Friday, December 17, 2010

First week with Dad and Alison

Our first guests have survived their first week with no major incidents! My dad and Alison arrived last Friday at 5am, greeted by myself and Darshan, a driver for the school. I decided to be "nice" and ease them into their Indian experience with a pick up at their airport in a spacious a/c van and driver. All went smooth at the pick up and we were back in time to see Greg before he headed off to work. Since they had the luxury of a business class seats, aka being able to lie horizontally and thus avoiding cankles, so they were not afforded much of a down time before I took them around Bandra. Helping them to stretch their legs and get the blood flowing, we walked close to five miles through side streets, up along Mount Mary, down to Lands End Fort, back up Bandstand, through the fishing village near jogger's park and up to Pali Market. Finally I was tired and begged to stop for a fresh lime soda and bagel. (I don't know if I've mentioned, or given the fresh lime soda the attention on this blog that it deserves. It's a wonderfully refreshing drink made with fresh lime juice, soda water and you can get "sweet, "salty" or "mixed." I'm a fan of the mixed variety. It's a must for any day that is hot or if you are exerting a lot of energy. Yuuuuummmmy! I think our guests agree on this matter as well.) After we got home, I talked them into a rickshaw ride to the school, where there was a holiday festival going on. They were good sports with cramming three of us in the rickshaw and then being introduced to many teachers and parents as we toured the booths. Greg joined us for the ride home and poor Alison was able to experience Greg's bad luck with rickshaws. Their driver didn't totally understand where to go, so they ended up getting out and walking the last bit. It ended up okay with a stop for some beer to have at home. I was impressed that both my dad and Alison made it until 6:30pm with only a 30 minute nap.

Day two: Your in Mumbai, so you might as well go to the largest slum in Asia, Duravi, for a tour! I had this on my list of things to see in Mumbai, so I was glad to have my dad and Alison come along for the trial run. This is a tour put on by Reality Tours and Travel. They actually started out as an agency providing early childhood education and IT training for adults in the slum. Since then, they have expanded to giving tours of the slum to give a more realistic look of what the slum is in India. The Dhuravi slum is a community that is on government land, so people build buildings, but the government can decide to get rid of those buildings at any time. This slum has sewers and running water, and an amazing industrial area. One million people are estimated to live in this slum, but that is just an estimation. The reality is probably much higher. The Dhuravi slum has numerous recycling industries, such as plastic, metal oil containers, and radiator filters. There are also leather and textile industries within the slum. We were all surprised at the lack of people begging. Actually no one was. Children were into saying hello and shaking our hands, and adults watching us. The last half of the tour was walking through a residential area which was a maze of narrow passages between buildings that barely allowed people to pass each other. It was fascinating. We all agreed it was an excellent experience and I hope to arrange this opportunities for as many of you who visit!

The rest of the week was spent walking around Bandra, many shopping excursions, a trip to Chor Bazaar (thieves market), and preparing for our holiday cocktail party on Friday night. The party went well, complete with Reid motivating us all to sing Twelves Days of Christmas. I was excited about our bright, multi-colored Christmas lights that dominated the decorating scheme. Very India.

Suzy and Ryan are arriving tonight and we all head off to Rajasthan on Monday for ten days.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Charlie's Choclate Factory experience.

Last night was the elementary school's Tree Lighting Festival. For over a month, staff members have been telling Greg and I, "You've got to go. The food is amazing. It's wonderful." We agreed we had to check out what the hype was all about. So, we found ourselves at the Hyatt last night, waiting with excited children running around and through adult legs, eagerly awaiting. At 6:20pm, we were allowed into the court yard that housed the gigantic Christmas Tree. This part of the evening would be filled with the tree lighting and then elementary school choirs performing. As the first group of kids took the stage, the count down was started and at zero the tree and other parts of the lobby blazed brightly. Each choir did well with their performances and at the end there was a sing along for the audience. At the end of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," gasps went up in the crowd. We had to reposition ourselves to see that Santa was rappelling down one of the walls. (Later on, some of Greg's students said they first thought it was him since Santa was rappelling). As Santa made his was to his red velvet couch, doors to the side of us opened up into a banquet hall.

