Category Archives: Traveling

Polish Up My Tiara Boys, The Kingdom Awaits!

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OK, does this tiara look straight to you???  Can’t show up in the Kingdom looking a mess, now can I ?

Hmm... does that look straight?

Hmm… does that look straight?

We are moving to the Kingdom!  The Kingdom of Bahrain, that is.  And, I will *finally* get to wear my tiara full-time.  Wait.  They *do* wear crowns there, right?  No?  No crowns?  No tiaras?  Not even a smallish one?  Hmm…….  well, we’ll just see about that now, won’t we?  Cause I’m READY!

Pretty, no?  Not too over-the-top, not nearly as big as some I've seen.....

Pretty, no? Not too over-the-top, not nearly as big as some I’ve seen…..

TBG  has an awesome opportunity to work in Bahrain, so we’re off and running again.  Another new contract, another new country.  Another new villa, a new place to navigate and explore, new people to meet and new things to learn.

OK, so – where *IS* Bahrain, anyhow?  (Yes, that was my question as well, I had to google to find it!)   Pretty much, it’s a desert island in the Arabian Gulf between Qatar and Saudi Arabia.  Yes, not only do we get to live on a desert island, but in a Kingdom as well!  More to follow, and there’s more to continue catching up on about Dubai!

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I’m ready~will you follow me to the Kingdom of Bahrain???

Get ready, I'm headed to The Kingdom!

Get ready, I’m headed to The Kingdom!

I’ve been away….

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A trip back to the United States to visit family has sort of slapped me with the realization about how long I’d been away and how easily I’d forgotten little things about life here.    Just a few things of note…..

It rains here.   Often.

People drive with a lot of caution here.  You will be among the majority if you leave a carlength between you and the car ahead.

Jetlag traveling east-to-west is a lot less than the same travel west-to-east.  I’m sure there’s some explanation for that….

People here eat supper really early… like 5 – 6 pm.

Ice cream does not have to be mushy by the time you get it home from the grocery store – even without those little insulated bag dealies.

No matter how long you sit at the speaker behind the Chik-fil-a, if it’s Sunday, they ain’t taking your order.  *shrug*

It’ll be good to get back home!

I’m here!

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After strapping in for the landing, and an exceptionally rough landing with a TON of side-to-side movement, the plane rolled to a gate.   Since I was in the middle of the plane, I really couldn’t see out the windows, and it was, according to the captain’s announcement about quarter till five in the afternoon.  OK – So I was gonna feel a bit “off” till I adjusted my body’s time to the local time.  No biggie.  I expected that.  Collect all the stuff, and start following the crowd.dubai airport

Going through customs – I was expecting to walk up to a big desk with foreboding guard behind it saying “papers please”…. No such animal.  According to TV on back of seat in airplane, first you go through passport control, then to baggage claim, then through customs.  Well, not quite like that, but close…. Passport control at the Dubai airport is like nothing I’ve *(ever* seen before,….. hundreds and hundreds of people queued up in a set of lines that would have made Walt Disney proud.  Calm, no shuffling, no fussing, quiet except for phones ringing…. And they ring ALL the time.  No airport announcements, though – incredibly quiet…… read on one of the brazillion TV screens around “Airport announcements kept to a minimum to enhance your airport experience”.  But back to the process….. passport control – I was in a queue that had about 40-50 people in line ahead of me and had been standing there for about 15 minutes.  Gent in white traditional ME dress and voice of authority said “this way please” motioning to empty queues with new people staffing the counters…. I thought “yippee!  Faster lines!”dubai passport control

Not to be.  The line I got into was staffed by someone that apparently took about 4x longer than the gent processing the line to my left.  It got so funny watching 4 passengers go through the left line that the couple in front of me, a Spanish couple, began commenting between themselves about it, then the gent turned to me and said “they go much faster” to which I agreed, and said “much like the supermarket, the line I get into seems slowest there as well” and the wife laughed and said “always”…..

