Category Archives: traveling

A writing contest….

The Time and Place Prize Literary Competition

The Time & Place Prize is a new international literary
award established to provide the two things every writer
requires . . .the time and the placeto write.
Join us in France!
The winner of The Time & Place Prize receives a month-long stay in an idyllic
cottage nestled among the menhirs, myths and mists of Bretagne, France.The Prize includes:
Round-trip airfare to and from Paris, France
plus ground transport to and from the cottage
Room & board for the month of July in a
private cottage in bucolic Brittany
The cottage is equipped with all the tools a
writer needs, including library, computer,
internet access, a complete OED, etc.
Time and place to work on your ideas

The Time & Place Prize

All literary genres considered.
Winner(s) selected by independent, third party judges.
Submissions limited to 5,000 words.
A $25 submission fee will be charged.

The Award TimelineSubmissions for the 2012 Prize will be accepted through November 30, 2012.  
The short list will be posted by mid-February 2013.
The winner will be announced on March 30, 2013.
The winner will visit France for the month of July, 2013.
Submissions for the 2013 Prize will be accepted beginning December 1, 2012.
Visit the website for details: http://www.timeandplaceprize.com/index.html
(And you know the drill, right – I am not endorsing this contest – just passing along the info – if you want to apply, you might want to check out the details first and decide for yourself whether or not to enter. 😎  )

NYC5 – That day……

When my hubby asked me if I wanted to go to NYC for our anniversary, “yes, please,” was all I could muster before I pushed my sweet children out of the way and rushed off to pack my bag. I had been to NYC but it’d been so many years that I didn’t remember anything much about the place.

We decided to drive because we could spend more quality time together I absolutely hate flying. One of the many reasons I don’t like to fly is because about 11 1/2 years ago planes fell out of the sky.

We all remember our own details of that day. I was pregnant with my youngest. When I heard the news, I filled my car with gas, got money out of the bank, and rushed to the store to buy Krispy Kreme donuts and milk. Apparently my prenatal self thought donuts could ward of evil. It didn’t work. Evil still exists. Luckily, donuts do too.

Before we set one foot in the direction of NYC, I had my post about the 9/11 memorial half-written. I was mad and shaking my finger at the computer screen, “How could they do that? Why would they do that?” I planned to spew anger at seeing the devastation first hand, and, dear readers, I was ready to walk you down my own spiral staircase of loathing to rant against those who could devise and then carry out such a plan.

My neighbor tried to settle me down by telling me how calming the memorial was. She promised, “it’s really peaceful. You might be surprised.”

But not I. The pen is mightier than the plane and I was fully prepared.

Until we got there.

Our first view of the site was from a helicopter.

I was in awe. The holes in the space were gaping, impossible to miss. But something strange happened. I wasn’t furious. I didn’t wave my fist in the air. I just stared. It was horrific and serene.

The next morning we went for our tour at the memorial. It turns out you need tickets/visitor passes – they are free – but you have to register for them in advance. You can do that here.

We signed up for the 10am slot and lined up at 9:30am. As we were waiting, we heard the people around us telling their stories. It seemed like everyone knew someone who didn’t make it out. Just a few knew of someone who did.

One woman solemnly said, “It is only right that they memorialize those who lost their lives. I am glad they didn’t rebuild office space on the site.”

The man she was with quietly answered, “Please remember, they did not simply lose their lives, they were murdered.” His friend, a firefighter, died that day. Agony.

Those words choked my heart. I had to swallow to jump start it. I started talking to my husband because I just couldn’t take any more stories.

Finally, we presented our tickets and went through security and somehow were second in line for the grand gate opening.

When the gates opened, the first thing I saw was these men.

These men who stand watch over a monument dedicated in part to those uniformed men and women who rushed into buildings that were falling down for no other reason than to save lives. Other people’s lives. Agony.

And then we saw this.

Tranquility. Beauty. Rebuilding.

(If you can get there early, do. We only got to see this view because we got there early. Within minutes, seconds really, hundreds of people were milling about and it felt very different. More urgent.)

I walked around the entire park. The only way I knew to honor the memory of those who died on September 11th was to try to read every name. It quickly got too crowded in the park for me to read all the names, but I did try.

Some of the names looked familiar to me because I love people who share those names. It didn’t, it won’t make any sense that people could hate other people so desperately. People they have never met. That anyone would give up his own life to destroy the life of another. It didn’t, it won’t make sense who was chosen. I wondered, “why them?”

“Why did that Ellen die and not me.” I selfishly thanked God but wondered why again and again as I connected with name after name.

And then I saw this.

And her unborn child.”

Debilitating agony.

Throughout the morning, I read that phrase six more times. There may have been more but parts of the wall were crowded and it was hard to see around the people.

Overwhelming sadness gripped me. No anger. Just devastating sadness because of such unnecessary loss. The promise of so much obliterated by unearned hatred. It made it hard for me to hate back. I was just so very, very sad.

I will never find the exact poetic words to tell you how beautiful this memorial place is. I just love that they built waterfalls flowing from near ground level into the holes the collapsed buildings created. The designers captured the devastation and America’s defiance of that ridiculous hate magically. The running water is calming. The sky is wide open. It feels like God is watching us shine.