(Let me take this moment to remind all that this is a school sponsored function).

There was a pause as those of us near the door peered into the room. The large hall was outlined in food stations carrying Thai, American, Continental, Japanese, and Chinese fare. There were also several bar areas placed in strategic places. In the center of it all was the desert station which looked like one of the counters in the cosmetic stations at a department store. We looked at each other, grabbed a glass of wine that was waiting as we broke the threshold and we began our exploration of what taste to first test with our palate. Santa was a great distraction for many people, so I was into my second tasting as the room became more crowded. I was delighted at the bar when they said they had eggnog. Yes! I then ran over to Greg and said, "Look what I have!" "What?" "I have eggnog!" Greg exclaimed, "Where!" Nothing beats the Tibboel family recipe, but it was pretty good, especially for India.

I think I started out with a Thai Green curry, which was spicy hot and one of the better I've had outside of Thailand. Then I marched over to the cheese area. "Ohhhhhh!" (Cheese is really expensive here. For those of you who know how much cheese is a part of my diet, it's been a struggle to resist the cheese cravings). Here were huge rounds of Parmesan, Brie, white cheddar, Blue Cheese, Swiss, and several more. I said, screw the crackers, and filled my plate with cheese and olives. My taste buds were in heaven. Next I stood firm in the long line for the sushi station. The salmon and tuna were yummy. Then I headed over for some prawns and a lox creation. My belly was becoming full...and I STILL had the dessert station.

I started walking around the center counter and first my eyes rested on some chocolate truffles. I choose three when a layered cake caught my eye. I had that added to my plate. Oooo, an array of custards and mousses. I added the chocolate one to my hand. As I rounded the corner there was ice cream! I grabbed a scoop of chocolate with chocolate flakes. Then the assortment of eclairs. I decided I needed something to cleanse my palate from all the chocolate, so I responsibly choose a vanilla one. I took my bounty back to our table with a big smile spread across my face. I dug in and it was delicious. About half way through I could feel my stomach beginning to ache and my body going into sugar overload. I enlisted others at the table to help me. Oh, what an amazing gorge fest. Luckily I didn't turn into a block of cheese or loose my way into the chocolate syrup vault. I live to tell the story of adults turning into children as the smells and tastes overwhelm them of sooooo much good food.

One of my favorite moments was while waiting for another eggnog, a group of kids were waiting for 7up to appear so that the server would pour it into the glass with the electric blue syrup in the bottom of their glasses. The 7up arrived and as the glass filled up to the rim, a brilliant blue, more kids eyes lighted up as they chirped, "I want on, I want one!" The server smiled and lined up another four glasses. It was a wonderful sight.

Again, this was a school function. Why would we ever leave?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Festive Weekend

Our weekend turned out to be centered on the upcoming Christmas holiday. It's hard to believe it's the Christmas season when it's 80 plus degrees out. Saturday, the German Chamber of Commerce hosted a Christmas Festival at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse in Central Mumbai. The festival had a lot activities for the kiddies including Santa. Greg has not been on his best behavior, so I decided to skip Santa for fear of his sadness in what Santa would be telling him. We arrived around 6:30pm in time to buy a couple of GERMAN beers (yes!!! Good beer, no Kingfisher for the evening) and a brat for Greg before the German band started up. We were there with our friends, Marc and Toni and later joined by Barbara and Mike and then Reid, Rory, and Wacuima. Marc, who is Belgium and speaks German, helped us with the singing and cheers. It was a fun filled night of dancing, merry making, eating and enjoying great company. A highlight was getting to stand in the back of the refrigerated container where the beer was being stored. Greg and I dreamed of snowy slopes and pretending to make a few telemark turns.

Sunday, we were treated with the Dutch celebration of St. Nicholas. Marc had the honor of being St. Nicholas. We went down to South Mumbai with Toni to witness this honor. Marc boarded a boat, along with four "black men," boated around the Gateway of India, and then met a group of eagerly awaiting children and parents of many nationalities. While we were waiting for Marc to arrive, we were spectacles in our own right. While standing the shade, many Indians were taking our pictures, without asking. I asked them to stop and said they should ask first. A few minutes later, a group of young Indian men regrouped and asked us for our picture. We agreed and they were respectful when we said enough. I did get a good picture of them taking pictures of us and their friends. It was just too funny.

