Dead Sea

Gaaah, what a fun day Kevin and I had!!

We planned to be out the door by 9am, which of course meant around 9:30. Yoni, one of our fabulous babysitters for the weekend, picked us up in his cute little car and road tripped it with us down to the Dead Sea. Two hours and a lot of desert later, we finally arrived at our destination. Needless to say, it was biblical. 😀

Here’s a quick blurb about the Dead Sea from Wikipedia:

The Dead Sea (Arabic: البحر الميت‎ al-Bahr al-Mayyit, Hebrew: יָם הַ‏‏מֶּ‏‏לַ‏ח‎‎, Yām Ha-Melaḥ, “Sea of Salt”), also called the Salt Sea, is a salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. Its surface and shores are 423 metres (1,388 ft) below sea level, the lowest elevation on the Earth’s surface. The Dead Sea is 377 m (1,237 ft) deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. With 33.7% salinity, it is also one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water […] It is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. This salinity makes for a harsh environment in which animals cannot flourish, hence its name. The Dead Sea is 67 kilometres (42 mi) long and 18 kilometres (11 mi) wide at its widest point. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River.

Now that you know some stats, here’s an ever quicker run down of our day. We went to a spa/resort sort of place, covered ourselves in mud, washed off in a sulfur bath followed by a fresh water shower, had a massage (I snagged a facial), and then went down to float in the Dead Sea. Freaking fantastic day!!! I have a bunch of photos from my trip that I need to post, but until then, I’ll leave you with this. Hopefully you recognize this our signature pose.

20111111-011439.jpg

And, as legend has it, you really do “just float”. It was surprising and magical. And bizarre. Hahah, Kevin pretended to be sky diving….wish I had snapped a picture of that.

Until later!!

The Plan – Wedesday

Our plan continues to change, but in general, this is what I think we are going to do:

(This is from an email that Kevin wrote to a buddy of our back in Pittsburgh)

” We are still in Gotenborg, Sweden and our ideas for what to do next change daily, sometimes hourly, but it looks like we will all go to Stockholm this weekend for a big dance show, then take a ferry down to Riga, Latvia where hopefully our Lindy Mafia friends from Vilnus, Lithuania will pick us up and drive us to Vilnius where Juan and Sharon are teaching a workshop. Meanwhile, Jo and I will try to catch a ride from the Rhythm Junkies (Lithuania Jazz Band) who are hired at the same event in Kiev, Ukraine. Of course, we need to try to get transit visas through Belarus first. Juan and Sharon were already going to be in Europe. The volcano is [potentially] making them miss their gig in Slovenia . Jo and I where hoping to be back in the US for 10 days, but it’s smarter for us to stay since we have three big gigs in May that we don’t want to miss. Even if we go to the US, we may not be able to get back for in time. ”

The latest and greatest! More to come!!

Oh yeah, and you can follow me now on Twitter for my latest updates. I am trying to get them to sync with my site, but so far I am having minimal luck. Sigh.

Stuck in Europe

Here is the cloud of smoke I am trying to plan my travel-life around:

Kevin, Juan & Sharon, and I are in Gotenborg, Sweden and our travel plans continue to change. Kevin and I were supposed to go back to the US on Monday, but that flight got pushed back to Wednesday (today). Unfortunately, the Gotenborg airport is still closed, meaning we’ve been rescheduled for April 24. Juan & Sharon were supposed to leave today but have also been rescheduled.

Boo. I was planning on heading to San Francisco for a birthday party this weekend and it’s soooooooo not going to happen. On the other hand, Europe is a pretty awesome place to get stuck. Currently the four of us are still in the B&B we were staying in this past weekend, we have internet access, and a beautiful dance studio to train in. Life is pretty good, all things considered.

Currently Kevin and I are trying to find a way to Kiev, Ukraine so we can make it to Swinglandia next weekend. I think we’ll head down to Stockholm, ferry to somewhere else, have the Lithuanians pick us up, we’ll hang with them for a bit, and then road trip to Kiev. Not sure if that’s all going to happen, but I think that is the (tentative) current plan.

