Tag Archives: friends

you say dubai, and i say hello

i thought i would try to play catch up with 2013 on this blog. not only because, well, it’s a travel blog and i haven’t been doing a good job updating my travels, but because i want to look back and remember things- the places i go, the people i meet, and the adventures i had. it’s fun to look at the photos, but there’s something cathartic about writing it all down.

so first up in 2013 was going to dubai. i went to dubai for work, for a sales and marketing meeting dubbed “Journey to the Vision.” my company’s vision is “to touch half of the people of the world every day with our products and services.” we are about half way to our goal, and we fully expect to get to the goal by 2017. so every four years from 2009 on we have had this meeting to build morale, to be encouraging… to get to go to cool places like paris and dubai.

and really, the place was super cool. we stayed at the world’s tallest hotel only hotel in the world. it’s called the jw marriott marquis, if anyone wants to check it out. it had tons of different restaurants and entertainment. oh, AND it had a bar called “the vault” on the top floor, which had bank vault type doors as the entrance. there was also a cigar lounge, so you could also smoke up there. not that i did or anything. šŸ˜‰

smoking

i had to travel to dubai early to help set up for this 3 day meeting. normally i would have loved this opportunity, but for some terrible reason i was sick beyond belief at this point in the year. that, piled on top of a 14 hour plane ride, made for a pretty grouchy amanda. but i got there, we hammered out some last minute details, worked with the musical (yeah… we brought actors out to put on a musical), did run-through’s for lighting and sound, and i loaded up on cold medication. basically anything that would help me swallow, breathe, or sleep.

after a few days, other people started arriving to dubai and heading to registration. despite feeling so miserable, i was pretty excited to see people. besides the presidents of the different business units and the few of us on the plenary teams, we really hadn’t had much time to converse or even leave the hotel. so when the taxis started to pull up and a few of my favorite co-workers were spotted, my mood was lifted dramatically. it lifted even more so when most of the the corporate marketing group (aka: my team) went up for a drink in the vault. i got a grapefruit infused vodka for 40 dirham, which is a little under $11 US dollar. alcohol = expensive in dubai.

vault

vodka

marketing in the vault

the next few days were honestly a bit of a whirlwind. i had been in charge of producing the opening “skit” (it was a WWF parody), which went off smoothly. the opening reception was in full swing. when the reception was done, everyone meandered up to our private (poolside) bar and continued what we do best. drinking. networking. (ha, see what i did there? see?)

i won’t bore you with the details of the whole meeting, but i will say that the last night was something extremely special to experience. our closing ceremony was in the middle of the desert in a man-made stadium area. there were different stations for food, drinks, and there were people there to make it a more “authentic” dubai experience. i was able to hold a falcon, ride a camel, and get a henna tattoo. there were also arabic hand writing stations, palm readers, and a nice showing of fireworks. i thought six hours in the desert was going to be a ridiculously long time (again, had to go early to help set up). but the time flew by and i still hadn’t gotten to all the stations by the time the night was over.

camel

falcon

fireworks

unfortunately, all the energy put into the meeting made me feel even worse once it was all over. after the meeting, there was a tour for the people who had helped and didn’t get to go do any activities. it was fun, don’t get me wrong. we got to go shopping in the spices and textile souks, do a bit of sight seeing, a little bargaining… but by the end of the day i was napping in the van while the rest of the group was continuing. the souks were beautiful, though. so many rich textures and colors and even smells. i walked away with four different pashmina scarves and a few other knick knacks.

spice souks

the next day a smaller group of us went sandboarding and dune-bashing– the dune-bashing was enough to test even the strongest of heads and stomachs– and went inside the Burj Kahlifa, the tallest building in the world. i also got to see my friend tim kucera who is spending the year in afghanistan. he just happened to be in dubai at the same time getting his visa renewed, which was a great twist of fate as he got to join us for a few activities.

