Tuesday, May 27, 2014

30th Anniversary in The Maldives!

Joe and I just got back from celebrating our 30th anniversary-- in The Maldives!  The Maldives is a group of islands in the Indian Ocean, just southwest of India.  And southeast of Oman.  It was only a 3 1/2 hour flight from Muscat to Male, the capital of The Maldives.  We then took another plane to our resort.  If you look very closely, we were at the very bottom dot in the red circle, just below the equator.  Pretty much all alone in the big Indian Ocean.

The Maldives is made up of more than 1200 islands.  We stayed at one of our favorite hotel chains, the Shangri-La.  The resort was located 500 km south of Male.  Side note:  if you are flying into Male, be sure your camera is not in the overhead bin.  I can kick myself for missing some amazing pictures.

(Warning:  This is a long blog post with lots of pictures of water.  I don't want to lose you in the middle.)

We flew a Maldivian Airline plane to Gan.  You can see a sprinkling of islands in the water below.

The airstrip in Gan was built during the WWII, when Gan was the location of a secret British Naval Base.  It stayed a secret until 1943, but by then, Japan didn't pose as much of a threat (according to the sign).

Not a bad location for a secret naval base.

We took a boat from Gan for the short trip to our resort.

Our first glimpse of the beach.  It felt very much like what I would imagine Fantasy Island to be.  I half-expected to hear 'Ze plane, ze plane.'  If you don't know what I am talking about, you are too young.  :)

View from our deck.  We stayed in a water villa.

The water villas were a little ways off the shore, and the resort was also rather spread out.  Each villa came with two bikes.  We loved riding them.

Our neighbors.  Though we never really saw any other people by us.

I kept trying to get a decent picture of the water.  This still does not do it justice.  I have never seen so many shades of turquoise in the water at once.

The island is very jungly.  We loved bike riding on the roads.  There were no cars, only golf carts on the island.

We saw lots of flying foxes.

Which is a nice name for this bat.

We also saw quite a few crabs.  Which after a minute, just look like big spiders to me.

On a nicer note, we saw this stingray in the water close to our villa.  We also saw a giant sea turtle and a baby shark.  By baby, I mean 3 or 4 feet long.

Here is Joe, riding the bike to our villa.  The boardwalk was about 10-12 feet off the ground.  It was a little nerve-wracking on the windier days.  I was just concentrating on not falling in the water!

Our deck loungers

Can't go to the beach without a toe picture.

This is the reception area and jetty, where the hotel guests come in and leave from.

The area right behind Joe is an outdoor lounge, and the perfect spot to watch the sunset.

These were really awesome cabanas by the infinity pool.

The view of the pool and beach from the cabana.

Riding through a tree tunnel.  This Shangri-La resort was immaculate!  There would be people out on these paths every morning, sweeping up the fallen leaves.

This was the view from my massage room.  Granted, I only saw it coming and going, but I knew it was there.  :)

I took a picture of this on our last day.  It had been kind of rainy for a couple of days.  May is the beginning of the rainy season, so you might want to visit earlier in the year.  Anyways, this was one of my favorite spots on the island.  I loved riding my bike over this water every morning, and that bit of green grass in the middle is the only golf course in The Maldives.  I think.  You can't tell here, but I could also see the ocean on the other side of the golf course.

2,702 km from home.

There are quite a few activities to be enjoyed at this resort.  Snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, sailing, and even mountain climbing.  Yes, we 'climbed' to the tallest spot in all of The Maldives.  Elevation:  16 feet!

This was actually a tee box on the golf course.  Joe golfed the course the day before, but on the last morning, we rode our bikes on the cart path.  I didn't realize we could do that, and the views were some of the best on the island!  Anyways, The Maldives is the flattest country in the world.

This sign on the course showed that there was nothing between this spot and the Antarctica, except lots of water.

Almost forgot to take pics of the villa.  Beautiful and huge.

This hall leads to an amazing bathroom and outdoor shower.  There was also an indoor shower.  Really should have closed the shower door.

Ready for dinner on the last night.

We spent five days here and it was beautiful, beyond our expectations!  A great place to celebrate 30 years of marriage to this great guy!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Muscat Women's Fellowship

"The purpose of Muscat Women's Fellowship is to provide ladies with Christian fellowship and an opportunity to become all God wants them to be.  We want to create an environment for women to develop relationships with others and to participate in education programs that will inspire them to grow spiritually.  We also want to use our meetings as a vehicle to serve and enrich our community."

