Month: November 2014

Recommendations on a Travel Pack

My in-laws are coming to Kuwait!  Whooo hoo!  Their tickets are all booked and they will be touching down in Kuwait City at the beginning of April.  We are going to spend a few days in Kuwait showing them where we live/work/hang out and then the four of us will be heading to Jordan together to explore Petra, Wadi Rum, and the Dead Sea.   We are going to embark on a great Middle Eastern Road Trip.  I can’t wait!

Since we will be moving from one location to another on this trip, and will be spending time in the desert where there aren’t roads much less sidewalks to roll your suitcase along it makes more sense to travel with a backpack.

After we booked Kraig and Jody’s plane ticket’s to head to the desert one of the first questions Jody asked was; “What kind of suitcase do I need”  So the following is my advice. This post is truly intended for my Mother-in-law, however it is super awesome if this info is helpful for you as well.

First of all, get a backpack, carrying a wheelie bag for extended periods of time sucks, like really sucks.  The only time you are going to wish you had wheels is at the airport after that you will be super happy that you are hands free.

Mitch and I each have a backpack that we each LOVE.

I have the Tortuga and Mitch has an Eagle Creek backpack.

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Rachel’s Bag

 

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Mitch’s Bag

 

 

Things we both look for in a bag

  • Front Loading: no one wants to take everything out of their bag to find the pair of socks at the bottom of their bag, NO ONE.  Get a front loader, a bag that opens up like a typical backpack rather than a hiking pack.
  • Price Point: We use our luggage a lot but we still don’t want to spend a small fortune on our bags.  Both of our bags are under the $200 price point.  Mine just barely made the cut at $199 and Mitch’s was $150
  • Carry on Size: In my opinion checking bags is the pits, it is too expensive and waiting for your bag once you arrive at your destination stinks.  Sometimes I can’t avoid checking bags: like when we moved to the other side of the world but having the option to carry on is great.

Things I look for in a bag

  • Easy Access Pockets: I think every couple must settle into traveling roles, every person has aspects of the vacation that they are in charge of.  For Mitch and I, he is in charge of the logistics.  Things that involve maps, bus schedules, or researching if it is Monsoon season are totally  his thing.  Finding unique lodging, activities to do, and taking care of the passports and boarding passes is my job.  External backpack pockets were a must for me so I could have our passports and boarding passes easily available and I could be crazily checking to make sure I still had them without having to take my pack on and off.  The Tortuga has the perfect pockets for the job.
  • Hip belt: I may look like a dork wearing it but the amount of pressure that is taken off my shoulders and back by having a bag that has a hip belt is awesome.
  • Dedicated Spot for Technology: We typically travel with a computer, iPad, and a nook.  I knew I wanted a specific, padded location to keep my devices in.
tortuga hip belt

Sweet looking Hip Belt with space for boarding passes and passports.

 

tortuga technology pouch

Dedicated space for computer.

 

Things Mitch Looks for in a bag

  • Security: If we have a safety captain in our marriage it is definitely Mitch.  He is the one who remembers to lock the door at night, who thinks to put important documents in a safe, and picks up my wallet off of the deodorant shelf when I have left it there at Target.  So it makes sense that he is concerned about the security of his backpack while we travel.  His backpack is designed in a way that the zippers and spaces that open are tucked against his body when his backpack is on.  The part that is facing outward toward the world is a solid piece with no access to anything that is inside the bag.
  • Minimalist: While I love the external pockets and things that are on my bag, Mitch is more of a minimalist bag kind of guy.  He doesn’t like all those pockets and wanted a bag that was pretty simple and sleek.
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No hip belt or external pockets for Mitch, just the way he likes it!

 

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Outward facing side of Mitch’s bag.

 

 

We both searched quite a bit and read quite a few reviews before we chose our bags and neither of us have regretted the packs we are carrying at all.

So there you go Jody, options on backpacks you could bring on our great Middle Eastern Adventure.  Can’t wait to see you, only a few more months!

*Pictures from here and here.

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Mitch’s Monday Happy Hour – November 24

Hey everyone, welcome to our 2nd Happy Hour!  Here’s a few quick tidbits on what’s going on in our lives this week:

 

