I haven’t blogged in a super long time. I have been thinking about posting and there is no doubt that I have had a lot to say since moving to Dubai, but, for some reason, I just haven’t been making it happen. Two things happened lately that have resulted in me breaking my silence. The first is the topic of this post. The second was a friend reminding me that I had a blog and a conversation about how we both have neglected blogs.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to dinner with an amazing young woman.

Have you ever been trucking along through life thinking that you’re doing pretty good? Maybe you got to do a few cool things recently or have had some minor successes with which you are feeling pretty satisfied? Then you meet someone who completely blows you out of the water. One of those people who, within minutes, you are convinced will do something in life, probably many things, that are truly outstanding.

A few days ago I was invited to dinner by one of my co-workers. She wanted me to meet a Saudi woman who was here for training in Dubai. I heard that the dinner would be with my co-worker, the Saudi woman, and the Saudi woman’s mom who had come with her to Dubai. My initial reaction was ‘ugh, dinner with work people, what a drag’. I almost said no. After saying yes, I almost backed out. In hindsight, it was stupid that I was so reluctant to go, and I can tell you that, without a doubt, I regret feeling that way because I ended up meeting a really awesome lady.

I think many Americans, probably many Westerners in general, have preconceived ideas about what Saudi women are like, so I feel inspired to write about this lady because she, and, for that matter, every Saudi woman that I have had the pleasure of talking to, are doing awesome things that would put most American women to shame.

My new Saudi friend, I think I will call her my friend, we have plans to go skiing in Dubai later this month, is named Samar and she is an electrical engineer. She has more ambition than you can imagine and the charisma of a great leader. Over the course of three hours, she told me one story after another that left me completely in awe of her.

She was the first woman hired at her company, the only woman working at her company, and it took a huge amount of drive for her to achieve that. When Samar was a student at university, she wanted to do the typical two internships in which most engineering students participate, but there weren’t many opportunities for aspiring young female engineers in Saudi Arabia. Together, Samar and her father talked hiring managers at two well-known, global companies into hiring her for internships. When she finally graduated, armed with solid experience working as an electrical engineer, she got a job at a third company as their first female employee and she is setting the stage for more women to follow her.

As we ate dinner, she mentioned several times that although her head was covered, her mind was not; this really resonated with me. She told me about the program that airs on NBC that she films each year, I hope to watch the next season when it airs again this fall, and about a speaking engagement that she has this month for a global conference of young men and women from developing countries. She plans to speak in English so that the maximum number of people can hear her message when it is posted on YouTube. She is a huge advocate for inspiring a youth movement in her country aimed at arming youth with the business and technology skills needed to bring more industry, and with it more good jobs and better opportunities to Saudi Arabia. I can tell that Samar has a sense of responsibility for her future, the future of Saudi women, and the future of her country that would put most of us to shame.

When asked what was in store for her future, she told me that she would get a Harvard MBA in the next few years. HBS is a competitive program to get accepted to, but I have no doubt that she will do it and that it will set the stage for some life accomplishments that are far beyond what most of us dream of.

I think the take aways from this story are that if we should all keep our minds uncovered. That we should all dream a little bigger. And that we should all more actively take responsibility for the future.

I am looking forward to my trip to Ski Dubai later this month and feeling inspired yet again by Samar.

After our marathon hotel stay when we arrived (87 days!!!), we were finally able to move into our apartment a few days before Christmas. Our container arrived just in time to put our Christmas tree up on the 23rd and to unpack our winter coats only days before we headed to Eastern Europe for Christmas break.

The apartment is working out nicely. I never thought of myself as an apartment dweller, but I think it will be an ok home for a few years. It is fairly roomy, almost as big as our house in Indiana, and has a great view of Atlantis and a not quite as good ocean view. Not surprisingly, one of my favorite features is the 2.7K rubberized jogging track immediately out our back door.

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The only major shortcoming, which is almost universal for Dubai, is the lack of a clothes dryer. The US seems to have a staggering number of clothes dryers per capita compared to the rest of the world, so much so that people look at me a little funny when I lament the fact that I don’t have one. Fortunately, I got on board with a clothes drying rack early, so we don’t have clothes hanging from every door, cabinet door, and piece of furniture like we did in India.

Over the weekend, we put some effort into beautifying our giant balcony by adding four plants including a kumquat tree. I’m hoping to wean Chris and Kai off of their expensive Spanish clementine habit, but that is probably too ambitious of me.

With the exception of having Chris’ office to organize and decorate still, I feel like we are settled in to where our routines and day to day activities can return to normal. What a relief to finally get back in our groove!

