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how we roll: This weekend we retreated to Whitefield with the rest of the expat community to buy $7.50 boxes of cereal like AlphaBits and Triple Chocolate Crunch. The kids are over the moon about the AlpaBits and eat them/snack on them for ever meal and at church. We also hit Tuscano's for lunch. The overseas cereal run was completely necessary what with the slow demise of our little oven here.

We're packed and ready for Dubai! Good-bye power outages, good-bye trash-filled streets, good-bye (hopefully, time will tell) corrupt auto drivers. When we come back, our days are really numbered.

Still trying to figure out what I'll be doing at work when I go home. But in the meantime, this is a carefree holiday (at least, it better be)!

Viva Las Wegas: Dubai is quite akin to Sin City. It's hot, it's the desert, it's opulent, it has fancy hotels, it has malls, malls, malls, and it has it's own fountain show. Even though the correct pronunciation for Las Vegas is with a V, Indians for some reason switch V & W interchangably, at random, at will. So they call it Las Wegas. But a popular name in India is Vishwas, and it is pronounced phonetically correctly. Go figure.

I'm sick sick sick. I started feeling really ill Sunday night before we left. I considered cancelling the trip. Hot and cold flashes, frequent bathroom runs. You name it. But surprisingly on Monday I handled the flight well but crashed when we got to the hotel. Which is amazing! We got a suite and the kids have their own bathroom and partitioned bedroom, there is a main area with a couch and a table and cupboards for our stuff, then a third master area with our own bed and our own bathroom. With a tub! So all in all, I think I would rather be sick in Dubai in this nice hotel room than in Bangalore. Especially when I consider the time spent in the lew and how nice it is compared to ours in India. But I still wish I were better.

Yesterday I felt ok in the morning so we took the free shuttle to Jumeriah Beach. Perfect, perfect, perfect! The water was just right temp-wise and the water was also really clear. It is very salty, I found out the hard way when Dalton splashed a moutful of sea spray into my poor unsuspecting mouth. But that just meant we could float easily! The beach rents umbrellas and chairs and towels for a reasonable price. The water was just what my ailing body needed. It felt wonderful. And considering how hot it is here, being in the shade next to the water felt great! We plan to go back tomorrow.

After the beach I came home and crashed and Susie went to the Mall of the Emirates next door to grab lunch for everybody. I had a Red Mango smoothie only. Then when I felt decent we headed back to the mall so I could take Maggie to Ski Dubai. Dalton is too young, you must be 3 for some odd reason to play in the snow, but he didn't seem to mind. Maggie LOVED it! She loved loved loved it. I finally had to leave because I was freezing and the hot chocolate did little to remedy that. But we rode on toboggans, went tubing, and rode the gondola up to the skiers then back down just for kicks. Just like in UT, dada, Maggie told me. Just like in UT.

For a little girl that always wants to be held, Maggie climbed up the hill on her own without complaint every time we went tubing. She would tell me "I think so it was kinda fast, dada" but still wanted to keep going. I know she's happy when she calls me dada.

Dinner was CPK for the kids (jealous!) but another smoothie for me. Eventually there will be nothing left in my stomach to cause cramps and irregular bathroom runs, but we don't appear to be there quite yet. Then maybe I can eat real food, since they actually have it here. Until then, I'm drinking lots of water and fruit juice so as not to dehydrate.

Today we are attempting a water park, assuming I can hold up ok.

Dubai is mostly amazing. Things are quite expensive here (though our hotel is the cheapest yet among our trips, and for a suite to boot) but food and clothing has been rough. And Carter's had nothing in 18 months, which Dalton needs. Never mind he turns two on Sunday (Happy Dubai Birthday Dalt!) And there are too many Indians here, meaning a lot of frustration over the queueing process at Ski Dubai, etc. If they are that way at the water park, I will whip out a can on them. It's so rude. But otherwise this place is amazing! It's so clean. And they drive on the American side of the road (USA, USA). Which actually is a little confusing when we try and cross the street, but the practice is good since we'll be going home soon.

OK, time to go live it up!

