Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rock Climbing Mumbai

One year and four months of settling into life in Mumbai and we FINALLY got our act together to go climbing. It took some momentum building to make the moment come together. In May, I got the contact info for a local who knows some info about the climbing scene. That he "knows" it is an understatement. Abhijit, aka, Bong, is the reason there is any climbing community in Mumbai. When we stepped into his modest home, we were greeted with half of the room covered in climbing holds and gear piled up everywhere. His place is THE meeting spot and the climbing is a short walk away. There's an article about him in Climbing Magazine ( But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Having obtained this pertinent piece of info to get connected with the local climbing scene, the school year ended, blazing heat broke with the
monsoon season and we left on our summer travels. When we got back to Mumbai, I would periodically come across Abhijit's contact information, reminding myself to contact him once the monsoon season ended. Maybe by putting this out into the universe helped again with motivation because I was then introduced to Chris, an Australian, whose children go to the American School. Chris is a kindred soul with his love of the outdoors and adventure. He was also wanting to get dialed into the local rock climbing scene and had been told about "Bong." That's when I made the plunge and contacted him. When I heard back from him, Abhijit was friendly and welcoming. He invited us to his house to meet up with other climbers and then go climbing nearby.

The climbing is in a suburb of Navi Mumbai called Belapur, across the bay from Mumbai and a bit of a haul to get out there. Luckily, Chris has a car and driver, so he graciously offered to drive, making it much easier t
o reach our destination. Belapur is a wonderful, peaceful place nestled up against some green, rolling hills. The neighborhoods are small bungalows, crowded together and reached by narrow foot paths. It wa

s calm and cozy. Beautiful and allows one to forget they are in Mumbai.
The climbing area has many boulders and then a handful of bolted routes. We brought most of our gear since we didn't know what to expect. In the end, we only needed our shoes and chalk bags because the bolted routes are still being cleaned from the monsoon season. There were about seven other climbers who were welcoming, relaxed and we felt free to hang with them or try out other boulders. The highlight of the morning was when I slipped in to try a traverse and placed a hang jam. One of the locals was so excited to see this and wanted to try it. (There isn't much crack
climbing around, so all the locals are strong crimpers....I am far from that, so I used what I do best). Chris came over and tried to start from the bottom of the crack system. Again, excitement. One of the wise and older climbers stated, "you've just put up a new route. We didn't even think of that." It was so much fun to exchange beta and learn from each other. After a few hours we were spent, having lost a couple of layers of skin from our soft hands, and our bodies not use to climbing. It was wonderful!! I hope to be out there most weekends until the heat comes again... Yeehaw!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jullay from Ladakh

Diwali was this past week and with it the end of the festival season in India, as well as a week off for Greg. We finally made it to Ladakh, India’s most northern state, located in the rugged Himalayas. Our time there marked the end of the tourist season, so we were greeted with calm and quiet as there were not many tourists and many of the guesthouses, shops and restaurants were already shut down.

In order to get to Leh, there are two routes, by air or road. The road route can take about four days from Dehli, so we flew, starting from sea level and landing at 11,500 feet. Luckily, Greg and I did fine acclimatizing. Only some small headaches that didn’t last long and huffing and puffing up the steep stuff. We spent the first two days in Leh, exploring the town, walking up to the two palaces, over to Shanti Stupa and around the main bazaar. There are many narrow walk ways, lined with irrigation canals that were covered with bright yellow leaves in many areas that crunched under our feet. Both of us were so thankful to experience late fall weather since we missed it last year. The walk ways were also for human, dogs, and cows only, so it made for a peaceful way to get around.

