Summer in the Gulf

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The sun is rising over the desert sands and with it comes the dust and the mist. The air is thick and the humidity drips off the windows as if a spring rain has just washed through the area, only it hasn't because it rarely rains here. In fact it would be safe to say that it almost never rains. The summer is hot. And even though we live in the middle of the desert it is also humid - there are times when the humidity reaches upwards of 80%. Oh yes, that does wonders for my hair. Sweat comes pouring down your face, your back, and you start to wonder why you even bothered putting make up on in the first place. But you did because almost every single one of the local women does and they look gorgeous, and you feel like a bit of a lost cause if you do not try to make some kind of effort to look halfway decent.

But there is beauty in the landscape even though it is harsh. Even though it is cutting and jarring and unforgivable. Even though it wears you out. Even though it wears you down. Even though you miss the rain and the green. There is beauty to be found in the middle of the summer in the Gulf.


Neither Far nor Near

My niece thinks that we are moving to Target - yes the store. Thanks to my mother and the timing of a conversation, my niece things that Target is Abu Dhabi. It will be a sad state when she starts looking for us in the luggage aisle, and we are no where to be found.

The other day someone told me that Abu Dhabi used to be Djibouti before they struck it rich with oil. Really? I remember Djibouti being on the East Coast of Africa, and while there have been several earthquakes as of late, and many countries in Africa have changed their names since I learned them in the 6th grade, I do not think that Djibouti moved from East Africa to the Gulf.

People keep saying we are moving to Dubai. NO, we are not moving to Dubai. Dubai is another Emirate (there are seven in total). Dubai is NOT Abu Dhabi, much like Boston is NOT New York City. Please, get it right.

And then I am confronted with "Oh, Abu Dhabi! I just saw the second 'Sex and the City!'"Oh... great. You mean the one that was actually filmed in Marrakesh? The one that was so inappropriate I felt a bit sick? Yeah, that's great. No, it's really not like that, oh, except for the white cars. There are a lot of white cars.

Yes, we are moving to Abu Dhabi, the capitol of the United Arab Emirates. East of Saudi Arabia, South of Iran, and West of Dubai. Yes, there are camels and date trees. Yes, women can drive. Yes, I can dress is "Western" attire.

And more than anything, yes, we are so looking forward to this amazing adventure of a lifetime.


Running up the Hill

It was spring in DC - full on SPRING. It has yet to travel up the coast to Boston. I spent a few days in DC with the American Heart Association as part of Lobby Day - time to speak to members of Congress about the importance of funding research in the areas of heart disease and stroke research. For example, did you know that for all of the National Institutes of Health's budget only 4% goes towards heart research, and 1 % towards stroke, yet heart disease and stroke are the Nation's number 1 and 3 killer... interesting little fact.

So there we were - more than 300 people from 46 states across the country to discuss heart health and stroke awareness. It was an impressive sight to be sure: the color red could be seen from afar. I wonder whether they listened. The Hill is full of lobbiests. Every day, every hour, every minute people traipse up to Capitol Hill and pitch their stories. At times it seems that it takes more energy than it is worth. It is a steep climb up that hill - both literally and then it is figurative for those of us dealing with heart disease and stroke.

And then, in an instant it changes. The stories come out:

-A young girl born with a heart defect who subsequently suffered a stroke

-A woman who has suffered several strokes due to a rare brain disorder

-A woman who has had three open - heart surgeries for valve replacement, and knows that the valve will not outlive her, so she will need another (she is only in her 40s)

These are not stories of older white men collapsing on a golf course. These are the people who deal with heart disease and stroke every single day. I hope that our trip made the incline on the hill a little less steep for those of us who have to climb it everyday...


Oh the places we'll go! Part 3

Honeymoon... Africa. Why not.  And we were deep into the bush of Selous.  Deep into southern Tanzania surrounded by some of the most pristine beauty I have every seen in my life.  People gasp, their eyes widen with delight, and they often oohhh and ahhh in delight after hearing about our adventures.  Yes, it was THAT amazing.  Yes, we DID see the animals.  And actually, yes, the "tent" that we stayed in was exceptionally beautiful, while being both luxurious and rustic at the same time.  But all the while, our surroundings reminded us of where we were, and we were able to stay in the moment.

