Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thank you St. Joseph!!

A centuries-old tradition claims that burying a statue of St. Joseph in the yard helps homes sell faster.

Have you ever heard of this?

Me neither, until my dad told me this story of two different friends. One had his house for sale for one year with no luck, someone told him to buy a St Joseph statue and bury it in the he did...on Friday, and crazy enough, he got an offer on his house the following Monday.The other friend, had a similar situation, her home selling coinsided to the purchase of a St. Joseph does it really work?

We have had our home for sale for almost exatly 3 months. Now, we have not been in a rush to sell it......mostly because we have NO CLUE what we would do when it does sell. We had talked about getting a St Joseph statue, but wondered "where in the heck would we buy a religious store?" The idea faded away quickly......

Monday, I arrived home from Dubai and went into the office. At 1030am, Beverly (our agent) called and said that we had someone coming to the house that afternoon who was VERY interested and would probably be making an offer. At 4pm, she called me back to tell me, YES, that we did in fact have an offer on the house. Ernesto and I were going out to celebrate/shit our pants that night and before Ernesto got into the car, he got the mail......I was already in the car waiting and he said..."oh my god, this is such a coincidence" and handed me a yellow envelope....I opened it and GASPED....a statue of St. Joseph arrived in our mail the day we got the offer on the house. Ernesto said....."I ordered this weeks ago and it arrives today, of all days?" Two days later the house was under contract (pending an inspection)
That is just TOO WEIRD!! What the hell are we going to do now?

Friday, November 23, 2007


Now this is the 3rd arab country I have been to, but it is soooooo different. Partly because it is very modern, and mostly because it is so RICH!! It just screams money!! The cars, the gold, the buildings, the shopping.... I cannot believe this place! Dubai is really a playground for adults. We arrived at 630am Thanksgiving morning and ordered in breakfast (masala dosas) and took a nap. We headed off to Mall of the Emerites...a HUGE mall, also home to SKI DUBAI. A ski slope in the middle of the desert? lifts and all. There are many many souqs (markets) here, and I wanted to check out the Gold souq. I have grown to love the bling bling 22k gold that everyone wears on this side of the world....and there was more than I could look at...I did try on some different rings, but didn't find "the one" . We did however, find some other stuff....
We met Ajay at their house, got ready to go out and drove to the Jemeirah hotel....which is where we took this great shot of the Burj Al Arab Hotel (the famous 7 Star hotel)Ajay wanted to take us to a place called 360 degrees. It is a round, open air bar/lounge literally in the middle of the water. There is a little walkway from the hotel about a 1/4 mile. It has 2 levels and white couches and chairs, sheeshas everywhere, a dj spinning hot house music and unbeatable international people watching.

The BEST part of this place, though, and the reason this place was almost surreal, is that the Burj Hotel is right there. (also in the middle of the water) It's a Dubai landmark, shaped like the sail of a sailboat. It is all white, but used as a canvas for a spectacular light show at night. And we were in the perfect spot to see. In fact we were on a dance floor in the foreground.

The drinks were "normal" club prices. ($10) but boy did they pack a punch. I had 3 vodka tonics and was really feeling it. Smita and Nami only had two and were feeling equally buzzed (Nami drunk). Actually all 3 girls were out in the car on the drive home....poor Ajay.

The next day we hung out at the gorgeous Jemeriah Beach. The people watching was great here too. I really dont think they sell mens bathing suits here, because 98% of the men were in cotton underwear??? I got a photo of some arabs strolling the beach, I just loved the contrast of my bikini....I think they caught me..... Here behind the 3 models is the tallest building in the world (as of today) and is still under construction.

That night we took a drive an hour into the desert to Bab Al Shams Resort. I had read about it in my lonely planet guide and the others were also interested.....we had no idea it was going to be such a sensory overload when we arrived to one of the 4 restaurants, se llama Al Hadheerah.When walking in there we about 50 arab men just sitting in the sand talking for affect. We walked under the arch, into the open air restaurant, where an elaborate buffet awaited. We were seated at a table with cushions, and not even knowing the price, we knew we had to stay.
In the near distance on a dune of sand, a caravan of camels went back and forth (again for affect) There were camels two steps from our table that we could ride too.
I have decided that I LOVE CAMELS!! They are really cute, and I love how they fold their legs to sit and their feet are like pillows. We ordered 2 Sheeshas, one with mango and the other with mint tabacco for our table. Its amazing that I detest cigarettes and LOVE sheeshas.

