Above the clouds.

Yesterday we took the short Druk Air flight from Bumthang back to Paro in western Bhutan.  The ticket counter, security and gate were all in one room.  We saw one other “western” family with kids among the locals and monks. They asked the kids if they want to play tag in the grass parking lot before the flight - turns out they live in Austin. 

During the 30-minute flight as we rose just above the clouds, we saw the most amazing sight.  Poking through the clouds in the not too far distance were several snow-capped Himalayan peaks. Each of them had to have been over 20,000 to 24,000 feet tall.  The tallest of the Bhutanese Himalayas, Gangkhar Puensum (Bhutanese name), to this day remains unclimbed. The mountain is believed to be sacred and the locals don’t want climbing expeditions “cursing” the mountain with litter, human waste and even dead bodies from climbers that would meet their fate, as would certainly happen over time.  We heard that the current offer to the Bhutanese government is equivalent to $1 Million USD by a Japanese group (vs around $50k fee for Mt Everest) to climb, and so far, these offers have been denied, but time will tell. It reminded me that we also saw the one helicopter in Bhutan which serves as rescue vehicle or sightseeing for the right price.  Nevertheless, the mountain views are spectacular and I hope that we catch a glimpse of Everest on our flight back to India.

In Paro, we met a new guide named Pema. Dorji and Karma are still driving back from Bumthang with our luggage along the curvy mountain roads. A truck had flipped the night before across the single lane mountain roads and it would be late into the next night before they arrived.

Pema took us to the Paro Dzong and the Kyichu Temple before returning to the hotel for some much-needed relaxation.  Eager for tomorrow’s long-awaited journey!

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The Four Friends.

Today we woke up and had a delicious breakfast! We jumped in the van, headed straight for the Dzong. When we got there we walked up more stairs than I have probably walked up in the past year! When we got inside, Dorji told us about the white lines along the ground. Those lines kept the audience out of the dance area. The dance is called the black hat dance. While preforming the dance the people would do all sorts of things such as, spin around, go in and out, etc. As we were learning about this dance a baby monk came up to me and…Bam, punched me right in the stomach! Then he turned around and started punching my mom in the butt. All of the sudden Dorji started laughing at something the monk had said, so we asked what did he say? He said, "Oh boy, Westerners are strong!" We then realized that he was not punching us for fun or to hurt us. He was punching us to see if we were strong! Then we went down to where they stored water in the watch tower. Although it was a long way down it was a really cool experience! After, we walked to a temple from the 7th century! There, we got blessed by a master monk! Right after we got blessed we walked around the Buddha spinning prayer wheels, to maximize the blessing. Then, we walked around the whole entire temple spinning more prayer wheels! As we were walking to the van something caught my eye, rocks! These are not just any rocks, these are lucky ones! I handed them the money and then walked away with a rock that had the four friends on it.

Let me tell you the story about them. The four friends contains an elephant, a monkey, a rabbit, and a bird. They all saw a tree with fruit on it and they all wanted the fruits on that tree. Sadly, they were just too small to reach and grab those fruits on that huge tree. So, they decided to climb on top of each other. The monkey said, I’m the oldest, I will be on the top to grab the fruit. Then, the elephant said, no way! I’m the oldest I should be on top. Of course, the rabbit and the bird disagreed they thought that they were the oldest. Instead of arguing, they decided to go by size. Elephant on bottom, then the monkey, then the rabbit, then the bird. Finally, they reached the fruit. And, well, you get it happily ever after.

Next, we went to a temple also from the 7th century. There, we carried chains on our backs and ran around the temple 1 time to forgive our sins. Then we went into the town of Bumthang to have a local lunch. So yummy!! We got in the van again and went to the gorge. The gorge is a rock cut out formation with water running through it. It is a very sacred place, so no one can swim there. Pema Lingpa was a Buddhist saint that discovered treasures there. He jumped in the water with a burning lamp and came out, it was still lit. After, we went to a cheese and a beer factory. When we were at the cheese factory we saw how it was made and went into a storage room where they were ageing the cheese wheels. Next we went to the beer factory. We learned how it was made and then we went into a tasting room. I poured a beer for my dad and the bubbles were over flowing, so I wiped my forehead and put my finger on top of the bubbles. After, the bubbles went down. Then, I licked my finger, yuck!  We went back to the hotel and relaxed. (BTW the hotel name is Wangdicholing Resort!) 