  • We bought a crockpot (woohoo)!  We’ve been looking for one for the last couple of weeks, but couldn’t really find one that we were interested in at any stores.  However, just when we were ready to give up our search . . . . we found out one of our co-workers was selling hers!  For just a couple of bucks, we got a huge “like-new” one.  As soon as we got it, we got all of the ingredients we needed to make a batch of homemade chicken noodle soup.  Without a doubt, the best part of using a crockpot for dinner is the smell in your apartment when you get home from work!  We are looking forward to using it lots this winter.
  • With American Thanksgiving coming up next week, we’ve started putting some plans together with friends to spend the holiday together.  In order to save both time & effort on preparing the turkey, I decided to look into the possibility of ordering one precooked.  I heard you could buy one at the BBQ restaurant down the street from us.  I gave them a call to check on pricing, and it was like $100 for a turkey (Yikes!)  However right across the street, you can buy a rotisserie chicken for like $2.  Needless to say, we might be eating chicken instead of turkey this year for Thanksgiving!
  • Last Friday night one of our friends invited us over for dinner and a presentation about a non-profit organization that he helped create called Empowering Learners.  This non-profit group helps support schools, teachers, and the students of schools in Namibia, Africa.  They have provided everything from books, technology, and now their working on building a new schools too!  It was great learning so much about an organization that is providing and empowering so many people to succeed.  For more information on Empowering Learners or to find out how you can get involved, check out their website: www.empoweringlearnersnamibia.org
  • We had a Kuwaiti happy hour with some friends last week after work to kick off our weekend.  Of course you will remember that the happy hours here are a bit different, and don’t include any booze.  Instead, we find a nice sheesha bar along the beach, and just eat food and smoke out of a hookah pipe until it gives us a headache. It’s still a great way to spend time with our friends!

Well that’s our week in a nutshell, hope to see everyone again next Monday!

We Discovered Something Awesome . . . .

Just before we moved to Kuwait, Rachel wrote a blog post entitled Things I Will Miss.  She listed a few of the things she was going to miss the most about Minnesota.  One of the things she mentioned was her favorite restaurant: Chipotle. We have only been in Kuwait for a couple of months, but we have already made a plan to visit Chipotle as soon as we return home next summer. We’ve promised each other that as soon as we arrive at the airport, we are going straight there!

Well, a couple of weeks ago we discovered something awesome!  A friend of ours discovered a new restaurant that just opened a few days earlier called Adobo Burrito.  He described it as similar to Chipotle, and we both thought to ourselves, riiiiiiiight! We both knew that there was no way possible that a place could be even close to as good as Chipotle was.  However we have been craving it since we got here, so we went to give it a try.

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Kuwait City is a major metropolitan area, but we were lucky to find out that Adobo Burrito was only about a 15 minute walk from our apartment!  As soon as we walked in, our jaws dropped!  Inside, it looked almost exactly like Chipotle.  It was laid out the same, similar decorations, and had that same “industrial” look with the corrugated metal on the walls. We were immediately greeted by the owner, a young Kuwaiti guy who just moved back here from Washington D.C.  We checked out the menu boards and the food line, and it was just like Chipotle!  You could order a burrito or a bowl with cilantro-lime rice, beans, fajitas, corn salsa, pico de gallo, cheese, and everything else!  They also had homemade tortilla chips with fresh guacamole that tasted so good!  To be honest, I don’t think it was quite as good as Chipotle, but it was dang close.  We definitely enjoyed it, and it will keep us going until we get back to Minnesota next summer.

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Since that first trip there a couple of weeks ago, we haven’t been back yet. Oh but don’t worry, we’ve had it at least once a week. Here’s the best part about Adobo . . . . . . THEY DELIVER!!  Yes ladies & gentleman, you can have a Chipotle/Adobo burrito delivered to you on your couch! #bestcountryever

The Coolest Thing in Kuwait: Talabat!

One of the most frequently asked questions we hear from our friends and family back home is: “What’s it like in Kuwait?”  Well, when it comes to ordering food . . . . it’s awesome!

There is a website here called Talabat, where you can order food, and have it delivered, from any restaurant in Kuwait City.  The delivery fee is only like $1.00 with a minimum order of only about $2.00!  It is so convenient to order dinner from your computer as you sit on your couch, knowing that you can order food from hundreds of restaurants!  You can order things like pizza, pasta, cheeseburgers, or even a fancy multi-course dinner.  We’ve had friends order a dozen chocolate chip cookies from one restaurant and then a dish of ice cream from a different restaurant!  Last week, I tried ordering Taco Bell and it was delivered in about 15 minutes.  It is such a nice service they have here, but definitely dangerous on my waste line!

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In Kuwait Taco Bell is open until like 4am . . . and they deliver!

 

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Even the hot sauce packets from Taco Bell have Arabic jokes on them. The one on the left is translated to: “What do you want with ketchup? I am much better.” The sauce packet on the right translates to: “They say the weather outside is pleasant? Please let me know.”

 

Just about every restaurant here delivers, including the major chain restaurants like McDonalds, Subway, Smash Burger, KFC, and even Caribou Coffee!  Even sit-down restaurants like Olive Garden, TGI Fridays, Applebees, and Mais Alghanim deliver.

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Here’s a pic of the Meat Tray I ordered one night from a Lebanese restaurant called Mais Alghanim. For just a couple of bucks you get multiple beef, chicken, and lamb kabobs and tons of pita bread with three different kinds of hummus!

 

Mitch’s Monday Happy Hour

Greetings All,

You’ve probably noticed that our blog posting has slowed down a bit the last couple of weeks. For our diehard readers, who check for new posts everyday, we apologize to you!  Now that we have been in Kuwait for a couple of months, we have started to settle into our routines and have been super busy with work and life.  As a result, we have struggled to find free time to keep in touch with everyone on our blog. We are definitely going to try harder to add a couple of new posts every week.

