Monday, September 24, 2007


I ventured out of "Swanky-ville" today and headed downtown to see the ruins of a Roman amphitheater. It was quite spectacular. After wandering around a bit, I walked halfway back to the hotel before getting lost in a maze of shops and street vendors. I wish there was a device to record smells. Coffee, spices, leather, pollution _ quite an orchestra or sights and sounds, too. Pictures didn't capture it.

All is well. I've spent the day trying to get my mouth around key Arabic words and phrases: hello, goodbye, please, thank you, etc.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Rest

While I'm excited to be in a new place, I'm taking the advice of others and plan to spend today resting and reading a book for fun!

The view from the spa.

The whirlpool at the women's spa.

I spent most of the afternoon in this spot reading my book. It's only in the mid-70s outside and a bit blustery, but the heated pool was bathtub warm.

My late-night cold Mezzah dinner _ hummus, baba ghanuj, labaneh, moutabel, tabouleh, fattoush and stuffed grape leaves. I also ordered a bottle of Jordanian white wine. If I'm doing the conversion right, the whole thing cost about $28.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saying good-bye to the English countryside ...

I bid a fond farewell to my Centurion buddies yesterday. Rather abruptly, we all left the training bubble and returned to the real worlds with our brains chock full of great information.

(Daniel-Madrid, Connor-Moscow and Ingrid-Brussels ... please get in touch as Connor's email to me never arrived.)

... and tonight I said hello to Amman. This photo was taken from my hotel room on the 16th floor just a short time ago.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Too Much Information

Day Four of Training - I can't believe how tired I STILL am. It's absolutely incredible the amount of information they've attempted to cram into our heads here. The days are long, we have few breaks and we spend alot of our time outside putting into practice what we've learned in the classroom _ everything from first aid and land mines to CPR and hotel security. It's really fantastic. I feel much more confident in my ability to deal with life in a hostile environment. I also would be pretty darn handy to have around for a car crash or bombing.

Daniel "treats" an arterial bleed.

Matt gets hassled at a "checkpoint."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Heckfield Place

Day Two of Training - I can't believe how tired I am. We're outside much of the day and the weather is beautiful. Crisp, clear and cold - much like you'd imagine an autumn day in England.

Heckfield Place, while grand on the outside, is less than spectacular on the inside. It was originally built in 1790 for some rich guy's daughter. Lucky her. Thankfully, my bed is extremely comfortable and covered with a luxuriously warm duvet, which is good because the English don't seem to believe in heat.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Almost Human

I spent a lovely day wandering around London. I slept about 12 hours and awoke feeling almost human. Jet lag, thankfully, has never been a huge problem for me. At Jean's advice, I had breakfast at Carluccio's, which was fine. Then I headed out for a walk to the Columbia flower market.

From there, I headed south along Brick Lane (Jean left me a great map!) which was packed with vendors hawking everything from seafood to CDs, then on to Old Spitalfield's Market. Anyone who knows me would recognize that, by then, I'd had enough crowds and "shopping," so I hopped on bus #11, again at Jean's advice, which hit several London tourist spots _ St. Paul's Cathedral, 11 Downing Street, Big Ben, among others. Unfortunately, my camera battery died at the flower market, so you won't see any photos. Sorry.

I ended up in Chelsea and with my feet tired and sore, I hopped on the Tube and managed to find Jean's flat without any difficulty. Amazing. For anyone keeping track, the underground ride (about 30 minutes) cost me about $8.

Topping the day off, I had an absolutely incredible dinner at The Barnsbury, a few doors down from Jean's place on Liverpool Road. It's a gastropub _ a bar with really good food. Clever, huh? I enjoyed the most breathtaking risotto with truffle oil and artichokes and a glass of white wine for about $42. Gulp.

A few observations:

_ It must be Indian Summer here because people are dressed as if it's much warmer than it is, which is high 60s, very low 70s.
_ People are polite and helpful, but not particularly friendly. For example, asking directions is great because people are really helpful, but my efforts to strike up full conversations have been largely unsuccessful.
_ Any city that paints its curbs with which direction one should look before crossing (Look Left, Look Right) is poorly laid out.
_ Lilly Allen rocks.
_ I desperately wish my Midwestern American accent was half as sexy as English ones.
_ London is bloody expensive.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Business-class. Ahh! Unfortunately, I was too amped up to enjoy the fully reclining, extra-wide seats despite the free champagne.

I arrived in London about 7 a.m. and made it to Jean's place in Islington (NOT pronounced like 'island' I found out) about 9 a.m. We immediately headed out to the S&M Cafe for a traditional English breakfast. Surprisingly good, by the way. We then explored Jean's fabulously quintessential English neighborhood before meeting some friends of hers at a very hip hotel bar.

Jean left for Seoul about an hour ago for a family reunion and I'm relaxing in her flat.

Only a few minor difficulties today:

a) getting money. Apparently, my brand spanking new company credit card doesn't work here. Thankfully, Jean lent me some cash, which I will sorely need as I just paid about $18 for a light dinner of take-out Vietnamese food and $6 to rent a DVD. Whew.

b) letting people pass on the right while walking down the sidewalk. Strange the things you never think about.

c) looking the correct way when crossing the street. I MUST be careful.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bon Voyage!

A wonderful group of friends gathered last night to wish me well during my upcoming Middle East adventure. Thanks to everyone for your support!

"Holding court" at the Park Chalet.


Mati, Monica and Tom

Beth, me and Matt

Georgia, Cathy, Lisa, Matt and me

Saturday, September 8, 2007


I said good-bye to Olga yesterday. After seeing her twice a week nearly every week since mid-May, I've "graduated" from physical therapy. While my thumb still lacks full mobility, Olga believes it's now because of the swelling, not the scar tissue. And she's pretty confident I won't need a second surgery.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Dahlia Garden

I think the Dahlia Garden is my very favorite spot in Golden Gate Park. It's in full bloom right now and the fog has finally lifted. Summer's gone! Yippee!