New Year’s in Tbilisi

Hello Dear Readers!

Did you know that Israel doesn’t celebrate New Year’s like we do? Such was the impetus for our trip to Georgia, as I literally cannot go a single holiday without a celebration.

So it was that we spent New Year’s Ever in Tbislisi, with no plans and only a mild hangover we were trying to overcome.

Let me start by saying that Georgians love their holidays.

img_20190103_040736
On a casual jaunt through town

This is evidenced by their decorations, the massive amounts of people out on the town, and the sheer multitude of fireworks we witnessed as the clock struck midnight.

Let me lay the scene for you here:

Harrison and I, tired but excited after a long day of touring, ready to celebrate the New Year with a bang. We’ve settled ourselves at a strangely abandoned bar and begun to enjoy some final 2018 libations in preparation for our New Year’s resolutions (drink more?).

img_20181231_205920
I don’t know who this woman is but I aspire to be her

We’ve smoked a hookah, eaten about a dozen cheeseburgers (God Bless the foreign exchange rate), and have had more to drink than is entirely sensible.

mvimg_20190101_000711
I’m so sober

ffbcd690-99c5-435c-83f6-fea5725b93c0

Shortly before midnight, we wander outside, as we’ve heard there might be something big to see.

And there is!

The bell tolls, a thunderous, booming sound, as all around us fireworks begin to shoot in the air. The sounds of people cheering fills us, and we look at each other, smiling shyly, each waiting for the other to make the first move.

And thus we shared our first kiss of 2019. It was romantic, perfect, and sentimental, us cuddling against one another, the lights bright above us and the frigid air forcing us close together.

Until someone shot a firecracker at us.

BAC5CE1A-464E-4636-A997-817FE831A052.jpeg
Pictured: Me snuggling with a bar cat

-Carissa “My Eye Is Still Kinda Burned” and Harrison “My Eardrums Have Burst”

Dinner With Strangers, On Purpose

Hello Dear Readers!

Harrison and I travel differently. Oftentimes I enjoy the pure luxury of travel, sunbathing, swimming, free food, excellent drinks, etc. Harrison, on the other hand, judges the value of a trip by the level of discomfort he experiences while on it. And that’s a pretty cool measurement, I’ll agree. But it also leads to me doing things with which I am vastly uncomfortable.

Like going to a random stranger’s house and eating a dinner that they’ve prepared. Both in theory and in actuality it was really cool. But would I have ever done it on my own?

Not a chance.

He and I are good for each other, in that way. He drags me out of my comfort zone, and I make sure that we can afford to be there. It’s a win-win for both of us.

img-20190119-wa0057
Our digs for the night.

So it was that on our first day in Georgia, jet-lagged and miserable (me), we found ourselves the only two dinner guests of some Georgian folks out in the suburbs of Tbilisi.

I’ve got a ton of social anxiety, so I spent the entire first half of dinner trying awkwardly to keep conversation flowing. Things I learned? Russia sucks, nearly everyone in Georgia makes their own wine, and it’s customary at a party for (male) guests to drink out of horns.

Sorry, male guests.

I’m not even sorry!

-Carissa “That Was An Entire Horn of Wine” Rawson

A Very Georgian (2nd) Christmas

Hello Dear Readers!

Today I am writing to you from my economy(+!) seat, heading to Madrid for my very first international trip with Brit, my service dog. She’s currently laying on the floor, exhausted from the sprint to meet our connection in Houston. Kidding, that’s me. She’s exhausted from all the floor licking she’s done.

So, last I left off, we were talking about Harrison’s visit to California to meet my family, which went about as well as possible. He returned home just before Christmas, which was good, because for Christmas my family and I crammed four (and a dog) to a room in the Disneyland hotel.

Future family Christmas photo

Somehow ending up riding alone

It was actually super cool going to Disneyland for Christmas, and Brit did an amazing job as my service dog, diligently cleaning up any and all crumbs that I spilled.