To keep everyone in the loop of our daily happenings, I’ve decided to dabble into a new segment I’ll call: “Mitch’s Monday Happy Hour.”  I want to kind of spin it as if we were getting together with you on a Monday evening for a Happy Hour. A great way to catch up with friends and to touch base with what’s going on in life.  So without further a due, I present to you . . . . our first segment of  . . . . . . Mitch’s Monday Happy Hour!

  • We’ve been spending a lot of time lately looking for a car!  We are looking to purchase a used SUV and have found a couple that we were interested in. There were two of them that we were ready to buy, however after a final check on the background of the vehicle, we found out that the odometer had been turned back over 100,000 km on both of them! We are still continuing our search, and putting an even stronger emphasis on doing our research before buying.
  • My favorite food in Kuwait is called a shawarma. It is a wrap, with shaved chicken (or you can get beef) served inside of a flatbread with vegetables and a garlic dressing. Each vendor prepares them differently, and the vegetables could be cucumber, onion, tomato, pickles, egg plant, or even french fries. They are sooooo good, and less than $1.00 each.  I found an awesome little food stand, about a 10 minute walk from our apartment, that has the BEST shawarma yet!  This week,  I went there 3 days in-a-row for dinner!  The owner speaks about 5 words of english, so we just speak through hand signals. When he sees me walking toward him, he greets me with a huge smile and holds up 2 fingers. I confirm with a slight head nod, and within minutes, I’m devouring two shawarma. He’s a Syrian guy named Khalil, and I’ll definitely be keeping him in business while we live here!
  • Rachel has been adding a few things to our apartment to make it feel like “home.”  She bought a few picture frames and had some photos printed for them. We got them hung up this weekend, which is an awesome addition to our place. She has started a short “honey-do-list” with various other tasks she wants to do, so we’ll slowly chip away at that.
  • We’ve also been busy planning our Christmas trip to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.  We bought our plane tickets a couple of months ago, but just started booking our accommodations this week. We booked this awesome house for our first few nights, in a jungle of Sri Lanka, only about 4 minutes from the beach.  It looks so peaceful and a great place for us to unwind over the holidays. We can’t wait to share photos of our trip with everyone once we return.

Well that wraps up our first Monday Happy Hour together! Let’s do it again next week, cheers!

You might be in the Middle east if

We have all seen the lists before:

You might be a redneck if….

You might be a Minnesotan if….

You might be a child of the 90’s if….

Well I am beginning a totally new list and it is going to be titled: You might be in the Middle East if….

  • You might be in the Middle East if a 6 year old has said to you “You should really go on Arab Idol.” (p.s. I referred this poor child for a hearing check)
  • You might be in the Middle East if you ask a group of children who they think the people are in the picture with Little Critter and the child you call on answers, “his sister, his nanny, and his driver.”unnamed
  • You might be in the Middle East if your security guard is wearing a scarf and a winter hat when you walk out to the bus in the morning while it is 75 degrees outside.
  • You spend more inside the gas station on snacks then you do outside filling up your gas tank.

Camels and a Guilty Conscious

When we decided we were moving to the Middle East, I very quickly told Mitch, “I don’t care what we do over there, but I am riding on a camel.”
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While were in Dubai last month for our Eid vacation, I did exactly that!  We went on one of the famous ‘Desert Safaris,’ where all of the tourists gather, to enjoy a variety of desert adventures.  Some of the options are: going bashing through the sand dunes in a 4×4, sand boarding, four-wheeler rides, riding camels and a bunch of other stuff.  I was so excited for my first camel ride!

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When it was our turn, we climbed up on the huge creature, (seriously, these dudes were twice the size of any horse I have ever ridden on) put on my brave face (see below . . . it doesn’t look very brave) and rode a camel with my hubby!

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We smiled for the camera, laughed, and enjoyed our short 1 minute and 36 second camel ride.

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At the end of our ride, we had to prepare for the awkward dismount.  To get off the camel, it would drop to it’s knees, and eventually sit on the ground.

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The ride was extremely short, but here I am 5 weeks later still thinking about it, feeling guilty about it.

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I made the decision to ride this camel in the name of a fun picture.  Would I ride an elephant at the circus in the name of a good picture? No, I would refuse to participate in the mistreatment of animals.    I was a part of the problem, I participated in the mistreatment of these camels.     Instead of dealing with the situation with my moral compass strongly in place, I twisted my thought process around into “I might never have a chance to do this again,”  “it will make great pictures” and “you are in the desert, you have to ride a camel.”

So as you travel the world and have the opportunity to experience new and interesting adventures, I encourage you to keep your moral compass strongly in place.  I regret that I allowed mine to slip up a bit, but have definitely learned from this and hope that others can too.

So there it is a major Debbie Downer of a post all about my regrets and the lessons I learn by making mistakes along the way.