Day three we decided to test our lungs and headed to Hemis, a monastery about an hour and a half drive from Leh. Hemis was located in a tucked-away valley, so we winded up through grasslands and farmlands until the monastery appeared around a corner. After exploring, we found a path that headed into the mountains, which was well maintained. Again, the fall colors along the valley were breathtaking, with huge, rugged peaks in the background. The pathway headed up a steep mountainside to another monastery built around a cave, Gotsang Cave, where a Buddhist monk first came to the area to meditate. When we arrived, we were greeted by a monk who spoke fairly good English. After sitting in the cave for a bit (amazing energy inside), we were invited for tea to warm up. We enjoyed chatting with the young monk and learning a little about his life. We decided to keep climbing up since we were both feeling okay, and hiked another hour until we reached the top of a pass. We were greeted by three Bharal or blue sheep. They scooted to the side, but didn’t seem too disturbed by our presence. The views of Leh and the surrounding valleys were spectacular. We found out later that we were up at about 13,500 feet. It was also very cold and windy, so we had a quick snack and then headed down. The monk had invited us to his room for more tea and some snacks, which we welcomed for warmth and energy before heading back to the monastery. The building where the monks lived, was also built around caves and very cozy. When we reached back to Leh in the late afternoon, we warmed our bodies with yummy Thukpa, a Tibetan noodle soup. Our diet for most of the trip revolved around Thukpa , Momos and Tibetan Herbal Tea. Both very comforting food.

The fourth day, we headed to another monastery, Likir, that housed a 30-plus foot Buddha statue as well as a school for young monks. We had a nice cup of tea and conversation with one of the teachers. They heated the water with a solar-powered stove, very cool. We then headed to the trail-head of a two day trek along the valley and we hiked for a couple of hours. This trail reminded us of Western Colorado and Utah, with the sandstone rock formations and arid climate. We started with a steep downhill and then rolled along until we hit a small village, then turned around and, surprisingly, despite the uphill, made it back the same time it took to hike out. Maybe getting acclimated…?

Day five, we headed out on a river valley at the start of the Stok Kangal trek, a four day trek to the top of the highest peak near Leh at 20,082 feet. We didn’t get far enough to glimpse the mountain from our hike, but had a great view of it each day from the guesthouse. We were lucky enough to see another heard of Bharal and a lone Urial, with amazing horns. The latter was quite skittish and ran expertly up the mountainside to get away from us. The rock formations back in the valley were amazing. Rows and rows of sharp fins, rising high. In two areas, there were remains of brick buildings that were built, balancing precariously on the top of these fins. We hiked about six hours out and back and both of us were pretty tired and ready for a rest. It’s amazing the energy it takes out of you at that altitude. Answer…nope, not quite acclimated, but getting there.

Our final day, we couldn’t resist the drive to the top of the highest (actually second highest) motorable road in the world at 18.380 feet. The drive was up a long, windy, mostly dirt road that is constantly being worked on to keep drivable. Greg did well and did not get carsick, though we had to ask our driver to slow down several times as he liked to take the corners fast. At the top, we did the requisite photo-op and then hiked the short staircase to the small monastery, having to pause to catch our breath several times. It was a great view of both sides, the snow capped mountains dominating. It was also very cold, so after a quick cup of tea, we jumped back in the car and headed down. We’ve now been over 18,000 feet! (by car J).

We walked back up to the Shanti Stuppa in Leh to watch the sunset and to mark the end of a great week. We are both so grateful for getting to have such a great week in an amazing place and hope to get one more chance to do some multi-day treks before our time ends in this part of the world. Jullay! (hello, goodbye, thank you in Ladakhi).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Kaas Plateau

Over the three day weekend for Gandhi’s birthday, a friend and I headed to the Kaas Plateau in southern Maharatra in the Satara District. Our significant others were going to join, but one had too much work and the other was not feeling well. Luckily, we were both encouraged to still go.

The Kaas Plateau is not found in any of the typical guidebooks. It is a local Indian tourist spot during the monsoon, as the plateau becomes a canvas of changing colors with the rains growing a large variety of wildflowers from August-early October. When we were told about this beautiful sight at a meditation retreat in July, I couldn’t wait for this three day weekend.

We took an overnight “ish” train to Satara, arriving at 2am. We had hired Rajesh to meet us and take us to our hotel. It all worked out without a hitch. I think we were some of the first foreigners to stay at our three star hotel and we were the only “whitees” in the area for the weekend. Our first day, after a decent southern Indian breakfast of idlis and sheera, we jumped in the hired car and enjoyed the hour and a half ride up, up, up the steep hillside towards the plateau. It was green and lush around us as we breathed in the fresh air. The driver reported that “1 lakh” people visited the plateau last weekend. Wow! When we reached the plateau, we were not allowed to stop. The government had set up a bus system to transfer people from a parking area to the plateau. Amazing!! They were actually trying to conserve the area. I was very pleased about this. Our driver did his best to explain that we foreigners should be accommodated with the car, but they would not budge.

