Briefly, Braving the new world order, we left Australia on December 03. Our first stay was in Lahore, Pakistan for the marriage of Brendan. We spent three weeks there. On December 24th we flew Lahore to Istanbul – missed our next flight and spent Christmas Day in Istanbul flying on in the afternoon. We arrived in Washington DC in the evening with not much traffic. Got to Chris’ and family’s house Christmas night. Three days later all five of us tested positive for coronavirus. Four adults, all with three shots including booster, had mild symptoms, and tested negative within a week except for me who was positive for two-weeks, missing a planned trip to New York, missing re-booked flights to Holland three times. The child, age six, tested positive but never felt any symptoms. We are finally off to The Netherlands for two-months before hopefully returning to Adelaide.
Narda writing in Italics Terrell whatever else there is. I will try and not tell the same story as Narda – but there could be some overlaps. Read the italics and you will be better informed. I tend to ramble as someone nearby has mentioned.
Our last trip to Lahore – way back in 2019 is written up here, https://neuage.me/2019/11/29/lahore/December 03, 2021DepartureA new threat to us getting to Brendan’s wedding in Pakistan! Omicron, the latest variant of the corona virus is knocking on Australia’s door. We had decided to isolate for a guaranteed negative test result the at the airport, but we went a step further and moved our flights back a week earlier, leaving Dec 3rd instead of the 9th.Just as well, as there are pockets of the new more infectious strain circulating now in Adelaide. Flights were without incident, despite the additional paperwork. In Melbourne the test was cheaper than we expected ($79 instead of $150 which it was just weeks before) and we had a result in 40 minutes.In Abu Dhabi, a decent enough airport, we had a nice Irish Brekkie (as you do) and only a few hours to wait for the next flight. I think I may have dosed off in the comfort seat. Watched a couple of movies. The next flight was half empty, so I slept for 2 hours like the dead along 5 empty middle seats. We had a very friendly and sympathetic Aussie hostie.Lahore arrival, Bren and Imran waiting for 2 hours while 3 large jets unloaded. But we got there. Great to be back and see Bren. It was a long wait for them, not because of the flight but because it took so bloody long to unload it. Blimey.We checked into the AveriXHotel for 3 nights as Bren’s place was still being painted. A greatarea, close to some nice eating places where we had tomato soup and salads; safe, easy and yum.The hotel also had an amazing breakfast buffet, a mixture of western and Pakistani fare.
We left Adelaide in the morning getting a ride with Narda’s sister, Caroline to the airport. The big box is Brendan’s wedding present, a coffee machine.
Flying to Melbourne we tested there for covid doing the fifteen-minute rapid test. As throughout this trip we worried whether we would test positive and must cancel our trip. When we got the text that our results were negative, we quickly went to the waiting area only to find only one restaurant was open.
Due to covid very few were flying. Narda ordered something meaty, and I ate a sandwich I brought along. By 10.45 pm we were in the air on Etihad 461. Somehow, I have forgotten that flight so must not have been very eventful. Probably slept some. In Abu Dhabi we got a ride through the airport in one of those motorized carts they take the old and lame around the airport in. We asked to go to the food court and found a good Irish type of pub place, O’Leary’s, for a big breakfast then got a ride back to our gate. On the flight to Lahore one of the stewardesses let Narda know she too was an Australian. Narda of course pointed out that Australian’s look after each other and sure enough not before long we got moved to a forward section of the plane that had few passengers. Where we were was full. Narda stretched out over several seats and slept most of the three hours to Lahore. I looked out the window and got there exhausted.
Lahore Airport is a journey of its own. A remarkable madness for westerns to navigate with eyes wide open. We arrived with another flight or two and probably a thousand people rushing to the customs counters. Trying to find which line to be in is a challenge but after a few pushing into lines that were not moving we were directed to one that probably was for the likes of us. Another hour later our bags arrived on the conveyor belt.
Brendan with his driver (and go to for everything), Imran were at the airport when we finally got outside sometime in the middle of the night.