Finally I spotted a tall, red pope hat bobbing along the street. Yes!! We quickly walked over and saw St. Nick and his four black women board the boat. I was wondering how Marc was surviving the heat in such an outfit. After taking his picture, we walked to the other side of the harbor to photograph the crowd greeting St. Nick. It was wonderful to see all the Indians curiously looking on. We heard one woman explaining, in Hindi, to her child about Santa Claus and Christmas. A lot of the Dutch children were dressed up as well. We walked with the group to the Dutch Residency, where St. Nick would get to meet with each child and give out gifts. After satisfying our curiosity and photo documenting to occasion, we headed to Cafe Indigo for lunch and to wait for St. Nick to transform back to Marc.

We enjoyed having some other cultural experiences with Christmas! Happy holidays!

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Goan Thanksgiving

On Thanksgiving afternoon, after Greg and others finished their professional development half day, we, along with three friends - Rachel and Reid Wixson, and Wacuima, - jumped in some rickshaws and headed to the airport. Greg and I had a little side adventure with the rickshaw we chose. Half way to their airport, the rickshaw ran out of gas. The funny thing was earlier that day when I took a rickshaw to the school, a cool cab (A/C cab) was being pushed by several men down the road. Presumably it had run out of gas. My thought, "How often does that happen and are their gas gauges? I wonder when that will happen when I'm in one." The answer: 4 hours later. We hopped out and the first rickshaw wanted 100 rupees which was more than the full ride should cost, let alone half the trip. We shook our heads in disgust and waved another. He turned the meter on and off we went. When we arrived, he asked for 50 rupees. I pulled out my rickshaw price sheet, pointed at the meter, and then the sheet and told him "no, 34 rupees." He wagged his head and conceded. I've decided Greg must have some look about him that the Indians think, "sucker!" For as much as I ride rickshaws, I've had only 3-4 incidences. Greg has had many more issues and rarely takes rickshaws.

At the airport, along with half the staff at ASB, we boarded our JetLite plane for the one hour flight to Goa. In the 60s, Goa was hippie central and it's reputation for relaxation continues to this day. It's really one of the only places in all of India where I would wear my western two-piece swimsuit. Not entirely comfortable as all the hords of single Indian men traveling in packs just stare, but there's plenty of western tourists wearing the same thing. We went to Calangute, which is more of a touristy area, but we wanted to see some tourist sights. The further south you go, the less inhabited and more serene things become, so we are told. Calangute, surprisingly, attracts a high volume of Russian tourists and many signs and menus were translated into Russian.

We stayed at the Indian Kitchen guest house, a colorful, family run establishment that was very clean and welcoming. We were sad to hear that a family member had passed away and they did not have their dinning area open. The food was highly recommended in the Lonely Planet. After dropping our belongings off, we headed down the road, toward the beach, and had Thanksgiving dinner at Lazy Days restaurant. Upon looking around once we were seated, we noticed we were surrounded by retired European couples that were living it up. It was a funny sight. The food was excellent and my indulgence into the Goan fish curry began. Due to the seven mile dead zone around Mumbai and the tanker that spilled oil into the bay in August, I've pretty much decided I can't bring myself to eat seafood in Mumbai. (Having foreign fish again seems environmentally detrimental since we live next to an ocean. My exception has been a wonderful food stand in the market on Linking Road. So tasty, I try not to think about where the prawns are coming from). The two kinds of fish curry that we had we delicious! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Our first day, we hired a driver, Daya, to take us to Old Goa. The drive was a nice scenery of tropical farm areas, fields filled with some water buffalo and egrets, and in general still felt relaxing to me. The Portuguese colonized Goa in the early 1500s and I think finally gave it independence in 1961, so their presence is still felt. Old Goa was the first capital, until it had to be moved after the town was wiped out from the plague. What has been restored are all of these churches in the area. Huge churches. My favorite was the the ruins of St. Augustine. It has not been restored and was fun to wander around through the maze of what is left. In the Basilica de Bom Jesus, the remains of St. Xavier are kept and once a year, December 2nd, his remains are shown. Being there right before this occurred, we saw then huge tents set up to welcome all the visitors expected - thousands.