Oh yes, there was more......Bellydancing. Sure, I'll get up and dance ....afterall, I did take a bellydance class at OSU .......True, a long time ago, but somethings you never forget! Ofcourse I was inspired all over again and Smita and vowed to take classes in ATL.

Ok 3rd night in Dubai was just as exciting! We did a Desert safari, this is a must do while in Dubai. It actually was the cheapest night we had too. A guide picked us up from the apartment at 330p and we again, headed out to the desert. First for a little "dune bashing" as it is called! They let out some air in the 4 runners tires, and we zoomed up and down these big-ass sand dunes, seemingly ready to tip over several times. Sort of like a roller coaster, yet it felt more unsafe! There was a lot of screaming coming from the girls. We stopped at the top to check out the sunset and take some snaps. I did pull out a bag for a sand sample. The first desert sand in my collection. (now up to 41 bottles)There were hummers, 4 runners, 4 wheelers, and we even saw a dune buggy. They all travel in caravans incase one gets stuck (this hummer did) Here Nami and Ajay pose:After we got our fill, we drove to the "camp" where a dinner buffet and several activites were set up. This is a huge business, and goes on everynight during while the weather allows. We came at the perfect time of year, it was mid 80's and DRY.

We got Mendhi on our hands.

rode more camels.......and dressed up in burkas.......they say you are more sexy when you leave more to the imagination???

We were inspired with MORE bellydancing...never enough, if you ask me.

Sorry, if you are getting bored with this trip......but I have one more day.....the day I spent more on lunch that I ever have spent.....and will probably ever spend in the future. Where? You guessed it...back to the Burj Al Arab....... this time during the day.

Its like the $100 just to get into the lobby, OR make a reservation at one of the restuarants and use that money towards something ...the logical, right? SURELY we would be able to have a nice lunch (1pm Sunday being the only reservation available the whole weekend) for $100 per person!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

I had to lift this pic from the internet, because once you leave the lobby, no cameras are allowed. ("to protect the privacy of our guests")

The restaurant AL MAHARA " is seafood avant-garde..thank you very much! It is circular with the most beautiful aquarium in the middle. The food, I must say, was 7 star. When we looked at the menu and saw that one entree was $90, dessert $25 and a glass of wine was $25, we knew what we were in for....BUT when in only live once, right? All four of us just went for the 3 course meal at a special prie of 380 Dirhams (im not going to do the conversion for you) There were several tempting options on the menu. I started with tuna tartare, a cold leek and potato soup, and the sea bass. We said screw it and after finishing the 1st bottle of El Coto ....a white Rioja de Espana, and ordered another.....why skimp now?

I hope you enjoyed this little taste of the middle east. I highly recommend Dubai, a city of "firsts" for me. Its funny, I spent more in 4 days in Dubai than 2 weeks in India. Well, there ya are!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sidetrip to Kochi Kerala

I wanted to see a different part of this huge country, and since we had extra time, Frank Smita and I bought ID90's on Jet Airways and flew from Mumbai to Cochin (Kochi) Sunday morning. The flight was at 545am which was hard, but we reached at 730am to enjoy the full day.
We checked into Le Meridien using my Starwood points. It's a beautiful resort in Kerala, which is the south western tip of India.

We booked our Ayurvedic massages for 10am (all three of us went at the same time and each of us had 2 massueses each) and it was 70 minutes of PURE PLEASURE. Hot oil and 4 hands did not suck!! Look how relaxed we were afterwards..............
It's was a very relaxing day, we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon by the pool with a view of the backwaters in the middle of a coconut grove! In the evening we took the hotel car (an ambassador) Look how cute:

We were able to have the car, with driver, for 4 hours for about $20...yes, it was a bit expensive for India, but we were at a resort. It all balenced out though....because our dinner was only 2 cents at this little roadside restaurant. We started off the next day with coconut waters and dosas for breakfast.

We knew being in Kerala, we had to experience the house boats that are famous on the backwaters. It was also Franks b-day, so we had reason to celebrate. We booked a 2 bedroom boat, complete with a captain and 2 chefs. We boarded at noon and couldn't believe the views that came our way.

