Tag Archives: bear

Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua …………

Say what? That means “Tiger Temple”. It is about a 3-hour drive from Bangkok. Yes, we went! You had to know we would. It is a Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand run by Buddhist monks. The head of the temple is called the abbott (not sure why you need to know that – but if you ever pull that one out in a game of trivial pursuit you can thank me.) They care for the tigers and give visitors an opportunity of a lifetime.

There are two different types of tours – one is where you go to the park in the afternoon and see the tigers during their quieter time of day – afternoon. I am sure this is fabulous – when else are you going to see that many tigers so close together and get your picture taken with a big arse cat? However, it’s afternoon – the cats are not that active. They have just eaten lunch and it’s hot. (Did I mention that Thailand is super hot? I did not think it was possible to be hotter than India. Wrong.) So I am guessing you do a lot of looking at cats resting after lunch. Of course, if you are going to sit near a big arse cat and have your picture taken, after their lunch is probably a very good time to do it. Otherwise you might become what we call the appetizer – formerly known as my loyal blog reader.

We chose to go to the temple first thing in the morning and spend about 3 hours with the monks and tigers. Holy cat batman, that is the way to go. You might suspect that this is the (much) more expensive option – it is – but it really is a once in a lifetime experience. And our children are earning their bachelors degrees from the school of life, who really needs college anyway? I am quite sure that when their prospective employers read on their resume that they have pet and played with and fed and bathed very large tigers, they will be a shoe in for any job.

Anycat, the day started with us being picked up at our hotel in Bangkok at 5am in the morning. We get in the van and drive, drive, drive and then drive some more. Luckily, it’s early and we are still exhausted, so we slept a good bit of the way. (By the way, the roads in Thailand are very well developed – but they are bumpy – so dramamine is a good idea of you are easily nauseous in the car.) Then we stopped at a mini mart – now if you have been living in India and do not exactly have mini marts, this is a pure slice of junk food and soda heaven. We filled up with c.r.a.p. for us and bought some breakfast items to offer to the monks. It is my understanding that the majority of the food they eat is donated. Our guide told us to buy them Pepsi because they apparently don’t get too much of that. Too funny. Pepsi it is.

So we get to the park and line up behind a table with our offerings. We had to remove our shoes. The monks lined up and walked past us with buckets. We bowed to them. They took the food and Pepsi. It was kind of strange really – but cool enough. If you ever do this, there are about 14 monks at the temple. Each one of them walks by you with a bucket. Make sure you buy at least 14 things. And the volunteers at the temple, get their leftovers – so really stock up.

Okay, I was the only one in my family who actually offered food and bowed. This is all the hard evidence number one hubby needed to prove, once and for all, that I am a dork of the highest magnitude this side of Kanchanaburi. But, I believe that when in Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua, you should do as the Wat Pha Luang Ta Buans do.

Then we were asked to sign a waiver. It went something like this. You are an idiot for wanting to play with and feed real tigers – you do know they are wild animals, right – they might attack you – if they attack you, you are not going to be on the winning side of the fight – we are questioning your sanity – oh good, you brought your smallish children – sign here.

Off to the park. We first met the smaller tigers and one adorable tiger cub named Full/New Moon – sorry, I cannot remember the thai translation for that – but she was born on a full moon. She was just about a month old. We fed the tigers bottles and honestly marveled at their beauty and strength. The younger tigers were very soft – but as they age, their fur becomes more wirey.

And I got bitten- for the first time – by a real flippin tiger. In our little intro to the day, they explained that they really weren’t kidding – these are real tigers with real teeth and they really might (try to) bite us. They live in this nice little sanctuary but they are w.i.l.d. animals. If they did bite at us, we were supposed to push their heads away and NOT pull away from them.  It was our responsibility to keep their mouths away from any body parts we wanted to leave with still attached to our own body. The not pulling away part was emphasized – so I made a mental note of it. Do not pull away. Then, I completely forgot that and immediately pulled my leg away (intact) and I did not remember to push the tiger’s head away. Luckily there are trainers with you and they remembered just what to do. The tiger did not even break the skin – but it was a wee bit scary. They immediately rushed to me and asked if I was okay. Leg still there – check. No blood gushing out of my body – check. Children ok – check. More blog material – check. Yeah, I am good. I was left with a small scratch and a bruise – battle scars.

I can now add “I have been bitten by a tiger” to my list of quotes for that silly getting to know you game where you write something down that no one would ever guess about you and then they try to guess who wrote it. It’s good to have something interesting to write down.

There was a baby cub there and several adolescent tigers. The larger tigers were chained to posts and we were able to sit with them and pet them and feed them bottles. Interestingly enough, tigers don’t purr like domestic cats do. They do roll and stretch and like to be scratched like pets though.

Next we had breakfast with the monks. Well, the monks had breakfast over there and we ate over here. But they sat and we watched. I stood up to take pictures and was told that a woman cannot be higher than the monks so I had to sit back down. Normally, I would have been all “what’s up with that” but they were letting me pet their tigers, so I took a pass on going Norma Rae on them. Then we got to watch a small chanting/prayer ceremony. That was interesting enough and really quite peaceful.

Then off to walk the tigers. Excuse me? Walk the tigers – as in take them off the posts that they are currently restrained by? Okay. Please remind me exactly what that waiver said. This isn’t safe or a good idea? Am I remembering that correctly?

Sure, I’ll walk the tiger. And I will let my children do it. Why not? Katie Couric isn’t here filming a “what not to do as a parent” episode is she? Because if she is, I need to put on my lipstick.

And if you are wondering if they are as powerful as they seem on the Discovery Channel when they are bringing down a large antelope – the answer would be “absolutely!”

Angel was thinking that maybe she got delivered to the wrong family by the stork. She was hoping for parents that looked out a little better for her safety and well being.

The next stop was an enclosure and where we got to play with them for a good 45 minutes. They were majestic and magnificent and amazing and, dammit, another one bit me.

Don’t even ask, if I remembered the “rules”. You know good and damn well I did not. I pulled my leg back immediately. I did not push his head away. Angel watched it happen and decided that she really liked the tigers – from a distance. Again, no blood. Again, leg still attached. Again, children fine. It’s all good. But I have to say reality set in and I got a little nervous. So I decided Angel should not have to watch from far away all by herself. Like any good mother would, I went and sat with my cub in the shade, far away from the action. And like any good mother would, I left my 12 and 10 year old in the middle of the activity.

After that, we were invited to bathe and feed the tigers. Tremendous. You mean they will eat something besides me? Yeah! So we washed them with soap and rinsed them with a hose and fed them cooked chicken. Yes, right out of our hands.

Tigers in the wild eat raw meat – so they also get supplements to offer them the nutrients that the cooked meat does not have. But they do not want them eating raw meat because they do not want them to taste the blood. No, I did not read that on the waiver. They conveniently left that little tid bit off. But there is also the concern for avian flu – so it is important that the meat is cooked. The tigers had no problem eating the chicken and leaving our hands in tact. So it was  a win-win.