The second day we had Daya take us to the Tropical Spice Plantation. We had a great tour, our guide very knowledgeable about all the different spices they had growing. We saw pepper, cardamon, turmeric, cloves, vanilla, betel nut, tulsi, cinnamon, bay leaves, nutmeg, and ginger plants. At the end, one of the harvesters showed us how he climbed the betel nut tree and swung from one to the next to harvest the betel nut. Once he came down, Greg, Wacuima, and I tried it to climb a short way up a tree. There was a rope loop that fit around our feet and helped "cam" our feet around the tree. It was really quite secure. Just beefing up calluses on my feet where the rope was would be the training needed, as well was arm strength. At least I know of a job I could do if the counseling thing doesn't work out! After our "lesson" we were purified by water being poured down our backs and then invited to a wonderful lunch using fresh spices. Delicious!

The rest of our time was spent relaxing on the beach, playing in the water, reading, and eating. It was a marvelous break from Mumbai, aside from the hawkers, and my arm won't have to be twisted very hard to make it our Thanksgiving tradition while in India.

Monday, November 22, 2010

One International's 10th Anniversary Gala

Over the past four months, I have been volunteering at One International, a school for kids who are basically homeless and don't have the chance to go to school becuase they don't have the proper papers. One of the parents at ASB, Ali, organizes for us to go on Wednesday to help the children with their English language skills. We sing songs, play games, do worksheets and lots of other fun things.

The past two weeks, all the children have been preparing plays, dances and songs for the 10th annual Gala to celebrate the school, teachers, parents, and students. Ten years ago, Tania started One International with 3-4 children from the Khar fishing village. Today, there are two schools with over 200 students from ages 4-18! It's pretty amazing. After the performances, there were awards for best grades, best attendance, honors, most improved student, and student from the year. Students were chosen from both schools for the awards. In the youngest class I help with, 4-5 year olds, there were two boys who both received honors. One of them ended up receiving the student of the year for the entire school (the little guy with the black jacket and gray shirt on in one of the photo)! After receiving his award, he sat next to the other honor student (the one with the crazy hair and pink shirt on in the same photo), turned to him and stuck out his tongue. A little competition going on thereat age five!

The gala was held at St. Joseph's School, very close to our flat. Students and families were bused to the location. You'll notice in the pictures how excited the students are to perform and that everyone was dressed in their best. It was a pretty big deal and I was honored to be apart of it all!

Staring eyes

Since this just happened and I have quick access to the computer, I thought I'd write it down for viewing pleasure. I left ASB today at 3pm, right as school was getting let out. I chatted with one of the parents and then strolled past the school buses, the passengers waiting for their drivers to arrive and the drivers waiting for their passengers to arrive. I waved to the last security guard on my route to the main street, about two blocks away, to grab a rickshaw. I chuckled as my walk took me past a construction site, in which it's dirt and mess has spilled onto the road. I couldn't picture those, who I had just past, walking to catch a rickshaw and getting their shoes dirty. My luck! A rickshaw pulled up and beeped, wondering if I wanted a ride. I hopped in and we zoomed off. At a stop light, a motorcycle with two men on it pulled up next two us. I heard the word "didi" (Which technically means "auntie" but what I'm called a lot. It is a term of respect) and could feel the stare of the man on the back as he cranked his neck to get a goooood...loooonnnng...looooooook at me. I turned the other way, ignoring him. As we sped up again, I could see two young guys walking ahead and one spotted me. He grabbed his friend and pointed at me. Argh!!!! Hasn't anyone seen a white chick in an auto rickshaw before. This is Mumbai, people! So, I tried a different tactic. I turned their way, put on my biggest grin and frantically waved. Kind of like they were my long lost friends I hadn't seen in forever. As I past, they waved back, looking a little unsure. That'll give them a story... "this crazy gora, she just grinned and waved at us like she knew us. Crazy. I 'm pretty sure she was looking at me." The other, "No pretty sure it was me she was looking at..." I'm never going to get use to the stares and making eye contact sends the wrong message - "she thinks I'm hot"! There's no winning, just doing outlandish things so they have a reason to stare.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Garba Dance Video

Finally, we have a copy of the Garba dance video. Go to this like to view:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another Blog from Greg

Hello to everybody that reads out blog. We love being able to share our new adventures with you and to stay in touch. It is time for my monthly blog. Things here are going well, and as you can see from Twyla's post we are getting to see and experience a lot of amazing things here in India. We have settled down in our lives here in Mumbai, and coming back to Mumbai after vacations actually seems relaxing. I never thought that would happen.

