Saturday, July 26, 2008


Sarah got her hands done in India at an outdoor market where we shopped for clothes.

I'd like (to try and not kill) a henna plant. I read that you can grow them indoors, and it's flower has a lovely scent.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Cows seem content here.

My biggest faux pax (that I'm aware of, anyway) was related to cows. We stopped at McD's on the way back from the Taj, in an effort to disuade our guide from taking us to yet another expensive tourist trap. It was nuts and overwhelming and since I don't frequent Mickey D's, I was not comfortable with the menu. Sarah ordered a chicken kids meal and I couldn't figure out the menu, so I just said, "I'll just have a hamburger." The guy looked at me blankly. "Just beef," I clarified. The man's eyes widened and Brian caught my attention from his spot in line behind me, "I don't think they serve cow here."

I felt so . . . stupid American.

I do have to say that if they served the veggie burgers here that I got that day, we'd actually go to McDonalds.

The Taj

It's everything you've heard. A jewel. I suspected it was a mirage, until I touched the cool marble, inlaid with onyx and jasper, and ran my fingers across the carved flower designs.

Next to it sits a mosque of multicolored sandstone.

We caught a special moment between to friends. As they posed for a photo, he dropped to his knees and started fishing in his pocket for something. I began snapping from where I was standing, and then Brian encouraged me to go get good shots for them. Kimberli (who said yes, btw) was completely caught off guard. Fun to see. Considering the story of the Taj Mahal, I can see why he chose that spot.


The streets looked different from this height than they did walking or peering out from under a rickshaw roof.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Artisans in India

It's fun writing this post because I hear Mimi having a giggle fit. She and Sarah are playing hide and seek in the room. It is the first she has really let go and enjoyed herself and it makes us all smile to hear it.

When we first arrived in Bhubaneswar, I was enchanted by the stone work in the hotel. The simple white walls are set off by carved sandstone borders and standstone grills in the walls, and panels set into the walls with carvings of women dancers, a dance famous in this area.

The sandstone is beautiful because it holds an array of colors, striations within each block before it is carved, that become accents within the carving.

We had one neat "tour" day in Orissa. Though we got to see some simply amazing temples - one Buddhist and one Hindu, the highlight for me was visiting with some stone carvers.

On our drive from the Buddhist temple, we saw a small house with some 5 foot long blocks of stone outside and stopped the cab. The driver thought no one was there, but I heard hammering, and went to explore. Sure enough, three men behind a woven screen wall, sitting in semi darkness, were at work on sculptures with large wooden mallets and metal chisels.

They were kind, and let me take photos, and shared with us the process. First, they buy a block of stone for roughly 3,000 rupies ($75). Four to five men work on the stone for a month, and when it is finished, they sell it for 15,000 rupies ($375). Works out to less than 40 cents an hour, if they are working 40 hour weeks.

They don't seem to be pickey about which faith they carve for. Hindu gods like Ganesh, dancers, animals and Budda lay about in various stages of birth from the stones.

Also, the ubiquitous wheel, symbol of time, is in most of the carvings and art here. We missed going to see the temple with the wheels, located on the beach, and a celebration that looked pretty exciting. People near a large temple in Cuttack (home of the orphanage) were decorating carts and cars to parade each night that we left there.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mimi, more

I wrote this long post and lost it, which was disappointing, so I will try again.

Mimi is the little girl's nickname, her real name is long and we can't say it as well as people here, but we are close enough that she knows when we say it that we are referring to her.

We spent more time at the orphanage yesterday and I got to know a few women working there, including Mimi's caretaker - who I really like, and a nurse and the woman who runs the sponsorship program for the special needs kids and the children with high aptitude who would benefit from extra schooling. She is a wonderfully caring person and encouraged me to try and find some sponsors for the children. Sponsorship is only about $250 a year. Please let me know if you want any information on how to do it - you get photos and updates and I have photos of the kids, too. You can visit if you come as well, they treat visitors wonderfully.

I'm frustrated at my inability to upload photos and hope it is fixed in Delhi. It makes blogging so much more fun to do when you have photos!

Here is a shot of Mimi meeting Mommy. Wonder if she thinks Mommy lives in the computer?

Friday, July 11, 2008

India day 2 with Mimi

I really love India. I remember feeling this way last time I was here, and it is the same this time. I can't put my finger on what it is, but it is an easy place to be and the people are lovely. And, the tea and food are fabulous.

