Tag Archives: holiday

Great Gifts………….

I am usually done by now – with Christmas shopping that is. Yep, I am one of those somewhat annoying organized people who used to make my own Christmas cards and have all my shopping pretty much done before Black Friday.

No More.

I am scrambling with the rest of the planet. Augh. Which is great because it’s 10 degrees here with the wind chill and the parking lots are full. I wish the economists would spend five minutes trying to find a parking spot at any mall in northern Virginia before they give their next economic outlook report. There’s a lot of spending going on.

Fortunately, at least our Christmas cards are sent out – I can say Christmas cards not holiday cards because I also sent out Hanukkah cards. So please don’t think I am insensitive. I bought all the cards at the store rather than making them (and not even a fancy card store) and forced allowed my youngest to help me put stamps on the envelopes.

And, woe is me, I hate giving gift cards because I think they are the easy way out. The perfect gift is out there for everyone – I just have to find it.

For my new writing gig at the Examiner.com, I wrote about the gift of forgiveness. And I am giving that this year too – hopefully I will be getting some too – but I also needs me a few things that fit under the tree and aren’t so symbolic.

This year I found a couple of things that I think are pretty cool – so I thought I would share them with you in case you are scrambling too.

The first one is for me. Yeah me! Yes, I am guilty of the “one for you, one for me” modus operandis of Christmas gift shopping.

It is this pitcher from Free Spirit Studio. I love this pitcher for a number of reasons. First of all it’s gorgeous! And the artist grows her own plants that she uses to embellish the pottery and  creates all of the pottery pieces herself.

I also love this piece because I know the artist. She is the mother of a very good friend of mine from junior high and high school. She even used to take me to craft shows with her when she was a vendor. My friend and I would spend the weekend “helping” and shopping. Mrs. Hooten definitely lit a creative spark in me.

The next one is from Uncommon Goods. It is a recycled windshield wine decanter from Colombia. Try saying that 5 times fast.

It’s tres cool because it is so uncommon (duh). Please know that this is not for your Waterford-preferring friends – it is tinted green (like a windshield might be to block out the sun) and it has bubbles and blemishes. It is also not for your friends who don’t prefer wine. Although – if they don’t prefer wine, you might want to seriously reconsider why they are your friends. 😉 It also has a little pocket to hold ice so that your wine stays cool but does not get watered down. Brilliant.

 

The only downside of these decanters is that they are kind of tallish. So they may not be great for someone with limited cabinet space. But if they drink enough wine, maybe they won’t notice that it’s kind of tallish. See, there is always an up side.

This next one is simple. Jewelry. Yeah! Jewelry doesn’t really require an explanation does it?

Just in case – it’s from Kohl’s and it’s called an inspiration bracelet. It is sterling silver and had the words “hope”, “peace”, “believe”, and “love” inscribed on the links. I am getting this for two of my dearest friends who have always encouraged me to hope, believe, and love. And they are a “peace” of me.

The last gift is for my Dad. He grew up in a teeny, tiny little town called Fort Laramie, Wyoming. The last time I was there only about 300 people lived in Fort Laramie. Even so, it has a rich history and someone took the time to write about it.

Please don’t think I am suggesting that a book about Fort Laramie would be perfect for anyone on your gift list – it’s just the idea of it. For those people who are hard to find a present for, a book about a place or time that is important to them might be just the gift that would make Santa proud.

So that’s it for now. Four down – four hundred to go. Wish me luck – I am off to find a parking space.

 

Holi Colors Batman…………..

According to my family, the Indian holiday Holi is a chance to get dirty. It’s a free pass to make a big arse mess. It is the holiday of throwing colors and squirting everyone you see with a water gun without fear of consequences – yes, even your siblings (but not necessarily your mom  😉 ).

It is my understanding that when you throw colors on someone, it clears the air of any animosity that might have existed between you. Yes, that is all kinds of loverly!