Brendan was having his house at Swedish Flats painted before the wedding, so we booked the Avari Xpress Hotel. It is listed as a four-star hotel. Perhaps for Lahore but not in western countries – maybe two-stars. The smorgasbord breakfast was good though and our room was quite large. It is also next to a large supermarket and near restaurants and shopping malls. We were not able to work out the TV. We spent our first three nights in Lahore there
Every day we would walk to Brendan’s house which is in a gated community – surrounded by high fences, large entrance door and boom gate with two or three guards, usually one with some mean looking weapon on his back. In fact, every shop has a guard with a weapon. Some of the guards look as if they are half asleep or too old to fire their weapon if needed. Shopping centres have more serious looking dudes (always males) with machine guns, and they inspect the boot (trunk), bonnet (hood) as well as beneath cars and have a poke around inside. In the containment area (Lahore Cantonment, a large area under military control) just to drive through on their freeway and better roads we need to show passports and women need to have head coverings. I will come back to this later about when I was asked to delete my video of them stopping us, of course being a good citizen of the world, I did – only to discover when I got home it was saved in another area of my phone – I will show you later but don’t tell the Pakistani authorities as they get quite thingy about such stuff.
Next to our hotel was a large chaotic supermarket (“Imtiaz Super Market, is the pioneer in the retail industry of Pakistan, providing an ultimate shopping experience to its consumers” https://imtiaz.com.pk/) with everything from clothes kitchenware furniture mixed with groceries so finding anything was always an exploration to behold. And long long lines everywhere. Further along the street we found several good restaurants our favourite coffee place being Mocca Coffee.
We sat outside in the smog because it was a good day at only 257. We manage to survive in the six and seven hundreds later.
First night out with Brendan’s future wife, Sofie @ Bamboo Union, https://bamboounion.pk/ We sat outdoors, ignored the pollution, and had a good meal.
We moved into Brendan’s house after three-nights at Avari Xpress Hotel and began our almost daily shopping at Jalal Sons https://jalalsons.com.pk/ the local supermarket which is not too far removed from what we would be used to. Everything is in English (one of our languages). Mostly imported foods for what we like which makes them expensive. For example, a bag of chips would be six or seven dollars, peanut butter twice what we would pay in Australia.
Moving in with Brendan December 7Heading out for the day, Imran dropped us off at Al Fatah Shopping Mall https://www.alfatah.pk/ so that we could get some decent coffee. The Second Cup across the road insisted on vaccination for entry. Friendly folk and good coffee. So then to find our way to a market. We tried a tuk tuk. I told the driver where we wanted to go and he did not understand. When I tried again his eyes lit up and he said “Oh La Bertie”! So we thought, haven’t heard of that one so off we went. We paid our 100rp which is about double the going rate at a princely 57c USD. We had arrived at Liberty Market, where we had been before. La Bertie…..Liberty. Huh!!!
Lunch at Liberty AKA La Bertie was a challenge. We were seated in a basement after having ordered a vegetarian hamburger and something similar with meat for me. 45 minutes later it came….not a sign of vegetarian. We were nice about it, and said we would still pay for it, but they took it upstairs and picked out all the meat…….what are ya gonna do.
Nest day headed out with Bren to a western style restaurant with the best food I have EVVA had!!! Bren had pizza, Terrell ordered a cannelloni/spinach/cheese dish (which won first prize!!!!) and I had a dried tomato salad for the gods. We will return, especially as they offered us a free triple choc mousse which we shared (reluctantly)
Lahore authorities have a way of dealing with cars that double park or park where they probably should not. A forklift comes along and picks up the car and lifts it high into the air until the owner comes and pays a fine. See our fifteen second clip here
We took an Uber (taking a break from the scary tuk-tuks in almost impossible to maneuver traffic) to Packages Mall, a large western style mall. A slight difference is that there are armed men with machine guns at the gate and to get inside we had to show we were vaccinated – which is becoming the way of the world. Washington DC now has that requirement.
We made a two-minute video showing the ride to the mall, gun totting guards, the mall, [see Packages Mall below].
I got some really groovy shoes to wear with my Pakistani outfit.
Narda tried on some cosmic looking dresses @ N Junaid Jamshed clothing store https://www.junaidjamshed.com/
Lunch was at Ganache Café at Mall 1, one of Lahore’s most crowded areas. Or as they proclaim “The café has a cosy and a simple ambiance with an indoor and an outdoor sitting area. It serves a range of decadent desserts and other savory items. Mall 94, Main Boulevard Gulberg, Block D1”
Our favourite out-in-the-world breakfast place was at Bundu Khan where we would have puri (a deep-fried bread made from unleavened whole-wheat flour)
and lassies (those wonderful yogurt drinks). http://www.bundukhan.pk/.
