Grandma Herringer

One last post before we leave. Just after New Years, Nathan’s parents called with the news that his Grandma was not doing well. It was not very long after that they called back to let us know that Grandma Herringer had passed away. From Nathan:
It was very hard to be away from family during those days, and especially during the funeral, but we are thankful we got to say one last goodbye to Grandma over Skype before she went home to heaven. Below are some of the memories we had of Grandma:

Grandma always loved to play a game whether it was baseball, horse shoes, cards (pennies, hand and foot, cribbage). I remember going to the family reunions and grandma would be working on putting together a baseball game for all the grandkids and she would be playing right along. Evenings after dinner were always spent playing cards with lots of laughs.

Grandma was an amazing cook and it always felt like coming home walking into her house to the smell of Dumplings, soups, sausage, turkey and fresh baked goods. There was always a container of fresh baked buns, cookies, butter horns, cinnamon twists and kuchen waiting for us when we got there. Grandma also knew each of our favorites and made sure they were there when we got there. (and she had a bag full to send with us for the drive to wherever we were going next). I always left her house full and a few pounds heavier.

Grandma loved when we would come to visit and always tried to make each visit special. She would try to plan something whether it was going camping, to a park, booking the dining room for dinner or making arrangements for us to go fishing in Arbour Lake. She also loved to just sit with the Great grandkids and talk, or read to them or have them read to her. The people in her life were the most important to her and she worked hard to ensure you felt special.

-Nathan and Riann

Isaac’s memories- Grandma was always happy and had a smile on her face. She loved to hear about what he was doing and encouraged him in everything he was doing. Isaac loved to hear her stories about great Grandpa and her childhood.

 

Josiah’s Memories- Jo remembers Grandma teaching him how to play cribbage. Grandma arranged for Josiah to go fishing at Arbour lake and sat with him while he fished.

 

We love you Grandma, and will cherish the memories we have with you , the boys and Grandpa.

United Arab Emirates

So, how do you fit spending three weeks in United Arabs Emirate into one blog post? I don’t know, but will do my best to try J (Also, the site is in Arabic right now, so will add photos late 😉 )

We disembarked from the ship on December 23, and were sad to say goodbye to the friends we had make on the ship. But we were welcomed by an old family friend from home, who picked us up at the port and spent the first day with us introducing us to Dubai. It was awesome to see BJ and meet his wife, Virginia, and spend an afternoon with them at JBR (Jumeirah Beach Resort), and then the evening at a Christmas market in Jumeirah. Seriously, there is nothing like arriving at a new city/country and seeing a familiar face! Soooo thankful that BJ and Virginia had the day off and were willing to spend it with us J December 24 was spent running around the Mall of the Emirates trying to find Christmas presents for the boys that weren’t too big or too heavy, but still fun. Do you know how hard that was? Hahah….running around in a strange (but amazing) mall and having the boys with us the entire time required some strategic buying and hiding. Anyways, we muddled through and then headed to the airport to pick up one of our BFFs Gregory Satarelli. He flew 11 hours from home to spend Christmas and New Years with us and explore some of the UAE. We waited an hour and a half at the airport, and the boys were hopping up and down the whole time…it was hilarious to watch them! Again, it was sooo nice to have a friend with us for this leg of the trip. It’s always more fun travelling with friends and sharing stories and experiences J Anyways, it was a late night and early morning when the boys woke up to open presents. Our tree was about 12 inches tall, but we did manage to leave some cookies and milk for Santa, and he did find us even though we were halfway around the world. Greg (Santa is in his name), brought a bunch of cards from our church peeps at home, some small (well done friends and family!) presents that mostly consisted of food and lightweight items….keychains and such, and it really felt like Christmas. THANKS to everyone for thinking of us, and especially to Greg for transporting it all. Then we were invited to a HUGE Christmas dinner at BJs brother’s house. It was a mix of ex-pats, and friends of friends, and it was awesome. Again, I can’t tell you how nice it was to sit down at a Christmas dinner with friends and feel like we weren’t missing out on the big dinner at home. HUGE thanks to BJ for the invite, and his brother and wife for hosting. Words can’t really express how welcomed we felt and how “normal” it felt to be there J The rest of the first week was spent with a mix of sightseeing and beach days. We quickly found one of our favourite beaches, and spent 3 or 4 days there….Kite Beach is awesome, and the boys had a blast swimming and playing in the water. Jo also really liked JBR on the day Greg left, as it had really big waves, and we spent about 2 hours in them, diving, body surfing, and getting tossed around in the shallow water (don’t worry, we stayed very shallow and kept the kids very close). We went to the old part of Dubai and introduced Greg to souqs. It was hilarious watching him barter, and I wish we had video of it….