Of course there is more to the story than simply permission to make a mess – According to Wikipedia, “In Vaishnava Theology, Hiranyakashipu is the king of demons, and he had been granted a boon by Brahma, which made it almost impossible for him to be killed. The boon was due to his long penance, after which he had demanded that he not be killed “during day or night; inside the home or outside, not on earth or on sky; neither by a man nor an animal; neither by astra nor by shastra“. Consequently, he grew arrogant, and attacked the Heavens and the Earth. He demanded that people stop worshipping gods and start praying to him.

Despite this, Hiranyakashipu’s own son, (Prahlada), was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. In spite of several threats from Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada continued offering prayers to Lord Vishnu. He was poisoned but the poison turned to nectar in his mouth. He was ordered to be trampled by elephants yet remained unharmed. He was put in a room with hungry, poisonous snakes and survived. All of Hiranyakashipu’s attempts to kill his son failed. Finally, he ordered young Prahlada to sit on a pyre on the lap of his sister, Holika, who could not die by fire by virtue of a shawl which would prevent fire affecting the person wearing it. Prahlada readily accepted his father’s orders, and prayed to Vishnu to keep him safe. When the fire started, everyone watched in amazement as the shawl flew from Holika, who then was burnt to death, while Prahlada survived unharmed, after the shawl moved to cover him. The burning of Holika is celebrated as Holi.

Radha and the Gopis celebrating Holi, with accompaniment of music instruments

Later Lord Vishnu came in the form of a Narasimha (who is half-man and half-lion) and killed Hiranyakashipu at dusk (which was neither day nor night), on the steps of the porch of his house (which was neither inside the house nor outside) by restraining him on his lap (which is neither in the sky nor on the earth) and mauling him with his claws (which are neither astra nor shastra).

In Vrindavan and Mathura, where Lord Krishna grew up, the festival is celebrated for 16 days (until Rangpanchmi in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna). Lord Krishna is believed to have popularized the festival by playing pranks on the gopis here. Krishna is believed to have complained to his mother about the contrast between his dark skin complexion and Radha’s (Shakti or energy that drives the world) fair skin complexion. Krishna’s mother decided to apply colour to Radha’s face. The celebrations officially usher in spring, the celebrated season of love.

There is alternate story detailing the origin of Holi. This story is about Kamadeva, a god of love. Kama’s body was destroyed when he shot his weapon at Shiva in order to disrupt his meditation and help Parvati to marry Shiva. Shiva then opened his third eye, the gaze of which was so powerful that Kama’s body was reduced to ashes. For the sake of Kama’s wife Rati (passion), Shiva restored him, but only as a mental image, representing the true emotional and spiritual state of love rather than physical lust. The Holi bonfire is believed to be celebrated in commemoration of this event.

Holi is a festival of radiance (Teja) in the universe. During this festival, different waves of radiance traverse the universe, thereby creating various colours that nourish and complement the function of respective elements in the atmosphere.

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.

A Charlie Brown Christmas……………

About a year ago, I was decorating our house for Christmas and getting ready to move our family around the world. It was an overwhelming time and it felt a little rushed. In many ways, it is mostly a blur. Immediately after Christmas, I literally stuffed all the decorations into boxes, shoved them in the closets, and checked one more thing off my to do list. Christmas – done and undone – check. Then I began really focusing on moving my family to India.

What I didn’t realize is that almost exactly a year later, I would visit Singapore all decorated for Christmas and I would hear Christmas songs in every store. That I would buy candy canes in Singapore just because I could – they just don’t seem to be available in Delhi. And that when I got home I would just stick them in the cabinet. Because we were treeless. I don’t think I have ever been treeless. In fact, we usually put up two tress in the U.S. – one that has decorations the kids made and one that no one is allowed to touch but me. But now, all of our decorations are in the U.S. – except for a few that I bought at a craft show a few weeks ago.

My parents got divorced when I was pretty young, so I often celebrated Christmas twice. My mother’s birthday is Christmas day. It’s always been a wonderful time of year for me. After I got married, we started celebrating Christmas three or four times – just depending on how many different groups of family members were gathering together. Christmas Eve with number one hubby’s family is a wonderful, cherished tradition. Christmas morning with most of my family is magical. Then of course, we have our own party of five celebration. Throw in a few parties and some cookie baking and a white elephant gift exchange and you have yourself a Christmas season.