NYC3 – One cupcake at a time………..

You might remember that I recently went to New York City with my hubby. We were celebrating our anniversary.

Neither one of us can completely believe that someone else has put up with either one of us for two decades. So, we decided to celebrate – and celebrations require cake. No, really, it’s written on page 1 of the celebration bible. – right after “find a reason to celebrate”. Next, “find cake”.

Sweets aren’t really my thing and I have not gotten caught up in the whole cupcake craze – at least not until I found out there were carrot cake cupcakes being made in the cupcake wars. I love me some carrot cake. But, can everyone please stop putting raisins in them? Walnuts, yes please. Raisins, oh hell no. Not even the cute little white ones.

Anycake, we didn’t really seek any places out. We just stopped along our way at any place that had a picture of icing on its sign.

The first place was Melissa’s. She apparently can’t be bothered with an entire cupcake and just sells you bites of cupcakes with a tinee, tiny little dab of icing. And she, my cupcake-loving friends, is brilliant. They are delish….

They are so good, in fact, that if you drop one on the street, you seriously might be tempted to pick it up. Not that I would recommend that – but some people might do it. Not me. Other people.

I highly recommend the chocolate chip cookie dough and cinnamon varieties. Melissa’s is near Times Square. Lots of people were buzzing in and out with pre-orders. Large pre-orders. That tells me something. The natives even like them.

The next place was the Magnolia Bakery. It’s around the corner from the Today Show studio and Rockefeller Center. Please don’t ask me which corner – it’s just around the corner. Walk a block each way and you’ll (eventually) find it. Promise.

Their cupcakes look like this….

They are very pretty but this one was a wee bit dry. The shop is adorable and the staff is lovely, so that’s good. But, uhm, it is all about the cupcake.

Then we stopped at Juniors. It’s near the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. I loved the name and the feel of the place. These are the vanilla and reeses cupcakes. They were not so good. Sorry Junior, but the competition is stiff. You gotta step it up. I didn’t like these because they were just so dense and the icing was crisco-y. Not fluffy. I discovered I prefer fluffy. In fact, I roll best with cream cheese fluffiness.

Apparently, Juniors is famous for it’s cheesecake so it might not have been entirely fair to hold them to such a high cupcake standard.

And, just in case, you have never been schooled in the proper way to eat a cupcake. Take notes. Break it in half in the middle and stick the bottom on the top – like a sandwich. Then you can call it lunch. 😉 You will thank me later.

Next was Crumbs. Drum roll please. It’s the the creme-DE-la-creme of cupcakes. Angels might have been singing when we walked in. Maybe it was my stomach growling. I am not entirely sure. But there was line – that’s a  good sign, right?

And those wicked smarties had carrot cake cupcakes. Finally. And YUM!

Okay, these guys rocked the cupcake competition. They are fabulouso and awesomesauce. Each one was better than the next. Well, except for the mocha caramel one – I don’t do coffee, so mocha anything is a no-go for me. But the rest were so yummy. These were vanilla with chocolate icing, mocha caramel, carrot cake (the grand supreme winner of all things cupcake in New York City), coconut, vanilla with vanilla, and chocolate chip cookie dough.

Even the elevator guy at the hotel recommended Crumbs. And, thank God, they had an elevator operator at our hotel because pushing my own elevator buttons might just have put me over the edge. Seriously, that is a lot of work. 😉

Now I understand that you might be concerned that we ate cupcakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and that cupcakes might not have been the healthiest of choices for all three meals. But have no fear, we ate real meals – the cupcakes were snacks. Tee hee.

If you go to NYC and have a hankering for a cupcake, go to Crumbs or Melissa’s. And if you want to bring back a little something for the blogger who pointed you in the right cupcake direction, carrot cake please.Oh, and, if you don’t mind, ask them to hold the raisins. Thanks.

NYC2 – The people that you meet…..

Yesterday, I began the story about my trip to NYC. If you want to catch up, you can do that here. And I am back today with more. 😉

When I was blogging about India, I wrote a post about some of the people I would see on the street. I also saw lots of fun/interesting people in NYC so I thought I would revisit that little diddy today.

First, let me say that if you are a complete whackadoo and want to find a place to fit in, NYC is the place for you. I am not going to post any pictures of the absolute nutcases I saw because I don’t want to make fun of anyone, but I’m just sayin’ there are some crazies in the big apple! Happy and comfortable, but craZy!

The numero uno whackadoo hubby I spent my weekend with was this guy. He does not like his picture being taken so this was the best I could do. And by the by, if you are thinking about going on a getaway with a special someone, consider driving. You can have wonderful conversations without interruptions and you only have to take your shoes off if you want to. No long security lines to wait in. No children crying. No crappy snacks that cost $15. No middle seat next to someone who doesn’t quite fit in his/her coveted aisle seat. Think about it.

The play Wicked was on Broadway, so I guess this guy thought he could capitalize on the show being in town. I don’t know if he is an actor in the actual production, but my guess would be probably absolutely not. 🙂 And, although the real tin man would talk, this guy was apparently a mime tin man. Taking the role to a whole new level, I reckon.

