Fall is here (for now)

We don’t write much. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have a lot to write about. We do. But we’re also pretty busy living such a kick-ass life and enjoying moments that we don’t always have the time to write about it. Among other posts, I want to write about spring break in Oman, June in Iceland, our summer, and Bahrain.

In the meantime I’m going to write about weather (again). I just can’t help it. It’s our daily life. And when it changes it’s a pretty big deal. Yesterday was incredibly windy. And then it was DUSTY. Probably one of the dustiest days we’ve seen since moving here (it hasn’t actually been very dusty in our 2+ years here). I was in a classroom for 30 minutes and when I came out the dust had come. It was gross – all in your mouth and nose and the weather turned orange. It kind of looks like when it’s snowing a super fine light snow in MI. We didn’t take any pictures. But check these out from Kuwait UpToDate:

This morning we woke up and it was still super windy. Then we walked outside. It was GORGEOUS! It was in the low 70s with a cool breeze. I wore fall colors and loved every minute of it. We got back to our apartment and realized it was one of the clearest days we’ve ever seen. And the water was a DEEP blue. And the sunset was beautiful. The weather here is static for so long it’s refreshing to have something a little different.

 

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Four days in Ethiopia

We have a lot of updating to do. But right now I’m inspired to write about my trip last week. I used my PD money from school (and some of my own) to go to Learning2 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As I wrote about on my professional blog, it still seems surreal!

Since direct flights only go to Addis Ababa every couple of days, I arrived EARLY Wednesday morning (about 30 hours before the conference officially started). I ended up being the only non-Ethiopian on the flight that was staying in the country (a lot of Ethiopian women work in Kuwait). I was a little surprised at how small the airport was…until I realized that we flew into the domestic terminal! An Italian pilot for Ethiopian Airlines helped me find the shuttle for my hotel and thus began my trip of helpful & kind people!

I shared the shuttle with two women (one from Boston, the other from Quebec) who were in Addis for a UN conference on human rights. We ended up chatting, seeing each other around the hotel and taking a 15-minute excursion in a taxi to the souvenir area of the city on Thursday. We didn’t buy anything but it was totally worth it. Traveling alone is something I haven’t done in many years but I was able to step outside my comfort zone and meet lots of amazing people!

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Shortly after arriving to my hotel on Wednesday, I realized that I had booked at the WRONG hotel! There are two Jupiter International Hotels in Addis…the only difference is the location. The rest of the people at my conference were staying at the other one. Wednesday was also the epic day that I lost my voice for the first time in my entire life. Laughing at my luck and staying positive were what kept me going during my stay in Ethiopia! There were no available rooms at the correct hotel, so I jumped in a taxi to go hangout at the school. It was incredibly interesting to talk to the taxi driver – he spoke pretty good English and we talked about Ethiopia, traveling, open-mindedness and perspective on the world. It would be the first of many great conversations while in Addis.

Thursday morning started a little later than I would have liked…but I got to switch hotels! When I woke up there was one hotel room left at the correct hotel. However the internet was out at my hotel and I needed to call Agoda so that they would approve a switch to the other hotel. It was my initiation into Africa – unreliable internet and power. When I was checking in at the correct hotel I realized that I had left my passport in the safebox in my room at the first hotel! But I got it all worked out with the help of the great staff at the hotel. That left me time to explore the city a little (see above) and make it on the 11am bus to the school. That put me at school just in time to have lunch! ICS’s cafeteria is awesome – super cheap, super yummy Ethiopian food! I had the Tegamino Shiro. 20 birr = $1. And I couldn’t eat it all!

IMG_5625Because I was at the conference early, I got to meet and hangout with people that I’ve been communicating with for years on Twitter and through blogs. One of my favorite parts of the conference was that it was all inclusive (a surprise!). The only meal I paid for was the one above. And I never had to pay for drinks (they flowed freely every night!). Best $400 I’ve ever spent!