11 December SaturdayOff to the International Club initiation. They have done some nice renovation there; it’s very gezellig. We also met Bren’s mate from work, Dustin and his wife. Dustin is quite the personality. He promised to put us in contact with his parents who live in Thunder Bay, Canada for a must-do- because-it-has-lots-of-snow house swap. Nice pizza and beer at the club for me.
We had lunch a couple of times at the International Club – I had mashed potatoes with garlic prawns, so yummy. One evening we had a bar-b-que there and met a lot of the expats from around the world; learning about how bad things were in Brazil and several other countries that people came from. All in all, everyone seemed happy to be in Lahore. I brought up the pollution issue, but it was not big in anyone’s mind, they just seemed to love living here. We met people from South Africa, Brazil, UK, Sweden, and places I don’t remember but at the time I thought ‘how cool’ to be from there. Luckily there was enough salads to keep me happy and a very large fish that was caught somewhere nearby. As I started eating fish a year ago due to my doctor’s ‘or else’ recommendations because of my strict veggie diet I reluctantly have fish twice a week – though not farm-raised. Oh! They serve alcohol which is one of the few places in Lahore where it is OK. Christians and non-Muslims can drink there. I haven’t had any alcohol (except in hand wipes which we all have dry skin from) since 2005 (had liver issues but all seems to be OK now) and don’t miss it.
Then off we went to Packages Mall. I bought me a fancy schmancy wedding dress for the final night and Terrell found some groovy sandals.
Next day we dashed over to a blanket place and bought one for Chris’s bed. Imran at the lead in negotiations. We also managed to get our own sim card, through Imran’s wife Agnes, buying it in her name. It was the only way we could do it.14 December SundayOur first family visit. We were invited to dinner with Sofie’s parents. Nighi, Sofie’s mum is a warm, friendly woman and Saquib, her father, an interesting man to talk to, with his views on the world. His resourcefulness and determination helped us get Chris into the country!
Dinner was great. There was other family there from the USA, Islamabad, and Dubai. We enjoyed the conversations, the warm welcome and the food. It’s a beautiful house in an affluent area in the containment (army owned) district.
The main events of our trip to Pakistan, was seeing Brendan going for the next step in his life. He has known Sofie for a few years, they work together at the same school. She is a kindy teacher, and he is a fifth-grade teacher this year. Sofie was born in the USA and grew up in Lahore. We met her parents and family at their house.
Her brother came over from Dallas and sister from Chicago – so we were quite the international arrivals. We got ourselves looking local for the occasion – here we are standing in Brendan’s lounge before being driven to the family’s home.
We stopped at the flower market along the way [see our one-minute clip Flower Market]
This bouquet of flowers cost about $8 Australian, of course, that was tourist price – in Australia we would pay $50 – $70 for this arrangement.
13 December MondayA new development. Chris still has not got his visa despite the allotted time having been reached and passed. Poor Chris had been phoning and even visiting the Pakistani consulate to no avail. They told him they were waiting for word from Islamabad. I made a few useless phone calls to the embassy in Islamabad but did mange to find out that they are definitely not part of the approval of Pakistani visas in the USA. They only did the permits of extended stays. So! I passed the information on Saquib. He was on to it. His cousin (in charge of National Security) made a phone call to the US consulate, and to cut a long story short, many more moments of anxiety, especially for Chris, the bloody visa was approved.
We think there is a bigger picture here, with these visa applications held up deliberately because Pakistan is upset with the USA….over dumping Afghanistan and causing a major refugee crisis. Who knows?
I will add, there were several sleepless nights with lots of time on the phone (Skype, Whats App, Messenger) sorting out Chris’ arrival. It really started to look as if he would not get here or if he did, he would miss everything. As it turned out he missed the first of the three-day celebration, the Nikkah, but he did get here on the 20th in time for much-to-do still. Keep on reading…
18th December Nikkah – In Islam, marriage is a legal contract between two people. Both the groom and the bride are to consent to the marriage of their own free wills. A formal, binding contract – verbal or on paper is considered integral to a religiously valid Islamic marriage and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom and bride. Once all the requirements are met anyone can officiate the Nikah ceremony (no they didn’t ask me if I wanted to officiate). The bride and groom repeat the word “qubool” or “I accept” three times. Then the couple and the two male witnesses sign the contract, making the marriage legal according to civil and religious law.
