Sunday, July 13, 2014

Unicorn's Adventure ~ Flying Solo

Unicorn has spent the past four weeks in Arizona visiting her dad, grandparents, aunt and uncle, and some friends. She had a great time while she was there but getting her there and back was a bit more adventurous than I was planning on.

Background info: Unicorn is just barely 14 and, other than a flight to Hawaii when she was 7 and the trip over here in February, hasn't done any flying. There are no direct flights between Abu Dhabi and Phoenix so Unicorn had to change flights (and airlines) once each direction.

To Phoenix: She traveled on Etihad to JFK and then JetBlue to Phoenix. Etihad was wonderful. I had the unaccompanied minor forms filled out and we got her all checked in. Since Abu Dhabi now has a US Pre-Clearance program for US customs I was not able to stay with her until she boarded the plane. This is relatively new and the Etihad website has not been update to reflect how this change affects unaccompanied minors so I was not expecting to have to say good-bye to her so quickly! JetBlue doesn't do unaccompanied minor for children 14 and over but they do have what they call "Meet and Greet" where they will meet the child at the gate and make sure they board the plane. Luckily Phoenix airport is pretty easy to navigate. So, Etihad walked Unicorn from the international terminal in JFK to her connecting flight. JFK has free wi-fi so Unicorn and I were able to chat via Facebook while she waited for her flight. JetBlue met her and helped her board her flight. In Phoenix, Unicorn walked on her own and was able to meet up with my mother just outside security. All in all this leg of the flight went fairly smoothly.

Her flight home was a completely different story!

To Abu Dhabi: Her father and my mother took her to the Phoenix airport and started the check-in process only to find out that American Airlines wouldn't take Unicorn through the Chicago airport to Etihad in the international terminal. Thankfully, my mom looked around and saw a woman in an abaya who was also going on the same flight. My mom talked to the woman and found out that she is from Saudi Arabia and was going to be on the same flights as Unicorn all the way to Abu Dhabi. The woman was very nice and was willing to walk with Unicorn through the Chicago airport. American Airlines was kind enough to not charge us the $150 unaccompanied minor fee and to allow Unicorn's father to go with her to the gate and stay with her until she took off. Once Unicorn and the Saudi woman arrived in Chicago they made their way to the international terminal. It turned out that Unicorn was actually more help to the Saudi woman as Unicorn knew where to go (we flew through Chicago on our way here in February) and the Saudi woman didn't. They got through security and on their flight without any problems. However, Unicorn forgot to give the Etihad people her unaccompanied minor paperwork and once she landed in Abu Dhabi she didn't have any assistance. She was able to follow the signs and the people to get her luggage but then she didn't know where to go. She asked someone for help but he had trouble understanding her. Then, she noticed some Etihad flight attendants and she asked them for help. One sweet flight attendant then helped Unicorn get through customs and out to where we were waiting for her. Of course, I didn't know about all this as the Chicago airport does NOT have free wi-fi! So while Unicorn was getting through Chicago on her own I was here in Abu Dhabi freaking out as there was no way for me to know if she made her flight! I tried calling the Etihad offices but they were closed. I tried calling the Chicago airport to see if there was a way to find out if she had boarded but the number they gave me for the Etihad desk was the same one I had already tried. Finally, I had an idea to try the Etihad Facebook page. On their timeline I briefly explained the situation and asked if there was any way to find out if a passenger had boarded a flight. They replied quickly and asked me to private message them with Unicorn's ticket information and they would get back to me. I did so and they were able to confirm that she was in fact on the flight!

Final Thoughts: I am so grateful for all the angels that were watching over her on this adventure. First the Saudi woman so she wasn't alone in the Chicago airport, then the Etihad Facebook Page administrator who confirmed for me that she was on the flight, and finally, the Etihad Flight Attendant who went above and beyond and brought Unicorn out to me in Abu Dhabi. I am sure there were many other angels watching over her that I am unaware of but I am so PROUD of Unicorn and how well she handled this whole situation (I think she handled it better than I did)! For the sake of my sanity, she will be flying Etihad unaccompanied minor directly between Abu Dhabi and Los Angeles (Etihad started flying this route in June) and either her father or my mother will be picking her up in Los Angeles!

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Hiding, Vacation, and Man, it's hot here!

It's been a while since I have posted. Mostly because we haven't been up to much as it is TOO HOT here to do anything so we have been hiding out in our apartment.

Next week we are heading to Germany for a couple weeks so I will be back to posting again in August!

In the meantime, please check out my friend's blog. She has a humorous, yet honest way of telling it like it is here in the United Arab Emirates! I am linking to her most recent post on the heat here but I highly recommend you read all her posts!