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Lha Gay Lo!

Our morning started off beautifully. We went on a nature walk through the silver pine forest and spilled out into the wetlands valley of Gangtey. On our way, we spotted 2 of the last black-neck cranes in the valley which was quite auspicious :). With a belly full of Yak meat (Jeff and Q), we  then embarked upon the drive from Gantey to Bumthang. It proved to be an adventure. The to be 5 hour trip turned into a scenic 9 hour drive on a bumpy road under construction. The terrain ranged from snow to dirt to extreme mud, driving me to crack open a bottle of wine, just short of the final pass at 12,000 feet. (For those of you that have been to Telluride, imagine the road to the top of Bridal Veil Falls...for 9 hours; then add fog, rain, extreme conditions.) Thanks to Karma's superb driving skills and Dorji's sense of humor, we made it to Bumthang, the spiritual heartland of Bhutan.

Our hotel reminds us of Sipapu, given the swiss influence here. After having a delicious vegetarian meal (it is Holy month here so there is no meat available),  lighting a fire for heat, and a few tears (I think that I have finally pushed my kids to their limit), we were off to bed. I was feeling pretty guilty last night for dragging my family on and into my midlife crisis; however, we awoke to a beautiful morning and 2 more black-necked cranes. I think all is working out as intended. 

Note: Lha Gay Lo! is what our guide, Dorji, has us yell every time we cross a mountain pass.

Sliding and then stuck in the mud at 11,000+ feet.

Sliding and then stuck in the mud at 11,000+ feet.

Longevity blessing.

Our time in Gangtey is coming to a close and I don't want it to. We've hiked, the kids have played Bhutan's national sport and Bhutanese darts, gone searching for black-necked crane, visited multiple monasteries and we've really enjoyed the Gangtey Lodge (which is an experience in and of itself). 

Today we received a longevity blessing from a small, new monastery, headed by a young master and 17 monks between the ages of 10 and 16. It was a beautiful experience. We arrived to the sound of a consistent drum beat and chanting. We were then invited to light 108 butter candles, 104 of which were outside of the temple. We then climbed a precarious set of stairs to a temple to light the final 4. What we found was the young boys performing a ritual, which apparently they had started at 5AM in preparation for our arrival that afternoon. We then lit our final 4 candles and sat down. The boys continued their chanting, increasing their pace and volume, praying for our longevity, protection and the removal of any obstacles in our life. It was powerful to witness this, especially given how young, yet intentional the boys were. Upon our departure, we were asked for our birth month and years so that the boys could continue to pray for us individually.

We entered the temple in the freezing rain and exited to sunshine. It was magical. However, the boys had one final task, getting our van out of the mud. Amelia got quite the kick out of watching 8 monks tie up their robes and push the van (especially once she caught a glimpse of what was under their robes - basketball shorts). It was the physical manifestation of their prayers - removing our most immediate obstacle. 

*Young monks usually come from poor families who cannot afford to care for their children. They send them to the monastery to be cared for. Once they are of the age of consent, they are given the option to take the vow and commit to another 8 years of study. 

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Let me see that Dzong.

The drive from Thimphu to Punakha with our guide Dorji and driver Karma reminded me of the landscape of northwestern New Mexico with pine trees and a dryness to the soil among the mountains. But the more we drove, the more I saw the diversity in the landscape and began to see some color in the early spring: Red flower Rhotodendron, purple primrose, white magnolia, cherry blossom and oaks among the pine and the national tree of Bhutan which is the cypress. 

We stopped for tea at Dochula Pass at 10,200 feet elevation in the Himalayas, where on clear day you have a view of the highest peaks in Bhutan including Mt. Masanggang at 23,484 ft.  This mountain pass is home to the 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens, which celebrates the Bhutanese military victory over Indianian insurgents in 2003 and memorializes the lost soldiers. This is also near the location where Drukpa Kunley (more on him later) is said to have subdued the 3 demonesses in the 15th century.