boarding

goofy feet

burj

the worst part of the trip, however, was that i had even scheduled to stay a few extra days with my friend rohit, who lives in dubai. i obviously stayed, but i was so sick at this point that i was unable to attend a VIP party at atlantis (underwater club in a fancy hotel) with a group of his friends and instead went to bed about 9pm and woke up at around noon the next day. but rohit really saved the day by getting me some more medicine (mine had ran out), and my co-worker brad and i still got to see some cool additional sights. i bought a really unique soapstone chess set in “Africa” in Dubailand, a theme-park looking area that has markets with food and merchandise from all different areas of the world. it was like a magnified and less cheesy version of disney world’s “it’s a small world” ride.

rohit and friends

dubailand

all in all, it was a great time and adventure, though! i don’t know if i will ever make my way back to dubai, so i can honestly say it was a once in a lifetime experience.

here are some odds and ends or highlights of dubai or my time there:

  • because it is a muslim country, alcohol is super expensive. it is so expensive, in fact, that we had to have drink tickets at this event to prevent people from going over our allotted budget.
  • if you want to get any of this said alcohol, you must be in a hotel or a restaurant located inside a hotel. brad and i ate at applebees *cough shut up don’t judge us we were in a bad mood cough* and almost ordered some tasty adult beverages before we realized they weren’t very adult at all.
  • tina is an awards master. we had an award’s ceremony on monday night of the meeting, and she won first place for every entry she submitted. as i do most of her graphics work, i felt a nice sense of pride for my teammate. T&A (Tina and Amanda, you perverts) Harmonious Way.
    TA
  • dubai is a strange culture of the very rich and the poor. when the recession hit, it hit dubai hard. rich business men dropped their cars off at the airport and just left, never to return because they knew they had gone broke. you will see extravagant and beautiful buildings next to worn down, half-built structures with construction tape wrapped around it.
  • bring sunglasses. there are dust storms.
  • be conscious of the culture- in muslim countries it isn’t appropriate for women to be scantily clad. they aren’t making you wear a burka- but they don’t want you wearing short skirts and strapless tops either (although we did see our fair share of those).
  • 14-15 hour plane rides suck. i did a non-stop in order to get there faster, but maybe would suggest taking flights in segments if you get the chance. your body might thank you.
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tattoos are for sailors

when i was a junior or senior in college i decided i wanted to get a tattoo on my side. after a bit of disagreement (with my then-fiancee) on size and placement, i finally agreed that a 3 inch or so tree on my right hand side was reasonable. i made an appointment, explained to the tattoo artist what i wanted, went in for my tattoo…

…and i walked out $100 down and disappointed. the tattoo was nothing like i had imagined or anticipated. but it was painful, it was costly, and i’d just stick with it because, hey, i was a broke college kid who hated confrontation and had nothing but time on her hands.

fast forward five or six years. some more money, a bit more ambition, and an extreme desire to make the tattoo on the side a bit more pleasing to the eye.

yes, it was going to cost a nice chunk of change. a quoted $150, to be exact.

yes, it was going to be painful. but it was going to be much better than what was already there.

yes, let’s rock.

i got my tattoo at river city tattoo in mason city, iowa. i highly recommend them, though i would suggest if you go there you go to brad, because he’s the owner and he’s fantastic.

my appointment was at six thirty, but i got a call around 5:45 asking me if i could come in early. i had nothing going on, krista had just arrived to my place and we were chit-chatting, so we made our way over to the tattoo parlour. i had krista drive because i didn’t know how much pain i’d be in on the way back. about two blocks out i started getting nervous and a bit more quiet. krista reassured me it was going to be awesome, then kicked my ass out the door and inside the building.

i filled out paperwork, played the waiting game, and a bit before 6:30 i got to go back to brad’s office for my session.

the guys in the shop were pretty cool. brad was a good time- kept me laughing (when i wasn’t in my stoic state and a needle wasn’t in my skin) and josh seemed like a cool enough guy that i would hang out with him in real life. i had the guys there walk me through their tattoos to help me keep my mind off the pain, and having krista there also helped because she kept conversation rolling and documented the whole thing for me.

i walked out of river city tattoo at around 8:30, head reeling, side aching, but extremely happy. i got home, took some ibuprofen and kicked back with ev for the rest of the night.

the pain? yeah, it was kind of intense. but i’d do it again in a heartbeat, it was totally worth it.


