Category Archives: friends and family

Lions, Bengal Tigers, and Sloth Bears, Oh My

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Today was zoo day at Bannerghata National Park. We packed up the van and headed south, early on a Sunday morning. The park is south of town; we live north of town. Usually that is a two hour crawl through traffic, but leaving by 9 on A Sunday morning and we drove through a shuttered downtown without even slowing down. Bliss.

We stopped at the Indian Institute of Management to pick up our friends Rahul, Sharmila, and Ria.

With eight of us packed into a minivan that sits seven, we made our way to the zoo.  The Bannerghatta park is a part of the cluster of parks that includes the Kabini Lodge where we took our safari and the Dubare Elephant Camp where we bathed and fed the elephants. But this place is more of a traditional zoo.

We began our adventure with the Grand Safari tour.  The queuing was the most organized that I Have seen in India. Shaded, orderly, no pushing or shoving. It felt strange, actually. We boarded the bus and set off.

The animals are not wild in this park, but they live in vast natural habitats on the safari. The bus is covered in grating and you enter and exit different areas of the forest through big double gates that keep the animals in their respective ares00the bear area, the tiger area, and so on.

  

While they have houses and are fed regularly, I was amazed at just how close these buses got to the animals. We had remarkably up close and personal views of animals that we saw from very far away on Safari, including:

Very adorable sloth bears


Bengal tigers

White tigers. This male looked through a dividing fence….

To his love…..

And my personal favorite, the lions. This lion was lying across the road that we had to travel.  It refused to move until the bumper of the bus gently nudged it along. I did not cropping of this photo—we were truly this close.

After our adventurous safari ride we visited the butterfly building. While the room did not have as many butterflies as expected, we enjoyed the beautiful architecture.

  

The kids had even more fun climbing a mango tree and picking its sweet fruit outside of the building.

We got just as delighted by the wild monkeys as all of this big lions and tigers and bears! They are so funny.

  

  

Then we headed off to have a delicious pizza, pasta and salad lunch.

 

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Home Sweet Home

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Technology makes it much easier to keep up communication with loved ones back home. Through Vonage, Todd can call me for free. With Skype we can even see one another when we talk. And email allows us to share information instantaneously around the world.

Sometimes the technology has been just what we needed to boost our spirits. For example, the day that their dad left for home, the kids were feeling sad and homesick. That night, we Skyped with both of their classes back home and their spirits soared. They saw the faces of friends. They heard the encouragement of other kiddos reminding them what a special journey they were taking.

Other times such close connection with home reminds us more of what we are missing. Last night Carson and I Skyped home and we took a tour of the house with Todd. We saw our bedrooms. The kitchen. The flowers blooming out in the garden a month ahead of schedule. Carson saw his toys on his shelves and the new shelving that his dad had hung in his room. While it was comforting to see home, it made us long for it. We saw things we had forgotten about. I longed to curl up in my corner chair and watch the rain outside the window. Carson wanted to dive into the Lego sets he could see on his shelf. We looked at each other and said, “Home.”  “I miss it,” said Carson. Me too.  Reminds me of that Paul Simon song. “Home. Where my thoughts escape me. Home. Where my love lies waiting silently for me.” Ah the melodrama of homesickness.

BBQ expat style

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We had a lovely afternoon today on the rooftop terrace of one of my yoga mama friends. TGoing to an international school where folks travel from all around the city, it is a rare treat to get together with a large group of friends.

We had BEEF burgers and steak, a huge SALAD, tzatziki sauce, delicious drinks. A really nice vacation from typical meals in Bangalore.

The kids had a ball playing with friends from school.Here is the boys table.

     

Kaden was having fun with the girls enjoying all of the channels on the TV–quite a change from our handful of channels on our set. Here she was watching the best waterparks in the U.S. and planning our next vacation with her good friend Kaya.  Carson was having a shoot ’em up game with his new friend.

  

While we chatted about silly things, we also had a fascinating conversations about ethnicity. We talked about the distinctions within the Indian culture among darker and lighter Indian people and how much this is emphasized and discussed, much like in the African-American community back home.

