Tag Archives: flower

Write/Blog what you know – or not……….

There is a ton of fabulous writing and blogging advice out there. One of the most familiar refrains is “write what you know”. I call BS on that  one. If you write fiction, you kinda sorta gotta write what you don’t know or it’s not really fiction. Hmmmm, right?

Another blogging mantra is “write what other people want to read”. That one frustrates the hell out of me. How are we supposed to know that, right?

The proverbial answer is to look at your stats and see what draws people to your blog. Then give them more of whatever that is.

Yikes. My most popular post ever is this one. It got nearly one thousand hits in one day. The key word that people used to find it was “writing”. Which would all be awesome if this post was anything more than an announcement of a writing contest being hosted somewhere else by someone else. Alas.

The post that consistently gets the most traffic on my blog is this one. It gets hundreds of hits every week and it is well over 3 years old.

Go ahead.

Ask me if it’s about writing….

Or the tremendous individual growth I experienced while living in India…..

Or about parenting….

Or anything else that I really care about….

Or even a tiny little book review…..

Ahem. The answer to any of those would not be yes.

It is simply a post of pictures of flowers I took while traveling throughout India. Most of the plants weren’t even really unique to India.

But.

This blog isn’t about flowers

or gardening

or writing contests

hosted by someone else.

And, you really don’t want my gardening advice. I pinky swear it!

In fact, this is what my very own plant looks like right now. 😎

There are delish but there are lots of brown spots. So I am really, really sorry if you came here for gardening advice.

But if you came here for pictures of flowers, I have been taking some pictures recently. I hope you will enjoy these.

So those are some of the flowers that I have seen along the way. I hope you enjoyed them! 😉

Lots of Lotus………….

One of the things that I really wanted to do before we left Delhi for good was to go see the Lotus Temple. The inside of the Lotus Temple. I had driven by it a few times and marveled at its beauty and its architecture. It is a lovely, lovely building.

The Lotus Temple is a Bahá’í House of Worship. The Lotus Temple is open to anyone of any religion. No sermons are given but readings can occur and, although a readings can be accompanied by a choir, no musical instruments can be played inside Bahá’í Houses of Worship. Bahá’ís believe in three main principles – unity of God, unity of religion, and unity of humankind. They believe that God has sent messengers through the ages including Abraham, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and recently the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. They believe that humanity is in a process “of collective evolution, and the need of the present time is for the gradual establishment of peace, justice and unity on a global scale.” (thanks Wiki)

I didn’t know all that until I started writing this post and now I am super bummed that we did not make it over there.

Obviously, the temple is designed after the lotus flower which is also lovely.

Lotus flowers are often incorporated into the drawings of many of the Hindu gods – particularly Vishnu and Lakshmi and Ganesha.

And lotus seeds and stems can be eaten. I saw them in the spice market of Old Delhi.

And then, at the very last place I went to eat before we left Delhi, lotus stems were on the menu. You might have gathered that I am not the most adventurous eater out there but how can flowers deemed worthy of designing a temple after be too bad? Plus, my friend had tried them and said they were yummy. 😉

They were d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s. Yummy Yummy. They are sweet and crunchy and I liked them even better with a little bit of steamed white rice.

The Flower Walla………….

I know I have talked about flowers on this blog. And I know I have shared lots of pictures of flowers with you. But I don’t think I have given you the skinny on the flower walla. The word walla means vendor. The flower walla sells flowers. The broom walla sells brooms. The sweeper walla sweeps the street. So now you speak a little bit of Hindi. You are very welcome. 😉

Every neighborhood seems to have at least one flower walla. This guy is in Vasant Vihar.

And these are some of his flowers.

and some more…

and some more…..

and then some more……

I don’t know why I was surprised to find so many “American” flowers in India – and by that I mean flowers that I know and love in the U.S. I am not sure what I expected – maybe tumble weeds or cactus – I have no idea. But just so you know, they have palm trees and coconut trees here too. Shocking? I know. Next thing you know they’ll have roses…….uh-oh….. it is a small world after all.

But seriously, I know I am just a country mouse on this grand big city adventure – but I did not know that flowers were universal. 😉 These flowers were not from the vendor in Vasant Vihar but I just bet he knows a guy who could easily get you these tomorrow.

And this bunch of flowers from these guys was…….wait for it…

a whopping 200 rupees or about $4 U.S. dollars.

And yep, I probably overpaid.
Of course, they don’t last long and you
simply must change the water everyday
or your house will smell like really, really old man teeth.
And you might get a few gnats if you aren’t careful –
I always shake the flowers a little to make sure nothing flies out.
But these are certainly worth (more than) the asking price!
As we like to say at A Reason To Write – they are sufficient. 😉

More Mumbai………..

Here are some more of the sites we visited in Mumbai.

This traffic sign was a little unnerving. Just in case you cannot read it, it says “Don’t touch unclaimed articles, they could be explosives.” Yeah, welcome to Mumbai. Of course, they are cautious – they have experienced real threats of danger and actual danger firsthand. But it wasn’t exactly the salutation I was hoping for. And, yes, I left all unclaimed articles very much untouched. Thank you very much.

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We spent most of the time in the car because we just did not have that much time to get out at each stop. But, the slums are very big and overwhelming even in drive by mode.