We arrived in Dubai one month ago and things have pretty much been business as usual since we got here, or at least as much as one might expect when moving halfway around the world. Kai started daycare the day after we arrived, I dove head first into my new job, and Chris started his first official Sunday work day with gusto. For now, we are in temporary housing, which has its ups and downs, but all in all things are shaping up to be pretty good on this side of the world.

We arrived in Dubai to a brightly lit urban landscape at our temporary home overlooking Dubai Marina. Until our ocean shipment arrives, supposedly next week, we are staying halfway up a mega tall building in a two bedroom, three bathroom hotel suite – the biggest hotel room I have had since our trip to Marrakech.

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Initially I was a bit concerned about living in a high rise with an almost two year old, but it is working out just fine. The amount of safe outdoor play space is far more than I imagined and I am still amazed at the number of Kai-sized kids that we see on a daily basis.

Kai has adjusted really well to her new daycare, one of the biggest worries that I had about moving. They have a lot of great activities there and she seems generally happy with going to daycare. I think my favorite part is that she is learning French. They mainly speak English to the kids at her age, but she can ‘bonjour’ and ‘au revoir’ with what sounds to me like a perfect French accent. She also counts to ten now, in both languages! I’m impressed!

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As expected, the bureaucracy here rivals that of India, which I’m sure will make for some interesting stories throughout this journey, still things are going remarkably well. I have managed to get a visa, Emirates ID card, driving license, and temporary car. Unfortunately, Chris’ official documents are still in process and may be for some time. On the other hand, it looks like we are positioned to get Chris’ ‘for real’ car sometime next week – I don’t think we can say the same for mine.

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Another exciting development for next week is that I am expecting our ocean shipment to arrive! I really miss my stuff. I have been wearing the same three pairs of shoes for five weeks now and it is getting old fast. Also, I will be pretty delighted to have my proper dishes, silverwares, pots, pans, and other kitchen paraphernalia. Our hotel room kitchen is just marginally better stocked than our India kitchen was. Enough said.

Maybe next week I can post pictures of our apartment, furnished with our stuff. That is probably a pipe dream, but I can hope.

Because who doesn’t love to run a good marathon? I know, right?

Since I am a glutton for punishment, I have signed myself up for two of them. The first of the two is a trail marathon in Indy on August 3. I don’t have any goal for this race except for just completing it and running as much of it as is reasonably possible. I haven’t run on trails regularly since high school, and I will probably not have a chance to run many trails in the next few months, so this may prove to be interesting. I will try to plan a few long runs on the trails in our local state park, but no promises there.

In addition to that small detail about the race being on trails, there is an even bigger unknown. August weather in Indiana. The average temperature in Indy on August 3 is 83 degrees, presumably with 95% humidity. Essentially, I expect it to feel like 90-100 degrees out there. Sounds like fun, eh?

The second race is a small inaugural race in Southern Indiana on September 28. I chose to register got peer pressured into signing up for this race for a few reasons. First, a bunch of people from my running club are doing it. Second, peer pressure. Peer pressure is no joke, it can be a huge motivator, don’t underestimate it.

After returning from vacation last month, I have been working on being more deliberate about my running. I’ve failed spectacularly at that, but, somehow, I have still been logging a decent number of miles each week. I have been averaging slightly more than 30 miles per week. I think the sweet spot for me running a marathon is somewhere between 30 and 50 miles per week depending on where I am in the training plan. Fewer miles and I will be unprepared, more miles and I fear that I will get injured/stressed out/tired/other bad thing. This is a fairly personal thing, my way is definitely not the “right” way, but I think it will work for me.

I have a goal in mind for that second race, but I’m not ready to put it out there yet. I need to do a few of the longer, long runs to understand how realistic it might be. More updates coming soon. Even non-runners love running fodder, no?

Can I still write about my vacation last month? Its old news, probably not, but I’m doing it anyway. I have had a lot going on in the past three and a half weeks since we got home and I haven’t had the discipline to sit down and write about my trip, but, as Chris keeps pointing out to me, I will enjoy reading about it someday if I make the time to write about it now. So, here it is, I’m making time.

When I first sat down to look through my pictures from Norway, I realized that there were not many pictures, and even fewer good ones. I’m a bit disappointed, but not really surprised. It is pretty difficult to manage Kai while effectively taking photographs. We have a lot more pictures from the second half of our trip in Prague where Chris joined us and championed the photography effort.

In my last post, I went on a rant about the high price of food in Oslo, although, all said and done, I managed to only spend $298 on food, entertainment, and transportation over the three days that we were there; I feel pretty good about that.

So what does one do in Oslo anyway? That was a big question for me before our trip, but I quickly found out that there are many exciting things to see there.