After lunch we headed down into the Punakha Valley. I loved the way the rice paddies were carved into the mountainside. Even though it’s not yet rice season, since the Punakha area has such a good climate and fertile soil, you could already see crops of chillies, beans, spinach, mustard, wheat and coriander where the rice will soon grow. 

Next stop was the Chimi Lhakhang temple and surrounding village - very interesting artwork on walls and doorways on the homes outside this temple. Drukpa Kunley was not your “average” saint if you know what I mean.  See NSFW post. 

The last stop on our first day in Punakha was a Buddhist Nunnery called Dorji Lhuendrup. All the girls had shaved heads and wore deep red robes, which made them look just like the male monks we’d seen in the other monasteries. The shaving of the heads is a tradition that goes back to the first Buddha when he leaves his wealthy family to see the "real" world, sheds his belongings and cuts his hair.

We turned in at the Dhensa Hotel which is amazing. We were invited to a pre-dinner happy hour to watch the hotel staff do 30 minutes of traditional Bhutanese dances. The one other Hotel guest, a Swiss couple from Bangkok, were very nice. 

The next morning we took a short drive into the valley to begin a 45 minute hike to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal chorten. Along the way we passed a prayer wheel where an 88 year old man was spinning the wheels and counting his prayer beads. We offered him water and some fresh apples as appreciation. Not sure he had any teeth so maybe an apple wasn’t the best choice. He asked to borrow our guide’s binoculars so he could check out his neighbors house across the valley. His niece lived there and was building a new roof.  We continued on to the chorten on top of the hill. It was a relatively new structure, built in 1999. We learned more about the 7 bowls and offerings that are present in all temples. This particular temple was the only one we’ve been able to take the stairs to the 3rd floor and also walk outside to see a stunning view of the valley. 

We started the next leg of our hike through the fields and rice patties along a small farming community.  We meet a farmer who our guide Dorji recently helped raise money to repair his house and update the traditional paintings that are on every Bhutanese structure. 

We had a nice picnic by the river and watched the red ducks in the water.  Then we took a short hike to a 220 meter suspension bridge.  Carla made it halfway, despite her fear of heights, before turning back.  The kids, on the other hand, decide to race each other across.  Quentin tells Carla, "You don't have a fear of heights; you have a fear of falling."

Our last stop was the Punakha Dzong.  A Dzong is basically a fortress. It's where the king and chief abbot would rule and conduct the country's business as well as the main area for protection.  Punakha was the capitol of Bhutan prior to the 1950's when it was moved to Thimphu.  Legend says that when Ngawang Namgyal found a mountain shaped like a sleeping elephant, he'd know where to build the Dzong.  We were told another story of a time when a small Tibetan force was planning on attacking the Dzong. The general of the Bhutanese army told the villagers to each plant an Aramenthis flower, which happens to be the same color as the Bhutanese army uniforms.  When the small unit from Tibet came to the ridge of the mountains leading to the Dzong, the saw what appeared to be thousands of Bhutanese troops in color and decided to retreat being outnumbered.

I'm not a baby.

Um, why is everybody calling me a baby (sounds like: beh-bee)? Last time I checked I’m turning 11 in 5 days. 5 days! Do they know that I am basically 11? Do I need to wear a sign? I mean my brother barely gets called baby, but whenever he is on the phone he just gets called ma’am. I would rather be called ma’am. I am not a baby. Yep, it’s happening. Today I am going up to them, I am going to tell them…I AM NOT A BABY! Look at the photo. This is how little they think an 11 year old is. 

(Note from the editor: Amelia orders hot chocolate at every meal.)



(Note from the editor: If you offend easily, please don't read.)