Today we spent the majority of our day at the orphanage with Mimi and the other children. We stayed with the children in school - the school that operates on the grounds - for an hour and were amazed at how well behaved the children were. The orphanage is peaceful and quiet, and the children seem loved. Five or so children share a room with a house mother who is there every day and night with them. There is a cafeteria, a garden, a playground with swings and an indoor play room. There are classrooms for the younger children and for the older ones with special needs. Children with hiv, for instance, are not accepted into the community and must attend school at the orphanage. I was saddened by this, obviously.

I will see if the internet lets me post now, and then I will attempt to write more. Right now Sarah and Mimi are in Brian's room listening to music and playing with nail polish. A big hit with Mimi was the doodle pad. She seems more of a book and art girl than a sporty girl, and she reminds me in many ways of Sarah, in her thoughtfulness and the way she observes things.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

India and Mimi!

We landed in Mumbai (Bombay) and got off last because we had a five hour layover. This relaxed approach began a downward spiral of events, beginning with a failed attempt to navigate our way to the customs counter, beginning with a five mile walk in the direction people pointed.

The hall rapidly looked less and less like an airport, carpet gave way to dirt, windows boarded up, ceiling tiles created works of art on broken bits of stone. We found a man in uniform, who pointed back the direction we came. Eventually we figured out that passengers are supposed to turn at the poster of the giraffe surrounded by skyscrapers, then go down 67 stairs and around a corner to find the throngs of people approaching various desks and lines to immigration.

Following immigration, our passports were checked by not less than 16 people in uniform, not one of whom could tell us how to find customs. We wove our way through another construction maze and decided since our bags were checked through, we must somehow not need to clear customs. We followed some signs for domestic flights and, unexpectedly, a bend in the maze revealed the luggage hoard. We fought toward our bags, nabbed them, and looked in vain for the transfer belt. No one had any idea what we were talking about when we asked, and motioned us outside into humidity that poofed my hair to 4 times it's normal size. Did I mention we had two carry ons each, and a pillow, and now luggage as well?

We wandered past men on piles of sandbags, sitting with shotguns on their laps, towards a bus that looked as if it belonged to the airport and were then motioned to another bus. We hurried to get on. And then sat for 40 minutes while they waited for the bus to fill past capacity. Then, we started off to the other terminals. And the bus stalled. And then it stalled again. And then again.

Then, we started off towards the other terminals, past the barbed wire fences and the tractors carrying luggage and the planes covered in scaffolding and huge empty buildings without electricity and then we stopped. For another 25 minutes. Then, the driver began honking at a parked truck and we took off again and eventually got to a terminal that they said was not ours, but everyone else exited. Then, we continued to the terminal they said was for our flight. Contrary to that belief, the guard at the door looked at our tickets and said there was no flight for us.

So, we stood in line at a counter. Have I mentioned the luggage and the fact that we have now traveled for 20 something hours and it is 4am and Sarah is half asleep? At the counter they said, yes, there is a flight even though there is not one showing on the tv screens, and we are actually on it, but it is at the other terminal.

A nice man with a taxi service said it was very far and no busses went there and I said we would find a bus and eventually a man in a uniform said hmmmmm, and then another man said yes, you can walk, just go down those 456 stairs over there and it's there, about 5 mummmverestn. So, I'm thinking it's five kilometers or 5 miles after the 456 stairs that end in a massive marble atrium that sure seemed grand enough to have elevator access, but it really wasn't that far. It was actually in a place we could walk to, as long as we didn't mind weaving through the scaffolding and behind the taxis and sleeping off duty drivers and though the road area that wasn't lit, which we did and it was good.

I discovered I can't read my watch, and thought we had 10 minutes to board, but then realized we had almost two hours, so Brian went to call Laura, which is when we found out that the money exchange is in the international terminal. So, we sit, coffeeless, munching wasabi crackers I brought, in some nice cafe chairs near our gate, which is a door to a drive on which the busses appear. Brian, as in every single situation we have been in this trip, somehow managed to meet some really neat people while we were in wait mode, so we also have new friends now.

Update: Sarah and I got on the bus and then realized Brian had vanished. We were worried, but I thought we should probably go to the plane anyway. Once on board, the plane filled up and Brian eventually appeared. He had been yanked out of the line behind us for not having a proper stamp on his backpack and told to go back to security. But, he made it, which was good because I didn't know our hotel name, though I figured it couldn't be too hard to find somehow when we arrived.

I was so exhausted on the plane I didn't get my camera out, which I really regretted when we started descending into Orissa. The farmland looks different than at home. At home and in most places I've flown over, you see big square fields or round watering circles. Here, it was like a map of the United States – all different sized and shaped fields meandering over the landscape, like an abstract painting of fish scales. The trees looked different, too, some seemed like giant ferns viewed from above. The landscape when we drove, minus the amazing temples, was much more like the Dominican Republic than any other place I've been, but much, much hotter. Brian commented as we walked from the plane to the airport that it felt like we were baking, and I had to agree.

