Sunday, February 28

So Tired It Hurts

Well, I thought I hated flying with Russians more than any other culture. That may have changed last night. I was surrounded by people (read men) coughing, spitting up phlegm, putting their arms on me and being flatulent. And the flight was put into a holding pattern in the air above Muscat. Which means my 5 hour flight turned into a 6.5 hour flight. Which, in turn, meant I didn't get to my airport hotel (I canceled on the B&B, thankfully!) until 2:45. Wake-up call at 7:10. I couldn't figure out how to get hot water out of the shower. Blah. Blech. And eeewwwwwww.

I'm now at the airport waiting to board surrounded by, yep, Russians. I might actually be a bit happy about this. When I got to the seat I'm sitting in, a man was holding 3 seats and told me I couldn't have the empty seat. I'm so tired it took a while to process and I sat down. He shrugged. When his wife showed up, he says to her, "She doesn't speak Russian. She didn't know not to sit there." Ha! No, it's just that I didn't really think you needed 4 seats for 2 people!

Friday, February 26

A day in Dhaka

K & M took me around today. Once every 3 weeks their school provides them a driver for a weekend morning and today (Friday, a weekend day here) happened to be that day. Lucky us.

So first we went to the grocery store, always exciting for me! Then off to the outskirts of Dhaka where their school is. Their school sits on reclaimed land. "Reclaimed from what?" you ask. The swamp. So we drove out to have a look around. Here it is:

Outside Dhaka

Rice fields, but the raised part, yep, rice fields that have been filled in.

Here's K & M in the same area:

M & K

Don't ask.

From there we headed off to the fair trade expat stores. Items made in Bangladesh where the money actually goes back to the people who have made it. Shocking! I went a bit crazy and bought a table cloth with 4 place mats, plus another set of 8 place mats with napkins, a shirt/pants/scarf set for 4,400 takka, approximately $60.

Downstairs I bought 3 more scarves as gifts for a whopping $12.

We then left and headed off to have some lunch at Mr. Bakery. Next off we headed to the Folk Art center where, in my continued shopping craziness, I bought 2 bed spreads for $30. This however, a good investment. I run so hot when I sleep, I need the lightest possible covering. Why bother with the covering? Well, more than you want to know I'm sure, I love to sleep fully under covers, like up to my chin covered.

This afternoon we're off on a boat ride. From what I saw of the lake yesterday, I'm not so excited about this. Hopefully the river is flowing...

Moscow Interlude

Winter 2010
Originally uploaded by Traveling Em

Remember how I kept talking about all the snow. I took a few pictures before I left. Those of you who've been to see me, this is the path behind my building. That fence that you can barely see comes up to my knees or just above.

Women working

Women working
Originally uploaded by Traveling Em

Here's a view of Dhaka, right down the street from K & M's school. Thus far, I've been quite reluctant to take pictures. Each time I pull out my camera, I feel a bit vulgar. So this was taken from the car today. They have no stone here, so to create aggregate for building, first they make bricks and then break them up. Strange process.

Wednesday, February 24

Dhaka - first thoughts

It's a lot like India so far. More mosquitoes than I was expecting, but the rest of it - crowds, loads of men, the honking, it's all familiar. We went out for Vietnamese food tonight, that was great. Tomorrow, I'm off for massage while they work and maybe down to a market as well if I get so motivated.

Oh and the b&b in Dubai only charged me for 1 night! Sweet deal!

Tuesday, February 23

Rough Start to Dubai

Well, it was rough getting here because apparently when I printed off the map (which was sent to me via PowerPoint, what the hell, make a pdf!), it cut off the header with the night attendants cell phone. And so when the cab and I arrived to what we thought was the correct address - and numerically it should have been - it was completely dark and there were no numbers on the house. We drove up and down the street. I called the one number I did have, to get an answering machine repeatedly.

