Merry Christmas from the Nation’s capitol

The National Tree
We are off to Virginia tomorrow morning to celebrate Christmas with various assembled family members. I’m really looking forward to the festive season, as Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. I have to admit, though, I’ve never felt as homesick as I’m feeling now. Last year, we had such a wonderful Christmas with our family back in Jordan.

One of the many useful results of this, at times, time–consuming blogging business is that I can go back in time and re-read entries about my feelings and thoughts during a certain period of time. Looking back at last year’s Christmas, I remember how blissful it was. This Christmas photo album is only a snapshot of the wonderful time we had.

All our family members on this side of the world have been working hard to make this Christmas a special one. From a Christmas Eve dinner to singing Christmas carols at church and a planned Christmas day lunch, things are looking as wonderful as possible.

Jeff and the National Tree
The picture above is of the National Tree with assorted trains around it behind the fence. The tree is at the Ellipse, the public space in front of the White House in Washington DC, between it and the Washington Monument. If you click the picture, it’ll enlarge and you can get a glimpse of the White House in the background. I really enjoyed being there last Sunday, experiencing a fun, festive atmosphere. Besides the tree and wonderful decorations, Christmas carols were played at a loud enough volume for everyone to enjoy.

The best thing about the day was that the repulsive, commercial part of Christmas that I have seen so extensively here was missing. It was purely a spiritual celebration, as music played and happy families enjoyed the season. Seeing the Nativity scene at the Ellipse also put a huge smile on my face, as it served as a crystal clear reminder of what Christmas is all about: The birth of Jesus Christ. It was never about maxing out credit cards by getting the "best deals." Merry Christmas everyone and happy holidays!!

A ‘second wedding’

Hubby friends
Last weekend, the amazing Mom T arranged a "welcome-to-the US" reception for us at their wonderful home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The idea behind the event was for friends of the ‘senior’ Tynes’ to greet the husband and his "not so new" wife, which happens to be yours truly.

The event turned out beautifully, as I was able to meet and greet a huge number of people that were extremely friendly, welcoming and quite generous. That’s right. Many of those attending the reception brought wonderful gifts with them, making this ‘reception’ feel like a second wedding.

I also got a chance to finally meet some of the husband’s life-long friends whom I’d heard so much about. It was a real pleasure to hear some anecdotes of the husband’s younger days as told with a wink and a nod by Jeff’s childhood’s compatriots.The hostess

Even two of my Jordanian friends who live in the DC Metro area made it to the reception, something that meant a great deal to me since they drove over two hours just to be part of the festivity.

Mom T had worked for nearly a month on the reception and it showed, turning out truly super-fantastic. From wonderful invitations, to a tremendous assortment of food and drinks and, of course, lovely decorations, the event was just perfect. It was really special to feel like a bride one more time! Thanks Mom T and thanks for everyone who helped make the reception a great success, and that include Dad T and Aunt G.

Quick thoughts about my first Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving DayMy primary impression from my first Thanksgiving experience is that this particular festivity could have been an Arab celebration. I mean, it is really all about eating and meeting family. How more Arab can it get? I think Thanksgiving is my favorite of the holidays thus far, as it hits so close to home with its similarity to the culture in which I was born and raised.

We had a great time with the husband’s family and I got the rewarding experience of meeting some family members for the very first time. The food was very good and extremely filling. I also felt really proud to be able to contribute to the meal by making one of my “very easy” casseroles.

Then came Black Friday. Experiencing it for the first time was also an adventure worthy of documentation. The husband tried to talk me into waking up at 5:00 am to partake in one of those early bird – door buster deals but I vociferously refused. No amount of purchasing power in the world would tear me from the warmth of our bed at the crack of dawn, particularly to spend money on things I’m not sure I really wanted. Oh, and it was -10˚ Celsius.

Eventually, we both decided to join in on the latter part of Black Friday, after 12:00pm. And yes, sadly enough, I succumbed to the capitalist binge and ended up buying a number of items that I needed but, in truth, could have lived without! Ah, they got me! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

My uncle

My uncle passed away yesterday from liver failure. It was a sad day. May his good soul rest in peace. He will be missed.

Anniversary celebration in New York City

With Ms. LibertyThe husband and I made a pact two years ago to put expensive gifts aside and celebrate our wedding anniversary with a trip. Last year our trip was to Dubai where we spent three "eventful" days exploring the wonders of the ambitious emirate. This year, though, our anniversary coincided with the weekend making an opportunity to visit the city that never sleeps: New York.

What can I say? We had a blast. Although this was not my first time in New York, I still could not get over how vibrant and lively this city is, not to mention its beauty. The skyline itself is simply breathtaking. I could stare at it for hours and never tire.

Our schedule allowed us to spend one full day in this great city, so we set our clocks for 12 hours: 8:00 am to 8:00 PM. It was a stretch but we did it and enjoyed it to the utmost. The day began with a trip to the Statue of the Liberty where we got the chance to venture inside the statue and not merely gaze upon it outside. Post-9/11 procedures stipulate booking tickets in advance (either online or by the phone) in order to get inside Lady Liberty. Otherwise, enjoying the statue from the grounds below is all you get.

Ellis Island Immigration MuseumBeing inside the statue and listening to the park ranger’s historical briefing was engaging. It was fascinating to get acquainted with the history and architectural make-up of this world famous monument — a mini Eiffel Tower is inside her.

Leaving Liberty Island, we took the ferry on to Ellis Island where we toured the Immigration Museum and enjoyed it tremendously. We heard compelling stories of various immigrants that made it to the US in the early 1900’s seeking a better life. It was fascinating to see some of the belongings they brought with them from their home countries. One amusing item that drew my attention was a set of tweezers left by a Syrian couple. I also enjoyed seeing currency dating back to the Ottoman Empire. The exhibition is truly top-notch and definitely worth a visit.

Central Park pondAfter spending over two hours learning about the lives of early immigrants, we made our way to Central Park where we took a trip aboard one of NYC’s famous horse carriages that provided a beautiful tour inside the mammoth, lush park. It was so much fun. The park was buzzing with life; packed with joggers, bikers, lovers and writers. No wonder this location is a favorite spot for a myriad of movie makers.

After Central Park, we went to Times Square, where I got overwhelmed with the sights and the sounds of the place. One unusual scene was a performer right in the heart of Times Square: A topless (wearing pasties) young woman calling herself the "Naked Cowgirl"!

We closed out our day with a fabulous dinner at a Cuban restaurant in Times Square called Havana Central where we enjoyed ribs and of course … mojitos! I ♥ New York.

A weekend with Amal

Outside Madams Organ in Adams Morgan

Last weekend was special, as my very dear friend Amal was in town for a few days on business. We got a chance to visit with her on three separate occasions, catching up on where our journey has taken us since we last saw each other in Doha this April. I have to say she looked great and seemed in wonderful spirits. It was such a joy to spend some time with her. For a while, I felt we where back in Doha, just talking about work issues while making plans for the final exodus from the Persian Gulf.

Our new friend Beisan (yeah, the active Jordanian blogger from Jordan Planet) joined us on two occasions during which we enjoyed our time and ate wonderful food at funky restaurants in the DC boroughs of Georgetown and Adam’s Morgan. Our conversations revolved primarily around life in DC, being away from home and of course the current state of global political mayhem. All in all it was such a wonderful and memorable weekend. Nothing beats quality time with a very dear friend. Here is a picture of yours truly and the one and only Amal in the hippy neighborhood of Adam’s Morgan.