And if you are wondering, my thought bubble is very full of wonders at this point – is this the one that bit me earlier? Do humans really taste like chicken? Remind me again who thought this was a good idea.

Then we were told it was time to go to the canyon with the big cats. They said Angel was too small to be in the canyon because the really big tigers might want to play with her – I think that translated into – we weren’t kidding with the waiver crazy lady – your children should not be here. But they offered to let her go back with the baby cub and play with her for a while. They were so nice and told me that one of the staff members could take her back to the cub and walk her around the park to see the bears and lions they had rescued while we went to the big cat canyon.

Now, I might let her come to the tiger temple and walk and feed tigers – but thank so much – I am not letting a total stranger walk her around solo in the wooded Tiger Temple that is in Thailand. Yep, I went with Angel – Number One Hubby took Bear and Flower to the canyon.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. The temple has rescued a couple of lions and a couple of bears in addition to the tigers they care for. Angel and I got to see these animals because she could not go to the canyon. They are not on the regular tour yet. Their enclosures are being built and I think once they are done, these animals will be available for the public to see.

This bear is folding his paws and giving the traditional Asian bowing greeting. The guide asked if Angel wanted to feed him. I said sure – after all I had already signed the waiver, right? And at least this guy is behind bars.

Meanwhile, the rest of my crew went the the canyon where they watched the big cats frolic and play and were in absolute awe of their strength and agility. For that part of the tour, you are in a small fenced in area while the very large tigers walk and play around you. As you can see, the term fence is used loosely – it was not even waist high.

The staff and volunteers were amazing. They shared their love of these big beasts with us and kept us safe. Most of our pictures are from them – they were so generous with their time and energy and often took our cameras and captured our experience so we could just be fully engaged in our adventure. One thing that is important to know is that flash photography is strictly forbidden. But as you can see, you really don’t need it.

There are reports that abuse and illegal trafficking and breeding are happening at the temple. There is even speculation that the tigers are drugged to make them calmer. I can tell you that the people we talked with love these animals and treat them with respect and tenderness. The tigers seemed very comfortable and relaxed. We never saw any abuse or signs of abuse. I cannot speak to how the tigers get there or what breeding practices are in place. But I can tell you that the tigers we saw were vibrant and active and simply magnificent and are very much loved.

I will leave you with this – my new friend is about 400 pounds.

17 years and counting (aka – the war of the roses)………..

This weekend, number one hubby and I “celebrated” our 17th wedding anniversary. Blink. When did that happen? Not really sure – but it’s been a good ride. I still like him a lot and he continues to put up with me. And ever since I started blogging he has officially recognized that I can be funny. We really make each other laugh and smile. We probably have at least another 17 years in us.

This is the song that makes me think of him – it’s I don’t want to miss a thing – by Aerosmith.

I say “celebrated” because number one hubby went to work, Bear had a track meet, we hosted two visiting athletes from Katmandu, Flower and Angel went with me to a craft fair – it was a little “un”anniversary like.

And if you know me at all, you’ll understand that I am not exactly all over hiring a babysitter in a foreign country to watch my kids so that hubby and I can pay way too much for a dinner out. Yeah, Laxmi made butter chicken for us and I am good with that.

There isn’t really much that either of us wanted, so gift giving pretty much went to the back burner, too. I am also good with that. I know the men are rolling their eyes here – but really – I don’t like gifts just for the sake of gifts. Hubby is generous anytime I want something – I don’t have to wait for anniversaries and birthdays. See how that works? It’s better that way.

Number One Hubby loves fresh flowers and he is especially fond of lillies. I did not want our day to go unnoticed so I got him these. They are from the flower stand in our neighborhood and they are really beautiful.

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And so began the parade of flowers and gifts. The war of the roses.

Number One Hubby’s office sent this cake. It came one day early, so I had to promise that we would cut it at midnight. We cut it and I am sure it was midnight (somewhere). It was delish.

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Then came this elephant pot from Number One Hubby’s assistant. It is tres cool. Number One Hubby had actually been looking at these – we love it! (Before you fall out of your chair, remember that the swastika here is an auspicious symbol – it has nothing to do with all that Nazi hate baloney. It is a lovely symbol here and it is often drawn out in fresh flowers. So, just to be clear, we are not joining the Third Reich – we are just being wished much love and happiness.)

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Then came these from our driver….

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and these from Ravi – the rock star who cleans our house….

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And then these from the travel group that coordinates number one hubby’s travel…..

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Deepak sent these……….

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Number One Hubby’s admin staff sent these – yep, we ran out of vases, glasses, and anything that could hold liquids, so these are in the blender.

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But before all of these arrived, hubby decided to surprise me. He ordered 17 vases and 17 dozen roses. Yep, you read that right. 17 of each. While, I was dropping off our visiting athletes and Bear for warmups at the track meet, Number One Hubby, the real Flower, and Angel worked their little florist fingers to the bone. They arranged 17 dozen roses all throughout the house.

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Some of the vases are lined with rice paper that creates this very artsy mosaic look. Hubby says the paper will eventually dissolve – but until then – fabulouso!

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These are just closeups of some of the other flowers – but I thought they were fun. So, you get to see them too.

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And yes, you are absolutely right, I am very lucky!

Grandpa Chuck………

I was blessed with a grandfather who loved me more than even fairytales could imagine. No matter what. Always. Period. He was also proud of me – well, maybe not every single second – but he never let me know any different. I hope everyone is loved like my grandfather loved me. (I am very fortunate to be loved very much by some fabulous people – in time, I am sure you will hear about all of them – but today is just for Grandpa “Chuck”.)

When he died, I was somewhat caught up in my own life – number one hubby and I had a one-year old little bear. I was working part-time and I lived 747 miles away from him. He called me the night he died. I had sent him flowers that day and he wanted to thank me.

I was tired and in bed, so I let the machine get the phone. He left me a beautiful message about how special the flowers were and how all the women at the nursing home wanted to know who their competition was. He laughed and said good night. Then he died during the night.

It’s hard to say if I regret not picking up the phone. Of course, if I had known….. But I did not. So I was left with his voice on tape. And I played it over and over many, many times. So, who is to say. He knows I loved him. He got the flowers. And I got his voice on tape. But yes, I would have taken the opportunity to tell him how special he was – had I known.

I drove down to Georgia to help with the funeral and clean out his room. As I sat down to write his eulogy, I knew I would not be able to be the one who would read it out loud. So we asked a family friend to share my stories.

My grandfather had moved down south so my mother could be nearby to help him. He lost touch with many of his friends from New York – sadly many of them had died. As such, his funeral was mostly attended by my mother’s friends – in support of her. So it was very important to me to let them know why he was worth the time they took out of their own busy lives. I knew he needed to be remembered and in some ways introduced to the people attending his service – his memories needed to be captured.

