Sunday, January 29, 2012
The Spice Farm was better, though still left us wanting. This little girl is collecting nutmeg. We toured the plants and it was hot and tropical. We learned a lot about how different spices grow, and I appreciate that. We learned that the banana plant is actually a grass, not a bush. It has one time to make bananas and then it dies. A banana flower is actually quite large and beautiful, about 10 inches in length and very sexy. I told myself that I will try to imagine that lush forest whenever I use pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, or have coffee! After the tour, they gave us a shot of Pheni, which is a strong liquor made from the cashew plant. They take out the nut and then use the rest of the plant for this godawful alcohol. But we were starting to get grumpy so it chilled us out. We had an Indian buffet there, too. The fish fingers were the best!
Walker has made some friends here with two kids of an English couple. We like the parents, too. And the Argentians' kids are hanging out too. Walker felt left out for the 1st time that we saw, and it was heartbreaking. But he pulled himself together and now is right back at it with them! He woke up this morning and was ready to play, right away!
His 3rd birthday was yesterday and we celebrated with a chocolate cake with pink icing, as he requested. The two waiters here went out and bought him party hats and a streamer and some balloons. It was so touching. Walker has been wearing his party hat today, too. He got a couple of small toys and some potato chips for his presents!
The other evening at sunset we walked to the end of the beach and climbed some big rocks until we were very high (about 100 feet!), and we watched the bats escape from their crevice and go off into the dusk sky. Then...an eagle came swooping down and caught a bat in its talons right before our very eyes. it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. This happens every night! The eagles wait for the bats to come out and then make their move. It is truly an amazing thing to see. I am so glad I got to see it!
Today we went to the end of the beach here and swam in the pool it makes at the estuary. It was calm and so we all were able to swim. Very nice day.
Pa and I both had this awesome tandoori chicken last night with a mint/spinach sauce on it. Amazingly delicious. For lunch we were back at the Prawn sandwich. For dinner? We shall see.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
A frog living in our toilet. Made it kinda hard to poop. It just didn't feel right, you know?
A tree full of fruit bats that Jamie saw while on a scooter outing. Amazing!
Here is Walker taking a bucket bath. He pretends he doesn't like it, and he screams bloody murder, but then he asks for more. He had me throwing buckets of water at him the other day...over and over while he screamed in delight. The showers in India are in the same room as the toilet and sink, with no curtain or door in between. This works out just fine.
We have changed plans. Initially we were going to stay here at the beach for 6 days, make our way to Varanasi, the Holy city on Mama Ganga, and then head North to glimpse the Himalaya. After hearing there was about 3 feet of snow in the North, after watching Walker run around freely, after being tired from long train rides, and after experiencing the chill of Goa...we decided to stay at the beach for 13 days. We were able to change our flight to Varanasi with only a $60 penalty. So now...we will be here at Agonda Beach until 2 Feb, then Varanasi 2-5 Feb, then Delhi 5-9 Feb. Then home! We are finding this is very common for travelers to do because moving around is very tiring. On my last 2 trips to India, I did the very same thing as well.
Walker has been pretty challenging the past few days. Screaming like a monster at people, throwing sand, hitting, and being pretty needy. He also has not been listening. This is exhausting. We realize it would be the same at home. But at home, we would each have a break and we would not be in public so much. Here we each have to deal with the stress of this wild behavior all day long. We are working on ways of dealing with it so we can each get a break. In addition, he does not like the beach. He says the noise of the waves scares him. He is not afraid of water when we are at the lake, but here he is afraid of the small crabs, the noise, and a small variety of other things. I had imagined him playing in the sand, making sand castles, running in the surf...but alas, this is not the way it is.
The guys in the restaurant (each hotel has its own beach side covered restaurant) where we hang out are so lovely. They work here during the season, then go home or go travel in the off season. One guy is clearly very intelligent: his name is Sam and he is from Nepal. He said after the season he will travel in India and go to Hampi, a great historical site in Southern India. The other guy Ravi will go home to his 3 year old daughter and his wife. Ravi has a delightful and genuine smile. They are so sweet to Walker and have managed to make friends with him. (Even though Walker has said several times that he "doesn't like these brown people." Imagine my reaction to that utterance! He got a good talking to last time he said that. I am sure he says this because so many people try to pinch his face and get in his space.)
Walker's birthday is in 2 days. Yesterday we ordered him a chocolate cake with pink writing from the German Bakery right down the road. Jamie picked up a few small toys and a bag of chips for his gifts. We shall have a little party here at the restaurant and get people to sing with us!