Well, most of that simply cannot happen when you live around the world from the people you hold most dear. Even putting up decorations seems like just going through the motions. But not being able to put up decorations is really depressing. We will be home for literally 20 hours Christmas day – the rest of the time we will be traipsing around the world. We are counting our blessings and know just how very lucky we are. But, something is missing.

Until last night. Last night, number one hubby brought home this. Now you know how he earns his status. Today after school we are going ornament shopping. We might even make some hot chocolate and sing a few Christmas songs.

Charlie Brown would be very, very proud. (For those of you not familiar with Charlie Brown – he is a cartoon character and one of his stories is about how he finds this little twig of a tree and brings it to life with love and lights. He turns nothing into magic with the spirit of Christmas.)

P.S. Someone is probably curious – so I will go ahead and answer the question now – yes, there are over a million Christians in India and they celebrate Christmas. Lucky for us! There are stores that sell trees and ornaments and decorations. It’s just that the town won’t be all decked out in red and green – it’s a big difference! But it feels better now.

Veterans Day Nearly Unattended…………

When I started this blog just over a year ago (yes, that is hard to believe), it was almost Veterans Day. In honor of my dad and all of those who have served our country, I wrote this post.

Now, a year later, I am celebrating (or really not celebrating) Veterans Day in India. I was half-way through the day before I even realized it was November 11th. I quickly sent a few emails to those soldiers in my life who I am so proud of and so honored to know. But that was pretty much it. School was in session (yes, even though it is an American school) and my day was pretty much like any other day. I did not hear the Star Spangled Banner and I did not see parades on tv. It was nearly Veterans Day Unattended.

But on Saturday, number one hubby and I had the chance of a lifetime. We got to attend the Marine Corps Ball. It is held every year on the birthday of the Marine Corps and my understanding is that all Marines celebrate the day on the same date. So all over the world Marines were celebrated and recognized and honored. It was lovely.

Security is tighter than normal for an event like this. Unfortunately, it has to be and thankfully, it was. So we started the evening by being reminded that the world is not always a safe place – that the dangers are real and the threats are taken seriously. That there are still people who can collectively hate a nation without taking the time to get to know its individuals. Our car was inspected, our purses were inspected, our bodies were checked. But it was okay. It is the reality of life here – really, I guess,  it is the reality of life any where.

Then we walked through the reception line into the party. It was really a chilling and endearing moment. We were greeted by the very young faces of the men and women who have made it their life’s work to keep us safe. They do not get to decide when and where and who we fight – they simply  have to be ready to run into the fire. I had to the chance to shake the hand of someone who does not know me at all but is willing to put their life in danger for me. Wow.

Their shoes were spit-shined, their uniforms crisp, and their smiles wide and sincere. I thanked them teary-eyed for their service and was grateful for the chance to let them know that their mission is not unappreciated. I wanted them to know that I understand how much they must miss their families and how much their families must miss them. That I know what they sacrifice and the potential danger they face every day just by putting on that uniform. And I am extremely thankful for all that they do. Of course, I couldn’t get that all out – all I could muster was a humble, whispered “thank you” but that river of gratitude runs deep – very, very deep.

As the ceremonies of the evening began, the reality of this world came crashing in again. The military is steeped in tradition and honor and those values came shining through at the ball. The color guard presented the flags. They were followed by soldiers who brought in an empty table. A table with places reserved for those who could not attend because they lost their lives too early defending our freedom. It was a bring you to your knees moment.

Those of you who know me well probably know the story of my brother-in-law. He served in Iraq and almost did not make it home. He walked into a building with several of his comrades and he was one of the very lucky few who was able to walk out. It was a set-up. A merchant convinced the soldiers to go into the building by telling them that the person they were looking for was in there. And then he waited for someone to push a button that collapsed the building. He watched those young men walk into a building and hoped they would not walk out. That is so impossible to fathom.

I had almost allowed myself to forget that my brother-in-law had that experience. He is home safe now and that is what really matters, right? Well, maybe not so much. Of course, I am absolutely thrilled that he is home. But, that experience will never leave him and there are other soldiers who have now taken his place. Not all of them will be as lucky as he was. Soldiers who have to walk into buildings everyday without knowing if they will come out. They are in danger simply because they love America enough to put on the uniform and fight for all that we hold dear.

