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Showing posts from April, 2014

Sunkissed Christmas

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When I was a kid, I always wanted Christmas to be exactly the same.  Eat at the same restaurant for Christmas eve, have the same Christmas
morning routine, go to the same church service.  I guess I found comfort in it.  I would be very upset at the very idea of deviation from the plan.  Luckily, people can evolve and this year I had the most unusual Christmas ever. 
To the first timer, every day in India can seem like the most unusual day of the year, but add a few familiar Christmastime items and things will be pushed into the realm of weird.  For Christmas, my companions and I traveled to the India state of Goa and to Palolem Beach (google and swear loudly). 
We flew there on Christmas eve where I got to experience throwing up in an airport.  Good fun, let me tell you.  But all that unpleasantness subsided and I had a lovely dinner of a coke.  We arrived and were picked up and drove about two hours through the jungly (that's a word!) country side to the small town of Palolem.  By…

The Tourist

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As I mentioned before (about two months ago), India is a difficult place for me to blend in. I must note now, that in Jaipur, I was never happier to be a tourist.  As you do in India, we had our own car and tour guides for each day here.  This feels like a fancy way to get around for sure.
At Amer fort, I did what felt like the most touristy thing ever:  rode an elephant to the palace gates.  It was uniquely Indian and cheesy and weird and I loved it.  I have a lifelong love affair with Elephants and had certainly never rode one for such a distance.  Lolling from side to side, elephant transport may be fit for kings, but is hard on the back.  These elephants were brightly decorated, well trained, and seemed happy from what (extremely little) I know about elephant behavior.

Built in 1592, this expansive palace was home to many rulers and spans four km.  Each layer yielded interesting Hindu architecture, amazingly detailed paintings, and finally an area decorated with tiny inlaid mirrors…

The Taj

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Back in 1632ish, the third and most beloved wife of then Emperor, Shah Jahan died due to complications of childbirth.  This most profound and grief worthy death prompted the construction of her tomb, which is now one of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal.  Construction lasted 22 years and called for experts in marble work, inlay, architecture, landscaping, construction, and others I'm sure are beyond my skills to see.

Entering the taj campus is quite a process in itself.  Only animal drawn or electric vehicles are allowed within a certain radius of the building.  This is because white marble gets dirty. (the Taj is closed every Friday for cleaning as it is). Then, the tourist has to stand in line (or not much of one as luck would have it) for a pat down and a look in all of your bags.  From there, it's a bit of a walk to one of three towering gates.  A 90 degree turn frames the center dome so perfectly in the gate that it takes your breath away.  Every step takes yo…

Caves of Wonder

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When I preface this entry with 'we spent a long weekend looking at caves' you may think that sounds ridiculous.  When I explain that they are ancient man made caves carved between the 400BC and the 10th century, you may think that sounds boring, but to me this was incredible.

Ajanta and Ellora caves are a little off of the beaten tourist track in India, a couple of hour drive day trips from the city of Aurangabad. Ellora caves were carved out of the mountain from the top down. A feat so incredible that some believe that they caves were made by extraterrestrials. How could man be so coordinated, so organized, so artistic over what must have been decades? Well, I think we underestimate ourselves and also underestimate just how much spare time we'd have if we didn't have technology to fill it up.
The crown jewel of Ellora caves is The Kailashnatha, cave 16. Construction began around 756 CE and continued for nearly a century. It served as a temple and meeting place a…

Grandmom

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Last week, my 97 year old grandmother died peacefully at home.  I wanted to share this eulogy with you who may not have known her.

“97” I said, answering again her famous question of “How old am I?” “Well, I guess that's why my back hurts.” She replied.
“97” I repeated. “Well, that's pretty old, I guess.” she chuckled.
“97” I told her. “Well, I guess I'm lucky to have lived this long. You know, I've had a good life.”

As Grandmoms youngest (of 10) grandchild, I worry I am unqualified to say anything. It's odd to think that I only knew Grandmom for about a third of her life, but I was lucky to feel that in that time, I really knew her. Though obviously, she was a different person than that one whom scrimped to buy a balloon at the fair, different than the young woman who picked up discarded coal to keep her family warm, different than the woman whom started a successful business with the man she loved.

 I knew the Grandmom who would shoot a ground hog from he…