The latest updates in regards to flights information that I’ve seen:

EUROPEAN AIRSPACE
BELGIUM – Airspace open. Limited service
BRITAIN – Airspace open over Scotland and Northern Ireland. Limited airspace over north of England. London airports closed
DENMARK – Airspace above 16,600ft open. No landings
FRANCE – Limited flights from Paris to international destinations. Most airports open
GERMANY – Airspace staying shut to 0001 GMT Wednesday, apart from 800 low-altitude flights
IRELAND – Airspace closed
ITALY – Airspace open. Handful of flights resumed in and out of Milan
NETHERLANDS – Airspace open. Passenger flights arriving and departing in Amsterdam
NORWAY – Airspace reopened
POLAND – Airspace closed
SPAIN – Airspace open; all airports operating
SWEDEN – Airspace open over central-northern Sweden
SWITZERLAND – Airspace reopened

Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull (AYA-feeyapla-yurkul) volcano erupts for the first time in 190 years on 29 March, 2010, opening a 500m (2,000ft) fissure. The eruption produces lava, a volcanic plume, and steam from vaporized snow.

Click here for awesome satellite views of the Iceland volcano.

For more details with what’s happening, you can read this Huffington post and this article about the Eyjafjallajokull glacier.

Preparing for Winter

As some of you know, I grew up in a relatively warm climate. The Bay Area has seasons, but to get winter, and I mean real winter, you have to drive somewhere to find it. Here in Pittsburgh, on the other hand, you just have to look outside.

Yesterday (Friday), my dentist called to see if was going to keep my appointment. I asked why wouldn’t I. She informed me that a storm was coming in and a lot of people were canceling. I didn’t realize that people would cancel appointments because of a storm so I rescheduled mine for earlier. Apparently the weather was going to get exciting around noon, so I agreed to a 2:30pm appointment.

It was 10:30am at the time and figured if I was going to go out, I should probably do that sooner rather than later. I ran to Target to get a laundry bag, kleenex, and some other knick knacks. After the storm hit, I realized I should have picked up bottles of water, canned food, and matches. Oh hindsight bias! Aren’t you wonderful?! *said with a high, cutesy voice.

The “storm” hit around noon, as scheduled. It was lovely. The prettiest storm I had ever seen! Beautiful, little snowflakes fluttered from the sky  in a light dusting. Our neighborhood slowly started to blanket. Around 1:00pm, that’s when the “flutter” became a “fall.” Snow came from the sky much more vigorously, but was still so pretty! “Oh how cute” I thought to myself. “This whole storm this is rather grand! If ‘storms’ mean that Pittsburgh becomes a winter wonderland… than I’m in!”  canceled my appointment 20 minutes later.

It continued to snow all day. Apparently, it wasn’t the “lovely snowflakes” we had to worry about. It was the fact that it was going to warmed up a bit, then the snow would melt,  then the temperature was going to drop (which it did) and everything was going to freeze (which it did) and finally there would be ice. Hmm….this “winter wonderland” didn’t seem nearly as wonderful as I had expected. It’s like the dentist lady knew something I didn’t. It’s like she’s lived in winter before and understood what “storm” really meant. Hmmm…..so what could I do to turn my frown upside down? I asked myself  “What could Sharon and I do to make being trapped in the house better?” There was only one answer: “DELIVERY!!”

Shaz got on the google machine and looked up delivery restaurants. We found this awesome delivery site called Meals Delivered and they have access to 40 different restaurants. We could order almost anything!!! What a great place we live in. We ordered up some Thai food because Kevin wasn’t around and waited for our food to come to us.