Let’s just get it out of the way, this place (Punakha Valley) has penises everywhere. They have big penises, small ones, and even some giant ones. We first saw a couple on our first hike but they were just paintings. We thought it was just something that was just there, maybe having some meaning, but irrelevant in our time. But today we learned all about the penis. We got out of the car and saw a painting of a penis with fangs and eyes. The fangs were to scare away evil spirits, and the penis part was to support fertility. The whole penis thing started with Drukpa Kunley, who was a saint who was a crazy guy (The Divine Madman) who would guide women on their journey. There was one story that our guide told us that I really liked. It was about a lady who had a painting and she was bringing it up to a monk to get it consecrated (blessed). On the way up, she met Drukpa Kunley and he asked what the woman was doing. She said that she was going to the monks to get her painting blessed. Drukpa Kunley said, "Oh don’t worry. I will bless it for you". The lady didn’t know what he was talking about and then he started to pee on the painting. The lady was very mad and she snatched the painting from him and then walked up to the monks like she was going to do. When she got to them they asked why she was so mad. She responded by saying a man, down the mountain, urinated on (my) painting. The monk said, "Oh, I don’t have to do the blessing anymore. It is already blessed". The lady was confused, then the monk removed the cover that was keeping the painting clean and the pee had turned into gold. This is one of my favorite stories because it has some humor and it is also a neat story. We then went for lunch at a really astounding place where we ate spicy food with a great view. But all around the room there were penises. There were some wind chime penises, decorative penises, and also a 4-foot-tall/long penis. After our lunch and several penis jokes we went down to see a little village. We saw some really unique houses and even some cool shops. If you had to guess, what do you think was in the shops? Yep more penises, but this time there were more souvenirs. They had some key chains and even some necklaces, all penises. But along with then there were masks and some clothes, but mostly penises. We then climbed up a small hill to reach a fertility temple. On the outside is a stupa, a burial covering for evil spirits. Drukpa Kunley the same man in the first story, tricked 2 evil spirits that had combined into one dog. The story starts where he sits on top of a tree with cows tied to the bottom. At night, he waits for the evil spirits to come. At first the spirits come in 2, one goes to eat the cows and the others sees Drukpa in the tree. They retreat and make a plan, they decided to go as a dog. One spirit jumped into the other and they transformed into a dog. They came back to the tree and Drukpa was still waiting. The spirits walked up like nothing was wrong but Drukpa knew it was them so he grabbed them and killed them. He then built a stupa to keep evil spirits away in the future. Then we went into the fertility temple. It was built in 1499 and named Chimi Lhakhang. People come from all around the world to perform a ritual that will help them have a baby. I don’t know how to end a story about penises, so...

The End


Solar dogs.

Today we woke up ready to hike! We had a 45-minute drive to the bridge, which is the start of the hike to the Chagri Monastery. Walking up the trail you see a carving of a Buddha in a huge rock. The start of the hike was all uphill, then more uphill and a little bit more uphill. Then, we stopped at a small Stupa, which is a small temple where they bury important relics. After, we walked up some more and got up to a monastery. When we got to the temple we had to take off our shoes, before entering. Once inside, we learned about the three statues. Then we lit the butter candles. When we were lighting the butter candles we all prayed for someone or something we care about. Then, the monk said a blessing for our family. We walked down the trail and had a picnic lunch. All of the sudden, dogs were surrounding us wanting all of our food. Our guide told us that they were “solar dogs”, which means they are asleep in the sun all day and awake at night. Next, we went to the Royal Textile Museum. There we saw a bunch of cool Kiras and Ghos, which is the national dress of Bhutan. We also watched a video of people making them and the different styles and patterns in the different regions in Bhutan. Finally, we went to a huge temple of a golden Buddha on the top of a mountain. It is 169 feet tall and all of it was made out of brass! That must have been a lot of brass! Ending the day, we had dinner trying local Bhutanese types of food. Spicy!

(Note from the editor: Photos are now posting to the images tab.)

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We are on our second day in Bhutan but I still find myself processing India. We traversed the golden triangle for 7 nights and packed a lifetime into the last week. We’ve covered countless monuments, worked in a community kitchen in a Sikh temple, learned about life in these diverse Indian cities, stopped for delicious Masala Chai on the road side (and our guts survived), rode Elephants to the entrance of Amer Fort and purchased our body weight in block print. 

I don’t think that I will be able to truly process this last week for a while. Perhaps it is due to the fact that my nerves are shot. The stimulation in India was constant. In a word, India is kinetic. It may take the quiet of Bhutan to enable me to digest it all. It might be months before it truly sinks in. 

I’m really curious as to how it will impact the kids longer term. They were both troopers as we had hard charging days and covered 1 train ride, 1 road trip, 3 flights, 4 cities and 4 hotels in the first 9 nights. (This is all before Bhutan.)