Okay, I lied. I am going to share one picture of a person that I thought was a little not so fabulous. But only to save young (and not so young) ladies from themselves. Ladies, this is what this skirt looks like from the back. It is too short. I know it looks great from the front. And this chickadee is adorable. But she is showing off too many of her assets. Tee hee. Get it? Ass-ets.

I do have to say I was very surprised at the footwear in NYC. Most of the women I saw were wearing practical, comfortable (albeit very cute) shoes. I would like to thank them all for that. It made me feel a little less country mouse-ish. Especially since the last thing my daughter said to me before we left was “nice shoes” and not in a OMG-those-are-the-most-amazing-shoes-ever-and-I-am totally-borrowing-those kind of way.

It would be so fun to be able to tell you that this is a picture of my new BFF. But, since I only “met” him through the glass window of the studio, I guess I can’t declare BFF status. He is just as cute in person as through the eyes of the camera. Introducing George Stephanopoulos… And, yes, I do think he looks like he is trying to figure out how to get out of the interview so he can come outside and meet us.

I got a tad closer to these beautimous people.They send their best wishes. 😉 I love me some Today Show with Matt Lauer, Al Roker, Natalie Morales, and Savannah Guthrie. I am not sure where Ann Curry was.

These are some of the policeman who stand watch over the 9/11 Memorial. I cannot imagine doing this everyday.

This guy walks around with a cat on his head and his hand out. I asked him if I could take a picture and he answered, “if you could help me out with my endeavor to find food.” And then he said, “thank you for giving me the courtesy of asking first. That was nice of you.” Okay, then. You are most certainly welcome.

What this guy doesn’t know is that my daughter walks around like this…

Who knew the competition for walking around with your cat on your head would be so tough. That guy better watch out – he has given Angel something to aspire to.

These folks didn’t talk either. #Mime must be trending in NYC. So they could neither confirm nor deny their role in a Broadway production. I did find out later that they are part of an a capella group called Voca People.

My hubby shies away from bothering celebrities. Unless, of course, it is Mike Shanahan – the Washington Redskins head coach. This guy was absolutely delightful. Asked me my name, promised me a better season, and let us take pictures. Love him even more now.

And if you were a teenager in the 80’s, you know this guy as Bueller. Ferris Bueller. Love him too. We took this picture because after the first picture, he said, “I don’t think we got it. You might have turned your head too early.”

And he was right. If Matthew Broderick wasn’t such a sweety, this is the picture I would have been left with. Yikes. Thank you! And if you get the chance to see Nice Work If You Can Get It, it’s supposed to be fabulouso.

These guys made me promise not to tell anyone they let me pet their horses. I told them I had a blog and they said, “of course you do Oh, that’s fine.”

My hubby swore I was Livin’ La Vida Loca when I waited over half an hour to get this photo of Ricky Martin who was starring in Evita.

And for the grand finale……..dum ta da dum…..The Naked Cowboy. Thank God he is not actually naked. Brace yourself, this is not for the faint of heart.

It was tons ‘o fun just walking down the street!

The used-to-be me……

This whole blog started off as a way of journaling our move to India so we would capture – and never forget – the details of our adventure. I wanted to remember the monuments and the memories but had no real way of knowing that, while those were fun, they were insignificant in what we should remember from our experience. The memories came from traveling – but the lessons came from everyday life. The routine that never actually became routine.

We have been home for over a year now and I still have not written about everything. And I have (finally) accepted that I will never write about everything. You just cannot remember it all – and even if you could remember every detail – there is simply no way to explain it all. Partly because India hits everyone a little differently and partly because there are just not enough words.

Unfortunately, I drop little pieces of our India experiences like sand falling off my shoe.  Some of them are hard reminders and I eagerly (and unfortunately) toss them out like I would a rock cradled under my toe. Others just drift away all on their own. And this blog was supposed to be like a big broom and sweep up everything. It turns out there is not a blog or broom big enough for that task.

One by one, you barely miss a piece of sand – but together they can form a beach. It is not good to lose a beach of experience. It’s really not.

Alas.

But what is making me really frustrated and sad is that I changed in India and I am losing some of that. India taught me to be more patient and to have a bigger world perspective. To remember the reality of it all. And, damnit, I am letting myself get caught up in some of the nonsense again. My perspective is shrinking and re-framing.

In many ways, India brings non-Indians to their knees. It’s hard to live in an “all-about-me” bubble when you are constantly bombarded with people suffering and struggling and still surviving – and surviving happily. The people who have the most to legitimately complain about actually complain about nothing. I am not sure if they don’t complain because they don’t think it will do any good or if they just find it unnecessary. But complain they do not.

Please know that this is not an “India is so dirty, the people are so poor” story. If you are a big lover of India, please do not take this as insulting. But the reality is that there are people in India who survive on very little and it is hard to be selfish and self-absorbed when you are reminded of that every single time you step outside. Not everyone owns an ipod – or an outlet to plug it into.

Even when you are inside. It is inescapable.

When you have to give your cook and his wife water when they go home at night because they don’t have access to water, you suddenly remember to turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth. You realize that what you absolutely take for granted as ever-flowing and abundant and even safe is non-existent for someone else – really, most everyone else. It puts you in your place a little bit.

