Saturday, May 31, 2008

Final Day in Dubai

Only a few minutes left on the internet. We had a wonderful last day in Dubai today. We visited the largest mosque in Dubai (check out our pictures), visited a local book store (I picked up three traditional Arabic children's books that are written in English), visited a local mall, and then headed over to the Madinat Jumeriah. The Madinat Jumeriah is a hotel resort that is full of airconditioned souqs. We primarily wandered around, but we didn't buy anything because everything was over-priced and unrelated to Arabic culture. We ended the day with an incredible Lebanese meal--- a special treat from Nasser.

We're off to Dar Es Salaam tomorrow morning at 10:50 Dubai time. It might be a few days before we have internet access. We might, however, have cell phones by tomorrow evening (tomorrow morning for you), so answer all strange phone calls.

Shout outs:
Dad- I love that you're my "blog buddy." I was tempted to by you a traditional Arabic outfit today, but realized how expensive it was and passed. Sorry!
Melissa- Share the pictures with the boys! It can be a neat little virtual field trip. Give them BIG hugs from me.

Call to Prayer

The following is the final call to prayer for the day at the Gold Souq on Friday, May 30, 2008.

Unique to the Middle East

The sign above Megan reads, "Prayer Room." This was in the local mall. Muslims are encouraged to pray 5 times a day. Thus, the call to prayer. Depending on the devotion of the particular Muslim, they will or will not pray in public places, such as the local shopping mall.

Muslim men traditionally wear a light covered robe-like clothing called dishdasha. On their heads, the men wear a hijab. The color of the hijab is typically a fashion/cultural preference, with many Saudi Arabian men preferring to wear a red and white checkered hijab.

Muslim women traditionally cover their entire bodies in a dark robe-like clothing called an abaat. This is done to symbolize modesty. Many Muslims choose for themselves how covered they wish to be, with some preferring to even cover their faces, leaving only slits for their eyes to show or wearing a light veil over their entire face. The facial covering, however, is not related to religious beliefs and is more of a cultural preference.

Per religious custom, Muslims do not eat pork. Thus, the local grocery store has a pork shop specifically for non-Muslims.

Pictures from Dubai

Megan and I at the Burj al Arab, on Saturday, May 31, 2008. The Burj al Arab is the building in Dubai. Much of Dubai consists of excessively large and creative skyscrapers, but the Burj al Arab is primary sight to see in Dubai, such as the Eiffle Tower is in Paris. Burj al Arab translates into "tower of the Arabs" and is currently used as 7 star hotel.

Megan and I at the Jumeriah Mosque, the largest mosque in Dubai, on Saturday, May 31, 2008. The mosque was not open today. When open, however, Muslim men and women must enter in separate enterances and proceed to pray in different areas of the church. At the top of each tower is a speaker that is used to broadcast the call to prayer 5 times a day.

Megan and I at the Gold Souq on Friday, May 30, 2008. A souq is a traditional market-place where various goods are sold. Haggling is mandatory.

Megan and I in the Arabian Gulf on Friday, May 29, 2008. Behind us is the outer ring of The Palms--- a series of man-made islands created to look like a palm tree.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Day in Dubai

I can't decide if the Middle Eastern men find Megan and I attractive or if we're simply easy eye candy. We're definitely exotic looking and we were shocked by the amount of men staring at us, particularly our calves! Either way, we spent the evening wandering the local souqs (open air market). This was a recommended activity in our Lonely Planet travel guide and it was truly amazing. Essentially you wander around the shops as the shop owners attempt to haggle you into buying their various products. Having Nasser with us was incredibly helpful as he speaks fluent Arabic. Our craziest adventure was being taken up a private elevator to an Indian man's shop to use his restroom. My mother would die if she saw us. In an attempt to thank him for allowing us to use his bathroom, Nasser asked to see his watches. We were then taken into a locked room where they held all of their knock-off designer handbags, sun glasses, and watches. Unfortunately, Nasser couldn't haggle the price of a watch down enough so we left empty handed. It was an expereince Megan and I never would have had if Nasser hadn't have been with us. He's definitely our life savior.

