Dubai, New York and Virginia 2009

If you get to know me for any period of time, you’ll probably discover that I’m a little addicted to travel. I’ve had international flights every year since 2004, which is a little surprising to say the least. Anyway, not long into 2009, we embarked on yet another international trip – approximately 4 weeks in the United States.

Jeremy needed to arrive by a particular date and his work was paying for his flights, but Doyle and I had to make our own way. We took a taxi to the airport in Kuala Lumpur together, though Jeremy had forgotten his passport and had to go home and get it before meeting us back at the airport. Somehow, though, I had booked me and Doyle on a different flight out of KL, so this didn’t make too much difference, except on the wallet. Since I had to pay for flights for me and Doyle, it was cheaper for us to spend a day in Dubai, UAE. Luckily for us, my Godfather works in Dubai, and so when we arrived, we took a taxi to the Mall of the Emirates, where I then sent an SMS to my Godfather, and he picked us up and took us back to his place. We watched TV and napped for a few hours whilst he went to work, though around noon I took Doyle out and back to the Mall to get some lunch and do a little shopping.

The Mall is pretty incredible, and even includes an indoor skiing facility, snow and all! I liked looking at all the souvenir shops, and picked up some warmer clothes (ready for our time in the US winter) at Carrefour.

When Uncle John (er, my Godfather) came home, he took us for a drive to see some of the buildings and locations that are well known, including the world’s only(?) 7 star hotel. I was glad to see that not all the architecture was the globally modernised kind, and some of it had Arabic influence, because those buildings were my favourite. They also had a building that looked like a cross between KL’s Petronas towers, and Manhattan’s Chrysler building. We also went to the Ibn Battuta Mall, which was named after an explorer of the same name. The inside had different themed sections, like Persia, India, China, etc. One for each of the places Battuta traversed. It is very beautifully done.

I came away from Dubai thinking how incredible it is that concrete and bitumen can make any landscape look exactly the same. You really wouldn’t think that the United Arab Emirates was a desert so much just by wandering the cities, but for maybe noticing dust build up on external windows and such.

Uncle John drove us back to the airport that night, and then we got on our plane to New York. But New York was not to be our final destination (yet). I got ripped off at the JFK airport from a woman who convinced me I should tip her US$10 for helping me with my things when I didn’t even ask for help (I thought she was just being nice – I will never completely understand how tipping works, and I this is one advantage I see to living somewhere that isn’t the US). I was going to take the subway in to the city, but when Doyle fell asleep while I was waiting for the train (and to see if I could meet up with a friend), I decided to just spend the day at the airport instead. Luckily I was able to check in earlier than I had been told I’d be able to, or I’d have had to spend more time in the boring part of the airport. Doyle slept for great part of the day, but I am not surprised. Jet lag!

We next flew to the Washington Dulles airport, where Jeremy collected us, and we took a taxi back to our hotel. It was very small considering how much we paid, but I guess that’s the capital for you. Over the next few days (Tuesday-Thursday), Doyle and I spent much of our time indoors, and napping for a few hours. It was incredibly cold outdoors and we didn’t really fancy venturing out in those temperatures. Especially when Doyle refused to wear anything on his head and hands, and his pant legs kept creeping up. We spent the Friday in the office where Jeremy was working, in a room that had a TV.

That afternoon, we took a taxi back out to the airport to make sure we got there in time, and then flew back to New York. We got in quite late, but I have to say I definitely prefer the JFK airport to LaGuardia. It may be further away, but it’s easier to access the city with public transport. Whilst LaGardia has a bus, JFK has their AirTrain, which takes you straight to the subway system! And we were able to get on a line that took us within two blocks of our hotel without changing trains.

United left Doyle’s stroller in Washington, so they gave us a loaner (thank goodness, because Doyle was asleep, and it would’ve been very hard getting him to our hotel from JFK on the subway & airtrain without one). They delivered it the next day while we were out, so they didn’t collect the stroller they loaned us. We ended up taking their stroller back to the airport with us at the end of our stay.

Saturday was absolutely freezing. Doyle did not like it at all. We had to duck into various places on our wanderings so that he could warm up. Oh, and United broke a wheel off our suitcase, so we had to buy another one. We ended up taking the subway all the way to Brooklyn to find a Target we were told was there, which is where we eventually picked up a new suitcase. It was still $100, though, which is more than twice as much as we must’ve paid for our last suitcase, but we couldn’t find anything cheaper. Where in the world are you supposed to get discount luggage in the US? Our previous suitcase was from Kmart!

Shopping in Brooklyn made us late for meeting one of my Internet friends, Tea, but luckily I picked up a US phone number in Washington, so I texted Tea to let her know we were going to be late. We ended up meeting Tea around 1:30pm I guess, at Toys R Us, and we spent a bit of time there wandering around, letting Doyle look at some nice toys, and we reminisced about our own childhoods, and how it took us until we were in our twenties before we started getting some of the things we wanted more of in our younger years! Then Tea took us to a place called Junior’s for afternoon tea/lunch for Doyle, and I got a piece of cheesecake twice as big as I was expecting, so I couldn’t eat it all! Doyle didn’t have much of his lunch, either, and he and I ended up swapping drinks because he liked mine so much.

Then we took the subway down to 8th St so we could go see Washington Sq, which is one of the few things I haven’t done in New York before. But it was so cold, we only stayed as long as taking a photo or two before heading back to our hotel and just hanging out and chatting. Tea was an absolute pleasure to spend time with, and I really, really enjoyed just chatting and hanging out. She left around 7:30pm I think, because Doyle was getting rather sleepy.