My brother-in-law and I were talking about his service one time and he told me that he served in the Army to protect Bear, Flower, and Angel from losing their freedoms. To keep their world safe and uninterrupted. He has given them gifts that will never fit under a tree, but that will last a lifetime. How do you measure that gift – how do you teach someone to be appreciative of it? I hope I do justice to his story so that they will know how lucky they are – how much they are loved – how grateful they must be.

So, once again I am reminded of how lucky we are that soldiers volunteer to protect us. That they are willing to run into the fire so that we never have to run away from it. Thank you to all of you who have been a soldier or who have loved a soldier.

Save the Date…………

final graphic w tree


AWA

Holiday Mela

Sunday, November 15th
10:00am to 3:30p
at the
American Embassy School
New Delhi
Entrance fee: rs. 200
(children under 13 free)

Over 100 vendors
food court
used book sale
kids activity center

Old Delhi – part 3, the people

People, people everywhere! Delhi is crowded and Old Delhi is more crowded. The alleys are narrow and the streets are full. But that gives you a chance to slow.down.and.look.around…

Indians are some hard-working people for sure. There is hardly a street anywhere in Delhi that doesn’t have a man pushing or pulling a bike or wagon with some heavy-arse stuff on it. Old Delhi is clearly no exception. And, yep, these guys are maneuvering between cars, trucks, buses, scooters, people, and cows. And they just never seem to have the right shoes. Can you imagine?

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I mentioned before that Old Delhi has a lot of men roaming around.
There are certainly women too, but really, it’s mostly men.

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The children on the streets of Delhi always take my breath away. This little girl was with
some of the vendors. I am guessing they are her parents or at least a relative. At least, I really, really hope so.
She is a little bitty thing and she was just in the middle of the hustle and the bustle. Right in the middle of it all.
And she seemed totally unfazed. She looked at home on the streets.
I am not really sure how I feel about that. Not that it matters. It is not changing. At least not for her. At least not right now.

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And I think this was her brother. This is how India is changing me. I wonder how I can walk away from this country
without taking a child in need home with me. And how could you possibly pick just one. Which one?
Then I come home to my own family and I am exhausted by their own energy. I wonder how I could even consider taking on more.
Living in your own bubble in the midst of such great need is overwhelming – it is nearly impossible to find a practical way to help –
to find a way to make a difference without trying to change the way India works.
To walk away from this as simply a tourist who just wants to “see” Old Delhi. Not absorb it – not really even embrace it,
but maybe just understand it a little bit better. But then what?
(p.s. I do not remember this boy being handicapped, as least not physically – certainly financially, but I think I just got his eyes closed.)

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This guy has absolutely the right idea. I left Old Delhi very much in need of a nap.

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I rode on my first bicycle rickshaw. My only advice – hold on! They actually go at a decent pace,
but mostly the roads are really bumpy and, because it’s crowded, they swerve a lot!

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Tell me how many women you count in the next photo. And no fair counting the one taking the picture….

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These three young chaps from London were amazing. They were breathing in the city and wanted to share it.
They sought us out as we were waiting in line for a table for dinner. Two in our group followed them up on a random
roof top to see Old Delhi in a different light. Yep, one of the two was me. I have not decided if that was very adventurous or very stupid.
(Shhhhh, that was a rhetorical question. I made it out alive – so I am guessing adventurous. No need for further debate.)
They had an absolute childlike amazement about Delhi and especially the kites.
They saw the beauty in the dirt and felt the soul of the people walking the streets. They were poets walking thru their own poem.
And, yes, in my pessimistic mood, I asked if they were going to have us mugged. They weren’t even insulted by the question.
Ah, to be young and unencumbered once again. Or to at least live vicariously thru them.

