Posted By: Rachel

How to Pack When You’re Moving Overseas

We have officially done the big trek from Minnesota to Kuwait two summers in a row.  Last summer we needed to move all the necessities that Mitch and I needed, and this summer we moved all the necessities that Baby J is going to need.  Since the apartment we moved into was fully furnished, we were able to move with just the luggage we brought with us on the airplane. All of our other belongings were either stored or sold before we left.  We did quite a bit of brainstorming about the best way to get our things to the other side of the world and landed on using the same system two summers in a row, and it worked fantastically!

Last summer we moved to Kuwait with 6 checked bags and 2 carry ons.  We only owned our carry on backpacks (that we love!), and one large suitcase a piece.  That left us thinking, we need to purchase another 4 large suitcases!  That idea seemed crazy, when else would we ever need that many suitcases? And the cost of purchasing them was just too much for us to swallow.  Enter in the perfect solution: Home Depot storage totes!

We were able to purchase these HDX 27-gallon storage totes for $8.99 a piece, and they are the exact maximum measurements that our airline would allow.  Not only was the price right on these totes, but they also have locking lids, hold a ton of stuff, and are super heavy duty!

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Now those of you who know Mitch, know that he is Captain Safety and would definitely not just throw our belongings into a tote without securing them.  One of the benefits of these totes, is that they have holes around the edges, so that you can lock the lid on with a zip tie.

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Mitch did some research to verify that TSA allows passengers to secure their luggage with zip ties.  However, if they have to inspect them, they could and would just cut them off.  So just in case, Mitch taped this note with extra zip ties to the inside lid of each tote, so that the TSA Agent would re-secure our tote, before sending it on its way:

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So far we have crossed the Atlantic twice using this packing method and all of our totes and belongings have made it safe and sound to our desert home, without TSA cutting any of our zip ties off of our luggage.

packing Another benefit of traveling with plastic totes: we can use them here in Kuwait to store Baby J’s clothes that he won’t be able to fit into for quite a while, or other junk that we don’t use often.  The totes stack up nicely and store easily.

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If you are interested in purchasing the same totes that we’ve used, you can find them at any Home Depot store or online here.

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Boat Tour in Portugal

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The group heading out to sea.

While we were in Portugal last summer, we mostly sat on the beach with our friends, looking at the ocean, and soaking up the sun.  One day though we hopped into our rental cars and drove a half hour to the coastal town of Faro.  Once we got there, we walked up and down the boardwalk and saw what tour options there were for tourists.  IMG_7114After reviewing our options, we decided to take a boat tour of the caves in the surrounding area! Our friend Niamh’s cousins were coincidentally in Portugal at the same time we were, so we were able to fill the entire boat with just our group.   As we headed out of the Marina the blue skies and jutting cliffs were just what we were hoping to see.  The pictures just don’t quite do this natural phenomena justice.

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Private beaches along the coast.

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Niamh and Lauren showing off their cute life jackets!

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Mitch looking super serious on the boat ride.

 

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Mitch & Adam, the day after the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup.

Eid Vacation Plans – 2015

Around this time a year ago, we were busy making plans for our Eid Vacation to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.  We shared our plans with you in a post entitled: Eid Vacation Plans.  Today is the first day of our Eid Vacation, and our vacation is a little different than last year.  This year we are enjoying our 10 days off, staying put in Kuwait for what we are calling our: “stay-cation.”

Since our little guy is scheduled to arrive in about three weeks we knew traveling was out of the question for this break.  I have to admit, I was a bit jealous when our friends all piled into our car this morning for Mitch to drop them off at the airport.  A group of them are headed off to the Greek Islands for an awesome beach vacation.  However, in actuality I am kind of looking forward to some quiet time at home to read books and catch up on my Netflix que!

Beyond relaxing and making sure to take some mid-day naps, our plans involve spending lots of time at the Hilton.  We also hope to spend lots of time in the air conditioned malls, to walk some laps so that this little baby spins around the right direction to prepare for his exit!