about 30% done… this is after he put on the numbing cream, which made my experience at least 1.432x easier.Ā 


most of the old tree gone, starting on the new canvas area


…is that blood or blossoms?Ā 


the final-final. the four heart shaped petals below represent my mom, dad, brother and me. a bit of a family tree, one would say. šŸ™‚

tanzania

the year after my england trip i had my next overseas adventure. in the summer of 2007, jamie (of marriage in ireland fame) and i packed up our gear to travel to tanzania and do a documentary.

the whole set up took a bit of planning. in my junior year of college i had decided that i wanted to do something with my “skills” to give back or do something that was bigger than myself. i researched many non-profit organizations and talked with a few to decide what it was i fully wanted to try and do. after finalizing my thoughts with a group based out of california called global partners for development, the opportunity to travel to tanzania with them came up.

global partners focuses on a few areas of development-Ā  water projects (water sanitation and even being able to have a water resource near a village is a huge problem in tanzania), primary school funding (attracting good teachers, making sure there is funding for the school itself, along with supplies), scholarships forĀ secondary schooling for girls (a lot of times a family will only have enough money to have one child continue their education and the male child will get chosen every time), animal projects (teaching a village how to raise an animalĀ andĀ have them procreate/used in the villageĀ instead of killing it right away for food), and women’s social/ecomical business (giving small start up loans to women [usually whose husbands have died of HIV or AIDS] andĀ teaching them business skills, a trade, etc.)

i thought these projects were fantastic.Ā global partnersĀ didn’t have a christian or religious focus (not that having one is a bad thing, but i wanted a place whose focus wasĀ the people), but they were doing so many things that spoke to the heart of what i believe. the major set back was they, being a non-profit who gave away a good amount of their earnings, did not have camera equipment nor the funding to send me with them for this trip.

i started talking with my college to see if there was any type of funding for this type of project. fortunately,Ā there was a grant that i qualified for which gave me a bit of money. my hometown church gave me some more. and from that point, people came from out of the wood work to donate money to help me get to tanzania. i was overwhelmed with the positive response i was given and determined to make the best documentary in my capabilities (which, given that it was my first and only documentary to this day, was a feat in itself).

now where does jamie fit into all of this? jamie, who went to school for broadcast journalism in nebraska, was visiting me at college when i casually mentioned my plan that was in the works. her passion and response was immediate: i am coming with you. i told her about the money, the equipment, and the time/dedication needed. she did her part (and then some) and we were well on our way.

there was a larger group also heading to tanzania with us (we received biographies and information about everyone/the places we were going beforehand), but jamie and i were flying out of des moines and not california (like the rest of the group), so for a majority of the trip out there we were on our own. we finally met up with our group in tanzania, after our 20 hour plane ride.

tanzania is amazing. it’s beautiful. it’s rustic. it’s peaceful, it’s life-affirming, and a part of my heart has been left there. the children that we met at the schools were wonderful. they were playful; we gave them coloring books and stickers. most people spoke english rather well and were so appreciative of the work we were doing and for the money that the donators had brought. we were able to sit in at an actual tribe’s meeting (all in swahili so we were filled in later about what it was about) where the masaii chief leader was scolding the group for not caring about women’s education. (in most tribes girls will be married off at 12 or 13 and they will not continue schooling but rather be at the home).

a lot of what we saw in tanzania was heart breaking as well. not because of the poverty so much, but because they were so thankful for what they had. for opportunities to speak with us. we were sang to many times, presented with gifts, and many hugs and handshakes were given. jamie and i tried our hardest to document everything, take copious amounts of notes, and gather information, but it was so hard to not just get swept up in the culture instead. we stayed in beautiful areas, ate delicious food, and bonded with our group of people. it was an experience i will never forget, for multiple reasons.

the last few days we were there our bus drivers (pascal and rama) took us out to a few safari places. pascal really took a liking to jamie and me, he always made sure we rode in his vehicle with him and called us simba 1 and simbaĀ 2 (lions).

the animals of tanzania are wild- and i mean that in the double sense. wild as in… radical,Ā amazing, and unbelieveable and also wild in the- oh, what the hell, there is an elephant about 10 feet away from me! sort of sense. we saw four of the big five while were there. a couple of lions, some cape buffalo, plenty of elephants, and one lone rhino we almost missed because he was so far away. also, poachers like to kill rhinos because their horns are worth a lot of money, so they are becoming scarce. the only ones we did not see were leopards because they had migrated away from the area during the time were there.