We always knew that we were being watched, and that added an element of mystery (and often unease) to the trip...

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We learned that we could easily become fodder at any given moment...

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Being still and quiet often had its advantages...

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The definition of beauty defied imagination...

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And we were able to say that we went off into the sunset...

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Oh the places We'll Go Part 2

Selous
 

Selous... Southern Tanzania.  It was winter, and as the sun warmed our skin and the ground below, our feet crunched on the fallen leaves, and gave us the impression on fall in New England.

We were greeted by warm smiles and cool face towels.

We were met morning, noon, and night with exceptional views of the lake.

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We were offered live entertainment at a moments notice...

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And were introduced to the locals...

Crocs

And this was only on day one!  

After sundowners and dinner we were escorted back to our tent by an Askari under a clear dark sky and we searched for the Southern Cross all the while peering into the night for what might come out.  We looked out into the night, waiting and listening for what might come... waiting for the next day.
  


Oh the places we'll go! Part 1

It was the first of many things.  The first time in several years that we had gotten away for a substantial period of time, the first time to East Africa, the first time on safari, and perhaps the most important - the first holiday as a married couple.  I started the planning with Zanzibar and worked my way from there.  It sounded exotic, and like a place that I might like.  I knew few people who had ever traveled to the island renowned for its spices and once ruled by the Sultan of Oman.  From Zanzibar, the sensible place to go (we quickly found out) was Tanzania.  We also learned rather fast from an amazing British Travel Company that we should go south.  

South? I asked?  But what about the migration?  The wildebeest?  The Serengeti?  

Do not worry, I was told, go South, go to Selous.

Selous?  What the hell and where the hell is Selous?  

Oh, it is wonderful.  It has the largest population of wild dogs and it is about 55,000 sq km (the largest game park in all of Africa).

Well, that was all fine and good, and lovely that it was the largest game park in all of the African Continent, but that also meant that there was a diminished chance of seeing the lions, the rhinos, the BIG FIVE!  

But, I was told... there were wild dogs.

I spent some time looking at the camp where we would be staying and quickly decided if nothing else, we would have some lovely lie-downs, and I would be in Africa, on safari, in style.  We were going to stay in a proper tent that zipped up and down and an outdoor shower, and since it was located on a lake, I would see crocodiles.  

OK - and then, then we would get to Zanzibar.  The Spice Island.  Beach, sun, and more beach.  I started to get excited, I started to plan, and to pack.  The list of shots was long...meningitis, tentanus (mine had run out), Hep A, Yellow Fever, Typhoid, and of course the malaria pills.  But none of this mattered.  We were looking forward to the adventure of a lifetime.

It did not hit me until we were on the 12-seater airplane flying from Dar es Salaam to the middle of the Tanzanian Bush.  

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The little plane lifted off and left the city behind.  The 30 minute flight took us over lush green fields, hills, valleys, and the like and as we flew further south, the landscape started to change.  Since it is winter in sub-saharan Africa, the landscape had hues of pale greens, yellows, and browns.

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and so it began...


A Pre-Wedding Ode

I learned a lot about the people in my life following my stroke and open heart surgery. You tend to quickly recognize who your true friends are and who are those people who are not so sure if they have the moral fiber to truly be there as you go throw a pretty life-changing experience.  Not to make light of it, but I think that the same is true of weddings.

I have heard  that weddings can bring out the worst in people.  True.  I have witnessed this first hand, but more often than not, it is at other people's wedding.  I am lucky enough to say that for the most part I have not witnessed this behavior, unless you want to include irrational rants and raves from the bride-to-be about scheduling, planning, and those tiny little details that one feels the desire to go over time and time and time again.  So, aside from that I have been - for the most part - lucky.  Lucky to the point that I have realized more and more every day how incredible the people are in my life.  We have an amazing group of friends and family, people with whom we have laughed and cried; people who we have yelled at, and they have yelled right back.  People who are wise enough to tell us when we are being foolish, and people who are innocent enough to think that aside from all of our faults we are super heros.

Between now and the day, we are allowed to behave like fools and feel like we have superhero powers. Because in my heart, we do have those powers.  We can, and will, do anything.

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It is in the bag...

