Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day." -Vincent Van Gogh

Post by: Beth

Raja had told me fairly early on before we left for this trip that he'd picked a special restaurant for us to eat at for our anniversary. I usually can't help doing secret research or requesitng hints about "surprises," but being REALLY excited about Dubai, I went along with it and didn't ask any questions or try to figure it out. I knew the date, the time to be ready, and that's it.

So Saturday night we climb into the taxi and Raja tells the driver where to go -- He's specifically picked an area AROUND the restaurant as the destination, rather than giving the actual restaurant name. I'm still oblivious and we happily ride along, about 20 minutes, to our destination. We are let out at a huge hotel called "Madinat Al Qsar" and its gorgeous. The bottom floor of the hotel is made up of high-end Arabian home decor stores, which houses amazing (and amazingly expensive!!) decor products. We wind through the bottom, peeking in stores and looking all around. Finally we get to a door that leads to a path outside, with a stream running along the pathway. A golf cart is waiting for us, and we get in and zoom along the pathway about 5 more minutes, until we're let off at the end of a huge pier. I can't quite make out what's at the end of the pier, but just slightly to the right of whatever building is at the end, "floats" the Burj Al Arab. I've seen plenty of pictures of this 7-star hotel that's designed in the form of a sailboat, but they just can't compare to seeing it in person. I'm REALLY excited by this point, as there's only one way we can go at this point, and that pier is going to be right in line with the Burj Al Arab.

We walk down the pier, and I see the sign of the restaurant: "Pierchic." We're taken to our table, which sits right along the side of the man-made island, and waves roll right up to the under-side of the restaurant, where our table is. I discover from the menu that it's mainly a seafood restaurant, and there are lots of things I can't pronounce, and some of them I'm not even sure what they are. With a little help, I make my decision and we order our salads and dinners. The food is amazing, and the scenery around us is gorgeous. I don't think I've ever been in a "prettier" spot in my life.

The night was wonderful and I didn't want to leave at the end, but I was really happy that I didn't spoil the surprise by asking questions and begging for hints. I think the next time a "surprise" is in the works, I'll remember this and be content to let it play out as the surprise it should be. :)

Below: The pier we were walking down to get to the restaurant. The hotel you see here is the one we walked through to get to the golf cart, then drove through to get to the pier.

Below: We just sat down to dinner. You can't see very well behind us because the setting isn't set properly yet, but the Burj Al Arab is just behind me, in the upper left corner of the photo.
Below: Behind Raja, you can see another shot of the hotel we walked through to get to the pier. Below: water under the restaurant Below: Burj Al Arab... the lighting changes from purple to teal to pink, etc. Actually really pretty in person.

Below: Another view from our table. I just happily turned and snapped photos all thorugh dinner.. It was impossible not to!
I'm aware I have 70 photos of this hotel, but it's just too pretty!
And you guessed it.. more surprise cake! This was a mousse cake -- really light and fluffy! Diet was officially in "off" mode during this trip, in case you hadn't noticed. ;)

Above & Below: We stopped and took some pictures on the way back through the hotel grounds after dinner. You can't really see it in this photo (again), since the setting for night portraits and setting for buildings are different, but the Burj Al Arab is back there behind each of us in these photos.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Post by: Beth

Just a few quick pics from our arrival into Dubai.

The Dubai airport is pristine.. It's much different from any airport I've been in before... Everything is white, shiny, and sparkly. It's also strangely quiet in the terminals and baggage areas; we found ourselves whispering and so as not to disturb the peace. The baggage belts are soundless... the luggage carts glide smoothly and noiselessly across the floor... and the security points are quick and efficient. It was quite a change from the cacophony that is Bombay's airport! ;)

Below are some pictures from our hotel, which is positioned in the new area of Dubai. There are new hotels everywhere and there are so many new buildings being constructed. We were conveniently located across the street from "The Dubai Mall," and right in the middle of many restaurants and area attractions.

Below are some pictures from the pool area at the hotel, and the view surrounding the pools.

Since our 1-year anniversary is only about a week away, we used this trip to celebrate that. It's a tiny bit early, but a holiday Monday meant an off-day for Raja, plus the Dubai Shopping Festival is going on now. Raja had a couple surprises arranged for the trip, starting with a cake and fruit basket delivered to our room on our first night. Yummy!

More to come soon from our Dubai trip... :) Hope everyone is well!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

" 'Home' wasn't built in a day."