i could literally go on and on about tanzania, but i will wrap up with some final thoughts below. my hope is to return to that area some day and see the progress and difference the projects have made to the culture and economy of the country itself.

things i remember about tanzania:

  • a baboon stole my lunch. no, literally. he (she?) lunged across the picnic table towards me and i instinctively grabbed my camera rather than the edible box of goodies in front of me. it looked at me, stuck my bread roll in its mouth, picked up the box and bounded away. rama, our bus driver, threw rocks at it, but it was too late. and there were no more extra lunch boxes so i did not eat much that day.
  • this crazy lady we went with told me if i stick a penny in my belly button i wouldn’t get my motion sickness. i didn’t try it– because it sounded crazy. and that was one of the more sane things that she said.
  • we had goat on a stake a couple of times in the same day while we were out there. they cook it, over a fire, stake it to the ground, and then cut off pieces with a giant knife. wild dog will hover around you in hopes of getting some scraps.
  • “asanti sana, squash banana” (like rafiki says in The Lion King) does not mean “you’re a monkey’s uncle… and i am not.” it means “thank you very much… squash banana” (no direct translation on the last part)
  • giraffes are the most hilarious animals in the world to watch fight. they kick at each other and swing their necks, but they are so awkward and strangely built that it looks like they are fighting in slow-motion.
  • if you are sitting behind a leaking bathroom that smells like piss on a planeĀ (and i pray this never happens to you), ask the flight attendent to sprinkle coffee grinds around the area. some guy on the flight next to me asked her to do this on our trip (he had already been through this sort of experience) and the smell cleared right up.
  • hyenas are awesome. i don’t care what anyone says about them being unlikeable animals. they (at least the type we saw) look nothing like they do in The Lion King; hyenas look super majestic, powerful, and… damn,Ā are cool. theyĀ are fearless.
  • it’s embarrassing to try out your swahili on a tribe that doesn’t even speak the language. i thought the children were giggling at my pronunciation. no. they just had no idea what i was saying, in english or otherwise.
  • do not take glass coke bottles out of tanzania. they look awesome because they are so retro- but once the pop is gone they are returned to a recycle center, sanitized, and new pop is put in them and returned. if you take a pop bottle you are basically stealing a life-time of pop from the country.
  • you can get gifts and such for ridiculously cheap because of the poverty level. if you are going to a more populated town they are used to tourists and know a bit more about haggling and prices that we are used to. the more rural parts are anxious to sell you anything for any price you want. i tried not to take advantage of that too much because i really wanted to help the people.
  • ^ speaking of gifts, they really make some AMAZING things. beaded jewelry, carved wooden sculptures, hand painted canvases. the gifts i remember buying were many small beaded necklaces from a woman’s economic group we were helping, 3 hand carved masaii men (for my parents, my brother’s family, and me), hand carved wooden animals (that i gave away as gifts), some delicious coffee grown at a resort we stayed at, and two canvases that i had stretched and mounted immediately when i got home.
  • hippos kill more people every year than alligators and crocodiles combined. they can run at speeds up to 40 mph. they sneak up underneath boats, open their jaws, and can snap the thing in two. the game hungry, hungry hippos took on a whole new meaning after finding this out.
  • jamie really is a swell gal. i’m lucky to know her and to be in her life.

  • mazunga means “white person.” though i am not, i got called it many times while village children chased after our vehicles and pointed.
  • there are tiny antelopes called dik -diks and they are the cutest things in the world. there are large antelopes with impressive horns as well, and impalas, but the dik-diks take the cake for african animal you want to take home.
  • global partners for development is an amazing non-profit organization filled with people who are desperately trying to make a positive impact on the world. donate if you can, but justĀ check them out for sure.

no need to russian-to-it.

i think i may have mentioned it a time or two (or eight or ten if you are around me often), but i am going to russia in february for work. this “will she, won’t she” game has finally come to an end, and i will be traveling out the last week of february/first week of march.