Anyhow, got up to the counter, and the woman there put her hand out for my passport, motioned me to step to my left, pointed at the retina scanner, then pointed to the overhead camera, stamped my passport twice, handed it back to me, and motioned to the next person in line.  That was it.  I was done, right?  But wait, what about the “what are you doing in this country?  How long do you stay?  Who do you know?”  kind of questions that I was anticipating?  *shrug*  dunno.  I followed the people heading down this hallway towards baggage claim, and I thought that sounded like what I read on the back of the plane seat.  Had this sudden scary thought that I was basing decisions on the stuff I read on the back of a plane seat and it sorta frightened me just a bit.  Shrugged it off, and decided that United Airlines had to know what they were telling folks, right?

Next thing that all the people in front of me were doing on the way to the baggage claim, was to stop of at this unassuming looking place, kind of like the carry-on-luggage-scanner thing at small airports.  And that’s exactly what they did, x-ray our carryon luggage….. then, straight ahead of us was baggage claim, holy COW was it baggage claim.  Looked like the roll out of a luggage factory, actually…. Tons of bags.  Now, I haven’t mentioned yet that I had a ton of checked luggage, have I?  Like three gi-freekin-normous bags?  When I calculated it out, it was dramatically cheaper to carry excess  baggage as opposed to shipping personal items…. Hundreds and hundreds of dollars less.   But wait, I told you that already, right?  Forgive me.

Now there were no porters around, but there were these luggage carts (kinda like grocery buggies)  that wouldn’t separate.  Really.  So, I waited and watched  someone else use them, and voila!  You gotta push the handle down to “unlock” the wheels…. Let go  and the wheels stop turning, kinda like our self-propelled mower does.  Got them all piled on, and turned to see which direction most others were going…. “nothing to declare” was the line I wanted to be in, and there was no line, just another small baggage scan machine, with this incredibly helpful young man that put the bags on the belt for me.  I was grateful, because the backpack was plenty heavy because of the extra pounds I had to transfer to it, and the rolling carryon was no lighter, and a handful… Hate that evil thing.

Anyhow, scanned all my baggage again, smiled and motioned me through the doors with indecipherable writing on them, and voila!  I was officially in Dubai!  Outside.  Not in the airport.  Wait, that’s it?  I’m finished?  Through?  Did I miss something?  Whooo hooooo!!

I came out of the airport, still pushing that dang little locky luggage cart, and was looking for TBG’s face.  I had no phone to call him, no clue if he was there, and was starting to feel an “uh oh” moment…..

THERE HE WAS.  There.  I smiled and started tearing up, and tried so hard not to cry.  I had spotted him towering over the top of the group of shorter dark-skinned men hanging over the rail outside the airport perimeter – what a welcome sight!!  As I made my way past the barricades and towards the cattle herd thing that would let us all out, I heard the wailing call to prayers, I think.  But understand, by this time I was pretty dang jet-lagged and tired and cranky and had to pee because I thought that I would have time inside the airport between passport verification and queuing up for Customs.  That didn’t happen!

But it didn’t matter.  I was here, and he was here, and my world was better.  You see, we have one of those weird marriages where we are truly better together than we are apart.  We’re both sort of “less” without the other somehow.  Not impossible, just a bit less.  *shrug*  Make what you will of that.

Couldn’t even kiss TBG because of local customs – had to settle for a hug. And more tears, which he hates, even the joyful ones.  Put the luggage in a white SUV thing called a Pajero guided the cart back to its friends, and headed out of the parking area.  He held my hand.

Tired, jetlagged, no makeup, up from my second nap, but delirously happy.

Tired, jetlagged, no makeup, up from my second nap, but delirously happy.

Really Long Flight

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About 13+ hours, for example….. Dulles to DXB is long.  Really long.  And on a big plane.  As I stood around the gate at the Dulles Airport, I looked at the people that were gonna be my plane-mates for the next brazillion hours, and they were a motley looking crew, for sure.  YOUNG folks looking about 12… OK, maybe 18 at the outside, traveling alone.  TBG says my viewpoint of peoples’ ages is skewed, but I swear they looked young.  People in national dress that I didn’t recognize.  Turbans.  Tons of bushy moustaches, women in head scarves of various wrapping and patterns.  Small children and infants.   And a lot of just regular-looking  (to me) people too, so I kind of felt this little bit of relief.