On a palm tree shaped island, in the ocean: That's where we spent the day yesterday. At a water park called Atlantis. They have a lazy river that takes about 30 minutes to get around it's so big. It includes three white water rapid sections and a long torrential wave pool section that Maggie loved but scared Dalton every time. We bribed him with rewards of ice cream. They have these group double decker inner tubes where the front one has a seat in it for the kids so they don't fall through...genius!

Spending the entire day in a wave pool had me rocking in bed last night as a I went to sleep.

Susie and I also got to take turns going on water slides that plunged us in a tube in the middle of a shark and ray pool. The kids could see us in there.

Being on a man-made island, of course, made me think of Rita, aka Mr F, from Arrested Development. She told Michael istead of building more houses he should build more land. The joke is, of course, we can't build land. Except that, in Dubai, they do it all the time!

I think these last three weeks back in India are going to be extremely painful. Well, time to go have more fun today!

Later that same day: In the lobby watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with Dalton while Mommy and Maggie go skiing. Dalton and I passed the time playing in the toystore, buying expensive candy and also buying postcards to send to Grandma and Aunt Jamie, and yelling at the hotel to come and clean our room.

which came first?: Dubai is like India in that people here never seem to have enough change. I wonder where the true origin of that one is? It's hard to say because Dubai has quite a large Indian population.

But I haven't seen a single person urinate in the street, throw trash out the window, or pinch my kid's cheeks. So I guess it's fine.

The true annoyingness of Dubai is the cost of food. A kid's meal is $9! That's more than I pay for adult meals back home fercryinoutloud! But transportation costs are reasonable (American prices so it feels expensive after the rest of Asia), hotel costs are extremely reasonable, and the cost of water is also fair. But food is crazy expensive. Except at the grocery store. We're so used to paying $7 for imported American cereal in India that paying $4 is now a steal! We found Cheerios, Cookie Crisp, and Golden Grahams. Huzzah!

call to prayer: Dubai is a Muslim country, and therefore the call to prayer can be heard throughout the city. Including in the mall, but not at Ski Dubai or in the water park we went to on a man-made island. People told me I would be able to hear the call to prayer very distinctly, unlike in India, where I seldom hear the call to prayer from the mosque down the street because they appear to mute the call to keep a low profile in this Hindu state. But it was never intrusive. And unlike what I pictured in my mind, there were no mad dashes to the prayer rooms, nor did stores close during this time. I think a Dubai Muslim is akin to a general Catholic.

Anyway. I like the call to prayer. Sometimes in my life I could use a call to prayer. I do pray. I mean to pray more. The call to prayer is a nice reminder of important things that are easily forgotten by the urgent things of the day.

Today at church we got to watch some of General Conference. It was nice to watch. But nicer still was imagining myself actually back at that place in three weeks. My poor body can no longer handle the diseases it's had to endure that come from living in a society that views its landscape as little more than a toilet.

[Comments] (1) trick or lettuce: Work is really slowing down, now that the deadline has passed. Most people will be off for vacation my final two weeks, especially since Diwali is coming up. So Friday I had a party at work and let Maggie and Dalton come and trick or treat. We have a huge bag of skittles we don't eat, except for Dalton. So we took it and I had the kids give each of my coworkers handsful of candy. The Skittles are gone! Huzzah!

A lot of my coworkers "get" Halloween, even though it's not celebrated here, and had chocolate on hand for the kids. So now we have more candy than we need. But at least it's not Skittles.

Maggie was of course being her shy, silly self. She would say things like Trick or Lettuce or Thank blahblahblah made up word because it's apparently too hard to just ssy Trick or Treat and Thank you. What with people here speaking English as a second language, most of her silliness was lost on them.

It was very kind of them to give treats in exchange, as that was not required at all.

A lot of coworkers asked me to explain Halloween to them. I tried. I think I got it right, but I guess I should confirm on Wikipedia. In turn, I asked them the purpose of Diwali, other than firecracker lighting. No one knew. Another job for Wikipedia I suppose.