The discussions also got me thinking about identity. This was really a global group. Among the couples present, one couple was one Greek person, one American. Another couple was one Australian and one German. Another couple was Trinidadian and Indian-Canadian And on and on.One family is moving to Northern California this summer. Another to Germany. Another to Toronto.  I posted on Facebook that Kaden asked me, “If I am 25% German, 25% Portuguese, 40% Polish and 10% Croatian, then what part is American?” Add in spending more time among Indian cultural events than most other cultures back home. And then if you layer on top living in yet a different country for years at a time really makes you a citizen of the world.

On another note, I am happy to report that the package sent by Todd’s parents finally arrived to us–a good month after they sent it. This package had a much smaller hole in it, but it appeared the animal (a rodent perhaps?) got in there much better than the dog the last time. All of the food was nibbled aside from one bag of gold fish crackers and a Reese Cup. Thankfully the clothes and toys and jewelry were spared!  Doesn’t this package look like it has been through hell and back?

Shopping in Bangalore

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After returning from Mumbai, Kim and Leti were going to spend a day in Mysore, but they were just too exhausted from our Mumbai experiences. So instead we focused on shopping in Bangalore–something that is very fun to do in this town! We started at Safina Plaza. The interior courtyard had an open air market where we sampled and bought lots of spices and candies.

Kim and Leti got bangles, shawls, wall hangings and more handbags. I got a beautiful Salwar Kameez set-which was altered on the spot in about five minutes by some guys with sewing machines at the top of the stairs!

Mom got a bedspread. Kaden got some rings. After maybe too much shopping, we headed to one of the best Chinese buffets in town–Mainland China. Below, Kaden and Leti are playing the game Angels and Assassins that Carson insisted that we do. We had trouble understanding the rules and that got him very upset!

On the way home, we stopped at a roadside watermelon stand to get some watermelon to bring to a picnic the next day. They weight it on a scale–10 rupees a kilogram.

Kim and Leti in the back seat of the Innova helping Kaden play a geography game on the IPad

Some photos taken by Kim and Leti while we drove about town. Below is the lake that we pass on the way to school. It used to be an important bird sanctuary but encroaching development is shrinking the water table.

A sign by my yoga class–please pick up after your dog, with dog poop right below it.

  

Signs of the ongoing construction in Bangalore–the beginnings of a sky-high metro rail system that will connect the airport with the downtown. We struggle through this construction daily to get to our house.

The barbed wire fencing around our community. Which both kids claim “I touched it and it’s not sharp at all!” Why are they touching it? Sigh.

The Ganesh blessing the community, cared for each day by Mr. Yadov.

Mumbai, Oh My….

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When our responsibilities, we headed into Central Mumbai to do some sightseeing. While I had really, really hoped to see the Elephanta Caves, it took a long time to arrange a meeting with the TISS director and we were only able to get down into Mumbai at 5:30. First stop in any Mumbai tour–the Gateway of India. The Gatheway was built to honor British Royalty at the turn of the century. It is right at the edge of the sea.

  

Above is the first Taj Hotel, located right next to the Gateway of India. The Taj is one of the fanciest chains of hotels in India. It was built by an Indian businessman who was turned away from a British hotel. The Taj claims to allow anyone in it’s doors–if you have the guts to do so. They are very fancy, intimidating places!

  

Some people sitting by the Gateway of India. The guy in the white outfit was really giving me a look!

This guy was shouting “Samosa chat! Samosa chat!” If only we could eat street food and not get sick. They looked delicious.

Sunset at Nariman Point.

  

This section of land by the sea is also called the Queen’s Necklace was the lights come on and dot the curved bay.

   

As we drove about town, we saw this Wedding Chariot. Plus some gorgeous British architecture.

  

It is kind of sad that the most beautiful buildings in Mumbai are emblems of British dominance. Below is the Victoria Railway Station. It is now an official historic site.

Hali Aji Mosque–right at the edge of the sea.  You can only reach the mosque during low tide via a small causeway. The place is famous for snacks and juices at night for locals.