The conference was intense – pick up at 7am and back to the hotels around 9pm. It was like no conference I’ve ever been to before and I’d go back to every single one in the future (they also have them in Asia and they’re coming soon to Europe & the Middle East…and Mars?). The conference is build around the concept of being social and it didn’t disappoint.

Since we didn’t have any time to explore the city, the conference organizers brought Ethiopia to us. There were traditional dancers at the opening session and we had dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant on Friday. There were also vendors at the school on Friday & Saturday and I made sure they got my money ;). I bought an Ethiopian opal for a friend (did you know that they’re famous for opals?! AND they’re so different!), a painting for us and a couple other small gifts. Unfortunately I didn’t buy any coffee on Friday and they didn’t come back on Saturday. So the owner of the art gallery let me “borrow” his driver and we went to Tomoca to stock up on coffee. I made it back to the school alive!

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The collaboration was inspiring, the school was beautiful and the RAIN was divine! The cool weather was a beautiful break from Kuwait. I even got to speak some French! I met teachers from la Cote d’Ivoire at the conference and some people from the Congo in line at the airport. I can’t wait to go back to Ethiopia to explore with Jeff (and Abby?). My only regret – I was in where coffee originated and I don’t like it!

Check out all my pictures from Ethiopia (all taken with my iPhone)!

 

Our Guide: Sri Lanka

[Note: Sorry this is so late!]

Where we stayed:

Our visit to Sri Lanka was divided into three distinct parts; Kandy, Ambalongoda and Haputale. In Kandy we stayed at a hotel called Amaya Hills and it was fantastic. It’s a bit more than we would normally pay, but we only stayed there a few nights. Their food was delicious and their location was perfect. From there we ventured down to the small coastal town of Ambalangoda. We used AirBnB to book a villa owned by a man named Wolley. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we were beyond impressed (more on this later). I’d recommend Wolley’s villa to anyone headed to Sri Lanka. After Ambalangoda we headed back up into the mountains to Haputale. Again, we stayed at a nicer-than-usual hotel but weren’t concerned because of the money we saved at Wolley’s.

What we ate:

We stuffed ourselves silly with rice and curry as often as possible. Check out our food pics here, but if you really want to understand the deliciousness of this food, go find a Sri Lankan restaurant near you. I promise you won’t regret it. Lissa particularly enjoys putting pol sambol on everything while I favor the late-night dish of chicken kottu roti. Bonus: you’re expected to eat with your hands – no utensils!

What We Did:

Visited Buddhist temples & monasteries, lounged on the beach, drank with locals while they taught us the rules of Cricket (we still don’t get it), ate even more rice and curry, took a train to Galle, drove dizzying roads into tea plantations and took in as much of the lush landscape as possible. I’m positive I’ve missed a few events, but there’s something for just about everyone in Sri Lanka.

Pro Tips:

* Hire a driver. They’re fairly cheap and will save you an incalculable amount of stress. Plus, they can take you to local restaurants where you eat in the dining room of someone’s actual house. Let us know if you want a recommendation and we can put you into touch with our driver. He was awesome.

* Be careful drinking local liqour. “Arrack” is a sneaky rum, and will knock your socks off if you’re not diligent.

 

Celebrating in Sri Lanka

December was a big month for us! We celebrated our 5 year anniversary two days after Christmas :) Sri Lanka is a direct 5.5-hour flight from Kuwait – the perfect distance for 2 weeks of exploring! It also has a variety of landscapes and is quite cheap.

We started with a few days in Kandy. We did some sight-seeing and convinced our driver that we wanted to eat where the locals eat. Highlights: bottle feeding elephants at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, the botanical gardens, Kandyan dancing, and sipping on drinks while enjoying the view from our hotel.

Then we moved on to Ambalangoda…with Patrick and Ashley! Although it was our first Christmas away from ‘home,’ we still had family with us and loved every minute. Our daily routine: homemade 3-course breakfast, beach, snacks w/ drinks and cards and then a homemade rice and curry dinner. The owner of the house we stayed at was a wonderful cook and we ate like royalty. My mouth is watering just thinking about the food! Highlights: beach, food, relaxing & chillin’ w/ Patrick & Ashley, riding in tuk tuks, river safari, turtle farm/hatchery, riding the train, beach and FOOD (always eating with our hands of course!)!

our Christmas tree!

