Saturday, October 3, 2009

"You have not because you asked not"

One of my life verses now! Of course, I had prayed about our trip - for God's favor on travel and all we would see - that He would show us his most amazing creations. The first camp we saw lion paw prints but no lions. The second camp was more of a "nature camp" so no lions. Chamu, our trip leader, had told us of all the poaching in Africa - rhinos are practically extinct. Male lions are being killed (the lion population is low because when a male is killed, the new male who takes over has to kill all the cubs to insure the female's loyalty to him. Females produce 4-6 cubs every two years, so if would take a long time to recover) Anyway, everyone was talking about lions, especially us, so one day in the second camp, Chamu asked me "If you don't see any lions, will it still be a great trip?" I said "No. It will be a good trip but not a great trip." We had already seen several animals who are endangered and seldom seen, specifically wild dogs that are extremely rare to see but I told Chamu that, right or wrong, Americans equate Africa with lions and if I went home and said I had not seen lions, everyone would be shocked. Well, obviously later we saw lions and a good many of them.

However, the point of all this is that after two camps without lions, I began really praying that God would show us His lions. I then added leopards (which are also very rare to see as they travel alone and are hard to spot). THEN, praying "you have not because you ask not", I asked to see a Rhino!!

In our last camp, we started the morning drive out spotting a female lion under a tree. She walked into the bush and the guide said there was a male there too but all we could see were ears and a tail now and then. You have to have your eyes closed on safari if you don't want to see elephants and cape buffalo - they are everywhere!!! Leopards and Rhinos complete the Big Five (leopard, rhino, lion, buffalo and elephant) Some travelers see all five, some don't. So, on our afternoon game drive, our guide gets a transmission that a leopard has been spotted in a tree but he is very far away (several kilometers) so we are told to "hold on tight" (realize we are in an open land rover on rough, sandy roads). Off we fly - sometimes at 40K on roads meant for 10-20K. We found the leopard sitting on a large branch, out in the open, just posing for us. He was beautiful!!!



After about 20 minutes, he climbed down. We then drove off for our "Sundowner" where we "say goodbye" to the sun. On the way, another transmission came in saying a rhino was in our camp!!! So we u-turned and sped off again over the same tracks racing back to camp. By the time we got there it was dark. The guides followed the rhino's tracks and using night spotlights found the rhino. Using the lights and binoculars everyone was able to see the rhino!! No pictures of course :-(

When we got back to camp for dinner, it hit us that we had seen the Big Five - all in one day!!!! Our guide said that had happened to him only three times in eight years!!!

We indeed serve a Mighty God!!!

Lions

See the next post for a description of these "action shots"

Here she comes

She coming my way?

Flirting



Aftermath


Here she comes again.

Uh oh! Elephants. Think I'll just go over here.

Back to the bush

Whoa!!!

Getting out of Dodge

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Here We are Again

Well, who would think that a town as big as Victoria Falls would have interent problems for three days? But then again, we are in Africa. Apparently the town also had electrical outages. At least the hotel had generators. Since my last post we have had three days of great experiences. Will post about one of them in another post but on one day we discovered a female with a male lying nearby. They were in the mating season and apparently mate every 15 minutes for several days. Seriously! Anyway as we sat there the female got up and went and "flirted"" with the male. Finally the male got up and mated with her. We were right there - probably 30 feet away. Obviously got great pictures. But of course, I forgot I had video on my camera. *Sigh* Anyway the funniest thing was their reactions after the 20 second mating. Pictures will follow.17 minutes later they were starting again but elephants came along and chased (yes, chased) the male lion off. Amazing!!! Well, the next post will have to wait because apparently we are boarding our plane very early. Not sure what's up with that. It's 8:25 and the flight is to leave at 9:20 so they are loading us. Guess I should say we are in Johannesburg headed for London and then on to DFW tomorrow.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

9 days in bush gone - 3 more to go

I am on Internet earlier than expected because we have a layover in Victoria Falls waiting for the next flight to our last lodge. I wanted to take the last shuttle to the next camp just so I could use the Internet and let you all know we are safe and sound. Having a great time. This post will be just a jumble of thoughts. The BEST thing that has happened so far is that we got stuck in mud in the Delta at night time!! Last night actually. But first let me tell you that the first day at Wilderness Camp, we started out at 6:00 for an early game drive and at 6:30 we had a broken fan belt - they came and fixed that and we were off again only to have the gears off and the fan belt broke again. This time they brought another vehicle. Only 2 hours lost but that was OK because we finally got to see lions!! Seven in all. Two groups of 3 females and 1 male! Woo! Hoo! Lions are scarce in this part of Africa. Anyway, later on we had to stop and have the guide change a tire. Exciting times! Then last evening, we went for our Sundowner drive where we drive a while then stop and see the sundown. In the Delta you drive on sand and cross various strips of water - some shallow, some deep. Crossing one of those, we got stuck!! Water was about waist deep - up to the highest step getting into the Land Rover. It was just beginning to get dark. The guide called for a rescue vehicle who started out for us and THEY had a flat tire!! By the time it was totally dark they arrived - tried to pull us out with a rope but that didn't work so they backed another vehicle to us and we transferred over and drove back to camp. What an experience! We all loved it!! Highlight of the trip!! We have seen elephants, giraffes, millions of Impala, hippos, all kinds of birds, zebras, other antelope, some endangered species and wild dogs which are very scarce and few get to see. We have stayed in various lodges, some luxurious down to the tented cabin we just came from in Wilderness. Nine days with generator electricity which works most of the time but is not on all of the time, no newspapers, internet, phones, TV (except African TV which is a campfire) ....Has been great but we have NO idea what is going on in the world. This morning we rose at 5:30 and left camp at 6:30 - drove an hour in the Land Rover in light rain to the landing strip (NOT an airport), Ben and I were on the 5 seater Cessna (flown by a woman) to the Kasane Airport (real airport). From there we borded a bus to the Botswana border - got off the bus and did the passport thing - back on the bus for ONE minute to Zimbabwe - off the bus for the visa thing. Then we walked across the border to get on another bus (new rules - busses can't cross border) Then an hour ride to Victoria Falls. We will then take an hour flight in a small plane possibly a 3-seater (!) to a landing strip and another hour ride in land rover to our camp. THIS camp has rooms so remote they will DRIVE us to our rooms at night. Before now, we have been walked to our rooms by a guide because of the danger of wild animals. The other morning, we got up to find hippo tracks RIGHT outside our door. One night the guide heard an elephant right near our room. Fun times!! Oh yeah, I forgot, not only will we be driven to our room but the guards will all be armed while escorting us to our lodging - maybe tents, maybe cabins. If we rise before dawn, we have to wait for a guard to come escort us to the lodge. This is the WILD!! We are having a great time. Everyone on the tour has been very nice and we all get along. Of course, there are your odd balls but nothing we can't live with :-) And to some WE may be the odd balls! We have been hot in the daytime - one day suffocatingly so - sometimes at night we have to use a blanket because everything is open air. We do have fans in the room if the electricity is working and on! :-) I think that will hold you for now. We will be back in Victoria Falls in three days and will post again.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

We Have Arrived in Africa

We are visiting with friends of friends this afternoon who are showing us Johannesburg and have graciously allowed me to use their Internet connecton. All we have done so far is fly. Planes have been on time. We got a few hours of sleep in London on the day room. Long flight last night - 10 hours. Ben didn't get any sleep - I got about 3 hours. These friends are keeping us talking and awake this afternoon. Then we can sleep tonight and maybe get on a regular schedule by tomorrow. Unless there is internet in the "bush" you will next hear from us when we reach Victoria Falls.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Family Reunion







Red-Neck Reading Room

Know how some says something - then another idea forms before you know it a whole scheme/plot has taken shape? We had a broken-down recliner on the "burn pile". Dean and Jill saw it and make some comment that it needed to be in front of the burn pile so it could be "seen". Then Dean said, "If you had a broken lamp you could put it beside the recliner" to which I replied "I have one!!" Our pole lamp had gone belly-up a couple of months back. I also had a coffee maker that had died and a n "ugly" mug. Ben took some "trash lumber" and made a make-shift table. Then we arranged it all underneath a tree right by a curve in our driveway so you couldn't miss it as you came down the drive.

It was all in jest but the main attraction about the set-up was that this was the weekend of the Family Reunion and Jan was bringing "her man" Doug to meet everyone. I wish I could have been in the car when they rounded the curve and saw our Red-Nick Reading Room. Of course, I knew Jan's reaction would probably be an eye-rolling "Oh...My.... Gosh" or "I cannot believe they did that!" Actually everyone at the reunion seemed to enjoy our "yard art". One tried to give me "hints" on how to "preserve" it to which I replied "Oh, it will be gone next week. We just did it for Jan!"



Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sunrise

Believe me when I say I am not normally awake for sunrise but this morning I woke VERY early so I grabbed my Cheerios, camera and coffee and went to the porch to watch the beautiful sunrise!



Lovebirds

Jan and Doug are officially an "item". :-) We met him this week and heartily approve.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

What a Day!

Left home at 6:30 to meet some friends for breakfast. Afterward Jan and I went to see another friend I had worked with at the law office who will be moving in Tennessee the last of the month. Then Jan and I went to a wedding. My first bilingual wedding! It was a really beautiful wedding and a great reception. Also my first wedding reception where the guests were served hor'derves by waitresses! And they had one of those photo booths that takes four pictures and they had hats, sunglasses, scarves, etc to wear for the pictures. Really cool. The guests got to take the pictures home in a keepsake bookmark and the bride and groom will get a CD with all the pictures of the attendees!! Neat idea!

And they also had that wonderful flowing fondue-like fountain of chocolate! Be still my heart!!!

Six Degrees of Separation

Isn't that cool? This morning I got up early to have breakfast with Dorothy, an old friend (and I do mean "old" friend) because she was really a friend of my mother's, and she brought Linda, her daughter who was visiting from Albuquerque and who I had gone to school with, lo those many, many, many years ago (but I digress) I told Linda to catch me up on the last 30 years or so in 25 words or less! :-) She and her husband had been missionaries to Columbia, then went to Santa Fe, and then to Albuquerque. I asked her if she had known a pastor in Santa Fe named Charlie. Turns out Charlie was her pastor in Santa Fe and Charlie had been MY pastor in Dallas! Small World.

Then standing in line at the wedding to sign the book, a couple came up to Jan and me. The lady had recognized us. Sad to say I probably would not have recognized her - Jan probably would have! :-) We had gone to church with them at Trinity Heights in Carrollton. We talked a minute or two. They left. And I told Jan, "I know how WE know them. How does the bride's family know them?" So we asked Janell, mother of the bride, who had seen us talking and was also wondering how we knew each other. Kathy and Janell had both homeschooled! We were seated in the church right behind Kathy and her husband and Kathy immediately turned around and said "So, how do you know Janell?" LOL

Gotta love that Six Degrees of Separation. Have to mention that at the reception another woman came up to me who had also gone to Trinity Heights with us but to tell you the truth, I never did remember her. We had a really nice conversation but I really drew a blank. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

GPS - Don't Leave Home Without It

Subtitle: I really hate driving in the Metroplex....or any Big City. OK, so I'm driving home from my day's activities (see other posts). First thing I did was to get on what I THOUGHT was I-35 to find out it was probably the new 121 Tollway. Fortunately I-35 was the next exit and it was the Last Free Exit! YAY! So, now I'm on I-35E headed home. Just before I get to LBJ or 635, I see a traffic jam on Stemmons (I-35E). The closer I get I see it isn't "just" a traffic jam - traffic is completely stopped. So, I'm thinking "What do I do now" I HATE sitting in traffic on freeways. So I took 635 West knowing I could wend my way over to I-35W. Fortunately I had brought Gypsy (my GPS - cute name, huh?) so I set her up and punched "Go Home". After I convinced her that I really did NOT want to turn around and go BACK to I-35E, she directed me to I-35W and even though I had to re-route around Ft. Worth, I still make it home about the same time I thought I would. Thank you, GPS!! (and Thanks to God for prompting me to put Gypsy in the car) :-)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Facebook Rules

Well, since I got on Facebook, blogging seems to have become second fiddle! Well, in looking back, it's only been a month since I last blogged. That's not too bad. :-)

The first of June, Kendall, one of our church's summer intern, came to live with us for the summer. However, we hardly see him. The church people feed them, Steven keeps them plenty busy and for two or three weeks, they will be at camp with the youngsters!

Vacation Bible School was last week. 183 kids came. Had a great turnout and a great time. Lots of workers to keep them under control.....well, kinda under control. :-) I got my usual job of technology. Taking pictures and inserting into a presentation that we played at the end of each day so they could see themselves on the "big screen"!

Other than that it's been pretty much the same ol', same ol'. Ben has a huge project he's working on for the school so that keeps him out of my hair during the day. I'm still working on several projects I need to finish. I do have a deadline though which is good. The Williams' Family Reunion is held over Labor Day at our house.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Video Moment Recipe

Start with a senior citizen (me) carrying a half-full open 5 gallon bucket of white paint. Add two steps off the patio (when the senior citizen thinks there is ONE). Mix in sloping ground (downward, of course!) and you have the makings of a video moment of a "waltz downhill". Would not make America's Funniest Home Video, however, because there was no fall and no spilled paint. Whew!!!! Could have turned out soooooo differently!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tree Cutting 101

Where are the manuals when you need one? I'm not sure Google could even help with this one. So, we are in Nashville, helping Dean and Jill with some home repairs, yard work, etc. and I will probably hurt tomorrow in places I didn't even know I had!! One of our chores was to cut down a couple of dead trees. Ben brought his chain saw but I don't believe he's ever cut down a tree. This tree was near the house which was why they wanted it down. I measured the trunk after it was cut and it is about 19 inches in diameter. No small tree.
First they tied some straps to the tree and ran them to another tree in the yard. Then Ben cut a notch. Then he cut through the trunk. They tried to ratchet the straps to pull the tree down but the knot broke, the tree made a "snap" and Jill and I moved very fast for the house! Another ratchet try broght the same result. Then Ben had me drive the 4-runner down and my question to Ben was "Does insurance cover this?" They tied the strap to the hitch and the knot came untied again. Fourth time (not the third time) was the charm and the tree fell perfectly and because it was dead broke all to pieces. Ben cut up the trunk and he and Dean are removing it "somewhere" Tomorrow we will do it all again with another tree. But this time they are experts!!! No pictures. I know, I know, you are disappointed. It may be that Dean got some with his phone. If so, I will post. Jill says we will get the camera tomorrow but it will be anticlimatic! All the excitement was today! :-)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Country Livin' #3

OK, so I've talked to Dean about our upcoming trip - head out to Ben in the shop to tell him the latest. Stop at the 4-runner to put down the back seats so we'll have room for all the stuff we're taking. Then I hear a noise in the garage by the freezer. Wonder if Ben has come in so I peek around the back of the truck and out comes Mr. Skunk! Good thing I'm not the screaming kind....so I "quickly" head toward the shop and tell Ben. By this time Mr. Skunk has come out of the garage (thankfully) and is now on the front porch, then heads down the front of the house apparently looking for a spot to hole up. Next time I look out he's at the front of the shop headed toward the big doors.....where I am! Yikes!!! Ben goes out and "scares' him away - braver that me! And Mr. Skunk obligingly trots off into the field. Ben tells me to keep an eye on him not telling me that he is going to the house to get the gun. I think he just wants me to be sure the skunk's not circling around.....like I would do anything to dissuade him!! Anyway, Ben comes out but the skunk is gone. Good ol' country livin' Never a dull moment.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Country Livin' - Two Stories

Gotta love livin' in the country and small towns:

First Story: Ben goes out to mow this morning. Battery on the riding mower is shot - not too surprising. He can usually charge it with his very old charger but critters had chewed off the electrical plug. So he gets a new battery only to find that the critters have chewed up the wiring in the mower. Then he proceeds to get out the power push mower only to find that the critters have EATEN most of the cable you pull to start the mower. So off to the hardware store to buy some rope and he manages to rig it to start the mower. So with 2/3 of the day gone, he is finally mowing the grass!!