We spent awhile exploring around Kaas Lake, just below the plateau and there was evidence of the previous crowds from the trash laying around. Despite that, we didn’t have to wander far to get away from the trash and start seeing evidence of the flowers we would be seeing on the plateau. The lake was peaceful and we had our first snack while gazing at a patch of lily pads.

When we got to the plateau, looking out, one could see swaths of white and pink. Upon closer inspection, there were many varieties of flowers in white, pink, purple, yellow and blue. There were many large cameras with huge lens being toted around by others. I had my small point and shoot, which worked just fine at capturing the beauty. We spent several hours wandering around, having lunch and walking back to the parking lot. We opted out of having the bus drive us back. That evening at the hotel, we had an amazing Guajarati Thali for 110Rs and watched Dandia dancing for Navatri.

After a lazy morning, we set out the next afternoon for some nearby temples. The temples were of the Shiva variety, with one being filled with lingums. The hike up the ridge and exploration took about an hour. At the top of the ridge, we were rewarded with spectacular views of the valley below us. We started to hear what sounded like rain falling, but could not see rain anywhere. I guessed there might be a waterfall close by. Ha, I was very wrong. Just as we started back down, there was a light sprinkle. Then it became a light rain, so we pulled out rain jackets. Finally, it was a steady rain. By the time we reached the car, we were both soaked. But, by the time we reached the Kaas Plateau for some evening photos, we were both dry, except for our shoes. We found a beautiful meadow to explore as fine clouds settled in over the plateau. Unfortunately, we did not get to see the sun set from that vantage point, as was our goal. But, on the drive back down, the billowing clouds were a spectacular show as the sun faded away. After another fantastic thali dinner, we headed to the train station to return back to Mumbai.

For fresh air, getting outside, and wildflower viewing, it was a great trip. To find out more about the Kaas plateau, just plug the name into google and the sites available are endless. It’s a fun adventure to get off the Lonely Planet’s beaten path.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chowpatty Beach - Ganesha Immersion 2011

This weekend was the final days of Ganesh Chaturi, an eleven day festival celebration the Hindu God, Ganesha. Saturday morning, Greg and I got up early and took the train down to South Mumbai to get a tour of some of the larger Ganesh statues. We saw big ones and small ones, eco-friendly and plaster made, the cricket World Cup Ganesh, a Ganesh made out of over 80,000 buttones, a Ganesh made of plastic pearls, Ganesh with other Hindu gods and godesses, Ganesh in a many!

Then, Sunday afternoon, we jumped back
on the train with my friend, Claudia and her husband, and headed to Chowpatty Beach, where the largest immersion is held. It starts early afternoon, gaining momentum and one of the final immersions happens the next morning with the largest Ganesh statue. Chowpatty is known to be super crowded and have the largest Ganeshas in the city. We timed it right because after spending time on the beach, we started walking back against the crowds and saw four of the Ganeshas we saw the previous day being processed to the beach.

Enjoy the pictures. I've created a movie of the immersion photos which also includes some video clips. (Next post). Plus, the photo of me at the end with pink powder all over...this is the picture to go with my Facebook post. In the pictures you will see crowds, Ganeshas being carried into the water, floats used to carry the statues out as far as possible, puja (praying and chanting), and people just enjoying themselves. Remember, the water is very polluted and we scrubbed our feet thoroughly when we reached home and the thousands of plaster or paris statues only add to this nastiness. There is a campaign to encourage returning to using clay statues and eco-friendly paints. Some families now do a ceremonial immersion in a bucket at home and then keep the Ganesh for the next year. FOR PHOTO COLLAGE:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Delicious recipes

It's been raining and raining and raining here the past week and a half. I've been trying to keep my head above the clouds by staying social. I've been spending some more time with Pallavi, who I was introduced to last year when I wanted to have some kurtas made. She does a wonderful job with color and patterns and I have a hard time not buying new kurtas when I'm around her. Jenn, my upstairs neighbor and the person who introduced me to Pallavi, and I loved the idea of learning how to cook some tasty Indian dishes when Pallavi suggested it. So, yesterday, we gathered in Jenn's kitchen and started chopping and mixing. Originally, we were all going to the market to buy ingredients, but due to the soggy nature of outside, Pallavi suggested we pool our refrigerator and cupboard resources and make dishes from what we have. Our end products were delicious. In a little over an hour, we had created four dishes with Pallavi only buying some cabbage and corriander leaves. Greg and two other friends, Reid and Rachel, joined us for our feast.