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Gold Souq, Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, Beach ~ Dubai

We had a long weekend (Sunday was an Islamic Holiday) so week took off for a weekend in Dubai. We left after church on Friday and checked in to this really neat little hotel (Ahmedia Heritage Guest House). It had a lot of character and a wonderful staff. The only problem was parking. The hotel was formally a really large villa that has been converted in to a hotel and it only has ONE parking spot for their 15 rooms. Unfortunately we weren't the only ones there with a car. Luckily since both cars were small we were able to fit them both in and just be able to switch spots with the other guest as needed. We also had an issue with the air conditioning in one of our rooms but the staff moved the girls to another room.
1 room: Hubby, Monkey and I stayed in this room.
The door to one of our rooms.
The lock on the door
Looking down on the lobby
Unicorn and Ladybug's room.
Ladybug and Monkey and a couple of the hotel staff.

Saturday morning we walked over to the Gold Souq. Wow, it was amazing. A lot of the shops don't allow photography so were weren't able to get pictures of some of the really amazing pieces. It was a short walk from the hotel to the souq but since it was very hot (115*F) we only lasted about 1.5 hours.
This is just one of MANY gold shops in the souq!
I love turtles!
My name in Arabic (white gold)
My mom's name in Arabic (gold)
After the Gold Souk we went back to the hotel to cool off and rest for a bit. Then we headed out to the Dubai Mall. We had lunch at IHOP and wandered around a bit. The kids and I went to Build-a-Bear (so I could get my camel).
My camel: Dhabi
Monkey's monkey: Dusty
Ladybug's bunny: Sparkle
Unicorn's bunny: Gabriella
 After Build-a-Bear we wandered around the mall a bit and found the indoor aquarium.

Then it was time to head to the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world (Saudi Arabia is currently building one that is to be taller). You have to get tickets a couple weeks in advance and even 2 weeks in advance we had limited time slots to choose from. We opted for the 8pm time. Sometimes it is really nice to have a couple really cute children with soon as the employees saw Monkey and Ladybug they moved us to the front of the line (the did this at the end of the tour too) and cut an hour off our wait time! There are 160 floors but you can only go up to the 124th floor for the viewing.

Sunday we walked to the Gold Souq real quick to pick up the necklaces. Then we checked out of the hotel and headed to the beach for a bit (it was really too hot for the beach but we had promised the little ones that we would go). We lasted about 30-45 minutes.

A view of the Burj Khalifa from the beach

Checking out a Jellyfish

After the beach we grabbed a bite from a nearby McDonald's and headed home! It was a fun (and exhausting) trip!
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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Al Ain Oasis

Our last adventure with Grandma was to visit the Al Ain Oasis. This oasis is a palm plantation with almost 3,000 acres. There are over 147,000 date palms with 100 different varieties. There are also some mango and lemon trees as well. They use an irrigation system that is over 3,000 years old. Entry is free and they close at 6pm. I don't know what time they open and I am sure they have limited hours on Fridays as well.

So, we headed into the oasis and had NO idea where we were going. After about 5 minutes the security guard came up to us in his golf cart and offered to show us around a bit (not sure why but I would guess it had something to do with Ladybug and Monkey...they have that affect on people here). He took us to an area where the water was flowing in the channels and even let the little ones walk in it. He also made us take his picture with them! Then he drove us around a bit and told us all about the oasis and the different types of trees that are there. He then drove us back to where he found us and told us how to find our way our of the Oasis "maze"!
The entry to the Oasis
Ladybug, Monkey and the security guard
Ladybug and Monkey in the water irrigation channel
Ladybug and Monkey in the water irrigation channel (it was a little harder to walk back against the current)
All packed into the little golf cart
Another view of us in the golf cart
Some date palms
Dates (the will begin harvesting them in July)
The entrance (I think the poor sign needs an update)!

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Al Ain Zoo

Zoo's generally aren't my favorite thing to do when it is HOT out but my mom and the kids really wanted to go to the Al Ain Zoo. It is already so HOT here that the Zoo is only open from 4pm - 10pm daily.  Well, we went anyway and we were pleasantly surprised! It was hot, but they have the option to get a tour guide who drives you around the Zoo in a golf cart. You get to see everything, get a bottle of water and a soda (or juice) for everyone in your party, a giraffe feeding, and a discount if you purchase anything. This VIP treatment cost 500ADE for the 6 of us (4 adults and 2 children). We also got front row seating for the bird show.
Monkey, Ladybug, and Unicorn at the Entrance
Our tour guide and golf cart (yes, she gave us permission to take her photo)
Big Horn Sheep
Wild African Dog
Beautiful White Lioness
Gazelle (she loved getting her picture taken)
Hide and Seek with a Wildebeest
 Giraffes Synchronized eating
I love that the little one has his tongue out and the one in front looks like he is liking the spots off the little one!
Monkey "feeding" the hippo trash can!
Hippos (they tried to hid from the camera but I got them)!
The kids got to feed this giraffe
Ladybug about 110cm
Monkey about 100cm
Unicorn about 140cm
Very cute recycling bins!
Mr. Crocodile
She was so excited to be chosen! (I think he had her picked out from the second he saw her)!
Ladybug waiting for the falcon.
Look at that face!
Another animal that enjoyed getting his picture taken. Cute penguin!
My Monkey!
My Ladybug!
My Unicorn!
A Big Tortoise
This camel had an itch...he used the tree branch to scratch!

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