And you have a lot less energy to worry about what other people are doing and what other people aren’t doing. You are busy getting through a day that is just exhausting to get through. And you are often even more busy getting your children through a day in a world that doesn’t make a lot of sense to them. You try to let them experience the reality of it, while protecting them from the reality of it.

I remember one day in India that we got in the car to go to school. The kids were fighting about who was going to sit where. My head almost spun off my neck. My tirade went something like this………..

Holy Hell. You are really going to sit in an air conditioned car with a full belly which is covered by clean clothes and with a head that slept on a pillow on a bed in a room that you do not have to share and drive by all of “this” and complain about anything. Seriously. What are we doing here? Have you really not learned anything? You ate breakfast made by someone else, put the leftovers on a side plate for Ravi to eat at lunch (he would literally eat the crusts they left on their plates), and left your dishes in a sink for someone else to wash. In fact, I should have stopped with “you ate breakfast“. Turn to the left, look out the window and turn to the right, look out that window and shut the hell up.

It was not one of my stellar mommy moments. But that morning had an impact on all of us. The kids didn’t complain (that morning or the next and maybe not even the next). And I wondered how we could walk and live and breathe in India and not lose more of our selfishness.

How could we drive by children without clothes or a roof over their heads or even morsels of food on a plate – dear God, who am I kidding? A plate. No, you are right, they didn’t own need plates – and complain about which comfy cozy seat our bigger than necessary arses were going to snuggle into so that the air conditioning could hit our faces just right.

For Pete’s sake, our driver rode his motor scooter in traffic and dust for an hour to come and clean our car and wait for us to be ready to go somewhere, anywhere  – at any time. He held the door for us and swept up our messes and ran our errands. And at night he took our leftovers to a home with no air conditioning whenever we declared ourselves done for the day. He just waited for us to decide when we were finished so that he could see his family at some point before they laid on a threadborne mattress all in the same room together and went to sleep. Just to wake up early to do it all again.

And we did learn those lessons and we do embrace letting go of some very unnecessary involvement in things. But sometimes I slip and those slips are coming more often. I am getting caught up in minutiae and it is making me nuts. I have an opinion about too many things.

Anyway, this little rant is almost over. Pinky swear.

The bottom line is that I am going to start praying harder for (and working harder toward) patience and perspective. And, yes, a winning lottery ticket would certainly be nice – but if perspective kicks in properly, I won’t push my luck. 😎

And then there were two……….

India ignited a travel fire in us. So, we decided to travel to Houston to see the NCAA Final Four Basketball games.

The conversation started like this…..

Me: Maybe we could take Bear to the Final Four games for his birthday. You know the games are on his actual birthday.
Hubby: Really? I (yes, “I”, not Bear) would love that! But do you really think the girls would enjoy it? Maybe I should just take Bear.
Me: Maybe I should just take Bear.
Hubby: We should all go.
Me: Look at how smart you are!

Yeah for us! And my older brother who we dragged along with.

We arrived in Houston to find this little Bball court ready for some action.

Happy to oblige, the kids took their Uncle on while hubby picked up the car. Bring it.

And what kind of car did we rent? Well, we were in Texas, my friend. So we honored that by getting a big honking gas guzzling Yukon. Yes, that was a silly question!

We headed out at the crack o dawn on Saturday morning, which got us to Houston around lunch time. Hunrgy? Well, when in Houston, you are supposed to eat BBQ.

We found this little nugget of a restaurant called Pappa’s. All the food was served cafeteria style. Now you’re talking down home cookin!

I had the lunch of champions.

Oh, yeah. They served pit bbq too. This is the pork.

Then on to the games at Reliant Stadium.

There were tons of activities around the perimeter of the stadium so we got there a little bit early to get a fabulous parking spot to partake of the fun and spend way too much on t-shirts (which my rock star brother generously gifted everyone).

Bear got a long sleeved shirt so he did not put his on. And I, well being brilliant, I didn’t think I wanted a shirt. That is until I saw how cute Flower’s shirt was. Then I decided, “maybe I will get one.” Yeah. Me and my bright ideas.

I waited in line for about half an hour to find out that they only had smalls left. The sales lady was trying to be helpful and said, “don’t worry, honey, they stretch.” And, yes, I did tell her that wasn’t exactly a selling point. 😎

My hubby and my bro apparently have similar tastes. Which is lucky for me because it means they both have a high tolerance for a whole lot of me. But it also makes them dorks. Tweedlebro and Tweedlehubby….

But they did not have the most attention-grabbing outfits on. There were some doosies! I didn’t take any pictures making fun of people because I am not a big fan of the “People of Walmart” pictures. (I am a huge fan of Walmart and probably harbor an inner fear that it might one day be me. Yikes.) But these two made me smile.

As we walked toward the stadium, we saw tons of people working. I couldn’t help but feel bad for them that they might not ever get inside to see the games. But this guy was not to be swayed by that – he was listening in.

Of course, the real excitement did not begin until we got inside with 78,000 of our closest friends. This was the view from our seats. Yep, good job hubby!

I walked down closer to the court to get some pictures and I got to meet Lee Todd, Jr., the President of the University of Kentucky.

