Monday, December 19, 2011

Hacked, sacked but enjoying the season!

The trip went smoothly. No major delays, fairly easy airports to no airport stories...
BUT, of course there is a story!
Let's go in the order of the title of this post:

My email was hacked while we were in our overnight layover. Most everyone on my email list received the following email. My notes are in red, while theirs are in black:
Greetings to you,(never would I put these words) I urgently need your financial assistance of about 1200pounds.(why wouldn't I contact someone personally if I so desperately needed money?!) i had a quick trip to UK(luckily, most people knew which way I was flying, not through the UK) and Unfortunately i was robbed on my way to the hotel,all my personal possession including my wallet was taken from me. Right now I'm stuck here in Manchester and unable to Get back home. Kindly let me know if you can be of help? i have been to the embassy but they are ready to help me with a temporary passport which i can use to travel back home.(contradiction from the last sentence...I'm stuck in Machester and unable to get home, yet in this sentence, it states the embassy is giving me a temporary passport to use to get home?!)
i will appreciate any amount you can afford to help me with.I made inquiries and have been told i can only receive money via western union or money gram. i will like you to act fast on this and let me know if i should send you my details so you can send me the money. i await your reply.(terrible grammar, not my style, hehehe)

So, this was not the most pleasant way to start the trip, but hey, with a long converation with a yahoo representative, a few changes here and there and all seems to be fine now. It is a shame that these hackers do not use their intelligence more wisely and for the betterment of society!

Well, just your usual time change jet lag. Lack of sleep, waking up at odd hours of the morning or night, going to sleep much earlier than we usually do.
At least we are in our beautiful house, enjoying the weather and relaxing to the fullest!

Enjoying the season:
It has been so much fun to have my own home to decorate again. Here are some of my favorite decorations that I put up this year:

Hoping that you are all enjoying this festive holiday season.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Expat curveball: Learning from mistakes

Last year, we made one big, huge $3,500 mistake at Christmas time...
here's how it happened:

Leaving Atyrau, Kazakhstan always tends to be nerve racking. You aren't sure if the planes are on time, and boy oh boy, were they ever late in December 2010!
The plane we were supposed to depart Atyrau on was scheduled to leave at 9:30 am. The connecting flight was at 1:30 to London...where we were going to take our children to a show, or maybe to ride the London Eye...or whatever fun, holiday event the evening would provide.
The next morning our flight to NY and the Pittsburgh was set.

Well, the night before our flight leaving Atyrau, a friend called and asked if I had seen the internet for Air Astana...the flight was already delayed by 2 hours...from the previous night!
So, I still hoped for the best, thinking oh, two hours is still plenty of time to make our flight.
Then the morning came, and the flight was delayed even longer...but it still, left us with an hour to make our flight.

Side note #1:
I am ok with running through airports. I do not care about the stares one receives while running...I most likely do not know who is laughing or gawking at me, nor will probably ever see them again.

As the morning wore on, it became quite obvious that we would not make our 1:30 connection. So, I call a popular US airline that had the rest of our connecting flights. Unfortunately, when I book online with the local airline, that's where the buck stops. So no one was responsible for the change fees and change of fare that I was charged except for me!

Side note #2:
This was only about $2,900.

So, I bit the bullet, what else could I do? I changed the connections to London to the 4:30 flight. Surely we would make that, right?
Well, one would think so, but one would be wrong when dealing with this airline!

The morning turned into past lunchtime. We were finally called to the airport for our flight to depart at 3:30, landing at local time with one hour to spare. Again, perfect...see side note #1. An hour is plenty of time to make a connection.

Well, there we sat on the runway...over an hour more...
we landed at 4:15. By the time we taxied and I ran to the connections desk, the flight to London was lost. So what does a travel weary yet determined expat do?
Spend quite a large sum of international roaming call money, to call once again, our airline....
change the tickets for only the cost of the change fee...a mere $600.


We arrived into London around midnight, found the hotel, slept a short, few hours, and got up the next morning to leave for the US. Now, at first, the next airline claimed we didn't have tickets, but you can imagine how there was no way I was letting them claim this....
let's just say me, a supervisor and a few choice words got us onto a flight. I'm not even sure it was the same flight I booked the prior evening, but on we flew.

But what lessons does one learn from these experiences?
Book a hotel room to stay overnight, and continue the journey the next day.
As I look outside my window right now, with my flight looming tomorrow morning, and the snowflakes falling, skies a cloudy, misty mix of snow and moisture...
yea, I feel good about the lessons I learned.
Hotel is booked and waiting for us, no matter what time we arrive!
(as long as we arrive tomorrow...there is another tale from Atyrau of a friend whose plane did not take off for over 36 hours!)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


It was a crazy week....
We had caroling around the neighborhood, a Christmas party with white elephant gift exchange and Santa for our children, a holiday play, and then a cookie swap!

Here are my cookies, pizzelles and Russian balls (how appropriate, right?!) that I took to the swap:

...and here is Bella enjoying the crumbs!

Now onto packing and getting ready to return to our home and families for the holidays!
Merry, merry...
pass the cheer
6 more days
till we will be there!