So this is Christmas

Ever since moving here in the desert three years ago, the month of December has always been a huge struggle for me to get pass through. Sharp pangs of homesickness always hit me hardest during December not only because it is the month when Christmas season is in full swing (the happiest month in the country where I grew up) but it also happens to be my birthday month. So just the mere thought of closest friends and family greeting me "happy birthday" were enough to break me into tears.

Fortunately, something has changed this year...

It's my third Christmas here in Dubai and even though it's never (will never ever be) the same as celebrating Christmas with my family back home, I'd like to believe I've finally gotten better at dealing with this tough season. I don't know. Maybe my perspective has changed this year or maybe this is just me finally growing up.

I've become more accepting of life's realities no matter how harsh. I've started facing the results of my decision to move here with a braver front. There's still the incessant whining and rants of course. I guess that part will never go away. But at the end of the day, I deal with it and I move forward.

So yes, I am still sad but I am happy. I know that last part sounded weird but that's just the best way to put it. More than the nice gifts I received under the Christmas tree a few days ago, I really have a lot to be thankful for this year and a lot of good things and blessings to look forward to in the coming new year. I'm beyond excited! :)

I hope all of you had a very merry Christmas! I wish you are all feeling happy, loved and blessed this festive season wherever you are in the world. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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Travel Diaries: Tbilisi, Georgia and beyond

Happy weekend! It was my birthday last Thursday. Took the day off and flew to Tbilisi, Georgia early in the morning and I really couldn't imagine a better way to celebrate. After checking in at Courtyard by Marriott, we decided to tour outside the city first and experience snow (because you know, being perpetually sun-kissed Dubai residents, we just gotta dive into snow first).
We went to Jinvali, Ananuri, Gudauri and even braved the extremely cold weather by hiking all the way up Kazbegi Mountain to see Gergeti Trinity (a 14th-century church situated at an elevation of 2170 meters) up close. If full blown hiking is not really up your alley, you can actually rent a truck instead driven by locals. The rough road up was scary and it still required a short hike to go all the way up to Gergeti, but I'm telling you, the stunning view from the top is definitely worth the climb. Will do it again in a heartbeat for sure.
After a scrumptious late lunch in Restaurant Gagieti (where we ate Georgian-style barbecue, fried chicken and their must-try dumplings which they call Khinkali) somewhere in Gudauri, Armen (our friendly Armenian guide) drove us back to a snow-filled Tbilisi night. It felt like a scene straight out of a romantic movie. We explored all around the old city's streets on foot, looked inside a lot of stores, discovered a Christmas-lit park next to a whimsy Georgian cafe, danced under the snowfall, and took a million photos exactly like how silly tourists would.

Rustaveli Avenue was a stone's throw away from our hotel so it was easy to roam around. It's a good thing that Courtyard is located at the heart of Tbilisi and everything is just a few steps away. Of course, their famous winemaking method being tagged by UNESCO as an intangible heritage should be enough reason for us not to miss their wine. We've even tried some of the scrumptious wine-infused dishes being served at Cafe Restaurant Kala along the charming street of Erekle II.

We went to Peace Bridge, the famous old baths area, and met a lot of wonderful strangers who were very willing to take our photos for us. It was a fun experience. :)
Magical is not enough to describe the past three days. I've never visited that many churches in one day! With the help of our new-found friend Marine, I managed to finally conquer my fear of heights and stairs by trying every snowy stair of Tbilisi hills (first stop was Mama Daviti Church on top of the Holy mountain no less) and even trying out the cable car ride to get to Narikala Fortress and enjoy a perfect view of Mother of Georgia. It's just perfect beyond words. My only regret was not wearing proper boots. Snow can be dangerously slippery!

To be honest I feel extremely blessed to be at this point in my life right now. Really can't think of a birthday wish anymore, because I only have gratitude inside me. THANK YOU.

I've posted more photos of our trip to Georgia in this post.

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