What’s that, you say? How did I know who is was? Well, the entire student section stood up and applauded for him and serenaded him when he walked in and stood right beside me. Thinking that probably wasn’t for me, I said, “Well, you must be someone special.”

The lady walking with him (who turned out to be his assistant) said, “Oh he is. He’s the President of UK.” And then tons of people came over to get a picture with him. I told him it was a real treat to be standing there to see the students response to him and that it made me want my kids to consider Kentucky as a school. Really, it was quite something! I got to meet his daughter too. She was delightful.

Then, I remembered I was there to see basketball and not to make new friends. So I took a few pictures of  Butler and VCU warming up.

And then my dear friend called me and told me that she had seen Jim Larranaga (George Mason’s coach) on a pregame show. She wanted a picture. And I was on it!

I asked the security guard (the one who incidentally told me that there was no way he could let me take my son on the court to get a birthday picture) if he had seen the coach. He had not. He was proving to do his job very well and, all the while, not being helpful to me at all.

Then he started telling people to clear the path. My camera perked up. Something exciting was about to happen. No kidding.

Former President George Bush, Sr., and his bride Barbara Bush rode in on a golf cart. Right. In. Front. Of. Me. And. My. Camera.

I blew him a big kiss and told him it was amazing to be right there. No matter what your politics, it is an absolute honor to be so close to a former President of the United States. He feigned blushing at my kiss, held his hands to his heart, and smiled. What a gentleman!

Then I nearly got knocked over when this woman from Kentucky came bounding down the stairs. Apparently, her brother used to be some state something or other and used to work for Mr. Bush. She actually asked the Secret Service agent if she could say hello. He said no. (Shocking.) Then I whispered, “Well now, I voted for him and I have seen him on tv, can I say hello?” He smiled and said no ma’am.

It was then I realized I might not ever make it on to the actual court. Hmpf.

I went back to my seat. And the games began with the most beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner with soldiers holding a ginormous flag. Yolanda Adams sang the national anthem and boy does she have a voice! It was fabulouso!

And then my hubby spotted Jim Larranaga. He was sitting about 15 rows in front of us. Seriously. How lucky is that? So I went down and introduced myself as a Mason grad and babbled away about being so happy he stayed at Mason after taking the team all the way to the Final Four a few years ago and how lucky Mason was to have him for a coach. He was so kind and generous with his time. I told him I was sorry to bother him – I knew he was here to watch the game – it was just such an honor. And he said, “Don’t apologize. It’s nice to meet you too.” Honestly. So charming.

We took a picture.

Then later in the game, I was walking back up the steps from taking more pictures. And Mr. Larranaga was talking to some more fans. And he points to me and says, “she’s a Mason grad.” Wow.

Then I motioned for my brother to come down and meet him. Hubby was embarrassed, but my brother has more years in of putting up with me and just plays along. 😎

Angel came down the stairs with my brother and the Coach was so delightful with her. He introduced himself as the George Mason coach and bent down and shook her hand. I said, “oh she knows exactly who you are! She was at the GMU v. JMU game.” He asked her if she liked the band. I love this man!

Anywho, I finally thanked him for his graciousness and promised to leave him alone. 😎 The only thing I wish I had told him was that in my pool, Mason would have been in the Final Four. No, that didn’t work out so well. But I am a big, big, big Mason fan and you have to keep the faith!

You probably know how the Butler v. VCU game ended. But just in case…

Next up was UConn and Kentucky. We were sitting in the Kentucky section which could have been problematic because I have UConn winning it all. But the fans were nice and forgave me my transgression.

I had to go back down toward the court one more time to get some more warm-up pictures.

The night was just an amazing night but it was high energy. Angel got a little tired and managed to squeeze in a little catnap.

She slept until one of the Kentucky players made a fabulous 3 point shot and the crowd went nuts. If I had been filming her, we would have totally won America’s Funniest Videos.

You probably also know that the game was a nail-biter.  UConn won. Unfortunately 78,000 of us were planning on leaving the stadium at the exact same time, so I did not get a picture of that scoreboard.

Holy Cow, Macao………..

I still have so much writing to do about our time in India and it’s time to get moving – so here we go….

You might remember that right before we left India, we made a jaunt over to China – you can read about the Great Wall here and Olympic Park/Panda Bears here and Bicycles here.We also stopped in Hong Kong. Sadly, we picked to go to Hong Kong mainly because there is a DisneyWorld there. However, when we arrived in Hong Kong and checked into our hotel, I was looking through the hotel’s information and saw that Cirque Du Soleil was performing in Macao (which is also apparently spelled Macau). Bonus!

Hubby: I am pretty tired. It’s good to sit down.
Me: Look, Cirque Du Soleil is in Macao.
Hubby: Is that the Macao that is across the ocean?
Me: How far is that from here?
Hubby: No idea – but I am sure we are about to find out.
Me: The kids l.o.v.e. Cirque Du Soleil, we should totally go.
Hubby: Or we could relax and order room service.
Me: Hmmmm.
Hubby: I will go the the conceirge and see what we need to do
Me: Only if you really want to dear. 😉

We found out that yes, Macao, is not exactly around the corner from Hong Kong – but is a lot closer to Hong Kong than it is to the U.S. 😎

So, my dear sweet husband went down to the front desk and found out that there were tickets still available for that night’s show. They were not exactly free – but they were available. What we needed to do was rent a car to take us to the ferry station, then take the ferry over to Macao, then take a bus to the Venetian Hotel, and then watch the show. And then rinse and repeat backwards. It turns out that renting a car and riding the ferry – not so much free either. But the bus ride to the Venetian. Totally free. See we are saving money dear!