We had a lot of food –even vegetarian plates, seeing how ‘special’ I was/am. The main activity of the evening seemed to be taking photos: here is just a sample of probably a hundred photos:
Chris made it in time for the main wedding with only 1 hour to spare. Pretty tough on him!!! He was such a trooper and so was Saquib!
I went to the hairdresser Toni and Guy. Lovely experience. Had a head massage, on a massage chair and then my hair curled down my back with flowers.Finally, into the cars and off we go. It was a huge outdoor place filled with flowers and mirrored floors. The “stage” as amazing, Bren and Sofie mainly based there as folks came to congratulate them, though the dancing soon also revved up.
This is the main event, a few hundred people, but outdoors. Everyone dressed extravagantly.
Several hundred guests I think, many from Sofie’s family but also from Bren and Sofie’s school. I briefly got to meet Nadine again, Bren’s boss, who stayed back so that she could attend. The food was great. Buffet style.
The kids were escorted into their going away cars. They will spend 2 nights at the Pearl Continental Hotel, a pretty flash place by all accounts!
Two days after the first event, Chris arrived an hour before the wedding celebration (above was the Nikkah, the actual ‘I am doing ‘of it all or ‘I did it’ – we dressed up for the actual celebration – see below). He got OK’d by one pm in DC got to the airport a few hours later and was on a flight that evening arriving four pm Lahore time with Brendan’s right-hand man, Imram, waiting for him at the airport, having him to Brendan’s home by six pm.
The day of Chris’ arrival we went shopping at a very local market. For lots of blocks in all directions sellers had their gear in the middle of the streets and covering the sidewalks. The first few blocks of our wander were sellers of Oppo phones. Oppo seems to be the main phone of Lahore or at least the most advertised and with the most stalls selling them. It is the phone we have, based on Brendan’s recommendation a year ago. Now I see why, he lives in the Oppo town of Lahore. It has worked fine for us and takes good photos/videos, though I just read at least it is in the top 1000.
I was told by Brendan that this market was recently bombed a week ago or so. I think 3 people killed and more injured. No one has yet claimed responsibility.
Narda was looking for some earrings or a necklace or some such thing and she found something she like. Brendan found an outfit for Chris to wear to the wedding and I took photos and some video see…[Gone Shopping] I was looking for a fancy handbag and found one.
Brendan bought Chris his outfit
and his friends came over to congratulate him before we all went off for the celebration and dancing.
Then there was the wedding celebration (day two of the three-day event).
Narda had a fitting for dress
and after a few days it arrived at our door in time for the wedding, expensive for us and for a once-off, though she may wear it with jeans back home someday. Not quite sure how often Chris and Brendan will wear their new-found gear. I think Pastor Chris should wear his outfit in his church when he preaches – I suggested that.
I will wear mine at some random time/place. Probably to the gym or when I visit you.
A side-note, amongst many side-notes. Narda and Chris shared a car with Brendan I went in a different car with two others. A large SUV, the driver worked for an oil company. I mentioned how shops have men with machine guns in front. They both showed me their handguns – hidden in the car doors and mentioned that there was a machine gun M-14 on the shelf in back of me – I looked, sure enough there was.
Brendan and Sofie held court, so to speak, and everyone at one time or another got in the picture behind them or with them.
My favourite photo of the evening was Narda and her children…
And she had important bits of wisdom for her first married son, Chris, who got married in Tennessee long ago (I think about 2005).
Brendan’s hat and shoes – invite him over for tea – he will surely wear these items to you home…
And there was much dancing. I capture some on this marriage dancing [https://youtu.be/YXoRDebU6Vc] clip.
Narda, the social one, spent the evening meeting and dancing whilst I was busy looking for vegetarian food, which I found.
At the end of the evening everyone had something to say to the new couple.
The kids were escorted into their going away cars.
They will spend 2 nights at the Pearl Continental Hotel, a pretty flash place by all accounts!
The morning after we went to Breakfast with Sofie and Brendan at Pearl Continental Hotel.
And as with any well-respected hotel they have their resident astrologer/card reader.