We took a day trip the other day down to Palolem beach where I have twice stayed in the past. It was hugely depressing. The beach is now overcrowded and dirty. I would never stay there now, as it is party central. Apparently they have "silent parties" where everyone gets headphones and techno/trance music is pumped into the headphones. People do a bunch of drugs and mill around with headphones on. They can take them off to chat with each other when they feel like it. How bizarre.
I have seen many things change here in the past 5 years. India is growing like mad and changing rapidly. It is truly amazing to see and recognize these changes. In the past, young women wore Salwaar Kameez on a daily basis. These have now been replaced with blue jeans. It is very sad. The Salwaar Kameez are beautiful 2 piece clothing sets that women wear, along with a large scarf that matches. They are super comfy and come in many colors and styles. Now women wear them mostly for special occasions. I also have noticed a lack of bangles. Before, everyone had sets of glass bangles or Lac bangles of some kind. Now...almost nothing. Maybe one or two instead of 10 or 20. And the prices have risen dramatically, which has messed with our budget somewhat. The food at the beach was previously about 50-100 rupees ($1-2) per person per meal. Now it is about 150-250 rupees ($3-5) per person per meal. Even though that is still way less than at home, it is more than I had bargained for. I could go on and on about the changes in India, culturally and politically, but I think I will save that for another time.
On the other hand, when we told the owner of our Guest House we were staying longer, he reduced the price of our stay by half, even retroactively. I was super surprised. And then I got wary, wondering what the catch was. That day there was no electricity and I thought perhaps he was reducing the rate because the electricity was never going to come back on! But it has. So we will let it be and hope for the best. I hate that I distrust things such as that, but there is a reason and that reason is experience.
Jamie took a cooking class yesterday. I am super proud of him for going and learning how to make some Indian food.He has some experience with it from cooking at home, but he said he learned a lot anyway. He had a good time and came back with a little homemade cookbook. Walker and I chilled out and played in the sand and read while Pa was gone. We are enjoying the food and the kinds of food available. From a simple shrimp sandwich with the crusts cut off to a delightful seafood salad with yummy veggies to masala omelettes to tandoori chicken....I am eating myself into a very fat stomach. But! But! It is so delicious and fun to eat!
We are thinking about taking a day trip to a spice plantation and elephant home. It is kinda far away (3 hours each way) but I really want to go. We'll see how that pans out. We need to do a little more research on it 1st.
So....that's what's happening here, folks. Drop us a line and let us know what is happening with you!
Monday, January 23, 2012
Here is our shack by the beach. It costs $30 USD a night. Not bad. It has no T.V., mosquito net over the bed, and only a cold shower. No Problem! We are on a west facing beach on the Arabian sea, great for watching the sun set every night. Romantic even with a 3yr old along! I'm excited by the fact that I could walk into the jungle and maybe see a cobra or a 18' long python. But I don't go looking for rattle snakes at home, so I'm sure as hell not gonna hunt cobras in India.
At the end of the beach where we are staying there is a group of overland travelers who are camping. They have come from all over, in all sorts of vehicles. Some of these folks have traveled trough Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to get here. Impressive! One family we met there has been on the road for 12 years with their 4 kids traveling in a car from the 1920's with wooden wheels. They started in Argentina, came through the Americas, came across Europe, and so on. They have written a book about their travels, and their web site is www.sparkyourdream.net. Their 1st son was born in Greensboro, NC! They are truly interesting people.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
We ended our time in Jaisalmer by going to see the lake. It was nice and peaceful with interesting buildings. We saw some wild pigs; their snouts are very long and funny!
Then we took a 6 hour train to Jodhpur. The trip was a bit harrowing, as we were tired and Walker was being wild. We arrived with our increasingly heavy bags, to find our pick-up guy not there. But he arrived within 5 minutes in a CAR, and we were extremely grateful as we were freezing on the train. He brought us to the Niralhi Dhani Hotel, 7 KM outside of town. We chose this hotel because the pictures on the internet showed it has a grassy field and a pool and the room looked awesome. Well, it IS very nice-the room is super comfy and it even has a heater-but the grass is dirt and it is too cold to swim. Nevertheless, the service here is over the top. I mean, we are afraid to ask for something because we not only get what we ask for, but 10X more! For breakfast they have an Indian breakfast buffet. So yesterday, they offered us fruit as well, knowing we were not used to Indian Breakfasts. Then today, they brought us fresh fruit, Poori (Puffy round bread), AND boiled vegetables. This is in addition to the Porridge & cereal we already had. We felt obliged to eat what they brought...and now we are STUFFED!