Second Story: I'm in the dentist chair getting my teeth cleaned when the dentist pops in to ask t the name of the guy a friend is marrying this weekend. She says she has called DB and left her a message not realizing I was coming in today and could probably tell her. I tell her that DB is out of town but I am able to give her the name. Later on, still in the chair, I get a text message. I assume it's from my daughter but turns out it is from DB asking me the guy's name because some has asked her and she can't get to her invitation because she's out of town. (Gotta love technology) I laugh and text her back, telling her I know who is asking because I'm in her now!! Then I tell the dentist and we all get a big laugh. What are the chances of that happening??? :-)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Great Horned Owl



This morning when I went to the church for Sewing Day, I learned that a Great Horned Owl was on the church grounds. A lady out for her morning walk spotted him and called our pastor. They corralled it so it wouldn't get into the street and get run over. Poor thing couldn't fly either because it was too young or had been hurt. The police came with a cage to hold the owl until the Game Warden could come get it. Very beautiful bird. We were fortunate to be able to see it up close and personal!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Solitaire

Kinda sad that the most interesting thing I have to post is that I FINALLY have the high score on Solitaire! I get hooked on a game and it become habit forming. The one thing I don't like about Solitaire is that it is timed and I can't minimize it while I do other stuff. *sigh* Anyway I haven't come close to setting the high score. Ben did it twice....TWICE....the other day. But today I'm Top Dog!! Probably not for long but I'll enjoy it while it lasts!!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Peeps

I blew my daughter away this weekend! We had our annual ladies' retreat and I was explaining how the Lord led me to this year's speaker. I said "I realized I knew people (friends and family) that might have some speaker suggestions, so I emailed my peeps for suggestions." Well! I just wish you could have seen her face!!! Priceless!

Now I have to add a caveat and tell you that I just recently learned what "peeps" meant even though I know the term's been around for a while. A couple of weeks ago I asked someone what it meant and learned that it meant "people"! So since I am all for expanding my vocabulary, I now have peeps!!!! :-)

Leaning new lingo: educational
Seeing my daughter's face when I use new lingo (in public, no less!): Priceless!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

More India Pics Online

Our tour group said we would share our pics. These are ones that I posted for them. Of course, what I think is interesting or unusual and what they think may be entirely different things! :-) So, anyway, if you're a glutton for punishment or have nothing else better to do, here's a link to about another 100 shots. Some are the same as the others I uploaded but some are different.
http://picasaweb.google.com/benandlola/IndiaToShare

Saturday, April 4, 2009

County Garage Sale

Today was Bosque County's Garage Sale. Heart Cottage Bed and Breakfast does a big garage sale and last year and this year I was the hostess showing people Heart Cottage and spreading the word about the B&B. The kids and I lived there for 3 weeks when we moved to Clifton before our rent house was ready. I always have a good time telling people about Heart Cottage and of course, Vivian always has snacks and then serves a free lunch (with donations for our local animal shelter). Today was great. AND I sold $30 worth of stuff! :-)

Friday, April 3, 2009

India Pictures Online

I looked at the 2,447 pictures we took. Chose some representative shots. Still had too many. Was able to get the number down to a little over 100. Obviously, this is just a "taste" of what we saw but tese will give you an idea of India.
http://picasaweb.google.com/benandlola/India?feat=email#
If this doesn't show up as a "link" you can copy and paste it into your browser. If that doesn't work, leave me a comment or email me and I'll send you the link.

NOW I feel like I'm home

Just took my first allergy pill in a month! *sigh* Gotta love Texas!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Amazing Race Goes to India!

How cool is this? I'm catching up on The Amazing Race and they go to India!!! They started in Jaipur at the Amber Fort where we went. (Trivia buffs should know that it is pronounced Amer Fort). One of their choices is to either bicycle through the town with a load of barrels or dress up and dance for 100 rupees ($2). No contest. You'd have to be CRAZY to navigate Indian traffic. Several commented on the driving and I laughed when one woman said the horns were driving her up the wall!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Highway Code of India

Our Trip Leader was gracious enough to give us a copy of the Highway Code of India so we could understand what was going on with the traffic. I believe we personally experienced each one of these.

Article I: The assumption of immortality is required of all road users.

Article II: Indian traffic like Indian society is structured on a strict caste system. The following precedence must be accorded at all times. In descending order, give way to: cows, elephants, camels, buffalo, pigs, goats, dogs, heavy trucks, buses, official cars, pedal rickshaws, private cars, motorcycles, scooters, auto-rickshaws, handcarts and pedestrians.

Article III: All wheeled vehicles shall be driven in accordance with the maxim: to slow be to falter, to brake is to fail; to stop is defeat. This is the Indian drivers' mantra.

Article IV: Use of horn (also known as the sonic fender or the language of the road) Cars: Short blasts (urgent) indicate supremacy, i.e. in cleaning dogs, rickshaws and pedestrians from path. Long blasts (desperate) denote supplication, i.e. to oncoming trucks "I am going too fast to stop, so unless you slow down we shall both die" In extreme cases this may be accompanied by flashing of headlights (frantic). Single blast (casual) means: "I have seen someone out of India's 1 billion whom I recognize", "There is a bird in the road which at this speed could go through my windscreen", or "I have not blown my horn for several minutes."
Trucks and Buses: All horn signals have the same meaning. "I have an all-up weight of approximately 12.5 tons and have no intention of stopping, even if I could" This signal may be emphasized by the use of headlamps.

Article V: All maneuvers, use of horn and evasive action shall be left until the last possible moment.

Article VI: In the absence of seat belts (which there is) car occupants shall wear garlands of marigolds. These should be kept fastened at all times.

Article VII: Rights of way: Traffic entering a road from the left has priority. So has traffic from the right, and also traffic in the middle. Lane discipline: All Indian traffic at all times and irrespective of direction of travel shall occupy the centre of the road.

Article VIII: Traffic Management: It's a jungle out there. Apparent traffic islands in the middle of the crossroads have no traffic management function. Any other impression should be ignored.

Article IX: Overtaking is mandatory. Every moving vehicle is required to overtake every other moving vehicle, irrespective of whether it has just overtaken you. Overtaking should only be undertaken in suitable conditions, such as in the face of oncoming traffic, on blind bends at junctions and in the middle of villages/city centers. No more than two inches should be allowed between your vehicle and the one you are passing - one inch in the case of bicycles or pedestrians.

Article X: Nirvana may be obtained through the head-on crash. Note: OK, we didn't personally experience this one but it wasn't because our drivers weren't trying!)

Article XI: Reversing: What's this? Not many drivers in India like to use this gear. It's against their driver's mantra.

Article XII: The 10th incarnation of God was an articulated tanker.

Picture Count

I have loaded the pictures on the computer. We took 2,447 pictures!!! I filled up three notebooks full of notes. We have our work cut out for us!!

Long Ride Home

Yes, we ARE home!! We did about 3 hours sleep in the hotel bed from about 6-9 p.m. At 11 we left the hotel. Plane was on time so we left Mumbai about 2:40 a.m. So that meant we had "dinner" at 4 a.m. and breakfast at noon. Arrived in London after a 9 hour flight - London time 7:00 a.m. Then at 10:45 London time boarded the last leg home. Another 9 hour flight (icky plane food) and landed in DFW about 4:30 p.m. Dallas time. Got through customs easily enough and home in Clifton about 7:30 p.m. Clifton time. Body time it was 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning - just about 48 hours since we got up at 5:15 a.m. in Mumbai Friday. And to think we pay good money to be subject to torture like this!

Rides home were exciting. We had just settled on the plane in Mumbai when someone spotted a mosquito in the plane and the announcement was made that they were going to spray the airplane! Actually announced that the spray was not toxic to humans. Good thing since they had about 300 people squeezed in a tiny space. Did suggest covering nose and mouth and eyes if you wore contact lenses. You would think they could have done that BEFORE boarding. We just laughed - what else could you do.

After we settled on the plane to DFW, Kathy appeared and said she had "lost" her passport. She KNEW she had it when she boarded the plane so we knew it was somewhere. After everyone else had cleared the plane we searched again and the cabin attendant found it stuck in the lining of her bag.

As we were coming into DFW, the pilot announced it was chilly on the ground and 30-35 mph winds. We had a couple of roller coaster dips and I thought "Great! Fly halfway round the world to crash on our own doorstep!" I began praying that 1) the passport would be found and 2) that the wind would die down and the pilot would have the skill to land the plane safely. That was the SMOOTHEST landing we had the entire trip. Didn't even FEEL when we touched down. Is our God great, or what?? :-)

So good to be home where you can brush your teeth with water from the tap! The small things we take for granted!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Headed Home

We got a wakeup call this morning at 5:15 in order to catch our 8:30 flight to Mumbai. After our city tour we arrived at our hotel about 4:00 p.m. We leave tonight at 11:00 p.m., giving us 7 hours to re-pack for the flights home, hopefully catch a few winks, shower and get as fresh as we can for the trek home. Our flight from Mumbai leaves at 2:40 a.m. We have about a 4 hours layover at Heathrow and another long flight to DFW. If all goes well we should be at DFW about 5:00 Sat. night and be at home in Clifton by 9:00 (hopefully) after getting luggage, through customs, etc. etc. (Oh yes, I have to mention that today we stopped at McDonalds for lunch. French Fries and Chocolate Shakes! Yum!!!) Not looking forward to airplane food. I figure by the time we get home we will have not slept in a bed for about 48 hours. *groan* That's the price you pay for travel! :-) Ben finally had to put in a new chip in the camera so he has taken over 2000 pictures!! Will post when we are home.