We took a Dhow (traditional wooden boat) across the river for a whopping 5dirham ($1.50 Cad) total. Went to a museum and learned about Dubai’s history. We went to the Mall of the Emirates, the Dubai Mall, watched the water fountain show, and checked out lots of hole in the wall places to eat (the best food we found, by the way). The boys loved seeing Tim Hortons, 7-11, and other chains from home. Everywhere we went in Dubai, people spoke English to us. And it seemed to be the most common language while we were walking and hanging out. After a week in Dubai, we headed to another Emirate: Ajman. This one had a noticeably different vibe than Dubai. Definitely more Arabic, hardly any English heard, except when we spoke to people, and I would say we were one of the few white people in the area. The grocery stores were very different from the ones we used in Dubai, and it really felt like we were in a different country, even though we were only about 45 minutes away from Dubai. It was cool to go and experience Ajman, and we checked out the fish market, and did a safari from here. One of the things we noticed was the incense burning in the hotel lobby, and in other public areas we went. I also forgot to mention that we heard the call to prayer every day (I think 5 times). Like the bells in Europe, the call to prayer is something that you notice every time the first few days, but then fades into the background after awhile. (Unless you are staying in a hotel right next to a mosque, and then you really notice it at 545am 😉 ).

Anyways, for New Years we saw a record breaking fireworks show in Ras Al Khaim, another Emirate. So fun to see it in real life. And cool to see how the locals celebrate New Years. Fires and camping in the sand dunes beside the highway is quite common, and we saw a lot of people barbequing and ringing in the New Year that way. We also did the touristy thing and went on a desert safari….it was a blast! We went dune bashing in a Jeep (look it up on Youtube…it’s quite the ride), rode on camels, tried sandsurfing, and had dinner in the desert with a show in the middle. We also met some super nice people, and again, it was nice to chat with other travellers, and even some locals about the culture. After Greg left for home on Jan. 3, we took a few days to plan the next leg of our journey. We had flights booked to Bangkok for Jan. 5, but found an opening in a cruise that left Abu Dhabi on Jan. 14, and ended in Singapore on the 29. So we booked it. And then booked a place in Abu Dhabi for another week. We had gone to Abu Dhabi for a day trip earlier, and explored the Grand Mosque. Again, pictures do not do this place justice. The second time there, we enjoyed the beach, headed up to Al Ain for a day (amazing!!! Wish we had gone there earlier…saw a fort, the founding Sheikh’s family palace, Jebel Hafeet-highest point in the UAE, and even enjoyed a local festival that we stumbled upon), and then had another couple days of planning and booking.

It’s a great city!

Anyways, in terms of logistics, we are very glad we rented a car. We would not have seen half the things we did without one. Nathan did an amazing job of navigating through the crazy roundabouts and doing u-turns and following sometimes very hard to understand directions from googlemaps. We are very glad we started in Dubai, as it has a lot of chains, stores and other things that are familiar. And malls. With stores we know from home J (Not that we bought anything other than groceries, but it was nice to be back among the familiar). It is an amazing city, and we definitely understand the draw it has for people from all over the world. We are also glad we came in the winter. It got up to 30 degrees a couple of times, and we enjoyed the beaches and the warmth. Definitely hot enough for us in December/January 😉

And grocery stores are our best friends in terms of finding local food and popular eats. Even foods from home….once in a while 😉
Anyways, it was an amazing experience to be in the UAE for a few weeks. We will miss the sand, the call to prayer throughout the day, the bartering, and the friends. BJ and Virginia: thanks so much for making yourselves available and spending what time you could with us. We are very grateful you were here for us J
Greg, you came at just the right time…thanks for the laughs, the energy, for rooming with the boys, and having patience while we figured out life in the UAE. Jo still has your face as the screen saver on his ipad…it’s kinda creepy 😉 hahahah.

I am sitting in the Dubai port using the free wifi, so this is gonna go up unedited again. Sorry if it’s long, and kinda all over the place. We will be on the ship for another two weeks, stopping at 3 different ports in India, one in Sri Lanka, and then over to Thailand. Will catch up with you all then J

Thanks for checking in!!!