Otherwise I spent yesterday looking at cars. I need a new car when we get home and have no idea what I want, but think I'm settled on a Mazda 3. It's been an extremely interesting week trying to figure out firstly how to get back home the EY-approved way and second what I'll work on when I get back. I'm sure going home will be a not fun experience, but as long as we make it in one piece, then we'll be home, so who cares?

Oh I guess I should mention that Maggie was a bumblebee and Dalton was a Chinese ninja. Most people thought Maggie was a butterfly and Dalton was not dressed up.

[Comments] (1) leaf peeping: I'm really sad I'll be missing the leaves changing, the pumpkin patches, the corn mazes, etc this year. Oh well. At least I'll be home in time for the holidays where you get a paid day off.

To make up for missing all of this, we are heading to Innovative Film City this weekend, one last jaunt, to Bangalore's own version of Universal Studios.

Innovative Film City

[Comments] (2) the haps: Things Dalton is afraid of: the monkey on Toy Story 3, the Spinosaurus at the Bangalore Natural History Museum, the monkey that tried to visit us in August, and most amusement park rides. Things Maggie is afraid of: Indians in general, attention of any kind, good or bad, directed to her, and mad guys (what she calls bad guys).

Maggie in particular pretty much refuses to give her talk in the Primary program, coming up on Sunday. I'm trying to bribe her and we'll see how successful I am.

I've discovered The Simpsons are on in the mornings here. They are playing all the Halloween specials right now, most of which I've never seen. The Simpsons has got to be the longest running cartoon ever. Maggie is quick to point out to me that it is NOT a kid's show.

Today we took Sandeep and Kannagi for a nice farewell lunch at Heritage Elements. Kannagi wore a saree for the ocassion, so it must be auspicious. We all got the biryani, except for Susie who got dahl (bleah). This place is the only place I've found that does chicken right in an Indian dish here in India (the Mango Tree is veg). It is so succulent and doesn't get me sick because it hasn't been sitting out all day for the flies to infest. They both seemed to enjoy the lunch.

Today as we started packing again I came across my BD card from my mom. It has a picture of the old cabin on it. Kannagi asked Susie if that was our house in the US. I still laugh when I think of it! I guess by Bangalore standards it's a nice house. After all, there are no cockroaches or cows in the cabin, it actually had some carpeted areas, a fireplace, a heater, an oven, and the power normally stays on (for those fortunate enough to have power; I'm not sure if Kannagi does). But the toilet doesn't have a sprayer.

[Comments] (1) three cheers for bollywood: Yesterday we made the two hour trek each way to visit Innovative Film City (IFC). It's Bangalore's version of Universal Studios, both of which are rather lame. When you first walk into IFC, it seems like it's closed. All the stores on the front promenade are empty, with the exception of this archery range. I actually came close to a bulls-eye on my turn!

The first half of the day was noisy and crowded thanks to school field trips but they all left in the afternoon. And everyone was actually very polite to ask before taking pictures or posing with the two cutest white kids in the world.

On down to the rest of the park, it does get better. There's a water park but we didn't take our swimsuits. There are also a handful of rides of various stability. The main roller coaster, which Maggie got to ride since we said she was five, and the double-decker carousel, are both nice. The rest are rather reminiscint of carnival/fair rides and were making lots of questionable noises denoting strain on the various apparatus. Oddly enough, Maggie had no qualms about the roller coaster but threw a fit about the carousel.

They also had a mini golf but it was so hot outside we didn't do that for very long. And we opted out of the optional haunted house.

There is also a dinosaur world with some nice skeletons and some rather laughable animatronic dinosaurs. But they all had signs with correct spelling and names. Most of the signs said "Utah" on them for location of dinosaur bones and it too was spelled right. Made me proud to be from a state with SOMETHING to it's credit.

They also had a huge bounce house for the kids and they were in there until they kicked us out. Susie and I just enjoyed sitting in the shade for a while. Attractions also included a McDonald's (yay McFlurry and non-Indian food, even if it is just chicken nuggets), a fun house of just mirrors which was actually really fun, a Madame Tousod's wax house, and a Ripley's Believe it or Not.