My cab driver was great, he didn't just abandon me on a dark street in the middle of Dubai. Instead he drove me back to the airport. We stopped at 3 hotels, 2 of them full and the third being the "Moscow Hotel" I just refused. Finally at 1:30 (that's a.m. and you know me, not being one with the night), I said, "Just take me back to the airport." As we were approaching terminal 3, my cell phone rings. Night attendant says, "When are you arriving?" Me: "Are you fucking kidding me??" So the cabbie turns back around. We figure out the place is not where it's indicated on the map and apparently here #76 comes BEFORE #86, oh, ~of course!~

I pay my outrageous cab fare, at this point we'd been driving around the city for well over an hour and I guess given that, it wasn't all that outrageous - only around $60. I settle into my huge, gorgeous room, but am so keyed up (read FURIOUS) that I can't sleep. So I read until about 3, then slept until 7:30. Still annoyed. Then I came outside to breakfast. Recounted my tale to the other guests and suddenly it didn't matter anymore. The place I'm staying is everything I wanted it to be. It's quiet, the bed is comfy, the pool is delightful - I've been sitting next to it reading and working (yes, just a bit), all day. This is exactly what I wanted.

Now, off to read more. I head to Dhaka around 7 tomorrow morning.

Saturday, February 20

Spoke too soon... of course

Warmest it got was -10 today, not so bad except that it's windy out. Really windy - I keep seeing large chunks of snow flying by the balcony from other balconies!My orchid doesn't seem to mind though. It's still got 3 flowers - this from it's second blooming in December and it looks like there is at least 1 if not 2 more on the way!

Being the first day of February break, I treated myself to a therapeutic 2 hour (!!) massage - you know in addition to my Wednesday relaxing massages. Contrasting those, this one hurt like hell. The stocky, Russian man massaging me was sweaty at the end. I've never had such a deep tissue massage. But, I'll happily say, "Thank you sir, may I have another." I like my massages to hurt. I followed that up with a mani/pedi. Been a long time since I've had a mani - probably Karla's wedding was the last time and that was back in 2006!

Now I'm working (obviously) on next week's grad assignments so I have little to do over break. That and during the pedi I marked my 3 extended essays. Check that off the list! Now if I can finish the rest of my "to be graded stack" tomorrow, I'll have nothing to do except read the books I just downloaded. Ah, what heaven that would be. I'm really into the Irish fairy tale series based in the Sevenwaters Forest having just finished the trilogy and downloaded the 4th (surprise!) book that Mary turned me onto. I've also been reading some other fantasy in the form of Kushiel's Dart which was a staff recommendation from my favorite Asheville book store, Malaprops.

Right, so back to that preemptive homework strike!

Friday, February 19

Not Since December 7th

It hasn't been above freezing since December 7th. That's a long time for it to be cold. For several weeks it was really cold. Today though, it's only -6 (22F), down right balmy. It's also snowing. I learned tonight that snow can drizzle. It can; it is; I walked in it. It was delightful - you don't end up damp from it until you're inside and at that point, you just take off the clothes covered in snow. Easy peasy. And so much snow (it's snowed at least 4 inches in the past 6 hours), means less cars, less people and shiny white. It's actually quite pleasant.

It's also easy for me to say that because on Monday I'll be in Dubai where the low is 18 C (64 F) and the high will be 28C (80F). Then of course off to Dhaka where it's even muggier, errr, warmer.

Sunday, February 14

Helsinki - Weekend Wrap Up

I've been in Helsinki for the math competition. Two of our individuals won 2nd and 3rd place, a freshman boy and a sophomore new to the school this year. Both great students who really deserved it! Our two senior teams won 2nd and 3rd in the team competition, plus won of the boys won 3rd place for the individual round.

The best part was our strongest student, who has won the past three years and earned a perfect score last year, withdrew himself to give others a chance and instead coached the senior teams. I'm really proud of him.

I'm not so proud of some of the behavior and was down right embarrassed several times, but that was the only part of the group. The remainder were great to travel with and be with.

And Helsinki is great, very small, easy to get around (though paying for a metro ride is difficult to figure out) and the beer pubs. Oh dear lord, such a vast amount of good beer on tap and in bottles. It was so wonderful. I had a smocked bock that tasted like beer dreaming about bacon - and these are the things my dreams are made of. If only they weren't 7 euros each!

Great Chinese Circus Swan Lake

At about 1:55 this starts to get really, really cool.

Tuesday, February 9

Dhaka is far away

Like I said, I'm headed to Dhaka soon. The library ordered a book on Bangladesh for me so I could do some reading. I hadn't realized until I looked at the map on the back just how far away it is. Look:

View Dhaka in a larger map

You've got Moscow up above Kazakhstan. That's Dubai down below Iran and then Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh, is sandwiched between India and Burma.