That is me filling in until someone that is for-real comes along, which I predict will be at any moment. Our minute long clip of the hotel is here [https://youtu.be/NV8sSFHoBzs]
On Sunday morning we took Chris to our favourite brekkie place and had the traditional Pakistani breakfast with puri and a selection of dipping dishes all for the princely total of $3, this included some chai as well. Here is an eleven second clip of Chris eating breakfast https://youtu.be/Fb-I7f2_bGWe watched the parking management system where offenders’ cars are hoisted into the air!!! [car removal 12 seconds https://youtu.be/oxlb2489qkY ]December 19th Wedding part 3, the boy’s side
Today we went to the Emporium Mall with Chris and had an American lunch at Big Mo’s.
This 3rd event was the parents of the groom hosting and welcoming the bride into their family.
Bren asked us to take the part of host, so we were there an hour before. This third and final one was on a rooftop restaurant, more black clothes formal, with about 40 guests.
Narda and her probably once-ever-used very expensive dress – I could have flown to the moon and back for the same price. All hand made with each little bead/etc stitched one by one. Then again I am sure we will wear our outfits when bike riding back in Adelaide. PS, not that expensive!
it was a full moon night.
It was a very pleasant evening with spectacular views of the famous old mosque, Badshahi Mosque at the Andaaz Restaurant 2189 A Fort Rd, Shahi Mohallah Walled City of Lahore, https://andaazrestaurant.com/. As the guests arrived, I greeted them, trying some short phrases in Urdu, with mixed success and quit a few laughs. Then they opened the upper mezzanine and soon we had the crowd spread out. Chris and me had some interesting conversation with Saquib about religion and politics; what the religions in the world have in common. Nice.
And of course, we have a clip of the night over at Wedding dinner [https://youtu.be/aYV0vhot20c ]
BTW remember at the beginning of our trip we had that big box we dragged around from Adelaide to Melbourne to Lahore? sorry didn’t get a clip of them opening it – oh wait, oh no not another clip! That’s right just this blurred photo of them opening the box at a very rapid rate and the finished product.
Men’s clothing in Lahore is a bit different than what I am used to in Australia.
Driving to places around Lahore at almost every traffic light there are beggars. A lot of cross-dressing men who tell people in the car that if they don’t give them money, they will end up like them. Not sure whether that is good or bad because being many decades younger than me, maybe being like them, at least age wise would be better than being old, then again, I would not wish to do youngness over again. Here is a bit of a clip of such an incident – [Beggars https://youtu.be/90Prkp0tDN8]
And a clip of driving @ night – [Lahore night https://youtu.be/c1YCpjZyfrk] Lahore driving is crazy.
I am amazed when we arrive at any place that we survived. It is not wise to read an English speaking newspaper –
Our last day with Chris in Lahore we went to the Wagha Border – between India and Pakistan. We have done this visit before, both on the Indian side and the Pakistan side. Due to covid stuff there were a lot less people at it than before. To refresh those few folks who have not read our last blogs about the border, Lahore side (https://neuage.me/2019/11/29/lahore/), India side (https://neuage.me/2018/04/12/amritsar/) every night year round there is a flag lowering in the evening at the border. On the Indian side there can be as many 50,000 people at the stadium dancing and cheering with less on the Pakistan side. As usual I made a video but not of just the ceremony this video has many photos of the ride to the border with closeups of folks in tuk tuks and walking along – some of my favourite photos of the trip (aside of family photos) are in this collect (an award collection of photos – awarded by my higher self – good on ya Terrell’s higher self for your recognition of my talent when few others …never mind) Slideshow of Wagha border https://youtu.be/vZCJiRKdyZE
[Chris Preaching https://youtu.be/OWicREb9x2E ] yes there is a final Lahore clip.
Pastor Chris, Grace Capital City church in Washington DC https://www.gracecapitalcity.com/ was asked to give a sermon at a Christian Church in Lahore his last night there by Brendan’s servant/driver/do lots of stuff and church leader, Imran. There are 1.27% or a bit over two-million proclaimed Christians in Pakistan. Read about it on the internet. I believe it is against the law to try and covert a Muslim to Christianity – death or something like that to those who give it a shot. The Christians there are from birth – or expats. For example, Imran’s parents and their parents were Christians – so no converting going on.
December 20, moved to the Main Market
On Monday evening we went with Chris as he was to preach at Imran’s church. An interesting experience. I suspect that this could be where Chris got infected with Omicron!