I've never done Ripley's or Madame Tousod's before. The latter was just ok. Most of the wax figures looked extremely fake and NOTHING like there more human counterparts, but they did have the Governator, the Harry Potter trio, and some Disney figures for the kids. Ripley's was actually a lot of fun, even if a few of the things scared Dalton. And I learned where the terms "graveyard shift" and "saved by the bell" came from.

The trip would have been epic fail (as the kids say) were it not for the goldfish and the candy corn to make the horrible car ride bearable. Thanks Aunt Jamie and Uncle Dave and family!

[Comments] (2) thanks for the memories: I forgot to mention that Friday was my farewell party, since this week is Diwali and so everyone is on holiday. I was given a farewell book with some very interesting things to ponder.

One comment, from anonymous (most are signed but this one is not) says: "Hi John, I would write on all the bricks 'I miss you' and hope that i[t] falls on your head so you know how it hurts to miss someone special like you. 'love you John'

Another is not a message to me but a quote as follows: "Happiness is not something you postpone for the future, it is something you design for the present" -- Jim Rohn. I don't know a Jim in our group, but there are a few people I still don't know, like the new guys. Susie thinks it's a properly cited quote. They had nothing else personal to share with me I suppose, but they love quotes like that around these parts.

Many things are also in quotes that leave me quite confused. For example, "Thanks" for all your support, or We sure are going to "miss" you. If I didn't know better, I'd think the quotes are sarcastic. But I do know better and it's not like that at all, though I'm not sure what it is like.

This book is very akin to my Filipino farewell book from the Kong not ten years ago, full of stickers, advice, quotes, stories, and the like. And I love it!

exit stage left: So yesterday was the primary program, which is actually something I've come to dislike. Between the Saturday practice (we skipped it) and practicing during General Conference (to which I take extreme umbrage) it just seems like more of a chore than a valuable presentation.

Maggie knew her line. James 1:5. She really did. But of course she refused to say it, and refused to sit on the stand with her class. I finally got her to sit on the stand by giving her her own chair separate from the other kids. She didn't want to sit by India kids; they are mean to her. She says. Then when it was time for her scripture I took her up to the podium. Silence. She refused to say it other than in my ear, for only me to hear. Not for India people to hear. So I told her to say it with me, which basically left me saying it. She also kept refusing to sing the songs and kept asking if she could come sit with me, which I didn't let her get away with.

In the end she did NOT get a box of Nerds bought in Dubai as a present. I get them because I said the scripture. But at least she sat up there. I guess next year we'll find out if this is really just a shy thing or if it's like she says--just not for Indian people thing. Obviously she's shy but I also think she doesn't like Indians much.

Afterwards they were rewarded with a Domino's pizza party. On a Sunday. Again, seems to defeat the purpose of a primary program when it's polished off with breaking one of the ten commandments. I often feel like kids are made for Primary and not the other way around. Hopefully it'll be a better program back home.

[Comments] (4) ka-boom: Happy Diwali! To celebrate the holiday, we were awoken by fireworks at 6 am! Three things are really wrong with this.

1. It's just plain rude. Nuff said.

2. I like fireworks as much (probably more than) the next guy. I remember sending on July 4th in Bakersfield and Susie's family had NO plans to see or light fireworks. None. Truly disappointing. But still. I don't see the point to the fireworks that simply make noise. The ones you light at night that are visually appealing, sure. But the ones that you pay $5 that just make noise, I just don't see the point. I guess the point is to be rude and wake your community up before they want to be up.

3. There are apparently no rules in India about being quiet at certain times, or worrying about fire hazards (here anyone can light off the type of fireworks that back home you would only see at a show, for example). All this seems very dangerous to me, but since I'm refraining from fireworks, no one can sing "John started the fire" at least.

[Comments] (1) the time has come: Less than 24 hours until we leave for the airport. Here's hoping for a smooth flight, no delays, a fun day in NYC, no lost luggage, and the ability for all of us to sleep on the plane. But if not, oh well. Just getting out of the country is all I can honestly ask for at this point.

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