Desperately, I wanted them to know why my grandfather was worth mourning. That he made at least one life a lot richer just by being a part of it – mine.

I started my tribute to him by writing that my very first thought when I heard he had died was to gather up all my memories of him and put them in a basket. My heart did not feel big enough to hold every laugh and every tear and every smile. But that was foolish. Me trying to be clever with my words. There is absolutely no way I could forget him or the special things he did for me. Even 10 plus years later, I can still hear his laugh and taste his fried potatoes. I can feel the warmth of his hug.

He would fill my fridge with fresh fruit and diet Pepsi (he could never remember I drank diet Coke – during his visits, I drank diet Pepsi). To this day, I cannot eat a green grape without thinking of him. He would always buy me a poppie from the VFW volunteers and I would hang it on the rear view mirror in my car. He loved to sit in the bar for an hour before eating dinner at a restaurant. He would always order an apricot sour for me. I was not 21 and I did not like the taste one bit. But I would sit and sip and watch him flirt with the waitresses 50 years younger than him. He was charming. Sometimes he would steal the steak knife from the restaurant if it was a really good one. He’d wrap it in the cloth napkin. He stole the napkin too. Sometimes he would embarrass me.

He would scour the weekly ads for the best deal on mayonnaise and other groceries. Then he would go to three different stores and stock up on the sale items. With his big old heart in tact, he would give away half of what he bought to neighbors and friends. I tried to no avail to explain the concept of saving money to him – that if you buy things on sale and then give most of it away – there aren’t many pennies left in your pocket – clearly pennies were not the point. He was not foolish with money – but sometimes his heart won out over his bottom line.

He always found the perfect gift for me – usually because he always asked me what I wanted. When I was in elementary school, he used to let me sit on his lap when I got out of the swimming pool, even though I was soaking wet and he was in his street clothes. He bought me a car when I turned 18. He called just to see how I was doing. We used to drive down to Georgia together and he would always pack his lunch. A sandwich and a beer. He was never really in a hurry. He could just sit and enjoy. He always waited until 4pm to have a cocktail and he always took the phone of the hook during his dinner. He was a very good cook – even when he was a little heavy on the pepper. He bought me my first iron skillet and I was mortified when he told me to never use soap on it. But it turns out he was right.

After Bear was born, my mother bought him a Dr. Suess book as a gift from my grandfather. She had my grandpa sign it. He signed it “With Love, Grandpa Chuck.” It was a sad day for me because we never called him Grandpa Chuck. It was his handwriting for sure, but it was not his signature. I guess that day I realized that Bear would never get to know my grandfather. My very special grandfather was slipping away little by little. That was a heartbreaking realization. My children have their own spectacular grandparents – and for that I am so grateful.

So, I treasure the fact that my children have grown up with so much family nearby. It has given them many soft places to fall. And now, we are oceans away from dinners at IHOP and sleepovers and homemade cookies and art projects and reading books and all the other gifts their grandparents are giving them. And I do not even have an answering machine. It is so hard to be away.

Odd (wo)man out……

I have debated with myself whether or not to honestly share my experiences today. Partly because today was the first day that India has totally overwhelmed me and partly because I do not want to insult my Indian readers. But, it was my day and my experience and my blog, after all. I want to capture the feelings I had – so here goes – no insults intended.

Hubby had to work today. Please remember our flat is little (compared to the living space we are used to). I have 3 children who love to watch t.v. but eventually they actually do get bored by electronics. It is spring break – no school. There is a lot to see in Delhi that we have not yet seen. I needed some blog material.

I also need to remember to be careful what I ask for.

I gave the kids 3 options – the craft museum, the Red Fort, or the zoo. It was unanimous. The zoo.

Our regular driver was not working today – so we had Zaffar. He is a nice man with limited English skills. I asked to go to the zoo. He said, yes ma’am. I showed him the map that had our neighborhood and the zoo on it. Both of them were circled. We want to go from here to there. Yes. Ma’am.

Then he pulls into a gas station. That is fine. Really. I would rather him ask than just drive us around all day. But I can tell he still really is not sure. He asked me for the address. Well, the book does not list the address. There is a map, remember. But not the physical address. So, I called hubby’s assistant. She is so helpful to us. Really, I am very lucky. She explained where we wanted to go.

Ohhhhhh, the zoo? Zarraf just happens to know exactly where that is. Hmmmm. She got back on the phone with me and explained that in India they call it “the zoo”. So he did not know what I meant. Funny thing – in America we call it the “zoo” also. It must be my accent.

Anyzoo, we got there without too much trouble and I took a look around. This is what I saw.

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This picture is not worth a thousand words – because it really does not give the sense of how many people were milling about. There were hundreds of people. There were 3 lines – cubbies to store your bags, tickets, and security.

I saw women in the security line with purses, so we went straight for tickets. I was not sure if you were allowed bags or if the cubbies were just for convenience. I guessed convenience. That line was (ridiculously) long. So we moved on to tickets. There were only men in the ticket line. In the ticket line we get.

Men cut in front of us in line. They cut in line behind us too. I am not a big fan of people cutting in front of me in line. But I quickly decided to let. it. go. The line was crowded. I was (ever so slightly) outnumbered by men. I was manless (for the day). I don’t do the damsel in distress well, but I also do not invite trouble.

The man behind me explained that my children could wait out of the line for me. You know, over there. My kids looked at me and then they looked at him with their best “good luck with that dude” look. Our mom isn’t going to have us wait away from her. Even if it is over there. You’ll just have to deal for a few more minutes.

He was actually very helpful and explained where to get in. But he does not know me. The kids stayed in line with me. They were happy to do that.

So here is the sign that explains ticket prices. Once again we are paying a skin tax. Fine – it’s a whole dollar. We’ll (happily) pay it.

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My dad might laugh that I should have gotten in free – but alas, I am too smart for free admission. (Yes, I miss my dad terribly.) I think it is very nice that India gives its citizens a break on admission prices. America could never do this – it would be a paperwork nightmare. Americans are far too diverse to be able to tell who is from where just by looking. Too bad – I love a discount.

On to security.

Bear was (more than) a little concerned that he might have to go in a separate line. The lines were very long and frankly, I was a little concerned too. Many of our sightseeing adventures have had our family in separate lines – men on one side, women on the other. It is just a matter of logistics – women checking women, men checking men. But I was not going to put Bear in a very long line by himself. Whew. I did not have to.

One of the guards asked if we had any food. I said no.

Well it turns out I did have granola bars. The second security guard spotted them and asked me to take them out. Absolutely no food allowed in the zoo. Even if you promise not to eat it. Water bottles seem to be okay. I think. We did not bring water bottles – so don’t quote me on that. But I highly recommend water bottles. There are several watering holes with free water – but if you are not used to the local water – well, let’s just say there are better souvenirs than montazuma’s revenge.