Until I figured out that they were boarding by groups,…… currently boarding group “A”.  I checked my boarding pass and realized I was in for a bit of a wait – mine said group “F”.  There’s a lot to be said for Southwest Airlines’ boarding process…. You line up in your little slot and then get on the plane.  No jostling for position at the gate.

I’d asked my travel agent for an aisle seat, which she arranged, even with the date changes and delay.  The aircraft was a big ole thing,  and judging by the sheer number of people at the gate, and not counting how many had already boarded, it was gonna be crowded.  Great.

To entertain myself while I waited (and was still wearing the *ultra-cool* flip flop shoes from the pedicure place)  Image

I was taking a mental inventory of all the stuff I had in my backpack and carryon, thinking of what I might need/want for the next half a day, and trying to make sure that it was all in the backpack which would be under the seat in front of me, or in my scottevest which I was wearing, and not in my carryon – except for the change of clothes and toiletries that I had packed.  I thought it would be fabulous to be able to greet TBG wearing a fresh change of clothes, makeup and at least combed hair.  My plan was that an hour before landing, I would snag my suitcase from the overhead, make a quick change of clothes in the lav, and put on fresh makeup.  I refused to wear makeup on the flight over, thinking I’d be sleeping a great deal with an eyemask on, that would wreak havoc with any makeup, right?

“Now boarding all groups, all groups including group F”….. gate announcement.  OK, here we go.  I’m about to leave the country again, but this time to go live someplace else.  The word “expat” crossed my mind, but I didn’t want to panic so I focused on making sure I had boarding pass ready for the gate agent to scan.

Again, I had an economy-plus seat (thanks, Honey!!) with some extra legroom.  Thank goodness, because my knees were literally *against* the seat packet in front of me…… mercy sakes.  Three across, I was situated in the middle section – here’s the seating chart…..

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Not bad, generally smooth flying location, and won’t have to climb over anyone to stroll about the cabin when the “unfasten seatbelts” light comes on.  Or the “fasten seatbelts” light goes off.  Wait.  OK, when I’m allowed to take off the dang seatbelt, it’ll be easier for me to move around.  Sheesh.  And, the middle seat was empty!  Oh joy – perhaps I’ll actually get some sleep, and be able to stretch out a bit, fabulous.  The gent in the far seat looked at me, the empty seat and said quizzically “Perhaps we shall have good fortune?”  I told him perhaps we would!

No joy.  A gent from coach that told the flight attendant that he thought he’d paid for an economy-plus seat plopped down, stating that the FA would likely be along to collect the money for this change.  Likeable gent, but I was so looking forward to those few precious extra cubic feet of space.  Not to be.  I settled in for a long trip, and since my toenails were now dry, I put on my black fuzzy mickey mouse travel socks.  I wanted to be comfy.  I looked around, and I swear, as soon as people got seated, they ditched their shoes – it was funny.  Anyhow, I familiarized myself with the TV screen thing in the back of the seat ahead of me, how the tray table worked, what all the stuff was in the seatback pocket, slapped on some chapstick, and tucked my water bottle into a scottevest pocket.  Thought I’d nap a bit.

I swear this was one of the roughest flights I’ve ever been on – there was probably a total of about 2 hours when the “fasten seat belt” sign was NOT on – crazy.  Supper was not good, some chicken thing that was sooo spicy I could not eat it. Thank goodness for a yummy roll with creamy butter and some rice.  I was in a carb coma by then and napped for about an hour or so.  Woke, watched 2 episodes of Mad Men on my ipad and dug into the backpack to see what snacks Mama had packed.