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I “met” this guy across the roof. We stared at each other with the same bewilderment.
And we soaked in the same scenes with the same amazement, the same appreciation.
We looked at each other and wondered together, “who in the heck is that”.
Across a roof and across cultures, we melted into the same world of amusement over kites.
And held the same respect for men bowing in prayer.
(Okay, admittedly you have to work with me on this one – he looks very uninvolved in sharing much with anyone in this moment,
but trust me, he was swept across oceans and we laughed at the same sky. I just didn’t want
him to know I was taking his picture, so I did it when he wasn’t looking at me. Please just suspend your reality and go with that, ‘kay?)

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This could be any street anywhere – in Tokyo or New York or anyone’s Chinatown.
Sometimes life is universal.

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These men joined together to break their Ramadan fast.

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All in all it was an amazing night. Exhausting and exhilirating – just like Old Delhi itself.

This is where it all began……….

As you might remember, we went to Philadelphia recently.

It was amazing to stand in the room where the creators of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution actually formed these documents. Absolutely amazing. This Independence Hall. The place where it all began.

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This is the actual room where the discussions, debates, and negotiations took place among the representatives of the 13 original colonies – the National Park Service has good reason to believe that the chair at the front of the room is the chair that George Washington really sat in.

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Happy Fourth of July – I hope you all have the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate freedom and good health.

Rolling Thunder…..

One thing I really miss in India is listening to WTOP radio. It’s the low-caf version of NPR.

On Sunday morning, I turned on the radio and was reminded that Sunday was the day for Rolling Thunder. It’s a precursor to Memorial Day in America. Tens of thousands of motorcyclists gather in Washington, DC and roll through town. Many of them are military veterans. All of them are honoring the service of those who have served in the United States military. They mourn those who lost their lives and celebrate those who survived. It is a tribute like no other. They literally rumble through the streets. Motorcycles in America are not at all like scooters in India. They are loud and so many together – well, it shakes sky.

They were interviewing a man who had come from Minnesota (which is quite far away) to participate in Rolling Thunder. This is what he said, “Sure, I would rather be eating burgers with my family and having a cook out back home. My grandchildren will be running through the sprinkler and I will be here. But, as long as we have POWs and MIAs, I will be here honoring their service. They will not be forgotten. We want them all back home.”

Indeed!

rollingthunderap(this picture is from here )

It turns out my mother-in-law rode in the parade – yes, she has always been cooler than me! 😉

Here is her picture…

rolling thunder carol

I voted ma’am……….

The elections are going on in India right now and I have been trying to decide whether or not to write about them. I have hesitated mostly because I just don’t know that much about them. I do know that India is the world’s largest democracy – so you can imagine with a billion people voting, there’s a lot going on. Part of my problem has been just how exactly to narrow it down. There are many, many candidates and political parties – I think about 30.

The voting has been going on since sometime in April – it takes a month to get all the voting done. It is an amazing process. People get the day off. People have been killed at voting stations.

Last Thursday was Delhi’s day to vote. Delhi police sent out 55,000 policemen to monitor the voting stations. Expats seem to mostly agree that it’s better just to lay low on election day. Markets can be closed – protesters can be demonstrating. It apparently can get quite chaotic.

Well, our driver Khan solved my little writing dilemma. I asked him to run an errand for me on Thursday. He asked if he could stop and vote along the way.

Of course.

Then, a while later, he dropped me off at school. He rushed out of the car to open my door. He had the biggest smile on his face.  Like a kid who just won a pony – not a mere ride on a pony – but a whole pony. And he said, “I voted ma’am.”

That is great Khan. Very, very good.

Yes ma’am. Sonia. Congress. I voted ma’am.

Oh, I have heard of her. Very good!

Still smiling. Yes ma’am. I voted. He left me with the impression that I simply did not understand the magnitude of this privilege for him. And when you really think about the implications of this – there are a billion voters in India – Khan believes his vote was important – that it matters. Wow. I can tell from the look on his face it does, in fact, matter very much.

In all the time he has worked for us, he has never really initiated conversation. I don’t say this lightly when I say that I believe that this is the most important he has ever had to say to me.

It took me by surprise. The thrill of the vote. Yet another thing I guess I have been taking for granted. I vote and I am proud that I vote. But I have forgotten the joy of voting. What a luxury it really is.

Thank you to everyone who has made it possible for me to vote. I have just been reminded what a precious gift it really is.