Oh yes, back to the snacks. Enter language barriers and cultural differences.

We are now holding up the line. This does not make the 100 plus people behind us fans of Americans.

The guard tried to get me to open the granola bars so my children can eat them really fast. Or, I can take them back over to the line of 200 plus people and put them in a cubbie for one rupee. Yes, that is two cents. Well here is my two cents worth. This is where Americans should be embarrassed because we can be (very) wasteful. But seriously, it is just not worth the hassle. My kids don’t happen to be hungry right now. I don’t want to get in the super long line, just to get back in this super long line – just so I don’t have to lose 4 granola bars.

Please just take the granola bars to your family and enjoy them. I will buy more. Can we please just be done here?

Apparently not. Please ma’am, open them and eat them now. Sigh. No thank you. You keep them. Do with them what you will. But ma’am, I might have to throw them away. Yeah, I am good with that. Can we go in now?

Now Angel decided to bring a purse with her also. They did not look inside her purse. But she heard the rule. No food. So, bless her heart, she pulls out a granola bar and gives it to the guard.  Yes, I am proud of her for being honest. But seriously, where are the animals – can we just go now? Do we have to be the main attraction? Then she remembered she actually had two granola bars. You’re killing me sweetie – enough already. Are you sure there isn’t a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe that you want to turn in?

We finally get in the gate. The zoo is lovely – lots of space – plenty of room for all the people who are there. It does not feel as smooshed inside.

Bear gets out the map. Now, this is interesting. Normally the hubby is in charge of navigation. But here is a chance for Bear to direct traffic. I have failed him in all things Boy Scout, so bring it Bear. Get us where we want to go.

He did a great job.

We saw the giraffes and the sloth bear.

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He did a great job, that is, until he took us behind the exhibit for the sloth bear. It was a path. But it was an empty path. No one else was on it. I did say that I was concerned that no one else was there. Well, except for the two men walking out of the woods. (Yeah. That’s what I thought too. Maybe we should not be here.)

So, I am balancing encouraging Bear to navigate our way through the zoo with the fact that my scare-dar is flashing “danger, will roger, danger”. I decided to let him guide us.

Until…

Until the two men approached another man and started to harass him. I told the kids we needed to turn around and go. NOW.

I realized that we were in the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time. The two men started to slap the other man. There was a woman standing by with her hands cupped over her mouth.

We exited stage left. Immediately.

Angel said, I don’t think I want to go back there.

Don’t worry, Angel. You won’t be. going. back. there.

So I let Bear keep the map. And I fought every instinct I had to just go home. But I don’t want my kids to be afraid of being in India. There is safety in numbers. We’ll just stay with the crowds.

We continued on to see more animals. Lots and lots of people were watching us. I felt it more today than I ever have.

We saw this rhino trying to get out of the enclosure. I could honestly feel his pain.

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We also saw three white tigers. (Yes, you can still count – there are only two in the picture.)

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And if you know how to use your camera, you can get a great picture of the leopards.

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If you don’t know how to use your camera so well, you might get a great picture of the fence, with some cool (very blurry) leopards in the background. Isn’t this the coolest fence you have ever seen?

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Along the way, many people asked to take pictures of my girls. This is not a new thing. It happens at every tourist spot we go to. Usually they walk away disappointed when I say no. But they seem to understand.

Well today was different. A lot of people clicked pictures with cell phones. There was even one woman who seemed to follow us. It was bizarre. She would bump in to me and laugh. I did not join her in laughing. It got old quick.

Bear was still navigating and we were looking for the hippos. Bear looked at the map and looked at the path. It seemed somewhat empty. He said maybe we can see the hippos next time. Lesson learned.

We head on to see the elephants. They are amazing.

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I did not know this….

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As Flower and Angel are looking at the elephants, Bear notices that a man on the bench is taking a picture with his cell phone of my girls. Bear takes his map and blocks the phone. Honestly, I cannot believe he did it. Two things – one, great job Bear – this is exactly why I wanted any girls I had to have a big brother. Two – holy sh*t,  Bear. Be careful here.

Bear and I had a chat about how extremely proud I was that he was observant and protective of his sisters. And how he is to never. do. that. again. Unless they are in danger,we’ll let some things go.

We all agreed it was time to go home. This is what everyone said as we were leaving.

Bear: I guess we won’t come back here.
(I told him we would – at 9am when the zoo opens and it is less crowded and when Dad can come with us.)

Flower: I like the zoo in the U.S. better because you can drink the water there and nobody stares at us.
(Next time we will bring water bottles and when we are home in the U.S. we will visit the zoo. Maybe we’ll wear crazy clothes so we get stared at there too. Maybe not. We’ll just have to see.)

Angel: I like the zoo in the U.S. better. When can we go home.
(Sweetie, we are home – at least for now.)

So all in all, it turned out to be a good day. Bear got a chance to be in charge. I remembered that instincts kick arse. We got to see some cool animals.

But it was also overwhelming. Frankly, it was very overwhelming. I have not really felt that since I have been here. I was disappointed but it was a reality check that we are not in the U.S. and we have to remember that.

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You might recall that my not-so-little Bear was in elementary school in the United States and that our trip across the ocean landed him right into middle school. I was not sure how this new world would be for Bear. So far, so good.

Some things are certainly different – Bear has now been to a dance (and actually danced) and to a middle school party (and danced again). He is enjoying his journey. There are a lot of activities he misses and he misses his dear friends terribly – but he has made some good friends here and he is having a good time.

One of the things I did not expect was the stepped up homework. Not the volume necessarily, but the complexity. And I don’t mean harder – just more thoughtful.

The very first assignment Bear got was to write paper on John Doe. A paper that involved medical ethics. Excuse me – did you know that he’s 11. I took a biomedical ethics class in college. I loved it, but I was 21 at the time. That’s not exactly 11.

So, we read the scenario – it’s basically this. John Doe is a young man (20, I think) who has been in a terrible car accident. He is on a ventilator and is showing no improvement. His hair grows and his fingernails grow, but he is not responsive to voices or other stimulation. He is on a feeding tube. The insurance company will no longer pay for his medical treatment. He has been in a coma for 3 months. Your job is to advise his parents what to do in five paragraphs.

Okay, in five decades, I could not come up with the right words to advise his parents what to do – what do you mean 5 paragraphs? And do you understand that Bear is our oldest and we have not talked to him about any of this stuff yet, and we still have jet lag. And, remember, he is 11. Welcome to India.

I want to start by saying that I love the kids new school. We were thrilled with our school in the U.S. and I was wondering if our new school could possibly measure up. It has. It is really, really great – there is a lot of focus on creative thinking – not so much on memorizing facts. It’s taking in information and analyzing it. More of a swallowing it whole and letting it become a part of you than a “repeat what I just said” focus on learning. But did I mention, he is 11? Did I mention we still had jet lag? Can I find out where to buy goldfish crackers before I have to tackle medical ethics? Please?