We visited many museums such as the Fram, Munch, Nobel, and Viking Museums as well as my very favorite, the Ski Museum. I almost didn’t make it to the Ski Museum because it is a bit out of the way and involved a long walk, ok, not that long, maybe a mile, straight uphill from the nearest Metro station, but I am so glad that we went. I really enjoyed reading about the history of skiing and, for some reason, Kai patiently allowed me to do so.

Because the weather was chilly and drizzly, I sought out as many indoor activities as I could find. Kai seemed to stay quite warm in her stroller sleeping bag*, but I kept getting chilly and I kind of regretted leaving my Uggs at home. Don’t get me wrong, we did many outdoor activities as well, just fewer than we might have done had it been warm outside.

*If you live in a cold climate and need or want a stroller sleeping bag, I highly recommend the 7AM Enfant one. It is by far the most awesome one that we have used, Kai’s feet stay warm even in sub-freezing temperatures when she kicks her shoes off.

So more about Norway, I’m not finding a lot to say. I am glad that we went. I cherish the opportunity to go new places, see new things, learn about other countries and cultures, but I’ve had trouble writing because it wasn’t all that I had hoped for. I still haven’t written posts about the Maldives for the same reason. [Chris, remind me that I should get on with that as well!]

My main hangup with Norway was the people. They are very beautiful, arguably the most beautiful people in the world, but they can act kind of ugly. They were friendly in much the same way that I have experienced friendliness in France; read that how you will. I had a few experiences in Norway that just rubbed me the wrong way. None of the situations were dangerous and I understand that they do not reflect the behavior and attitude of each and every person in the country, but I’m just having trouble getting past a handful of extremely rude people who I encountered.

Overall, Oslo was a safe, clean, beautiful city with many activities for tourists, nevertheless, I don’t think it is at the top of my ‘revisit’ list.

Our first day in Oslo started off pretty well. We took a short nap and got cleaned up before heading out for some lunch and some sightseeing. We hit up several of the sights in Central Oslo before I decided to look for somewhere for us to eat.

Big mistake. Finding food for us took much longer than I expected. I quickly found out that it would be difficult to find even a fast food sandwich for us to split for under $12. I was also realistic enough to realize that splitting a European-sized sandwich with Kai would not even come close to filling my oversized American appetite.

I started to get kind of nervous. I had been warned that Norway was expensive, heck, I had even been warned by a Brit who thought Oslo was far more expensive than London. It just didn’t sink in though until I was converting the prices of things in my head.

Thinking back on our trip to Japan, I made a beeline for McDonalds. We had a few meals there in Japan and they were pretty reasonably priced. I shuddered at the idea of feeding Kai McDonalds. Bad. Mother.

I could not believe my eyes when I saw that the price of a Big Mac Value Meal was more than $17. Yikes. My fear of feeding Kai McDonalds went out the window because even that didn’t seem like a reasonable option.

I needed to buy some time while I figured out what to do. I stopped at a convenience store to buy a small (~16 oz) carton of milk for $3 and a banana for $1.22. At least Kai would forgive me for another hour or so while I got this sorted out.

Finally, I found a grocery store that was open. I bought some fruit and bread so we would have something to snack on while we were out and about, but there was nothing in this store that would make a meal suitable for Kai without my having access to a kitchen.

I eventually settled on getting us $12 fast food sandwiches. Naturally, I ended up eating nearly two $12 sandwiches because Kai didn’t like either one. I should have seen that coming.

In the end, we did not end up spending a fortune on food in Oslo, but we also never ate at an establishment that offered seating of any kind. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing though; sometimes it is stressful to take a toddler into a restaurant by myself, so alfresco dining had its perks.

We got to see a lot of awesome stuff in Oslo, but I’ll share more about that another day.

Kai and I took two flights to get to Norway and, thankfully, they may have been her most successful yet. After both flights, passengers commented to me that they had no idea that a baby was sitting adjacent to them.

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The first leg of our journey took us to New Jersey where we had a twelve hour layover and an opportunity to hang out with my family all day. We got to have blueberry pancakes, a trip to the zoo, and a big dinner before heading back to the airport for round two.

For the second time that day, Kai fell asleep before takeoff and managed to sleep until the final approach into our destination airport. The sounds pretty good, but there is a bit of a downside for me; it means that I did not sleep much at all as I was dealing with various limbs falling asleep from her weight and the inability to get up to use the bathroom for nearly seven hours. Still, this was a much better alternative than a cranky, wakeful baby.

Sunday morning we arrived in Oslo, caught a train into town, and secured a super early check-in into our hotel. So far, so good!

Saturday morning Kai and I embarked on a mini adventure before joining Chris for our ‘real’ vacation later this week. I suppose that the excitement really started on Friday night when I was supposed to deliver Duke to the kennel.