at first i asked my boss if she was punishing me (because i imagine winters in russia are even worse than winters in iowa), but the more and more i think about it, the more and more excited i become. i will be spending a week in st. petersburg- 4-5 days of video interviews, working on product positioning with product managers and technical service people, etc and then an additional 2 days checking out the city.

plus, it gives me an excuse to wear my awesome hat:

(my mom thinks these hats are super dorky so my sister-in-law and brother got her a similar one for christmas last year. i make her wear it around the house with me sometimes.)


and to make matters even more exciting, an old college friend of mine is thinking about meeting me there for the last portion of the trip. i love seeing people i haven’t seen in a long time, and this man is no exception.

ladies, meet ari. he’s single and ready to mingle: (and finnish. and adorable.)

i met ari my senior year at wartburg college (you-rah-rah-rah!). he was a freshman at the time and under normal circumstances i wouldn’t have even noticed him. for one, he’s blonde (and we all know how i feel about that). and for two, he was a freshman. when would i ever have a class with a freshman?

lucky for both of us, one of my roommates was on orientation staff and she brought him around a time or two. we quickly became friends- i mean, sure, he was blonde and young… but he was FINNISH. He was stylish. He was worldly.

…and his hair was beautiful. šŸ™‚

one of my favorite things about ari is that he always laughs at my last name. my last name is lundberg. it’s swedish (just like me… haha… sort of.)Ā  in most european languages, “berg” means “mountain.” i’m not too upset about that, it’s anĀ easy translation, and i probably could’ve figured it out for myself. another [sad eyed] friend hasĀ told me that “lund” in swedish means “grove,” so apparently my roots trace back to the people living off the land between the grove and the mountain.

but in hindi, “lund” is a slang term for male anatomy– most specifically it translates to “dick.” so ari calls me Dickmountain, or DM for short. …he’s a real classy kind of guy. šŸ™‚

afterĀ i graduated wartburgĀ at semester i ended up seeing ari a few timesĀ [when i visited school for homecoming and also at my fake-prom party], but he soon returned to his homeland and we haven’t really seen each other since. i am STOKED that he is making some time to come and visit- especially in the cold of winter!

neither ari nor myself have every been to russia, however. seeing as i want to soak in as much as possible, i would appreciate any tips or ideas of places to see while i’m in st. petersburg. a small group of work colleagues (the fun ones) are also staying for some extra time, so hopefully someone will have an idea of what to do. don’t get me wrong, i love to travel and explore new things, but one fault of mine is that i’m too laid-back when it comes to itineraries. if i have a rough draft i will follow it, if i don’t, i will play it by ear…

…and my ear usually leads me to a bar. so help a sister out and give me some good ideas! šŸ™‚

how tacky

as much as i hate the cold and snow (and i do, trust me), there is one relatedĀ thing that gets me in the mood for the christmas holiday season.

tacky christmas sweaters.

i don’t know how this phenomenon came up. i’d like to know if itĀ is popular in other countries? is it popular over the whole united states or just in certain regions? regardless of spread or origin– tacky sweaters have become a staple of my christmas celebrations.

and it’s not just me looking for christmas sweaters. thrift stores can’t keep them in stock. even shopping malls will stock up on them during the winter months hoping someone will pay full price for a sweater with a reindeer sewn across the front. sorry, younkers, but $50 is a bit ridiculous. even if it is the most hideous sweater i’ve ever seen with light up christmas wreaths.

snowmen, santa claus, little elves… i can’t get enough.

lucky for me, my mom has kept one little number throughout the years. it’s a vest. a christmas vest… and it’s uber-petite, it’s short on me and i’m 5’3″. it’s a blue color, similar to regular jeans, and onĀ each side it’s oh-so-tactfully decorated with santa and snowmen and other holiday cheer. my mom won’t admit she still likes it, she claims to have just saved it for me for all of my parties… but i found it in her closet the first time i wore it and would like to think she was just waiting for cold enough weather so she could wear it herself.