“Diligent”

A mere four days after Harrison returned home I flew out to Israel for a visit. Sadly, Brit wasn’t able to come with me, as Israel requires a rabies titer test (it takes an entire month to process!) and I hadn’t had one done yet.

As an aside here, I know some of you have probably seen my post about PTSD. There’s obviously no miracle cure, but I severely underestimated the effect Brit has/has had on me. So this trip was really difficult, as being separated from her is just…the worst.

Separation aside, this trip was cool for a couple of reasons, the first being that Harrison and I spent New Year’s in Georgia, which is next door to Azerbaijan and equally as weird.

What’s going on?

We spent a total of five nights in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, and all of it was wonderful.

Most wonderful?

Georgians celebrate Christmas on January 7th and we arrived December 30th, which meant I got to celebrate Christmas all over again. Mostly it meant that the Christmas markets were alive and well, and the whole city was dressed up for the holidays.

Ooooh

As you all well know, Christmas is my most favorite thing in the whole world, so it was awesome to rewind myself five days and have more Christmas!

-Carissa, Brit “Floor-Snack”, and Harrison “Please Is Christmas Over Yet?”

Ballin Budapest: Exploring the Ruins (Bars)

Hello Dear Readers!

You know, we didn’t do all that many tours while we were in Budapest, in stark contrast to our previous vacations. I think it’s because as time has gone on we’ve become more desensitized to the common kind of tours. I mean, I think art is pretty and all, but I can only look at so many different paintings in so many different museums before I run out of energy.

That being said, we spent most of our trip in Budapest relying on rave reviews from others and my old favorite app, “Spotted By Locals,” to get around. Which is how we ended up at Szimpla Kert, one of the immensely popular ruins bars hanging around the Ruins District of Budapest (which, by the way, we were staying in. Yes, I’m great at locations).

770EF034-EEF8-4BC9-A3B8-7D5DD259CBA6.jpeg
Look! It’s a bar! In a ruin!

Since Harrison and I are ninety year olds in young people bodies we showed up to this bar at 7pm, to grab some drinks and sit around judging people all night long.

9A619879-588C-45E2-BC22-1DC1F27562BF.jpeg
Wow this is almost the exact same photo. Such skill.

No seriously, I basically spent the whole time making up stories about all the people sitting around us. Does that make us boring?

758BAF40-44F1-4F3A-9E25-44387339594D.jpeg
Seriously, what was I doing with my camera?

For those of you who don’t know, the ruins bars are immensely popular old buildings in the Jewish District of Budapest, formerly abandoned and now taken over by various hipsters who sell overpriced beer and host local concerts. In short, they’re super cool.

ffb69979-00ef-4ad4-8b4f-d15c895e7825
Like me!

We spent all night at Szimpla Kert, chilling and hanging out, realizing only when we left how lucky we had been. You see, as old farts, we had showed up long before the crowds. But by the time we left, the line to get in was roughly 50 people long, wrapping around the block and back.

I guess sometimes it’s cool to be old (at heart)

-Carissa, “Ancient” Rawson

Ballin Budapest

Hello Dear Readers!

Now it’s been a month or two since I went to Budapest, seeing as how I totally failed to post for the last couple of months. However, I am pleased to tell you all that Hungary was my 40th country visited, 30th for Harrison, my male traveling companion, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time in this Eastern European country.

a96afdce-5587-481f-892e-aa1c0567b38fHungary was actually my very first visit to Eastern Europe  and I had high expectations. I’ve been all over the west, from Spain to Belgium, and have seen the hordes of tourists battling it out over mediocre museums. From what I’d heard, though, Budapest was positively bustling, a very beautiful city, and dirt cheap.

All these things were true. We spent only four nights, as Harrison and I both have limited time (for some reason he keeps running out of vacation time at work), but we Lived. It. Up.

f3e5b9e2-8737-4c53-8a30-5ba1f7a99901
Obviously.
cd4e3f51-bf43-4a5d-8311-9f495e666bb1
Budapest has one of the best Christmas markets in the world!
9f37d1d8-dd30-42eb-8863-a314d85bc12b
You don’t even want to know how many of these we ate.
426a5dc1-f1d9-4099-a517-f2c600cfa4ae
Wow he’s being a total goober in a photo. How unusual.