Have you ever wondered how Duke gets in and out of the car? I can tell you for sure that he does not jump and that he leverages all 200 pounds of his weight to keep all four feet on the ground. I didn’t really give much thought to loading and unloading Duke until it fell on my plate to do it last week and it dawned on me that I could not pick him up.

Thankfully, after tormenting me for several hours, Chris spilled the beans; he has been using a genius technique to get Duke into the car: put him on a leash and ask him to walk right in.
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Not so bad at all!

After kenneling Duke, Kai and I spent the bulk of Friday night figuring out how we were going to share a carry-on suitcase for nine days. It would have been pretty easy if she didn’t wear diapers, but we’re not quite ready to leave those home yet. [Foreshadowing: It was a really good decision to pack enough diapers rather than buy them in Norway!]

Saturday morning Late Friday night, we set off for the airport and the beginning of our adventure.

After I finished this weekend’s cooking marathon, I flopped into my favorite chair, iPad in hand, for a little internet browsing. As I filled my mind with inane fodder from all corners of the World Wide Web, I happened on the discovery of the century: Mason Jar Salads. I love salad of all kinds, but this once a week cooking business has all but eliminated salad from our menu, after all, who wants to eat a limp, soggy, week old salad? I never would have dreamt that I could make salad on the weekend that would taste fresh days later.

I was so excited. Probably more excited than I should have been. I woke up early Sunday morning, searching feverishly for the perfect salad recipe. Not only did it need to sound tasty, but it needed to use up the veggies that were left over after making Pad Thai the day before and as many ingredients that I already had on hand as possible. By the time the sun came up, I realized that the perfect recipe didn’t exist, but, I hope, I had figured out how to properly layer an Asian themed salad which could use leftover romaine, mushrooms, and carrots, from the Pad Thai and edamame from the freezer.

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After a trip to get more mason jars, I was excited to get started building my salads in a jar. Carefully layering the ingredients in the jars was kind of fun, in large part because they looked so pretty when they were finished.

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On day two, I can confirm that my first salad tasted freshly made. I will try to remember to update on Friday to report back on how the salads hold up through the week. From what I’ve read, they will hold up just fine for up to five days. The key is that the wet ingredients are separated from the more delicate ones by the height of the container. In theory, this means that the lettuce does not turn into a pile of slime after a few days.

I look forward to a success story later in the week, as it will certainly be quicker and easier to only cut and wash salad veggies once per week!

Ingredients:

  • 10 tbsp sesame ginger dressing
  • 1.5 cups shredded carrot
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 clementines, peeled and sectioned
  • 2 cups edamame pods, shelled
  • 1 head romaine, cut into bite sized pieces

Directions:

  • Layer ingredients in five mason jars in the order listed above.
  • Do not shake or turn upside down until you are ready to enjoy!

All winter long I have been super stoked about a snowboarding trip to Vail, one of my most favorite ski areas. For a week or more, I have been excited to the point that I had trouble focusing on anything except for daydreams of shredding. Last night I could barely sleep. Finally, I found myself counting down the hours of the work day.

With just two hours until I planned to leave work, I logged onto the Internet hoping to find a flight upgrade notification. I did and I was super stoked all over again.

Until I looked more closely. Our flight from Indy to Denver was cancelled.

Immediately I called United on one phone while using the another to blow up both of Chris’ cell phones with calls and text messages. Minutes later he arrived at my desk to finish my phone call with United while I packed up my stuff. Our only hope to get to Denver tonight was to rush to Cincinnati and catch a Houston-bound flight and we needed to leave ten minutes ago. We picked up Kai on the way out of town and decided to go for it.

I felt a rush of adrenaline as we drove to Cincinnati, excited that we had a second chance, but nervous that we wouldn’t make it. With eleven minutes before the checked bag cutoff, we pulled into the expensive parking garage closest to the terminal. Chris jammed inside with our suitcase and the snowboards while I packed up Kai and the car seat before hurrying inside to meet him. As I approached the ticket counter, excited that we had made it, Chris’ face told a different story.

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Two hours after we began our journey, we were again piling into the car, hungry, tired, and deflated. Shortly after getting back on the road, we ran head on into the storm that had grounded our flights. Snow, sleet, and freezing rain were flying at us in a scene reminiscent of Rad Racer, if you are the right age, you know exactly the level that I am talking about.

We crept back home from Cincinnati at a snail’s pace, our return trip taking almost twice as long as the journey there. I’m super disappointed that the trip did not work out; it seems that Vail is getting hammered with snow right now and the conditions will be perfect for anyone who can make it out there.

Hopefully we’ll have a chance to get out there later in the season.