Here are the recipes:



- Moong dal (small yellow)

- Ural dal (white)

- Toor dal (larger yellow)

- Masoor da (orange)

- Ghee

- 1 bay leaf

- Few peppercorns

- Few cloves

- Three small pieces of cinnamon stick

- Tsp cumin seeds

- ¾ c- 1c finley chopped onions

- 1 inch ginger ground into a paste or grate

- 1 tsp turmeric powder

- 1tsp Dhansak Masala

- Pinch of aseophida

- Two tomatoes chopped small

- Three cups of water plus 1 TBS

- Two pinches of salt

1) Combine all the dals with equal mixture of all except Ural dal, use 1-2 TBS, soak for a few minutes.

2) Heat a TBS of Ghee in a pressure cooker.

3) Combine the bay leaf, pepper corn, cloves, cinnamon, and cumin seeds together and add to ghee. Heat until the cumin seeds sputter and don’t let them turn black.

4) Add onions and cook until soft.

5) Add Ginger, let cook briefly and then add turmeric, Dhansak Masala, and aseophida, stir together.

6) Add tomatoes and 1 TBS of water. Cook for several minutes until there is a shine on the tomatoes from the oil. Mash.

7) Add two pinches of salt, stir.

8) Add the dal mix and twice as much water as dal. Ex: 1 and a half cups of dal and three cups of water. Cover and cook.

9) After five whistles, turn the heat down slightly and let cook for another 10 minutes. Turn up heat until there is another whistle. Turn off heat and let cool. Serve with coriander leaves as garnish and limes.


Ingredients: (Serves 10)

- 3 cups of rice and six cups of water

- 3 cups of mixed vegetables

- 2 TBS Ghee

- 3 bay leaves

- Several pieces of cinnamon stick

- Few cloves

- Few peppercorns

- 1 Tbs cumin seeds

- 1 cup onion, finely chopped

- Ginger and garlic paste, 1 TBS

- Salt to taste

1) Soak rice for several minutes and drain.

2) Heat Ghee in a large pot.

3) Add bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn, cumin seeds and onion. Stir and let cook until cumin sputters.

4) Add Vegetables, ginger and garlic, salt and cook for several minutes.

5) Add rice, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.

6) Add water, stir and cover.

7) stir occasionally as vegetables rise to top.

8) When rice is half way cooked, add coriander.

9) When water is gone, rice is cooked. Serve.



- 1-2 cabbages chopped

- 2 green chilis slit length wise

- Oil

- Curry leaves

- 1 TBS mustard seed

- 1 TBS cumin seed

- Pinch of aseophida

1) Heat oil in a pan. Oil needs to be very hot.

2) Add mustard seed and cook until mustard seed sputters.

3) Add cumin seed, stir

4) Add aseophida powder, chilis, curry leaves, and cabbage. Stir it all together.

5) Add a pinch of turmeric and TBS of salt, Stir.

6) Cook , stirring often, until cabbage reduces 1/3 to a half. 10-15 minutes.

7) Serve with coriander as a garnish.



- 8 small brinjals or round eggplants, cut in quarters, but still attached to stem.

- Oil

- 1 cup onions

- 2-3 potatoes chopped

- 2 tomatoes

- Coriander leaves

- Salt

- Coconut powder mixed with water (about 2 cups)

- 1 tsp Chili powder, 1 TBS coriander powder, pinch of turmeric powder

1) Heat oil in a pan

2) Add onions and sauté

3)Add brinjal and potatoes, stirp and cover to cook. 10 min

4) Add tomatoes, coriander leaves and salt to taste, stir and continue to cook until veggies are soft.

5) Add coconut water and stir.

6) Add chili powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder. Stir.