One thing that I have observed clearly, however, is the impact on our family. Just 11 days in and our dynamic has changed for the better. The absence of devices has meant actual conversation. Quentin and Amelia are constantly playing cards and made-up games together. They hang on each other, hug and wrestle. In contrast to at home, where they hardly speak to each other anymore and they certainly don’t touch.

There is another variable that is contributing to this as well. We sit down and eat every meal together. 3 times a day we find ourselves around the table, recapping the day before and talking about the day ahead. I once read a book about the happiest families and it stated that sitting down to a meal together is one of the most powerful things that you can do to bond a family. This practice, while somewhat unrealistic when school starts, is coming home with us. It costs no money and it is invaluable. 

Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the people that we have encountered in India. Some of my favorite people back home are from India and my attraction to them is evident here as well. 

The people here are so very kind, patient, funny, service oriented, hard working, creative and deep. I am normally an introvert but here, for some reason, I gain energy from interacting with the people. There was Gaurav, who teased Amelia and Q every morning at breakfast at the Lodhi. Sweety, our guide in Delhi, who kissed and hugged us upon her departure. Shanti and Inder, opened their family farm and welcomed us with family and friends for Holi. Their friends instantly accepted us as their own - we joked and laughed with them as if we were with our own friends back home. Shiv, our guide in Jaipur, had a calm and gentle energy, which was easy going and adapted to our curiosity. He made sure that we balanced our days so that everyone was properly entertained. He also gifted us a couple of jokes that I intend to take home with me: I’m Mughal not Google. :) Or the woman and her two girls at Dzurt, who made it a point to introduce herself and her girls (8 and 4) to me and Q. She welcomed us to Jaipur and asked us about where we were from and what we had seen thus far. 

In the coming days, we will be posting about Bhutan. We've already had our first night in Thimphu, where we hiked to Chagri Monastery, visited an art school, the textile museum, a Takin preserve (an animal so unique that it doesn't even seem real!) and had our first traditional Bhutanese meal - just to name a few things. The rammed mud houses, dried chilis, colorful textiles and smell of piñon in the air, make is seem strangely familiar - like Taos with Chinese and Indian influences. We leave for The Punakha Valley tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Note: Bandwidth is super limited so photos will have to updated later. 


Q and Amelia play cards everywhere - here they are at the Amer Fort

Q and Amelia play cards everywhere - here they are at the Amer Fort

Big day. Big animals.

Today we had an action-packed day and it started with a confusing start. We had to pack up, but since we are the Subletts we waited to the last minute. We went to breakfast where I had pancakes with bacon. After I ate that, I asked for another pancake, but I never got the extra food. That made me mad because we were running late and I left the hotel hungry. We then drove by the Palace of the Winds. When we got out to take photos we saw some snake charmers. My dad went to pet the snakes but I stayed back. Then we went to Amber Fort which was built in the 16th century. It is a wall that seems like It goes forever and in the middle, is a palace where the wealthy people stayed. To get up we took elephants which was really cool. Me and my mom were on one and my dad and sister were on the other. At first, I was freaked out because the thing we sat on was sliding and I felt like I was going to tip over. The ride got a lot better near the top because it smoothed out and the view in almost every direction was stunning. One end was the city, the other end was the water garden and then behind you was a massive fort/palace. Our family went inside the building and we saw some cool rooms and a toilet that was a hole in the ground. Once we walked down we went to elephant village to see some elephants on the ground. When we got there, we walked around feeding the elephants and also making friends with them. They were all females except for one male that was so much bigger than the females. Its foot was a big as the rim of one of those metal trash bins. It was cool to see that such a big animal was so gentle. We then went on a long drive to a monkey temple. It is a really old temple that is home to monkeys and dogs. When we went to the part of the temple that was a large fountain there were monkeys playing around it. The baby monkey would lay on the edge by the water and wait for another to try to play with it and then try to push it in the water. It never worked but it was really funny to see how they tried to trick them to get them wet. We didn't learn much about the temple we just watched the monkeys play. Some of them even stole water bottles and shoes. It was really cool when we walked up to the top of the temple and saw all of the monkeys. We then we had to get on a plane flight at 7:45 AM. I am very tired but excited for Bhutan. Bye monkeys, and monks, here we come.

