Saturday, May 31, 2008

We made it!

For those of you wondering, we did make it to DC, though I got no sleep on the red-eye flight at all. You'd think I would be accustomed to red-eyes by now. And once we got to DC, we were taken on a roller coaster, 90-minute-long shuttle ride before we got to our destination. We spent the night with our friends Maren & Jospeh - and I even got to go golfing last night with Joseph and his borther-in-law. But the pricetag for golfing nine holes, renting clubs, and buying a handful of balls was a little bit more than I would usually be willing to pay. Deidra and I might golf a time or two this summer, but certainly not very often. We'll stick to the tennis court and swimming pool mainly - those are free.

We're just hanging out right now in Maren & Joseph's apartment, watching the minutes pass. We've got about an hour before we move into our apartment - tick, tock, tick, tock . . .

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Washington, D.C. bound

As of this moment, we are officially en route to DC. We leave the Parish home, stop by the Hartwell home, have lunch, head to Logan, go to Salt Lake, fly to Las Vegas, red-eye flight to DC, and either get picked up at the airport or use public transport/cab to arrive at our final destination in Alexandria, Virginia. It's going to be a long trip, but at least it's begun. We'll keep you posted en route or once we get there. DC, here we come!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

International Trip - Part XI: Bahrain

After our time in India, we began the long trek home. That trek took us on another red-eye flight from India to Bahrain, the third time flying through that airport. However, this time we had an entire day lay over before taking another red-eye flight out. The airline paid for a day stay at a hotel, 24-hour visas into Bahrain, and a tour of area. Bahrain ended up being my favorite stop of the entire trip. Here are a few of the things that we saw:

These first five picture are from an amazingly beautiful Muslim mosque in Bahrain. We got to go inside and take pictures while we were given a little bit of Muslim history from a very educated and well-spoken tour guide. What an amazing experience.

From there, we went to a museum which detailed the history of Bahrain. According to our tour guide, the country used to be the place where many Middle Eastern cultures believed that the second life (resurrection) would take place first. So many people brought their deceased relatives into Bahrain to be buried. There are still many places where you can see the massive number of mounds of earth where people were buried. But as the population and economy of Bahrain grow, the burial plots are being exhumed and the cemetaries are being built over. They have moved some of the exhumed burial plots to the museum and put them on display, as seen here.

The picture below depicts a traditional Middle Eastern Muslim wedding ceremony. The bride is carried into the home of the groom and a big feast/party commences.

What caught my attention as I read the description of this scene was the part that said something to the effect of: "The party continues as the newlywed couple consummates their relationship." What? Did that just say what I think it said? I asked our tour guide my question, and he assured me that the bride and groom do not consummate their marriage in front of the entire wedding party. He explained that what happens is that the bride and groom retire to the bedroom (usually upstairs) and the party commences downstairs while they consummate the marriage upstairs. Nobody in the wedding party is supposed to leave until the newlywed couple re-emerges and rejoins the festivities. I guess that's better than doing it in front of everybody, but that's still some serious pressure on those newlyweds!

After the museum, we were taken to an old Portuguese fort (apparently the Portuguese have fought and/or conquered just about everyone everywhere at some point in time). It was a beautiful place, and not a soul around except for us - which was quite a welcome site after being mauled by vendors in India. Anyway, this fort is now used for a lot of photo shoots and stuff like that these days. You can see why in these pictures.

Here is the picture of what I believe we were told was a hotel. They built it with these windmills to help generate its power.

Finally, we drove out to see the "Tree of Life," which is this huge tree out in the in middle of the desert, with nothing growing even remotely close to it. Supposedly, nobody is quite sure how the tree gets water to sustain itself. It just reminded me of the Joshua Tree album from U2.

And there you have it - an eleven-part recap of my spring break trip that I took over two months ago. Thanks for bearing with me. As you can imagine, we all pretty much felt like Professor Warnick on the remainder of the trip home - from Bahrain to Paris to Atlanta to Salt Lake (and a drive to Logan).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Deidra!

Deidra and I found this little easter egg gem on our Seinfeld - Season 4 DVD. I thought it would be good to share on her birthday.

Happy Birthday, honey! While I don't know if I would call you a jolly good "fellow" per se, I do know that you're pretty darn amazing and the best thing that's ever happened to me! I love you.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

International Trip - Part X: Curry, Curry, and more Curry . . . and Pizza

While flying to India, the airline served probably the greatest meal I have ever had on a flight. It was some sort of curried pork over rice. It made me excited to be in India, where I could experience more local flavors. However, once I got there, I realized that curry was pretty much the national flavor. Almost every Indian meal we had - breakfast, lunch, or dinner - had curry in it. It wasn't long before I got tired, and even a little sick, of the flavor. But, luckily, I wasn't the only one. After our first day in India, the entire group decided that if we were having curry for breakfast and lunch, we weren't having it for dinner. Some of us went to Pizza Hut for dinner one night, and we all had Domino's Pizza delivered to our hotel two nights in a row after that. I still haven't gotten the nerve to go out to the Indian Oven restaurant since coming back to Logan. Hopefully, one day I'll be able to enjoy curry again.

International Trip - Part IX: The Mysore Excursion

A few hours outside of Bangalore is Mysore, where there is a huge, ornate palace that is a must-see apparently. Since out first full day in Bangalore was a Sunday, and there would be no Weir Services facilities open to tour, they had planned an all day excursion to see this Mysore palace.

We boarded the buses around 6am and started out journey. At about 7:30am, we stopped at a little restaurant for breakfast, and this is what we ate.

It was some sort of deep-fried potato shaped like a doughnut, along with this crepe-style rice cake. Of course, they came with two hot sauces and had both had a slight curry flavor to them. And what should we have to drink for breakfast? How about water and Pepsi?