7 Serve.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vipassana Meditation - the experience through Twy's eyes

We had tentatively planned to head north to Ladakh and the Himalayas after the US, but we realized a SCUBA trip to Malaysia and then a trip to the US was enough money to spend in one summer. So, in Tim and Jill's kitchen we began to research and to think about alternative plans. Neither of us wanted to spend two weeks in rainy Mumbai. I looked at some yoga retreats, which Greg was only luke warm on. He had his mind set on meditation. He came across Vipassana meditation, which I had done nine years earlier when I traveled to Northern India. There are several centers in Maharastra, but they were all full except a center in the south eastern part of the state. We both put in an application and were accepted. My brain, "what am I doing?! I already went through that torture once. Yea, it was a great experience, but twice!" I made train reservations and we were all set before we left the US.

When we arrived in Mumbai we had four days to recuperate from jet lag and I had developed a cold. For those of you who don't know, I've been struggling with allergies and colds consistently since January. The sickness was a reminder of what I was returning to...and I had yet to see a doctor for any of it due to my denial that it would last this long. So, on the day we were suppose to board an overnight train, I was having breathing issues and finally decided to see a doctor. I went to a respiratory specialist ($12), got some meds and a blessing to go on the meditation course. It was at this point that I finally committed to going. My brain: "Alright, I'm doing this. I know I can do it and it will be a growing experience. Plus, I want to see how Greg does."

Luckily, the first class compartments had been available when I booked, so we got a door and shared with one other person. He was a businessman in textiles and the area we were headed was known for textiles. Still dealing with jet lag, a cold, and Greg had hurt his back earlier in the day at the gym, we headed to bed pretty early. At 6:30am, we got off at a rural train station at Hatkangale. We had most of the day ahead of us. Our first task was finding breakfast. We negotiated a little with a rickshaw driver to take us to a restaurant (luckily one was open that early) and then onto the meditation center. The ride there was 6km through lots of farmland. It was quite beautiful and peaceful. Registration wasn't until 3pm and it was now close to 8am. No one was at the office, so we ditched our packs and walked over to the huge Jain temple next door. That kept us busy until 9am, when we wandered back and thankfully someone came up to help us. We were given some breakfast and keys to rooms. Pretty much we just relaxed most of the day, met another person who wandered in early, also from Mumbai, and watched people slowly appear in the afternoon. I was wondering if I would be one of the only women, but there ended up being over 30 of us, with one leaving after day two. 70 men started and 65 completed the course. At 5:00pm, we had dinner, a discourse about the next day and at 8pm we were in Noble Silence. The course had begun.

So what the heck is this Vipassana meditation??! The technique was discovered by Buddha, who found his way to enlightenment through this meditation technique. He taught it to five of his friends and then suddenly, everyone wanted to learn. When Buddha started off, his teachings were this technique and encouragement to continue the practice. It was not about a certain dogma or worshiping him. Those things really flourished after he died and his teachings were changed into a religion. This technique expanded in India for 500 years and then faded. Luckily, monks had traveled to other countries and it was practiced in its pure form in Burma for 2500 years. Then S.N. Goenka came to India to teach the technique to his sick mother and others wanted to learn...he did not leave India and Vipassana centers are now located all over the world. That's the history in a nutshell.

The technique is observing sensations in your body and remaining "equanimous" to all sensations. Basically not being attached to positive sensations or attaching hate to negative sensations. Just acknowledging them for what they are and moving on. So simple, yet it takes much practice, young grasshopper. There is this thing called "The Mind," that is like a gerbil in its wheel. It keeps going and going and going, distracting and getting you no where. So practice has a lot with training this wild beast.

