not the right thing to do, and I had a little voice that refused to be quiet telling me I had to do it eventually. I couldn't let fear impede me from doing something.
Unfortunately, I would just ignored that voice.

Last year before my move to Abu Dhabi, I signed up for lessons. I had decided that 2012 was going to be the year I finally told my fear to "shove it". I took one class but when the opportunity came up to go to Jamaica and see my family instead of continuing the classes, I literally jumped at it.
So there went 2012 and no license.

Cabs are cheap in Abu Dhabi and I am able to get around. Plus I have really nice friends who are willing to give me rides every now and then. Luckily, I also have a couple of co-workers who live near to me and I car-pool with them to work. 

It's funny how things happen in our lives that act as a catalyst to get us out of our comfort zone.After a very uncomfortable situation at work with another co-worker about a ride, I knew that it was time for me to get it together and get my license.
It was as if God was saying "I've been telling you nicely to get it done and now I am letting you know not so nicely".
God revealed to me that fear is not an option as long as I trust in him. He would make it alright and I didn't have to worry about driving. 

I decided that for sure 2013 was the year. So I got the ball rolling while still in Abu Dhabi. I booked the road test date and signed up for classes. I was far from feeling ready but I knew that God had control of everything.

Two days after arriving in NY, I began my lessons.
Truth be told, I was still a little scared but I kept praying for God to take away all my fear. The fear slowly began to dissipate and was replaced by confidence.
Just for extra boost of confidence and faith, I asked for prayer at my church.

With only two weeks of practice under my belt, I took the road test.
Things hadn't gone well with my 3 point turns and my parallel parking during practice.
I was nervous that I hadn't perfected them the day before the test. Doubt crept in but I just continued to pray. 
The test was not great, the lady administering the it literally yelled at me like  four times but I remained calm and continued my test.
She eventually yelled at me to pull over. I sat nervously as she took my paperwork out of her bag. I held my breath as she held it in her hand, for a minute I thought she was going to hand it back to be, a sure sign of failure. Instead she unfolded it and put it in the main part of her bag along with all the other paperwork of people who had passed.
Sighing, she handed me my temporary receipt and said " Here's your temporary license".

When I showed my instructor the receipt he said she was really generous with me.
I know for a fact that God was definitely on my side. People with far more experience driving have failed.
It was not my great skill, trust me. If you had seen me making those turns you would know. lol

Don't worry, I am a good driver. And I actually nailed my turns and parallel parking during the test. They were perfect.

I wanted to share this story with you to let you know that no matter what you want, if you pray and BELIEVE then God will make it happen. It might not be when you want it but it will happen.
Faith is a big part of the equation, you have to trust him and speak positively.

August 5, 2013

Seen Through My Lens- Flowers

Hello peeps,
Today I am sharing just a few images I've captured while out and about in the city.

Usually I share my photos over  here but I wanted to give you a chance to see them since most of you are familiar with this blog.
Please stop by the other blog to check out some of my stuff.

New York is such a marvelous city to refine your photography skills.
There are tons of interesting things and people everywhere. Definitely never short on inspiration.

I really love the little corner grocery shops in the city with their stalls of fresh flowers.  My favorites are lilies and sunflowers.

My intention was to get up close and personal with the flowers (sounds kinda creepy, eek).
The background wasn't that interesting, so I eliminated it in each photo. 

I am also experimenting with a way to tag my work.
If you have any suggestions please feel free to drop me a note. Still in the learning stage and have so much know.

I hope you enjoyed these pictures and you had a chance to expereince some of the beauty I witnessed in the city.

August 4, 2013

Seen Through My Lens- Farmers Market

Hey folks,
So I finally busted out my camera and did some photography around town.
I usually share my photos on my other  blog, but  I am going to post them over here to share with you.

While strolling through the Union Square farmers market, I was innundated with tons of photo opportunities.
Such beautiful and vibrant colors everywhere. It was hard deciding what to capture so I ended up taking a million pics.
Here are just a few of my faves. 

cutest doggie ever.