Post by: Beth

One of the most difficult parts in the beginning, for us anyway, about living in India was literally... living in India. We stayed in a hotel for a couple of weeks upon arrival, until we'd had time to look at apartments and pick the one we wanted for our stay. Once we found the proper apartment, it was time to move in (what an adventure THAT was!) and actually furnish it. It was essentially just a shell to start with -- exposed light fixtures, stickers still on windows, no kitchen cabinets initially, etc. Making our home here was quite a bit of work and we pretty much devoted about a month to making our apartment actually FEEL like "ours."
Many stories along the way are really comical. Things are just done differently here when moving into a new home, and you really have to drop all expectations of what you're used to in America... otherwise, you'll just suffer, and badly. Most of you probably saw the blog post about the internet "installation" that took place from our living room window. I'm not kidding when I say that this is how many of the processes went after our move. For example, a guy came to hang our bathroom light one day and after his installation, he motioned me into the bathroom to inspect the job. I flipped on the light and to my surprise, the light flickered constantly... on, off, on, off, on, off. I looked at the worker questioningly and he nodded his head from side to side, smiling with pride, asking "thik hai???," which means "ok???" in Hindi? I shook my head and said "No thik hai," and opened and closed my fists rapidly, to signal a flashing light. He said "on, off, on, off??" I said "Haan" ("yes" in Hindi) and he promptly began the re-install. Luckily, it went better this time and his proud smile was actually warranted. This was my daily routine, more or less, for about 3 weeks. Raja finally took to standing over and actually watching them do the job on the weekends .. literally just standing and watching and making sure no one left until lights didn't flash, curtain rods were hung straight, and cabinet doors actually opened and closed.

Eventually, little by little, the major things got marked off the list. We now had our kitchen cabinets and drawers.. we had curtain rods and light fixtures.. we also had proper living and dining room furniture. Then came the fun stuff... We spent hours and hours scouring art galleries, climbing over dusty antiques in Chor Bazaar, picking out the softest towels we could find in Shopper's Stop, communicating in broken Hindi & English in plant nurseries, drawing furniture plans, picking out wall hangings in home shows... And finally, things started coming together. We'd scheduled a major repainting of the walls and trims since so much furniture had come in and out, and the painting got done while Raja was visiting Delhi and I was still in America. So when Raja got back into Bombay, he did some last minute finishings by buying more plants, having the final drapes hung, making sure all of the artwork and hangings were hung, etc. When I got back and saw our apartment, it was much less a work-in-progess and actually felt like a real home! It looked like a different place and it's so nice to come home to now.

Since everything is finally all set (for the most part), we wanted to take some pictures to show our family & friends where we live. We still laugh about some of the things, all in good fun, but overall, we're really happy with how our work paid off. :)

Above: living room

Curtain pattern in living room windows

Art that hangs over the couch

Dining room area ... it's connected to the living room space

Bamboo is really easy to find here!

Kitchen... very traditionally Indian. Every cupboard, shelf, etc made by hand.. sloowwllly.. ;)

Hallway sink.. note the swan figure on the mirror. This must be quite popular in India, as the landlord was so proud of the "fancy mirror" that was installed here. We laughed, but it's not so bad once we're used to it. It sort of grew on us! ;)

Curtain pattern in bedroom windows

Monday, January 19, 2009

"The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win."

Post by: Beth

I never imagined that I'd one day be able to see the Mumbai Marathon, but here we were, getting up at 5:30am on Sunday morning to head to South Mumbai for the start of this annual race! CHIP Mumbai - the NGO for which I volunteer - had several of their team members running, so some of the staff & volunteers gathered to support them. It was such a cool experience to just sit and take it all in. Some participants walked a short distance and carried signs for organizations for which they'd raised money... many participants carried flags and anti-terrorism signs... other participants ran for the love of running and had been training for months to complete a half or full marathon. It was as chaotic and exciting as most things in Mumbai, and I feel so fortunate we got to experience this event.

(Above are some of the CHIP staff and volunteer members.)

"Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one." -Dr. Seuss

Post by: Beth

I know it's been a while since we posted, but we have just been incredibly busy! I spent a month at home over the Thanksgiving holidays and came back to Bombay on Christmas Eve. Since I stepped off the plane, it's really been a whirlwind and we've barely had time to sleep! We're really enjoying our time in India, and I have to say that the city of Bombay continues to grown on us each and every day. Along with work, volunteering, and the usually daily tasks, we've been able to do lots of fun things... so despite the lack of posts, I do still have photos, and am happy to finally get to blog some of them! My posts may be a little shorter for a bit due to being so busy, but I'm sure some of you will actually really appreciate fewer words and more photos. :)

Recently, Kristen's sister, Kimberly (yes they are twins.. I literally cannot tell them apart) got to visit Bombay for about 10 days. For much of the trip, they stayed at the JW Marriott and this came with the great benefit of being able to wear a real bathing suit next to a swimming pool --- Believe it or not, despite the oceans and heat in India, this is a rare treat! We hung out for 3 or 4 days at the pool and it was so relaxing and nice. Raja and Beej even got to join us one day since they were off work for a holiday!

Beej's parents have also been in town visiting from the States, so one night was devoted to meeting them over dinner. A large group of us went to "Oh! Calcutta," which is a traditional Bengali restaurant in South Bombay. The food was great and seemed never-ending, and it was nice to meet Beej's family and spend time with friends.