There are those moments, and they seem to occur at the most inopportune times.  The middle of the night, the middle of a meeting, or when I am teaching a fitness class.  I start to think about the guest list.  Do we have everyone counted?  Did everyone really receive an invitation?  What about the people who never RSVPd?  Did they actually even receive their invitation?  And those gift bags... the ones that we are going to leave in the hotel rooms.  What about those?  They have to be just right, and that is why the UPS truck has been making daily stops at our apartment.  No, not with wedding gifts but with box upon box of items that will go into the bags for the guests.  I probably wrote down the items to be placed in the gift bags at least 15 times, with little (if any) variation each time.  And truth be told, I am sure that I will do it again!

So after a ton of feedback from friends and family I compiled the list for the gift bags and the candy bar...

What, you ask, what do I plan on actually putting into those gift bags???  Well, I want something that I would want in a gift bag.  What would I want to see if I opened up a bag after a flight across the country to a wedding???

I would probably want to have some kind of energy bar in case I did not have time to eat...

Clif-bar
 

Larabars
Since I love to run, I would want to have a map of the Charles River so that I knew how far I was going...

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(Image from Marathon Sports)

I would probably want something to munch on after that run...

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(Image from gotribe.com)

and would of course need to be hydrated!

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(Image from from Nestle Waters) 

And because I would be in town for a wedding, I would need to make sure I was staying awake at all times!

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And of course... there are those simple little extras...

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But these are just some ideas that have been written down dozens of times on endless pieces of paper.  I still have 3 wks to deepen my relationship with Mr. UPS!   


Lune de Miel

I love adventure, and I love to plan.  I am in full planning mode as I write down notes of colors, fonts, and frostings for our upcoming weddings.  Aside from the marriage (which is so very much more important than the wedding) I am head over heals excited about the trip.  Honeymoon.  Lune de miel.  Whatever you want to call it.  It will starts in a place called Selous, named after Frederick Courtenay Selous (1851-1917), and yes, he was British and a big game hunter.  Selous Game reserve is in fact the world's largest game reserve and filled with birds, elephants, hippos, lions, wild dogs, and, well, you get the picture?  Right?  No you say?  OK, maybe this will help...

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from (http://www.adventurecamps.co.tz/selousinfo.htm)

Yes, there.  Now you know what it is that I am talking about.  Greatness and nothing less.  While on safari, I found out that we will be staying in tents above a hippo pond, which made me wonder if we will see anything like this...

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Following the frenzy of the open terrain in Selous, we are heading to the open seas and the Spice Island also know as Zanzibar.  I do not expect that we will have much of an agenda, except maybe a run down the beach,

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Ed Vulliamy, The Guardian

a tour of the spices,

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http://www.colobusafaris.com/img/te_spices_big.jpg

and an introduction to some new friends,
Tanzania - Zanzibar - Prison island - Schildpad

Yes, I think that we can rest assured that adventure will come in all shapes and sizes.  And I cannot wait until I can fill pages with my own photos!


Somewhere I have never travelled, gladley to

Dr boys

So like one of my favorite e.e. cummings poems, I had never traveled to the Dominican Republic before.  And when I arrived, it was not the same Dominican Republic that I had heard about years ago... The first time I heard about the DR was on a beach in the Bahamas while working at Club Med.  There is also a Club Med in the DR - Punta Cana to be specific.  It conjured up images of palm trees, pristine beaches, tropical drinks, and guests running around acting like teenagers as they try to do as much as they can in the course of their 7-night holiday.  However, I was not going on a Club Med vacation.  No, instead I was going to meet my future family and stay with them for a few days at their home in Santo Domingo.  I had an idea of what to expect.  I have traveled lots of places and spent time living in the Bahamas and Mexico.  How different could it be?

Upon arrival we were welcomed by a tropical rain fall that covered the ground in sheets and did not let up for hours to come.  Welcome to the Caribbean, I thought to myself, as I walked underneath the covering just outside of the "arrivals" section at the airport.  Even with the rain, I felt a comfort level that often arrives when I land in a tropical place:  between the air, the palm trees, and the view of the ocean, I anticipated the tastes and flavors of Latin Caribbean food.

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  Along with the food, we were able to see some of the local art work in the Old City...

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We were invited to see the airing of local laundry...

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And visited with the the locals...

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No, the trip was not like my days in Club Med.  It was beautiful, gorgeous, and more than I can imagine.  I cannot wait to go back.