Tuesday, September 4, 2012

We're back!

Hi y'all,

We've returned from Sharm el-Sheikh!  We went for the long weekend on an organized tour with fellow embassy flunkies to the southern Sinai peninsula.  Sharm is a funny place, sort of the Myrtle Beach of the Middle East, or at least of the Red Sea.  The Red Sea is beautiful, with coral reefs and lots of fish and undersea things to explore by diving or snorkeling. 

View from our balcony on the first evening.
Benjamin managed to eat almost all of these Cheerios during the course of the weekend.

We left Friday morning and took a quick 50 minute flight to Sharm.  We needed special visas to get into Egypt and the CLO office, which organized the trip, did those as well.  The tour company met us with a big bus at the modern airport.  We drove about 20 minutes to our hotel.  We stayed at the Marriott Renaissance, which was decent.  It was an all-inclusive deal, with meals and drinks included.  The food was marginally passable, and the service left much to be desired.  But I think that's just to be expected with buffet offerings, and the Middle East attitude toward customer service is incredibly different from the U.S. 

Saturday we went down to the Red Sea.  There wasn't really a beach, one little shoreline had signs warning about not walking on the coral, so we stuck our feet in and took pictures.  The rest of the day we just lounged and played in the pool.  Outside of our room there were two pools and a little pool cafe/bar thing.  The adult pool had a swim-up bar, and the kid pool was very shallow, maybe a foot or 18 inches deep.  It was perfect for Benjamin, he could hold on to the side and walk around.  We hung out with Kristin and her family a lot, it was so fun to know someone else on the trip.  And we met some other families with young kids, so it was a great experience. 

Benjamin stands in the Red Sea!

In order to actually swim, you have to walk across the coral on this jetty.

Playing in the kiddie pool.

Sunday we went on a "submarine" ride around the coral reef.  It's a boat with an open, shaded deck and a viewing room below the water.  It was the only way we would get to see the fish and coral, since neither of us wanted to take turns snorkeling.  The downstairs was really neat, there were stools to sit on either side to see the reef and fish.  We saw a parrot fish, some angelfish, one puffer fish, and lots of different little fish. 

The ride was about an hour and a half, and we went with two families from the embassy.  It was fun, but a little pricey.  But it was a nice excursion, and we drove through a little of Sharm on the way to the dock.  It's pretty depressing, everything is very touristy and fake.  There's a crocodile show, and a go-kart track.  For people without small children, there were some other fun things to do.  One couple went to Cairo for the day, a quick flight, and saw the pyramids and Sphinx.  That sounds nice, but wouldn't have been possible for us.  And there was also a Mount Sinai tour, but again, not great with the baby since we didn't have the backpack carrier and we weren't too psyched to get into serious hiking.  Hopefully another time!

Monday we flew back about 2 hours after the plane was supposed to leave, there was an issue with the airport in Amman.  But we sat with our new friends in the airport and the kids played, so it wasn't too frustrating.  Benjamin was so tired, he hadn't yet taken his nap, and he was asleep during the whole flight.  It's so good to be home and have all the toys and books Ben is used to, and to have him sleep in his normal bed.  (Just a pack-n-play, but still.)  It was nice to get out of our ordinary routine and have a little vacation.  There were some negatives, we had ants in our room and I got bitten all over the first night.  I'm still pretty itchy.  And the food, again, wasn't awesome.  But all in all, we had a good time and it was nice to be near the water.  At night it was gorgeous.  The moon rose over the water, and would start out red, then shade to orange, then white with a beautiful glow on the sea.  Just lovely. 

Night view from the balcony of our room.

The view from our balcony Monday morning.  The pool in the foreground is the kiddie pool.

Tuesday was just a normal day, Emy came in the morning and I had lunch with Thomas at the embassy.  We got a couple boxes in the mail, one was an eBay purchase of foam blocks and the other an Amazon delivery of Ziploc containers that I'll use to keep play dough in, when I get around to making it.  Benjamin's been standing on his own and walking a little bit, but he still likes to crawl around after his toys.  Ben and I went to the grocery store this afternoon to get bread and bananas, and some fun nail polish for me.  We had spaghetti for dinner and will be chillin' at home the rest of the night.

Hope y'all had a great Labor Day and enjoyed the long weekend.  Hopefully this next week we'll get our HHE shipment, with everything!!!  And my car will be here soon, fingers crossed, so I can pass off the van to Thomas.  Evil laugh.


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