The whole adventure was going to take us about 5 hours and we needed to leave about 5 minutes ago.

Off we go. One crazy thing about China is that even though Beijing and Macao and Hong Kong are all in China, you still have to go through Customs and Immigration each time you leave one and enter another. So, in one day, we went through Immigration 4 times. Yikes. And we were pretty much always in a hurry. Adding Macao and the Cirque Du Soleil in at the last minute was a tad stressful – but it made for a great night.

We rushed down to the lobby to meet the driver and then stopped by 7-11 for a slurpee – ahhhhh – and headed off to the ferry.

We had absolutely no idea what we were doing. Thankfully Hong Kongers (yes, that is the technical term) speak English and we could at least understand where they were telling us to go. We got to the ferry counter and there was a big sign for helicopter rides to Macao. Now, I have my husband’s attention. That sounded cool. He asked about tickets and when he found out it would be about $2,000 USD, he bought ferry tickets.

The ferry was pretty neat. And we got to see a bit of Hong Kong. If you’ve never been, just imagine tall building after taller building after even taller building. New York has nothing on Hong Kong.

At the ferry station, there were all these fun tugboats. Not sure why I love me some tug boats, but I do. I don’t necessarily want to ride on them – but I love taking pictures of them.

Once we got into Macao and on the bus, we started breathing a little easier. We had a good chance of being on time.

For those of you not familiar with Macao, it is simply Las Vegas incarnate. Flashy splashy hotel with big honkin’ casino right beside flashy splashy hotel with big honkin’ casino. Endless roads of hotels and casinos, all lit up real sparkly. Part of Macao is over this bridge. And I learned an important lesson about photography – fast moving bus + city with tons of lights + children asking a gagillion questions + amateur photographer taking flash pictures through window = stinky pictures. So sorry! I’d like to pretend that I was trying some new fangled photography and was getting all artistic with a simple bridge – but, alas, blurry is blurry.

Here is my best Macao picture. Yeah, don’t worry those National Geographic photographers won’t be in danger of losing their jobs anytime soon.

This is the Venetian – where the magic of Cirque Du Soleil takes place.

And here is what the Venetian looks like if you actually know how to use your camera – Thanks Wiki!

It turned out that we got to the hotel about 45 minutes before the show was scheduled to start. And it turns out that we did not get my brother a Hard Rock Cafe hat in Beijing – long story that did not end well – and that we passed a Hard Rock Cafe hotel in Macao that was literally a block away from the Venetian. So, number one hubby literally ran over to the Hard Rock Cafe and got my brother a Macao Hard Rock hat while the kids and I nestled into the Blue Frog Bar and Grill. Where we enjoyed some yummy American food – chicken nuggets and french fries and potato skins with sour cream. That equalled instant smiles…

 

What I did not realize about the Blue Frog and Grill was that they have a running contest – if you drink 100 shots of alcohol, you get your name posted in big arse letters on a big arse billboard in the bar. My kids wanted to figure out how they could get their names on that board. Well, let’s see….

Then on to the show. The name of the show is ZAIA which apparently translates into “life” and the show is about a girl who imagines a world beyond earth. You don’t really need to know any of that – what you do need to know is that it’s awesome with tons of acrobatics and lively music and surprises behind every curtain.

You aren’t allowed to take pictures during the show – so you get to see the posters. Apparently, I am also not so great at taking pictures while standing still in a well lit lobby with no children asking questions. Note to self – photography lessons.

We told the kids before we even left Hong Kong that we would most likely have to leave the show early because we had to catch the ferry back in order to take advantage of the hotel room we had already paid for in Hong Kong. So, as time got close to leave, we gave them the requisite 5-minute warning. Then we said, “time to go.” You can imagine that they quickly got up and departed the theater in a safe and orderly manner so as not to disturb the other audience members.

Yeah, not exactly – so hubby laid down the parent law – not kidding, I said now. Then they departed in a somewhat quiet and orderly manner while only mildly disturbing a few fellow audience members.

We made it back on the bus and back to the ferry and back to the driver all in one piece. And then back to our hotel.


Whew. It actually was possible to get there in back. I thought so. 😎 However, if you plan to visit Macao while in Hong Kong, might I suggest a little advance planning?

Time to Write………

We have been home for 2 months now and it has been great. But I have gotten some grief from my readers about not writing enough anymore – and no, they are not all related to me and no, money did not exchange hands. It’s just now that I am once again doing all the shopping, cleaning, cooking, laundry, driving, etc, I have not found/made the time to write.

Today is the perfect example of why I am short on time. My son had plans to head out to a sleep away camp this morning. He needed to meet the camp bus at 9:30am packed and ready to go – and apparently healthy. Oh. Yeah that would be good.