Actually, we did probably one of my most favorite tours ever here, where a local guide took us around with vintage Polaroid cameras to all the best places in the city and let us take some awesome photos.

E273BAA7-CA6B-4A3A-A4FA-C49C2380BC55.jpeg
Pictured: Zero digital photos

This served three purposes: one: it gave us the lay of the land, two: it gave us some amazing souvenirs to take home, and three: I mean how cool are vintage Polaroid cameras?!

34e7a072-ee0d-4d3f-84d3-80841e1d6534
Very cool.

-Carissa, Harrison “The Diamond,” and Brit

Beautiful Bali

Hello Dear Readers!

So I finally finished out my Europe/Middle East trip, and just yesterday made it home back to the United States. My flight took off from Madrid at 10am and I landed safely in Sacramento at midnight. It was a horribly long amount of time to travel, but Nala was very well behaved and I even made a few new friends who were stuck sitting next to me (for like…8 hours).

I managed to stay a full 30 hours in California, during which time I did a load of laundry (that’s all my clothes, really) ate real Mexican food, went to a concert (my kid brother’s band concert) and bought some new things from Target. I love America!

Alas, I am now back aboard a plane, currently headed to Houston. There, I’ll be meeting David, Steve (David’s older brother), and Deja (sister-in-law). We’re heading from Houston to Bali, with a day-long layover in Singapore. It should be fun. (This is all past tense. The flight was super long and we crashed out in the lounge in Singapore for the entire day).

Did I show you guys pictures of the Villa we got in Bali? AirBnB also does luxury rentals, and we’ll be staying there for about $150/night. I’ll be sure to take some good photos while we’re out there.

We’re doing all kinds of amazing stuff: an ATV ride on the beach, a nighttime hike past a blue fire volcano, snorkeling, aaaaand getting Scuba certified! I felt like it was really time, since I’ve got so many upcoming trips where the diving is supposed to be amazing. (Great Barrier Reef, anyone?)

Tales of our adventures to follow!

-Carissa “Scuba Steve” Ragland

Phenomenal Flamenco

Hello!

I realize my last post was pretty serious. I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback, and I think you guys will be glad to know that I’ve decided to report the man to AirBnB. Cultural differences aside, if you’re going to be inviting people into your home, you should never force yourself on them or act so inappropriately.

So! That being said, I want to talk today about my most recent shenanigans with Sarah. She keeps cropping up, doesn’t she? That’s because we’re both so much fun!

You guys know all those really heartwarming videos of soldiers coming home and being reunited with their dogs? Well, Nala and I had a similar moment, which I will illustrate in the photo below:

IMG_0529

Isn’t she adorable? I got a full face tongue bath, which is really gross but also I love her so it’s ok. Since Sarah and I didn’t have much time together, we decided to go full out. We checked into our hotel, dropped off Nala and headed out to make the most of our time in Madrid.

Now, you guys know the last time I was in Spain I subsided almost solely on churros with dipping chocolate and champagne. I’m here to tell you that nothing has changed. I swiftly introduced Sarah to these vices, and within the space of twenty minutes we had consumed chocolate, churros, a pile of Iberian ham, and were each clutching a glass of Cava. We’re efficient, you know.

I had made reservations as a surprise to dinner and a Flamenco show, so we headed over there to have an awesome three course meal, which we complemented with a bottle of more champagne. I mean, why not?

Have you guys ever been to a Flamenco show? I know I’ve heard so much about the passion of the dancers (and Spanish people as a whole), but it all seemed a little blown out of proportion. Well, let me tell you…it’s not.

We had front row seats to the show, and at first, the place seemed kind of small and crowded. However, when the music started…just wow.

There were two singers, a violinist, and two guitarists. They began playing, slowly at first, to warm up the crowd, before breaking into amazing, fast-paced music. These people have got some serious skills. Shortly thereafter, the two dancers, a man and a woman, came out.