We got to the lovely, restful hotel and, while they arranged our rooms, they gave us free tea and coffee and hot chocolate and a milkshake for Sarah and cookies and then pancakes for Brian who was strarting to need food to stay awake.

We got into the rooms an hour or so later and then called the orphanage to figure out a plan to get there. I talked with the guy in charge of cars at the hotel and discovered that all the money we saved getting a great hotel rate will be eaten up in taxis and internet. We did get a car and then drove the 40 minute or so trip to the orphanage to meet Mimi. Sarah fell asleep as the taxi pulled out of the hotel. I think back home it was around 3am.

The driver stopped and asked directions multiple times, and with much pointing and talking, we would back up the car and re-route. Brian actually recognized the building from some photos, which was good. We asked the driver to leave and headed in to meet Mimi.

He didn't actually leave, but we didn't find that out until four hours later. Mistranslation, or intentional misunderstanding at the cost of $10 an hour? Who knows. Brian wasn't thrilled with the driver because he hit someone in the parking lot at the airport and a yelling match ensued – the guy was walking, but after the loud thud, he was limping. I liked that the had clean windows and that made it easier to snap photos, but I ended up rolling my window down anyway after reflections bothered me more than my desire to be polite.

We must have arrived at lunch, because we kindof wandered around lost for quite awhile before anyone would claim us. Then, we were ushered into a cool, dark office to wait. I was not expecting anyone to get little Mimi, so the video camera was not rolling when she arrived. But, I did have a still camera on Brian and managed to snap his face when he realized she had just been brought into the room.

A more adorable child you have never seen. She walked in, all eyelashes and big eyes and lacey dress, with painted fingernails and hands and bangled bracelets and bows in her hair. She is ten times more precious in person than in her photos, and I know that is hard to imagine. We were awestruck. She carried fresh flowers and presented them to Brian. I heard Sarah say “ahh” and echoed it with all my heart. I'll write more about the next few hours spent Mimi and the other precious children, as soon as I catch up on my sleep. For now suffice it to say, Brian and Laura and Max are one blessed family, and Sarah and I are honored to play a small part in this incredible experience.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

India Adventures, Dubai

Just a short update from the Dubai Airport. The long fight to Dubai from Atlanta was over 15 hours. At one point when we were near Baghdad, over Iraq, I looked out the window and saw two fires in the desert below. Then, the plane did a 180. Things that make you go hmmmmmm.

Well, the plane continued it's circle and we went on to Dubai. Whew.

Lots of beauty here in the airport, beautiful shops, lots of lights, beautiful women in flowing clothes. We wish we had a day to explore, but we only have a few more minutes here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

India Adventures Begin

In a few hours, Sarah and I will be at the Atlanta Airport, embarking on the trip to bring home Max's big sister Mimi from Orissa, India. Catch our updates here if we are able to post. If not, please follow along on Max's mom's blog. It's the one on the right marked Laura, Italian New Yorker married to a Southern boy.

Sarah has been journaling all day, so I can copy her work to update you. This morning she wrote about how I broke my friend's diswasher trying to load it. I hope the rest of the entries focus on the less destructive aspects of our trip.

Here are Laura and Brian going over the last of the paperwork necessary to get their new daughter home. Brian finally told Laura she could not go through it again - she may have been getting a bit obsessive about it . . . .

So, I just found out that Dubai is the best place to buy camera gear. Don't tell David, but I have my Am Ex ready. Unfortunately, we land in the middle of the night and only have a few hours there. I'll have to shop fast.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


We found this shot of Elias, dressed as a clown to celebrate Sarah's 6th birthday in David's photo archives.

When we lived in the Dominican Republic, because we had daily contact with Elias, we taught Sarah an important truth,
"if Elias is talking, Elias is lying."

Well, he lulled me into forgetting this trip, until today, when he emailed me his flight schedule, saying he thought he missed his flight. It took me 15 minutes of checking on line and looking at flight schedules to realize he had changed the times before emailing it to me.

Today he is packing to go home. There is hardly room for his clothes amidst the pop tarts and cheese crackers he plans to share with his girlfriend when he gets home - an attempt to make up for not calling her his first 40 hours here.

Truthfully, we'll miss him, maybe because he cooked up some wonderful food last night, or maybe because he can keep up with Zion, or that Alden loves him, or that he painted Sarah's bedroom (there was NO coorsion on my part, truly), but probably just because we like him. But, shhhh, don't tell him I said that!