On our way to grab a cab, we heard the final call to prayer for the day. I was able to get it on video as Nasser explained the different aspects of the call. Hopefully I'll be able to upload that video before we leave Dubai.

Other interesting tidbits:
* Swam in the Arabian Gulf today.
* Drank camel's milk.
* Tasted fresh spices in the spice souq.

Shout outs:
Mom--- I miss you terribly. I've already filled one memory card with pictures and videos!
Allison--- Andrew needs to visit Dubai STAT! There is construction literally all over the entire city.
Melissa--- Thanks for checking in on Evan. Hopefully he wasn't too bothered. You rock!

Love and hugs!

More tomorrow from Dubai. :)

Dubai- Day 2

We visited the Emirates mall yesterday. It was HUGE! Big enough to hold the world's first indoor ski slope!Crazy. There is a ton of construction going on here and it's super hot. We're sepending today indoors and then visiting a local neighborhood tonight when things cool off. More tomorrow.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

In Dubai

We're here in Dubai. We're staying in the Harbour Hotel and have a room with a view of the Arabian Gulf. Only 5 minutes of internet access. Will update more tomorrow. HUGS!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


We're eating lunch and waiting to board. People watching in the international terminal is the best. See ya in dubai.

In nyc

I'm in nyc waiting for my bags and megan. We'll be reunited after being apart for two years. Challenge #1: all of my bags arriving in nyc. Challenge #2: getting my bags to the international terminal.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Approximate Timeline

Wednesday, May 28, 2008:
NYC-Dubai @ 11:20 AM EST

Thursday, May 29, 2008:
Arrive in Dubai @ 8:05 AM (Dubai time)

Tour Dubai with our friend Naser.
Staying @ Harbour Hotel and Residence

Sunday, June 1, 2008:
Dubai-Dar Es Salaam @ 10:50 AM (Dubai time)
Arrive in Dar Es Slaam @ 3:50 PM (DES time)

Language and culture training in DES.

Saturday, June 7-July 31, 2008:
Volunteer @ Jane's Orphanage in Arusha.

July 31-Aug. 8, 2008:
Trek Mt. Kilimanjaro, Serengeti safari, and visit Zanzibar Island with Megan's family.

Friday, Aug. 8, 2008:
DES-Dubai @ 5:20 PM (DES time)
Arrive in Dubai @ 11:50 PM (Dubai time)

Sat., Aug. 9, 2008:
Dubai-NYC @ 2:00 AM (Dubai time)
Arrive in NYC @ 7:45 AM (EST)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

All Packed Up

All Packed Up, originally uploaded by michelletschannen.

My life i 3 bags. The boxes include all physical donations I've received. This does not include the monetary donations I received. That money will be given to me upon arrival in Dar Es Salaam, where Megan and I will be able to buy specific items the orphanage is in need of.

Packing List

The trekking and hiking rainbow burst in my living room and for the past 2 hours I've been sitting amidst the lucky charms. Unfortunately, packing isn't an easy task and all of those lucky charms became more of an annoyance. I had no idea how I was going to fit everything into the three bags I had available to me. Weeding through everything was the most difficult part. I'd begin filling one bag, get nearly finished, and then decide that I wanted the mosquito net at the bottom of the bag to be placed in a different bag. I then had to empty out that bag, move the mosquito net, and begin repacking the bag. You can see where this is going. It was a horrible, vicious cycle. At one point, nearly in tears, I called Megan and left her a voice mail begging for packing instructions.