On Saturday, we went to a supermarket Tea told us where to find, and picked up some food and used the Internet briefly. After spending a bit more time at the hotel, we headed out to another shop Tea told us about called Daffy’s and bought Doyle some nice boots for the weather there at a discounted price. We met another Internet friend of mine, Melissa, and her partner Ron at our hotel around 12:30pm and then went out for some New York pizza for lunch. Then we brought Doyle back to the hotel, who had been asleep the whole time, and left him with a babysitter while we went out. We walked down to Times Square to pick up some discount coupons and then bought $45 tickets (60% off) to see Avenue Q on Monday night, managing to even score 10th row centre tickets!

The reason we hired a babysitter, however, was so we could go to the Museum of Sex, so we took the subway down there. There were 3 sections to the museum, but I think I found the section on animal sex the most interesting because it had examples of basically all the different sexual interests humans engage in (except anything that’d be considered a fetish, although they did have a duck engaging in gay necrophilia) – group sex, threesomes, voyeurism, exhibitionism, same-sex relationships, bisexuality. So yeah, I found it incredibly fascinating.

We got back to the babysitter a bit early but still had to pay her the minimum 4 hours (and at $25/hr + $4.50 transport, that’s WAY more expensive than we pay for our babysitter in Malaysia). Doyle had a great time with her, though, and she’d brought her own toys and books for him to play with, which was great. We also organised for her to babysit Monday night, so she left the things she brought.

We hung out and just chatted in the hotel until Ron was basically too tired and they headed out. I had a great time with them, and it’s nice knowing I have some great friends in New York I can hang out with if/when we return (and let’s face it, I love NYC, so that’s probably just inevitable). I fell asleep far too early that night – it was meant to be a nap, but you can’t really nap at 8:30pm.

The last Internet friend I’d organised to meet had to cancel Monday because he was feeling sick, so we took the ferry out to Liberty and Ellis Islands instead. The museum at the base of the Statue of Liberty was quite interesting, but you can only climb to the base of the statue since the 9/11 attacks, so that’s all we did there. And had lunch before heading to the museum on Ellis Island. We watched a free movie there that told us about the history of immigration to Ellis Island and beyond, so that was pretty good.

Then we came back to the hotel where we stayed until the babysitter arrived. We headed out to Applebee’s for dinner, and by the time our meal arrived, we had ten minutes to eat before we had to leave to get to the theatre in time! We definitely ended up with good seats, and I’m glad we ended up deciding on Avenue Q to see. Admittedly, once we had the coupon book, it was the only musical on my list of what I wanted to see that I could get discount tickets for. I could’ve tried my luck at tkts, but I still wouldn’t have been able to see Wicked, which was sold out until after we leave. I was a little tempted to see Equus with Daniel Radcliffe to see what the fuss was about, and also Mamma Mia, but I’ve seen the movie. I didn’t know much about Avenue Q, but I liked the idea of seeing a musical with puppets, and I really quite enjoyed it, so yeah, I’m glad that’s what we could get the discount on! Besides, comedy musicals are quite fun, even if they are a bit politically incorrect at times. I wouldn’t mind picking up the soundtrack in the future. The supporting male puppeteer had characters that sounded like Ernie (of Bert and Ernie) and Cookie Monster, which amused me to no end. The talent was incredible and, as I’m wont to do when I see something artistic, it made me want to make a puppet like that. Maybe if I still have the urge in a year or so I can think about doing that.

We got some cheesecake for dessert on the way back to the hotel so we didn’t come back too early again – instead getting back right on time.

Tuesday was Obama’s inauguration day, so I spent the majority of the day indoors watching the proceedings on TV. Until Jeremy insisted we needed to head out, so we walked up to Columbus Circle and found some shops. Doyle fell asleep on our way there, and later on Tea found us in a store watching some of the inauguration parade on the TV. But then we wandered down a number of blocks until we came across a nice Cajun restaurant to have dinner. We ordered a number of sides to share, and that turned out to be a great idea. Then Jeremy took Doyle back to our hotel and I went back to Tea’s place to hang out a while longer, leaving around 11pm. I promptly set the alarm and went to bed when I returned to the hotel – we had to leave at 3am to make our flight on time! (And it was a good thing we left when we did, because I ended up going down three subway entrances before I got to the one we needed. That was hard work when carrying a sleeping baby in a stroller!

Our flight took us back to Washington DC, but we weren’t to stay there long. Doyle and I spent the day at Jeremy’s office again, and then we took the commuter train to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where we met up with my cousin Judy and her daughter (my second cousin) Courtney.

Doyle and I have spent most of our time indoors in Virginia while everyone else is either working or at school. But we did go see some things on the weekend. On the Saturday, we spent some time in Old Towne and went to the apothecary and did the trolley tour. On Sunday we drove down to Colonial Williamsburg and met up with Judy’s parents (my Great Uncle Maurice and Aunt Jackie), which was fantastic, as we had missed out on introducing these relatives to Jeremy and Doyle the last time we were out here. We didn’t have too much time to see enough of Colonial Williamsburg, but I really enjoyed what I did see, and I think I’ll have to go back and see the rest sometime when it’s not so cold.

Overall I’ve had a great time in Virginia and spending time with my cousins. Judy and I have particularly bonded over food and cooking, which is something I wasn’t so good at the last time I was in the area. I look forward to coming back and spending more time with her again.