We ventured to Hikkaduwa by train one day and explored Galle and Unawatuna another.

Hikkaduwa

Galle

After we said bon voyage to Patrick and Ashley, Jeff and I headed to the mountains and tea country (Haputale) for a quiet New Year. We were reunited with Dama (our driver) and found as many hole-in-the-wall Sinhalese restaurants as possible. Pure bliss. Highlights: miles and miles of tea, drinks and learning about cricket with Dama and hiking.

Lipton's Seat

We had the pleasure of eating with Dama’s sister and her family twice. We could have stayed forever drinking tea, hanging with locals and eating homemade Sri Lankan food!

We loved Sri Lanka so much we almost went back for an impromptu visit in February. But we didn’t get any additional days off school and decided to stay in Kuwait (more on that later too).

Hopefully they’ll be a blog post coming soon from Jeff with ‘Our Guide’ to Sri Lanka. Until then, here’s all our pictures!

Kandy
Ambalangoda
Haputale
Sri Lanka iPhone
FOOD!

Accidental twins

Thursday (tomorrow) is twin day in the elementary. Abby and I decided that we’d be twins together. We racked our brain for shirts we could wear with jeans. Monday night Abby looked through my closet to find a shirt. It was tough!! We finally decided on a Banana shirt that we both have (in different colors).

Then I walked into her classroom yesterday (Tuesday, NOT twin day) morning and this had happened. I guess we have more clothes in common than we thought!

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Today (Thursday) we were planned twins! Look closely…our shirts are the same just different colors :)
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[Fall 2013] A Kuwaiti restaurant…in Kuwait

Seriously there aren’t that many. There are just a few Kuwaiti restaurants in the country and a friend of ours helped us find a good one. It’s not too far from our apartment and it was a pretty cool to be able to sit down to a Kuwaiti meal (we’ve tasted Kuwaiti food before at AWARE Center functions, but never a whole meal).

Because we went way back in August I don’t have a lot to say besides it was a great experience! We ate lots of yummy food for cheap and we’d definitely go back. Check out Desert Girl’s post for the low-down on Kuwaiti food & restaurants. We ate at Freej Suwaileh.

all our pictures

[Fall 2013] A new apartment!

I’m just now realizing the magnitude of how horrible we’ve been at blogging. Wow. I guess that’s what working and teaching (on top of our regular jobs) and taking classes (Masters) and traveling does to you. If you want to keep up with our professional lives, check out our other blogs (Jeff, Lissa, Lissa COETAIL).  If you want to keep up with us on a more daily basis, there’s Facebook and Instagram.

The big news of this year is that we moved up to the 15th floor. We’ve really enjoyed making the apartment feel like home. The views aren’t too bad either! We have given up fast & reliable internet but there are sacrifices for this view…

Our new apartment
Views from the 15th floor

[In case we didn't share before, here are some pictures from our old apartment: first pictures and a couple months later.]

As I sit writing this, here is my view:

It’s cold! (weather again)

I have a whole list of posts that I’ve been meaning to write. Some of them I’m not even sure what I was going to write about. Shoot. We’ve been bad bloggers!

Last time I wrote about how nice the weather was. That was after it rained. I don’t think I did a good job of sharing how crazy the rain was. Now it’s cold (it’s been in the high 30s and low 40s a couple mornings when I’ve gone running!).

our apartment...at 3pm.

our apartment…at 3pm.

Happy holidays!

We leave for Sri Lanka in exactly 12 hours!! WOO!

This will be the first time in our entire lives that we don’t spend Christmas in Michigan. Weird. But we’re incredibly excited to explore Sri Lanka, celebrate our 5th anniversary and enjoy time on the beach with Patrick & Ashley! Love to all near and far!

xoxo
Merry Christmas!

Christmas 2013

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