Friday, December 17, 2010

Of course

The Serena had a comp mini bar of juices and the Marriott has a lavish one, which Of course isn't complementary.

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Location:1 A St,Dubai,United Arab Emirates

Video of water fountain & Burj Khalifa

This isn't the Thriller water show that they put on but this is amazing choreography

YouTube Video

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Location:2 B St,Dubai,United Arab Emirates

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wow - Dubai, UAE

I am not sure if words can describe my evening. We went to the Dubai Mall which houses every top designer in the world from Chloe to Jimmy Choo to Jennie's favorite Louis Vitton. It is just so over the top with over 1200 retail stores, 440,000 sf Fashion Ave devoted to haute couture, gold souk, Olympic size ice skating rink, and the Aquarium and Underwater Zoo.

In front of the aquarium, you can walk through!

Off all the designers this was my favorite, candylicious

I got to hold and pet a 6 month old female hawk in the gold souk!

My favorite window display, Ted Baker of London recreating the famous Marilynn Monroe pose with Santa

Henna tattoo in the gold souk.

Outside the mall is the Dubai Fountain which shouts water 150 meters, about 50 stories into the air! Also there is the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world at 2716ft high, just over half a mile!

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Location:2 B St,Dubai,United Arab Emirates

Where I am hanging my hat

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Location:44 B St,Dubai,United Arab Emirates

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All Dressed Up

Yesterday was a wonderful lunch with the ladies in one of my offices here in Pakistan. We shared many giggles over lunch and I learned about arranged marriages, dating, and the woman's place in society. It was quite eye opening and I respect these ladies who work for us as it is not the norm in society and in many cases they are working to support their parents and siblings.

After lunch it was time to shop and find a few outfits for me to wear. Wearing western clothing is okay but it does draw attention and wearing traditional outfits is required if I go to any of our project locations. These kamiz can be quite intricate in beads and embroidery.

Me in the fitting rooms as the girls laughed, I was wearing my shirt and on dome occasions put my head through the wrong hole!

Here is one of the two outfits, the checker reminded me of NASCAR and found that a appealing.

I am now typing this from bed at 11am as I spent the entire evening until an hour ago sick. Being sick abroad is slightly nerve-raking but it seems that after 11 hours of being sick I can now focus on getting a little sleep and hydration.

Tomorrow I start my trip home and head to Dubai.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Since I am missing my family

I have one more week until I am going to be home, and since I am missing my family, I thought that I would share Reagan and Thatcher enjoying Christmas...

Reagan is always so good posing for pics in front of the fireplace - Santa is watching!

Thatcher has a nylabone and could care less if her stocking is full or not!
She is as lazy reindeer!
Reagan showing off his new sweater with hood!
Our beautiful Christmas tree and decorations, I love it!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Moonlighting in Pakistan

After a long but very productive day at work, and a fun "happy hour" with some staff at a coffee shop, I was welcomed back to the hotel with the sounds of Christmas music and the smell of gingerbread. Yesterday, construction was completed on my gingerbread house complete with flashing Christmas lights, but tonight they took it to a whole new level - it is open for business! Yes, you can buy chocolate Santas and gingerbread. I love it! While working my first shift, I even saw a Santa suit on the ground, so more excitement is to come. I am pictured with the manager (who is always awake and greeting me with a smile) and the doorman (who I have to admit, I had been scheming on how to get a good pic because of the uniform and mustache - mission accomplished). So Happy Holidays from Islamabad to whereever you find yourself this season!

Dinner party with the rich and powerful...

And here I am dressed for the dinner party. It is so hard to know what to wear as you have to keep in mind covering your BUTT! I don't own many things that cover my butt in regards to tops - I have always figured that skirts, shorts, pants did the trick. I added the scarf because well, I look like a football player with no neck when I have on a turtleneck. So here is the final product. I have to say that I felt as though I was in my pjs, getting ready to lounge on the couch by the fire and read or watch a movie - I in no way felt dressed to meet people with money or weilding power in Pakistan government - but off I went.

We arrived in the neighborhood where PM Jamali lives. There was of course heavy security points to move through. The house was enormous, think mcmansion plus with plenty of staff on hand to help with maintenanance and serving their employers. There was no alcohol, so it was fresh juices before dinner, then traditional Pakistani food for dinner which included fish, ground meats, spinach in HEAVY oil, rices, and other dishes that I couldn't recognize - but all spicy. Dessert was also traditional so I went with what was a carrot dish, Gajraila.

