The Emotions of It All

I try to start these posts with a vision of what I’d like to communicate but just never know where it may end up.  I have a feeling I may ramble a bit more than I intend (sorry in advance), so with that here’s my mindset over the last month.

I’ve been back in the US for 2 weeks, and it’s been non-stop…my friend Rhonda flew down to San Diego and drove with me to Auburn to see my mom & dad in-laws, then we made our way up I-5 to Seattle.  While in Washington I found a cute house in West Seattle (moving in August), surprised my sister with a silly night of old school roller skating for her birthday, spent time with family & friends, celebrated at Uncle Dan’s retirement/b-day party, had a nice time relaxing with my Mom and getting caught up on work. This week is The Monday family vacation (celebrating our family’s 50 years!) and then it’s time to get my house packed & moved!

As the days pass by, I’ve been contemplating this post and how to write about my transition home.  I have to say, it’s difficult to express the range of emotions that continue to run through my body…leaving Dan, returning to the comforts of home, the ease of life in the USA, an imprint of images that dance through my mind, living conditions so vastly different, daily challenges Dan faces at work and home, not being with him for dinner to just talk about our day… we knew this decision would have its difficulties but had no idea about the emotional toll. We understand in order to grow, expand and open our  minds to a whole new life, a new world, it isn’t possible without sacrifices – and because of this desire to grow and learn, we will be OK.

Our new home in Seattle.  Downstairs master suite will be open to family & friends at the end of August.

BBQ at Mom’s house with Grandma, great-uncle Jerry, Uncle Dan, Mom, Aunt Jeannie, and Bob.

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The Locals

Today is bittersweet, it’s my last day in Mumbai.  I’m anxious to see Sangio and enjoy the comforts of home but I’ll miss Dan immensely and the life & routine we’ve started in our new home city.   I can’t even begin to explain the impact a country, city and its’ people have had on me in only a 3-week period.  Here are random snapshots of people taken during the daily routine and meandering about.

A local street vendor making his specialty, Paan.  It’s a betel leaf, filled with an areca nut spread, a pinch of many sweet & pungent spices and chutneys.  For the regulars, tobacco is usually included.  I managed two small bites…it’s an acquired taste for sure.

 

Considering all the garbage you see throughout the city, this boggles my mind — these women literally sweep our neighborhood streets everyday.

  

These young boys were interested in the white lady and asked if I would take a picture with them.  So in return, they posed for me.  I love this picture.

Young ladies the world over, checking their cell phones.

A man in his textile booth at the Mangaldas Market

Not sure what these guys where planning but they were cooking a large drum filled with some type of gooey-tar in the middle of a busy city street.

I wish this picture had turned out better but this kid is selling garlic at the Crawford Market.  He’s sitting on a platform in the middle of his booth, surrounded by garlic and  peeling the skin off each clove.

    

We’ve found men have the ability to nap pretty much anywhere, this is just 1 example of the many places we’ve seen afternoon nappers.  This guy is resting in one of the busiest & loudest markets in the city, Crawford Market.

The beautiful colors of women in our neighborhood

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A Delhi Whirlwind, part 2

 

Because our time was quick in Delhi, we rushed through a few historic sites in true American tourist style.  We didn’t get as many pictures as we would have liked but here is a sampling of our day and a half.

Dan has heard stories about the state-of-the-art Delhi airport, and it didn’t disappoint. The city is in the process of developing an “Airport City”, an all inclusive development with convention center, shopping, restaurants, hotels, express metro line to New Delhi – all the conveniences neatly packaged together so you don’t ever have to leave.

Bike rickshaws are more commonly used, and here we passed what appeared to be a rickshaw parking lot.

And then in action, just waiting for passengers.

Red Fort (Lal Quila), located in Old Delhi was constructed in the mid-17th century by the same emperor that built the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan.  It served as residence for the Mughal emperors until 1857.

The Emperors Throne

Self-portrait at the Red Fort

Very blurry picture of India Gate which was inspired by the Arc de Triomphe, built in 1931 as a war memorial.

Along our journey we saw animals in varying environments. The working animals, used to pull heavy loads: water buffalo, horses, camels.  And then others that were just trying to beat the heat: monkeys, dogs, cows, birds, pigs.  And then the sad/unfortunate use of animals for “entertainment” and making money from the tourists: a child playing a flute to get a king cobra to uncoil from a basket and monkeys dancing on leashes.

