Archives for July 2012

Kiva Loan: July/August

4 down, 2 to go!

Photo from Ayad’s Kiva listing / She’s holding the purple purse.

My Kiva loan for July and August went to Ayad in Yemen. Ayad is requesting a loan to pay for construction supplies like wood and cement to improve her home and business.

I really wish that I could have visited Yemen while I lived so nearby. My favorite colleague at school was Yemeni and she enthusiastically invited me to join her and her family there for a month. I think we both knew that was never going to happen. The first issue would be the visa, the second issue my mother, and the third Al Qaeda. Not a good idea. I’ll have to settle for micro-lending.

Also, Kiva is offering free trials again! If you’ve ever been curious about micro-lending, now is the time to try it out FOR FREE!

Right now about half of all my loans have been repaid, and a few more are getting close. I’m very impressed!

xo, jill

Hello/Bonjour Canada

Nice to see you again.

I’m on my way to Canada for the second time this summer and I could not be more excited! I’m looking forward to seeing Mike, meeting up with friends from Abu Dhabi, and getting to explore the place that all of them call home.

Mike and I have plans to explore Ontario and Quebec… and perhaps even drop down into Vermont and New Hampshire. Thanks for everyone’s suggestions for things to see and do!

While I’m out exploring Central Canada*, I’ll be sharing about my trip to Western Canada. There will also be a few interviews with some amazing expat bloggers and a Kiva update. I hope you’ll stick around!

xo, jill

*Heh, I Googled that. Wasn’t sure what to call it.

5 things I will miss about Abu Dhabi

Now the positive.A few days ago I wrote up a list of the 5 things I will not miss about living in Abu Dhabi. As much as I complained or felt frustrated while living there, I did find plenty of things to enjoy as well. I’m not counting friends and colleagues on my list because like not missing the heat and humidity, it’s just a given.Here are the rest of the vintage UAE postcards as well.Ready?The Top 5 Things I Will Miss About Abu Dhabi (in no particular order):

1. Delicious and cheap falafel. There are falafel shops on just about every corner in Abu Dhabi. Picking up a falafel sandwich is just about the easiest and cheapest snack or dinner option (5dhs/$1.37). I can’t say it’s the healthiest choice since the falafel balls are deep fried, but there are veggies too, and that should count for something. My favorite shop will hand you a hot and fresh falafel to eat while you wait for your order to be made. Yum. (And do you remember these heart shaped ones?)

Dubai Mosque

2. The sun. Let’s face it. I’m from a particularly cloudy and rainy corner of the globe. Waking up to seemingly eternal sunshine is a real treat.

Dubai Port

3. Desert camping + desert stars. Running off for some desert camping was one of my favorite activities to do. Being out in the desert at night under the stars is an incredible. feeling. If you ever need a reminder that you are in fact just a tiny small piece of the universe, walk out into the dunes at night and look up.

Eid Prayer Square

4. Interactions with other expats. The majority of people living in Abu Dhabi are from other places. As you interact with other workers you get a little taste of each person’s culture. For example, depending on where a person is from (or their job), I might be addressed as any of the following: Madame, Miss, M’amSir (yes, all one word), My Friend, or Sister. Sister was always my favorite.

Khalidya Palace Hotel

5. Maghrib and Isha Prayers. While I wasn’t a big fan of the predawn call to prayer, the evening and night prayer calls were quite beautiful to hear. The Maghrib prayer call sounds just after sunset and is especially lovely accompanied by a colorful sky. Try to imagine hearing this faintly in the background while you watch the sunset. It always reminded me that even though day to day life could sometimes feel mundane, I truly was very far from home.

I suppose as time goes on I’ll think of more and more things to miss. Despite how frustrated I was much of the time, Abu Dhabi definitely had its enjoyable moments. I mean, I did meet Mike there!

xo, jill


From the Hip Friday

Goat street.

Today’s photo from the hips comes from Elin at Taste of Slow. Have you checked out her travel + vegetarian food blog yet?

Elin submitted another photo that she took while visiting the fishing village of St. Louis, Senegal. (See the first one here!) I love the women’s dresses, especially the blue and white one. Plus, that goat… he’s obviously a looker.


Thanks, Elin!

xo, jill 

From the Hip Friday features photos taken without the use of a viewfinder. If you have a photograph that was taken from the hip you’d like to share here, please contact me!

Up, up, and away!

Happy 29th, Molly!I have a fear of heights. Not many things will get me up and off the ground. But to celebrate my dear friend, I made an exception. You see,  this wasn’t just your standard birthday party, it was a celebration of life. Molly, the most courageous person I know, not only turned 29 but she also beat cancer!!! It was an occasion that called for something special, something like a hot air balloon.

We arrived at the launch site bright and early wearing warm clothing that we immediately stripped off. Apparently there had been some sort of miscommunication on the phone. It gets pretty hot standing directly beneath a giant flame. Actually, really hot.

We watched our balloon fill up and I tried not to squirm too much. I was nervous.

Photos by Molly

You might think that once we gained elevation and began to drift that I might relax a little, but nope! I stayed nervous the whole time and tried not to get motion sickness. I don’t know how the people hanging their arms over the sides of the basket managed it.

I looked like this the whole time. That’s a scared of heights + searing heat on my scalp combo.

Photo by Molly

We floated over the desert and enjoyed the beige scenery. I’m not sure if Abu Dhabi is the most scenic place to hot air balloon, but it was still interesting to see the desert from above.

My favorite part of the ride was landing. Well, the actual touch down was a little rough… but the location was perfect. We landed in a camel race track! There were camels all over the place! I can imagine the handlers were a little surprised to see a giant balloon descending towards them.

We enjoyed a few drinks and photo opportunities before the cars came and brought us back to the launch site.

I think it was a pretty good celebration. Definitely worth it.

xo, jill

Desert Safari

The quintessential tourist experience.Going on a desert safari is a popular outing in the UAE. There are several companies that offer very similar safari packages. I kept putting off doing a safari because I thought it would be something fun to do when friends or family visited. Unfortunately, we were always trying to cram a million other things into their visits. As my time in Abu Dhabi was coming to a close, I figured I better go out and have the safari experience.

I chose the company we used carefully. I did not want to end up on a safari that included belly dancing. Nothing against it in general, but it is not traditional to the Arabian Peninsula, so why pretend? Sarah recommended Al Badeyah Eyes Tourism for a belly dance free experience. (If you live in UAE there’s a 2 for 1 coupon in the Entertainment Book.)

We met up with our safari group in the afternoon and rode in a small bus to the site, about an hour outside the city. Upon arrival we were free to relax, explore the area, take photos in traditional dress*, or try out sandboarding.

From what I could tell you don’t go very fast… I didn’t get a chance to try it out because it was soon our turn to go dune bashing! This is what I was most excited for. We piled into a 4×4 and went crashing about the dunes. It’s incredible that the trucks don’t fall over. They stop so you can get a desert photo op.

You can also ride camels or horses, rent quads, or get henna. Since I’m not a proponent of camel riding and have been on plenty of quads in my lifetime, I opted to get some henna. Then Mike and Allan wanted some too.

A falconer showed off his talented bird, and then it was time to eat. The food wasn’t bad and included enough vegetarian options that I went away full. When you are finished eating you are welcome to have tea around a campfire.

Then the bus drove us back to the city.

xo, jill

*Playing dress up always makes me really uncomfortable, so we skipped it. During my cultural orientation to the UAE we were told by a local that they take great pride in their national dress. If you want to wear local clothing you are welcome to, as long as it’s respectful. He said that if you are dressing like us to just take pictures and laugh, please don’t.

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