After dinner, I joined the wives upstairs for tea which was so enjoyable. These ladies, wear salwar kameez - which are longer shirts with pants/leggings/jeans underneath. Some had a scarf around their head and others did not. Their views of how they feel were different then I had suspected, but these are women of wealth, who I believe have progressive husbands. It is true, I do not do much over here - chivary is very much alive with the men that I have interacted with and that is how they felt. The salwar kameez that they were wearing were beautiful with beading and embroidery and very stylish - I might go get myself one. I believe that in Islamabad it is different then in the villages of Pakistan and in other muslim countries.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Margalla Hills

I went for my hike and it was fabulous. Though I was told that this was an easy hike, ummm, easy. But I suppose if K2 is in your backyard, it is all relative. We did an hour hike which was fairly vertical to a look out point where I was able to look out over Islamabad. Unfortunately it was not a super clear day, but still amazing to see. It is wonderful that these hills are so close, practically in the city, for everyone to use for recreation.
This evening was a pleasant surprise as I was able to enjoy a glass of red wine with my dinner. Granted we had to bring our own, but still, it was quite nice. I realize that this is a rare but it was so nice!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Shop 'til you Drop

Well, not quite. This evening was filled with rug shopping and though these rugs are beautiful, I just have no place for one. The rugs are Afghani and Pakistani rugs and hand embroidered. Rugs that are 6'x9' take one family a year to make, cost approximately $1700, but would cost around $5,000 or higher in the states!

In one shop I was able to buy a traditional top that I will wear to a dinner that we are hosting later in my trip and a beautiful piece to hang in my office.

My boss quested that I look for donkeys, but I have to represent with elephants, even if this is just a beautiful piece from Pakistan. The bead work is nice and there is crushed velvet, as close to velour as I could possibly find here. I am so missing my velour!

We finished our evening with dinner at Me'lange Cafe . The best part was walking in and feeling as though I had just walked into a New York nightclub. The house music was pumping and there was fashion360 on the tv screens showing Dubai Fashion Week. I was listening to techno mixes of songs like Rhythm is a Dancer. This cafe is connected with a store featuring 8 different designers. As they were closing soon, I quickly walked through while listening to the soundtrack of Top Gun. All I could think was can this get any better?! Well, dinner was amazing. A spicy, VERY light, thai inspired soup, SUPER thin crust margarita pizza, and a rich molten chocolate for dessert. That was not something that I expected here in Pakistan, but it was a nice surprise.

Beautiful Day in Islamabad

It is after 4pm and my day has been mixed with work and relaxing. I was able to sit out in the gardens and enjoy green tea while speaking with colleagues, and let me tell you it just doesn't get better than this. While everyone in the Northeast is bundling up and enjoying some snow, I am in a light sweater wearing my Ray-Bans and enjoying early fall temperatures.
To sum up since my last post, I enjoyed a tradition middle eastern mezza with a morocan cous cous for dinner. The Morocan presentation of the meal was in the fabulous dish with a top, which was fun. I will try and get a pic as I am sure that I will dine there again. This evening is shopping as my boss is looking for a rug and I am looking forward to seeing more of the city.
As my day is coming to an end, I am wishing you all a fabulous Saturday!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hotel Security

The hotel that I am staying at, the Serena Hotel, is beautiful. The finishes are amazing and everything is just bright colors. Most of the time there is live music being played - either by a pianist or lute. When it isn't live the most amazing music is just flooding the hotel with the sounds of Pakistan. In addition to this place being beautiful both to the eyes and ears, the security is top notch. There is a single road to arrive at the hotel of which the vehicle goes through three security check-points. After the third, the car must stay down in the parking lot and cannot drive up to the hotel. Individuals and their luggage go through screening similiar to that of airports. I can leave on my shoes and coat, but if I set off the detector, it is a private screening...nothing invasive though. If you don't want to walk up to the hotel there is a beautifullly decorated golf cart that will take you up. In addition to this screening process, there are armed security agents on peaks around the hotel as well. I definately feel safe staying here. I will try to take and post some pics soon.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pakistani Food

Here I am outside of the Serena Hotel.

Breakfast is the most delightful meal of my day. Short order cook making omelets - just to die for and enough to keep me going until 8 or 9pm at night when I get my next meal. I am surviving on water and tea all day long. Guess I might want to hop on my 1970's scale to see how I am handling this concentration camp diet.

Tonight I had Pakistani food. It is similiar to Indian food, and since I am not an expert or well traveled in this region, I would say that if you have food from the Punjab region of Pakistan it may not be distinguishable from Indian cuisine unless you are a local. It is quite spicy and delicious. I find the heat exactly what I am looking for, no sweat, just a smoky and hot sensation. Poppadom was served prior to the meal and this was a spicy seasoning on a VERY thin and fried piece of bread. So light and tasty I was in heaven. Though my slice was a little heavy on the onions, thankfully Matt wasn't here to have to kiss me!

I have not seen much of Pakistan except for traveling between the hotel and office, but tomorrow I will be at an Embassy and hoping to do a little hike this weekend and next week get to Muzzafarab.

All is quiet here!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I have arrived in Pakistan

After a 13 hour plane ride with a unshowered fellow creaping into my seat, then a three hour ride from Dubai in a middle isle in a middle seat, I arrived safe in Pakistan. Private transport to waiting area where our amazing staff took care of obtaining my visa along with collecting my 50lb bag; while I enjoyed tea and cookies of course. My arrival time was just after 3am local time and well, I haven't been able to sleep yet. I have unpacked and organized my room for the three week stay, worked out, discovered the nuances of my bathroom, had an amazing breakfast, and am preparing to head off to our offices. Current time is 11am.