The elephants that we rode up the the entrance of Amer Fort (also known as Amber Fort)

The elephants that we rode up the the entrance of Amer Fort (also known as Amber Fort)



Jeff and Amelia feeding elephants at the Elephant Village

Jeff and Amelia feeding elephants at the Elephant Village


Ok, I will be honest. I am struggling with something. We are here, in part, to “pop our kids' bubble”; and, at the same time, we are staying at some of the nicest hotels that I have ever had the opportunity to stay in. The juxtaposition of the poverty we encounter each day and luxury we inhabit each evening has to be confusing to my kids. It is to me. I feel guilty. Less than a week in, we found ourselves in the Oberoi in Agra. Its stunning and the service is unlike anything that I have experienced. They spoiled the kids (and us) rotten. That evening at dinner, I asked my son how he felt about what we had seen in the streets of Old Delhi and Agra. He then responded with something that stopped me dead in my idealistic tracks. He said: I saw community. I probed further and asked: so when we saw those men bathing in the alley? He said: so? It works. So where I felt pity and shame, he saw community. And he’s right. We have witnessed the role of family, friendship, work, food, fun, religion and how universal it is. Damn. Perhaps I am the one that is not getting it.

(Note: Traveling to Bhutan early tomorrow. We are not sure what our connectivity will be there so may not be able to maintain daily posts. We also have a post to add for a magical day 2 in Jaipur.)


Amelia enjoying chocolate ice cream in bed, which was sent up to her by the restaurant manager (along with a series of gifts) as a surprise

Amelia enjoying chocolate ice cream in bed, which was sent up to her by the restaurant manager (along with a series of gifts) as a surprise

Three Men & a Baby...on a Moped.

I’ll never complain about traffic in Austin again.* The most under appreciated person in India is the one who paints the lane lines. Three lanes? Sure we can fit 5 vehicles across here. In the three major cities we’ve travelled to so far (Delhi, Agra and now Jaipur) I don’t recall a single traffic signal, but only roundabouts. The flow of traffic is more like water in a narrowing stream.. passing left and  right, constant merging from every angle. And then the horns. There’s a saying in India about driving: “Good horns. Good brakes. Good luck!”  Horns are used whenever someone intends to overtake/pass, which means CONSTANTLY. Amelia and I played a game yesterday where if we heard a horn we’d squeeze each other’s hands. She squeezed if our driver honked and I squeezed if anyone else did. I let her know in advance perhaps this won’t be fair, but she said no, trust me he’s honking as much as anyone. During rush hour you can literally be 6 inches apart from vehicles on all sides. Bicycles, motorized rickshaws, cars & buses. And there are mopeds everywhere. It would only take you minutes to see 3 or 4 generations of a single family on the same moped (grandma, husband & wife & infant). If you’re lucky the driver will have a helmet but I guarantee none of the children do. Fortunately I haven’t seen one accident yet, but every car in India has scratched bumpers and sides. It is said “if you car doesn’t have scratches in India you must be a boring person” meaning you obviously never have left the house.  And then there’s the animals who share the road! Amelia wasn’t kidding in her previous post. In order of size here are the animals we’ve been within feet of on the highways and city roads: chickens, cats, monkeys, dogs, peacocks, goats, pigs, cows, horses, water buffaloes , camels and yesterday an elephant in the next lane. A freaking elephant at rush hour. Wish us luck! 

*of course I’ll still complain about Austin traffic when I return.  


The pink city.