Cruise from Italy to Dubai

Well, it is our last official day in the UAE, and I am trying to get caught up on here. If you read my last post, you will know how much we enjoyed our cruise in December. We left the port of Genoa, Italy, and travelled from there with stops at Heraklion (Greece), Aqaba (Jordan), Muscat (Oman), Doha (Qatar), Sir Bani Yas Island (UAE), and ended in Dubai (UAE). When we originally planned this trip, the middle east never crossed our minds. We were wanting to take the Trans Siberian Railroad from Russia across to China in December, and that’s quite a distance away from here 😉 But, as has been our life for the past 6 months, plans changed, and we found this cruise back in September while we were in Holland. It sounded like an amazing way to travel and see some of the Middle East while not having to do a lot of planning. So we booked our tickets, and are so very glad we did. (One day Russia and China, we will make it to see you, I promise!!!).   The cruise took us through Egypt via the Suez Canal. What an experience. We went very slowly and it took about a day to go through the canal. There were locals out on the water fishing, and also ferries waiting to cross with men and boys on them yelling “Welcome to Egypt.” We spent most of that day just staring out at the water and land as we passed it by. Soooooo cool. We ended in the Red Sea that evening, and sailed across it for the whole next day. The boys (and Nate and I) thought it was really cool to be sailing over the Sea that we have read about in the Bible. I told Jo there might still be some ancient Egyptian chariots down there 😉 Our first stop in the Middle East was in Jordan. We booked an excursion to go to Petra (Indiana Jones for those of you who have seen it), as this was some place I had always wanted to see. So glad we were able to travel with friends we had made on the boat, as it was a 2 hour bus ride to Petra from the port. It was crazy to be there….seeing the desert, walking on sand, and seeing food brands (Lays chips for example) written in Arabic. (I know, duh, but it was still an eye opener to see at first). Anyways, Isaac was super pumped to see the Treasury (a building in Petra) that was used in one of the Indiana Jones movie. I just thought the whole thing was cool…cliff dwellings from thousands of years ago. Amazing!! Definitely worth the stop to see this place. Our tour guide also spent a good amount of time on the bus telling us about Jordanian people, culture, and lifestyles. It was quite interesting, and I wish we had more time to explore this amazing country. But we are thankful for the very little part that we got to see. Back on the boat we had 5 glorious relaxing days at sea. We spent most of these reading, crocheting, playing crib, hanging out with friends, going to craft/origami classes, swimming, and just sitting on the balcony watching the world go by. (We also had armed guards join us for this part of the trip since we were going through “pirate” territory; had to have lights out on all outside rooms after sunset, and we were not allowed outside on the seventh deck during those days). We stopped in Muscat, Oman, and decided to just walk around by ourselves for this one. We took a bus from the boat through the port, and then walked along the waterfront, and over to a souq. What can I tell you about this experience??? We are obviously tourists (white skin kinda gives it away), and the vendors are all trying to sell you their wares… they draped scarves over my arm, wafted frankincense towards us, kept calling you to come in and take a look. As long as you have no agenda, and nothing that you are absolutely attached to and must have, walking around souqs is a lot of fun. We loved it! And the Omanis are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. We bartered for some frankincense, and after we went back and forth and decided upon an amount, the vendor shook our hands and asked where we were from. Then he said he was from Bangladesh… I said Isaac’s best friend was from there, and then the man said, “well now you have two friends from Bangladesh.” We also met a couple of men while we were walking down from a fort. They started talking with Nathan, and told him they were on winter break from college. They talked for a bit pointing out other things to see, and giving tips on the area. A taxi driver saw Nathan’s hat and started talking to him about Canada. When we asked another store owner if Jo could trade some Canadian coins with him for some rial, he just gave Jo some coins and said “my gift to you.” Prior to this, I had been looking at 2 scarves priced in Rials. One was cheaper than the other, but I liked the more expensive one better. So I asked how much they were in US $….more expensive one was $15, and the cheaper one was $12. We only had $10 on us though, so I told him no, unfortunately. Then he asked me which one I liked better, and put the more expensive one in my hands. We loved Oman, and we loved the people we met there…seriously, nothing but generous, nice and friendly locals everywhere we went.

We spent a day in Doha, but it ended up being a bit of a gong show to start with. We were told by the cruise company that the only way out of the port was to take a paid bus ride into the city mall. So we paid for the bus and on the drive out, saw people walking all along the waterfront and souq across the street. Nothing bad about going to a mall, but we wanted to see local stuff, and the mall we were dropped off at was more of a modern one with stores and BONUS: Tim Hortons!!! Woot woot. So we bought some timbits for the boys and hopped back on the bus to the port, where we walked right back out and over to the souq. Because of prayer times and such, the souq ended up being closed, but it was still cool to walk around and see the stalls and some animals along the way. We ended up back out along the waterfront, where we found a park that the boys played at for a while. Watched some men taking care of some camels in a pen, and then walked along the water looking at the old boats and searching for fish (guess who did most of the searching).