Now before tearing away to work, I have to talk about my bathroom. First there is a scale from the '70s under the sink for my use. Perfect, the one time I would die before seeing one of these is on business travel or vacation. The only redeeming quality to this scale is that it is in kg, so I immediately had a major weight loss upon stepping onto it.

I have a little toilet stall with telephone and shower head. Not sure if this is a make shift bidet and don't anticipate finding out. My shower upon first glance is a rain shower head - yes! But upon taking a shower the position of the head is in the ceiling and cannot be adjusted which means water ALL through the bathroom and I don't have any location in the stall where I am not being drowned in water. Guess I will try a bath next! Lastly in my small 10x10 bathroom there are two phones - guess that is the extra perk that I get for being on the executive level of the hotel.

I will be bringing more stories and photos - stay posted!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is that time of year to give thanks for everything in your life. I must say that I am so thankful for my wonderful husband, and all of my family and friends. I have had quite a blessed year. Though I still struggle in my life, I always know that I have amazing people surrounding me to lend an ear and offer advice.

The last four days have been jammed pack with activities to prepare for my next trip. I have finished Christmas cards, organized for the doggies mini-vacation at the dogwalkers, decorated for Christmas, purchased 90% of my Christmas gifts, and tried to just be organized for leaving the house for three weeks. I am exhausted but am feeling good about being gone for that long, at least in the department of having items checked off my to-do list.

I hope to update often over the next three weeks to include my adventures in Pakistan. Wish me well and Happy Holidays!!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sorry for the Absence...

Wow, sometimes life just doesn't slow down. Matt and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary and I have been enjoying work and life. The summer was brutal this year in DC and I was not ready for the humidity but am loving my new short sleeve business suits and fabulous sleeveless summer work dresses.

We are enjoying fall and hoping to take up a new activity - geocaching. Poppa Dutes gave us a gps and with this device we can go exploring - we are hoping to do our first this weekend. Trial run will be finding the cache at the cemetery where our dogs are members.

We are digging into being super Apple people with the addition of an iPhone and iPad to our family this fall. We just love the technology that Apple has. Image uploads are not available due to maintenance so I will upload some images for your enjoyment later.

Happy fall!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Martha Stewart and NYC

As many of you are aware, I LOVE Martha Stewart. I have received many important gifts over the years that document big events in my life with Martha Stewart suggestions - upon getting married - hand carved bowl by a man in Maine that Martha uses; buying my first home - Martha Stewart Cleaning book. She has been with me to mark some of the big events in my life, so when I was able to get tickets to a taping of her show, I wasn't missing it. Since Jennie was setting off to Scotland (nice excuse) Matt was my partner in crime for this 24 hour trip to NYC. Here is how it all happened:

Matt and I hoped a bus to NYC from DC and were able to enjoy 4 hours of carefree traveling - no back seat driver, no fighting over the radio - pure bliss when someone else is at the wheel. Upon arrival we checked in to the New Yorker Hotel. This isn't the most amazing hotel, see reference later to the most amazing hotel, but it was clean, nice, and I got an amazing rate. We were in the best location as well - we were less than a block from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. We opted for a walking tour that night to find the perfect place for dinner. Now we are not foodies, but we love some good entertainment while we dine - so The Hard Rock Cafe it was. Where else can you listen to music and look at amazing artifacts - we were sitting next to Ringo's drum set! Plus we were able to see the guitar wall which was neat
The next morning it was get ready for Martha! We headed over to her studio an hour before the doors opened and we were 7 and 8 in line - would have been 1 and 2 but I was thinking we could grab a starbucks first. It was fun standing in line waiting to enter. We were shuffled in and went through security and then placed in a holding room where you could purchase Martha Stewart products and watch a previous taping. When it was time to enter we were escorted in and got to see GK, Frenchie, and Sharky her dogs. The set is beautiful and super clean. Everything is super organized and of course fabulous. The guests were Jill McGowen a desigener from Portland, ME; some chef; and Victoria Stillwell the host of It's Me or the Dog. Victoria was there to do puppy training! The show was great and Matt and I had front row seats. It was fun as she did her glitter craft right in front of us - I made eye contact and smiled but she did not return the happy gesture - but hey, I don't like her because she's nice - so no upset there - Matt was nervous to make eye contact with her for fear of turning to stone!

It was such a fun show

Once we left the show with our LL Bean toiletry bags and our copies of her newest book: Fresh Flavor Fast, we were off on a mad dash to explore the city. Here is our route!Our tour of the city included stops at White Castle, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dylan's Candy Bar, FAO Swartz, and the Park Plaza for afternoon tea.

For Grammie - The Red Sox on top of the Yankees!