TBG says “If your Mama always provided the snacks in our house, we’d BOTH be big as a house!!” – in his TBG way, that’s high praise.  And deserved from this batch too – walnuts with sweet raisins, I had to share with my seatmate, who was floored.  “Your MAMA did this???”   He was impressed with the mustard sourdough pretzel bits as well – my Mama can flat *do* some snacks now!

A glass of cranapple juice from the FA (who were *all* grumpy on this flight, BTW…. Wonder what was up with that??) along with a couple of biscuits (cookies, for the non-English) initiated another carb coma, and another hour-long nap….. woke and checked the little airplane on the seat back in front of me – holy cow!  We’re almost there!!  So close that it’s time to consider changing clothes – wait.  They had to be put in the overhead on the side of the plane, not in the center section…. That means climbing over people, and inconveniencing folks….. prolly just gonna freshen up and makeup and call it done.

Got back to my seat, and my seatmate said “Goodness, you look nice!  How long have you and your husband been married??” I told him and he seemed genuinely surprised – I suppose a marriage lasting over 30 years is unheard of in today’s world.  He commented “lucky man” and went back to his movie.  I sat back and thought…  “Nah, lucky *me*.”

The flights

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Are long.  And expensive.  And can be quite boring.

From DAY to DXB is *really* affordable, round trip was about $1200 including all taxes and fees….. now had I flown from CVG, the Cincinnati airport a few miles closer to my Mama’s house, it would have cost me almost $800 more….. go figure.  And CVG is a *much* larger airport than Dayton.  Time-wise, it took me about 20 minutes longer to drive to DAY, so this was a no-brainer for me.

Turned in the rental car at the off-site location, and of course, no one was around to help lug the freekin suitcases out of the trunk and back seat….. so I figured it out, and got them all rolled up to where the shuttle bus came to pick us up.  The driver loaded them for me, I got on, and suddenly thought – “Well, that’s probably the last time you’ll be driving for a while”…..  and that was an odd feeling.

At the airport,  the shuttle driver unloaded all the bags, and said “Is someone joining you?”….. I laughed and said “Nope, those are all mine…. I’m moving”   he said “Oh – where are you moving to?”  I said “Dubai, in the Middle East.”  The man looked at me like I had two green heads with purple teeth.  I tipped him and he got back in the shuttle bus, without another word.

I was across the street from the entrance, with 4 bigass suitcases and a heavy backpack…  but, since I am the luckiest person I know, there was a porter, skycap, handler, whatever youImage call them, I saw across the street….. hadn’t noticed me yet, but I knew how to handle this…… “PORTER HEEERRRREEEE!!”  Just like hollering for a beer guy in a football stadium over the crowd, thanks to Daddy (RIP) I had this skillset.  Heads snapped up, and one headed my way with a big cart…… Success!

I headed inside to get in line at the United Counter in order to check the three monster cases while the porter piled luggage and wheeled it in.  Now, see, before I finished packing remember that we’d weighed each of those monster cases…. Three times each, just to be dang sure that I wasn’t overweight.  Apparently, not a calibrated scale, because the somewhat effeminate but very friendly gate agent that called me “Honey” a lot looked at them, put them on the scales, and said “2 pounds over” on the two biggest cases, and “OK” on the third smaller case.  Well, I was NOT about to pay a brazillion dollars for overweight luggage, (averages about 8x the cost of regular bags!) so right then and there, I flopped those big cases open and started pulling stuff out…. Two sneakers = about a pound, for future reference.  A big hooded sweatshirt weighs about the same, so the sweatshirt went tied around my waist, and the sneakers went in the smaller bag.  Each biggie was still a half pound over, but the gate agent said “Honey, we are simply *not* gonna worry about a half pound in a bag – shoot, that could just be the humidity!”  Smiled at me and tagged them, and handed me my receipts.

*whew*.  Checking those big three bags at #50 each cost me about $300…… but to ship a 27# package to TBG a month earlier had cost $300 as well, so you can see that this was a true bargain in the freight transport scheme.  OK, not a scheme, just in their world.