The best part is that we have all been sleeping great....and there is room for this child to run!
Yesterday we went to the fort here in Jodhpur and it was amazing. I mean, it is HUGE. I cannot see how it could ever be penetrated, even today. The walls are super high and thick. It is beautiful also; from the top, you can look down at Jodhpur, the blue city. Gorgeous! We enjoyed ourselves at the fort.
Then we went to the Clock tower, where there was a bustling, colorful market. It was a bit overwhelming...but we also saw some gorgeous colorful stalls. Then back to the hotel for a huge delicious Indian meal and early bed.
I think it is time to talk about what is hard about traveling with Walker. I don't want you all to think I am covering up the hard stuff. It is not all laughs and snuggles. Jamie and I have been talking about what frustrates us being with him here and why we lose patience sometimes with him. We have concluded that all the negative things come back to him being 3 years old (well, next week).
1. His hands are always dirty, dirty, dirty. Then he puts them in his mouth. Then he cries and refuses to let me clean his hands. Then he puts them in his mouth. Then he runs them along a dirty wall, while wet from being in his mouth. This drives me crazy.
2. He only will let certain people change his clothes, change his diapers, kiss him, put on his socks, hold his hand, carry him. Usually this is me, but sometimes it is Pa. This can involve lots of baggage exchange between me and Pa...not enough personal time for the one required to do the task for Walker, and annoyance on our part overall.
3. We never stop watching him. I can't relax in that regard, even when we are inside...unless he is watching a movie or sleeping. Just a few minutes ago, he went through my purse....AND Jamie's bag where he ended up messing with Pa's prescription sunglasses. And he ate 2 mints from my bag and he found his secret present Pa was saving for later. In Jaisalmer, there were lots of high places with no railings. This made me anxious as soon as I saw the opportunities he would have available to him. Eeks!
4. He is heavy. In busy traffic or when he doesn't feel like walking, we have to carry him. My aching thighs! 2ce I have run up stairs while holding Walker, my 50 pound backpack, and 2 other bags. Talk about being out of shape! Jesus! We are really good about switching carrying him...IF HE LETS US. Then when he lets us put him down, he runs off. Sigh.
5. He says he wants food, then when it arrives, he refuses to eat it. The only saving grace to this is that at the most we have spent $2 on wasted meals, per time. I try to think ahead and make sure we have snacks he will eat, and I am learning to jump on opportunities for healthy snacks as we go. Yesterday he ate fresh raisins, cashews, and oranges for lunch. I felt happy about this. Then for dinner, he refused the noodles he asked for and ate only some fruit. So we got a doggy bag for the noodles, which now will go uneaten.
6. He SCREAMS in the shower, as if he is being tortured. No baths here. The whole time he screams, hating it. Then he screams when he gets out, because he wants to get back in. Then he screams because the towel is not the way he likes it. Then he screams when it is time to get dressed.
7. He screams like a monster. All the time. We are sick of it. We threaten him with no movie when he screams and this works.
8. He gets in our space. Sometimes he wants to only sit ON OUR LAP and then we can't do anything but have him on our lap. Sometimes he wants to sit where Pa is sitting and then Pa is uncomfortable. Sometimes he wants to put his face right next to our faces, and it is annoying.
However, I want to reiterate that I am only telling you this so you know both sides of the story. Jamie and I have said over and over how happy we are to have him with us and how lucky we are to have this time together as a family. Despite these things, we are having such a great time. We are aware that these things would be happening at home, too....these behaviors are not related to our trip...they are related to Walker being the age he is. And Oh! How we love him!
Tomorrow we go to Agonda, Goa. We are so excited to go to the beach, as we have been chilly since we got to India. Back atcha later! Hope everyone is doing well.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
This is my darling friend Hema. Hema will be my co-author on the Indian jewelry book. We went over to her house in Delhi on Sunday for brunch. it was a traditional Rajasthani meal that her mother made for us, because her family is from the desert area on the border of Pakistan. It was delicious! We are so lucky that we got to have a real home cooked Indian meal. It was super fun to see Hema's beautiful home...she has recently redecorated it, and she has fabulous taste! She lives there with her brother, a dentist, and her father (general medicine doctor) and her mother. It was beautiful, and her family was lovely.
Yesterday we walked around the fort here in Jaisalmer, bought a couple of t-shirts and some weird decorated goat skull & a ganesh (elephant god). We had lunch up on the roof of our hotel…a most delicious Rajasthani Thali (meal with several small dishes). I must say that I ate the best Chapati (round flat bread) I have had yet. Soft and tasty, warm….mmmmm!