Had some nice quality time with the boys, went to a nice evening coffee shop, Karak Khel Gulberg, good ambience. It turned out to be just around the corner from Main Market.
December 21st Tuesday
Chris got tested for his flight back to DC (it came up negative). Sofie took us shopping so that Chris could buy some outfits for the folks at home, I also found a nice Pak dress, bright red. Later Sof and Bren joined us in a hunt for scarves for presents to take back home. Sofie bought us some traditional roasted chic peas (I think they were), roasted in a wok of hot sand. Very nice.We left Brendan’s at 11 pm. Chris went to the airport, for his flight leaving at 3 am. The next day Sof and Bren went off to Tanzania and we made our way to the airport with Imran, after a visit to the Covid testing site.
I have to say I am loving travelling again. Our time in Pakistan was a buzz. It is VERY polluted this time of the year with 450 particle readings compared to Adelaide around 15. We used N95 masks all the time, and after only 2 days they would turn brown/grey. But it’s a wild and exciting place. Lots of restaurants and interesting places to see. We had our local chai wallah, who made us delicious chai in tiny cups on the side of the road.
Then there are fancy western restaurants where the 3 of us (Brendan and us could eat a full meal for $17 USD total. Or the brekkie place where we got a nice local but fancy feed for $3 each.
December 23 Wednesday
Our final test was negative and the next day we headed to the airport hotel, the Royal Swiss Hotel. Imran dropped us off there. We were looking forward to a nice quiet evening ready for the next morning’s departure.
The dinner restaurant was amazing, we were almost the only people there with a beautiful buffet where we ate like kings, a bit of everything. The room was also great. Later that evening we discovered that our flight was going to be delayed. There was no notification from Turkish Airlines. I spend lots of time on the phone to see about the connecting flight, which I discovered was postponed to the following day, also without any notification from Turkish Airlines. So we quickly booked a transit hotel in Istanbul (Yotel). When we finally arrived (having travelled business class, which was fantasitc!!!!) we were told that Turkish Air would have taken us to the city were they had a hotel, and put us up gratis. Thanks for letting us know guys!!
The transit hotel was fine, we spent the next day enjoying the business lounge, sampling everything. The airport is nice. No complaints, except that Turkish Air need to pay for the hotel.
The flight was again business class, we arrived at around 8pm and took a taxi to Chris’. They had been celebrating Christmas Day with 2 other friends, expecting us to be a part of it, but that was not to be. Chris himself had had a shocking return trip from Lahore with delays, and an overnight in an airport in Doha with NO hotels available. Pretty tough. Luckily, he managed 6 hours in a sleeping pod in that time. All in all a pretty difficult trip for him, but we are all so glad he could come and celebrate such an important event with his brother.
Bren and Sofie by now reaching Tanzania/ Zanzibar for their honeymoon.
Having got a good deal for a business class flight from Lahore to Istanbul then to DC we made the best of a groovy situation. Our flight from Lahore was delayed by several hours due to smog, getting us to Istanbul too late to grab our flight to DC. We stayed overnight at the airport hotel – a basic windowless small room costing close to $200 USD. We booked it back in Lahore, after Chris’ delay for many hours on his flight to Lahore back mid-December (Narda says it was the trip from Lahore to DC, but, it was the flight to Lahore – he arrived totally exhausted the night of the wedding celebration, little sleep for two days and then he was dancing the night away. One must envy these young folks and their ability to keep on going. We did not want to keep on going and paid the big bucks. However, once in Istanbul airport we were told we would be taken to a city hotel at the airlines’ expense – but it was too late. Now we are stuck with hustling our insurance company with paying for the hotel. We were able to hang out in the Turkish Business Lounge for the day – until 4 pm for our flight to DC. The lounge was great – we ate our selves silly. There were islands of food being cooked – we could order what we wanted at the past area, dessert area, soup, omelette, etc.
I found lots of prepared salads, and of course at the coffee centre there was an endless supply of Turkish Coffee which I drank an endless amount of (I would be awake all the way to DC – more than 30-hours since Christmas Day began in Turkey and ended in DC, whilst Narda slept about seven hours on the way in her comfortable business class flatbed – I spent the whole time on the internet – who would guess?).
We wandered around the airport – it was very quiet in our area.