Words fail me here, but I’m going to try to describe it.

The music pulsed through the room as the crowd murmured, some leaning back in their seats, others sipping glasses of wine as everyone sat, waiting. A low tension hummed in the air, and slowly, subtly, the beat of the music sped up.

IMG_0525

Abruptly, the curtain at the back of the stage was turned aside, and a woman strode out. She was passion, personified. Her long dress trailed behind her as she took center stage, her face regal, her back straight.

IMG_0527

One breath, two, and she began to stomp, her shoes tapping a staccato on the wooden floor as she moved with the music.

The floor, scarred with the marks of a thousand dances, echoed with every step, and she twirled, her dress fanning out, her arms weaving, framing her face, her neck, her hips, as she poured her soul into the movement.

Suddenly, the curtain twitched again, and her partner came out, his clothes tailored tightly to his body, his eyes dark, and he, too, began to dance.

Together, they stepped across the stage, first moving together, then apart, each one competing to outdo the other. Faster, faster, they moved, the strain of the violin drifting past their frantic feet, until the room was full with the sound of their song.

IMG_0524

Sweat beaded on his brow as he spun, whirling around her, his feet a blur as he tapped, tapped, tapped, to the beat of the music. Together, they told a story- of love, of heat, of flame and fury and passion, until the music built to a crescendo and came, crashing, to a halt.

As one, they turned to us, arms outflung, chests heaving, and bowed.

The room exploded with applause.

To say it was phenomenal would be an understatement. If there’s one thing you do in Spain, go see a Flamenco show.

After the show we headed out to a rooftop bar, where we enjoyed a “few” drinks before heading back to the hotel at around 2am. Overall the night was a great success, and definitely a foreshadowing for the excellent day to come.
-Carissa “I wanna dance like that” Rawson

Helpless and Afraid

Hello Dear Readers!

Today I want to talk about a bit of a conflict I had while in Jordan. You all know I like to keep the blog pretty upbeat, and I think I do a decent job of that. However, sometimes bad things happen and we don’t know how to address them.

And I’d like some help on that. Are you ready?

You all know that I frequently extoll the virtues of Airbnb. It’s been my go-to for a long time, and has saved me tons of money. I booked an Airbnb for the first two weeks of my stay in Jordan, at a place that was pet-friendly (since Nala was originally supposed to be with me), and was relatively new. It had just a couple reviews, but they were all very positive.

The apartment itself wasn’t bad. It was a basement, and cold, but the location was good and it had all the necessities. As you know, David was there for the first few weeks, but he ended up leaving and I was staying alone in the Airbnb. Now, obviously the owners were living above us, a pharmacist and a doctor, and they seemed pretty nice. The husband (the pharmacist) even invited us in for lemonade and dropped us off for the minibus ride to the Dead Sea, which was generous of him.

I had two days alone in the Airbnb in Jordan. Now, I enjoy traveling alone, and I’m generally pretty brave, but I’m not stupid. I’m not about to venture around alone in Amman by myself. So I decided to just stay in the apartment until it was time to head to the Dead Sea. I had already arranged for Alaa to come pick me up and drop me off, so I had no worries there.

However, on the day I was due to leave, Alaa was running an hour late. I had already told the owner that I was leaving at 2pm, but then needed to ask for an additional hour to stay. So, I headed upstairs, knocked on the door, and asked him if it was ok. He agreed, then offered me some lemonade.

I hesitated, since I was by myself, but didn’t want to be rude. So I said ok. Keep in mind here that I hadn’t planned on staying upstairs at all, so I was mid-conversation with David and had even left my internet hotspot downstairs. I sat down on his couch, just like David and I had a few days before, before he casually asked if I was alone.

Yes, I was, I said, but only for a few days before I went home to the States. He then informed me that his wife was out of town too. I knew this already, since I had talked to her a few days before. However, he told me with such purpose that I immediately began to feel uncomfortable.

It then dawned on me that I was in a house, alone, in a strange country, with a man I hardly knew. A man who had just informed me that we were quite isolated together. And I had an entire hour before Alaa was going to be there to pick me up.