So, before he can even start writing a paper, we have to talk about this. Just in case you have forgotten, let me remind you that Bear is a pretty logical thinker. That is, unless it comes to pulling the plug on a young man in a coma whose fingernails are still growing. Then apparently he becomes a big old softy. And, yes I love that about him. But it was hard to see his eyes melt away when I said he should at least consider taking John Doe off of life support. He looked at me and seemed to think, “but what would you do it if was me”? Dagger. I hear America calling – the land of the goldfish crackers that are easy to find.

How do you explain to your child that it makes you want to throw up to even consider that you could ever have to make this kind of decision about him – but that sometimes there are actually practical matters involved in these decisions. How do you define ethics – when your child thinks in black and white and there are nothing but grey answers available? Can we say role reversal? Me – the full fledged Pisces and sentimental sap explaining to the boy who wants to solve pi why it might make sense to not let John Doe “live”. And that same boy explaining to me that John Doe is still alive. Well, let’s talk about quality of life and cost of care and when are we going home again?

I told him ethics is when your brain meets your heart and they don’t always agree. If fact, they are bound to disagree because matters of the heart are rarely logical. And there are never any right answers. Math won’t usually help here – it is certainly not an exact science, if it is even a science at all. But how do you explain to those big brown eyes that what you can so clearly see that someone else should do might not be what you would do at all? Holy parenting, Batman. He decided John Doe’s parents should have a fundraiser to pay to keep him on the ventilator. I think this bodes well for number one hubby and me in our later years.

The final part of this assignment was a debate in the class. I would have loved to have seen that. The teacher was very careful to explain to the students that there were sure to be a lot of different view points and that everyone’s opinion had to be respected. That’s cool.

Girlfriend’s Guide to Jaipur……………

I wrote a Girlfriend’s Guide to the Taj Mahal and you seemed to like it – so I will do the same for Jaipur. If you would just like to read about our trip, you will find day one here and day two here.

The Essentials:

You will want toilet paper, diaper wipes, Purell, comfortable walking shoes, and capri pants for your journeys. And Dramamine – plus an empty bowl for the car (that is just in case the Dramamine does not work and you are stuck in traffic). I stick by that. And I am going to add bottled water and many,  many recognizable snacks. You can buy soda pretty much anywhere – not always the diet variety – but a regular Coke won’t kill you every now and then. And caffeine is caffeine. To be fair, you can buy water just about anywhere too – but just be sure you hear that familiar click when YOU unscrew the bottle. And just say no to ice.

Peppermints or other hard candies are great to have in the car, too. Peppermints are especially good because they can sooth an upset tummy. That’s called a two-fer. When your children claim that, yes, in fact, they just might actually die from thirst unless they get a drink at this very moment – and you are not sure where the next European bathroom might be – you can give them a candy. Peace ensues and all will be right with the world of thirst. You’ll want to pace yourself – the European bathrooms are few and far between. Unless you have boys, then they can just go anywhere – yep, pretty much anywhere.

Eating out:

Think “you say tomato, I say tomahto” on the experience of eating out – pizza in the hotel restaurant may not be the pizza you (and your kids expect). There will a lot of things that are not recognizable. Which is really great if you have adventurous eaters – enter Bear, Flower, and Angel – quite possibly the most unadventurous eaters on the planet. They are still very confused as to why the McDonalds in India do not serve chicken nuggets – just sandwiches. Rome wasn’t built in a day – be thankful for the fries and move on.

We ordered Pizza Hut (yes real Pizza Hut) for dinner – I know you can shake your head in shame – go ahead, I’ll wait – but hungry children are not happy children. Happy children make traveling much more enjoyable. Sign me up for more enjoyable travels. Two large pizzas and four 7-ups cost about $12. They were delivered to the room and I got to stay in my pjs- priceless.

Buffets seem to be a good way for my family to experience eating out in unchartered waters. There are many options and some are recognizable. Sometimes you might pay $10 for your daughter to eat a plate of rice – but it is a plateful of rice she will recognize – and therefore, probably, eat. YEAH! With a buffet, you can at least see what will be on your plate before you order it. Brillant. We had the breakfast buffet at the hotel and they had pancakes, fruit, made to order omelets (be careful here – green chilis can look like green peppers if they are sliced thin enough), toast, and some cereals. Of course, they had some things that were very different than what we are used to – steamed broccoli, green beans, baked beans, cooked tomatoes – but a lot of good choices. I had broccoli for breakfast for the first time in my life.

Change/Small Bills:

Whenever you travel in India, make sure you have small bills with you. Some of the people you will pay for things are not thrilled with coins – not that they won’t take them – they will – but better to see smiles than frowns. They seem to  prefer paper. For example, if you want to take a picture of someone, you might give them 10 rupees for their smile. It’s a nice gesture and doesn’t cost you much. I suggested to my dear sweet husband that perhaps we should ask the hotel for some smaller bills (the ATM machines we have visited give you 500 rupees at a time). He did not agree – but I won’t go there – suffice it to say that you will want some bills with 100, 50, 20, and 10 rupees on the face of them. Then everyone can smile.

Snake Charmer:

When he was done, we paid the snake charmer 20 rupees (see you do need smaller bills – sorry, I wasn’t going to go there). He asked for 200 rupees. Our guide laughed, number one hubby laughed, the man sitting on the bench watching it all transpire laughed. I reminded them all that the snake charmer had cobras – real live cobras. Walk away slowly and backwards. I personally think that if you choose snake charming as your profession, being alive at the end of the day is its own reward. But, who am I to say. We left him with 20 rupees and his life. We paid after the performance. That seems to be the way to go here – for the most part, pay when they are done. He did not send the snakes after us.

They do milk the snakes each day so that their poison is used up for the day. I still do not have a picture of myself charming the snake. I will save my charms for adventures that are not life threatening. But, yes, I did let my children do it – okay, logic does not always prevail here.

Elephant Ride:

570 rupees per elephant (about $11) to ride to the Amber Fort – for this you pay for the ride when you get on the elephant – but save the tip until the end of the ride. We were told that in the city of Jaipur we could ride an elephant for 50 rupees – away from the main tourist attractions – yes that is a big difference – but we chose to ride one to the Amber Fort. I would actually recommend riding the elephants to the fort. The route that cars take is a road that is narrow and small and harrowing. You will get to experience the narrow, harrowing road on the way down from the fort because you can only ride the elephants up to the fort. This will make perfect sense when you see how steep the ride down is – it would be hard to remain balanced on the elephants when they are walking down it.