Here’s a monkey just trying to stay cool

And this crow sat at our hotel window for at least an hour at the height of the afternoon heat.  I think he/she was seriously panting.

We didn’t make it to the street market we had hoped to visit, as the Indian presidential race is underway and a few streets/markets were closed due to the Presidents travel/speech tour.  But of course we still found open stores, and shopping was done!  I’ve been coveting a true Indian hand-woven rug since arriving, and spoiled ourselves with a couple of purchases.

And unexpectedly I found these beautiful Persian miniature paintings from the 1920’s (if my memory serves correctly).  The shopkeeper was a very knowledgeable artist &  great salesman, and shared many stories about the artwork displayed throughout his shop.  A Persian miniature is a small painting used to illustrate a book or story.  The pieces I got have the stories written in Hindu on the backside.

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A Delhi Whirlwind, part 1

Delhi was a whirlwind weekend. I’m not sure where to begin or where this will end but here we go…

Delhi, like Mumbai is a city that overtakes your senses, 20 million people strong.  As we drove from the airport to our hotel, there were immediate differences that we couldn’t help but compare the 2.  First and foremost, Delhi has a planned infrastructure of roads, streetlights, sidewalks, parks, metro-line that all work together as a system.  We were not surprised, as it is the capital city.  But what did surprise us was the large population of homeless children, women, men…families living on the streets.  I’m not sure if this is a factor, but Delhi has seen extreme growth & building over the past decade and my assumption is that slums have been destroyed, displacing a large population thus resulting in a large number of homeless.  The homeless population gives Delhi a different experience and stronger sense of have/have not’s – which I haven’t felt as much in Mumbai.  Granted the majority of my time in Mumbai has not been in the tourist areas – which will bring out the best & worst of any city.

Our drive to the Taj Mahal put us into a new landscape of India, semi-farmland and country towns (each with populations of at least a million).  The drive takes about 4.5 hours (1-way) and thankfully toll roads have been built within the last few years…but the autobahn they are not.  It’s still a slow drive through towns and roadways with trucks taking full loads to Kolkata, auto rickshaws packed beyond belief, tractors/ horses/ camels/ water buffalo pulling full loads – it’s truly a drive I’ll never forget.

Since we left at 5am in order to beat the heat of the day (it was about 110 degrees), we saw the morning rituals of many residents.  Living conditions are sparse (to say the least) and nothing like you can imagine — we saw on many occasion men & children squatting in the fields for their morning relief, hoses and water buckets are used as makeshift showers, people sleeping under tarps along the road – it was a typical day in the life along the road between Delhi and Agra.

The summer months are definitely off-season with temperatures reaching 110+ degrees.  Though it was hot, the crowds were less and made it much easier to maneuver through the sites.  India and its’ people are gracious hosts to their foreign visitors.  We found on occasion there was a “Foreigner” and “India-local” lines to get tickets at historic monuments and the Taj Mahal even had a separate garden pathway.  All this set-up with the intention of making a foreigners experience in India more pleasurable.

As the new white couple in the ‘hood, we’ve had our share of stares within our Mumbai neighborhood and have gotten used to it.  I believe for the most part it’s curiosity and most people smile in return.  However on this trip, the stares where taken to the next level.  A few women & children asked to have their picture taken with me. It’s a very odd feeling but India is a country of Indians – it’s rare to see other races and I’m very humbled by the experience.

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The Taj Mahal

Amazing. Wow. Incredible. Forever. Love. Really. Power. Perfect. Symmetry. Myths. Stories. Craftsman. Marble. Stones. Beautiful. Crowded. Hot. Engineering. Artist. Eccentric. Awe.  Just a few of the words that went through my mind as we walked through the Taj Mahal.

I have to be honest, I knew of the Taj Mahal but did not realize the story behind the building.  A love story from the mid 1600’s…the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal for the love of this life, his 3rd wife, after she died giving birth to their 14th child.  A perfectly symmetrical design, artistically awe-inspiring tomb that houses Mumtaz Mahal, and then 35 years later Shah Jahan was laid to rest beside his wife.

Here are a few of the many photo’s that we took.  Of course photo’s will never capture the true beauty and detail that was handcrafted nearly 400 years ago.

The Gateway.  There are 11 bulbs that run along the top of the entry with a duplicate set on the backside, representing the 22 years it took to build.