We always drank from bottled water to minimize any ill effects that could occur from drinking the native water, and we were also told that a Coke a day would help to kill any negative bacteria in our system. Who knows if that's actually true, but I definitely had at least one Coke/Pepsi per day during our time in India. (As a side note, the shirt/tunic I am wearing was one I bought there in India. Deidra is not so fond of it, but it's certainly light and comfortable!)

A few more hours on the road and we came to our first stop. This temple is the burial site of some Indian prince and family that were killed during war with Britian.

As with most of the temples/palaces/shrines/etc. in India, we had to pay to get in and we had to take off our shoes and pay somebody to watch them. Another similar theme during our time in India was constant bombardment of people trying to sell us all sorts of stuff - postcards, wood carvings, fans, jewelry, etc. At times, it was almost unbearable. There was always some random person standing outside of any public restroom that would make you pay him before you could use the facilities. I quickly learned that people will try to make money in any way they can. In fact, we just picked up a tour guide when we got to this temple and paid him to guide us through the rest of the places around Mysore.

The next stop was this spot where two rivers combine to become one. It's supposed to have some sort of healing or spiritual power. There were people going out on these little saucer boats, but we were forbidden by our group leaders from getting in one. Something about drowning, liability, and repatriation of remains, I think. :)

We were all starting to get hungry and tired at this point. We stopped at another large temple, but nobody really wanted to go inside, so we just took pictures like this of the outside and then got back in the bus, anxious to reach our destination.

Finally, we got to our destination - the Mysore Palace. This place was filled with vendors trying to sell you stuff. And if you stopped for even a second to talk to one, three or four more was swarm onto you. Needless to say, it made me a little claustrophobic. I'm usually not one to ignore people, but I did so here as a survival technique. Once we reached that palace we were told that, not only did we have to pay to get in and pay to have someone to watch our shoes, we had to pay someone else to lock up and watch our cameras, since cameras are not allowed inside the palace. But here are the pictures I got from the outside.

I particularly like the last picture and the caption below it. Don't we all feel like that sometimes?

So there's the trip to the Mysore Palace. It was a very long trip and we skipped out on a couple of temples and some sort of awe-inspiring gardens because everyone was so jet-lagged and tired. And because every place you go to costs money to get into.

International Trip - Part VIII: Images from India

Saturday, May 10, 2008

International Trip - Part VII: Traffic in Bangalore

When we left the airport in Bangalore, India, it was definitely the biggest culture shock of the entire trip. The thing that amazed me most was the traffic. There are really no lanes - everybody just goes where they want to and honking horns are used non-stop. I was pretty sure we were going to die at multiple times in the bus throughout our travels around Bangalore. Here is a video I took of the traffic. Unfortunately, this video doesn't even begin do it justice because it is only a one-way street and the armored truck gets in the way. But if you can imagine all of those motorcycles, powered rickshaws, and other cars weaving in and out and all over the road - well, you kind of get the picture.

Then I saw this video, which does a little bit of a better job showing how it all works:

We also saw similar scenes to this multiple times:

International Trip - Part VI: The flight to India
(aka The Cheap Uncle and the Stolen Camels)

After our few days in Dubai, we traveled to India (with our second layover in Bahrain) via Gulf Air. Before leaving Dubai, I thought it would be fun to get my nephews little stuffed camels. As we were waiting for our flight in the Dubai airport, I visited numerous gift shops to find that the only stuffed camels that they had were rather large and expensive. I didn't have much room in my bags and didn't know if the camels would fit. Plus, after splurging on Deidra's ring, I was trying to conserve my spending. So I decided that I would wait until we got to India to see what I might be able to find there that would be smaller and cheaper.

On the second leg of our journey - from Bahrain to India - a cute little Indian family with two little boys sat in the row directly in front of me. Before take off, the male flight attendant approached the family and gave the boys each a little stuffed camel, with a tag that said "Gulfy."

When I saw those camels, I was a little bit jealous. That was exactly what I was looking to get for my nephews! I suppose I could have told the flight attendant my story and asked for a couple of camels myself, but instead I just resigned myself to looking for something similar once I got to India and soon forgot all about it.

Upon touching down in India, everybody began disembarking from the plane. As the family in front of me left their seats, to my astonishment, they left both camels on their seats. Apparently, stuffed camels aren't much of a novelty in the Middle East or something. I quickly swiped them both up and stuffed them into my bag. Leaving the plane, I felt like I was getting away with a crime and that somebody was going to stop me and confiscate my goods before I made my getaway. But I acted cool and nonchalant, and nobody suspected anything. I made it off the plane, through security, and through customs without any incident. Of course, so did my roommate, who smuggled beef jerky into the "holy cow" country. I'm still not sure how he managed that.

Anyway, Bentley has since received his camel and the one pictured in this post is awaiting a new home with Hudson.

Blog-o-rama thwarted!

Deidra had a great idea for date night last night. We were both going to get on a computer and just blog all of the things we had been meaning to blog for a while. Except our wireless router wasn't having it. It has been giving us problems for the past week or so, but I thought I had gotten it fixed. Apparently, I was wrong. I spent over and hour trying to fix it again last night and then another hour on the phone with Linksys support - only to be told that the representative could not figure out my problem and that she would have to transfer me to a Senior Technician. She put me on hold and came back on a few minutes later, telling me that there were no Senior Technicians available, but that one would call me back within 30 minutes. It was about 11pm at this point, so Deidra and I just got ready for bed, said our prayers, read our scriptures . . . 30 minutes passed without a call, so we just went to sleep. I called Linksys back this morning, and they finally figured out (hopefully) what the problem was, so we're up and running. Now it's time to blog - better late than never!