School is going well and fast. I have had my first grades due, and I have had my first parent teacher conferences. We are screaming towards the end of the semester, and I cant believe it is coming so fast. I got the experience of going on Week Without Walls. I helped lead a trip with the seniors, and we where rafting down the Ganges. We got to start with one of the head water rivers and actually rafted to a major confluence, and the actual start of the Ganges. It is a very holy place. In the above picture you can see the two colors of the rivers joining. We were being blessed by a holly man and then dunked in the river. It was a very beautiful place. We ended our 4 day trip near the town of Rishikesh. This is the town that was made famous by the Beatles and their time spent there. It too is a very holy place along the Ganges with amazing temples along the river. We took the kids in town one night and saw a fire ceremony along the river. The river was pretty tame, but we had a lot of fun. I feel very lucky to be in a school that allows students this opportunity. Twyla got to join the 9th graders, and I think she would agree that this is, or at least has the potential to be a very valuable experience for the students. I guess it is easy when you have class sizes close to 50 students.

India is still an intense place to live for me, but I am figuring it out a lot more. I know a few more words in Hindi, and the rickshaw drivers seem to try to rip me off a bit less. We have found lots of great places to eat, and I can find my way around town and I can use the train. Mainly I can get on and off the train which is the hard part. I am still running a lot, and that takes up a lot of time. Most days I get up at 5:00 or before to run. On the weekends I might sleep in to 5:30. My longest run of date is 16 miles, and I still have 9 weekends left. I am looking forward to not running, but I am glad to have the routine for now. We are still trying to get the climbing wall at school up and running, but I think that will have finally happened by the end of this week. We are meeting great friends, and enjoying those relationships. I am missing the snow, and winter right now, but that is one of my big sacrifices for this experiences. Enstead of going to parties to talk about skiing and snow, we are going to parties and talking about food and Cashmere rugs. Same great people, just different interests.

Well I have to get planning for the weekend. We miss all of our friends, and we would love to hear from everybody. Feel free to skype, facebook, e-mail, or even send mail.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Part 2 of Fall Break - Aurangabad

The historical significance of Aurangabad and surrounding sites are the highlight here. Aurangabad was the capital of the Mughal empire for a brief time when the last Mughal emperor moved the entire city of Delhi to Aurangabad in 1653. Traveling around the city, you can see remnants of the city's old walls and gates. This city is the jumping point to the Ajunta caves (two hours away) and the Ellora caves (30 minutes away). Before Greg and I came to India, we saw a slide show from the Mesa State outdoor club's winter break trip to Southern India. When they showed slides of these caves, we decided right then it was a place we were going.

The Ajunta caves were carved and painted by Buddhist monks from 200BC to 650AD. Think of these dates as you look at the craftsmanship in the photos. The caves are set into cliffs overlooking a serene creek, with a waterfall and the hillside is dotted with colorful foliage. It made me want to sit down and meditate. These caves were lost to humans for centuries until a British hunting party discovered them in 1819. The unique thing about them is a lot of the painting is still present, whereas at Ellora, there's virtually no painting left. It was amazing to see and we thought to ourselves, what was going on in North America during this time... India and Asia truly was advanced by then. The only draw back to the day was having to enter and exit from the bus (which took us to several kilometers to the base of the caves) to our hired car through a souvenir marketplace with very pushy hawkers. One even followed us to our car, still trying to sell Greg something as we backed up and drove off. (Our driver had warned us, "don't buy anything from Ajunta).