But I kept casually chatting, bringing up his wife and kids and work- anything- to keep the conversation going. He made some lemonade, then asked me if I was hungry. Obviously, I told him no.

“Ok, I’ll make you some food,” he said. (This is a cultural thing).

So I stood, awkwardly, in his kitchen, while he heated up some Arab food.

Then, he said, “I’ll bring you arroz, ok?”

And, I mean, I like rice. Doesn’t everyone?

He then left the kitchen, and I started reading some Arabic text on the wall, waiting for him to get back and trying to figure out how to politely leave.

He returned a minute later, with a freshly cut red rose in his hand, which he handed to me while swiftly wrapping his arm around me.

A rose. Not arroz.

I moved away from him and put the table between us, laughing nervously and setting the rose down.

Then, he asked, “so why did your partner leave? Did you guys fight?”

“No,” I said, “he had a family emergency.”

He smiled knowingly at this, and shrugged, obviously not believing me. “Don’t worry, I’ll fight with you,” he told me, while I glanced at the world’s slowest toaster oven, which was still heating up the Arab food.

I figured I could make my exit immediately after eating.

What does ‘fighting’ with someone even mean?

I was trying desperately to give him the benefit of the doubt here, you guys. I really was.

Then, since the conversation died again, he offered to show me around his house. I figured that was a pretty safe topic, so I agreed, and he began walking me through.

“This,” he said, opening a door with a flourish, “is a guest room. We can fight in here.” He gestured at the bed.

Then he led me upstairs, showing me two more bedrooms where we could fight together, before finally getting to the master bedroom and bathroom.

“The bathroom has a jacuzzi tub, it’s really nice.” He pointed to the tub. “You can take a bath in here after we fight.”

Is this making you guys uncomfortable? I feel uncomfortable just writing this. Walking back through it, I see a thousand ways I could have run out, but in the moment I was too afraid to do anything. I mean, all my stuff was downstairs, still in his house, and Alaa wasn’t due to arrive for another 30 minutes.

Then he turned on the tv upstairs, sitting down and gesturing for me to sit with him. I told him I’d rather be downstairs, so down we went, to the sitting room.

I perched on the edge of the couch, ready to run at any second. He noticed, as he sank down beside me, and said, “don’t worry, this is nothing to be ashamed of. You can sit back and relax.”

How do you respond to that?

I should also mention that he tried to get me to cancel my hotel at the Dead Sea, insisting that I should stay with him for the rest of my time in the country. When I continued to decline, he then tried to get me to cancel my ride, offering his car instead. He even offered me money for my time in Jordan, telling me that he could take care of me. Again, I declined, several times. Finally, he shrugged, giving up, and said, smiling, “See? We’re already fighting.”

Then he told me he liked that I had spirit, because his own wife was too quiet and passive.

In desperation, I asked him about his work. He told me that he imported different creams and such, and stood up, returning with a small tub of cream in his hand. He then took the liberty of opening it, putting a dollop on my hand, and rubbing it in.

Can you feel the panic yet?

I stood up quickly, saying that I thought the food was probably ready. It was lukewarm at best, but I let him pile my plate and vacuumed it down, making sure my chair was nowhere near his.

He smiled indulgently at my appetite, then asked me if I wanted dessert. I declined, to which he replied:

“Ok, I’ll make you some.” (Seriously cultural)

He then rummaged around in his fridge while I went to go wash my hands, checking the clock as I went. Forty minutes had passed, and I only had twenty left before my ride was due to arrive. I ran into him as he came out of the kitchen with a box of sweets, which I hurriedly shoved in my mouth before leaving to wash my hands again.

I then very obviously and very pointedly looked at the clock, before telling him I had to go finish packing.

He was clearly extremely disappointed, and asked me again if I would stay. I told him no, but then, cheering up, he remembered that I was due to return to Amman in a few days.

“You’ll stay with me, won’t you?” He asked hopefully, handing me the rose as I strode quickly to the front door.

