I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile now but with the hard hit of wedding videos and trying to juggle family plans this holiday season, I haven’t had much time to reflect on this cool adventure. As many of you know, it was a struggle just getting to Dubai.
Long story short, I somehow misplaced my passport **or more likely threw it away in the process of getting a visa for Africa and I found out at 11pm the night before our early morning flight. It was the travelers nightmare come true! I prayed my little heart out as we tirelessly flipped our apartment upside down frantically searching every nook and cranny. We spent hours on the phone with the airlines, to which their reply was always, “KEEP LOOKING!” After we were certain the passport was no longer with us, Nick did what he does best and researched. As I continued to search each room for the fourth time, he looked online for answers…there was nothing…until he stumbled upon one yelp review. (*YELP!) This review was written by an individual who said he was able to get a same-day passport in Chicago at the federal office building. Trying to find validity to his claim…we found nothing. No number to call. No person to contact. There’s no official website or any claim saying this is a possibility, just some random person’s yelp experience in Chicago. Fortunately we did have a layover in Chicago (seriously such a blessing considering there are only a few cities in the country that have passport agencies)…however, not long enough to get to the federal building and back to the airport in time. We stewed about what we should do. I accepted my fate of not being able to accompany Nick to Dubai and fell asleep, exhausted from the night’s festivities. While I was sleeping, Nick called the airlines, AGAIN, to rearrange our flights and extend the layover in Chicago to attempt what this one yelp review suggested might be possible. So we woke up, ran some errands from Orem to Farmington to get all the necessary paperwork to attempt this grand same-day passport gig, and headed for our early morning flight out.
I have to say, I fell asleep anxious and nervous but awoke energized and brave. Maybe my endless prayers the night before came in handy to calm my nerves and do the unthinkable….spend another fortune to risk making our connecting flight all on the basis of a yelp review, but gosh dang it, we were all in. (It sounds crazy as it was.) Needless to say, we stayed an extra night in Chicago, woke up at 5AM to catch an UBER into the busy city and wait at the federal building until 8:15AM, when they supposedly open their doors to irresponsible, insane people like us. Surprisingly we weren’t the only ones there waiting for a same-day passport. There were three others needing a passport in less than 6 hours. And talking with the security guards…there are people EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. who go through this process of needing a quick passport. By 8:30, 40 other people showed up…granted they needed a passport in the next week, but 40! They were all extremely stressed out until they heard about the handful of us needing a passport in the next few hours. Immediate relief swept over their faces. Maybe it was relief knowing they weren’t the craziest ones in the room, but man, we were as calm as cucumbers for some odd reason. I don’t know. I have to say, we were all off our rockers showing up to the federal building in the dark, morning hours begging for passports.
We trekked around Chicago with our backpacking packs on the whole afternoon, layering as much as possible (we packed for the beach) to withstand the cold Chicago snowstorm. We were told to arrive 4 hours later to pick up our passports. As the lady gave me my new passport, I couldn’t help but yell! We were so excited. Such a range of emotion goes on in that building. Absolute fear and pure bliss in the span of just a few hours. We ran to the airport and made our connecting flight to Dubai. It’s a miracle, people.
I write this out in hopes to add to the yelp review that saved our trip to Dubai. It’s possible. Long. Crazy. Expensive. Ridiculous. BUT possible. If you are ever in a situation of needing the unthinkable with passports or visas, let us know. We can spare you the hours of research and heartache…though, you will feel heartache if you’re that irresponsible to lose a passport hours before a flight 🙂
Think Israel meets Las Vegas Strip. Everything about Dubai is big and expensive. I’m sure the city meetings go like this…
“What shall we build?”
Prince #1 — “Let’s build a mall.” (Dubai has around 30ish princes…and Abu Dhabi has 300ish)
All other princes — “Okay.”
Prince #1 — “But not just any mall. Let’s make it the biggest, most expensive mall in the world.”
Princes — “Sounds great.”
Prince #1 — “What about an indoor ski resort?”
Princes — “Sure”
Prince #1 — “Nah! Let’s save that for another mall. In fact let’s just build 20 malls. Tourists love walking around malls.”
