Category Archives: friends and family

Farewell, blog!

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We are continuing to adjust to the East Coast time zone. We get tired in the evening and are wide awake early in the morning. The kids were welcomed back to school and pretty much loved on the entire day. How wonderful to get the chance to be told that you are missed and appreciated again and again! They came home with big smiles on their faces.

This entry puts our little blog to bed–perhaps just until our next adventure! It’s been fun to see all of the interest in the blog.  We have had over 9,700 views of the blog and an range of 70-200 views a day. Pretty amazing! Especially since I only made it publicly searchable  a few weeks ago. So most of the folks viewing it found out by word of mouth from our friends and family!

The blog will still live in cyberspace after we are done with our entries, so hopefully our experiences will be useful to others in the future! Thanks for joining us on our journey!

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Connections made in Bangalore

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It has been four months of memorable moments in Bangalore!

wearing uniforms to school and making friends from around the world at the Canadian International School

sharing a passion for cricket with Dada

spending time with old friends

receiving temple blessings at Nandi the Bull and elsewhere

sliding down the boulders on a plastic bottle

yummy buffet lunches at hotels

Uncle K’s walk into the wall at the Lalit Ashok hotel!

ice cream–lots of ice cream!

playing Holi!

 

visiting schools of all shapes and sizes

Being sought after for photographs like we were movie stars. And meeting kiddos from all around Bangalore in the process.

seeing student voice in action!

wild monkeys!

Mojitos and milkshakes at the Taj after a nightmare autorickshaw ride!

raising a glass with new friends!

Bollywood dancing

building international relationships in my professional life!

yogaaaaahhhhh!!!!

shopping for treasures

neighborhood friends

Saying goodbye…

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On May 1 at 2 in the morning, our Lufthansa plane lifts off from Bangalore and we head towards home. We have a layover in Frankfurt where we are getting off the plane and heading to Paris for a few days before we return home at the end of the week. That little stopover seemed a lot more logical almost a year ago when we booked the tickets. We’re now realizing we’ll have to pay double baggage fees plus storage in Frankfurt for that choice. But, hopefully Paris will be worth it!

The blogs will continue throughout the week, as I still have more to share about our Bangalore experiences! And I will share our Paris adventures when I can find wi-fi in Europe. It HAS to be faster than what I have here :).

Our last days in Bangalore were spent at home, packing, packing, packing. And spending time with neighborhood friends. When putting together a list of what we will miss most about Bangalore, the kiddos and I unanimously agreed that we would miss our new friends the most.

I will miss my yoga mommies and Astha, our fierce but friendly yoga teacher!

      she’s doing the lion pose here!

   

After our last yoga class we had a delicious lunch at Jashn!

    

Kaden had her school friends over for one final fling.That’s Sophie from Signapore, Marian from NJ, Kaden, Monisa from Massachusetts, Caroline from Denmark, and Kaya from Virginia (Ester from Denmark came a little a late).

      

Dear Mr. Yadov, the head security guard of Almond Tree, stopped by and happily joined in the festivities. We will miss his cheerful greeting, said all in a jumble, “How are you fine thank you!!”

     

At one point, Yadov officiated the swimming races. “One! Two! Three!” He shouted and laughed out loud. Such a fun spirit!

We also bid farewell to the sweet teenagers who did our ironing every Sunday–for the equivalent of 16 cents per item. They both have completed school through 9th grade but their father said they must now work instead of going on for further schooling.

Even more than school friends, the kiddos will miss their neighborhood evening fun–especially their nightly Cops and Robbers games in the courtyard!  In this picture, below, all had  been invited to the clubhouse area for Diya and Ecta’s party.

I love the way this neighborhood is a community. The kids all spill out into the courtyard and play together. Whoever is out, that’s who plays. No cliques or “so and so can’t play right now because she has a friend over….”  Every one plays together. If you have company, they join in the mix. That’s the way it is here. The way it was when I was a kid. I wish it was this way  back home.

The whole neighborhood was also invited to the latest birthday party, which happened in the courtyard/swimming pool area. And all of the moms pitched in. One ran the games, the other manned the music. Everyone worked together.

I also found it fascinating how cultural traditions are the same/different. It seems fairly universal at the parties that we have attended for the birthday song to be sung in English but with clapping throughout the song. At this party, after the singing, the girls fed cake into the mouths of their friends, like Americans do for weddings. I checked with the other neighborhood kiddos and they confirmed that’s a normal custom. Kaden was so glad we don’t do that since she rarely likes the cakes at parties!

    

Below, who wouldn’t want sweet Angel to join in the fun! She is getting so big

Below–cops and robbers being played in earnest!

  

On the final night we had pizza for all the kiddos in the neighborhood (pizza in the background, intense trading of WWE wrestling cards in the foreground!

On our last day we had a final meal at the Movenpick Hotel’s yummy buffet, including a final round of fresh lime soda–sweet!