Forty minutes passed and we were starving. Garrr….was it the storm? Was is the weather? Or did delivery just take that long? It arrived within the next five minutes and Shaz and I chowed down. Yum yum yum. The food was soooooooooo good. About an hour later I was falling asleep. “Dang it! It’s only 7pm and I am fit for a nap!” That’s how I said it in my head, but as I announced that to Shaz, it sounded more like mumbles. I decided to grab a half hour nap.

Around 8 (yup, my half hour nap took longer than expected) I woke up and Shaz told me she was going to bed. I figured I might as well go back to sleep if my partner in crime was hitting they hay. Snooze time.

~

I hear yelling in the street. “Crap, what time is it?” I look at my phone and it’s 2am. “Great. Now I am going to be awake all night.” Kids were in the street throwing snowballs. Since I had been asleep a foot of snow had dropped. It was gorgeous! Slowly our street started to fad away under all the snow. “Winter is rather lovely” I say to myself while enjoying it from a heated view.

What does a girl do with spare time in the middle of the night? Get on internet!!! I read lots of cool things, wrote some great emails, discovered the meaning of life, posted some blogs, stretched, and so on. Ok, most of those things are true 😀 Anyways, it starts to get light outside and I figure that’s my cue to go back to bed. It was about 8am when I started to wrap things up. At least another foot of snow has dropped and my car has disappeared in the snow. At 8:30, the power went out. Fuck. The internet is down. And seriously, that was my first though. …. I know. I am shaking my head as well. Stop judging! 🙂

I check to see if the stove works. Gas works just fine, fire doesn’t light because it’s electric. Now realizing that we’ll probably run out of heat because the starter on the gas heater is electric. Buggar! Call John (our fix-it man). John says we should be fine, there are guys working hard to get power back to everyone but because there is so much snow the road are blocked. That being said, the house is warm and will stay that way for a while. I feel better.

I watched people try to dig themselves out of their house for a bit before retiring to bed. Ahhhhhhh, sleep. What a wonderful thing. At 9am Shaz woke up and so did I. I gave her the run down of what I knew and she geared up to go outside. I told her if she made it to Giant Eagles, she should grab matches.

Hopefully she’ll post her video, but she has some really great footage of her experience in the snow. The snow was sooooooooo fluffy and so amazing…wow. Perhaps pictures will do it justice. Shaz was knee-deep during a bit of her walk about a mile down the road. How fun! Well, let me be specific. “How fun” when you get to visit a city. I don’t think I’d like that every day.

Fast forward to 2pm. Shaz and I keep thinking about fun things we could do today, oh but wait, they all require power. Merde!

We could watch movies. Nope.
We could make costumes on my new sewing machine. Nope.
We could make popcorn. Nope.
We could make toast! Nope. Unless we wanted to do it over the gas stove.
We could catch up on all the writing we wanted to do. Nope, not if we were planning on doing that on our computer.
I could talk on the phone! Nope. Not unless I was willing to run out of battery and then not have a phone.

Crap. What a fun, possibly-creative day we could have had if we had just had power!

In the end, we were fine. We had endless cups of tea, chatted, I worked out a teeny bit, and then we made pesto pasta and a salad. Around dinner time it was starting to get dark. We lit some candles and prepared the guest room to be an awesome, girly fort! We had magazines, laundry, books, trumpets, canes and top hats to keep us busy. Hehe, well, some of things are harder to use in the dark, but they were there! Then we fell asleep around 8pm, reading by candle light. Lots of people called to make sure we were ok, which woke me up, but the sentiments were really nice.

OK, now onto Quick Life Lesson! What did I learn from this?

  • When a storm is coming, pay attention to what’s going on. And take it seriously.
  • If you have time to get supplies before a storm hits, go do it. Seriously, just go pick stuff up while you can still get out.
  • Keep your electronics charged so you have access to them. This includes spare cell phones. You never know when one cell phone will die and you need to make a call.
  • Have water, canned food, matches, windup flash lights and serious sleeping bags in your house. When the time comes, you’ll be super grateful you have these things.
  • If the power goes out, conserve your batteries so you can use them when you need to.
  • Pick a small room with the least amount of windows to sleep in for the evening. Covered the window with a sleeping bag or something to help create an airlock.
  • Stay warm.