Two people can fit on each elephant (three if two of the people are little people) and the driver will expect a tip. We gave him 100 rupees. He asked for his money before he let us off the elephant. I had it ready – but it might not be good to let it be visible to the driver before you are ready to get off the elephant. Our driver talked about money the whole way up. His English was hard for me to understand. I have know idea what I did or did not agree to. But he let us off the elephant without too much argument. You can take bananas with you and feed the elephant when your ride is over. Yes, I wish I had known that. When will my kids get another chance to feed an elephant? Prepare your children (and yourself) for the fact that the drivers will  hit the elephants hard – very hard – with sticks – big sticks. Many of the elephants have raw spots on their ears.

Restrooms:

First, use the restroom in your hotel before you leave the hotel. Don’t have high expectations for soft toilet paper.

But, there is a lovely restroom at the Amber fort – it costs 5 rupees per person. (Yes, you did the math correctly – that is about 10 cents). It is clean – very clean – and there is a European style toilet (that means you can sit on it or over it whichever you choose) and toilet paper and running water and even soap. Whoa Nellie. I might just move in here. It is the heaven of all things bathroom. It is the nicest bathroom I have seen in India. Pay the 10 cents – even if you don’t need to go – you’ll just want to visit. There is a girl who will give you a paper towel when you are done drying your hands. I gave her 10 rupees. I know – big spender – that was about 20 cents. Very generous I am.

This bathroom is so great you could wear a skirt or long pants here. Although I still would not recommend them for the rest of your journey. Capris really are the way for women to go.

Shopping After Sight-seeing:

Okay, I have figured something out – I might be a little slow on the uptake – but I have got it now. The guide that we paid to show us the city was well worth the 500 rupees per day that we paid him. But he must get commission to take us to certain shops. Souvenir shops. I do not want to bring home souvenirs to my friends and family – I want authentic Indian items that I can buy in the markets – not in an air conditioned store with wide aisles and 5,000 salesmen. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating – it might have only been 3,000 salesmen – but it was way too many.  These shops are honestly fine if you do not have a lot of time. There are a lot of different things, they are clean, you can and should bargain, and blah, blah, blah. But we had time. I wanted to really shop – in markets. I have not seen a lot of clothing items in these types of markets either – so if you are looking for clothing be very specific with your guide that you want clothing – if he says “textiles”, repeat yourself. Clothing. Textiles seems to mean carpets and linens.

I am rethinking my earlier statement that you should not buy from the vendors at the various sites. The motivation of the guide was not, I think, to keep us unbothered but to protect his commission. I saw lovely things for sale at the Amber fort – specifically puppets. There was a puppet store that I asked our guide to take us back to – he did not take us there – but to a tourist market. We were so angry that we let him go for the day.

Peddlers at the Amber Fort

The peddlers we saw at the Amber Fort were the most “in your face” we have seen. As I think back on the day, I do not remember going through a security check point – so maybe this is why. Anyone can enter the courtyard area without a ticket. But we just continued to say nay. Twelve or so times. And then they pretty much left us alone.

Pictures:

My children were asked many times if they would take a picture with someone. I always said no. It made my children uncomfortable – and me too. So, no it is. Our guide handled most of this for us. However, this does present quite a double standard. I think the Indian people are beautiful and want to take pictures of them. So call me a hypocrite. I am fine with that. If it is a poor person, I give them a little bit to thank them for their troubles.

Guides:

I have said this before and I will say it again – the guides speak English very well but is often heavily accented. So, it really does pay to do a little research before you go somewhere – then you will recognize names and places they are saying – this is very helpful! Our experience with guides was very different in Jaipur than it was in Agra. We were very happy with our guide in Agra – not so much with either guide in Jaipur. Although the first day was much better than the second. We are partly to blame for this. We did not do enough research about exactly what it was we wanted to see and we did not insist on seeing the one thing we really wanted to see – the Monkey Temple – we let ourselves get too easily talked out of it. Shame on us – lesson learned.

The guide each day was 500 rupees ($10). We tipped the guide the first day well – the second day, we did not tip so well. As I said earlier, it seems that the guides make their real money on the commission they get from the shops they take you to. So make it clear whether or not you want to shop in those stores and if not, consider giving the guide a little bit more of a tip – if you are happy with the service you received.

Temples:

We have not been to a temple yet – but we hope to do that soon. One thing I have learned about visiting temples is that women should always be prepared to cover their heads. It is also a good idea to carry a bag with you large enough to carry your shoes in. This is probably obvious to most – but just in case – photography might not be allowed either. If you are fortunate enough to be able to participate in any kind of ceremony at a temple, remember to receive items in your right hand with your left hand underneath your right.

Overall Jaipur is definitely worth a visit. It is a exquisite city with rich with history and culture. We will absolutely go back.

okay – just kidding…….

You knew I could not stay away that long. Something (that I thought was) funny happened and I just wanted to share. hen

So, we’re eating dinner and some how, some way we start talking about food. Flower asks about eggs.

Flower: You mean they take the eggs from their mother?
Me: Yes.
Flower: Isn’t that mean?
Me: Not really, a hen lays a ton of eggs.
Flower: But that is just mean. Really. Really. Mean. Don’t you think that is mean?
Bear: They’re different – they aren’t fertilized. (Apparently he is a mathematician and a scientist.)
Me: What he said. (and hoping, praying that no one asks what fertilized means.)
Me to Bear: Really?
Angel: Eggs are good. Can we have some for breakfast? (Very sympathetic, that one.)
Flower: But mom even if you had 20 kids, you would be sad if some one took even just one away?
Me: You do realize we are eating chicken for dinner, right?

Hugs and kisses!

When commas move………………

Angel asked me why it is always “comma and Angel”.  She asked this when she saw me signing Christmas-slash-holiday-slash-Hanukkah-slash-Happy Tuesday cards with our names – Number One Hubby, Me, Bear, Flower, and Angel. Comma and Angel. She is right – that is how it always goes. I am not really sure why. I don’t have an answer for her – my parenting gods did not send a creative thought to my brain – so I just looked at her and said, “Honey, that’s just the way I write it – in order.” But, I am no dummy, I am going to put money in her Freud-slash-college savings account just in case she needs further explanation later in life.

Growing up, my family has had a lot of changes in commas and sometimes I was behind the “comma and” too. She is right, it’s not always the most glamorous spot. So, today when we went to get hair cuts and I signed the kids in, I called Angel over. Watch this. I wrote – Angel, Flower comma and Bear. She laughed. Oh, yes, she remembered and she smiled for at least an hour. She got to go first – and they had to wait their turn – behind her. Sweet comma justice.

Then I got home and read an email from our neighborhood swim team that one of our swim team family members has very unexpectedly passed away. She was 17 and she had a wonderful shy smile that was really lovely and warm and kind. Her gentle presence will be so missed. She is already missed. She would look at you under her eyelashes – not in coy clever way – but in an unassuming soft-hearted way – a more comfortable in the background way. We do not know the family well. But I cannot imagine – I am sure as you read this your heart is racing and prayers are forming. You might even be crying – I am. A loss like this runs so deep and true and is felt by everyone who hears its story. You cannot walk away from it unaffected. It’s impossible. Don’t even try.