The next day we went to the Ellora caves and then the Dhulatabad Fort. The Ellora caves are much more accessible, thus a little more crowded and hawkers trying to sell you things everywhere, instead of just the parking lot. But, they were much less persistent and mainly left us alone. These caves were carved by Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain monks over many centuries. The Buddhist were the oldest from 600-800AD and the Jain caves were the youngest from 800-1000AD. These have never been "lost" so people have been coming to them since carved to pray and see the amazing craftsmanship. The most famous "cave" is the Kailash Temple, which represents Mt. Kailash, where the Ganges begins its trickle and represents Shiva. These caves were mainly built top to bottom. The Kailash Temple was built over ten generations and is very detailed and intricate. Some of its paintings were still visible.

After a long, hot day, we mustered up our energy to finish the day off at the Dhulatabad Fort. We thoroughly enjoyed this mid-evilish fort. The fort has a number of protective features built into to protect itself. there's an outer wall, 5km around the old town. Within those walls, the commoners lived. Further in was another wall protecting higher classes. The third wall surrounded the fort and from there the journey became quite steep. Stairs were cut at different levels so any intruders couldn't just run up the stairs. There were many cannons, which were intricately carved. The largest, within the third wall, could rotate 180 degrees, so if it fell into the wrong hands, it could not be used to blow up the fort. A series of gates at the third wall were built to fool anyone who got this far and trap them. (All the doors were huge, heavy and wooden with metal spikes in lines down the entire door). The there was a wet moat to cross, which lead to a series of steep caves that hot oil and water would be poured into to stop invaders. We just had to deal with the many bats in the caves as we climbed the musty stairs. Finally, a long set of stairs wound around the rest of the hillside to the top of the fort and an amazing view as the sun began to set.

We had an extra day in Aurangabad, so we went to see the smaller Aurangabad caves, a Himaroo Weaving Center where we saw traditional ways of hand weaving and I bought my first sari, and took in a bollywood film before the fireworks of Diwali began. The firworks were another sight to behold. We snuck up onto the hotel's roof top to be greeted by a colorful war zone. EVERYONE was setting them off for HOURS. The air was thick with smoke and I wondered how many people were going to be injured that night. We heard a loud series of bursts from below and saw some of the familes staying at the hotel setting off fireworks. They lighted a huge box. We watched until all of the sudden three gold lights shot up about twenty feet from us. #$@%!!! We ran to the other side of the roof and right above us, large fireworks exploded. Pretty amazing. After Greg was almost hit by a stray one, we headed downstairs for a snack. 4th of July has nothing on Diwali!!

Happy Diwali! (The powdered designs are the rangolis I wrote about a few blogs ago).

Part 1 of Fall break: Nasik

After Greg and I came back from Week Without Walls, we had one day to repack for our week long trip around Maharastra. First to Nasik, wine counrty and holy city, then off to Aurangabad where to World Heritage sites of the Ellora and Ajunta Caves are located. Saturday morning, we dragged our weary bodies out of bed at 5am in order to make our way to the Victoria Terminus train station in southern Mumbai. I was very proud that we found the correct train to get there and then found the Tavopan Express, which would take us 3 and a half hours north to Nasik. I had booked us AC Chair seats, which weren't too bad at all. The car even had a waiter that took orders for food and drink and brought them to us.

When we arrived at Nasik, we were immediately accosted by a taxi driver, who we told we wanted a rickshaw. He "gave" us to someone else and we were whisked away. The rickshaw was decked out inside with a fancy pleather seat that had a design embroidered into it. When we arrived at our hotel, we were immediately disappointed to find that the meter is not used and the driver demanding 150rs. This was WAY more than the same ride in Mumbai. We argued with him for awhile, then went in and asked the hotel how much the ride costs. He stated 100rs, in a quiet voice. This was still expensive, but not able to do much about it, we gave the driver the money. (Greg reminded me that we were only haggling over a dollar, which is true). We pretty much walked the rest of the time in Nasik, except for travel outside the city. Nasik, we felt was just as busy, congested and polluted as Mumbai. I struggled a bit with this since after Dharamsala, think I had the expectation of a peaceful town.