Mumbai

Well, we finished at Cochin with a sunset cruise around the harbor and got pictures of the sun setting behind the Chinese fishing boats which seems to be "the picture" for Cochin advertisements. We flew to Mumbai this morning and OAT arranged a city tour for us of Mumbai. We saw the Victoria Terminus Railway Station and the Taj Mahal Hotel that was hit by terrorists in November. The Taj already has a monument for the people who were killed. At a result of those attacks, all hotels now have tight security, which is a good thing. Mumbai is and is not what I expected. I did expect a big city (33,000,000 people) and I did expect slums (per the movie Slumdog Millionaire) What I didn't expect is that Mumbai is more of a European city architecturally wise. They do have the small little shops jammed together but they also have larger drab concrete apartments like we saw in China with the laundry hanging out the windows. The buildings have a more European feel. Driving in the city is just as "adventurous" as the country - not as exciting as in watching semi's head right toward you but as in a very confusing street design. Driving in India is not for the faint of heart. RIDING in India is not for the faint of heart! :-) We did see the slums that looked just like in the movie. I can attest to the fact that the movie was accurate as far as the slums although forturnately we only saw them from a distance but they cover huge areas of land - some are two story and all crowded together. All in all I guess we have seen three different aspects of India. North, South and Mumbai.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Eating off a banana leaf

Have to quickly post this! The houseboat crew got some banana leaves and fixed us a typical South Indian meal. We must have had 20 different curries on the banana leaf. Guide explained what each was. Thankfully, South Indian food is not as spicy as North Indian food. We even had French Fries today for lunch!!! We are doing much better with the food and digestive tract. Only need to make it a few more days! Continue to pray for us! :-) Got some cool shots of the banana leaf feast. Fortunately, you don't have to eat the banana leaf!!!

Coming Home

We fly to Mumbai Friday morning. OAT has scheduled us a half-day tour of Mumbai. We will probably get to the airport around midnight Friday for our 2;40 a.m. flight Sat. morning to arrive home at DFW around 5:00 Sat. afternoon (another 24 hour day on the road) We are not looking forward to the two long flights but since "Beam me up, Scotty" doesn't work yet - that's our only option. Looking forward to getting home!!!

Kerala and Cochin - Houseboat

WOW!!! What a difference. So glad we came to South India. Totally different India. Kinda like seeing US for first time and going from New York City to Florida! The houseboat experience was awesome. Accommodations were kinda like a cruise ship. Tiny but we didn't spent any time in the room except sleeping. They turned the AC on during siesta and at night. We had six attendants (two chefs). It was great!! We cruised and stopped and walked in the villages and then cruised again. We had to stop at 6:00 p.m. because of the fisherman. Didn't want to get caught in the nets. Several of the places we stopped rarely saw strangers (white people) It was so neat. We would smile and they would smile back! Waved to everyone on the shore. People bathed in the backwater, brushed teeth, washed clothes (i.e. beat them against a rock) In South India, the men wear long sarong skirts and fold them up and tuck them in to be cool. That's kinda different. Saw a lot of neat things - have a bunch of pictures of course. OH!!! The coolest thing was the duck farmers. That's right, duck farmers. We were in the boat - looked out and saw thousands of ducks swimming across the water!! They get eggs from them to sell. We saw several duck farmers and I was enthralled every time!! Sooo cute!!
We are in Cochin now - just another big city. Driving is just as scary but not so many horns!! Tomorrow night is a harbor cruise and home hosted dinner with a Syrian Christian family.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Remember we are out of touch for a while

We fly tomorrow to Cochin, get on a houseboat for 3 nights and then go to a hotel in Cochin so I won't be able to post for several days. But when I DO post, it'll be a doozy!!! :-)

Today

We learned about Buddhaism (sp) today. Very interesting. Of course, I changed shorts right before we left and forgot my notebook :-( so I had to try to remember everything. Out of our hotel window this morning I saw four students studying at 7:00 before they went to school. They were on their roof reading, writing. What a concept! Had a Yoga class this morning. Very interesting, very easy, mostly breathing. After breakfast we went to the museum and place where Buddha preached his first sermon. Our guide while in Varanasi was so good. He was understandable, spoke slowly and repeated what he said so we could remember. Don't know if I mentioned this or not but the hawkers hit you up everywhere - as you get off the bus, when you get on the bus. The Trip Leader shows us their wares on the bus so he can tell us the "real price" Then we had a plane ride. The pilot said one hour but it was 1 1/2 hours. Then we landed on the longest runway in the world and taxied for 20 minutes (no joke) Then a circuitous route to the airport - got the luggage and got to the hotel for a few hours. Some of our group will leave tonight to go home and eight of us go on to Kerala/Cochin in South India. We have a 3:45 a.m. wake up call in the morning. They will have a light breakfast of toast and coffee/tea and we leave for the airport at 4:30 for our 6:30 flight. We actually have two legs - one leg to Bangalore and then on to Cochin and the houseboat!!!! Cannot wait. Ben is doing much better.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Strolling Through India

Yep, just took a stroll through Varanasai.....by myself.....well, it was going to be myself until I saw another woman from our group going the same way. I walked about 1/2 mile maybe down to the mall where there was a Pizza Hut and got the 4 of us some pizza. Yum!!!

Ganges Morning Ceremony

We got a wake-up call at 4:45 this morning and left at 5:15. This after getting up the last two mornings very early in the morning. Other days it was to escape the heat of the day for which we were thankful!! But this morning it was so we could be on the Ganges for the sunrise ceremony. People come to the Ganges to bathe both physically and as a religious act. They also wash clothes in the Ganges using clay as soap (?) but the clay absorbs the dirt. There are people Bhobi (maybe) that are hired by people to wash their clothes. They dip them in the water and slap them against the rocks. I got good pictures. Also got some good pictures of the sunrise as well. Also other pictures of various ceremonies an people. Very interesting. And again this goes on every morning. Not sure what happens during the monsoon when the river rises about 50 feet!

Ganges Evening Ceremony

Last night we got on a rickety boat in the Ganges River. (ow to be precise it is not the Ganges River. The river is the Ganga River. To show respect or honor, Indians add "gig" pronounced "gee" to the end of a word. For example Ghandi would be Ghandigig (Ghandi-gee) When the British came, they said Ganges rather than Ganga-gee. So now you have your Indian trivia for the day.) We saw the cremation places (no pictures allowed out of respect for the deceased) They cremate 300-400 bodies a day. It is important to be cremated here (I'll explain in person - too long for a post) so they cremate 24 hours a day - only place that does that. It was a very moving time to see how it is done. There was a small boy who was there to probably cremate his father. Then we moved back down river for the ceremony for thanking the Ganges for the day. This is a very precisely done ceremony and it is done every night. It concerns singing, blowing the cong, ringing bells and using incense and smoke and then lights. Very beautiful ceremony. There are two places on the river doing the same thing at basically the same thing but of course not together. Everyone has bells to ring. At one point I called it a cacaphony of sound (which is mild to say the least) The guide was excellent at explaining everything going on. There were about 100,000 people on the banks and in boats. I have no idea how many boats but one could have just walked from boat to boat to boat. Before the ceremony was over our boat began to make its way to shore so we could leave before the other 99,999, 985 people! :-)

O-H M-Y G-O-S-H

You may remember my post on the first rickshaw ride we had - I believe it was in Dehli but who knows. Well, that was NOTHING compared to last night. The bus could only take us so far and then we took a rickshaw ride to the Ganges River for the evening ceremonies (see other post). The roads are too narrow (and crowded) for the bus. Our rickshaw driver was about 50 - maybe 5' 1" and maybe 110 pounds but very wiry and strong (to pull both of us) :-) Oh, the horns and the traffic. The round-abouts were the most fun with vehicles of all kinds roaring in from all different directions trying to be somewhere else all at the same time. I really don't see how accidents keep from happening. I LOVED it!! Such an adventure. Saw a bull inside a store - a very stylish store at that - asleep on the floor (it was still there when we returned later that evening). I am convinced all the cows and probably most of the people are deaf from the horns and that the horn is the first thing that wear out on any vehicle in India. And horns are like phone rings - all different. When we returned after the ceremony the rickshaw riders found us - they waited for us and recognized us. The trip leader said "not to worry. Your driver will find you" Well, there were ONLY 100,000 people at the ceremony - how hard could it be to find two Americans!! Of course, we met at a prearranged place but our driver did indeed recognize us and did speak English very well. As we were returning to the bus, the narrow escapes just kept on coming. One time I told Ben "I think I'll close my eyes" The driver looked back and said "no problem" :-) Then another time a motorcycle came roaring in from our left, a tuk-tuk was headed straight for us on the right and I told Ben "I feel like lunchmeat!" What a ride!!! The driver asked what hotel we were staying in and we said the Raddison and he commented that he lived near the Raddison (I think he was drumming up business for the next day) Anyway Ben said to me "Is he taking us to the hotel or the bus" The driver looked back and said "Bus two minutes away!" It was about 8:00 and dark by this time and we suddenly left the lights and I realized to my dismay that our rickshaw had no lights! No one could see us coming! ARGHHH! But then we were at the bus. I didn't literally kiss the ground but spiritually I think I did! Actually this was the highlight of the trip. So exciting!! Only sideswiped a couple of cows on the way not to mention pedestrians!