I have been involved in MWF since I first arrived in Oman.  It has been such a pleasure to meet and get to know all these wonderful ladies.  Now this is a picture-taking group!  There is no shortage of photos from our meetings.  Here are a few from some of our events throughout the time I have been in Oman.

We meet one Wednesday a month, from September to May, in the Bosch Hall of the Ghala church.  The church is located across the street from The American International School of Muscat.

March 2013:  Christianity Around the World

Everyone comes dressed in their native attire.  I think all the Americans present were from Texas, so there were a lot of cowboy boots!  We learned about Christianity in other countries.  Ladies also brought food from their country.  Texas was represented with Blue Bell ice cream, believe it or not.

April 2013:  Guest speaker- Lana Packer

We were very privileged to have Lana Packer, second from the left, to come speak to our group.  Lana is from Stuttgart, Germany, and is a well-known author and speaker.  

My friend, Theresa, in the middle, just happened to be visiting from Texas.  She got to come, since I was doing the centerpieces.

Ribbon and flower containers came with me from the US.  I anticipated my involvement in centerpieces at some point in time.  :)

October 2013:  Women's Conference

We had a wonderful conference, headed up by our colorful Florina and Michelle.  These ladies did such a great job in planning and organizing this day-long conference!

Julie, Jennifer, and I help with set-up the night before.

Our speaker, Sharon James, came to us from England.

We had over 100 women in attendance.  The event was held at the Al Falaj hotel in Ruwi.

Fun ice-breaker game before our speaker began.

December 2013:  Christmas Luncheon

The Christmas lunch is one of the most popular events for MWF.  We sell 50 tickets, and they go quickly!  The event is usually held at this beautiful location, the home of the Bosches.  

Dr. and Mrs. Bosch came to Oman in the 1950's, as medical missionaries.  They helped establish hospitals and schools in Oman.  In the 1980's, they were going to retire and head back home to America.  But Sultan Qaboos wanted to honor their long years of service to the country of Oman, so he made the Omani citizens (a rare occurrence) and built them this beautiful home.  

We used Indian sari fabric to cover the white tablecloths.

Dress code was white and gold.  Mrs. Bosch, however, stands out in red!

Also December 2013:  Christmas Bazaar

MWF holds a Christmas Bazaar in December.  Funds are raised for Christmas Joy, an event put on for hundreds of manual laborers in Oman.

Antonette and I are manning the MWF craft table.

There are all sorts of great things for sale.  These ladies are selling kurtas, or tunics, from India.  I bought two, but wish I had bought more!

There was face painting and other activities for the kids.

I liked the art work this young Omani man was selling, but I also wanted to show his hair.  There are some quite elaborate sculpted hair styles among the young Omani men.

I couldn't resist adding this hairstyle either!

February 2014:  Valentine Service Project

We collected toiletry items and are bagging them up.  They went to some of the safe houses in the city, where women, usually household workers, come to if mistreated or in trouble.

I didn't realize how many of our meetings had dress codes!!  :)

May 2014:  Aloha Farewell

Last week was my last MWF meeting.  Every May, there is a farewell meeting, as most people tend to move during the summer.  We were gifted lamps, with a Bible verse attached.  Here I am, in my most 'Hawaiian' shirt, with my buddy, Debi. 

Debi was in charge of decorations.  I had mentioned in the Baby Shower blog post that Debi had been in the US and had brought back a suitcase full of goodies.  The leis and other Hawaiian decorations were also in her suitcase.  Amazing she was able to keep it within the strict weight limits!

The six of us are scattering across the world!  Two to Nigeria, one to Texas, one to California, one to Sri Lanka, and me, to Malaysia.  We were supposed to be making sad faces, but didn't succeed.  By the way, out of the six, Debi and I will have the shortest stays, at 20 months.  Kemi has been here the longest, at almost nine years.

I have been so blessed to be part of this fellowship! If you are in Muscat and interested in joining the group in September 2014, e-mail mwfellowship@gmail.com for more details.


By the way, this is my view as I finish this blog post.  Just waiting for the sun to come out in the beautiful Maldives!