It is a huge airport and I think at one end downstairs there were a few western restaurant chains that had some Christmas lights happening, but we didn’t go in that area. Narda found Turkish candy
and as there was no music – but there was a piano in the lounge – Narda gave me a bit of a Christmas concert – here is a sample https://youtu.be/c4noCPnr6-g
I spent Christmas Day looking like a local –
Here is on our flight Lahore > Istanbul > DC https://youtu.be/vaIp2fGLhdk
Of course, as with any fancy dinner we had “candlelight dinners”.
great views of the Bosporus as we left Istanbul –
I tried sleeping but after a day of Turkish Coffee I was too wired.
Washington DC Christmas Evening
Our flight was the only one when we landed in DC, and that was far from full, seven pm, so we went through customs quickly. No mention of vaccinations, covid tests, I guess that was all taken care of before getting on to our flight in Istanbul. We grabbed a taxi to Chris and Jessica’s house. The driver was from Afghanistan – pro-former guy in Whitehouse – we could not figure out why. He had not heard from his family for weeks – since the US pulled out of Afghanistan. With few people on the road, we got there in about 35-minutes. We had planned to get to DC the night before but a day later was better than never at all. It was Narda’s first meeting of her new grandson, Josiah, who I called Messiah as it is pronounced much the same.
Narda hugged Chris as a mother would do. I kept my mask on. Two days later Chris and Jessica tested positive to covid – three days later Narda did and five days later I did. We all had few symptoms with Narda in bed one whole day not feeling very flash. I had a bit of a runny nose but nothing else. We did our best to quarantine staying in the basement which Chris and Jessica rent out as Airbnb for five-days. We stood for about two hours in a line to get tested with my results being negative and Narda’s positive. The rest of the time we tested at home.
Jan 5th 2022 Washington DCWe are currently in Chris’ AirBnB apartment downstairs. We’ve been here since Christmas, and the very first thing we did was hug the kids and contract covid! All of us. The little ones too. Luckily it’s Omicron (we assume, just a crappy cold, headaches, snot, cough, and achy bits.) Chris and Jess have to work now (virtually). Usually they have a nanny, but since we’re all testing positive we have taken up the nanny duties.
It does look like the whole world will get this one. Let’s hope we are all immune after that…would be nice.
We had a great time reconnecting with Liam, who has grown into such a lovely boy, a gentle type who adores his little brother. It was a challenging week for all of us, pretty full-on, but a great opportunity to really connect with our grandies.Josiah is a joy. A cuddly happy little guy, who does not miss anything, very alert and smiley.
Christmas Night at the Moerman’s – https://youtu.be/tT0UrbzE7zw
We had not been in the USA since 2019 (our blog for then https://neuage.me/2019/07/14/usa-2019/) and the atmosphere has changed so much. Not just covid – but politically too. We had been in DC July 2019 for Chris’ 40th birthday. His father, and brothers had come over from Lahore (Brendan) and Australia (Stu and their father). We had done a similar flight to what we did this time going from DC to Amsterdam in mid-January back in 2017 https://neuage.me/2017/01/24/washington-dc-to-amsterdam-and-life-in-between/ more on this later.
We were excited to hear that it would snow tomorrow and when it did, we were up and out the door.
I went with Chris and Liam to a local hill to watch them play in the snow. Here is a minute and a half of their enjoyment https://youtu.be/cF4lpUVozGEJanuary 6, 2021, being a tough day for Americans we decided to go a year later to the capitol – not many people around in the morning when we were there, mainly TV stations getting lined up for a day’s broadcast.
We did eavesdrop on an interview by a foreign team of a policeman video https://youtu.be/fvVw-0OMo_Q
Chris and Narda sing to the children – https://youtu.be/Jut5fg3nXTk
We had bought tickets on Amtrak to NYC for New Years Eve and for a train to Albany, New York on New Year’s Day then rented a car to drive to Oneonta to visit with my sister for a couple of days then a train back to DC a week later then onto Holland. Never happened – well the Amtrak bit, Narda testing positive on December 28th put the end to that. Then of course, I tested on positive on New Year’s Day, so it was just as well that we did not go.
After five days of no symptoms, we thought we could go out safely, wearing masks of course. We did a few trips around DC but for the most part stayed around home and babysat. We did go to where Lincoln was shot, at Ford’s Theatre and did the free tour. Photo below is the chair Lincoln was in when he was shot.
