A quick reminder:
You can click on any photo to view it larger.
September 2016 -
We have less than one day to explore Delhi. Certainly not enough time to see everything but we'll get glimpse of a view important sights in Delhi.
Qutab Minar - a tower made of sandstone and marble
Building was started in 1193.
Did I mention that Indians seem to be universally friendly??? While visiting this special sight, there were many groups of people that wanted to talk to us and have their photos taken with us. Here are some young men, I think cadets posing with Mark:
Humayun's Tomb....built by a grieving widow to honor her deceased husband. Precursor to Taj Mahal; Mughal style.
Time to head back to the hotel, check out and fly to Pune....
What do you suppose is the difference between tonic water and Indian tonic water? Both make excellent gin and tonics!
September 2016 -
Right after our trip to Yangshuo, I happily & luckily got to accompany Mark on a business trip to Pune, India.
India is such a vibrant and diverse country with some of the best food in the world. And let's not forget yummy masala chai (spice tea)! And while I'm at it I should I also mention that all the people we've either met in India or Indians living outside their country are a very kind, friendly, and welcoming people.
Business class??? Really? We found great ticket prices flying on China Eastern. The only downside- transiting through Shanghai airport even though the flight from Beijing to Delhi, India is listed as one flight...when in fact it's two separate flights...having you run across the terminal to catch the next flight. China, you really need to work on your international transits and transit times.
We arrived very VERY early in Delhi. We went straight to the hotel for a few hours of rest.
Check out these beautiful swords (? Is that what you call these??) in the hotel elevator:
Through the Delhi hotel we hired a car to take us to Agra. The ride to Agra is more than three hours. We stopped briefly to get snacks and drinks. Want to get a sandwich at Subway? Here are your options:
We had to pick up a bag of these Magic Masala potato chips (IMO- very yummy with just a kick):
Image from the road to Agra:
Soooo....what's in Agra???
Only one of the most beautiful buildings in the world....Here's a peak:
Knowing that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience we hired a guide AND a photographer. The photographer followed us for most of our visit and had us pose in various locations. I think the last time Mark and I had a photography session was at our wedding. HA! It was a pretty funny experience but certainly worth it!
I highly recommend reading up the Taj Mahal and how it was built.
Seeing the Taj Mahal was quite an emotional experience - so beautiful...and I thought I'd never get a chance to see it...yet here I was, standing in front of it.
Ah, let me tell you a short story about an irritating experience we had while on this leg of our journey. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with India. Just the horrible timing of our trip. We'd learned that our USA bank was trying to issue us new debit cards with chips. Well, those cards never arrived. We called the bank to make sure that they would keep our old debit cards functional. HA! We tried getting out cash while in Agra....and it wouldn't work, wouldn't work, wouldn't work. We stopped at a cafe -- Sheroes (it's a cafe staffed by women who were victims of acid attacks). Mark spent a horribly LONG time on the phone with our bank only to learn that we were given false information - they'd already closed our account along with our debit cards. Well, CRAP. Most places don't accept credit cards for payment - we NEED cash. So after even more time wasted on the phone we finally came up with another option. Whew. Dear bank, we really didn't need that extra stress. Get your information straight. Leaving travelers stranded because you gave false information is scary and dangerous.
After we finally got the banking situation straightened out we made two stops. First at an artisan specializing in marble inlaid with semi precious stones. Exquisite!
The marble is actually nearly white but it's been painted a brown tone so that you can see the carved design. The design is carefully chiseled out and the semi precious stones are all cut and shaped by hand. They're custom fitted and glued in place with a special secret glue.
Lunch? Definitely delicious Indian cuisine! It was so difficult deciding on just a few dishes....so we ended up ordering more than we could possibly eat and sampling it all. Yummy!!!!
Here are two men working together on this rug. I can't properly remember all the details about making rugs but I can say it was quite mesmerizing and magical.
We looked at countless rugs...each unique, beautiful, and handmade. This red one - this is the one we hand carried back home. I LOVE it. Handmade in Agra.
And now it's time to head back to Delhi. Such a bummer - we missed a chance getting to see this fabulous place (Agra Fort):
We just ran out of time and we've got a three hour drive back to Delhi. If we hadn't wasted hours on the phone with our US bank we might have had time to see Agra Fort. Oh well.
We saw these yellow and green tuk tuks for hire everywhere:
We saw lots of brightly colored and painted trucks throughout our trip in India:
Must have been rush hour traffic....leaving Agra and we saw lots of trucks, vans, tuk tuks loaded to the gills with people. Some even hanging on the sides of the moving vehicles!
