Posts in Mi Familia

Anniversary celebration in New York City

With Ms. LibertyThe husband and I made a pact two years ago to put expensive gifts aside and celebrate our wedding anniversary with a trip. Last year our trip was to Dubai where we spent three "eventful" days exploring the wonders of the ambitious emirate. This year, though, our anniversary coincided with the weekend making an opportunity to visit the city that never sleeps: New York.

What can I say? We had a blast. Although this was not my first time in New York, I still could not get over how vibrant and lively this city is, not to mention its beauty. The skyline itself is simply breathtaking. I could stare at it for hours and never tire.

Our schedule allowed us to spend one full day in this great city, so we set our clocks for 12 hours: 8:00 am to 8:00 PM. It was a stretch but we did it and enjoyed it to the utmost. The day began with a trip to the Statue of the Liberty where we got the chance to venture inside the statue and not merely gaze upon it outside. Post-9/11 procedures stipulate booking tickets in advance (either online or by the phone) in order to get inside Lady Liberty. Otherwise, enjoying the statue from the grounds below is all you get.

Ellis Island Immigration MuseumBeing inside the statue and listening to the park ranger’s historical briefing was engaging. It was fascinating to get acquainted with the history and architectural make-up of this world famous monument — a mini Eiffel Tower is inside her.

Leaving Liberty Island, we took the ferry on to Ellis Island where we toured the Immigration Museum and enjoyed it tremendously. We heard compelling stories of various immigrants that made it to the US in the early 1900’s seeking a better life. It was fascinating to see some of the belongings they brought with them from their home countries. One amusing item that drew my attention was a set of tweezers left by a Syrian couple. I also enjoyed seeing currency dating back to the Ottoman Empire. The exhibition is truly top-notch and definitely worth a visit.

Central Park pondAfter spending over two hours learning about the lives of early immigrants, we made our way to Central Park where we took a trip aboard one of NYC’s famous horse carriages that provided a beautiful tour inside the mammoth, lush park. It was so much fun. The park was buzzing with life; packed with joggers, bikers, lovers and writers. No wonder this location is a favorite spot for a myriad of movie makers.

After Central Park, we went to Times Square, where I got overwhelmed with the sights and the sounds of the place. One unusual scene was a performer right in the heart of Times Square: A topless (wearing pasties) young woman calling herself the "Naked Cowgirl"!

We closed out our day with a fabulous dinner at a Cuban restaurant in Times Square called Havana Central where we enjoyed ribs and of course … mojitos! I ♥ New York.

A weekend with Amal

Outside Madams Organ in Adams Morgan

Last weekend was special, as my very dear friend Amal was in town for a few days on business. We got a chance to visit with her on three separate occasions, catching up on where our journey has taken us since we last saw each other in Doha this April. I have to say she looked great and seemed in wonderful spirits. It was such a joy to spend some time with her. For a while, I felt we where back in Doha, just talking about work issues while making plans for the final exodus from the Persian Gulf.

Our new friend Beisan (yeah, the active Jordanian blogger from Jordan Planet) joined us on two occasions during which we enjoyed our time and ate wonderful food at funky restaurants in the DC boroughs of Georgetown and Adam’s Morgan. Our conversations revolved primarily around life in DC, being away from home and of course the current state of global political mayhem. All in all it was such a wonderful and memorable weekend. Nothing beats quality time with a very dear friend. Here is a picture of yours truly and the one and only Amal in the hippy neighborhood of Adam’s Morgan.

The sister is here!

Tania at the Lincoln MemoriaMy sister Tania has arrived here from New Hampshire and we’ve been busy for the past two days showing her around DC. Yesterday she had a big day taking an all day DC bus tour, which she enjoyed tremendously. She got to see most everything historic that this diplomatic city has to offer, including the White house, Capitol Hill, Arlington Cemetery, the Lincoln Memorial among others.

Unfortunately I could not join her on the tour as I had to work but I met her and the husband right after she finished exploring at the Barnes & Noble in Georgetown. From there we made our way around the corner to the Kennedy Center, where we attended a wonderful Blues concert by a group dubbed the Moonlighters.

Following the concert we headed back to Maryland for some shopping and then wrapped up the day with a little Domino’s pizza at home. Tania left this morning for Alabama but will be back here in a few days for more exploring and family bonding. Life is good.

A trip into the ‘Deep South’

Nocalula FallsWe returned last night from a wonderful road trip into the Deep South where we visited Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina. The whole purpose of the trip was to visit my sister and her family and spend some quality time with them. We had a wonderful, wonderful time. Every minute we spent with ‘La Familia’ was memorable and will be cherished forever.

The kids were just so wonderful as usual. They keep getting cuter by the day. I can never get enough of them. One of the highlights of our visit there was getting the chance to ride a Sea Doo on the Gadsen River. We cruised on the river for maybe 40 minutes and got a chance to see some of the most wonderful sights I have ever seen in my life. For a while there, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

Smokey Mtn HubbyDriving back to Virginia, we stopped for a night in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the Smoky Mountains and what a sight it was. The mountains lived up to their name, as they are indeed smoky, particularly with the light rain.

The town of Gatlinburg itself was buzzing with life. It had entertainment of every imaginable sort. I could not believe what I was seeing as things looked like a mesh between Las Vegas and Disney Land (Please bear in mind that I have never been to either of these places).Killing Bear and me

Leaving Gatlinburg we drove through the Smokies to North Carolina, where we stopped in the Indian reservation of Cherokee. It was intriguing. I had never quiet grasped the concept of an Indian reservation before visiting this place. In addition to hopping between tourist shops, we got to chat and take pictures with a Native American man by the name of “Killing Bear.”