These horse rides reminded me of the carriages in New York’s Central Park. They paraded around the Gateway of India area.

We ended a very long day in fabulous fashion–an INCREDIBLE seafood dinner at one of the best seafood restaurants in Mumbai: TRISHNA

White Salmon–to die for

  

One of the best garlic butter sauces I have EVER had.

We thought our night was done, but then we saw a street lined with clothing stalls, just closing up for the night. Using the camera-as mirror trick, Kim and I ended up with $4 shirts. Leti got the steal of the day. Three elephant handbags for the price of one!

  

We left for Bangalore the next day after more meetings and a bit of shopping. I wasn’t a huge fan of Mumbai. Although I did LOVE the food that I had there. I think if I returned I would try to focus my visit on eating in as many fabulous places as I could! I also appreciated that the city was built to be a large city. The roads were the appropriate size for the traffic. The sidewalks were in better shape. Bangalore is a garden hamlet that has exploded into a large city and completely lacks the infrastructure to do so–the roads are too small, the water is insufficient. But still, I was happy to return to Bangalore–my home away from home!

On being an ambassador…

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Kim, Leti and I traveled to The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai as Ambassadors of Penn State. The two universities are in the process of developing a set of relationships. Our job as to come to learn more about TISS and to share our enthusiasm about the relationship.

Mumbai is most familiar in recent times in the U.S. as the setting for the movie Slumdog Millionaire. It is a city with vast wealth due to being the home of Bollywood and the Indian Stock Market. It also has great poverty, including one slum that hosts over 1 million people. This photo of a neighborhood near the airport shows the disparity of slums and fancy high rises that typifies the new India, and Mumbai especially.

While we had originally planned on booking a hotel, Venkatesh offered that we could be the guests of TISS and stay in their guest house. This was my room.

Here are a few of the buildings on the TISS campus.

 

Kim and Leti in a conference room, waiting for a meeting. We met with the Director (University President), the Dean, and a faculty member studying ways to improve women in leadership positions in Indian Universities. We also met  with former students who participate in Corporate Social Responsibility Hub–a government funded office that helps state-owned companies find ways to divert funds back into the local communities. All state-owned companies are required to divert funds to local development needs.  The Hub performs need assessments of the communities to help the companies make the best choices of how to spend their funds.

Below, view from the new building on campus. Right, a quadrangle on the old part of campus.

  

Below, we are walking from the Guest House to the Director’s office. The head of the Guest House took us the most direct route–through a construction zone! Kim is holding our gift to the Director–a Penn State mug and key chain.

The photo below demonstrates a significant struggle in modern Mumbai. The Rent Act and subsequent legislation allows anyone who squats on land for more than a year to maintain possession of that land. Even if they never owned it. This high rise apartment complex sits right in the middle of the new TISS campus–because they built it and were able to keep it for over a year despite TISS objections. TISS always owned the land but they were not pro-active enough regarding removing the settlement. After time, they lost the land

Kim and Leti enjoyed a quick Auto ride to lunch at an Indian/Chinese restaurant close to campus.

  

Lecturing in a foreign land

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For day two of Kim and Leti’s visit, I arranged for them to give a guest lecture in Shivali’s Foundations of Education class at NIAS, my institution here in Bangalore. They lectured about Diversity in Higher Education in the United States.

Me, Shivali, Leti and Kim

After the talk, we had some delicious “veg” lunch at the NIAS cafeteria. Here Kim is talking with Meetryi (a graduate student) and Shivali.

From NIAS, we went to my kids’ school to catch Kaden in a soccer match and Carson’s cricket practice.

The schizophrenia of two kids–Kim and Mom watch Carson while I am watching Kaden’s match in the other direction.

We went straight from school to the airport to catch a flight to Mumbai. On the way to the airport, I realized that I had forgotten my passport. Luckily, my PA driver’s license was enough to board the plane.

We were graciously met at the airport by Venkatesh from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. He took us for one of the most delicious Indian meals that I’ve had in India– Maya at the Trident Bandra Kurla