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Monday, April 28, 2014

London baby!

Yes, I am a die hard Friends fan.  If you don't know which episode this title refers to, you should go look it up.  Joey goes into the map, it's fantastic.

Anyway, getting onto the real reason we're here.  We just got back from London.  I know, I know, you're thinking, didn't you just get back from the Red Sea?  Geez, do you people ever work?  And you know what, your points are valid, did I mention we have another three day weekend starting tomorrow, and another one next weekend as well?  You gotta love countries that change the dates of national holidays and create new ones at will.  More days off for the expats!

So yes, last weekend was a four day weekend, and on a spur of the moment whimsy, we decided to go to London with Bill and Nick.  With the end of the school year approaching, and our imminent move from Cairo, it's the end of an era (that's right, I'm throwing in another Friends quote).

Bill and I have been working together for almost ten years now, and the four of us have been like a family for the last two.  There have been lots of ups and downs, lots of changes, but we've gotten each other through the chaos, and created our own little oasis of home.  And as much as I'm looking forward to the changes next year, I'm really going to miss this little family we've created.

Our trip to London was a going away trip, a last chance to travel together before Nick's departure to college, Bill's change of jobs that will have him floating between Dubai and Cairo, and Ryan, Q and I leaving for Moscow.

It was last minute, really expensive (damn Britain, what's up with the crappy exchange rate!) and totally worth it.

It was also the trip where something seemed to go wrong everyday.  Never anything huge or traumatic, but it did feel like we were being thwarted somehow.

Our first day was all about finding the hotel, which proved to be more of an issue than you would think.  We finally were able to track it down though, and quickly hit the tube to head back into central London and do a bit of sight seeing.  We made it to the Eye and the Aquarium (which Q absolutely loved) that evening before our early morning caught up with us and we decided food and beds were required.  Yay for pork and beer!

The next day was jam packed.  We went to St. Paul's Cathedral, tried to go to Westminster Abbey, but since it was the day before Easter it was slammed.  The weather was crisp and cool, and there were so many beautiful sights to see in the heart of London.

After a walk around the city, we ditched the boys and headed to South Bank to meet my friend Tara, her husband Volkan and their son Kaya for lunch.  Tara and I are old camp friends.  We worked together at Camp Horizons in Virginia for 3 summers, and I've visited her several times in London.  But it had been about 9 years since I'd last seen her, and a lot has changed.  We're both married and recently had children. Yet, it felt so easy falling back into conversation.  It was really good to see them, and I'm so glad they took the time to come into the city to visit with us.

Then it was time to hoof it back to the hotel and get off our feet for a few minutes before we left the baby with a sitter and went to go see Wicked!  By the way, we paid more for 6 hours of babysitting in the UK than we do for an entire month in Egypt.  Wowsa!

But it was totally worth it, Wicked was absolutely amazing.  Emma Hatton, the woman who played Elphaba (Wicked witch of the West) had a voice that knocked you over.  Even Nick was impressed, and he'd been decidedly annoyed that we were going to see a musical.  The craziest thing was when I glanced over at the program of the person sitting next to me and saw that she wasn't even the lead, we were being amazed by the talents of the standby.  Makes me wonder how good the lead must be? Anway, Wicked was great, please go see it if you're a weirdo like me that hasn't seen it in the 11 years it's been on Broadway.

Easter Sunday was our last full day in the city, and we had grand plans to go to Kensington palace and gardens, then stroll around Hyde Park.  But then it started raining and didn't stop the rest of the day.  So Bill cried, and we changed our plans.  Luckily the line for the London Eye was super short, so we jumped on and looked out over the city.  It was a grey day, but the views were still good.

And of course, our last morning was gorgeous, but only gave us enough time to head to the Tower of London and London Bridge.  Q was not impressed and slept through the Crown Jewels in his stroller. But I pointed out the crown I'd like, so Ryan has all the details if anyone is interested in getting me an early birthday gift. We spent the morning enjoying some history before we got on a plane to head back to Cairo.

It was a great trip.  So glad I got to see a show I've been wanting to see for over a decade, reconnect with an old friend, and spending time with our little Cairo family was just what we needed to start saying goodbye.

Unfortunately four days just isn't enough time to see everything properly, so London, we'll be back!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

10 month hump

I remember reading on a friend's facebook status a few months ago that her son was 8 months old and it was her least favorite month. She remembered how much she disliked that month with her daughter too.

My reply to her post was a baffled, "what are you talking about, 8 months is the best!"  Because it was. We absolutely loved 8 months.  Aside from a few nights of teething hell, it was so much fun.  Q was sitting up and becoming a real little person, so interested in everything around him.  Play time was becoming more and more fun.

Now Q has hit the 10 month mark, and I think I know what she was talking about.  So far, 10 months has been really hard.

He's still adorable, laughs all the time and squeals with joy when he see's us.  But he's in this mobility rut.  Sitting he's got down, and he loves to pull up on your hands and walk around the house in his walker, or holding onto your fingers.  But no crawling, no cruising, definitely no walking on his own.  If you put him on his belly, he scoots backwards, away from whatever he was trying to get closer to.