How is it I'm headed off to a place when I didn't even realize how far away it is? Well, I'm going to see K & M. So I didn't really consider the distance. I just knew that the flight times were awful if I tried to do it in one fell swoop. Hence the stop-over in Dubai.

Like I said, it'll be interesting... Geography lesson over.

At peace?

Diane's remains were located. I hope that this will allow the family to have some sort of closure and allow them to grieve honestly.

Saturday, February 6

Upcoming Travels

Yep, only a week back and already it's time to be thinking about upcoming trips. I can think about it now that I'm done thinking about where to move/live/teach next!

Next Thursday I head off to Helsinki with 13 students and 1 other teacher for the CEESA math tournament. We have two very strong junior teams. Our notoriously strong senior team is a bit weaker as the strongest student (who has DESTROYED the competition for the past three years) withdrew himself and has been coaching. Then another student had his wallet stolen including his identity card and thus, may not be joining us. Regardless, it's Helsinki, I've only been to the airport and I'm excited to be going.

Then a week later, I head to Dhaka via Dubai. "Where?" you ask? Dubai is the man-made, should not exist, I know I'm going to hate it, city in United Arab Emirates - think all expats, loads of money and ski slopes in the desert. I'm only staying over night because otherwise, the flight times to Dhaka are awful. Dhaka is in Bangladesh. Near India. I'm going to visit K & M, good friends who left Moscow last year. I doubt I'd have gone other wise and I'm sure it'll be interesting.

March will take me to the Cappadocia region of Turkey - the central part. I, along with 2 other teachers, take a group of 16 students for a week of adventure. Horse back riding, hiking, biking, cooking and pottery making.

The day after I get back Amanda comes to Moscow, my only visitor of the year!

In April, Bree and I will meet my parents in Southern France. Just saying it causes a sigh of pleasure.

Then I think in May, I'll head to Amsterdam for a long weekend to begin looking at housing! PEOPLE, I'M MOVING TO AMSTERDAM!

My life does not suck.

Returning from London

We all know I travel... a lot. I'm a good traveler for the most part, though I can get annoyed in airport lines with people who don't travel as much, not their fault, I know, but still. I've gotten more zen about it recently, really!

I don't pay much attention to flights while I'm on them. I book early, reserve my seat up front, normally a window on shorter flights, aisle on longer flights. I've started carrying my water bottle and have the flight attendants fill it on their first pass through, so that I have water for most of the flight - plus I'm not adding to the many plastic glasses that are used and disposed of.

All this is neither here nor there though, with this story. This story is about my return from London. Remember, the Bone Tired, crazy stressful, deciding the next several years of my life weekend?

I was reading a book, mostly ignoring the women next to me. It's clear skies for most of the flight, though we're heading into night, so soon it doesn't matter. However, I notice as we approach Moscow, that we're above dense clouds. As we get ready for landing, we head into the clouds and it's a bit turbulent. I tend not to mind this, though am a bit more aware as we're on Aeroflot - remember the company with drunk pilots?

We break through the clouds and now I can see the snow covered runway. Landing gear is down and we're close to touching down. Suddenly, the engines rev and the plane is pointing steeply back up into the air. We're back into the clouds, landing gear is raised. We're back in turbulent air for about 10 minutes before anything is said. Apparently it's snowy and icy down there. We circle before trying again. Pilot doesn't even get near the runway this time before pulling up again. It's nerve wracking. I'm not near the people I'm flying with. The Russian woman next to me says, "No worry. Aeroflot good company. Drivers good." Right.

Eventually the pilot comes on and says that they've closed the airport that we're supposed to land in and instead we're heading to one of the other 4 Moscow airports. At this point, I was thinking that they might take us to St. Pete, so still landing in Moscow was a bit frightening. We made it though (obviously) and while frightened in air, once on the ground again, my mind was already skipping ahead to the pain it was going to be getting home from this further airport. Thankfully, the ladies I was traveling with invited me to share their cab (I love my boss!).

What happened to the other half of the flight, headed for Beijing, most of whom spoke no English or Russian, I can't imagine. But I'm sure it wasn't easy as this country isn't really known for their customer service...

Tuesday, February 2

It's been decided

Off I go to ....


International School of Amsterdam!

Too sleepy to write more. It was a long weekend.