Of course, I could not keep my mouth shut and had to ask him one million questions about his native language, the reservation, and if I could pass as a Native American, something he affirmed. One of the interesting things we saw were signs written in both English and Cherokee. Now, isn’t this neat?

I believe this trip will wrap up our touring for the time being, as we’ll soon head further north to pursue job opportunities. This trip has definitely given us enough of a boost to help us take the career world by storm. We are very hopeful and excited about the coming days.

My last year in the 20’s

Dining at The Blue Stone InnTwo days ago I turned 29. On that morning, I woke up in a sour mood knowing that the 8th of July 2005 marked the beginning of the last year of my twenties. Eventually, I got over it and managed to have a great day celebrating with the husband and Dad and Mom T. They took me out to a top-notch restaurant just outside of Harrisonburg called The Bluestone Inn.

Champagne on the backporchThis restaurant is a bit of a local secret and quite unique. You dine under the mounted heads of hunted animals like deer, bear, moose, etc that are hung all over walls covered in memorabilia. The food was fantastic and the baked scallops that I picked were just orgasmic. After the fantastic dinner we returned home for some cake, champagne and a gift opening session. It was a wonderful way to celebrate such a depressing age.

It is also worth noting that the 8th of July marked the one year anniversary of this blog’s presence on TypePad. It was a birthday gift from the husband last year and what a wonderful gift it turned out to be.

The 2nd Jordan dispatch

For the past five days or so, we have been spending most of our time with la Familia, mostly with my sister and her family as they leaving for a vacation at the end of this week so we might not see them for some long time. However, I managed to scratch few things off my Jordan to-do list, which included eating mansaf (can I really avoid that?), having Rimini pizza, meeting up with friends and cousins and of course playing with my nieces. I still have a plethora of things to do here. I hope that I will make it before we leave.

I have not been really out much so I cannot offer any real punditry on Amman’s changes over the last four months. However, I could not help but notice one major development since my absence: the explosion of private radio stations. So far, I have heard of Mazaj, Beat, Play, Mood and Sawat al-Ghad. They are being advertised everywhere: newspapers, glossy magazines and on bulletin boards. I still can’t believe how many music choices are currently on offer to radio listeners in Jordan. Somehow, this variety feels over the top for such a small country.

Meanwhile, construction is still in full swing. Apartment buildings – many of which are hideous – continue to mushroom all over the place. No one can deny that Amman is expanding at a dizzying pace. But in spite of this sudden renaissance, will this culturally enriched city manage to keep its soul, one to which I’ve grown so attached? I wonder.

Jordan dispatch

Poser on the mountThis is a quick update from Jordan. We arrived home safe and sound after an exciting exodus from Doha. I don’t have the time to get into the details of what happened during our last hours in Qatar but let me say that we ended up with more stuff for our flight than allowed without extra cost and even had to call for help.

The flight itself was smooth but we were dead tired from all the packing, cleaning and general stress of the past month. But we are now in Jordan surrounded by our loved ones and already stuffed with mom’s delicious food. Life can’t get better.

I’m going through a number of different emotions as I’m sitting right here in my old room at my parents’ house. First, I still can’t believe that we left Qatar for good. It is just too good to be true. Qatar no longer occupies a place in our life. Second, I feel I never left Jordan. Somehow, I feel I have lived here uninterrupted all of my life. In a nutshell: I belong here and nothing in the world can change that. Third, I’m excited about the upcoming adventure we are about to embark upon. But this constant gypsy lifestyle is making me even edgier than normal. I’m pining for stability.

On a different note, today is Easter in Jordan, as Christians here follow the eastern calendar. We went to church in the morning -– something I have not done since last Christmas — then drove all the way to Madaba, where we had lunch at an Arabic restaurant near Mount Nebo. Lunch was followed by a quick tour inside Mount Nebo, which we hadn’t visited since our wedding. We took loads of family pictures and spent the rest of the time chasing the kids. All in all, it was a fun day. Ah, it’s so good to be back home.

Ah, before I go, I heard something a very interesting last night. Apparently, the novel The DaVinci Code has been banned in Jordan. Copies of the book were taken from the shelves after local churches objected to the content of this best seller. To my knowledge, Jordan is the second country in the Middle East after Lebanon to ban the book. Anyway, time to hit the sack. I will do my best to post updated dispatches during our stay.

Farewell my friend …

Gulf Silhouettes

Our good friend Amal is leaving Doha for good next week and relocating home to Beirut, Lebanon. We are very happy for her as it is a great career move. Not only will she be in her own country
surrounded by family and friends, but she will get to report from Lebanon during very interesting times. We will miss her dearly. Doha will never be the same without her. We wish her all the luck in the world. She really deserves the best.

Here is a picture that the husband took last week of Amal and myself enjoying the sea along a beach in Dukhhan, Qatar.

Rumba in the jungle

Larrydances2

Dad and Mom T just came back from a safari in South Africa. This is a picture of Dad T that just made my day, even my whole month for that matter. Isn’t he just the coolest father-in-law ever!

Michael is here

Michael and Me

Yesterday was a good day. My nephew, Michael William Connally, came to life. Both he and Brigitte are in a good health after three hours of labor. We were very lucky that Michael arrived while we were still in Amman, allowing us to spend some time with him right before we return to Doha Sunday. He is just so adorable.

I know it might be too early to say, but he really takes after his dad. It is also worth mentioning that he is the first nephew in a family dominated by the female presence, so the excitement over his arrival has been duly doubled.

Jeff created a photo album of the occasion. Click here or the picture to share our joy.