Walker has found a small stuffed horse that is supposed to be decoration at the rooftop restaurant, but he is riding it around while we eat. The owner and his guys all live here at the hotel, and they are SO nice. The nicest hotel folks yet. I really do feel like I am “at home” here, and they do not get all in our business or anything. But I can walk up to the restaurant in my PJ’s without feeling like they are ogling my breasts. (Not that they are really showing or anything, but sometimes these Indian guys are so lewd!)
We went camel riding yesterday and it was a great experience. We took a jeep along with a couple from Canada out to the desert and stopped sevral times along the way for sightseeing. One time at a village hut, then at a spot where there were some fossils, then at a watering hole for the village.
Then we arrived at the camel spot, climbed on and went on our way! Walker liked it at 1st, then started saying he hated camels. He renamed our camel ”Mister Darth Vader” but his real name was Mula. Mula kept eating the bushes so I had to keep kicking his sides. Walker complained and complained, then when we got off someone asked him how he liked his camel ride and he said “Pretty good!” I swear he is such a rascal!
He played around in the sand dunes, we drank a beer, then got back in the jeep for a very fast and BUMPY ride back to the hotel. It was nice to snuggle with him on the camel, and also have him ride in m lap so I could hug him all the way home. He is very good at being warm and snuggly, and I truly love that about him. I feel so lucky that we are having so many of these great snuggling opportunities on our trip.
One thing I haven’t really discussed yet is money. One thing that is wearing about traveling is always having to spend cash. At home, we spend lots of money, but ususally not cash. And usually not all day long. We pay for our various utilities and food only once a month or once a week. While traveling you pay out cash ALL DAY LONG and it gets exhausting. In addition, when you are spending 10 rupees here and 500 rupees there, you feel like you are spending a ton of money. We have to remind ourselves that 10 rupees is only 20 cents! 500 rupees is only 10 dollars! But again, people are always asking for money, we spend money on water, on food, on transportation, everything we do costs money. The good thing is that things here cost a lot less money than they do at home. Our hotel in Jaisalmer costs Rs 650. This is 13 US dollars.
A few more things about Indian money: If a bill is old and wrinkled or has a hole in it, no one will take it. They will give you an old bill, but certainly won’t take one! The other thing is that Indians hate to give out change. They will say they don’t have change, but really they do. This could be for several reasons: they want you to spend more money with them…or they just don’t want large bills. I wonder if there is a country-wide shortage of smaller bills or what! It is very frustrating. Also…don’t buy anything at the 1st of the day, because they are sure to not have any change then.
Beggars: We have seen so many beggars, of course. Our policy is to give money when we feel like it. I do think we have seen less begging this time than I have seen in the past. And the people we see begging look terrible. All kinds of deformations and whatnot. It makes you wonder what their life has been like, what happened to their parents, where they sleep…When you think about giving them 10 rupees, you feel you must give, as it is only 20 cents. We will be donating to an organization in South India that helps rescue women from sexual slavery and teaches them skills to start a life of their own. But we also will be giving money to beggars when we feel like it. It is not our job to fix the poverty problem here in India, but we can give out a banana or some change.
Tonight we leave for a 3 hour train ride to Jodhpur, the blue city. More on that later.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
We took an overnight train to the desert city of Jaisalmer. I have never traveled by train before, and had fun kicking back and watching the world go by. We got tickets in sleeper class, and got dibs on top bunks across from across from each other so we could talk and watch each other's stuff. It's a no frills experience, but any overnight travel where you can be horizontal is o.k. by me.
Now we are in Jaisalmer, which is a friendly city of about 20,000. It's about 40 miles from the Pakistan boarder, and several times a day, fighter jets fly over. Apparently they fly right up to Pakistani air space and turn around. Some sort of muscle flexing I guess. We have also seen lots of tanks and artillery pieces.
We are lucky enough to be staying in a massive fort built 800 years ago. It would rival any castle in Europe and looks like it has grown out of the desert as if they were one in the same. Think about the most kick ass sand castle you can imagine & multiply it by 10! There is a wonderful restaurant on the roof with great city/desert views where we have been hanging out with the friendly staff. We toured the fort and have had fun exploring the narrow winding streets and alleys of this cool city. This afternoon we are going on a jeep trip and camel ride in the desert to visit some local villages and see the sights. Tomorrow, onto the blue city of Jodhpor.