While our travel plans for Eid this year are not nearly as exciting as our Dubai and Abu Dhabi trip last year, the amount of excitement in hearts for our baby to arrive far exceeds any trip we could possibly be taking!

Hilton Membership

One change we decided to make in our lives this school year was to get a membership at the Hilton Resort.  The Hilton is a super fancy hotel, very close to our apartment, that offers an option for people to purchase a membership to use their facilities.  Our membership includes access to an incredible spa, multiple pools, private white sand beach, paved walking paths, a gym, tennis courts, and even fitness classes!

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The main pool at the Hilton.

We decided not to purchase a membership last year because we wanted to get out and do some exploring around Kuwait.  However with a baby on the way in a few weeks, we knew this would be the perfect place to do some relaxing.  We also wanted to have a nice outdoor space that we could spend time at, that was close to home, for those days when we need to get out of our apartment.

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Looking out towards the beach from one of the garden areas.

So far this week we have been to the Hilton 3 times to work out, relax in the Spa, and float in the pool.  It seems like every time we are walking to the car to leave I say to Mitch, “I am so happy we have this membership!”

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The Hilton Spa….otherwise known as a pregnant ladies dream come true

We are not going away for our fall break this year, as it will be too close to my due date, so we planning on spending A LOT of time at the Hilton enjoying our own little “staycation.”  Our “staycation” will not only involve a lot of time at the pool and the spa, but I think it will also include a Mother-To-Be massage for me!

Perez Hilton Photo

Last year Mitch wrote a blog post about going golfing with our friend Adam out at a sand course here in Kuwait.  If you need a reminder of that post check it out here.  The whole point of the post was to show our friends and family what the sand course looked like, and to share a few pictures of what their experience.  Here is one of the pictures Mitch put on the blog:

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Now fast forward about 6 months.  While we were home this summer I received this text message from Adam:

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WHAT?!?!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you are not familiar with who Perez Hilton is, according to his Wikipedia page, he is an American blogger, gossip columnist, and television personality.  He is pretty well known around North America, and currently has over 334,000 followers on his Instagram page where he posted the picture!

 

I dug a bit deeper into Perez Hilton’s Instagram feed and found the picture Adam had sent me.

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Clearly this picture had been taken from our blog, and clearly Kim Kardashian wasn’t laying naked in the middle of the sand golf course waiting for Adam to pelt her with his golf ball, so I started wondering: How did someone find this picture?  What are the copyright laws of our pictures? and…Who has time in their day that they are spending their time photo-shopping pictures from our blog together with Kim K? I was able to get some of those answers but not others.

How did someone find this picture? I googled sand golf and right there on the front page of google images was Adam in all his golfing glory so finding the picture was not hard at all.

What are the copyright laws of our pictures?  I started googling around with this question and things got too deep, too fast for me.  Bottom line I don’t really care who “borrows” or “steals” our pictures, but I still think Perez Hilton should be paying us at leas $3 or $4 million for the picture (haha)

Who has time in their day to be spending time photo-shopping pictures from our blog together with Kim K?  Just like the world will never know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop we will never know who has this kind of time in their day either.

Just a Typical Day

We live in the Middle East, but sometimes it seems like we are still living our old life back in America, our days can be so typical.  Let’s take Monday for example.  Monday is our evening together, no one is tutoring, no one is coaching soccer, no commitments after 2:00pm.  It is glorious.  So what do we do with a free evening together?  Without thinking about it, we had an evening like many of our friends and family could have on a nightly basis.

  • After work we headed to the mall to run a few errands
  • We picked up a new curling iron for me, as mine decided to stop working that morning with my hair half way curled
  • We sat down at PF Changs for dinner
  • Ran over to Steve Madden to grab some new sandals for me.  Side note: living in the desert is extremely hard on your shoes
  • Stopped into the North Face store to look at clothes for Mitch
  • Headed home and caught up on last weeks episode of Modern Family

It wasn’t until we were laying in bed that night and I pointed out how crazy typical our evening was, that we both realized that as much as our life has changed in the last year, so much of it is still the same.