You can see the frustration on his face.  He wants so badly to be moving, to be able to get to the toy that's just out of reach.  To chase Cleo around the house, to walk just like all the big kids in the nursery.

But what we've learned about our little boy is that everything has to happen when he's ready and in his own way.  All of a sudden he'll just start to do things.  So I know we shouldn't be worried that he's a bit slower at gaining these milestones, even if it gives my heart a little pang every time I see other babies his age already walking!

The other part that's been so hard is all the teething/illness.  His top teeth have been working their way down for about 2 weeks now, and all through that time we've also been fighting off a residual ear infection, cold and stomach bug.

He's been cranky.  Cranky with pain, cranky with frustration, cranky going to sleep, and it's made for a hard month so far. Lots of naps and nights spent rocking him to sleep over and over again. The boy that has been going to sleep on his own for the last 5 months.  And to make matters even more complicated, he's deciding at 3am most mornings to roll over onto his belly, but he hasn't figured out how to soothe himself back to sleep.

I feel like we're in a hump month.  Not the hardest we've been through so far in his life.  But things have been so easy for so long that we lost our sleepless parent armor.  We forgot what it was like to get up several times in the night and still have to go to work the next day like a zombie.

We had so much to do last weekend getting ready for the moving company to come survey all our belongings, that we actually gave our baby away for pretty much an entire weekend to friends that were so happy to have him.  And you know what, it was awesome!  Seriously, if you haven't given your baby away for a bit of a break, I highly recommend it.  Just the act of being able to go to sleep for a night secure in the knowledge that you will not need to be woken up is delicious, like sinking your teeth into a grilled cheese sandwich.

It's a good reminder I guess, of how parenting and life really are.  There are easy times and there are hard times.  And in the end, we'll make it through.  But sometimes we need a helping hand to get over the hump.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Goodbye Dahab

It's time for another goodbye in Egypt. Last week was spring break, so we went to our favorite spot on the Red Sea, Dahab.

It's the perfect combo of relaxing atmosphere and beautiful scenery.  It also has the added bonus of being close enough that you don't feel like you're losing half of your vacation time on the plane. And even though you're still technically in Egypt, it feels so different from Cairo.  As you drive through the Sinai from Sharm El Sheikh the road is a stark contrast of jutting rocky peaks and desert.  The road bends and curves around the mountains, but you get an immediate feeling of calm.

The main purpose of our trip, besides relaxing, was to get back in the water and go scuba diving.  You can't dive when you're pregnant, so it's been about 2 years for me.  I really wanted to go one last time before we leave Egypt.  We also wanted to give Q some time to play in the sand and water now that he's sitting up and a lot more mobile.

We've got a good relationship with the dive company Big Blue in Dahab.  We both learned to dive with them and we've always been impressed with their skilled instructors and laid back attitude.

We stayed at the Star of Dahab, the hotel right across the path from the dive shop.  It was our first time staying there, and for the super cheap price, it was a great deal.  Not as comfortable as other places we've stayed in Dahab, but it worked.

We spent our 6 days diving, napping, eating, swimming, reading, and spending time with the bubba.

We got to use our dive camera quite a bit (once I remembered to put in the memory card!) and we're getting better at capturing clear images underwater.  It's so hard to explain the mechanics behind it if you've never been diving, but you have to make yourself completely still, so you line up your shot and then basically drift once you press the shutter button.  And the delay between the shutter and the actual picture is much longer than on shore, several seconds at least.  But the direction you drift is entirely controlled by the current, so sometimes you're drifting away from the picture you want to take, but most of the time you're moving closer.  It turns into this gamble of waiting long enough to let the camera do its thing, but not so long that you end up crashing into coral.  Touching coral is a big no no. You also have to watch your breathing because you can't hold your breath while diving, but if you exhale when you're trying to take a picture of a fish, you could scare them away with the bubbles.  

We saw a lot of fish this round of diving though, which is a good sign for the health of the reef.  Trumpet fish that followed our dive instructor Omar around like a little puppy.  Clown fish, eels, sea slugs, lion fish, kites, even a blue spotted ray.

And even some cleaner wrass that Omar let swim into his mouth!  Yes those are two small fish!

My favorite dive was when we went to the Islands.  It's the prettiest reef I've ever seen in Dahab, so full of color.  But the best part was when we got to an open clearing of sandy bottom, Omar went down and knelt in the sand. I assumed he was pausing to show us some creature on the sea floor.  But then he took off his fins and started jumping into the air.  Because of all the weights we wear to dive and the tank, he came back down, but it was a very slow float.  Then he gestured for us to do the same.

It was incredible, one of the coolest sensations I've ever experienced.  It felt like flying and being an astronaut at the same time.

It was a wonderful trip.  We met lots of lovely people who are trying to eek out a living in a beautiful town that's starving for business.  I think of all the places we've traveled in Egypt, Dahab is probably one we will return to.  But for now it's a nostalgic but happily satisfied goodbye!