September 2016 – Oktoberfest!

I still remember how this started:

Entrance to paradise

Scene – At work, one day after the first keg is tapped in Munich.

My hand is definitely missing something

Me – “It’d be fun to go to Oktoberfest someday…”

Half bier, half lemonade – Also known as a “Radler” – Cate approved!

John – “You know, we have a 3-day weekend coming up.  I know someone who has gone the last 12 years for this weekend.  Would you like to meet him?”

Bavarian dress in full effect

Me – (Quickly texting Cate about this revelation), “Uh, yeah!  Sure!” (Gets text back from Cate, starts looking at flights and hotels)

The Paulaner tent

…And off we went!  Three years in a row, so far.  What a spectacular time to be in Bavaria!  Fantastic atmosphere to go along with beautiful weather, food, drink, and scenery.  Definitely a must-visit, even for those who don’t prefer the malted hops-flavored brews that dominate the area. Just order a radler. 🙂

September 2016 – Muscat, Oman

Our first flight OOK (Out of Kingdom) was to Oman.  A little setup to the situation; we had arrived in KSA at the end of July and had gone through the processes with the company to get our iqamas (national ID cards) and visas which would allow us to travel.  Until this was completed, we weren’t able to leave.

While our first trip OOK was technically dinner with friends in Bahrain for an evening, our first vacation was Oman.  Eid al-Adha (the second of the Eid holidays) gave us the opportunity to take a few extra days off while technically not taking official time off (frowned upon during probation).  Cate found a smoking deal at the Al Bustan Palace Ritz Carlton in Muscat, so a few plane tickets and a taxi ride (with a side visit to Starbucks to get our country mug, of course) later, we found ourselves sitting by a lagoon pool and swimming in the Gulf of Oman. 

It was a splurge, a definite extravagance, however after a little more than seven months of interviews, background checks, leaving my previous job, farewell tours, packing, cleaning, relocating, adjusting to culture, experiencing never-ending heat, dealing with foreign country procedures….  I think you get the idea.  We needed a nice break.  This did the trick.  It was absolutely spectacular.

July 2016 – Moving to Saudi Arabia

In July of 2016, we were “wheels up“ from our home of California, on our way through Frankfurt, Germany with an expected arrival in Dammam, Saudi Arabia (or KSA, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) roughly 22 hours later. 

Bags ready to go at SFO
Short layover at FRA

8 bags checked (200 lbs), 2 carry-ons (250 lbs), personal items, and the two of us made our way with little incident.  We arrived roughly 10:30pm +03:00 GST, and pulled into our new home about 2 hours later.  I remember the first wave of hot, humid Arabian air that hit us as we walked out of the airport.  Truthfully, I almost turned around.  I’m glad I didn’t!

Our landlord. Seriously, he came with the house.


In October, we decided to take a quick trip to Albuquerque for the International Balloon Fiesta because… why not? Our good friend Ray is from Albuquerque so he came with us to show us around and his wonderful parents hosted us all.

We tried for two days at the Balloon Fiesta, but the wind was too high on the second day that none of the balloons were able to inflate in the morning. The sheer number of balloons is incredible and they all go up in such quick waves, it’s hard to even try to see them all.IMG_8695


We also had our favorites. Darth and Yoda were some of the last balloons inflated and the crowd started cheering when they figured what they were. (I’m not so sure about the princess next to them though?)


After the big inflatable Smokey the bear on 4th of July, I was super excited to see this guy here. I was nearly running across the field to get close to it before it took off. One of the amazing things about this Balloon Fiesta is that you get to walk all around the balloons as they are being inflated and sent off!



Another big discovery on this trip was the food! Ray had always talked about the Hatch Valley green chilis but now we got to experience them. Craig had them with every meal, which is very popular in Albuquerque apparently.

Green chili breakfast burritos.

Craig loved the chilis so much that we brought 25lbs of them back with us. Little markets sell chilis by the box and roast them for you. Ray’s parents helped us get all the skin off before the chilis were packed up and loaded on the plane the next day. We’re still finding all the different foods that you can eat with green chilis.IMG_6401