Grand Mosque Kuwait

Living in a Muslim country means we are surrounded by Mosques.  They are almost literally on every corner, and they are beautiful.  After visiting the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi this fall and being blown away by how fantastic it was we knew we needed to visit the Grand Mosque in Kuwait as well.  So on a quiet Saturday morning we drug ourselves out of bed, grabbed our friend Jooles to come with and headed into downtown Kuwait City to tour the Grand Mosque. IMG_5502 I had learned from our last visit to a Mosque in Abu Dhabi that I would need to have on long sleeves, a long dress, and my hair covered to enter the Grand Mosque so rather than needing to wear the abayas and hijabs offered by the Mosque I threw together my own version before we left home. IMG_5504 Jooles wore the version offered by the Mosque and rocked the black on black look as well. IMG_5505 As guests and Muslims enter the prayer hall they remove their shoes to let the prayer hall remain a clean area.  Let that be a lesson to those of us who tend to wear socks past their expiration date, and have to quickly try and adjust your socks so strangers don’t see your toe sticking out the end.  Learn from my mistakes people!IMG_5489Our tour at the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi focused almost exclusively on the architecture of the building.  It was truly a beautiful building but in truth…I am not that interested in architecture.  Something I am extremely interested in though, religion. I  like to learn about different faith bases and really like to focus on the similarities that lie amongst the worlds largest religions. IMG_5492 Our tour at the Grand Mosque in Kuwait delivered exactly what I was hoping for in a tour, a lesson on the Islamic faith.  IMG_5494 Our tour guide spoke to us for about two hours, he was equally parts informative and funny.  He knew how to engage his audience all while keeping them entertained.  He was a true teacher of a subject he was completely passionate about; his faith, his culture, himself.  IMG_5500The further I step outside of my norm the more I realize I have to learn.

Pyramids

We went to Egypt a few weeks with one purpose: see the pyramids.

Mission Accomplished. IMG_5718We went to the pyramids on our first full day in Cairo and my first impression was “whoa, these things are huge!”  I realize that I could have looked up the fact that they are 456 feet tall but honestly I probably still would have been surprised at how big they were. IMG_5682I tend to take pessimists approach when I am traveling to famous destinations, I think things such as “I bet Machu Picchu won’t even be that impressive” (it was) or “the fjords of Norway won’t be as beautiful in person as they are in pictures” (they were) and in this case “I bet the pyramids won’t look that big in real life.” (they did) I have a bit of a fear of giving a destination more credit than it deserves before I get there, and then being disappointed once I arrive. As a way to combat my fear of being let down, I bad talk the travel destination in the months leading up to a trip. Irrational? Probably.  Am I going to stop doing this?  Nope. IMG_5653 We roamed around the pyramids for a bit before we decided we wanted to go inside the first pyramid to visit the tomb of King Khufu.  We weren’t really prepared for what the climb inside the pyramid would entail.  We started walking through a small tunnel on the path up into the pyramid.  IMG_5649

As the tunnel ascended it also narrowed, till it was just wider than our shoulders.  The narrower the tunnel became the more the roof dropped in on us.  Before we knew it we were hunched over, essentially climbing through the pyramid on our hands and knees.  It was hot inside the pyramid, it was dark, and you were surrounded by stone just above your head, and to your left and right.  As the tunnel hit its smallest point we came face to face with a group of people on their way down, trying to exit the pyramid.  We would press our bodies against one side of the stone tunnel as the people on their way down would press against the other side and carefully slide past one another, becoming awfully familiar with each person as they passed our way.  All of a sudden our progress stopped.  IMG_5626 Lauren had been our fearless leader the entire trek up into the pyramid and she had stopped in her tracks.  All I was able to see from my crouched position was Adam’s tushy.  Lauren was unable to continue on her path as a gentleman coming down through the tunnel began to feel the anxiety that comes along with being in a hot and very small space.  Unfortunately, the only path up was through this man.  We all held our squatted positions waiting for him to gain enough composure to continue on his way.  The longer we held our position waiting for him the louder the voices in my head were telling me to turn around and run for the fresh air.  After what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was probably less than a minute, the man slowly continued on his trek down and out of the pyramid.  We quickly snuck past him, and scurried as fast as we could the remaining climb into the tomb, and thankful for the tall ceilings and the wide open spaces that met us once we arrived. IMG_5713Of course, any day where you can spend a ridiculous amount of time taking jumping photos is a success.  

Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

Remember way back in October when we went to Dubai and Abu Dhabi for our week long Eid break?  No?  Maybe this will refresh your memory….here, here, here, and here. One thing I never wrote about was the tour we took of the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and it is far too awesome to just skip over!

Mosques are everywhere in Kuwait, I heard a fact that no matter where you are in Kuwait there is a mosque within a five minute walk from you.  I have no idea if this is true or not, but with the amount of mosques we come across on a daily basis, I would not be the least bit surprised.  So when we left for vacation, and I really wanted to go to the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, I think Mitch was a bit surprised that would be my choice, but as always he quickly jumped on board with seeing something new.  IMG_4908 We arrived at the Grand Mosque an hour or two before sunset and realized that the term “Grand” was the understatement of the year.  This place was gigantic!  The Mosque itself covers 30 acres, this number does not include the parking areas or the outdoor landscaped areas.  It is big enough for 40,000 people worship at once. IMG_4919 This tour focused mostly on the building and architectural features.  The design and the materials come from all over the world to symbolize how the Islamic faith is all over the world.  Materials came from Morocco, Italy, Pakistan, Malaysia, Germany, New Zealand and the UAE to name a few.  IMG_4922 Of course as we entered into the interior of the Mosque, out of respect to the Islamic faith, we removed our shoes before we entered to prevent any dirt from the outside, from entering the inside of the Mosque. IMG_4926 The tile and glass work was amazingly beautiful.  Each small detail had been carefully planned out with a symbolic meaning attached to it.
IMG_4936One thing we have noticed a bit as we learn more about different Mosques around the world is that there appears to be a bit of a competition amongst themselves.  Which Mosque has the biggest dome, which one is the tallest, etc. etc. etc. This Mosque was no different.  Out tour guide made sure to point out to us their bragging rights….IMG_4945Largest chandelier…check…until the Grand Mosque in Doha put up one even bigger.  I can’t imagine a chandelier bigger than this one.  The picture truly doesn’t do it justice, but inside the chandelier is a set of stairs to help out the cleaners, that’s right STAIRS inside of the chandelier!

IMG_4947 The carpet inside the main prayer hall is the largest known continuous piece of carpet in the world.  IMG_4956 The part though that was most impressive to me was the view of the Mosque from the outside once it got dark outside.  The soft light given off from the hallways light the area up so beautifully.  IMG_4964This guy, looked pretty great too!
IMG_4974It was a wonderful tour, all completely complementary and gave me yet another layer of understanding about the Islamic faith and the Arab culture.

Elephants

We had given up hope.  As we rode in our open aired jeep out of the national park we were already discussing how we could try and go to a different national park the next day.  We were leaving Yala National Park, the area in Sri Lanka with the most wild elephants without seeing a single elephant.  I was disappointed.  It had been raining for days, the park was flooded and it was just impossible to get further into the park, to find where the giant creatures were roaming.   The sun was setting and as we rounded the last corner to head out of the park gates an elephant was heading straight for us.

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He was huge.

He walked straight at us, throwing his trunk around and grabbing a trunkful of whatever was in his path.

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I did what anyone with a camera in their hands who was looking at an elephant would do. . . . I started wildly snapping pictures, barely taking the time to focus any of my shots.

I was so excited, I was silent giggling, worried that if I made a noise he would dart off into the jungle.   The only sounds I dared to emit were the clicks of my camera.

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As I continued to snap away Mitch quietly whispered in my ear, “Don’t forget to just look with your eyes.”

He was right, some moments are just better to be lived rather than captured.  So I put down my camera, reached over and grabbed my husband’s hand and looked with my eyes.