Ok, so some of you East Coast folk probably know all of that already, but I didn’t. I haven’t lost power during the wintertime before, and even though it wasn’t scary, I knew I wasn’t prepared. I will definitely remember that picking up supplies ahead of time is freaking smart. Making sure there is enough food in the house to comfortably eat for 3 days is super, duper smart. Gas stoves rock. Fully charged electronics are awesome!

Ok, so that’s the story and there was the QLL. xoxo

May 5 – Travel Day

Today has been a surprisingly great day.

We found out yesterday that we are flying into the wrong city. Our hosts are in Genoa but we are flying into Bologna. That’s a three hour drive from one city to the other. But no problem, we can catch a train. It will take us four hours and cost us 65 euros, but that is a relatively inexpensive solution to our big problem. So that incident could have dampened our spirits, but it didn’t.

We left for the Kiev airport via taxi and the drive was easy. There were few people at the airport so going through security was a breeze. We were fed sausage, bratwurst, and mashed potatoes on the plane and they were delicious! Then we arrived in Vienna and it was rather grey and cold out, but the airport had some great places we could do some window shopping at. After we got to our gate, Kev went off in search of food and found that there was free wireless. Sweet!!! And then it started to rain.
It didn’t just rain, it poured. They were big fat drops coming down in sheets. It was incredible. I haven’t seen rain like that in years. And then it thundered. And then there was lightning. It was a beautiful display of Mother Nature flexing her powers.
And then our flight was canceled. Apparently there was a malfunction with some of the wiring on the plane, or something of the sort, so we would be re-booked on the next available flight. Many people were not pleased; however, this potentially provided us with a chance to get rerouted to Genoa without an additional cost to us. A stewardess lead the pack of nixed-passengers to the departure which required us to leave the airport and then reenter it.
I somehow managed to stay at the front of the cue of people so Kevo and I were helped out first. And life just got better and better. Not only were we going to be rerouted the following day to Genoa (albeit we’ll now have a transfer in Munich), but they were going to put us in a hotel, get our luggage for it, and give us food vouchers! Yeah!!! Oh yeah, and the hotel was across the street – 50 feet across the street!! And to top it off, it was a very, very lovely hotel. The bathroom is in my Top 10 List of all time great Hotel Bathrooms, ever.

I watched the news and took and nap while Kev indulged himself by taking a bath. After a wee bit, we headed back to the airport to pick up our luggage and to get free wifi. After about 30 minutes, we headed back to the hotel, got our workout gear on, and headed down to the Wellness Center (i.e. that is code for gym). We did some light cardio and some stretching. Life was good.
But then things took a turn for the worse. My luggage was damp. No, not damp, wet. I would say that 90% of my clothes were wet in some way or another. The bottom and the entire left side of my luggage must have been sitting in a puddle. How depressing. Kev and I were cheery customers and were flexible….why was I thanked with wet luggage? Yes, it was raining cats and dogs, but come on. Sigh. I spent the next half hour hanging up my clothes (t-shirts, performance outfits, pants, and all my socks) around the room. Some of them were over lamp shades, near the tub, and on hangers in the closet or the bathroom. The only hope was that everything would be dry by morning.
We had to move on from this unfortunate moment, so we headed downstairs to eat dinner. OMG, it was lovely. There were three platforms of food: salad bar and mini fixings, hot food, and dessert. Kevin made himself a monumental salad and I grabbed bits and pieces here and there. Highlights: lasagna, grilled vegetables, a breaded tomato thing, pesto-crème vegetables, chocolate pudding, and the satisfaction that I was able to order drinks in German with a flawless accent (the downside of that, of course, is then I was presumed to speak German and then when I was further questioned about something or rather, I couldn’t answer). I felt like I was making progress towards my goal of being a secret agent who, naturally, spoke six languages fluently. Note: I don’t speak any languages fluently….English pending. 😀

Then it was off to bed. We’ll be getting up in less than 5 hours. I will need to repack my luggage, eat, and check my luggage in.