It's late...and we made it back to our hotel in Delhi. Tomorrow morning we've booked a car to visit various sights in Delhi before flying to Pune in the evening.
5 March 2017 -
Did you think we fell off the face of the Earth?
Yeah, we kind of did disappear. I'm not quite sure I'm ready to reappear yet either. I'm still feeling bitter and angry about the transition. I ought to lie to you and tell you it's been a piece of cake and being back in the USA is absolutely fabulous but that would be the biggest lie of all time. Although, to be fair, it's not ALL that bad. Just some days - make that most days- I feel mad and homesick for a distant land.
I've heard from others that the transition back to your "home" country can be rough - more difficult than the moving overseas transition. You know what? They're right. So I'm giving myself a break. I'm letting myself to be upset (within reason). I'm also not feeling sociable these days. I prefer hiding out in our rental house daydreaming about the millions (okay hundreds??) of changes I wish I could make to our plain-old-boring Bristling Acres house. We should be moving back into that rectangular box in July. I know, I know...I should be grateful. Grateful for all the experiences we had while living in China - and I am. I know the girls will carry that with them for the rest of their lives. They definitely have a Bigger Picture perspective of the world than most American kids their age. Sadly, I think a lot of Americans still think that we live in this isolated bubble from the rest of the world. Here's hoping that the next generations of Americans (hello people from the Midwest!!!) will wake up and realize there is a big world out there and that the USA is only one country in that big place. The rest of the world isn't a scary place. As a matter of fact, it's exhilarating taking that first step out of the country and out of your comfort zone. Hey, if you can afford going to Disney Land or Disney World then you can afford a vacation in other parts of the world. You can't put a price tag on introducing your kids to other cultures, lands, foods, people, and a different PERSPECTIVE. It humbles you in ways that you can't imagine. It also makes you realize that we are all just people. Open your minds ...open your hearts.
And with that I must say that I should open my heart to the USA.
I'd rather not go into details why I'm so mad. I will say that we had hoped to not return to the USA but as you can tell, that didn't work out. There are lots of other issues but I'll just stop myself right there.
So...I'm going to attempt to change topics now...
What are the girls up to right now? So glad you asked! Both girls are slowly settling into school in Platteville. I think Annika seems to be adjusting to the new school faster than Ava. I know Annika has made new friends but I'm uncertain about Ava. They've also started taking taekwondo twice per week. They love it! They're also taking Chinese language lessons once per week. Annika is into drawing and painting, learning how to play the piano, and she's trying to delve into the world of physics (and sciences). Ava loves math but I think her favorite activity is reading. She also enjoys tinkering and playing with her small robots. Oh! Ava's other favorite activity is horse riding. She started taking lessons three weeks ago and she absolutely raves about it!!
I'm so happy that these after school activities have helped the girls adjust to life in the US. It also means that I'm now a Taxi Driver. LOL. However, if it keeps my girls happy then I'm happy to drive criss-cross around the country! Plus, I can DRIVE MY OWN CAR!!!! Woooo hooooo!!!! Being able to get in the car and drive wherever the heck you want and changing your mind and going somewhere else is just something that we didn't have as an option while living in China. (we weren't allowed to drive in China) That freedom is something I will not to take for granted!
(See? I am slowly starting to sound more positive about living here, right????)
I will share with you one fear that I have - I'm afraid that those five years living abroad will turn into just a dream. I'm afraid that none of it mattered and that we didn't make a difference (to us or to the girls) at all. I don't want to go back to the Old Me. That person is still there but she's changed...and she's afraid of changing back to the Old Me. Old Me was afraid of so many things that New Me now cautiously enjoys. I don't want to revert back to Old Me.
I do need to post photos of our last trips while we were still living in China. I managed to squeak in several trips before our final departure. I even got to hug a panda!
10 December 2016 -
So much has happened over the past four months. Mark and I went to India. We walked around the Taj Mahal!!!! We had a family scuba diving trip to the Philippines. We got to dive through boat wrecks. Lots of events happening at school. Cousins from Detroit popped over for a two-week visit. I got to hug a baby panda and see the biggest stone statue of Buddha I've ever seen with our cousins. I even got to spend a day at Shanghai Disney. It's been a whirlwind few weeks.....
but the biggest change of all is that we will be returning to the USA NEXT WEEK.
Please don't ask us for details. We don't know exactly where we'll be. Please don't ask us if we're excited about going "home". This is our home. We're trying really hard to stay upbeat and positive about the move but it's been a struggle.