Airplane Ride

Our first in-country plane ride went just fine. It was running late but did not cause any problems. Security is very tight for which we are always grateful. I have learned now that to go through security I will take everything out of my pockets and not have to stand there and empty them one at a time. We cannot take any liquids or pastes in the luggage so it takes a different kind of packing. Of course now I'm not only carrying my stuff but some of Kathy's as well! :-) Tomorrow we fly to Delhi and after the next day to Mumbai and Cochin.

What you get when you assume

When the doctor came to see Ben the first time we "assumed" he gave him an antiobiotic. It turns out he did not which is why he never got any better. We called a doctor again today because he was still not feeling good and this doctor said taking the Cipro we had with us should take care of the problem. Ben was not taking the Cipro because 1) I didn't know fever and chills indicated gastro problems and 2) because we thought the doctor had given him an antiobiotic. *sigh* So, now that he is on Cipro, he should get better. We'll pray to that end.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ben still tired

He taking antibiotics and trudging onward. He is just really tired. Please keep praying. We reach the houseboat in 3 days and that should be restful.

Random Ramblings

OK, I looked back over my notes which look very interesting because trying to write on a very bumpy bus is NOT easy. I only hope I can interpret all that when I get home! Anyway, I jotted down several things in no particular order and they will be all jammed up together. So here goes. I am now on notebook #3. In the streets we see pigs, cows and water buffalo. They just wander around everywhere. I think I mentioned the dung is collected and used for fuel. Actually though I have not seen any "minefields" in the streets, which is rather surprising. We passed a man or woman walking down the side of the road with a load of hay on their head at least 10' by 10'. It was enormous!! Oh, we went to a castle that people can ride elephants to (I may have mentioned this also) and I had my picture taken with an elephant! Too cool! We saw a man who makes pottery. He had a big round spinning wheel. It sat on a little point of wood in the middle as the balance and spinner. He had a stick that he put on the wheel and spun the wheel around and around and around. Then he put a blob of clay on the wheel. He proceeded then to make SIX different pieces of pottery from that one blob of clay and never had to spin the wheel again. I bet it spun for 10 minutes or more! I was amazed. We have ridden in many different types of transportation. The other day it was a Jugad - kinda like a pick up - Of course there were only 13 of us in it rather than 35! :-) The Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan in memory of his wife who died after 19 years of marriage. During that time she bore him 14 children and had 3 miscarriages. Story goes that a woman asked her husband if he would built her a Taj Mahal (Crown Palace) and he said "Sure. If you will bear me 14 children in 19 years!" LOL Ok, so much for my random ramblings.

Toilets, Bath, Urinals

At the train station, our bus stopped and I looked out the window and saw this sign on a building so I grabbed the camera. THEN I noticed that the urinals were next to the building OUTSIDE and there was a man in there!! I really thought about taking a picture but decided against it. Looking out the window and even walking down a street, you see men "occupied" just about everywhere and I'm putting sure I saw one sqatting about 20 feet from the road. I mean, they don't even find a tree for goodness sake!!

No Internet on Houseboat

Before I forget I want to tell you we will be on a houseboat for three days - March 22 until 24 and I may not be able to post until the 25th so don't get worried when there are no posts for awhile! :-) We'll be floating down the river!!

Separated From Group! Alone in India!!

Well....kinda. This morning we took a two hour train ride. Not the way most of the locals do - crammed into a car, sitting on the luggage racks but more or less in first class! The Trip Leader told us the car (C2) and began handing out seats which were done alphabetically. He gave Ben his number but not me. Hello! Then he said he and I would be in Car C1. Okay. Not a big deal. Train came and I told Shailes I would stay with him. He said "Oh no, you can go on and get on C1" and he then went to help the others get situated. Obviously C1 and C2 were connected so I walked to the front of the C1 car, stood in line, got on, found our seats and sat down. The train starts moving and no sign of Shailes but I'm not worried. I know where the others are. The thing that DOES cross my mind is that if Shailes does not appear, how do I know where to get OFF! Not to worry. Shailes came back and said there was actually a seat next to Ben and I could go there. So I did. Very nice smooth train ride. Quite a change from the bumpy roads!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tomorrow

We get the chance to experience Indian transportation by taking a 2 hour train ride. It won't be the local experience, thankfully, we will have reserved seating in an air conditioned car. Then we have a 5 hours bus ride broken up by a stop for lunch. They are careful to tell you it will be on bumpy roads. Truthfully I think all India has is bumpy roads - some are just more bumpy than others. This is the thing I love about OAT. You just don't visit the country, you experience the country!! When you see a country with OAT you SEE a country.

Tonight

We decided not to go to the optional tour which was a multi-media I-MAX type of presentation on Indian History. I had seen the 6 hours of PBS The Story of India and have heard enough Indian history so I didn't feel I needed to pay for the privilege of learning more. So Ben slept most of the afternoon away. I read and took a walk about the hotel grounds. We are in a huge walled complex. My only problem was when I got back inside the hotel. Kept going up and down flights of stairs looking for my floor! :-) Dinner was on our own. Indians and tourists eat late. The buffet where we ate last night opens at 7:30. We ate at the Pavillion Cafe at 6:00 and were the only patrons there! A restaurant just for us! LOL

Souvenirs

Hawkers are everywhere, especially the tourist sites. You just have to push your way through and not make eye contact. When we are on the bus, the trip leader shows their wares on the bus. The bus is his territory and he can tell us the "real price" and whether it is a good deal. I'm sure he is disappointed by the trinkets we buy. The jewelry we buy he says is only for tourists. Real Indians don't wear it. We tell him the people back home don't know that! :-) But it is much easier dealing with him than the hawkers. And before I forget, Ben asked me if I saw the begger on the street at the ATM. I said "no" because I had just walked past her but then I did remember a little girl of maybe 7 or 8 with a baby in her arms asking for money. Ben was on the bus with the others waiting for us to finish with the ATM and he said she was beating the baby trying to make him cry! *sigh* Also, there was a guard with a rifle at the ATM and at the Taj. They search you very carefully at the Taj and at every hotel we go to we go through security every time we enter. You won't get any complaints from me about that!

Taj Mahal

Well, what can you say about the Taj Mahal except WOW!!! We left at 6:15 in order to see it at dawn (well, near dawn) For ecological reasons, we transferred to an electric bus to go the last bit. The Taj Mahal took 22 years to build and 20,000 workers and what a work of art it is. We had our pictures made from several angles :-) And the hype is right. As the sun rises, the Taj changes. Made of white marble it just gleams. Most everyone has seen pictures of the Taj but they are always from far away. When you get up close and personal the majesty really comes through. Magnificient!!! Awe-inspiring and jaw dropping beauty.

We are Doing Well

Ben is feeling better. He ate some soup last night and that perked him up. Our Trip Leader went out and replenished his medicines. He was able to go to the Taj Mahal (I think I would have had to take him on a stretcher!) and the Red Fort. Thanks again for your prayers and please, keep them up. We have ten more days to go!

