Friday, January 20, 2012

Final City - Mumbai!

Since I have been extremely busy with little time to blog, I wanted to share our course blog written by the students (below). I'm having a hard time loading pictures to this blog as well so I promise to share them somehow when we return.

Nutshell - we're in Mumbai until Monday evening when we fly back to the states. This city is awesome. Safe compared to the others, lots of cool buildings, restaurants, bars, shopping, hotels....we are staying in the Vivanta by Taj (formerly known as the Taj President). It's a 5 star hotel and it sure does feel like it! Very, very nice.

Ate some delicious Italian/Indian food today for lunch. Head to Raj's parents house in a few hours for dinner. All we've been doing is eating....eating and more eating. Delicious food but a little rich to be eating 2-3 times a day! I have not lost any weight on this trip!

India is such a fascinating place. It's really hard to describe the sights, sounds, people, culture and mass chaos that seems to work for everyone. One side of the street is a 5 star hotel and the other side is filled with homeless people under covers begging for food. Seen nothing like it. Mumbai has been the first place in India that the students say "feels familiar"'s more like a NYC but definitely still 10x more hectic.

I have some videos to share once I can upload them.....I hope they will give at least a small indication of the sentiment of this country. Cities and states here are very different. It's like the different cultures of the regions in the US but probably even more so. Different foods, accents, laws, landscapes, etc.

Gotta get going but I hope to blog more when we return. Ohhhh, we're visiting a slum tomorrow. Mumbai has 18 million people and about half live in the slums. We saw them when we flew into the airport was miles and miles and miles of shacks/huts/boards on top of each other, literally up against each other. I am excited to visit but also feel a weird nervousness. We have seen so many sad sights here already without even visiting the slums: people with no legs, deformed body parts, missing body parts, emaciated people, blondness, children and adults covered in dirt and grime. There have been people with legs that look disjointed and you wonder how they can even move. People who look like animals walking on all fours because of deformities. It's sad because we look and then try to look away to avoid them begging our entire group for money. We have learned that if you give one person something there will be numerous others on your trail. It makes me sad because I feel like I haven't had a chance to fully grasp my emotions. I am now thinking about it and it makes my stomach hurt.

Phew, okay.... on that note I will leave you with the hope I will blog in more detail about our slum visit tomorrow. I think that will have a lot of impact on the students, at least I hope so. I know India has already had an impact on me. So blessed.

Below is our student blog which gives some more details about our excursions to date. We haven't been able to get photos to upload since Dubai.


Monday, January 16, 2012


Sunset after we rode elephants through the "jungle safari" in Jaipur, India.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Too busy to blog...

...that's a good thing, right?

I am way behind on this blog but wanted to post once more about Dubai since we had some neat excursions and learned a lot along the way. We're in Jaipur, India now. I will get to the India stuff soon I hope!

Friday, January 5

We started the day with a tour of Dubai including “Old Dubai” where we walked through a souk (market) with spices, trinkets, sandals, and traditional Arab garb. I purchased a beautiful embroidered black dress that an Arabic woman might wear with a nice black head-covering which I learned how to wrap around my head! Luckily our tour guide, Asad, was able to help us negotiate. Also, my colleague Raj was speaking some Arabic and insisting the shops give us a good price because we are students (Yes, I can still pass for a student when I am mixed in with the others!) I paid 90 dirhams ($25) which is a good deal for a quality dress and head-covering. You will notice that I wore it later in the evening for our desert safari. A few of the guys in our group bought white robes and head-coverings as well. A few wore them to the safari at night.

Oh, backing up….we took a water taxi to get to the souk. We were only on them for 10 minutes or so but it was pretty darn cool. This reminds me...tipping is not expected at all in Dubai. It might be accepted by some but most won’t expect much at all or may even refuse.

We learned that clothes covering the whole body are not “required” for Muslim people; instead, it’s just a traditional Arabic style. Depending on how conservative the person is s/he will wear clothes covering the entire body or some parts of it. It’s mostly a modesty thing not a religious thing. Black is considered the most modest color for women. Those same people will wear westernized clothes at home such as jeans and t-shirts.