I am finally finished packing. Praise God, Allah, Buddha, Mother Earth, whomever... at least it's finished and with very few tears. I'm actually pretty amazed at how much crap I was able to cram into these two bags. It felt as if my entire living room had been filled with Tanzania gear, yet here I am sitting on the floor leaning against my three stuffed bags. The next big step is to get everything onto the airplanes (yes, I said airplanes). How I'm going to get two backpacks, a duffle bag, and three 30 gallon rubber maid totes onto a JetBlue flight to NYC, onto an Air Emirates flight to Dubai, and then onto a second Air Emirates flight to Dar Es Salaam is beyond me. I may be pretty buff, yeah right, but I'm totally going to need to rent a big wheelie cart. I'm apologizing now for the harm I'll be doing to the environment for all the extra weight I'm adding to the airplanes I'll be flying on. How about sending me carbon offsets for Christmas??

Packing List-

Sleeping bag
Camelback bladder
First aid kit
Trekking poles
1 mosquito net
Green dry sack
Hiking boots
Blue L.L. Bean jacket
North Face fanny pack
Keen sandals
Winter hat
Purple ball cap
6 bags of bars
1 SIGG water bottle
3 bathing suits
3 pairs of hiking socks
3 bottles of vitamins
2 Tanzania guides
1 journal
Electrical adaptor
Powdered Propel
1 can of permethrin spray

Rain pants
Black hiking pants
Black skirt
Base layer pants
Base layer shirt
Olive green hiking pants
2 shorts (black, khaki)
2 long sleeve tees (white & gold)
3 tank tops (blue, white, gold)
4 t-shirts (red, purple, blue, black)
3 pairs of underwear
2 pairs of socks
3 toiletry bags
5 bottles of sun screen
1 can of bug spray
Feminine products
1 mosquito net

Blue t-shirt
Olive green hiking pants
Sleeping pants
Black dress
1 pair of underwear
1 pair of socks
Water purification kit
Camping towels
Bag of toiletries
Tooth brush
Eye mask and ear plugs
1 SIGG bottle
Camera accessories
Dubai guide
Family gifts
Flip flops

Fully Alive

My father in-law, Bob, passed along this poem in his weekly LifeTrek coaching newsletter. The words of this poet, Dawna Markova, eloquently express how I feel about this trip.

Fully Alive
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tanzanian gear

Tanzanian gear, originally uploaded by michelletschannen.

Will the people of Tanzania shame me for my "grandma-safari" hat?? Better yet, will Megan?


Testing mobile blogging.

In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2

Just downloaded a wonderful CD-- In the Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2. I have major respect and love for Bono for the voice he's given to the plight's of Africa. What a great way for African musicians to thank Bono for his work?

Worthy track: In the Name of Love .... Lovely, Soweto Gospel choir rendition. BEAUTIFUL

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Packing Begins

The Packing Begins, originally uploaded by michelletschannen.

A second look at everything I'm attempting to take with me to Tanzania.

The Packing Begins

The Packing Begins, originally uploaded by michelletschannen.

After weeding through my pile of Tanzania stuff, I've finally created what I hope is the last pile. Thus, I'll be attempting to cram all of this stuff into two backpacks. We'll see how it all ends up.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Crazy Me

It's only 12 days until I leave for Dubai. I've been waiting 2+ years for this trip, so you'd think I'd be ecstatic. Alas, I'm not. I know, weird right? I've been planning for and dreaming about this trip for so many days and hours. Now that it's nearly here, I'm getting anxious.

For the past few years, I've been trying to better understand the person I am. Of course, a little therapy or work with a life coach would probably assist the situation, but being a poor college student doesn't allot for much spare change. Deep introspection has brought to me the realization that I live a lot of my life in the future. I'm constantly working through my life thinking about the next great adventure. A constant mantra running through my head is, "When X happens, I'll feel Y."

It's all too easy for me to fall into the trap of missing out on the here and now while I anticipate the future. I truly believe in chasing ones dreams, it's what's brought me most of the amazing experiences I've had. I'm afraid, however, that too much dream-chasing has caused me to miss out on many of the little things. Sometimes I catch myself in the act of thinking about tomorrow when I'm living out the moment I stayed up thinking about the night before. For whatever reason, I'm still working that part out, it's really hard for me to stay present. I try and work on it day after day, but I still struggle.