This morning we woke up at around 7:45 - our first day of good sleep until I was woken up by Amelia who was dying to go down and eat some breakfast. We went down and I had traditional definitely non-American waffles. Then we went with our guide Shiv to the royal palace of Jaipur and the king was in the building but we never saw him. He is 19 years old. I could not be the king of Rajasthan at only 19. After that we went to some shops in the heart of Jaipur. The shops were so cool and funny. The shops where about the size as a storage unit but it was made completely out of concrete. It was very interesting because the shops all were selling the same thing for about 20 shops down. The three different shops were for dresses, for bracelets and for toys/food. After that we went to lunch at a cool place where we ate quickly. Amelia had a lemonade and they brought out sugar water and I poured all of it into the lemonade but it ended up being one of the best lemonades ever. After that we went to a clothes and carpet store. We got out of the car and were immediately greeted. Amelia was asked if she wanted to make some block print and she started by making an outline then used different blocks to color it in. We then where showed the whole process of making a camel fur carpet in only 5 minutes and 4 steps. Step one was to make the rug, the guy who was making them showed me how to make the rug but I only helped a little. Then there was a step where you burned the carpet to make it to where it would never slide. Then they would cut it with scissors to take off about 3 layers of the carpet to make the design clearer. Then we went up to the rug room where they showed us some rugs and we ended up getting one that was made in a Jaipur design. We then went downstairs to the  area where we got lots of clothes and gifts and I ended up getting a custom dress shirt. After almost 3 hours of shopping we went to the hotel and I got a foot massage; it was very relaxing.


The Taj Mahal.

I swear I just saw a monkey, cow, water buffalo, rickshaw, car, dog, goat, motorcycle, and a bike on the same road! Everywhere we go there is a car touching us or something else. First today we went to the Taj Mahal. There are so many people here! When you first see it you just see white. When you walk up to it there is white marble and inlays of flowers and writing. There is a beautiful dome at the top. Inside you see a replica of the king and queen’s tombs. They are actually buried underneath. The floor was so slick that you had to wear covers over your shoes. After, we went to the hotel to have lunch and relax. When our guide got to the hotel we were on our way to Baby Taj. Even though they call it “Baby” it is actually older that the Taj Mahal. It is like the Taj Mahal but smaller and the top is a square dome not an onion dome. Inside there were inlays that were so detailed that some of them you could not see with the naked eye. There was also filigree which is the really detailed cut outs. Then, we went to a garden to view the Taj Mahal from the other side of the river at sunset.  Finally, we went to the hotel to have some Indian food which was awesome! I was super tired though because of the jetlag. 

The Taj Mahal at 6:30 AM, just after sunrise

The Taj Mahal at 6:30 AM, just after sunrise

Happy Holi!

Today we celebrated Holi, the welcoming of Spring and the triumph of good over evil, at our new friend's farm in Delhi. This holiday is also referred to as the "Festival of Colors" and you can see why. Fragrant powders made from crushed flowers, essential oils and water make for a great time and total mess. It is only our second full day in India but we are taken aback by the warmth, gentle nature, sense of humor and hospitality of the people of Delhi. (Daddy, the Olympus Tough held up well!)

Ready for adventure.

I started the day by waking up at 5am feeling like I had just slept for the whole day only to find my dad also awake. We both sat down and hung out trying to go to bed. Then I got bored an hour later and started watching some 6am NBA basketball. After that I was ready for an adventure. Today was all about learning about Delhi and the culture around it. First, we started by going to Jama Masjid, the largest Muslim mosque in Old Delhi. The courtyard was completed in 1656 AD, and it accommodates 25,000 people. We had a guide named Sweetie and she was very nice and knew many of the facts about the places we visited and the monuments around it. Although it was big I felt like it was a warm up for all the other places we would go. When we walked out of the courtyard we found skinny streets that where packed with people, cars, bikes and also food venders. You could turn one corner and get lost. There were lots of people preparing for Holi and also kids from school that where covered in colored paint from head to toe. We then got on a rickshaw which was a seating area connected to a motorcycle. I was sitting on the edge facing backwards so I would see people and bikes fly by my side only inches away but never touch me. After that we went to Humayun's tomb, a UNESCO world heritage site, commissioned by Humayun's wife and completed in 1571 (it set a precedent in Mughal architecture that was followed by the Taj Mahal). This place is super cool because it is the idea behind the Taj Mahal. After we drove over to a hotel called the Taj Majal hotel. I decided to branch out with my food and get some palak patta chaat which is a crunchy spinach ball and also some bamboo chicken, it tasted really good and it was mostly green. Next, we went to a place where they make really intricate rugs and they showed us how they make them and the detail of the rugs. I found this place really interesting. The rugs are pieces that take a whole family to make and almost a year to achieve. Instead of using weaving they put one string on the like then cut it. Every color is an individual piece of string. The coolest thing is that when they showed us some of the rugs they would shine in the light. But the main thing that blew my mind is that from different angles the rug would appear to change colors. It made me realize how hard they work for one rug and how much time a family puts into that rug business. Next we went to another temple, it was kind of weird when we had to cover our heads and take our shoes and socks off to go to a place where there were hundreds of other people. In the temple, there is a food service where they feed people and we got to help out with making the food. We went in the kitchen and rolled out bread to about the size of a tortilla. I had a lot of fun helping but I also really had to pee. We left to go to the bathroom and then new headed home. I was exhausted and then a change of plans or at least in my mind. We stopped by the Lodhi garden which ended up being really cool. We saw some people playing cricket which I had never seen in real life. But it was super cool to see tombs that where 600 years old and around it were amazing flowers. The garden almost looked like a painting with all the colors. After that we headed home and I took a nice nap. Then we met up with my Mom's friend Karma and met his wife and son. We went to dinner and the food was really good but I could barely stay awake because of the 12 hour time change. They ended up coming back to our hotel room for a bit and it was a lot of fun.