“Yeah, sure, of course. I’ll message you.” I told him, literally closing the door in his face as I rushed to get out.

I made it back downstairs, locked the doors, drew the curtains, and video called David, so there would be a witness in case anything happened.

He could tell I was upset, and was obviously very angry. But what do you do? I couldn’t just leave the apartment, and I absolutely wasn’t going to walk outside without Alaa already there waiting in case the guy tried anything.

In the end, Alaa showed up, and the guy hung outside his door, calling to me as I went, “I’ll be here waiting for you!”

I threw my stuff into Alaa’s car, climbed into his front seat, and let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.

So.

I don’t know what to do about this. I haven’t reported it yet, because some part of me thinks he wasn’t trying to be the world’s most sleazy and awful person, and instead was simply trying to find himself another wife.

Which is very likely.

On the other hand, his actions were completely inappropriate and I wouldn’t want him to pull this shit on anyone else. I made it out ok, but if I hadn’t already had a ride scheduled and an obstinate desire to stick to my plans, I think he would have tried a lot harder to fight with me, right then and there.

I’m conflicted on this. What would you guys do?

-Carissa

Weekly Inspiration: Paris on Points and Miles

Hello All!

It’s time for another installment of weekly inspiration! Now, I know my travel style is probably a little bit different than a lot of you- that is, I have apparently unlimited free time and go wherever whenever (not totally true, to be fair). However, I realize most of you have productive, working, lives, and some fairly limited time off. Thus, I’m working on making real, sensible, recommendations for you all.

How thoughtful of me! (Sorry, I’ll try to be less sarcastic.) Anyway, this week’s focus is Paris, the city of love. Voted the most romantic city in Europe, Paris is jam-packed with famous landmarks and tons of things to do. I know Paris tops the list for many of us, so let’s figure out how to get there for free- or at least really cheap, eh?

B3233E14-C194-4C3E-9C15-F616D0524079

Flights

Now, there are tons of ways to get to Europe. In case you guys haven’t been keeping up this last year, airlines are going full-warfare on flight prices, which means we’re seeing some incredibly low prices:

IMG_0439

A quick look at November shows us that several different carriers are willing to sell us tickets from New York-Paris for a total of $511 per person. That’s ridiculously cheap all by itself, but we want it free.

So! The American Express Business Platinum is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 75,000 points. One of its perks is a 50% refund on points you spend for airfare on an airline of your choosing. That means, looking above, that you can choose Delta, Air France, Iberia, Finnair, or British Airways, and pay a total of 25,600 points per ticket. That means you’ll be able to enjoy three roundtrip tickets to Paris with just one sign-up bonus!

Now, the American Express Business Platinum spend threshold is pretty high (10k for 50,000 points, and 10k for and additional 25k), so if you’re not looking for a heavy investment, that could be problematic.

In that case, I would recommend the British Airways Visa Signature from Chase, which will give you 50,000 points after spending just 3k in the first three months. (Or even up to 100,000 points if you put enough spend on it).

IMG_0437

Using British Airways Avios, you can then fly New York-Dublin for a mere 26,000 points + fuel surcharges roundtrip. (After meeting your spend goal, you’ll have 53k points).

IMG_0441
Flying on BA’s partner, Aer Lingus

From Dublin, flights to Paris are cheap. Airlines such as Ryanair can get you there for around $20 bucks, or, flying a nicer carrier will cost you around $100 roundtrip. Not bad, not bad at all.

Hotels

So you’ve managed to make your way all the way to Paris, now what?

You could spend two nights at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme, which is one of the best hotels in Paris, using the two reward nights earned with your Chase Hyatt Visa:

IMG_0444

Or, you can transfer points from one of your Chase Ultimate Rewards cards (such as the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve, which each have a 50,000 point sign up bonus after 4k spend in 3 months), and snag 3 nights at the Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile, which costs a mere 15,000 points a night, or over 1,000 Euros for your three night stint.

IMG_0442

If you get both cards, you’ll have enough points for a full week at the Hyatt Regency, saving yourself 2,200 Euros.

