Thursday, January 31, 2013

Birthday Dreams

"But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells... of silence" - Simon & Garfunkel

- Imagine a dream where you walk outside and realize that you are the only one left... no people anywhere.
- Think of a horror movie that takes place in an old amusement park or a crazy carnival.
- Picture a post-apocalyptic world with all the evidence of a once bustling civilization slowly being overcome by rust and decay.

That is what we experienced when we took the kids to "Wonderland" for the girls 5th birthday.

First of all, there isn't much that could possibly more exciting to two 5 year old girls than their birthday. They have been counting down the days since Christmas. There has been lots of planning, excited discussions, dreaming, and smiles during January related to their birthday. It is fun to watch. We decided that instead of just toys, we would take the kids somewhere for their birthday to create some fun memories. "Wonderland" seemed like a perfect place. It has amusement park rides for adults and children, plus it also has a decent sized water park with lots of slides. Double the fun.

We arrived at the park when it opened at around 10AM. We got the first indication that this would be a different experience when we realized that out of a huge parking lot, we were the only car. We then walked up to a large row of ticket counters to find that only one ticket window was open. We purchased our tickets and entered.

We stayed for most of the day and.... we were the only visitors there! To be honest, in the afternoon at the water-park we did see one couple sitting near a pool on the other side, but that was it! It was surreal.  I mean a huge park with dozens of rides, shops, games, buildings, eateries... and we had it all to ourselves.  It was cool, but also kind of creepy. The ride operator(s) would just kind of wait around to see where we walked to next and then walk over and fire that ride up just for us. What made it even more eerie was that none of the rides had any music or sounds!  I mean can you even imagine a carnival, fair, or amusement park without the blaring music and sound effects?  ...Nothing.  Just the whirring sounds of machinery and hydraulics. There was booth after booth of carnival games all set up and ready to play, with no lights and no one there convincing you to 'win it big' or test your skill. No people. No sounds. Yeah, eerie.

The kids loved it. They got to go on any ride or slide they wanted with no lines. Want to ride again? just let the zombie-like Bangladeshi workers know and they push the button for another round. Did I mention NO LINES? Yvonne and I also enjoyed the grown-up rides we went on. Have you ever ridden a roller coaster where you were the only rider? Some of the rides were a great thrill... but often it was more the scare that the ride might break down rather than the thrill of the ride itself. Without music, you notice a lot more of the bangs and clanking noises... not to mention, these rides were just plain old.

In the end, the outing was success. The kids had fun. The parents had fun. We all made some great (although slightly creepy) memories. Plus, the kids got to ride a real camel.

What the Heck?

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Long December...

"It's been a long December and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass" - Counting Crows

In reality, it seems like every month is short nowadays. If you blink, you might miss 'em. Where did December even go? It flew by... but we did manage to squeeze in a bunch of fun. Hopefully we can hold on to the memories of all the fun moments.

Here are a few highlights: (December may not have been long, but this blog post sure is)

UAE National Day - The month started with several celebrations of UAE National Day. Basically it is the Emirati version of the 4th of July. It's extra fun because even though they don't really celebrate Christmas here, two colors of their flag are red and green. So, everything gets decorated in red and green ... what better way to get in the Christmas spirit? Plus, we got to dress up like the locals.


Camping and Snorkeling - We had a long weekend for the National Day celebrations, so we decided to head to the East Coast with some friends for some camping and snorkeling. It was a crazy, noisy, crowded weekend, but we still had fun. We also saw a LOT of baby jellyfish.

These are all baby jellyfish washed up on the shore

Holiday Excitement - The kids get so excited for the holidays they can barely contain it. They loved decorating the tree and counting down the days until Christmas. It sure is fun to see the magic of the holidays from their perspective.

Performance! - The girls put on a winter performance with songs and dance at their school. They are so shy it was an achievement just to have them stand and mouth some of the words. It was cute to watch... and almost as much fun to watch all the parents in the crowd. Can you say photo/video overload?



Nativity - On Christmas Eve we had some friends over for a yummy Christmas dinner and a re-creation of the Christmas Story. We had a Mary (Saylor) and Joseph, a donkey, sheep, some shepherds and 3 wise-women (Abigail). It was a fun time with good friends.

Ho Ho Ho - Even in a Muslim country in a house without a chimney, Santa found us.

White Christmas? - The day after Christmas (otherwise known as my birthday), we took the kids for their first real experience with snow. I may have turned the big FOUR-ZERO, but I felt young as ever sledding and having snowball fights with the kids.

AND MORE... - We also went bowling, jumped in a huge wind tunnel to do some simulated skydiving, enjoyed a picnic and water fight at Safa Park, ate WAY TOO MUCH candy, and rung in the New Year with a visit from Karen and Brad.  It was a great month!