Time to leave again, and we felt like we didn’t really get to know Qatar that much, but it was cool to see some of the city, and walk around the waterfront. Definitely a neat place J

Sir Bani Yas is an island used as an animal sanctuary. We were tendered to the Island by boat, and had a day at the beach. Crystal clear water, a play park, and inflatibles for the kids (and adults) to play on, made it a nice day of chillaxing. Again, we opted out of doing the paid excursions, and just enjoyed the sun and sand.

So all of that was our first taste of the Middle East. It was definitely a great time, and we would highly recommend this cruise itinerary to anyone thinking about it. There are so many highlights to this trip, but this cruise was definitely one of them !

 

On Cruising….

For most people cruises are a vacation, a way to get away from it all, and enjoy seeing new places. Before this trip, we had never gone on a cruise, but we have two under our belts now, and both have been amazing trips for us. This past trip (18 days from Genoa, Italy, through the Suez Canal, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, and ending in the UAE) was not only a vacation and a way to see a different part of the world that we wouldn’t have seen if we flew from Europe to the UAE, but it also became more of a refuge. I don’t think we realized how hard we had been going for the first 5 months until we stopped and boarded that boat for a glorious 18 days….18 days of not packing up and moving, 18 days of not having to figure out new grocery stores, reprogramming our brains to a new store layout, new foods, new currencies, etc.; 18 days of not having to look up places to stay, of not having to figure out transportation from one place to the next. It was awesome. And I think it was a much needed break from the constant moving that we had been doing. Don’t get me wrong…I wouldn’t change anything about the European leg of the trip, but taking the cruise halfway through turned out to be a very good decision. It was a break when we didn’t even realize we needed one. We made friends that we hung out with for more than a few hours over a couple of days before packing up and moving to the next place. The boys got some of their independence back by having friends they could hang out with on their own, and kids clubs that they could go to on their own. We saw some really cool places with some really cool people. It was really hard to leave the boat once we arrived in the UAE. I got into a bit of a funk for a couple days before disembarking…it felt like we were saying goodbye to home all over again. But then BJ met us at the port. And our friend Greg flew in from Hamilton to spend 10 days with us. And on Christmas morning, Greg walked into our little hotel room with an armful of presents and cards from home. And it felt like we were where we were supposed to be, with our friends and family still cheering us on.

So that’s a lot of “and’s,” and “,” and other grammatical sentence problems, but I’m just gonna post that without editing, and put up pictures on the next post. Thanks for travelling with us everyone. Can’t wait to see what the next half of this journey brings 🙂

 

 

6 Months In….

Happy New Years Everyone!!!

Thought we’d do a 6 month check-in.  Enjoy 🙂

Favourite place:

  • Nathan- Wagrain, Austria
  • Riann-all of them
  • Isaac-the bed
  • Jo-fishing in England with Tracey

Favourite food:

  • Nathan-Schnitzel
  • Riann-Shwarmas and pizza (Greece and Italy)
  • Isaac-all the foods (except haggis)
  • Jo-haggis, just cause Isaac hated it

Best thing about Travel:

  • Nathan-losing preconceived notions about different countries and seeing how people live in other countries
  • Riann-the people we meet and new places to see
  • Isaac-seeing new places
  • Jo-making friends

Best memory:

  • Nathan- seeing the boys excitement walking around Stonehenge
  • Riann-watching the boys grow more comfortable navigating around different cities, languages and cultures
  • Isaac-too many, I have a lot
  • Jo-swimming in the waves in Dubai

Funniest memory:

  • Nathan-watching a video from Greg after he flew home from Dubai showing his car not starting (Because it was frozen)
  • Riann-taking the local bus in Italy with all the Italians telling us where our stop was and talking back and forth over our heads about us…
  • Isaac-listening to Greg’s stories while driving
  • Jo-that’s pretty easy, but I can’t remember any of the funny ones

Worst part of travel:

  • Nathan-being away from friends and family
  • Riann-leaving places you have grown to feel comfortable in
  • Isaac-leaving places and new friends
  • Jo-you miss friends and family and traditions you do with friends

 

Buses: too many to count right now; will have to look it up in the journal

Boats: 12

Trains: 53

Countries visited: 23 (2 we only drove through quickly, and Egypt we cruised through without getting off the boat)…

Cars: 7

Tickets: 3 (that we know of 😉 )

 

Happy New Years Everyone!!!!