Saturday, December 29, 2012

Another One Bites the Dust

And another one gone, and another one gone, another one bites the dust. We are back in the market for another driver yet again. Drivers have proven to be an issue for us during our entire existence in New Delhi. We have yet to find a person to drive our family that is really suitable to our needs. Our most recent hire conveniently waited for our family to be away on holiday to return all his driver belongings to our house manager and announce he is leaving our job. All of this of course falls on the heels of visitors being here from the US. Just when a reliable driver is most needed, to make everyone most comfortable in India we are searching for the reliable driver. My pessimism is punchy right now and I feel reliable driver here is an oxymoron. He tried to explain to me when I saw him upon my return to New Delhi but in my defense I did not ask many questions. I have become very frustrated when I ask questions to people. It seems natural for most people to try to gauge what answer would please me the most and tell me that selected answer instead of search in their soul to find what I would call the “truth”. I need to step back, take a deep breath and accept that “truth” is subjective. In our search for another driver we do not have a long two years left to our stay in India which makes us undesirable to work for in most cases. As is with anyone looking for employment, drivers want to know you will be here a long time so they will not be looking for another job in six months time. So for now I am collecting bios and resumes this week and sifting through what could be a suitable fit. “Where do you live?” “How do you commute?” “What hours can you work?” “Do you have a record?” and I hum.

He walks warily down the street, With the brim pulled way down low. Ain't no sound but the sound of his feet. Another one bites the dust.-Queen

Saturday, December 1, 2012

We went to the Camel Fair

The song, although slightly altered, has been in my head since our visit.  "We went to the camel fair.  The birds and the beasts were there."  When I think of a fair I think of the auditorium for events, the rides, livestock animals and of course the food. Like most things we have experienced in India our perception of Pushkar Fair was the same as most fairs we had experienced but very different. states:    
Pushkar is a town in the Ajmer district in the Indian state of Rajashan.  Pushkar is one of the oldest cities of India.  An annual fair held in Pushkar is Pushkar Fair.  According to the Hindu calendar Pushkar Fair commences in Nawami (ninth day of fortnightly phases of moon) and ends in Purnima (Full Moon) in the month of Kartika (October or November according to the lunar calendar). In Pushkar, one of the biggest Cattle Fair is also held for trading purposes and the best cattle in all categories are awarded.  Pushkar fair continues for five days and these five days are a period of relaxation and merry-making for the villagers. This fair time is the busiest time for them, as this is one of the largest cattle fairs in the country. Animals, including over 50,000 camels, are brought from miles around to be traded and sold. Trading is brisk as several thousand heads of cattle exchange hands. All the camels are cleaned, washed, adorned, some are interestingly shorn to form patterns, and special stalls are set up selling finery and jewelry for the camels. Camels at the Pushkar fair are decorated with great care. They wear jewelry of silver and beads. There are silver bells and bangles around their ankles that jangle when they walk. An interesting ritual is the piercing of a camel's nose.
A photo recap or our experience follows.




The End
for Pushkar 2012

Friday, November 9, 2012

Votes Are In

     Voting still takes place while living overseas.  Just like in the US many people remain relatively quiet about who they support and their beliefs but every now and then you will have one or two blast on their online posts about the support for one party or disdain for the other.  We live in a more sheltered environment as far as the campaign ads and calls and surveys and text messages and annoying barrage of campaign related slaughter of sounds and senses that go with the campaign season in the US.  On numerous occasions both Mister and I have expressed out loud how thankful we are to live in India, away from the media coverage and true campaign trails of the running mates.  We are “proud to be an American” but when you live overseas you find joy in the little things that are different from our homeland.  This is one we focused on since our return from the summer’s travels. I’m glad we did not have all that campaign stuff the rest of our country had to endure since our return in August.  We send our condolences for any suffering.
     Voting overseas is a much different procedure and the results seemed to be  more ceremonial than I have participated stateside.  Because we all cast the absentee ballot those votes happen at any time up to the deadline for your state.  It seemed that upon return from the summer vacations many people began their absentee voting either state side before returning to India all the way up to mid-later October.  After mid-October it seemed that was it, until Election Day.  For us Election Day happened 12 hours later than it happened for the US.  So all the rallies and voter results were showing for us starting at 5:30am November 7 (12 hours later than the US) at the American Citizens Services Association (ACSA) where people packed in to all the spaces available; the restaurants, poolside, bowling alley any place there was a TV, to watch as the states reported their results and participants colored in the US map provided by the embassy group who put on the event for all American Citizens.  It was a beautiful displays of patriotism; Americans all coming together with all eyes on our country.  
     Later that morning at the school drop off time in the coffee house just inside the entrance at one of the gates many people gathered as they do most mornings but the chatter about the election was strong the morning of November 7.  It was nice to compare with citizens from other countries how the election process is the same or different for them. Parents talked about how election results from their country would not be posted so quickly and people had to wait up to a week to know the results.  At that hour it was too early to know the US results but this election process has been so very different for us compared to years past in the US.  I’m thinking in a little less than four years I would like to live overseas again.  I have found the election process in the US while living abroad is an adventure I would like to have again. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