Friday, January 13, 2012
We are having sleeping problems. Walker woke up last night at 4:30. Even though he and I were able to go back to sleep, Jamie was not. This means Jamie will take a a nap later in the day....and then possibly not sleep through the night again. It is 8AM here, and Jamie is outside doing something while Walker and I are still in the bed. I think he is up on the roof having breakfast.
Apparently last night (Friday) they had a bonfire for the guests on the roof! Jamie said they put down a circle of bricks and then a few inches of dirt, and then set up the wood like a teepee. We missed the action, but thought it was very interesting that they just had a fire like that right on the marble floor!
I have pink eye. I have never really had it before that I remember. I got some Ayurvedic drops for it and it is feeling a bit better. I will give it a few days like this to see what happens and if it does not go away I will have to go get antibiotic drops. Ugh.
We are ready to leave Delhi. The noises and people and activity is tiring. However we still have a day and a half here so we will make the best of it! Walker has suggested going back to the park (he had fun yesterday), there is a craft "display" at Dilli Haat (this means you can purchase these....), we have some items to purchase for resale (oh! you just wait and see!), and i am vaguely interested in seeing the Bahai Lotus Temple. Plus there is food to eat, naps to be had, showers to take.
I got some mehendi yesterday. I think I picked the wrong guy, because it is pretty sloppy. Oh well. It wears off quickly and I will get some more before coming home. Walker got mad when he saw it, saying I had dirt on my hands.
Walker had a tough day yesterday, needing time inside to watch movies and he needed his mama. I read him the same l.o.n.g. book about 4 times. I bought him some bars and made him some gatoraid. Jamie hung out with him inside while I went and got the mehendi. Hopefully today he will be ready for some more things. We must make sure he is doing ok, and we are trying to be gentle with him as far as activities, food, sleep, and everything! The little prince himself just woke up next to me, so I think I will sign off.
More pics later, they take a long time to upload.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Sitting on the bench in front of the Taj. Something funny happened to the lighting, so you have to tilt your screen to see the Taj itself in the background. Our guide, Master, took this photo. I wish I had a photo of him taking the photo, with his legs wide apart, squatting down, being VERY serious about his guide job. He was so serious, in fact, that we pretty quickly got rid of him. We had to be polite in order to not hurt his feelings, but he was very stern and told us all we needed to know about the Taj and....more. It was very crowded and hectic there. A little overwhelming. But still amzingly beautiful. For those who do not know, the Taj Mahal is a tomb for the emporerShah Jihah's 4th wife who bore him 14 sons by the age of 38. The Shah is also entombed there now, next to her. There is all kinds of crazy gemstone inlay covering the whole place. It truly is amazing and special. We changed Walker's diaper in one of the side alcoves. not many kids can say they did that!
A monster with Pa on the Train to Agra, where the Taj is located. Our train ride there was uneventful. On the way back, Walker slept, and we had a most delightful 3 hours talking to our seat mates. A group of college students from Kashmir (a Nothern Indian state) and a medical sales rep for Samsung, Deepak. Truly great guys. We learned a lot, and so did they. We also got to talk to a really friendly and kind Sikh.
A sign for the clean toilet. On the other side the sing just said "toilet" so of course I went to the clean one. Afterwards I went and checked out the other toilet, and it smelled terrible!
The dirty toilet.
The clean toilet. Pay "as you wish." I paid rs. 10....about 20 cents.
A building at the red Fort in Delhi. It is supposed to be surrounded by water, and was in the old days. Now they can't keep it full due to the expense. Still so pretty. Walker was trying to climb over the wall. He has been really interested in running. This is fairly new.
The grand entrance to the Red fort. These forts are seriously the kind of places that you try to make when you are building sand castles. The Red Fort in Delhi even has a gigantic moat! But there is no water in it anymore. It makes me yearn for pictures of what it used to be like. These people were not messing around with their forts and palaces.
Today we are going to go to the Delhi Children's Park that we found out about form Deepak. Then we are going to concentrate on shopping around Pahar Ganj, the old market (Main Bazaar) where we are staying. Believe it or not, the only thing we have bought so far is a hat for Walker. it is colder than we thought or I remember. Brr. So glad we brought THREE blankies! They are keeping us warm and make us feel homey.
I also want to get some mehendi (henna) on my hands. You know...when in Rome. And I will purchase some chappals (Indian sandals). And Walker wants a pair of Indian pajamas; we saw some in his size!
Well, it is definitely time to go, as Walker is .....um...shall I say FULL of energy at the moment and we need to go let him run.
Have a great day everybody!