I tested positive for fourteen days from January first (how I started 2022) until testing negative at six am on Saturday the 15th. We booked in our official test ($90 each of us) for five pm and that came back negative. One interesting side-note if there is an interesting side-note was that the very first time, I had a positive test on the first of January the line on the tester was so light I barely could see it. Each day after the line became darker then the last three days the line for positive showed lighter each day. I looked all over the internet – from top to bottom – and there was no one saying that the darkness of the line showed how much viral load there was, but we were convinced that the lightening of each day meant soon I would be negative. It was annoying, and mentally I was getting negative without being really negative – go figure. Every morning I would take a test – it would be positive, we would re-book our pcr test and change our flights to the next day (United Airlines were very helpful with this and we never had to wait in a queue and they changed it to the next day without fees each time). My insurance ran out on the eleventh as that was the day we were to be going to Holland. Australia has reciprocal Medicare with 11 EU countries and Britain. This helps us a lot with insurance, our insurance company is the one who told us we did not have to buy health insurance for these countries. As I have so many pre-existing things from heart disease (pacemaker, five stents, other surgery) to diabetes and beyond our insurance always is more than the flights (including going business class this last time from Lahore to Istanbul to DC). Insurance for the USA is very high. We spent from 6 am until 8 pm on the phone on January tenth waiting in queues – getting disconnected – starting over – waiting in a queue– to be able to extend our insurance for a week. We once again booked our flight for the next day which was Sunday the 16th. Besides all the other annoying things to worry about; insurance and covid tests being top – and being a week or more late for our house sit coming up in Holland, there was a major winter storm that was to “slam” our area starting Sunday afternoon. Sunday morning, we took a Lyft to Dulles airport @ 8.45. First the flight was delayed from 12.45 to 1.30 pm due to an approaching storm then it was delayed another hour then finally at five pm we were on the runway getting de-iced on plane. We got to Newark and had one hour to spare and spent it in the United business lobby as we get a free lobby thingy each year for having a United Credit Card. BTW it is a great card to have – we had enough points for both of us to fly to Amsterdam. We added a hundred bucks to upgrade to economy plus which was well worth it. So we ate as much as we could stuff into our face and got into line to get onto our flight. They wanted so much paperwork at the counter; pcr test result, vaccination result, some other stuff – can’t remember it all. Thankfully Narda is amazing at keeping track of all this shit. I just live in la la land and smile at all the foreign stewardesses.
De-icing flight to Amsterdam https://youtu.be/49Sl-ApmKAk
Here we are in Nieuwerkerk aan den Ijssel, the Netherlands. Arrived on the 17th January about six hours later than scheduled and a week later than planned. We have a house-sit for two months looking after six chooks and two rabbits. We were at this exact house exactly two years ago but had to return to Australia March 2020 due to covid. Thanks to Fred and Chantal for asking us six months ago if wanted to look after their animals as they were off to Capo Verde off the west coast of Africa. We had done a house/car exchange two years ago so already had a connection to these really wonderful people. Narda hopes to catch up with relatives – but we will see how that works out with the current covid restrictions in Holland.
Our blog from exactly two years ago https://neuage.me/2020/04/10/rotterdam2020/
We will probably just chill for two months, looks like we may go back to Australia mid-April 2022 instead of mid-March. This would be our longest ever house-exchange and almost five months away from home. I may be speaking Dutch after-all.
I want to work on some video projects. But after Lahore and DC we need this time to do nothing except bike ride as much as possible. And we joined the local gym, finding a 9 euro special for a month online. And a few days ago, the 26th January, restaurants opened up in Holland after a year so we had our first meal in a restaurant since Lahore mid-December which seems like so long ago but was really only six or seven weeks ago.
We even get to drive their car – what disturbs me in the photo below is that my hair has not grown in two years.
We didn’t take wearing masks very seriously either, I think. Actually, we were unable to purchase any anywhere at the start of covid. Because we do not follow the news (I don’t understand Dutch – and Narda speaking/reading Dutch didn’t pay much attention to the news – we did not know how fast covid was spreading until all the masks were sold out everywhere we went.
That’s all for today. Off to explore the Netherlands today and this week/month – check back mid-March/April for an update on our life. Cheers!
Lahore 2021 covid world tour on YouTube https://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLzv1YGfx_SMw-e35J_du1wBRjpdY5D08c