From That to This

The kids had a long weekend to commemorate Gandhi's birthday and a few teacher in service days built in so we decided to make the most of our time here and planned a trip.  We were glad that Thailand made its way back into our available trips and happily slipped away for four days in Bangkok.  We sang "One Night in Bangkok" a few nights in a row.
We enjoyed the weekend market where we bought some fun t-shirts, long pants and a nice backpackers pack for the long school trip scheduled for the end of this month.  We visited the Grand Palace where, just like we were warned, we were greeted with "authorities" who told us the palace was closed to tourists.  So we walked past these information carriers and bought our ticket to the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha.  I had taken some beautiful pictures of the palace area and we rode along the river in a boat taxi to the Reclining Buddha where we saw another temple but somewhere along the way my camera wiped out the sim card or the sim card malfunctioned and I lost everything we had on that card.  Take our word for it, it's well worth the trip to see and experience these places.
This is a picture of our pineapple chicken fried rice and an iced tea we enjoyed at a restaurant in the weekend market that had some very welcoming AC.  Because I used my phone for this photo it was not wiped out during the sim card incident.
We tried to see as much as we could in four days.  The ancient city had bikes and facade buildings for the kids to enjoy.  Living in India we just don't find biking enjoyable like we used to but here we were given bikes to travel throughout this remade city area.  We also did some grocery shopping at Villa Market to purchase those items which are hard to buy or too expensive in our part of the world right now.
Our whole Gandhi celebration ended with our return flight to Delhi and complaints from kid three of a head ache.  He started running a fever Tuesday evening upon arrival and was wisked into the doctor's office on Wednesday to confirm our fears.  He has dengue fever.  Not always the most trusted source but here is more information about dengue  At the end of the day, after a person is diagnosed with dengue one must wait it out to pass.  Like any virus, complications may arrise and then be addressed but for the most part, drink plenty of liquids, get lots of rest and let the kid who does not have celiac enjoy whatever foods he chooses while he is ill, ignoring the gluten free zone rules for now.
We went from that to this.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Be Our Guest: part 1

This is a three part series.  So far this blog has been about my perspective for our family's adventure.  The next three posts, all part of the same trip/series are from the Mister's perspective.  Literally since most of this is through the lens of the cameras on this trip.  He researched, planned, and plotted maps, organized, and finally booked his dream motorcycle ride through the Himalayas from Manali to Leh.  In these pictures he will show you his experience.
Welcome Mister as he writes about his Himalayan motorcycle adventure.
Part 1:
Day 1: A view from our Hotel in Manali. We flew from Delhi to Manali and took a cab to Anu Autoworks where we had reserved 500cc Royal Enfields for our trip.  First day was spent getting acclimatized and familiar with our motorcycles. We spent a few hours driving around Manali and making sure the bikes worked. A couple minor tweaks, but the bikes seemed fine.

Day 2: Above we are getting our bikes packed up and ready to head north. We also hired a mechanic to ride along with us. Originally, I did not intend to bring a mechanic but if you rented three or more bikes the company required that you hire a mechanic to travel with you. 

It turns out the mechanic was a really good idea. We have our first breakdown within the first half of the day. I don't recall exactly what the issue was, but we stopped for a photo op and this bike never started again. Here is the mechanic coasting down hill to trade out the broken down bike for a replacement.

Waiting by the side of the road for the replacement bike. Here, a few water buffalo are being herded down the road. It took the mechanic a couple hours to come back with a new bike.  When he returned, we excitedly mounted back up an prepared to head out.  Then my bike caught on fire.  We made a quick decision to take his bike and send him back for a SECOND replacement bike. We headed up the mountain with our remaining three bikes and one of us riding the mechanics bike.

On our way up Rohtang Pass.  The small yellow tents at the bottom of the hill (in the center of the picture) are in the spot where we waited for the replacement bikes.
And then....there was mud. While we were waiting for the replacement bikes, it was raining on Rohtang Pass.  We road/pushed bikes through hours of mud like this.

Pushing bikes through mud is hard work.  Added stressor was the altitude of  approximately13,000 feet. This shot is the mechanics bike standing on it's own, rear tire wedged in mud. One or two of us would get to a decent spot on the road ahead, park, then slog back down through the mud to push whoever was stuck. I think we all agreed it was one of the most physically and mentally challenging things we had done in many years.

Here you see some of the other "traffic" on the road.

Over the Pass!  The roads and the view improve...for a while. We continued on and were attempting to make it to a town called Keylong. However, eventually the rain started again, the sun went down and there was a landslide that blocked the road to Keylong. That night is a whole story of it's own. I did things on a motorcycle that I promised myself I would never do. For example, for quite some time I rode without a headlight, in the rain, at night, on a road that barely passed as a trail. On one side of us was a fifty foot drop to a raging river. I have always said it's a fine line between hard core and stupid. Suffice it to say, I think we may have crossed the line that night.

Day 3:  This is the view we had the morning of Day 3. After we finally gave up on Keylong, our mechanic brought us to a camp that was not too far back down the road. These tent/cabins don't look like much but it had a dry bed, electric light and a flush toilet. It was pretty heavenly after the day we just had.

Our accommodations just outside of Keylong.  The sun came out and we had a couple hours to dry our wet gear before we got back on the road.

Early morning view from the road side.

A river crossing.

Not much traffic out here. The riding on this day was outstanding and just about exactly what I hoped for. The scenery was great and the roads were, at times, pretty good.

A pit stop for our first and only flat tire. (The mechanic pays off again.)  The timing was convenient because there was another landslide just ahead of us. Luckily, there was a road crew nearby.  It took them a couple hours and some explosives to clear the road. We found a nice shady spot by the side of the road and just hung out for a while. The large container sitting by the road is one of our gas containers. Just outside of Keylong, not far from the spot we slept, was the last gas station until Leh. We had to top off at that station and also bring along some extra gallons to make sure we could get all the way to Leh.

Accommodations for our third night at a spot called Sarchu.  High plains at 14,000 feet.  It was a tough night of sleep but at least another warm dry bed.

This is our camp's kitchen/headquarters. 

(trip continued in Be Our Guest part 2 & part 3)