This is the great paradox of my life at the moment. I'm fairly content with the life I'm leading, yet I can't seem to shake the thought that tomorrow will be better than today. I want so desperately to appreciate each second of my life. But is that even possible? I'm afraid it would be mentally and emotionally draining trying to be 100% present at all times. At this point, however, I'd love to live at least 50% of my day in the present. There is a big part of me that believes the world would look differently if I were living fully in the present. The moments when I do live in the moment-- those when I'm with kids-- really are incredible. My senses feel heightened, along with my ability to empathize and my patience. I want that feeling more often.

Spending my life in the future is especially stressful during transitional times, like now. When a big change in my life happens, I worry about how different things will be. I may not have appreciated each moment, but I hang tight to them when they're about to be taken away from me. It seems so contradictory to me, which is where I become confused and my soul searching focuses. This inability to appreciate the now, yet unwillingness to let it go when the then is approaching makes little sense to me.

Here's how it's playing out now:

Wake up in the morning to the clock radio tuned to NPR's Morning Edition. Quickly turn the alarm off before Evan rolls over. Take a bleary-eyed shower, blow-dry my hair, and dress. Eat breakfast while watching the Today Show. Stand in the doorway of the bedroom and whisper goodbye to Evan as I rush off to babysit/tutor. Spend the day babysitting/tutoring and running around completing various last-minute errands. Run/hike. Cook and eat dinner with Evan. Argue with Evan about not having enough quality time and the layer of filth around our apartment. Check e-mails and browse endless blogs/websites while listening to Evan play WoW with his gamer friends. Watch the Daily Show with Evan and pester him about holding the remote. Bed-time routine, read. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

Throughout much of the day I'm anticipating the trip. When I'm at the bank picking up quarters to pay for my laundry, I'm thinking about what it'll be like washing my clothes in Africa. When I'm dropping off donations at the SPCA, I'm thinking about the women and children I'll meet. When I'm cooking dinner, I'm thinking about African food. Thoughts and excitement about this trip are a constant white noise in my mind.

Now that I'm only 12 days out, however, the anxiety has set in. Since about Monday, I've had a constant pit in my stomach. The white noise is still there, but now it's twinged with more fear than happiness. I'm starting to worry about leaving. Who's going to help Evan move all of the boxes out of the apartment? What will I do if I get sick? How will I get in touch with Evan if he doesn't answer his phone or e-mail? What if I don't like the food. Will my turtles die? It seems so stupid to worry and stress about such things when a life-time dream is about to come true. At times I feel outright embarrassed that I'm becoming so anxious. I have the opportunity of a lifetime approaching me and I'm worried about my turtles?

This is where the learning takes place, right? I have to have the courage to push through the anxiety and fear in order to appreciate this great gift I've been given. I'm trying to keep those butterflies in check and to remember why this trip is so important to me. Listening to Evan talking to his gamer friends as I type this makes it hard to see the sun shine through the clouds. That voice chanting "DPS. I need you to DPS in here," that voice that drives me crazy most nights, I'm going to miss that voice. I'm going to carry that voice in my heart for 2 1/2 months, to remind me to appreciate the here and now, no matter how crazy it makes me feel at the moment. 'Cause when those crazy moments are taken from me, I'll miss them the most.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

You're kidding me...

I'm officially hanging my laundry out to dry for 3 days:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Breakdown of a Bureaucratic System

April 15, 2008:
* Complete Tanzanian visa paperwork and purchase a $120 money order from Western Union.
* Refuse an offer from various Frat boys at HT to attend their booze fests if I pay for their kegs.
* Lovingly mail off my passport, visa paperwork, and money order. Believe I will have my passport and a fresh-off-the-presses visa in my hands in a few days.

April 16-29, 2008:
* Endlessly check the mailbox in search of my passport and visa.
* Receive packages from Aveda, Moosejaw, Mom, and Amazon.
* Curse the mail woman (we're not on the best of terms).

April 30, 2008:
* Call the Tanzanian Embassy in D.C.
* Attempt to leave a message but the only mailbox available is full.
* Call back multiple times and continue to run into the full-mailbox wall.