Kyiv, Ukraine

That’s where I am at the moment!

After flying in Phillip, the the guy who picked us up last year, came and got us in his old, white Volvo and then dropped us off at Oxana’s house.

We had an appertif and then went for sushi which was um,um good! Since then there has been some internet time and some dance time.

I am getting ready to head to bed. I’ll be away from the internet until Sunday night, possibly Monday, so if anything important happens, I won’t be present for it.

And the adventure begins…..

(oh yea, I don’t have a spell check here so if there are any mispellings, it’s because I can’t spell and the Ukrainian computer isn’t trained in English)

Flight to Sweden

Yesterday (or today really; I haven’t slept yet) Kevin and I left for our trip to Sweden and it was off to a great start, until I realized that I forgot my jacket and gloves! Total amateur hour! How could I, Miss I-am-cold-all-the-time, forget my jacket when I am going to Northern Europe and the Easter Block? Oh yeah, that’s right….because it was hot in Pittsburgh when I left!

Well, there has been lots of flying since that discover and still no new jacket in sight. At PIT I tried to find a jacket and couldn’t; at DTW I tried again and found a sweatshirt (I have one of those already, btw) for $120 which is WAY too pricey; and here at AMS I have found some sweatshirt things, but they are in Euros and I just cringe at the thought at how much it will really cost me.

The flight from DTW to AMS was pretty easy. I watched a movie and then watched some dance clips on my iPod and now I am pumped to dance! And guess what?! I have 4 hours until my next flight, so realistically, I have the time to dance before I take off for Sweden.

I didn’t sleep on that flight. I think it was the fact that I was thinking about dancing, choreography and all the things I want to accomplish, or I could chalk it up to the fact the seats were uncomfortable. Highlight of the flight: Kevo stopped by a Japanese restaurant before we left DTW and bought some sushi (which I got a bite of) and a bean cake for me. Delish!! He’s so thoughtful!!!

Currently, Kev and I are sitting in the internet area typing away at emails. After we write a bunch we are going to hop online, send these guys, upload the new ones, sign off, write some more, sign back on, and do it all again.

Last thing (this is amusing/ironic for me). I don’t like to check luggage because I feel wherever you go (unless you are moving), you shouldn’t have to check luggage. This trip required that Kevin and I check our heavy and over-sized luggage and I was betting that my luggage would be delayed because that would make life even better (forgetting the jacket SUCKS, but having my luggage go missing on top of that would super suck). Yet it isn’t my luggage that will be delayed; it’s Kevin’s! It’s sad to hear, but oh so ironic.

More later. Cheers.

Packing for a Three Week Adventure

What an exciting journey Kevin and I have ahead of ourselves! Tomorrow we leave for Gotenborg, Sweden and we’ll be there for a week. After that, we will head to Kiev, Ukraine and be there for Swinglandia and then we are off to Italy for a week. I can’t wait!!

Earlier today Kev and I tried on a number of outfits so that we could pretend that we were “well-dressed” individuals. I think we found some good stuff, but only time (and pictures) will tell. Oooh, and we recently went shopping at H&M out in Pittsburgh (I didn’t know they had one!!!!!!) and found some amazing stuff!!! I got to play dress up with Kevo and he looks great in his new duds. If I get some pictures of us in the new threads I’ll post them.

Lots of packing to do! There are so many outfits and dance shoes and computer stuff to bring!! And tools! Some of the Swedes asked us to buy some tools they are unable to buy in Sweden and bring them over for them. My luggage is going to way a ton, I am sure of it.

Checklist of things I NEED to remember:

Cell phone + charger        computer + charger
Adapters
Passport + euros
Jeans
iPod + external hard drive
tissue/toilet paper

I think that’s about it. I am sure I’ll forget something.