    


Enduring the heat while touring the forts and palaces

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On Easter afternoon, we headed to the Agra Fort, also known as the Red Fort. The fort is a walled city from the 1500s.

   

The above right photo is of a bath tub! I remember this bathtub clearly from my visit 22 years ago.

     

Below, the fort was buttressed by not one, but two, moats. The first moat was filled with water and contained crocodiles. The second moat was dry and filled with lions and tigers and bears (oh my!)

  

The most famous part of the fort is the fated bedroom where Shah Jehan sat in house arrest for the last eight years of his life, imprisoned by his son, the current king. From his bedroom window, Shah coudl see the Taj Mahal that he had built for his wife.

  

  

The photo below, captures well the experience of both kiddos at the fort. Carson wrestled with Ducky the entire time and play acted various Shakespearean style fights complete with fake punches. Kaden and her camera kept on snapping.

 

And again, the highlight of the visit? A small, common animal. This time–feeding little striped chipmunks.

We were to stop at yet another location–the Baby Taj–but instead we thought the kids would be happier with a pit stop at McDonalds for french fries and chicken nuggets.

Then it was time to drive an hour to Fatehpur Sikri. During the drive in the car, the kids watched “It’s Easter, Charlie Brown!”

Our trip to Fatehpur Sikri was ill fated. First, a bus accident blocked the road. In the mid day heat, we had to walk past the accident, including this damaged sign, and then take tut tuts up the hill because our van could not get past the chaos.

We managed to fit 11 of us in the tut tut. Even during the drive, local kids would jump onto the back of the tut tut to try to sell things to us. The inside of this tut tut (what they call autorickshaws elsewhere in India), was very colorful.

  

Fatehpur Sikri reminds me of the story of the Three Little Pigs.  Sikriwal Rajput Rajas Last Emperor Maharana Sangram Singh (also known as Emperor Jahangir) had three wives. The first wife was Muslim and was  an arranged marriage. She had a little tiny house, shown through the arches below.  The second wife was Catholic. She was married for love and had a medium sized house. The third wife was Hindu and she was married to end a feud. She produced the son and thus had the biggest, fanciest house of all.

  

                    

  

  

     

From the seat where we are sitting (above), the king would play a game of parcheesi in which he use life women as as the pieces.

    

  

Above, right, is the parliament building where the king held court, high above the ground.

   

Above, one of my favorite shots. Indians area always asking to get their pictures taken with us white folk. Here is one of my favorite ones of my friend’s dad. Above, right, some earring decorations on the vegetarian kitchen of the fanciest wife.

As interesting as all of this was, it was hot. Very, very hot. The little kids and the grandparents were wilting. Plus, the vendors were very, very aggressive here. To get from this palace area to the Muslim mosque we were totally surrounded by people. Sadly, this is as much of the mosque as we saw. It was too hot that day and too oppressive, in terms of vendors as much as the temperature. We needed a place to get a cold drink and recharge. But nothing nearby. So it was time to move on to Jaipur.

Exploring Agra and Jaipur with friends!

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Fresh out of school, we joined the Varvarigos family on a trip to Agra and Jaipur!  My friend Kathryn’s parents were visiting from Seattle, and we were so grateful to join them on this journey. We couldn’t visit India and not go to the Taj Mahal, and it was so much more fun to go with friends.

We started our journey at the Dehli airport, where we boarded a van that felt like it had stepped out of the 1970s and started the five hour drive to Agra.

The kids took over the back seat and became fast friends. Carson and Ducky enjoyed playing motorcycle games on the I-Pad, and Kaden was very sweet with four year old Gogo. Here she is showing him the Wild Kratts show.

  

We arrived in Agra much later than we hoped due to the long drive. No swimming time that evening! The kids collapsed into bed and all too soon it was 5:30 Easter morning. Time to rise and shine and head to the Taj Mahal! We got to the Taj that early because of the heat and the crowds, plus we had a long ambitious schedule for our day that would end us in Jaipur by dinner time.

As we arrived at the Taj Mahal grounds at sunrise (6 a.m.), I was shocked to see that the local park was FILLED with local people enjoying the morning. There were hundreds of kids and adults playing cricket, relaxing under trees and visiting with one another. When the heat of the day gets to be over 100 degrees, I guess you take advantage of the one time in the day that you can be out and enjoying the weather!

Right at the Tajgate (above), we found some locals engaged in prayer.

Once we gained entrance to the Taj, our tourguide (in the white hat), gave us a brief history of the monument. This trip was my second visit to the Taj. The first was my visit to India as a teenager. That first visit I remember being bowled over by the Taj’s beauty. With two kiddos with me, I was a bit distracted this time, but the sheer beauty of the place is hard to describe.

We all stopped to pose at the entrance gate.

 

The entrance has scriptures of the Koran written around its edges. The architect designed the letters to be bigger on the bottom and smaller at the top so that from a distance they appear to be exactly the same size.