Their comma has moved. Their family of four is now a family of three. Their new, unanticipated emptiness must feel so heavy – and so unnecessary. So hard to believe. So unfair. Unspeakable really. Just so very unreasonable. So many questions that will never find answers. I realize I am just a bystander – barely a shadow in their tremendous new void. Their own pain must be suffocating, unbearable – it is certainly unthinkable. Horrible. Very hard to get your heart around. I am writing about it because I am waiting to figure out what else to do. As I said, I do not know them well but I have a huge want to do something, to help, to change it. Yeah, I know, tragically there is no way for that to happen. It will not – it simply cannot change. Damn. Because we do not know them well, it is not appropriate for me to insert myself into their lives now, even with the best of intentions. So I am simply left with prayers for her family. Prayers that might not ever find answers. It does not seem like much to offer. They are left with so much less.

I am going to explain to Angel that she is, in fact, very lucky that her comma is right where we left it. Unmoved.

Just in case you are wondering………..

Queso has a place to go for the next four months. Thank you Chris and family! This makes me very happy – even more sad – and very, very thankful. If I ever re-open the doors to A Reason To Write – you will have free cards for life. Queso Peso – I am going to really, really miss you. Maybe you can start a blog so I can keep up with what you are doing. I know, I know, it’s hard to type with paws. Sigh.

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This arrived yesterday. I heart Orvis. Yes, that was (extremely) fast. They are serious about this whole keeping the customer happy thing. They mean it.

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United Airlines has not responded to my email. I do not heart United Airlines. One suitcase has arrived in Delhi. That’s great – except – wait for it – number one hubby left the U.S. with two suitcases. I was no math major but I am still pretty sure that one plus zero does NOT equal two or 🙂 me.

United Airlines in Delhi would like to meet with Number One Hubby. They are very concerned about our experience. (Remember they tried to help us – it was their sister station in the U.S. that was more than unhelpful.) I am sincerely impressed with their concern.

Our passports arrived today with our Visas. It looks like Delhi (India) will allow live humans into the country.

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My children discovered that my laptop has a camera. This was because I waited to take a picture of my new sweater until after they got home from school. That was (not) a brilliant move.

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Left to their own devices, my children are perfectly capable of entertaining themselves – without killing each other and without the assistance of electronics. Ripley’s might actually believe it – or not – so I took a picture. Please notice nothing is plugged in and everyone is alive.

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This is what my cats think of their future trip to India. I am exploring the possibility of them riding under the seat with us on the plane. I wonder, do they make kitty diapers? They must. If not, maybe I can invent them.

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I have been spoiled by my blogging friends who are both funny and write well. Not all blog writers are creative equally. Some are really bad. And they have books published. This bothers me on a number of levels. Someone is making them think they are good, so now they are going to continue writing. I have not figured out what to write a book about (details) or how to get this unwritten masterpiece published. More details. But I really, really want to. Isn’t that enough? Maybe I should be encouraged. If she can do it…….   And, nope, I won’t tell you who they/she are/is because she has gotten enough attention already. I will give you a hint – she is not on my blogroll and she is not nice. So even if someone kindly sprinkles magic writing dust on her and she suddenly gets all Shakesperian on me she still will not appear on my blogroll. That’s how I choose to impose my own little poetic justice.

Apparently my -ER friend does have time to read my blog after all. Well, let me be fair, her two-year-old most likely read it to her while she was baking 500 dozen homemade (decorated by hand) sugar cookies for the school bake sale. And, yes, she will buy them all back – she is generous like that. Anybake, she called me yesterday. Holy moly you say – oh, have no fear. None whatsoever. She thought it was hysterical – who is she, she asked? Oh yes she did. She asked who it was. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she is (nearly) famous. She knew it wasn’t her because she HATES people like that. That really makes me laugh. A lot of people have asked me how I think of things to write about. Oh the heavens rain ideas upon me all the time. It really isn’t hard – with friends like this, who needs life experience. I can write vicariously through the insanity of others. Thank you writing gods! And, please keep it coming.

Karma is Haunting Me – Wrinkle One………..

A blogging friend of mine Lola blogged about her dog “helping” her sled down a hill and right onto a stick which ripped her pants – her very favorite pants. The ones that she has never been able to find another pair of. You can read her story here. She’s fine – so now her readers are left to enjoy a pretty funny rendition of events. Her dog and her butt survived but her beloved blue jeans did not. So in her comments section, I suggested that maybe she needed a furry pair of jeans to replace her ripped jeans. She is sassy – she knows I was kidding. But, I am afraid the Cosmos were left completely unaware.

So the Cosmos and Karma joined together to conspire against me. I am sure it is because I made a little joke about a friend’s dog – there is no other reason on this planet that Wrinkle Number One in our plan to move to India makes any sense at all. So, I am adding “being nicer to the animals of others” to my new years resolutions list. In fact, I am moving “being healthier” to the number two spot. PETA watch out – I am going to out-love you on all things animal.

It went a little something like this…..

Hold on one minute – I am going to get myself a glass of wine to relax as I re-learn to breath. I would invite you to grab a cup of whatever it is you fancy. This is a long one.

Okay, now I am set and I am pretty sure I am breathing again – panting maybe – I put my wine in a water bowl just in case –  I told you PETA watch out.

Number One Hubby left tonight for Delhi on a United Airlines flight. Yes, write that down – the airline not to use when flying your cats to India. United Airlines. Number One Hubby was taking two of our furry children with him. We arrived at the airport well outside of the requisite 2-hour time allowance to check in, kiss the furry ones goodbye, hug Dad – twice, and tearfully wave goodbye until we meet again in three weeks. Thank God we are timely folks because we spent well over an hour at the ticket counter. Can you guess what part of this did not happen?

And the winner loser is – the cats are not on the plane. I wish I could completely explain to you all of the pieces of the puzzle that did not fall into place but I am not absolutely clear on all of this myself. And, do not ask the first counter attendant, the second counter attendant, the counter attendant standing by watching,  the supervisor (who is not a supervisor, but a manager – so sorry), or the actual supervisor who only makes ghost appearances via the telephone (think of the banker in Deal or No Deal – only minus the shadow and minus the million dollar potential – but annoying all the same). None of them can explain it either. Some of them did not even try.

We have had these pet reservations for weeks. Oh yes, United allowed us to book these pet reservations thru Dubai and on to Delhi. We called this very morning to confirm our said pet reservations and were given the okay – your pets are booked – two thumbs up. We have the right crates (well minus the holes on all four sides – that was easily fixed), we had the right bowls, the right paperwork, we thought we had done everything, well, right. WRONG.