The biggest struggle I have is that we came here with small, young girls and we're leaving with a teen and a preteen. So much has changed. They are NOT the same girls we left with. The sadness I feel is about realizing that change. Ava and Annika grew up here. Five years may not sound like a lot but we've seen tremendous changes over those past five years. Our little girls are gone. Well, not gone, they've transformed into beautiful, intelligent, caring, kind, adventuresome, open-minded young ladies. And you know what? I'm okay with that. But still I tear up thinking about all the things that transpired while we lived here. Ava learned how to ride a bike. We all learned to scuba dive. We went to countries and places I had only dreamed of visiting after reading "National Geographic" magazines. We've done so much, seen so much of the world - the good and the bad.
The world is an amazing place and I'm glad we got to share a bit of that with the girls.
PS. Just because we're returning to the USA doesn't mean that our adventures will come to a screeching halt. We certainly won't to get to run off to beaches in southeast Asia but who knows where we'll end up!?!
PPS. I WILL post photos from India, Philippines, cousins' visit to China, and various other photos soon.
15-18 September 2016 -
It seems that flying on a holiday can be fun. We flew to Guilin (from Tianjin) on Mid Autumn Festival day on Air China. The plane was decorated and the crew had several games for all the passengers to play. I won this small stuffed toy from one of these games. After the games they went around taking photos on an instant camera. Fun!
We're staying at Yangshuo Village Inn. Check out the huge moon cake the inn had specially made. By the way, Annika LOVES moon cakes.
Steamed chicken with mushrooms and red dates in a bamboo steamer:
Our dishes: egg wrapped dumplings (actually more like miniature omelets), steamed chicken with mushrooms, stir fried pork with vegetables and oyster sauce, eggplant Yangshuo style, and green vegetables with garlic.
One last look at the entry of the hotel:
I love the warm colors, dark wood tones, eclectic paintings, tea set, stone floor and fire place. I think that might be the first fireplace I've seen in China...and it's located in southern China.
26 August 2016 -
It's voting time at IST! Today the elementary students will vote for Elementary Student Council (ESC) officers. Ava is running for the communication officer position.
Here's further evidence that girls rule (literally!). Only girls wanted to run for ESC positions!
All the girls gave excellent and impressive speeches.
And to answer any questions.....yes, Ava was voted communications officer. Actually it was a tie and she shares that position with another girl.
September 2016 -
Annika's grade 8 class is off on another WWW (week without walls) adventure. They're supposed to hike and camp on an old section of the great wall close to Beijing.
She's all packed and ready to go!
Here are a few photos (not taken by me) during the week:
Mimi and Annika are picture perfect models, don't you think? They're getting ready to board the bus and head out on their week long adventure.
Looks like they had a fun time!
July 2016 -
The girls and I flew off to stay with Mark's family in Michigan for the month of July.
It was likely to happen sooner or later...Ava's first eyeglasses. This spring when the school nurse did her routine eye check for all the kids she sent a notice home with Ava suggesting that we take her to see an optometrist. Turns out, Ava does need corrective lenses for one eye. (it's a minor correction but enough to warrant glasses)
June 11-24, 2016
The girls are finished with school for the year and we're off to spend TWO weeks in Austria - visiting Opa and just breathing the clean mountain air. Oh, and perhaps taking in a few sights along the way. :-)
First stop- Munich, Germany.
Whenever you feel like you have something to share, just remember that to your family you can lay your heart bare.
Whenever you feel that life is being unfair, just remember that Mom and Dad will always care.
Whenever you face problems that you can’t bear, just remember that your parents will always be there.
Happy 13th birthday.
10 August 2016
How many candles can we fit on to Annika's lemon meringue birthday pie??? All of them!!!
Mile-high meringue! Woot! Woot! (the drat part of the pie was that fact that it didn't taste very lemon-y, thanks to Chinese lemons that I didn't realize were nearly tasteless. Darn it! At least the meringue made up for the lack of lemon flavor.)
Breakfast of champions! Birthday lemon meringue pie for breakfast. Along with the Spiderman table cloth I brought with me from the US and Avengers napkins. Have you noticed how the girls seem to be enthralled with comic book heroes?
Annika's birthday dinner request...South Beauty. South Beauty is a chain Sichuan restaurant. And it offers loads of tasty dishes. Our favorite dishes include a rib dish, deep fried green beans, and gong bao ji ding (aka kung pao chicken). We do love eating Sichuan food!
Happy birthday to our beautiful, intelligent, creative, and independent Buggy!!!