Nasik is located on the Godavari River, also known as the Little Ganges. It is a holy river, where pilgrims come to bath away sins, pray, and even release loved ones' ashes into the river. Mind you this goes on while clothes are being washed, dishes cleaned, and other daily happenings. The result, though is an array of color and energy. Along the river there are many Hindu temples and Greg and I found many more just wandering around the streets. The markets and roadsides were filled with all the colorful decorations, powders, and diyas for Diwali, as well as the usual spices and food stuffs. There were many friendly people and one helped us find our favorite place to eat in Nasik, the Ganesh Lunch House. It was run by a family, who kept heaping food onto our plates despite saying we were full. Yummy! Really, this was the only good place we found to eat. The rest ended up being quite bad. One was a bar and restaurant, which I suggested trying it, knowing Greg would probably love to have a cold Kingfisher beer. We went upstairs and sat down. I immediately noticed we were surrounded by a number of drunk men and it was really smoky. I was fighting a head cold and finally told Greg I needed to leave. As we got up, they server asked us what was wrong. We told him the smoke was bothering me, so he directed us to another room. The room was FILTHY! I think they had a party last month and hadn't cleaned up yet. While Greg quickly drank his beer, a cockroach was trying to get friendly with us. Aren't they suppose to be nocturnal?

My first Hindi class I took before we left paid off. I think over the week we answer the questions of "What's your name" and "Where are your from" a million times. I taught Greg the phrase "Mera nom Greg hai," which means my name is Greg and the Hindi word for American, "Umreeka." Everyone got a kick out of that and tried to speak Hindi to us.

From Nasik, we took a day trip to Trimbuk, 30 km away. We hiked up Brahmagiri Hill, where the source of the Godavari trickles and there are several temples. The walk up had many small Hindu statues lining the stairs, which gave people a good excuse to stop and catch their breath. At the top, we decided to try some offerings, but our "guide" pretty much sucked and we still have no idea what the different parts of offerings mean. Plus, I ended up with a plastic bag with two colored powders and a sugar treat leftover from the "Puja Package," which very aggressive monkeys wanted. One monkey even touched my leg, freaking me out. I think he would have climbed me accept someone shooed him off. We walked down to other temples that were carved out of the rock, despite being stalked by a hissing, teeth barring monkey the entire time. We armed ourselves with rocks until we reached the last temple and scrambled inside, forgetting to take our shoes off. The monk inside was very nice about it. Finally, I had the bright idea to put the white, plastic bag inside Greg's hip pack and the monkey let us alone.

On our way down, we were asked to join a group of men, who were with a guru. We decided, why not, and hung out for awhile, talking with the one man who could speak English. When we asked about places for lunch in Trimbuk, they told us we would join them for lunch. We eat on the floor in a mud, thatched hut off of large banana leaves. The food was good and Greg and struggled to stay seated cross-legged for so long. Not so flexible in the hips as Indians! After the meal, we continued our journey back to the bus station. I realized later, we had missed seeing one of the 12 most important shrines of Shiva, but non-Hindus aren't allowed inside anyways.

Also, I forgot to mention that Greg and I are now famous all over India. Over the week, we have posed for many, many, many, many, many pictures with Indian tourists. We were part of the attraction. It got to the point, I finally just refused and even told one group that it would be 50Rs , which I think they would have paid. Greg was a nice Midwesterner and never refused and had to make excuses for me.

Nasik is nestled into the wine country of India, so we did an afternoon and terrace sampling at Sula Vineyards, India's largest winery. It was sooo peaceful and relaxing. The countryside was beautiful and Greg and I talked about bringing our bikes next time. It was a nice break from India for a few hours to recharge ourselves. (Robin, we told them all about you and they would love to have you come out and do some consulting! Greg took lots of pictures of the equipment for you). An interesting fact we learned is the wine that they sell in India is not aged as long because Indians prefer a more sweet wine, as they are known for their sweet tooth. They do export wine and those have been aged longer. So, a challenge for everyone is to search for wine from Sula Vineyard. We were wondering to cost and what the taste is like. Generally, Indian wines are only so-so, but much more affordable here than imports due to high tariffs.

After three nights, we hopped on a bus to arrive in Aurangabad five hours later. We tried to get on a train, but the seats were waitlisted since it was Diwali week. The bus ride wasn't bad, Greg wasn't too cramped and we've now covered most of the transport options in India. All that is left is boat, bicycle rickshaw, camel, and elephant. Horse too, but Greg won't get near those.