Our group was picked up at the Golden Sands 10 Hotel around 3 p.m. We split into groups of 7 and rode in SUVs. My group of 7 had a driver named Adil who is from Oman. He told us our SUV was new and the only one in the lot with a V8 engine. It sure felt powerful as we rode up and down the sand dunes.

The vehicles caravanned about an hour outside Dubai toward the desert. When we arrived, each vehicle had to deflate the tires to a certain pressure so it could drive on the sand. Alternatively, the tires had to be inflated when we left the sand dunes and drove back to Dubai on the highways. By the way the infrastructure in Dubai is state of the art....getting around the state was easy because it is highly developed, organized, clean, efficient, etc.

The ride was a roller-coaster to say the least. It was about 45 minutes of twists, turns, ups, downs, all-arounds! I started to feel a little warm toward the end of the ride and many others got sick. Luckily, we got out a few times to take pictures and breathe a bit.

Once we arrived at the entrance of the desert we were dropped off to see a falcon trainer. This guy was pretty cool (aussie or kiwi) ...he held some food on the end of a rope and swung it to get the faclon to fly around and put on a show for us. Pretty cool.

Next was more sand dunes and then finally a short camel ride. I definitely almost fell off the camel TWICE. Once when it went to get up and then when it went to sit down and let us off. Very scary but fun! It was literally a 100 yard ride since there were other tourists with our group.

Then, we entered a neat little safari area with carpets and pillows to sit and enjoy a beer, some wine and some shishka (sp?) what we call hookah. Dinner was served and the evening ended with a belly dancer and then lights out for star gazing. I felt like I was in a dream being surreal.

We also got some henna tattoos (ink)...naturally, I asked for a camel!

I was not able to post any pictures (might be my internet connection) but will keep trying because those really tell the tales as well as some video footage I have from my little camera.

Unfortunately, that's all I have time to post tonight. Just a snapshot for now.

A little something to wet your appetite for the next blog.....

One of our students said this today about India: "Just when you think you've seen it all, you see something else that blows your mind!"

Lots of love,

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sheesh. Where do I begin? Of course, I intended for this blog to be chronological with frequent updates that made lots and lots of sense and had lots and lots of cultural significance. Truth be told I am exhausted! We have had a busy few days since we landed Wednesday evening at 7:30 pm Dubai time. I wanted to send something before another day passed (apologies, it's not the most creative, cohesive post)...just a few thoughts from my two days in Dubai:

Creative architecture. Spread out like LA, not like NY. Also like LA, people don't walk they drive. Asad made fun of me for asking to run outside. He says "Tourists don't come here to run!" Lots of cars on the road yet no signs of road rage...hardly any honking. Clean. Lots of sand. A few really neat parks with some grass and palm trees. Metro with state of the art automation - zero staff needed to run the actual train. Very clean. There is a fine if you even chew gum on the train. Runs underground and elevated in areas. Taxis all over - surprisingly cheap compared to everything else here. 30 minute ride is approx 40 dirhams (3.65 dirhams to $1) so around $10....we had 7 people in the "cab-van" so you can do the math.

Learning about the Middle East from people who live here has left me wondering why I so easily believe pieces of what the media portrays about certain countries or groups of people. The tone, understanding, intellect and tolerance of the people here is unbelievable. Such a peaceful and safe place. Very diverse....a lot of Asian and Indian folks.

On a lighter note, I have a crush on our tour guide, Asad. He's a jokester. He is from Dubai but lived in Chicago for 7 years. He is working to earn his master's in business. We had a city tour today and got to see Old Town and bargain for goods at the souk (Arabic for market)

Options here for types of food are anything and everything.

Our first night we had some Indian food since it was late and we just walked to a few close places. I definitely experienced a bit of heartburn and stomach indigestion. The food was authentic and a bit spicy. Nothing I couldn't handle but it was a nice precursor to India where I need to take small bites and learn how to say "mild" in Hindi!

Lebanese food is delicious here. Also had a mix of traditional Arabic foods today at the desert safari.

Had some tangiolini pasta with crab at a really nice restaurant near the Dubai Mall, called Bice Mare. Sous Chef came to our table to finish the dish and serve to those of us who ordered it.

There is a grocery store 100 yards from our hotel called Spinneys. Purchased some water...nothing else yet.