First, there was a lot of discussion about whether the cats would be considered cargo or freight or baggage and whole lot of other stuff whispered that we were not (supposed to be) privy to. So, I won’t go into how nerve-racking that was for my three little children who were standing there listening to whether or not their cats would actually be allowed on the plane or if they would be strapped to a wing. Hey, they have fur coats, don’t they? I completely lost my sense of humor at this point.

The first problem is that this airline does not interline pets. WTH? Interline – English please. We are still in America right? Interlining pets apparently does not mean putting little skates on them and letting them figure it out on their own – that would have been funny. Welcome back sense of humor – but, oh no, not so fast. Interlining means that they do not transfer pets from one airline to another. Okay. So, number one hubby can go pick up the cats from United in Dubai and hand carry them over to the connecting flight for Delhi. Right? Oh silly you. That’s what I thought too. Nope.

Dubai does not accept live animals. Then why were we allowed to book live animals on a flight that goes to Delhi – oh yeah, via Dubai? Good question – still no answer to that one. Why were we allowed to confirm live animals on a flight that goes to Delhi – via Dubai –  just this morning? Oh, you little pink panther you – another good question. No answer to that one either. Why do United regulations specify that each passenger can check two live pets with their ticket that goes to Delhi – say it with me – via Dubai? Oh you are really good – a criminal justice degree is certainly in your future.

Just as a side note – there was another couple standing right beside us with pet problems. Seems prevalent with United – at least tonight. And there was a United Representative going out of her way to help them. GASP. And I am not kidding when I say this – I really am not – she got written up for her (very helpful) actions. She helped the passengers – who were pleading with her for help – make their crates compliant. The couple had flown on United just a week before and several times before that with the very same crates that had passed inspection every single time. But tonight – well, they must have made fun of a friend’s dog too. Or they got caught in my wrath. So sorry.

But did you read that? She got written up for helping passengers follow United Airlines guidelines. Yes, my dear, something is very wrong with that. And now future passengers who are foolish enough to book their pets on United probably won’t be helped by her either. She is surely not going to want to lose her job in customer service just because she helps people get their furry family members on the same plane.

But, back to us and hold on a second, we thought we had progress. Ticket agent number one printed stickers for the cats. He was pulling them off the printer when the phone rang. And then he ripped them up. Huh? That’s what we said.

Circles – we danced all night in circles – no answers – not even one. Number One Hubby was actually on the phone with United Airlines in Delhi and they approved the cats – they had every intention of accepting the cats and were very willing to stand by that decision – if they could just be given the opportunity to do so. And still, somehow, the cats are still at home with me. The Delhi employee asked to speak with the United employees on our end. One spoke with him. Okay. Now what – she was looking for a supervisor. And, alas, we only  had a manager who would not even answer our request to speak to him.

So the supervisor who is actually not a supervisor but a manager (I am so glad she could clear something up) was very happy to spell her first and last name for us – repeatedly – would not even come back to the counter until she thought we were gone. The first counter attendant became Houdini and disappeared completely – he could feel our pain but could apparently no longer bear to share it with us. But we fooled that manager/supervisor – we were still there – because we had a representative from United Airlines in Delhi – her sister station – asking why they wouldn’t put the cats on the plane. She would not speak to them. She had gotten an answer from another invisible banker-boss in Chicago. Oh, that makes perfect sense because no part of our journey involves Chicago. So, I could see why she would not speak to the person from Delhi – where the cats were (supposed to be) going. Nor would she even look at us. Except to spell her name for us – again. She was helping someone else now. But sweetheart, you aren’t done with us yet. You should really read my blog on Part B.

Okay – I have one (more) question. Was she (not) helping someone else get their pets on the plane? These pets are a part of our family. Period. We have children – we are not crazy pet people – I am not really going to out-love PETA. But I am standing in front of you with real children who love their animals very much and my furry children who are frankly scared out of their minds. Help me. Find a solution that works. Do not walk away as if you have no responsibility to resolve this. You work for United Airlines. Your little uniform and the whole standing behind the counter thing has completely given you away. You may call yourself a manager rather than a supervisor – but the front-line employees called you because they did not know what to do. Your banker-boss was in another building. Honestly. Do something.

I am not kidding when I say that none of the CUSTOMER SERVICE representatives we dealt with offered any solutions. They only told us what could not be done. We could not put our cats on that plane. Fine. Let’s work with that. Is there another plane we can put them on? Can we reschedule to not go through Dubai? Can you talk to India about this – WE have them on the phone for you. No need to even exhaust yourself dialing the phone. How about a little understanding? Compassion? Alternative thinking?

If I had to pick a worst moment of the night it would be when the first counter attendant tried to finally explain something to us. He actually said to us in front of our three young children that the reason they were trying to be so careful is that his computer has a note right here that says that animals arriving in Delhi might be destroyed. And he, in fact, has known this to actually happen. Yes, he did say that out loud. Angel knows what destroyed means – she’s only seven, so she doubted herself and asked me repeatedly what destroyed means, with very big tears in her eyes. I finally (thought fast) and explained they were talking about the paperwork.  Guess who I won’t be nominating for employee of the year.

Here is the best part of the story. It seems that United in Delhi is very confused and a representative from United (and I believe he is actually a manager and a supervisor who admits to being both) plans to meet Number One Hubby when his plane lands in Delhi. But he won’t get to meet our cats, so this might fall under the “too little, too late, there are no actual cats with me” category.

I am so thankful that we had this little dry run. Honestly, I do not know what we might have done if we were all leaving at this time. Maybe Karma is not exactly conspiring against me but just showing me the ropes.

So, we kiss number one hubby goodbye, because he is now in serious threat of missing his flight, and we took the cats back to the car.  The cats thanked us by pooping and passing gas all the way home. The kids were in stitches.  I heard every elementary school bathroom joke on the planet. As if the night had not been entertaining enough.

There are implications that reach well beyond the tremendous stress that all of us experienced tonight. Changing our flights means changing a lot of things – the day the utilities are switched, the day the kids leave school, the day the kids start school, the day my husband flies home to help us, the stress level of our next trip has already quadrupled, all of the travel arrangements need to be rearranged – you see there is a ripple effect.

The kids are now in bed with cats curled up beside them. There are five (temporarily) happy hearts right now in this house. My heart is (barely) beating – but that is about it. Because in three weeks we have to try this all again and there will not be an exit plan. Five people are getting on a plane – there will be no one left to take the cats home – home is now in Delhi and those cats have to come with. So we have decided to vote with our wallets and are switching to American Airlines.

Notes – I reread this when I woke up this morning and then again just now. I wanted to make sure I did not exaggarate what happened out of frustration. I did not – in fact, I was quite gracious in my depiction of events. Yes, it was that bad. And I want to be clear that Number One Hubby and I did not yell – we did not make a scene – we were certainly frustrated but we were adults about it. Paying. Customer. Adults.