Quentin, Amelia and Sweetie sampling the sweet pudding at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib

Quentin, Amelia and Sweetie sampling the sweet pudding at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib

Losing it!

As we were exiting the plane I grabbed my mom's hand. We started walking towards the E-Visa, then my mom realized that my dad was not with us. We started to worry, so my mom asked to borrow someone's phone to contact my dad. Their phone was not working (like the rest of us). We went over to a non-crowded area and I spotted my dad at the top of the elevator with my brother. I lifted my hand up and he waved. He ran towards us and we got situated in the E-Visa line. After getting our passports checked and all that jazz we walked over to our tour guide (Anu). He greeted us with beautiful flower necklaces with an amazing smell. We got in the car and I realized that something was different, the driver was on the right side! I rested my head on my backpack hoping to get some sleep when all of the sudden I hear, HONK! Every car, or motorcycle, was packed together like a sandwich. There were no lanes for the cars and I thought that everybody was going crash. An hour later, we got to this massive hotel. We walked up to our room and when I walked in I was spoiled. I walked out side seeing a pool and a bed on a balcony! I immediately set my stuff on my bed and got in my bathing suit. Then, I figured out that I was sleeping in the same bed as my brother! I figured out a plan. I'm putting multiple pillows between us. Hopefully that works. When I got out of the pool I had to take a pill. I have never taken a pill before and I was not excited about this. I put water in my mouth, then the pill and swallowed! I was so happy! Then I tried to take the other ones. That did not work out. I don't know what happened but I could not take the pill. My dad told me he had a pill crusher because he figured this would happen. We crushed the pill and put the powder in some apple sauce. Ew! The powder tasted so gross! I finally finished the terrible apple sauce and went down stairs for dinner. I had mac and cheese. I know what you are thinking. I'm in India and I should eat Indian food, but don't worry this is just hotel food. After dinner my mom's friend Karma came by. Yes, Karma. He told us some great stories and then we said our goodbyes and headed up for bed. Now I am writing this letter. 

Amelia in delhi.jpeg

Just take the pill.

Landed in London. Hunkering down for an 8-hour layover.

I forgot my phone at the house – can’t make this stuff up. That is one way to kick off the detox. Then, as if part of the plan, our uber driver drove us the long way to the airport. A normally 20 minute highway drive became a 45 minute tour through downtown and  the most underserved area inside of our city limits. We arrived at the airport to find that our status was not on our airline tickets and TSA pre-check unavailable, leading to an extended time through security. We then ran out of time for Amelia and I to eat, even though I had promised her Thundercloud once we reached the airport. Lessons. I'm paying attention.

And then, the mood lightened. Amelia experienced her first in-flight meal, which she loved and devoured. She even ate the salad!? Who in the heck loves airplane food? Amelia. 

Q has already said more words to me than he has said all week and played cards with his sister. I started to get a glimpse into what my kids without devices feels like.

Once everything had settled, I let Amelia know that I was sorry about our rocky start; but I also reminded her that, when you travel, you have to be open to things not going as you expect. I reminded her that this trip would have its tough moments and its surprises. She nodded as she finished up the last of her pulverized malarone and chocolate pudding parfait. She then said: next time, I’m just going to take the pill. 

Q sleeping.jpg