Cab driver called me out when I said I was from America. He motioned around his face and said I was Arab. haha I then explained the Lebanese/Italian heritage. He quizzically looked at me to which I verbally replied "I know you are right, I am not technically American am I. I have Arab blood in me" and we both laughed.

So much to write about. Don't know where to begin. The students sum it up nicely when they say "How am I ever going to explain this place to my parents?! You just can't even begin to describe what we are experiencing." Couldn't agree more!

Been busy as expected but will try to keep posting.

Love to all,

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Elon Winter Term, January 2012

Dearest family and friends...

I realize my blog has been inactive for almost two years. Time flies. I'm not going to apologize nor am I pursuing a career in blogging anytime soon. I will save that for my adventurous wordsmith of a brother, @bagdaddy ( However, I feel compelled to begin again and maintain posts for the next few weeks at least.

I am about to embark on a three-week study abroad experience to Dubai and India as a co-leader. Our group of 30 will depart January 3rd and return January 24. The course is called "Business and Culture of the Indo-Gulf" and the students will be blogging daily


1. Substitute reading my blog for "losing weight" as your new years resolution.
2. This is my first overseas excursion. Yes, I am serious.
3. Who doesn't want to read stories from a three-week journey with 28 students, one faculty member and me in a country where we shouldn't drink the water?
4. Pictures.
5. I will turn 29 while riding an elephant in Jaipur.

Time Zones
Dubai - 9 hours ahead of EST
India - 10.5 hours ahead of EST (Perhaps I will figure out why the .5)

Basic Itinerary

January 3 : Fly to JFK then to Dubai (12 hour flight from JFK to Dubai)
January 4-8 : Dubai
January 8-24 : India (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bhavnagar, Mumbai)

I am praying my outlet adapter works in India so I can charge my computer and actually post every now and then. Stay tuned and wish me an amazing adventure with many tall and genuine tales.

Love always,

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Half Marathon Training Update

This post should be short and sweet. Kinda like my training. The Pittsburgh Half Marathon is exactly 6 weeks away. Funny enough 6 miles is about the farthest I have run in my training (well, not yet but I am about to go run 6 now if I get off the couch and stop blogging.) I have been fighting sinus/allergies which are new to me so I've been sluggish on my runs. I plan to work some fartlek (intervals) and hills into my runs to hopefully give me some strength for the race. The plan is to slowly increase my long runs until I get up to 10 before the race on May 2nd.

Thomas Family Running Updates:
My sister Leah is running the Pittsburgh Half with me this May. This will be her first half marathon! Her training is going well - I think she's up to 9-10 miles now (kicking my butt.) Plus, she was buried in snow up in DC and couldn't run outside for a while. Good work, Scussy.

My older brother Matty, who just turned 29 on St.Patty's day finished the Los Angeles Marathon this morning in just over 3 hours. He has been sick with a virus but still completed the race in a very respectable time. His PR is around 2:50. He volunteers with "Students Run LA" an organization that encourages at-risk students to run and complete a marathon.

My younger brother Zummy (Z's Blog) is nuts in a good way. He completed his first Ultra Marathon a few weeks ago in 6 hrs and 58 minutes for a first place finish. This was a 50 mile race. Yes, he ran for an entire workday. Think about that tomorrow when you're at your desk.

They continue to inspire me with each run...

Night of the Phoenix

I work for Elon's Phoenix Club, the fundraising organization within the Athletic department. The past two years, the Phoenix Club has hosted an annual fundraising dinner and silent auction to raise scholarship funds for student-athletes at Elon. This year's "Night of the Phoenix" on February 19th was a huge success with close to $90,000 (net) raised! This is the most we have raised in the event's three year history.

The formal entertainment for the evening was a gentleman named Giovanni Livera, who is a performer, magician and motivational speaker. I didn't get to see much of his show but I know it included some cool tricks our coaches buzzed about for days after the event.

Our silent auction included around 170 items open for bidding. Items included everything from a Biscuitville t-shirt to a week long Caribbean Cruise on a private yacht. Oh and not to mention a dinner with yours truly. I made a cool $500 which far surpassed the amount bid on dinner with our head coaches. What can I say?! Priceless.

February is a frantic month for us in the office. Luckily, we had a great crew of people helping us make the evening memorable for all. Thanks to all who helped and put up with a sleep-deprived Sarah for a few weeks.