This was beginning the high season, so there were quite a few boats on the waters. They would park at the side when it was lunch time and in the evening if it was an overnite trip.
A couple hours into the trip, this little canoe pulled up beside our boat to sell us these shrimp as big as our heads. We couldnt resist and added that to the dinner menu.
Here is the living area taken from the bow of the boat...this was taken in the evening, but is open and there was a wonderful breeze when moving...and a ceiling fan for when we weren't.

We parked for the night and there was a tiny village on a thin strip of land between the backwaters and the rice fields on the otherside.

Kerala is a state known for good education and english literacy. They came up to our boat wanting to practice. They brought us flowers and asked if we had a pen and notebook to give sweet!
I only wish we could've stayed longer. I love the feeling of nothing to do BUT relax. We watched the sunset that night and the sunrise in the morning. I havent done that in a long time!

The boat docked the next day around 10am and we had the driver to make a couple stops before taking us back to the hotel. #1......the know I needed to get my sand. Allappey beach was beautiful, and even though we didnt stay very long, it was worth it. This was a special stop too because smita started her sand collection here....

#2... Hill Palace Museum. Smita really wanted to go here because some of the furniture and silver belonged to her relatives.....amazing!! Whaaa??? Frank and I posed at the top of the 5 million stairs we had to climb to reach.

On our last night in Kerala we planned to go see a Kathikali performance. It was at 630p and so we stopped first for some shopping. The first store we walked into on Jew Street kept us busy. Frank actually went down the whole road and back while smita and I stayed in this shop. We both bought beautiful wall hangings (that we are going to get framed). Hers is pinks and purples and mine is....guess........yes turquoise and greens. We also bought jewelry. I bought a "om" pendant and another one with emeralds...and some earrings too.

Kathikali is story-play and is an ancient dance form made up of over 800 words in the form of complex combinations of gesture. These are based on mainly eye, face and hand movements. The make up is entirely natural, made up of a coconut oil base, mixed with spices such as turmeric to give the basic color combinations. I will post the video I took at the performance as soon as I get it off my camera...can't find my cord at the moment.

Shopping and Street Food!

We left Cochin this morning at 6:30 am for an 8:30 am flight back to Mumbai. The flight was oversold, and we were thinking we wouldn't make it, but then with 3 MINUTES left before flight time, they cleared all three of us in first class.
T.I.I. (This Is India)
When we got to Mumbai, we squeezed into a rickshaw to go back to Nami's apartment. Because her place was so close to the domestic airport, the cab driver's didn't want to take us since the fare would be cheap. Somehow the driver packed our 3 suitcases and 3 handbags in this thing. Look how crammed we are:

After dropping off our luggage and relaxing for a bit, we had a masala tea at Coffee Day, and caught a rickshaw to the the Santa Cruz market. Rickshaws are only allowed in the suburbs of Mumbai, but they are really a great way to see the crazy energy of the town city and its kind of like being in a live Frogger game. Rickshaws and cars are everywhere. Traffic is absolutely crazy. You will not see stop signs, and roadway markings, but you will see random cows and other a random juice stand.

At the market we wanted to do a bit more shopping and also eat lunch. Street food! yes! You will be warned not to touch, but Frank and I both have stomachs of steel (knock on wood) and have already tested them with the street food in our previous trips. We also have had 12 days of straight Indian food with no problems, so we were ready. Below our mouths water.

The first place we stopped at we ordered samosas and fried chili peppers. Now, Im usually not one to eat a lot of fried foods, but some things I can't resist! Smita keeps telling me (an everyone else) that Frank and I must have been Indian in a previous life. A different friend thinks I was Latin in a different life.....hmmmm???
Ahhhhhh, feeling pretty satisfied we walk a bit further and pass a stand with vada pav...mmm, so delicious! Its a ball of masala potatoes with chilis, that is deep fried and shoved in this great bread with 2 sauces. How dangerous could it be? It's deep fried. we also tried a bunch of fried spinach served in the same bread...DE-LISH!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Back to Mumbai for Habitat Closing Dinner

It was finally a chance to see eachother cleaned up, dressed up even. Nameeta helped plan our final dinner in Mumbai Friday night at a wonderful restaurant called Kybhar. Everyone was out shopping the whole day after we left Rivergate and checked into the MUCH MORE GLAMOROUS Hilton on Marine Drive. We were on the 19th floor overlooking the ocean, it was awesome! Nameeta came over and the 3 girls got ready together. Trust me, even though I have worn a sari 3 times now, it is a PROCESS and I just couldn't wrap it myself.
Above: Nami, Smita, Andy and me pose for the camera!