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Day in the Life

OAT has begun a new program this year. They used to take travelers to a school on every trip and the travelers brought small gifts to the school, pencils, books, pens, whatever. This year they are endeavoring to adopt a village!! So this morning we visited a village OAT is trying to adopt. It's not easy with all the red tape and hoops they have to jump through. They can't do everything but they want to center on sanitation and education. When we arrived, the children came running. Told us their name - wanted to know ours! They didn't speak much English although they are studying it. We were there on a Sunday so school was not in session. However, the principal had the children line up for their morning prayer. This was led by 4 girls who said a few lines, then the rest of the children joined in. This went back and forth for a good five minutes. The children were kneeling in straight lines. Such discipline! We walked through the village and then went to the house of one of the villagers and had tea and cookies. We got to see his house which was really only one room but he did have a TV! :-) I think this is a very good thing that OAT has started. They have a pharmacy and clinic and they are trying to teach them sanitation and pre-natal care and care for the babies. They are also looking into Distance Learning through Video Conferencing because young teachers will come to a village, get some experience and then leave for a better job. DL may allow them to have the best teachers. Oh yes! After we visited the village, we went to a women's coop where they make items. We bought several things - helping the local economy. When we got back on the bus, the man whose home we had visited had come to find us. Someone in the village had found some money and brought it to him knowing it had come from our group because it was a lot of rupees. Kathy had dropped from her purse. She had noticed it missing but knew it was her fault she had lost it so had said nothing. He returned it to her because if he hadn't it would have been a smear on him, OAT and his country. Is that not amazing!!!

Another View of Begging

Children and even adults continue to beg. However, our trip leader has given us new insight into this. Indians have not always been beggers. Tourists have enabled them by giving them things trying to be helpful. You see a hungry child and you want to help. What is it to us to give someone a pen or a few rupees. The trip leader said he had at one time encouraged his clients to take the soaps and shampoos from the hotel rooms and give to the poor. Unfortunately, this help turned into an expectation. The people came to see tourists (white people) as people who would give them money and things. And some still do but our trip leader tells us not to give. I had a couple of kids today actually reach for my pen!! It is sad.

Continue to pray for Ben

He took his medicine and was feeling better. I started feeling poorly so he offered the last of his medicine to me. Then today he began to feel poorly again. I still had the medicine except for the antiobiotic so the trip director was going to get the medicine for him tonight. tomrorow at 6:15 a.m. we are leaving to go to the Taj Mahal. That is the big thing for tomorrow and after than we come back to the hotel about 9:00 for breakfast. Pray that he will be able to push through and do the Taj Mahal and then he can come back and rest the rest of the day. Again we appreciate all your prayers even though it does seem sometimes we bring our troubles on ourselves. Thankfully Ben will have an easy day tomorrow because the next day will be a challenge. We take about a 2 hour train ride and then a 2 1/2 bus ride to our next hotel. They are letting us experience the Indian way of travel. We are really getting immersed in the country. We are not just driving through looking at monuments. We are getting to see India in action.

What a ride!!!

Yesterday we drove to the OAT camp. This camp has 12 tents for "campers". They are big tents with zippered walls. Spacious enough. Bathroom was modern but the shower was a stool and a spray shower. Interesting!! We had a good time. Of course with ear plugs didn't hear much while we slept. The Trip Leader had suggested we just pack an overnight back rather than lug our suitcases to the tent so we did that. We then met at 5:00 for the camel ride. The camels were there on their knees. We all mounted our camel. They were "two peerson" camels with a saddle and a pillow behind the saddle. We all sat on the pillow because that was the more stable ride. Get on the camel was easy. STAYING on the camel while it got up was interesting. You are holding onto the hub of the saddle with one hand and the back of the saddle with the other and then hang on for dear life! The camel throws you forward as the hind legs come up then back at the front legs come up. Ben showed the Trip Leader (who is also an amateur photographer) how to take pictures so we have pictures of the whole process for Ben and I! Then we were led by the camel's owner around through several villages. We saw and waved to the women working in the fields, to the children waving to us and the adults in the villages. These villages were pretty clean considering they had cows and water buffalo all around. They pick up the dung, mix with straw, form into patties and dry them (sometimes on the roof) and then stack them for fuel. They are very good for fuel because they burn slowly for cooking and heating. Apparently they don't smell because the air is so hot and dry they dry quickly. All I can tell you is everywhere we go (except in the big cities) we see stacks and stacks of "fuel". The ride lasted about 40 minutes and then we dismounted after the camel laid down. The camel is a most unusual animal!! We also see camels all along the road pulling carts. The ride was terrific. Riding a camel through the India countryside! Wow!!! Afterwards we had some men come and perform a song and dance for us. They were very good in what they did although we didn't have a clue as to what they were saying or what the story was all about.

God Showed His Favor on us today

My last post on the Safari told you we had seen one tiger fairly close - maybe 50 feet away. This afternoon we took off again. They gave us Track 4 which is a long track and word was that a lioness with two cubs had killed a deer and had not finished it yet. We were going to "go fast" to see if we could see them. That sounded good until you know that "go fast" on a safari track meant that we were thrown in the air, tossed from side to side and have our teeth jarred in our heads. After maybe 45 minutes we came to the place. There were several other vehicles waiting also. We waited and waited. While the others were talking and one even started complaining about how she wanted to go back!! I was praying that God would shower us with His grace and favor and bring the tigers out for us to enjoy. As I have mentioned in previous posts, Beth Moore says God loves to show off for us and what better thing to show off than the magnificient tiger? So, I prayed. JUST before it was time to start back (the park closes at 6:00) here they came. TWO tigers. First they were behind the trees and the guide was frantic trying to get us to spot them in the trees. I finally did (had the binoculars) Then they came down and again were about 50 feet away!! TWO tigers!! WOW!! So we watched and took pictures like made. Then the tigers went back into the grass and we left. Now we only had 30 minutes to get out of the park and if we don't get out, the guide and driver can be suspended for 4 of the 8 month season. So I believe they took a short cut and we drove out of the park exactly at 6:00 but I cannot begin to tell you how rough a ride that was!! THEN on the way out of the park there was a line of traffic looking at something. It was a LEOPARD in a tree. Leopards are very hard to spot and rarely are seen. Our trip leader said he had made 100 trips to the park and this was the second time he had seen a leopard. We were able to get some shots and I think at least one of them will be good. Can you believe that?? God answered the pray about the tiger and then gave us a bonus with the Leopard! How Great is Our God!!!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Gridlock

You ain't seen gridlock until you've seen gridlock in India. We were driving through a small town and suddenly it seemed everyone converged at the same intersection going every which direction and NO ONE could move! It was insane. The villagers loved it and were waiving - as cuious about us as we about them. I tried to take pictures but they really don't tell the tale. No one was moving. Our Trip Leader got out of the bus and somehow vehicles began to move and we went on without taking out the fruit stand. We were scant inches away from brushing the pole holding up the top. That would have been a mess. I have no idea how we miss hitting cars, etc.

Various

Surprisingly enough India is not that much or a foreign country. In talked to home host and trip leader, their political situation mirrors ours. English is almost the first language. Virtually all signage is in English. It gives you a feeling of normalcy although India is certainly different but I didn't expect so much English. The people are so gracious even the ones on the street. All bow, smile and speak. Ladies' saris are beautiful. Even the ones working in the fields are brightly colored. Children of course are adorable the world around. Did some shopping while I was here. Even bargained.....all by myself!! The most disturbing sight is all the trash. They don't pick up anything. The reuse a lot of things but trash doesn't seem to be one of thlem. 85% of India has no sanitation, thus no drinking the water anywhere.

Tomorrow

We will drive to the OAT camp and stay in tented rooms. We will ride a camel to a local village (no mention of how we will return!) Then dinner outside tomorrow night with local dancers. This should be a real treat.

Tiger! Tiger!

We took one safari ride today in an open canter (big jeep) Looked all over for the tigers. Have seen monkeys (Lampurs), deer, peacocks, birds, etc. Followed the tiger tracks with no success. However, near the end a tiger was spotted leaving the park and everyone raced after him/her. And we spotted him!!! Beautiful. Ben got several good pictures!! We have another safari ride this afternoon. Maybe God will favor us and show off his beautiful Bengal Tiger for us again. There are 32 here. We might even see a leopard.

Palacial Hotel

We are staying in a palacial hotel slap dab in the middle of nowhere. It is actually near the Rathborme (sp) National Park. It is a hotel built to look like an old palace. They did a great job. Fooled me! :-) Our room is HUGE. I have plenty of pictures. For an example, you know hotels that have courtyards and rooms around the courtyard. There are THREE rooms on each side of the courtyard. It's about the size of a small apartment. So beautiful. Everyone is so accommodating. The chef fixed up yogurt and bananas for those not feeling well. Of course, Ben politely asked if he could take his back to the room where it was disposed of but not in the way the chef intended. (just to be on the safe side) Might have been fine but Ben is picky!