The course itself is a great test in determination and discipline. Ten days, no talking, the sexes are separated for everything, no reading or writing or cell phones or internet, two meals and an evening snack, and meditating for ten hours a day. That's sitting for ten hours a day for ten days. It's sooooooo painful at first. Quote from Greg,"I just kept thinking, all these Indians who sit and crouch all the time are struggling, so its got to be hard!" The first three days we learned Anapana, which is observing the natural breath and the sensations between the nose and upper lip. Then, day four, you learn Vipassana and it is announced that three times a day you are to sit for one hour without moving anything. Goenka had a great way of putting this: "First you are thinking this is so wonderful, feels so good. Then 20 minutes you are thinking there is pain, I can deal with this. Then at 30-40 minutes you are thinking there is just too much pain, I can't sit here any longer. One minute feels like an hour. Surely the teacher has lost track of time. Then the chanting starts and you are relieved but you still have five more minutes." I think I made it to one hour about one third of the time. I rolled a few cushions, sat with my legs folded under me and the cushions between my calves and butt. To get out of this position I had to peel out the cushions from under me, flop to one side, slowly get on my butt, and then it took several minutes to get my right ankle to flex. Finally I would manually straighten my legs and shake them out. But I was proud of myself for having the determination to stick it out and then I'd try it again later on in the day. And, yes, by the end I felt pretty happy. Just happy and giggly.

This being my second course, I knew what to expect with the logistics. I did not worry about the lack of food as I had the first time, my mind went on shorter jaunts this time, and I had felt more unpleasant sensations this time around. The environment was much more pleasant this time. We were nestled up against a large hill in a lush, green landscape. There were many flowers and loads of birds. I tried counting the different bird calls, but I lost track. The one that made me laugh the most were the peacocks. They were everywhere along the hillside and loud. Day three I thought of calling this blog, "Distractions of the peacock, a meditation experience." I was the only female to maintain Noble Silence, which was annoying at times (good practice for non-attachment to emotions) and also weird. I'm not sure what was up, but I stayed away from it.

On day ten, both Greg and I had Indians, curious, descend upon us, asking many questions. The women dressed me up, Mahrastrian style, in a sari. then I was paraded around, shown off to Greg and made to pose for many pictures. It was fun. The course officially ended the following morning. Greg and I went for a walk up the hill to the top where there were many Jain statues all over in different building stages. We wandered down the hill on a road and ran into a Shiva temple. We didn't go inside because we were so muddy from our hike. Instead we headed back to the meditation center and helped clean rooms. We decided to walk the 6km to the train station since we had time. Half of it was along many fields and villages. Once we got to the main road, it was busy and we tried to get off it as quick as possible. After an hour wait, our train appeared and to our astonishment, the same man we shared the compartment with last time was sitting there with another business man. The three of us laughed at this. We talked and shared food. At least food was shared with us, which was wonderful and another example of Indian compassion and caring.

I've meditated for an hour every day except for two days since returning to Mumbai and just notice I'm slightly more calm, don't always react to situations unless it's with a rickshaw driver. (Don't ask me why). At least I can recognize those situations a think of another perspective. So, I will continue along with practicing yoga since they go right along with each other. My future will, hopefully, involve a teacher training course with my teacher, Prasad. I'm enjoying this path...

Iowa, Colorado and Boston

We were able to see some family and friends in Iowa, Colorado, and Massachusetts during our three week, stateside visit. In Iowa, outside the wedding, we spent time with Greg's parents, Grandma and Grandpa Tibboel, the Schulers, Aunt Donna, and Mr. D. We stayed with Tim and Jill in Denver, always a wonderful place to be. Friends we saw on the front range were Jenny, Ryan, and little Zoey, Juan, Ken, Dine and Nate (Iowa and Boulder, we were lucky), and Lizzy (thanks for coming down from Fort Fun). We were fortunate to have a chance to see Susan and Collin twice, once in Denver and once on the way to Marble. The stars were aligned and we were able to stay with Rory and her parents in Westcliff and get in a little hiking.

Our time in Marble was spectacular, as usual. I think this is our favorite place in Colorado. Beautiful scenery and great company! There was still quite a lot of snow, so our plans to hike up Treasure Mountain at just under 14,000 feet were not realized. We did get in a hike up to Avalanche Pass (12,000 ft) with Ann, Krissy, and Tikka. We saw a huge herd of Elk make its way up and over the mountains, plus saw the backside of Mt. Daly, which we skied two winters ago. We also hiked to an amazing waterfall and Mount Marble when Amy joined us. Amy was a trouper and had her first experience with glissading. A little bit of the Himalayas made it to Marble with vertical prayer flags that Ann, Mike and I put up. We even had true American culture with ATVs and playing around on Pete's dirt bike. (Krissy loved this soooo much she know has her own). It was wonderful. The two sad pieces to our trip were missing Beatle and Sweet Buns being sick (and being put down the day we left). Both are such big parts of our thoughts and memories and will be in our hearts.