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But of course, there is beauty too. These are the hanging gardens. If you are in a hurry, you can really skip this part – but if you just want to take a short walk on pretty grounds, this is a lovely place to do it. They have a few shrubs that are cut in to the shapes of animals which were fun to see and some beautiful flowers.

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As we were driving near one of the train stations, we saw walls and walls of graffiti. There are some very talented graphic artists on the streets of Mumbai.

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This is one of the train stations. And it is true that there are compartments that only women ride in.

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We also passed by this flower market.

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I have more to share – but I know too many photos make a slow computer, so come back soon for More, More Mumbai.

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.

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!

Bless her little heart………….

Angel and Flower got gift certificates to get their ears pierced for Christmas. I thought this was brilliant. Even if I do say so myself – yes, it was my idea. I have sworn on a stack of earrings that they should not even bothering asking me to get their ears pierced until they were (at least) twelve – I believe you should have to wait for some things just for the sake of waiting. And, not for nothing, I had to wait until I was twelve. So, there you go, parenting logic at its finest.

But then number one hubby announced that we were moving to India and, well, Christmas presents became a little more challenging.

Think. Think. Think. Ear piercing. They have both said they wanted to do it. They are both very active in sports and this is a (very rare) time when they aren’t that active. In our little corner of the world, you cannot have any jewelry on when you are playing a contact sport. None. Not even if you just got your ears pierced and the holes will close up if you take them out. So timing is critical.

Earrings also don’t have to be packed, or shipped, or microchipped. You just put them in and off you go. Wah lah. And it was fabulous because they would feel like they were getting this gift much earlier than expected. Oh joy of joys. Except Flower had changed her mind and never told me that. So my 9 year old. No earrings. My 7 year old. Earrings – 5 years early. Oh well -life doesn’t always go according to my great plan.

So Angel, my mother-in-law, and I went to get Angel her earrings. The sales person was nice enough. Very bright pink eyeshadow. Bleached Blond Hair. Black lipstick. Black fingernails bitten to the quick. Kind of sort of grunge clothing. Way too many facial piercings. Let’s just say she is easy to remember. In Angel’s eyes, I am sure she looked like a rock star. She is not exactly what I expected for Angel’s first older girl crush. But, who am I to stand in the way of a 7-year-old and the rock star who gave her earrings?

Then later we go back to the store with Flower for her to use her gift certificate on everything but getting her ears pierced. It is amazing how much plastic c-r-a-p you can get for $40. The whole way there Angel is wondering if this rock star impostor is going to remember her. I told her how busy the girl was, how many people she must see every day, blah blah blah. But, I thought to myself, surely she has manners and will pretend to remember my little Angel. Then again – sometimes life lessons come at you fast and hard.

As Flower is shopping, Angel is pulling on my shirt – ask her, ask her, ask hhheeerrr. I don’t want to do this because I know the answer and I am not confident of the manners. There is something about an earring through the lip, another one through the tongue, and one more through the eyebrow combined with very bright pink eyeshadow and black lipstick that does not exactly say mint julep on the veranda. Move over Scarlet. I’m just sayin’ – if the shoe fits, you might just be wearing it.

So, I reluctantly say “my daughter was was wondering if you remember piercing her ears a few days ago.” I am standing behind Angel nodding my head – giving my best bobble head impersonation. Just say yes. Please just say yes. You’ll be amazed at just how quickly you can be done with us if you will just say it – YES.

Her:  Uh…Hmmmm
Me: more head nodding – this is a hint to say yes or you will end up on my blog
Her: I am not sure – you know, I see so many…
Me: Maybe the pink earrings are a giveaway. She was just sure you would remember the pink earrings. I am sure you remember, right? (more nodding)
Her: Uh, yeah, I guess so.
Me: giving her my best “come on, I know you can do it,  just say yes” look
Her: Okay yes.
Me: Thank you. You were right Angel, she absolutely remembers you.
Angel: Big Smile.

Saturday night found us all at the mall again. Bear was invited to a birthday party-slash-scavenger hunt – yep, at the mall. He had a great time and I realized that there is free entertainment out there in this troubled economy. I had forgotten all about this little adventure called The Mall. Maybe I haven’t been to the mall on a rainy Saturday night in a really, really long time – maybe it’s been since I got my drivers license and could broaden my horizons. But I have been missing out on some really interesting people watching. Holy teenager, Batman.

Yes, you do know what happened next – guess who comes walking down the mall walkway – Rock star impostor. Angel pulls on my coat.

Angel: Mom, it’s heeeeerrrrrrrrrrrr.

Me: (under my breath – dear God.) to Angel – Yes dear, it is in fact heeeeeerrrrrrrrr. How lucky is that?
Angel: I wonder if….
Me: Oh, honey, I am sure she would not recognize you out of the store
Angel: Oh yeah, you’re right, she’d have to see me in the chair, you know, the chair in the store. Remember in the chair where I got my ears pierced.
Me: I am sure she would recognize you there, but let’s not bother her when she’s not actually at work
Angel: I wonder if she is on her way to work, or on a break from work, or just shopping. Maybe she is here to get here ears pierced – again. Mom, what do you think she is doing?
Me: Breaking up with you sweetpea – want something to eat?