Home Visit

Our second home visit was to a very rich family's estate. Unbelivable and of course, I did not take the camera. :-( Really didn't think I would need it. Wrong!!! Nine bedrooms, huge home. Ceilings were hand painted along all edges with painting in the ceiling and around the light fixtures and fans. Large lawn with bar and gazebo. They served us beer and I was first to be served. Thought it was beer but what do you do? So I took it and "sipped but didn't sip" After a bit Kathy leaned over and said "I'm going to switch glasses with you" :-) Hosts were so gracious. We had a lovely time. Two couples decided not to go just because they didn't want Indian food. Boy, did they miss out!!!

And we're back....and Ben is doing well

Sorry for the delay in posting about Ben but he really didn't make a recovery until night before last. The next morning after he got sick we got the doctor. He came at 7:00 a.m. (15 minutes after the desk clerk called him) Said it was early onset gastrowhatever. I didn't know that started with fever and chills or I would have started him on the Prescription medicine we had with us. Doctor gave Ben two medicines in 1 shot. 3 medicines to take and 2 more medicines if needed. ALL for $60 - what a deal. That afternoon he was still having chills but when I got home after our Home Visit he was feeling better and had broken into a sweat when his fever broke. Since that time he has steadily improved. Still eating very lightly. No nausea or diarhea (sp). He's just tired and weak from no food. Yesterday he passed on a trip and didn't miss much. Today is two safari rides and tomorrow more riding in the bus and a camel ride. Any walking tour he would not be able to do. We appreciate all your prayers. You know what you get when you assume. I did not post the morning we left because you all were going to bed. I planned to post that evening about the time you woke up. Well, of course, the computer was having problems and I couldn't post. Jan called because she had not heard from us. Fortunately this afternoon they got the computer going. Again thanks for your prayers and please continue them that Ben makes a full recovery and I do not get sick.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Posting Errors

In glancing back over some posts, I see some glaring errors. :-) I'm sure you will forgive me. I'm usually under a time constraint and trying to get as much information down as I can. :-) No time for proof-reading and corrections!!! Just use your imagination for what you think I'm saying

Tomorrow

I tink tomorrow will be Thursday - could be Wednesday. It should be the 12th so you can figure it out. It really doesn't matter to me! :-) We will go to Amber Fort (silent "b"), then to a textile factory (Jan, quit drooling!!) Then I think they will drop us at a local bazaar where the Indian's shop. Of course, I will go but will stay very close to Kathy! We will take an autorickshaw back to the hotel. Then tomorrow night will be another home hosted dinner.

Bollywood

That is the term for the India Cinema. We went to see Delhi 6 which is a relatively new movie. The theater was beautiful (no pictures allowed inside). Built in 1976 and immaculately maintained. They have reserved seating with different prices for different seats. I splurged on popcorn for a small bag which was really not all that small for all of forty cents!! Of course, the movie was in Indie. Some were able to follow along pretty well. I, on the other hand, was pretty much clueless. The movie started with a few advertisements and there was a 10 minute intermission. There is talking during the movie - children are there crying. Of course, since I couldn't understand the movie it really didn't matter that I couldn't hear the dialogue! :-) The most interesting part was at the end when you could tell the movie was coming to an end but not quite over - about 5 minutes remaining. Several people stood up and apparently said something like "OK, it's over, let's go" and about one-third of the people just up and walked out! How weird in that? Oh, and I met my first Muslim in the theater - sitting right in front of us were three young men, just as nice as they could be. Could hardly understand them though. Most speak pretty good English.

A Snag

Well,unfortunately, Ben woke up at 6 this morning with chills and fever. He stayed in all day. Please pray that he will get well soon. However, he didn't miss much in India today. We had a "lecture" this morning by the guide. Today was Holy Day - a festival celebrated by putting color on everyone and especially if you don't want it on you. So it was not a day to go outside. Our guide was very interesting though and it was not a "dry" lecture. About 2:00 we took a bus tour of the city. There was NO traffic, no people, no cars, motorcycles and most importantly no HORNS!! It was strange. I took pictures of the empty streets. Yes, Ben entrusted me with the camera and I was very careful with it. Might lift me up in prayer too because he probably will not feel like touring tomorrow and I will have to handle the camera! Fortunately we are staying at the same hotel for one more night so hopefully he will be all well by then.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Coming Next

We go to a Bollywood movie tomorrow. These are Holy Days - Festival of Color. We got "color" paint on our foreheads at the elephant festival and at the hotel. After Jaipur we go to the National Park and a safair and camel ride. I probably will not post until after that but who knows. Anything can happen!!! Having a GREAT time! This is a fantastic country!! Our group gets along - we have a couple I could do without but all in all, things are going great! Love you all!!

Elephant Festival

We are now in Jaipur where there are 400 elephants. They have a festival every year and even our guide had not been there (mostly for touists) We headed there but heard it was getting very crowded. We got there about the time it started and somehow (Thank you, God) got seats on the steps in front of the review stand!!! They needed a walkway so they moved me back to an actual seat which I quickly gave up to Ben because he couldn't sit on the steps for 3 hours and it was a better position for pictures. The elephants paraded right in front of us and I will just say there was no one inch of those elephants that was not covered in paint, sequins, etc. Just spectatular. Then at the end when they announced the winners, the elephants came to the reviewing stand and I'm not kidding when I say I was maybe 20 feet from the elephants!! Now, is God not showing us His favor??

Lunch in a Palace

Yep - today had lunch in a palace. India once had a bunch of little kingdoms and palaces everything. They are now being made into hotels and we visited one. Very beautiful. Don't EVEN want to know the cost. One of the rooms, I believe the trip leader said would be about $2500 a night. They will start shooting a film there tomorrow.

Camera

God has been so good to us on this trip is soo many ways. The camera was acting up - battery not doing right and eventually died. Ben did have a spare and amazingly enough at one of our stops there was a camera vendor and he had the battery for Ben's camera and this isn't your ordinary run of the mill battery! Also when we were at a stop I was carrying the telephoto lens. As I put my shoes back on it fell out of my pocket and landed on the concrete! YIKES!! I mean I prayed all the way back to the bus. It does work. Praise the Lord!!!

Hindu

Now there are a lot of religions you know and India is mostly Hindu but there are many kinds of Hindus. The Sikhs never cut their hair but the home host told me they CUT their hair and offer to the god and this is shearing off of ALL the hair - men and women. Anyway, at the home home they had their Hindu shrine and pictures of the gods. The host who is an upper middle class man told me of the very powerful god and he was just as convinced of this as he could be. This powerful god will give you anything as long as you ask with a pure heart. He only asks of you two things - one Iwill get to in a minute - the second though is something from you. And this translates into hair because our hair is precious to us - we fix it, etc. I think it must have something to do with pride and humility because cutting off your hair would make you humble. It seems that because of this practice, India is the largest exporter of hair that is used in wigs. They shave the babies' hair soon after birth. The host wife saved this hair and later spread it on the Ganges River where EVERYTHING goes - cremated ashes, sewer, and they wash clothes and drink the water - DRINK THE WATER - it is said you don't get sick but the host said he hadn't done it nor would he. OK, so the other thing this god wants from you and you must give him is MONEY. He "needs" the money to pay off a large debt it owes to another god who loaned hm the money to pay the exhortitant dowry for the women he wanted to marry. (no comment)

How about some juice?

At one stop which the trip leader called a Japanese Stop which means the bus stops, you get off, snap your picture, get on the bus and we move on :-) Anyway I stayed on the bus and outside my window was a juice vendor. He had a large perhaps 5 gallon jug. Greenery around the rim with a red plastic cover that had a hole on one side where his stick (yes STICK) went in and he stirred his juice with them. I'm guessing lime because he had some cut limes on the edge of the red plastic. That wasn't the thing though. Beside this container he had a bucket of water (from Heaven knows where). He would dip his hands in it and wash them. THEN he picked up a glass, stuck his hand in the water and washed the glass with his hand. UGH!!!!

Flower Market

Went to the wholesale flower market. Flowers are imported and come to this area which is just a bunch of stalls with flowers everywhere. They are bought, taken away and sold. Children and women cutting up flowers. There are flower designs with petals in places. In both hotels we have both received leis when we arrived. The discarded flowers and stems are thrown in the middle of the road and tampled. Unsold flowers are dumped and then burned. Of course, flowers are sold on the street.