Boston!! Jake!! Need I say more. We had a lot of fun with our nephew, Jake. He's growing so fast, learning new things all the time, and just so darn cute. He really got into growling while we were there, to which we laughed at to no end, all the more encouraging him. We extended our stay and went to Cape Cod to spend more time with Jake, Grady and Laurie, and met Laurie's family. Jake has three older female cousins, who we had lots of fun with. One of the highlights was getting to be with Jake in his first pond experience. He LOVED it. But who wouldn't love to be in their b-day suit, enjoying warm water and having everyone oogle over you? It was also wonderful to watch Grady and Laurie be mom and dad...whew! We left the Cape via ferry. It was the most choppy boat ride I've ever been on. Quite a few sick people.

Here are a few pictures:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lauren and Dennis got married

In April, Greg and I made the decision to make a three week trip to the US so that I could try to obtain a business visa. Other employment opportunities were not happening and being able to set up a private practice seemed to be the best option for me to bring home some bacon while in Mumbai. Once we made that decision, I told Greg that I wanted to make it during Lauren and Dennis’s wedding in Des Moines, IA. We would be flying into Des Moines anyway since Greg’s car was parked at his parent’s house, so I figured it was meant to be. In this day and age, Facebook is both wonderful and a curse. I found Lauren’s mom’s page and sent her an email. A week later, after not hearing from her, I emailed Lauren’s brother, Adam, and he was on it. (I found out later Lauren had set up her mom’s page for her and she really never uses it). The second item on my list was the hotel rooms. Now, maybe I over thought this, but I wanted my bases covered. I was worried if Greg and I made a reservation at the Marriott, where the reception was to be held, Lauren would somehow see that reservation. Plus, it’s more fun to share rooms during these occasions. I thought of Nadine and Nate, but I was worried about telling Nadine. It would be a heavy burden to bear and I knew she would be in contact with Lauren a lot, so back on Facebook, I emailed Nate. He was onboard with the plan. Later we found out he had to remain strong when faced with a questioning Nadine as to why he needed to make the hotel reservation for her friend’s wedding and why they couldn’t share a room with others. He faced her down and the plan was successful.

The curse of Facebook is the Wall. It’s very hard to coordinate showing up at a wedding unannounced and plan other parts of our stateside trip without having people make wall posts. All in confidence were strictly advised no Facebook wall communication. Before we left for Malaysia, Lauren and Dennis were blocked from viewing “friend” posts since Greg’s brother slipped and wrote he couldn’t wait to see us. Plus, Lauren became increasingly interrogating with our last few contacts. “Tell me EXACTALY what you are doing this summer. I want the details.”

We arrived in Iowa at 8:30pm on the 18th of June. The rehearsal dinner was the following evening. We made it through the morning, but had to take a nap in the afternoon to combat jet lag. Getting a little lost on our way to the winery, we got back on track. Just as we were pulling in I was worried the Cavalier would be recognized, so I had Greg park behind a white van. We got out of the car and my heart was beating and I wondered if Lauren had figured it out. We walked up the walk way to the entrance where people were milling about. I saw Nadine and Julia look at us in a weird way and Nate smiled. Julia let out a scream and she, Nadine, and Corrine came running up to us. They were in disbelief and totally surprised. All the sudden I noticed Lauren standing next to us with her mouth open. “What are you doing here?!” I gave her a hug but she remained stunned. We all agreed she finally left her state of shock by the time food was served and she came over to talk with us. Our mission of surprise was a complete success!! MANY thanks to Judy, Adam, and Nate.

The wedding as the next day, on Father’s day. We pulled through the jet lag, which was becoming painful at times. The ceremony was very nice and the Rabbi’s explanation and humor were wonderful. It was a lot of fun to see and catch up with friends and dance the evening away. Lauren looked stunning and Dennis had a grin on his face most of the night. I’m grateful we were able to attend and support the two of them. Some of Lauren’s parting words, “I don’t know how I’m ever going to top this one.” I told her, “I can’t wait to see what you come up with.”