Since everyone had been out shopping that day, there was a lot of Indian flare with the dressing... But because there was only about 4 of us that wore Sari's we were the center of attention and kept getting asked to pose for pictures. Nameeta brought me mine, knowing I would LOVE the turquoise color. I felt like a movie star! Bollywood here I come!
Below, my "team" takes a foto. Tina (second from right) was our team leader and was absolutely the best! Very inspiring! She is so active I loved talking to her...she's very into cycling which I want to do more of....she even climbed Mt. Everest!! WOW! She lives in Park City Utah and invited us out there to stay and ski this winter.....ah YES...I'll be there!

After dinner, a bunch of us had drinks in the Hilton Lounge and talked about what a great time we had!

Habitat- Who benefited more?

Frank and I didn't get much sleep after our night out in Mumbai, but after a great buffet breakfast at the Leela, the whole group got in the bus and started the 3 hour journey to the Rivergate Resort. It was a great property, not luxury by any means, but nice. Most of the group stayed in these huge tents that were really cool. Although the tents were much more "blog-able" than the room Smita and I had overlooking the river...our view was great, but I did like the idea of sleeping in the tents. They had front porches where you could hang out at night.I actually tried to switch our room with another couple, they complained of bugs and such, but then changed their minds. I thought it would have been a better "experience."...but oh well, after everyone was complaining about rats strolling through their tents we were fine with the outcome. We didnt have internet connection at Rivergate...I thought it was pretty cool being "out of touch" ...a TRUE vacation!
It was a 30 minute drive to the Habitat build site. When we arrived, the villagers greeted us with music and the women put a red paste on our foreheads to welcome us.

We had such a good time! It was awesome bonding with all the other DL employees I didnt know and even more amazing was getting to know the village of Nagewadi and its people. Here, my team leader, Tina and I take a water break. She is so cool, really motivating and inspiring. She actually climbed Mt Everest, and is a big time biker. She lives in Park City... Smita Frank and I are planning to go skiing and visit!! woo-hoo!
The view of this mountain was so awesome and you could see it from everywhere in the village. Here is my team along with the homeowners:
Here I am in action. Others on my team were brick laying, the "morter" was mud, then after it set, we would come around and use this would stick to indent the mud in between the bricks.
We were constantly given reminders to "hydrate" if we would was HOT AS HELL! and we were sweating our asses off...must have been 100 degrees!! I actually got a cardio workout everyday of the build just from lifting and hauling....

You would not believe how they live, no running water (they actually built "proper" bathrooms specially for our build). Can you imagine if you had to walk a couple miles for your water??
I have never seen so many adorable kids. They were so sweet couldn't stop smiling at us. They couldn't believe my blue eyes and light skin. We taught them words like "hi" "bye" and "thank you" and they taught us a few words in their native tounge, Marati. "mati" (mud) "basi" (sit) and "namaste" .....come on, you should know that one. Haven't you ever done yoga? Smita can speak this language so she was a big help translating with her team and the homeowners.
I took so many pictures in the village, I felt like a national geographic photographer. There was something interesting around every corner....look at this beautiful little girl.
This little boy was sitting in the window of his house eating.
I kept taking pictures and then they would want to see their own faces on the camera, they were so amazed by this digital camera thing. On the last day of the build, one of the team leaders pulled out a polaroid camera and we had 80 pics to take (the team leaders thought of everything on this build-they were awesome!) the kids we just standing in line to have their pictures taken and were so excited to watch the polaroid come to life as something they could keep.
At the end of the week we were presented with certificates from Habitat for Humanity in India.
We worked on a total of 8 homes, most from the foundation up, so they weren't all done when we left, another Habitat group may come in to help. This is a picture of the house that we actually finished and where we had the dedication ceremony with the media, it was very touching.
I could have never imagined what an emotional experience this would be, it felt really good and was so well organized too, we didnt have to worry about a THING...breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet...pure indian food for a stomach is steel (knock on wood)
4 people ended up sick for a couple days....


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