The first leg, Dayton – Washington DC, Dulles was a short trip, just under 2 hours.  I’m glad, too, because it was on one of the tiny little regional jets, sat 1 in one row and 2 in another row.  TBG had upgraded my flights to “Economy Plus”….. sposta have more leg room, seated closer to the front, etc.  Sooo not worth the effort on this flight – mercy.  Look at the seating chart!

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And that “G” is a joke, there didn’t have to be a galley, they don’t feed you on short flights anymore!

On this particular flight, which was FULL, BTW, I was seated next to a window and a passenger of size.  In a bulkhead seat, no underseat storage in front of you.  *sigh*.  Where are those airlines gate agents that are supposed to tell folks “honey, I hate to have to tell you this, but you’re gonna spill over into someone else’s seating area that they’ve paid for.  You’re gonna need to buy another ticket for the additional room you’ll need”??  Obviously not on this flight, that’s for sure.  Grrrr…….. a little annoying, but it was a short flight,  I figured no biggie.  I had already had to hand over my carryon rolling bag, because it was such a small plane there was no way to store the rolling bags inside the thing.  No worries – I’ve done this a million times before, just grab it off the rack when you exit the jetway.   Since I was one of almost the last to board, there was no over head room to store my backpack.  This turned out to be a BIG potential problem.

The flight attendant said “all overhead is full, you’ll need to jetway check it – and she grabbed it and handed it out the door to the gate agent, who was at the end of the jetway standing on the edge, waiting to close the door….  The gate agent handed the backpack off to someone over the rail, and a tiny little part of me thought “this is probably not a good thing”…. And it wasn’t.

Landed at Dulles ahead of schedule thanks to a tailwind (so the pilot said), and was instructed by the flight attendant to “stand over here” to collect jetway-checked baggage….. so I moved to the side after we went down the stairs to the bottom.  And waited.  Spotted my backpack on a piece of lifting equipment, like a pallet jack or something….. and then it hit me.  No baggage tag.  Nothing to say it’d been through security, nothing that I had a receipt for, nothing.  And the backpack wasn’t on the trolley with the rest of the jetway-checked stuff with a green tag, it was likely in the “suspicious bag” pile.

The baggage handler guy came over to us and hollered “OK, you can go collect your jetway checked bags”…. And everyone headed for the trolley.  Except me – I said “wait – there’s one of my bags over there, on that piece of equipment – the black backpack”…. He said “no ma’am… that one’s not tagged.   We’ll have to process it”…… At this point in time, I realized that inside it was my laptop, one of the iPads, my husband’s brand new iPhone5 that was still shrink-wrapped, my iPhone, my camera, daily meds, a copy of my power of attorney and our marriage authentication documents, without which I would never get a residency visa.  All of the stuff that I was hand-carrying in order to not lose track of them.

They were over there.  In the backpack.  On the side, and I was not going to get them.  I explained what had happened to the baggage handler guy, and he kept saying stuff like “homeland security” and “un-marked baggage” at which point I told him – “Great!  My ID is all over and inside that bag, and I have the documents and passport to match in my handbag”…… which was safely tucked inside the freekin backpack.  *sigh*….. he said “ma’am, I can’t let you have it….”  And he said something else that I really didn’t hear because I was at that time, desperate.

I did something I rarely do, and did it intentionally.  I started crying, sobbing about how my husband would never understand, and that all my meds, passport, documentation, his brand new iPhone that wasn’t even opened yet……… and the baggage handler did what most men do, he tried to quickly hand me off to the ramp supervisor, and explained to him what had happened, and I’m still wailing….. the ramp supervisor had apparently never heard a woman crying with great abandon before, because he looked kinda scared.  He grabbed the backpack, checked the ID flap and handed it over and cautioned me to next time, get it tagged.  They both shuffled me away as quickly as they could after we collected the other rolling bag.  I thanked them profusely, and managed to stop crying.  Finally, I’d made it to Washington DC.

A two hour layover gave me time to get a manicure and a pedicure,  and to dash back to the gate just as the flight started boarding.  Early.