sure, there are other things that get me in the christmas spirit. as much as i do hate (piles and piles of) snow, the first snowfall of the year is breathtakingly beautiful. i’m still very much like a child in the sense that i try to catch snowflakes on my tongue and pretend to smoke when it’s really cold, making my breath look likeĀ the smoke. i will occassionally make a snow angel. i will drink hot chocolate and some milk nog (egg nog is too rich, how can people do that?). i will wrap christmas presents, admire people’s holiday decorations, and hang out and appreciate my family and friends.

and, if i’m lucky, i’ll be doing all of that in my tacky christmas sweater(vest).

reminiscing on england

the first time i ever traveled abroad was in 2006. and the feeling, the excitement was so contagious that i think i came down with a bad case of ‘travelitis.’ for those of you have never heard of travelitis or the perils that it entails, it’s a very serious (but not very rare) condition. and i have not wanted to sit still ever since.

when i was in high school i had a “pen pal” from england named chloe. we would pretty much email every day and shoot the shit; we’d talk about celebrities, schooling, and the differences between england and the united states. i told her that if she ever wanted to visit the good ol’ u. s. of a. she would have a roof over her head if she came to iowa.

my senior year of high school she took me up on the offer. my parents and i went to go pick her up at the des moines international airport (…funny title in itself, considering we don’t do international flights, but thank you fedex) and we took her out to see the exciting things in iowa. you know. the exciting things.

anyway, in 2006 my best friend mallory (who had also gotten to know chloe well over the years) and i decided that we would like to visit her in england. she was living in whitstable (kent) at the time and her parents graciously said they would host two twenty year old girls during our two weeks of vacation. haha, suckas.

i don’t think i slept on the plane ride i was so excited. [mallory has corrected me and said i did sleep, it was her that did not, haha] when we finally arrived in england both mallory and i were extremely jet lagged (or maybe just tired from not having slept) so we took naps. i woke up a bit earlier than her and decided to go downstairs and make conversation. mallory woke up in a pitch black room to find me gone. gave her a bit of a scare, hehe. but that was the most lethargic we were all week.

we argued about who had the room with the big bed.

we checked out the local scene.

we had our first fish and chips on the beach of whitstable.

overall, the trip was a blast. we got to experience the slower, smaller living of england while staying in whitstable and while visiting canterbury and dover.


(we look so young!)

(dover’s castle didn’t have a gargoyle, but don’t worry… i took care of it)

but we also got swept up in the excitement and sight-seeing adventures in london.

seeing as the trip was over 5 years ago, it’s hard for me to vividly remember everything. even when i was looking through photos i was having trouble figuring out where some of them were taken (because, i’m not going to lie to you- cathedrals, for the most part, all look the same). but there are a few things that i do remember from the trip. and, of course, the most important thing i took away from the trip: i will never be done traveling.

things i remember from my trip to england:

  • i tried curry for the first time. it was spicy as hell. go figure.
  • there was this dog named Jim who liked to look out of the windows. i managed to get a great shot of this cat tormenting him by sitting on a pillar right outside the window.
  • driving in england, though confusing and on the opposite side of the road, is a lot slower than in other countries.
  • this was the first time i went to a country where tips were not the norm and waiters and waitresses didn’t come around very often. i think we sat and chatted in a restaurant for a few hours before the waitress got around to asking us if we wanted anything else or to get the check.
  • ^ oh, also, apparently asking for a box for leftovers is absurd. (don’t look at me like that, i might be hungry later!)
  • they aren’t kidding around- those guards will not talk to you. and they are slightly intimidating. (but some guards do talk, and they even oblige to pose for photos) šŸ™‚
  • i had my first pimms & lemonade while in england. i thought it was delicious. years later i still haven’t had one as good as the first i had in whitstable.
  • because the drinking age was 18 (and we were 20) we got to take advantage of many opportunities. this was also where i had my first strongbow and learned of scrumpy jack. i also remember chloe getting upset because neither mallory nor i got carded for a club and she did.
  • i loved taking photos of touristy places, things, etc. i think mallory took a majority of the candid shots and i focused mostly on the landscape. i regret it a bit, but looking at the photos now i’m glad i got some of the shots i did.

  • there are parades in england and people throw pennies at the floats instead of the people on the floats throwing candy out to the crowd.
  • there was a man at canterbury castle who had the most fantastic mustache i had ever seen. even to this day, none can compare.