Healthy. I will have to remember that next time I am packing socks and snacks and bug spray.

Luckily, we were smart enough to pack last night. And don’t kid yourself into thinking that packing was super fun. Apparently, what a mom thinks a 13 year old boy needs on a 5-day trek into the wilderness and what that young man thinks he will need are two very different things – even if they both speak English and are reading from the same sheet. He thought it would all fit in a backpack because he didn’t want to be the only one with a suitcase. Really? I did not realize that teenagers have become suitcase phobic. I still have so much to learn. But okay, try it. Knock yourself out.

Famous last words: “Mom, this isn’t all going to fit – I need a bigger bag. Maybe even a suitcase.”

Really? That is simply shocking. I so did not see that coming. 😉

So we transferred everything from the backpack with so much potential to the more realistically sized suitcase. And it even zipped up. But when we tried to put a second bathing suit in, we realized the zipper was actually broken on the suitcase. We were both tired so we decided to address the great zipper incident in the a.m. He wanted to wake up at 7:30am so we were going to have p.l.e.n.t.y. o’ t.i.m.e.

Or so I thought. He woke up this morning and says, “Mom, my ear really hurts. I am pretty sure I have an ear infection or swimmers ear.”

Me: That’s great honey. Are you sure? Because you have to be on a bus in an hour and a half. And if you miss the bus – well, that means I am spending the day in the car. The entire day. In the car.

And, by the by, I know good and damn well he is sure because he has never told me this and been wrong. Arrrgggh. However, I did have the clarity of gratitude to be very, very thankful that he is old enough to tell me where it hurts and maybe even why it hurts. I do not (for even one second) miss the days of trying to translate tears and screams in to one of six possible problem categories – hungry, my sister took my truck, tired, dirty diaper, sick, and/or absolutely undeterminable and therefore unsolvable. I was also very thankful that he actually told me about it, even though he might have understood that it could have totally meant that he might not get to go on this five-day, fun-in -the-sun, week-without-parents and/or siblings, eat-all-the-junk-food-you-want, stay-up-way-too-late, no-summer-homework extravaganza.

Well, at least I thought he understood that until I had a mommy realization moment. I thanked him for telling me and not just pretending to be okay even though it really could mean that he might not be able to go at all or that I might end up driving him the f.o.u.r. and a h.a.l.f. hours to camp and then back again (another four and a half hours) – and he looked at me with absolute disbelief that him not getting on that bus in merely an hour and half was at all a possibility. He clearly had complete confidence that I could make this all happen quickly and magically. That I am surely capable of diagnosing then healing an ear infection while finding the chapstick and simultaneously growing enough money on a tree so that he could buy unlimited snacks and milkshakes and possibly even an extra camp t-shirt. That is when I fully understood that it isn’t quite yet time to put my super hero mommy cape away. At least not yet. Even at 13, I am still a rock star. Yes, that pretty much made it all worth it.

The rest of the very long story short is that we have a fantabulous doctor who squeezed us in and diagnosed my little Bear with – guess what – an ear infection. Our wonderful, wonderful nurse faxed the prescription to the pharmacy and I diligently obeyed all traffic guidelines (which is important because my drivers license happens to be in my husband’s wallet that just happens to be in New York City – oh yes, that means I am single parenting at the moment – even better, right) and then we rolled in safely to the Giant Pharmacy. Where the pharmacist knew nothing of our prescription. Perfecto. But I had the hard copy – yeah me still earning that super hero cape – and begged for a quick fill of our prescription. We had just enough time to obey all traffic guidelines once again and rush drive carefully home and change out the problem suitcase for a new suitcase with a functioning zipper so that Bear’s underwear wouldn’t fall out all over the ground in front of the very cute 8th grade girls on the bus. (And by the by, parents of 8th grade girls – could you buy your daughters longer shorts? Not necessarily the girls on this bus but just in general. That would be great. Thanks.)

In the end, Bear even had time to take a quick and very hot last civilized shower before camp. Then it was right back to the pharmacy to get both of his prescriptions and a doughnut – any mom with a super hero cape certainly knows that antibiotics can upset an empty tummy and a doughnut has been scientifically proven to be a comfort food. And yes, I got myself one too – I earned it after all.

We made it to the bus stop with exactly two minutes to spare. That is where Bear decided he did not exactly need me anymore and I got a shoulder bump and a quick hug goodbye. Oh yeah, and a “mom, I’m fine.” My cape dropped a little with that one. But I perked up when I saw the plethora of suitcases under the bus. Who knew that other teenagers might actually use real luggage to get their camp belongings from one place to another? All is truly right with the world.

And, yes, the bus was at least a half an hour late leaving. And no, I don’t think 10am is too early to start drinking. 😉

P.S. My dear blog buddy Loco tagged me as one of his favorite women bloggers in Asia – that was awesome too. Thanks Loco!

Back on Track – Hong Kong Disney……

It’s been too long since I have shared more of our India adventures with you – and there is so much left to tell – so I am trying to get back on track.

