Friday, January 8, 2016


So, here's something you don't normally find us doing in the middle of January

It was such a gorgeous day yesterday, up around 70F, that Hubby and I decided we should crank up the grill for dinner. And, since he doesn't believe it's worth doing just for the one measly steak that we usually share, he bought enough meat to last us a week. Or two. Or three. Dontcha just love it when all you have to do is toss a salad or roast a pan of veggies, and Voila!, dinner is ready?

In other news, guess what we found out while we were in Barcelona? It's a BOY! Daughter Alexis is now about 21 weeks pregnant, and when we left on our trip we still didn't know the sex, and she hadn't felt any movement, so it didn't seem very real to us yet. There was a darling shop near our hotel with a window full of the most precious all natural, hand-made baby clothes, but I wasn't really tempted to buy anything. But then we got the call. Not only did they know the sex, she had felt him move. And just like that, I'm seeing things I need to buy for him everywhere I go! Lex says we won't believe how big her tummy has grown since we saw her last. In fact, her whole center of gravity has changed. She said she squatted down in Target the other day, to reach for a package of thank you notes that were on the bottom shelf, and next thing she knew she was flat on her back with her legs in the air! Hubby and I are both really, really sorry that we missed seeing that!

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Once we'd rested, unpacked, and cleaned up, we headed downstairs to check out the ginormous international buffet that our hotel set out each morning. I was surprised that it was still open, but it seems Sudan operates on a very different schedule than we are accustomed to. Everything is much slower-paced, with frequent tea and coffee breaks. Areej said most people just have a hot beverage when they first wake up, perhaps a bite of leftover bread or something sweet, and don't really eat breakfast as we know it. Lunch is the first meal of the day, then there's supper around 4:00PM, and possibly a late dinner after that. Anyhoo, we went to town on that buffet, which had Sudanese dishes, Indian dishes, British favorites, and even a table full of French pastries! My favorite was a made-to-order omelet that was layered over a big flat piece of the spongy Sudanese bread, then rolled up and eaten like a burrito, which I followed with a most excellent chocolate croissant!

Between missing both his Sweetheart and his puppydog, poor Austin was feeling kinda of blue by that time. Luckily, Areej's father Hamid (who actually lives in Bedford, TX, along with her youngest brother Amjad and many of their relatives) showed up right about then, and offered to take us exploring!

Touring the National Museum, and having a bit of trouble figuring out how to keep my head scarf in loose folds, instead of choking me to death! (could be that beaded fringe weighing it down)

Khartoum is located at the confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile, where they come together to form the Great Nile River.

Many of the river banks are being farmed, and what we first thought were weeds turned out to be okra plants! (my Cajun relatives can thank Africa for much of their cuisine)

Other sections are lined with park-like areas and floating cafes.

We enjoyed afternoon tea on top of this one, where I broke my own rule about "when in Rome" and had my tea without sugar, instead of doing as the Sudanese do, and adding three or four spoonfuls! We even tried a bit of Sudanese coffee. Surprisingly (since we are not, and have never been, coffee drinkers) it wasn't half bad! One of Areej's relatives in Bedford made it for Austin once -- roasting her own coffee beans and aromatic spices then grinding them herself to make the coffee -- and he has been raving about it ever since! I found a great link here, that talks about how the coffee is made, and explains a bit about how they entertain.

Areej's Daddy (Baba), Hamid

Then we went back to the hotel and crashed again!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Despite my "epic" case of pre-travel jitters, the trip to Sudan and Spain truly was the adventure of a lifetime, with nary a mishap, and nothing but goodness to report. The only negative I can think of was that everyone got bad colds and sore throats, which is pretty hard to avoid when you spend two days each, coming and going, crammed like sardines into a plane full of people who are all hacking and snorting! On the plus side, Hubby and I didn't get sick until the very end of the trip. Sadly,  Areej's brothers, father, and groom were suffering throughout the wedding festivities!

I left Austin with my two boys on Monday afternoon and flew to Chicago. We left Chicago that same evening, spent only about ten hours in the air, but somehow it was late Tuesday afternoon when we arrived in Amman, Jordan. The Sudanese tradition is that a bride-to-be stays sequestered at home for the entire month leading up to her wedding, and gets pampered and beautified by all the women in her family. However, Areej was still in school, so they had to settle for a mere two weeks. She left a week before us, which worked out great since she had lots of useful travel tips to share with us. Had it not been for her, we would have spent our eight-hour layover in Jordan sitting in the airport. Instead, we knew to approach the Royal Jordanian Airlines desk and request a day room at the airport hotel. They bused a group of us over there, gave us two rooms in which to rest and freshen up, then fed us a lovely buffet in the hotel restaurant, all at no extra charge! Boy, were we ever surprised when we arrived to find this guy in the lobby, complete with piped in Christmas carols.

I began the trip in jeans, but in Amman I switched to a skirt and pulled out a scarf with which to cover my hair. When in Rome, do as the Romans do! 

At 10:30 PM a shuttle came to take us back to the airport for the last leg of our journey -- the five hour flight to Khartoum, Sudan (pronounced more like HAR-tume, with a very throaty-breathy H). It was 5:00 AM Wednesday when we arrived, the sun not even up. When we came down the steps onto the tarmac, Areej's oldest brother (Amin - the doctor brother in the UK) was there waiting with another gentleman. Instead of heading into customs with our fellow passengers, we were whisked through a quick carry-on scan and led into the VIP lounge, where Areej was waiting to greet us. I'm sure she broke protocol just being out of the house, so she was very cautious and greeted Austin and John with a brief handshake. (No PDA between the sexes in most of the Middle East - not even between married people.) I got a nice hug, however. They brought us beverages, assisted us with our paperwork, went to collect our luggage and cleared it through customs for us, and promised to deliver it to our hotel. Wow. A girl could get used to this kind of service! 

Once that was taken care of, we went out to the parking lot where Amal (Areej's mom) was waiting to greet us, then she and Areej went off in one car, while Amin drove us to the 5-star hotel that Areej's uncle had arranged for us. It was a doozie, I must say! 

John thought he was getting away from the incessant Christmas carols back home by leaving the country, but I was tickled pink to discover that he was wrong, wrong, wrong!

A Genuine Gingerbread House in our Hotel Lobby

Then Amin left us there for a bit of a rest, which we desperately needed by that point!

(to be continued...)