May 1, 2008:
* Call the Tananian Embassy in D.C.
* Speak with a male representative who speaks English with a heavy accent.
* Run into my first language barrier, which ran both ways.
* Am told my visa paperwork has not been processed yet and that I should wait a few more days for information.
* Grumble.

May 2, 2008:
* Receive voicemail from Rachel* mentioning casually that the Tanzanian Embassy doesn't accept money orders from Western Union.
* Am informed that I must obtain a new money order and send it immediately to the Embassy, attn: Rachel.
* Visit the post office and begrudgingly purchase another $120 money order.
* Mail off the money order, sprinkle it with good vibes.

May 3-5, 2008:
* Wait patiently for my visa and passport to arrive.
* Begin blaming the Embassy and not the mail woman for the lack of passport/visa in my mailbox.
* Tension headache sets in.

May 6, 2008:
* Call Tanzanian Embassy incessantly until I speak with a live representative.
* Inquire about my visa status. Spell Tschannen 5 times. T-S-C-H-A-N-N-E-N. Yes, 2 N's.
* Am told by Rachel that she cannot locate my passport and visa and that I should call back later.
* Panic sets in.

May 7, 2008:
* Call Tanzanian Embassy and immediately press 0... OPERATOR!
* Rachel picks up the phone.
* Give Rachel my name, spell Tschannen twice, and inform Rachel that we spoke yesterday.
* Am told, "I do not know you. Who is this?"
* Politely remind Rachel of our conversation about my missing passport and visa. Ask her if she found them.
* Am told she has not found them, but that she will look again and call me back later.
* Hang up and proceed to freak out.

May 8-9, 2008:
* Pray to the universe that Rachel calls me with good news.
* Hear nothing from Rachel.
* Pickup junk mail and bills out of the mailbox.

May 10, 2008:
* Call Tanzanian Embassy.
* Immediately press 0, the line to my dear friend Rachel.
* Spell Tschannen 4 times. Become less patient with each spelling.
* Am informed that my passport and visa have been located, but they haven't been processed. Am told Rachel will call me back soon.
* On the verge of tears, I tell Rachel that "I'm leaving in less than 3 weeks! I need this to be expedited!!"
* 4 hours later, receive a voicemail from Rachel stating that: "We have processed your passport and visa, Ms. T-s-ch-nana (rhymes with banana.... not at all how you say TSCHANNEN). We have not mailed your passport back to you yet as you have not informed us when you will be leaving on your trip. Please call us back and let us know when you will be leaving so we can send you your passport and visa in a timely manner. Thank you!"
* Loose my calm. Attempt to call the Embassy, but realize it's now closed.
* Call Megan to vent. "How come you got your passport and visa within a week and I didn't? We have the exact same information on our paperwork?"

May 11, 2008:
* Attempt to call the Embassy to inform them when I will be leaving (information found directly on the visa paperwork I completed), but hit the full voicemail box wall.
* Cry.

I'm not sure where everything went wrong, but I'm now waiting in anxiety to call the Embassy on Monday morning to inform them when I'll be leaving for Tanzania. I'm frustrated for multiple reasons.
1. I lost my original $120 money order as it was NOT posted anywhere on the Tazanian Embassy's website that they didn't accept Western Union money orders.
2. Customer service wasn't all the impressive.
3. Why should I have to inform you when I am leaving for my trip in order for you to send me back my passport and visa? I gave you a self-addressed, stamped envelope as well as paying you the extra $20 so you could expedite the process.

Sigh, I might be making a trip to D.C. next week. Anyone want to meet for a meal?

*Name changed.

UPDATE: After speaking with Rachel twice this week, she's confirmed that passport and visa were sent out yesterday. Time will tell...

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Just finished watching a great video about Tanzania: I'm now dreaming of all the things I want to do while I'm there. At the moment, 2 1/2 months seems like such a long time, but I'm sure it'll end up flying by.