On our way back from our recent trip to China, we made a pit stop in Hong Kong. To be very, very honest, we mostly stopped in Hong Kong because there is a Disney park there. I know, I know – I can hear the collective gasps throughout the web – so much history – so much culture – and you stopped to see the mouse? But we figured – why not!

And it turns out there is not a ton to see in Hong Kong anyway. It is mostly known for its shopping and we knew were returning to America so we did not need to do a lot of shopping. So Disney it was.

Hong Kong Disney is not as large as its sister park in Florida, especially because it is just the Disney park – there is no Epcot or Safari or water park. I would say it was really good for my youngest but there are not many bigger kid rides – we did all thoroughly enjoy it though. But one day is plenty.

If you go and plan to watch any of the shows, be careful to check which language they will be presented in. English is the main language but the shows are done in a few others also – better to understand what they are actually saying than not.

You also have to be careful in Disney because some of those women are sneaky. This chick thought she could steal my man. She was such a bimbo. Honestly. And he is smiling because he is afraid I am going to take down the mouse – not because he is the least little bit flattered.

She is apparently also part cougar.

While the men in my family were being flirted with by the tart star of the show, I was getting kisses from the grumpy donkey who can’t keep a home to save his life.

And, I completely understand that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – but really? There were several women dressed like Minnie Mouse. And when I say several – I mean, s.e.v.e.r.a.l.

And, witchy wonders,  I got to ride my broom. tee hee.

This park had a lot of the old favorites – It’s a Small World

The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

And Angel is a h.u.g.e. Winnie the Pooh fan. So, when he squished her with those big ole honey bear arms she literally melted. That was the moment that we knew going to Disney was the right thing to do – history shmistory.

Those dreaded fantastic teacups – which my children LOVE and I don’t LOVE so much at all. So I volunteered to take pictures. Very generous of me, I know. It’s just one of those sacrifices I am willing to make as a parent.

And the line got cut off for the picture with Alice in Wonderland before we were able to get in it – so no, we did not adopt a child in Disney – I just could not get a picture of her with my own child. If I learn to Photoshop, you will never know the difference. I really wanted to stomp my foot and scream “not fair” because clearly this little Chesire Cat has no idea how lucky he is to have his picture taken with the “real” Alice but that mean old Queen of Hearts was watching and she scares me a little bit.

And yes, I appreciate how much my husband must love me to take this picture with me – but please do not discount the fact that he might just have done it because it was w.a.y. easier to smile and be done with it than it would have been to not do it and hear about it all day long. 😉 Okay, he didn’t officially smile but he didn’t not smile either. Win. Win.

There was also the Buzz Lightyear ride, the Tarzan treehouse, the Lion King Show, and a few other recognizable Disney favorites.

And of course, there was a parade. So fun!

And I would not buy my children actual balloons but I was willing to take a picture of some that another parent found purchase worthy so that my own kids have hard evidence that I really am the meanest mom on the planet and denied them the thrill of a helium high later that night.


We also did a character meal where even the pancakes matched the whole mouse theme. They were almost too cute to eat – almost.

We did hit a few snafus – one being that the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night in the hotel. Great to know that my children can sleep through an alarm screeching warnings at full volume. Yikes. Luckily it was a false alarm and we did not have to leave our rooms.

The other snafu was at the character meal where the fine folks at Disney thought it might be okay to make us wait for over 30 minutes to sit down at the meal (that we had reservations for and spent a good chunk of college savings on) just to tell us when we finally sat down that the characters needed a break and would be back in an hour.

I will let you figure out for yourself how that worked out for the fine folks at Disney. tee hee.

And don’t think for one second that I didn’t whisper in that mouse’s big arse ear that his little girlfriend better check herself! 😉

Whose child is that…………..

I remember very well when September 11th happened. I remember being so grateful that my oldest child was just 5 years old and there wasn’t a lot of explaining I had to do. He wasn’t on the bus to hear the stories or in the cafeteria. Thankfully, we did not lose any friends or relatives that day. I prayed hard and paced in front of the news but he was blissfully unaware that it seemed like the world had just been turned upside down and inside out – well maybe not the whole world but certainly many little corners of it.

That was….

until….

his very precocious friend who was the youngest in a family of four walked in the door for a play date. He no sooner had his tennis shoes off before he was telling Bear all about the “bad guys” who had blown up a building. I remember very distinctly thinking – holy 9/11 batman – now I have to explain this to my innocent little Bear who doesn’t really know bad guys exist – right after I delete this monkey’s phone number from our address book. Seriously, his mom couldn’t tell him to keep a lid on it?

Fast forward a few years……. yep, you pretty much know where this is going – down hill fast.

Angel (who is merely 8 years old) was in a swim lesson today and they were talking about the bottom of the water and how you should pretend like there are alligators in it so that you don’t touch the bottom. The instructor asked if alligators live in rivers. Angel raised her hand and said,
“yes, they do. And, in some rivers they burn dead bodies.”

Now, this is a result of her living in India and visiting Nepal and actually seeing this happen. But I am sure most of that will be lost in translation at many dinner tables tonight. And when the parents are all trying to figure out “whose child that is” tomorrow at practice, I will simply shake my head and say “I am trying to figure that same thing out – did you hear what that child said? You’d think they lived in India or something.” 😎 Hmpf.