Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Trip of a Lifetime! (Day 2)

Saturday, April 30th

We finally arrived in Jordan, got our luggage, and got on the tour bus (there were two buses).  By the end of the trip we really got to know our fellow travelers pretty well.  What a great group of people!  Most were from Utah, with a few from other places.

Also, in each of the three countries we visited we had local tour guides that stayed with us all the way through our time in their country - so we had them giving us the historical information, along with John and Bonnie Lund adding the spiritual aspect (although John and Bonnie were also a wealth of knowledge on the history also).

Another thing that we learned was that we were traveling at the perfect time of year as far as the weather in the countries we were visiting.  It was fabulous the entire time.  It would be a little cool in the morning, and then top out in the 80's later in the day, then the evenings were cooler and very pleasant.  When we got to Luxor in Egypt it was quite a bit warmer - approaching 100 degrees at the hottest part of the day.  But it definitely would be much hotter when it got into the summer months there.

We drove for about 3 hours to our hotel in a little town in Jordan called Wadi Musa.  Located just outside this town is the "Rose-Red City" of Petra!

The hotel we stayed at was called Taybet Zaman. It used to be a Bedouin village, but was converted to a five-star resort.

Every room was different.  It was fun to walk around to each of our family's rooms and see the different layouts.  This was our room...

and the view just outside our room...
 I loved seeing all the terracing on the sides of the mountains - both here and in Israel. 

One not so exciting thing that was explained to us was the sewer systems in all the places we were visiting (Jordan, Israel, and Egypt) were not built to handle toilet paper (even in the nicest 5 star hotels!).  We were supposed to use the little trash can next to each toilet for ALL toilet paper (as you can see from the sticker on the underside of the lid).  As you can imagine, the bathrooms didn't smell very good.  Most of the time we didn't follow this rule in our hotel room.

One thing I discovered on my first night in Jordan was that my flat iron and blow dryer were not going to work here.  Even though I had the correct adapter for the country, my flat iron would turn on for about 5 seconds and then go off.  My blow dryer would turn on, but the force was so weak I could have dried my hair faster by blowing on it with my mouth.  The blow dryers installed in the rooms of all of the hotels we stayed in were so weak it would have taken an hour to dry my hair.  I gave up and decided to let my hair be wavy for the duration.  At least it cut down on my time getting ready in the morning!

The first night we were there I was so excited that they had free Wi-Fi.  I could make a wi-fi call to my kids!  It was so nice to hear their voices.  Jamie was also fantastic at getting them to write us an email every day so we could stay up to speed on what they were doing.  That lasted about a week and then it was more sporadic - but I LOVED getting their emails and writing them back.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Trip of a Lifetime! (Day One)

Mark and I were able to go on an amazing trip this year.  The planning began a year ago when his sister, Jen, talked with all the adults about possibly doing this trip together.  We would be going to Jordan, Israel, and Egypt with a tour group out of Salt Lake City, Utah called "Fun For Less Tours".  Our tour guide would be John Lund and his wife Bonnie!  If you are not familiar with him, John is an educator for the Church Educational System of the LDS Church.  He is a popular speaker, author, and marriage counselor.  We were all so excited about it!  For me this was my first time ever leaving the United States - my first passport!

Although I was super excited, as the date approached I was also really nervous about being away from my kids for that long.  Five days was the longest I had ever left them and this trip would be 17 days!  The one thing that comforted me was knowing that they would be with family - my sister, Jamie, who has no children of her own yet, had immediately volunteered when we were deciding whether or not to take this trip.  She was more than happy to step in as substitute mommy for the 2 1/2 weeks.  Thank you, Jamie!!

Having never traveled outside the United States, I had all sorts of questions and worries.  The Middle East has hardly ever been considered a peaceful place.  You almost always hear about something violent happening over there.  Just a few  months before we were to leave there was an major revolution in Egypt as the people of Egypt sought to overthrow President Mubarak.  The media was showing footage of demonstrations and we were hearing of people being killed.  "Fun For Less Tours" sent out a letter to update us on plans for our trip.  We were told they were watching the situation and we would know more as we got closer to our trip. We were relieved things had calmed down by the time we were to leave on our trip.

One thing that was interesting on the packing list we received from Fun For Less Tours was snacks.  We were told we would not be stopping for lunches during the trip.  We would be far too busy trying to see everything in the time we had. So we had to bring enough snacks for the two of us for 17 days of lunches - that's kind of a lot of snacks!  And quite a bit of space and weight in our luggage!  Let me just say that by the end of the trip there was a lot of trading of snacks, and none of us wanted to see beef jerky, trail mix, dried fruit, granola bars, or nuts any time in the foreseeable future.

Friday, April 29th

We left on April 29th.  Mark and I flew to New York City where we met up with the rest of our tour group, including his family.  I took this shot as were flying over New York...

As we flew into New York City our plane went way out over the Atlantic Ocean before it turned around to land on the assigned runway (at least it seemed like a long way.  That little ship in the picture is actually a huge container ship.  One thing that made me nervous about this trip was flying over the ocean.  That was new for me.  It helped that by the time our flight to Amman, Jordan took off it was dark outside.  We left about 8:30pm.

I took this picture flying into New York City.  We flew into JFK airport, so we weren't really close to the city, but I did get this can make out the Empire State Building.  I would love to visit New York City someday!
We weren't due to arrive in Amman, Jordan until 2:00pm the next day.  I changed into my PJ's later that night on the plane so I could sleep better (I know - totally silly but it really helped me to sleep!).  After Mark and I watched a couple movies we slept.  Man, it's hard to sleep on a plane.  But exhaustion helps a little.  The next morning we were able to see the french countryside from our plane for awhile.  It was beautiful!  Winding roads going through green, hilly, countryside with little towns nestled here and there...I want to go back there too!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Where are you hiding little Easter egg?

My kids always look forward to our annual Easter Egg Hunt.  This year we added something new.  Mark's sister, Jen, told me they had started adding money to a few of the eggs to make it interesting for their older kids.  Funny thing was she said that the youngest ones always ended up with all the money!!  We decided that sounded fun so we added coins to a few of the eggs, three $1 bills to three of the eggs, and a $5 bill to one.  We always hide all the eggs then start with the youngest and move up to the oldest.  We go one at a time with each child getting to find the same amount of eggs.  This keeps the tears at bay.  It also makes it a lot tougher on the older kids...the easy eggs have already been found.  Here was the hunt...

 Kyle was up first.  Don't you just love how in all his pictures he's losing his shorts - guess they were a little big?
 Aunt Kacie and Morgan were there to lend a hand when one egg was a little too high for Kyle...but he spotted it!

 Grandpa lent a hand with this one...
Aunt Heidi was enjoying the suspense!
 Colton's turn...

 And now Morgan...

 Bryan's turn always takes two to three times longer than the other kids because he has to find the eggs that were hidden the best...sometimes even we have forgotten where they were hidden and we have to find them again and then give a few hints narrowing down the area to search in.

 The egg ninja strikes again!  Hi YAH!!

 Nobody was allowed to open any eggs until everyone was done searching, then we went around the room taking turns watching each child open all their eggs.  Here are Kyle's...
 ...and true to Jen's experience the youngest gets the most cash!

 Colton found all three of the eggs with the $1 bills.

 Do you like Morgan's fake "Oh gee, thanks for the nickels!" face?
 Bryan was a good sport about his nickels.  Candy isn't a bad substitute for cash!
 My mom, Morgan, and my sister Kacie.
 Me, my dad, and Kyle.

Happy Easter!!!