Dome inside the Gateway, made of red sandstone.

First view of The Taj from the Gateway

The Taj Mahal.  Intentionally built so that the sky will be its only backdrop.

Details from the outside of the building

Floral patterns hand-carved into marble

Precious stones (turquoise, jade, carnelian,…) are precisely carved and inlaid into hand-etched marble stone. The depth of color is amazing.

Stories from the Quran are inscribed in calligraphy in black marble along the archways.  The Great Gateway reads: “O Soul, thou art at rest. Return to the Lord at peace with Him, and He at peace with you.”

View of the duplicate non-active “mosque” from inside the Mausoleum.  A portion of the marble has been hand-carved in geometric patterns, providing filtered light to the inside.  The duplicate mosque was built for symmetry only, since it’s not facing Mecca, it cannot function as an active mosque.

A clear view of the Mosque, which is facing Mecca and is still actively used today.

Proof we were here

And yes, I was talked into doing the cheesy picture by our guide, with the funny pose because I’m a big dork

As the stories of the Taj are shared from generation to generation, it’s said that Shah Jahan had intentions of building a duplicate Taj Mahal but in Black marble on the opposite side of the river for himself. Because of a family falling out with one of his sons, this was never done.  And so Shah Jahan was laid to rest beside his wife at the Taj Mahal and is the only element that is not symmetrical on all of the property.

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Home Sweet Home in India

Today is just like any day, working from home, a bit bored at seeing the same pale yellow walls and decide to go work from my local coffee shop.   Ahh, an iced cappuccino taste so good.

For those curious, here’s a glimpse into our apartment.  It’s around 900 sq ft, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths – but only 1 bath has hot water.  And we just learned how to work the hot water.  There’s a separate switch that you turn on, and in just a couple of minutes – hot water.  (d’oh!)

Living Room – gotta love the fantastic couch & chair, feel like we’re back in college. We picked up a movie poster at the Thieves Bazaar this weekend, Mother India.  According to the seller it was an epic Bollywood movie, circa 1957.  I did a little more research and found it’s considered a definitive Hindi cultural film classic, still watched daily throughout India.

Kitchen – has all the basic, less an oven.  The washing machine is on the small patio, less a dryer. BUT I have to say, air-drying clothes isn’t bad, at least for a family of 2 it’s easy enough.  And we’re fortunate to have a spare bedroom that we’ve set-up as the laundry drying room.

On one of my excursions, I picked up a duvet cover.  Slowly trying to add small bits of décor to make it feel more like home.

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The Thieves Market

Today Dan and I walked through Chor Bazaar, aka the Thieves Bazaar.  This market is known for antiques, clocks/cameras, furniture, auto parts/tools and “refurbished” electronics.

It’s a predominantly Muslim market/neighborhood — we received more stares than usual, with more intensity.  The most unnerving “stare” was by a young man, I’d say about 15 years old, that followed us for a couple of blocks.  I have no idea if he was curious, or if there was something more to it.  Anyway, he finally got bored and moved on.  The majority of the people within the market were extremely friendly and offered many smiles.

I continue to be fascinated with Muslim women.  When we visited Kuala Lumpur a few years ago, the women in the city predominantly wore traditional black burka’s fully covered.  In this Mumbai community it was more of a mix between traditional black and a more colorful style that doesn’t cover the face.  The eye contact made with many of these women, fully covered have a profound effect on me… such expressive eyes that communicate a feeling of warmth, a connection made between two women with such different beliefs and ideals but with respect and curiosity in each other.

Animals are a major factor in the street life of Mumbai.  Today we saw a ton of goats and a few chickens (roaming about & caged). Goats will gnaw on anything standing still or slow moving, didn’t realize they were such scavengers.  I’m still waiting to see the holy cow – which I’ve been told is the one thing that will stop traffic.

I was pleasantly surprised at how forthcoming many people were, as I was carrying our camera many offered to pose for me.  Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the day.

The Street Scene: people, goats, motorcycles, bikes, food stalls, garbage, long wheel barrels carrying goods – all trying to maneuver through the narrow streets

Phase 2 of the chop shop; around the corner we saw Phase 1, cars being dismantled with a hammer & pry bar.

Feeding leafy greens to the goat.

The Tailors

The Funny Poser

Muslim women

And her henna tattoos

 

Curio shop

The Indian Cost Plus

Clock Shop

Recycled electronic parts

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