Gah! I’ve never seen so many malls in one city. It’s incredible. We were picked up from the airport, which was an experience in and of itself, and the taxi driver said five or six times, you need to see this mall and that mall and that mall. We passed 5-6 major malls before we got to our hotel. And these aren’t just any malls. Each one is amazingly large and beautiful designed. Think of a major landmark in any other city and triple it, that’s Duabi. Everything is so large and grandiose it’s quite overwhelming. Something that may be beautiful and worth seeing, just blends into the backdrop of all the other beautifully designed structures.
We spent most of our weekend attending the Flyboard World Cup. As you may know, Nick and I have entered into the world of HydroFlight this last year–a world many do not know exists, but does and is magical. It’s full of adrenaline junkies and really down-to-earth dealers and distributers all trying to progress the sport. It was so fun for Nick to network with all of the sponsored athletes and teams who he has formed relationships with online and over-the-phone. He just needs to say a name, and I’ll immediately know who it is due to our endlesss conversations about all of these people we have never *officially met, yet who all thoroughly enjoy Nick and his product.
This post is already getting a little long, so I’ll spare some of the details. Just know these athletes are beyond talented. The triple backflip was the major accomplishment at this competition. The winner, Hunter Verlander, attempted a quadruple backflip…he landed in the water, but still major props. They are so nice and hard working. It was fun to be with them. I was also taking pictures for a HydroFlight magazine. So I have well over 2,000 pictures of flyers. Yikes!
Here are a few of my favorites:
Due to airline difficulties, our visit to Dubai was cut a day short, so we crammed as much as we possibly could in one day. We went to the Old Souk…which brought back a lot of memories from the Old City in Jerusalem. A lot of shops with all the same knock-off handbags, jewelry and general westernized touristy items. 🙂 We then went and explored the biggest mall in the world, followed by the tallest building, Burj Khalifa, in the world. She stands 2,717 feet in the air. My ears popped three times on the elevator ride up. Dubai is not messing around. Though expensive, it was worth the trip to the top. They had treats and snacks waiting for us on silver platters. The sun was setting as we were overlooking the city and the borders of other Emirate cities. It was beautiful to see the variety of architecture dotting the city. It’s no wonder this building serves as the #1 tourist spot in Dubai.
We spent the remainder of the night at The Dubai Global Village. We highly recommend it! It’s a $5 entrance fee (only affordable thing in Dubai) and well worth the time. Everything was so touristy and overpriced in the heart of the city, so we drove to the outskirts and found this hidden gem. It was definitely the most candid and least flashy place we visited and arguably the most culturally diverse place I have ever visited. Seriously, there were families from ALL over the world excited to see the different exhibits. They have HUGE elaborate expositions showcasing every country on the planet. Every country has a mini expo showcasing their culture. You walk into one “country” and are completely transported to that place. Shops. Gifts. Food. Culture. Every detail is meticulously planned…down to the workers in each expo being natives to the culture, speaking the respective language. It was amazing and large enough you get the feet-dragging, I-can-hardly-stand-it, post-Disney Land feeling.
I had mixed feelings traveling to a place that is very close in proximity to the heat of the wars and acts of terrorism (Look up United Arab Emirates, it’s friendly neighbors are Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan…hello!) …these acts that have definitely uprooted and changed the lives of many we came in contact with while in Dubai. This random decision to visit the Global Village proved to be a highlight of the trip. With a collision of SO many different cultures (Latin, African, Middle Eastern, European) and complicated histories, we all found ourselves at that very moment laughing, talking and eating overpriced crepes together. At one point, I got a little emotional in the China Expo as I watched a few Muslim women and young children learning about Chinese dance…haha Nick thought I was crazy but for some reason it really got to me. It was so refreshing to see, despite cultural differences and language barriers, everyone so eager to enjoy the night’s festivities and show their kids a good time. History, tradition, religion, culture all make interacting with others a little complicated. I see it here at home. It tears families apart. However, in that moment, nothing seemed complicated. It was just…fun.
See you later, Dubai. Don’t know if we’ll ever be back to visit, but if we do, we’ll make sure to not blow our entire budget just re-scheduling flights before we even get there 🙂