The white building, the one we think of as the Taj itself, is a mausoleum. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. She died during the birth of their 14th child. It is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, which is a blend of Persian, Turkish, and Indian styles.

Throughout the day the Taj Mahal seems to change colors, from pink in the morning, to yellow mid day. On a full moon, it looks pure white. Always it seems like it is floating above the earth.

Even at six in the morning, the crowds were quite heavy. I can’t imagine the crush of people mid day, and the heat!

  

Above, the Taj is flanked by mosques on both sides. This one here is an actual mosque. The other side hosts an identical looking mosque that is actually a shell of a building–placed to provide absolute symmetry. Amazing!

  

Behind the Taj is the Yamuna River, one of two holy rivers in India (the Ganges being the other one). Behind the Taj, the king had hoped to build a black Taj that was an exact replica of this one for his own body. But his son put a stop to that and instead the king is buried inside the white Taj Mahal next to his wife. His casket is the only part of the Taj that is not perfectly symmetrical since his burial was not a part of the original design.

Saying farewell to the Canadian International School

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The kiddos had their last day of school at CIS on the day before Spring Break (Easter week). School resumes for two more weeks before we leaved, but it seemed like a good natural break in the schedule. Our April is filled with relaxation and travel. We headed to Jaipur and Agra and have another plan to visit the ancient site of Hampi. Otherwise the kids are enjoying relaxing with their neighborhood friends. Most Indian schools are done at the end of March or beginning of April so all of the neighborhood kids are off of school right now. Most are unavailable to play though untinl about 5 in the afternoon unless they are inside due to heat. But also because some parents don’t want their children to get any darker. So their friends aren’t allowed to swim during the hottest part of the day.

Both classes had lovely going away parties for the kiddos, complete with snacks and a movie. Carson’s class posed for a photo. Every was present except his friend Gabriel who had already left for England for the Easter holiday.

Carson’s last day was particularly fun, since it included the Easter Egg hunt and the final day of Arts Festival week which had special ceramic, chalk, and puppet making classes and special musical performances as well.

   

Kaden’s class had an especially sweet goodbye for her complete with gifts including a photo of the class.

Kaden is going to miss her dear friends from her class. I love this photo of all of them!

After the parties, we stayed for the closing concert of the Arts Festival

    

This is a photo of the entire school, grades k through 12. The middle and upper school students wear white shirts and the elementary kiddos wear red.

The kids also had some final fun this week. Kaden went to unicycling club (with all of her BFFs).

  

Carson had his final basketball class. Kaden missed many of her Bollywood classes because she played on the house basketball team, which one the tournament for the Red House! I don’t have any photos of this match because the school never told the parents that it was happening!

Carson will be very sad to leave his cricket coach. In the final weeks, Dada helped out with the trainings.

    

On the way home, the kids enjoyed reading the letters and cards that their classmates had made for them. They will treasure these for a long time. We need to have more times when kids write personal messages to each other about why they are special. What a difference that would make in the world.

    

     

No special day is complete without a trip to the Swensen ice cream shop!!

Food, books, dancing, swimming, riding a bus–Indian style

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With the kids only in school for one more week, it was time to tackle some of the restaurants that might not be viewed as so much fun to them. One experience that I wanted to try was a traditional thali lunch. With circular plates lined with a banana leaf, the veg thali lunch here at Bheema’s Restaurant on Church Street was standard lunch fare for the tables of workers that filled the restaurant. With mounds of rice and dal and papadam as the main staple, I was also presented with little bowls of yogurt, spicy sambar soup, a little desert and pudding. I realized that at my office, we basically have a thali lunch everyday, since that’s just what they serve–rice, a bread, a sambar, curd, cukes and tomatoes and then two or three veggie dishes. But the thali is special because of all of the cute little bowls and the banana leaf presentation.

  

Plus a guy would come around with buckets of food–beet root, more dal, chutney. The food was very spicy. The meal wasn’t over the top amazing, but quite satisfying and a fun experience.

After the meal, we braved the crazy sidewalks, some of which were as high as my shin, to get to an incredible used bookstore. Three floors of every book imaginable for no more than a few dollars. Not that we need anymore weight in our suitcases, but I got some paperbacks of the hottest Indian writer right now, Chetan Bhagat. Plus we found some of Kaden’s favorite Nancy Drew graphic novels.

On the way into town, here was a bus of workers on the highway. This bus was moving. No room inside, so people hung to the outside. Wild.

Here, Kaden is swimming with her new neighbor and friend, Diya. Sometimes in India I feel like I have stepped into the 1920s. And her family is modern–the girls actually have swimming suits. When dry, the suit dries out to be baggy shorts. And swim caps–de rigeur.

Neighbors Diya and Ecta, in their standard matching outfits, enjoy Just Dance on the Wii with our kiddos. The Bollywood song is now a huge favorite in our house!