Begging and vendors

(By now you know I am telling you interesting features and experiences figuring you really don't want facts and figures! :-) OK, now to begging. We have come into contact with begging some - not a whole lot. However, we are inundated by the vendors hawking everything. They come to the bus and they surround you as you walk. However, when we left the Sikh Temple and were walking to the bus, a begger approached me carrying a child wanting money. She was poor, had no husband, had a baby, her hand was wrapped, etc. etc. I said no and kept walking. She stayed with me touching my arm, saying "mama". I went around a car and broke the connection. Next thing I know she's by my side again. I ignored her and broke the connection by walking fast, moving among people. Every single time she reappeared!! Finally when I got to the bus I "cutted" in line. One of our group told me after that, she pulled out her cell phone and made a call!!! (Trip Leader had already told us these were professional beggars) When I mentioned my experience to the Trip Leader, he said that was a tactic. She was trying to be such an annoyance I would give her money to get her to go away. She certainly picked on the wrong person for that!! :-) Next time it was a little boy pestering me. What? Do they think I'm an easy touch???

Where's the Seat Belt???

We took a bicycle rickshaw through Old Dehli. Most of the stores were not open because the Ex-President of Pakistan was visiting but there was a lot of activity and remember we had cars, motorcycles and LOTS of horns. If I had to do it over again I would sit on the other side. I sat on the right and since they drive on the left and the manholes were in the middle of the street, I hit them all - but never fell out. It was a memorable experience. Great!!! Love it!! Then the took the new subway (Metro). Very impressive - just like London, DC, etc. They are expanding it and soon it will reach all of Dehli and suburbs. Oh yes, we got "sprinkled" on the rickshaw ride. They said it was "holy water" because they are having Holy Days now but who knows. It didn't smell :-) and others were "sprinkled as well but it was a bit of a shock!

Temples and Mosques

We have been to several. First one had to take off shoes - used our socks we got on the airplane. One we had to take off shoes and the ladies had to cover ourselves with one of their garments even though our legs and arms were covered. Didn't understand that at all! We were able to go to Sikh Temple. Take off shoes and wear a head covering - even the men. I had my bandana and Ben and other men got the Temple bandanas. Very beautiful Temple. Interestingly, they do a lot of volunteer labor. They give 10% and can give food to the soup kitchen which runs continuously and run by volunteers. Volunteers clean the temple every day. They are building a new temple and it was built all with volunteers. We also visited the Cremation Memorial for Ghandi - shoes off for that one as well.

Slums and other things

Yes, of course, they do have slums but also poverty housing is everywhere. We have seen housing that looks like some we have seen in Mexico. We have seen tent cities that look like they are camping. The slum houses are sooo close together and very tiny. However, the trip leader says some people are not "poor". Many people in the homes all with jobs. No overhead, no electricity (they have it because they steal it) TV's, etc. And this is just the way they live. There are thousands of stores everywhere all jammed up together sometimes literally about 10 feet by 20 feet and the congregate - all the pharmacies, auto repair, phone grouped together. And then there are the street vendors that sell everything - food, drinks, juices, trickets. You name it, they have it. Cows are everywhere because they are sacred - laying on the road median. Have seen camels pulling carts. Several herds of sheep and goats. Barber shops under a tree. There are many, many concrete cisterns with water that are bathing spots for the men. You will see men around the cistern washing themselves. Most have a towel or their shorts on. Only one with his back turned (thank goodness). Have seen only a couple of naked children. Men have the world for a bathroom and use it freely. *sigh* Air is somewhat dirty - I could "smell" it yesterday. Good thing though is now that I am away from Texas, my allergies have cleared up :-)

Where do I Begin?

OK, now I have an hour. Let's hope I can get it down. I may do several posts just because there is sooo much to say and words will not do it justice. India is dirty as you have heard and the traffic is ferocious. The difference between China and India is that in India you have cars, buses, tuk-tuks (auto-rickshaws), rickshaws, motocycles, bicycles and pedestrians all using the same roadway. And the HORNS oh my gosh. There is no sleeping on the bus. They honk constantly because of the noise to let the other vehicles know you are coming or you hear them! And there is no rhyme nor reason - everybody just goes. As we walk to our destinations, we are honked at and driven by closely. Exciting is a good word. And the roads are bumpy - even the "good roads" We have a large bus for the 13 of us so everyone can have a window seat. Last night we went to a home for dinner and went in a smaller van. I MUCH prefer the larger van. Feel much safer. (Not that you care but this won't be in chronological order - not that you would know that!) :-) Food: The food is good. No one has gotten sick and hopefully won't. The hotel food is safe because the kitchen has filtered water. Cannot use tap water anywhere - always bottled! Trip Leader says the trick is not to eat Indian food all the time (too spicy) so we have shifted and had chinese yesterday. Of course breakfast is always America. In China they brought all the food to the table on lazy susan. Here they serve you and they come around with seconds and thirds. Soup, appetizer, usually two entrees, lots of vegetable, rice dishes, bread and dessert.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Posting

It is Sunday morning when I came to the business centre. I paid for 30 minutes and have to use it all up now. Telling you this because I probably won't be doing this every day. :-) We are in Dehli for two more days and then we will move on. I will probably post again before we leave Dehli and let you know how things are going. Just wanted to post today so you would know that we arrived safely and right now are mostly in our right minds. I'm sure we will sleep well tonight! We are excited to be in India and are looking forward to all the new experiences and things we will see. Our tour group was all on the same flight so we met them. Interestingly enough we have 5 people who are traveling alone along with three couples. Of course, all of us are a little "long in the tooth" so to speak. You young folks won't know what all that means. :-)

Long Distance Travel is like Having a Baby

When you travel internationally and sit in an airport for 2 hours, on a plane for 7 hours, in another airport for 3 hours and another plane for 7 more hours - not to mention all the lines you stand in for security, customs, etc. it makes for long days. But after a year or two you forget all that and think "Let's do it again!" Just like having children. Then you get in the middle of it and think "Why did we think this was such a good idea?" :-)

We Have Arrived

We woke at 5:30 a.m. on Friday just because we couldn't sleep and arrived in India about 4:00 p.m. the next day so about 36 hours. We dozed a little on the plane and got aboutg 4 hours sleep. But we are here. Haven't seen much because we got here in the middle of the night. Our hotel is beautiful and breakfast was great. American! Our flights were on time and not really cramped but still long. Our bodies do not know what is going on yet. Seemed like everytime we turned around we were being fed. Our "midnight snack" was breakfast. Six hours difference to London and another 5 hours difference to India. Now that you are on Daylight Savings time the difference should be 10 hours so right now you all are fixing to go to bed and I wist we were! We meet our guide at 11 and then will tour some this afternoon and I believe have dinner with an Indian family tonight. After a good night's sleep we should be fine. Told Ben at breakfast "Don't you wish you were wearing contacts now?"

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hair Cut

I wore my hair short for 30+ years. About 3 or 4 years ago, I let it grow.....and grow. A few months ago, I cut off a few inches. I needed to get it cut before our trip but decided that I wanted to go short again. My stylist told me to get a picture for her of what I wanted. Well!!! If you've ever looked a styling magazines or online sites, all of them are really up-do'd, gelled, sprayed, well, in a word "styled" and I don't want "style", I want "easy" :-) So I spotted a friend and thought - that's it - that's what I want. So, I took a picture of her and took it to my stylist. First, the "before" shots.

Now, for the after shots. Notice how she was able to cut off most of the gray! :-)

Suitcase Locks

So, we've been having this discussion back and forth about locking our suitcases when we fly. Not supposed to lock luggage on international flights originating from USA apparently, but information I found said you want to lock your luggage on internal flights in foreign countries. TSA locks are good because the officials can "unlock" them if they have to.....and as Ben says, so can anyone else! Of course, the first question is - do we have suitcase locks? Answer: Yes, we do. Question: Where are they? Answer: Should be somewhere around here. And so the search begins. As a last resort we check the suitcases (remember I said I wasn't going to start packing until Friday? Stuck to my guns, did I!) and guess what - there were the locks and they were locked. One of them was still set to the default so it opened. I remembered we had set the other lock to "something" but this was OVER TWO YEARS ago!! In my searching I had been searching for LOCKS. Now that we had the locks, I searched for INSTRUCTIONS and, surprisingly enough, found them with not too much effort (get the feeling I never throw anything away?) So now, we have the instructions and they have a place where you can write down the combination but of course, those spaces are still blank *sigh* Tried every combination of every series that "means something" which of course you are not supposed to do :-) and none worked. So, I tried 1, 2, 3 and that worked!! Life is hard - anybody tell you that? Locks don't indicate they are TSA approved but we are only going to use them for foreign internal flights anyway. On International Flights we use the KISS principle and use twisty-ties - using the same strategy people who do not have security systems use when they put signs in their windows saying they do - figuring that thieves will break into non-twisty-tied suitcases rather than go to the trouble.