IMG_0443

But Carissa, you say, this all seems like a lot of work. And you’re right, Paris is a notoriously expensive city, and hotels there cost more than almost any else in the world. So what if you don’t want to sign up for a couple different cards just for your hotels?

Well, my friends, I give you Airbnb. No, Airbnb is not free. And you won’t even use points for it. (Or at least not most traditional points). But it is dirt cheap, and cards that give you bonuses based on travel purchases (Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Citi Prestige, and a whole host of others) will give you the reward bonus for booking with Airbnb. Check out some of these rates for a stay in November:

IMG_0445
These are all full apartments

So if you ever wanted to stay in a chic Parisian apartment for really cheap, Airbnb is going to be your best friend. In fact, it’s what I used during my trip to Paris last year, and I find that it really has outsized value in such an outrageously expensive city.

IMG_0448
Now, if you really don’t want to pay for the Airbnb, you can get yourself the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, which gives you a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points (after 3k spend in 3 months). These points can be used to erase charges off your card, so your stay above there would cost 39,200 points, and you’d still have some left over for other fun stuff. (Souvenirs!)

Ok! I know this has been a lot of information in a short post, but I’m hoping I got it all out there pretty clearly. Paris doesn’t have to be unaffordable if you know how to play your cards right, and saving money on airfare and hotels leaves room in the budget for other fun stuff, like shows and ridiculously fancy dinners.

0B7D4A80-AC64-4522-9A6F-A6F02757C033
Like the Moulin Rouge!

I hope you liked this post! Let me know if there’s somewhere you guys would like me to write about!

-Carissa “Fancy Pants” Ragland

When Things (Don’t) Go Right: Minibussing Through Jordan

Hey All!

I’ve been frolicking away the last few days here in Amman, Jordan. (Ok, and the Dead Sea) and I have so much to tell you!

So, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this to you guys, but the place we’re staying in is a little…cold. It’s in the nicest part of town (which I did for safety reasons, obviously), but is…a basement. Yes, it’s a very nice basement, and has lots of hot water and also a gas stove, but it’s a little like putting lipstick on a pig.

Thus it was that yesterday, David and I (ok, I) decided to make a spontaneous trip to the Dead Sea. The Hilton Dead Sea just opened there a few weeks ago, and I was pretty anxious to get my grubby hands all over the awesome new stuff there.

We were one second away from ordering an Uber out front of our apartment, when our overly zealous host offered us tea and lemon juice. Thus, we found ourselves engaging in awkward small talk in his really rich, really nice, house.

Pause here for a moment, because I feel like you guys need to know something. Half the reason I came out here was for the opportunity to practice my Arabic skills. And you know what? Almost no one can understand me. This isn’t just because of the crap way they taught me Arabic. (Modern Standard) This is full on proper speech and everything and still, everyone looks at me like I’ve grown three heads. I’m going to go out on a limb and say it has something to do with my particular skin color and gender. Very frustrating. Such was the nature of this conversation.

Anyway, since we didn’t want to be rude, we spent a half hour drinking lemon juice, at which point our host told us not to bother with a taxi, because the minibuses were so much cheaper and more effective. Do you see where this is going?

He drove us clear across town, and insisted on speaking with the bus driver himself in order to ensure that we were taking the correct bus. (We were planning on just waving goodbye and taking an Uber anyway). Thus, we found ourselves crammed in the back of a minibus, where I self-consciously held my shirt closed and still 10 Arab men stared lustily at me.

F29E6552-29BC-4CD6-9899-A66EF760E744
After the bus emptied out

After two more hours, we finally found our resort, and things smoothed out from there, which I will illustrate to you in a series of photos, because let’s be honest, I’m lazy:

3A53EC3B-2375-4A0B-9E5A-6C7C2CF5D959
Breakfast with a view
02E21BD8-D086-4DE1-9455-EC46DC7CCEE7
Because dignity is overrated

Now we’re back in Amman! And looking forward to more fun times ahead.

-Carissa “Black Beauty” Rawson