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Monday, October 25, 2010

elephant washing

One of my favorite parts of being in Corbett was our late morning and afternoon by the Kosi River. While eating breakfast after the early morning safari, one of the rangers walked up with a huge grin on his face. "M'am, girls, would you be interested in accompanying me to the river. We will be washing the elephants at eleven a.m. Maybe you could help us." Really, we can help? Of course, I said yes immediately. I was THRILLED. I think even more excited than the girls. We followed our guide to the beautiful riverside. (Unfortunately, this was the only day that Dan had to work while we were on holiday. We left him carrying his laptop around looking for a wireless connection.)
As we near the river, there they are, being led by their handlers through the water. It was an amazing sight to see. So big, so strong, but also so calm, and so peaceful.

They brought them right up to the shore where we could get up close and personal with the elephants. Two female elephants right in front of us. The handler said that the males can be aggressive at times so they only use females for work with people. Rebekah was very excited about touching the elephant. Rachel stood back and had no desire to get very close. They use flat rocks from the riverbed to scrub the mud and dead skin off the elephant. These huge ladies thoroughly seemed to enjoy the bath/massage treatment.
The handlers would have allowed us to get in and help wash the elephants. I tried and tried to talk the girls into it but had no takers. Below she is helping to rinse herself....just beautiful
The girls decided that it was more fun and interesting to play in the river. They used sand, rocks, and sticks to build. We ended up spending almost three hours watching the elephants, building in the sand, and just hanging by the Kosi.
After they finished washing the elephants, the men wrapped themselves in towels, stripped down, bathed themselves, and also washed their clothes in the river. That's one way to get all your chores done at the same time.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Corbett Trip, Early Morning Safari

On our first full day at Tiger Camp, we woke up much before the sun and headed out in an open jeep on our first safari. It was dark and cold but beautiful and peaceful. The multitude of stars seemed close enough to reach out and grab one. The blankets were warm and the adventure had begun. Dan and I were both grumbling when the alarm went off at 400 am. "Why is it necessary to be in the jeep at 430?" Grumble, grumble. We found out why.....there are limited entries into the tiger reserve each day. We had to stop at the ranger's office and register with our passports for admission at the park. When we arrived at the office, there were already ten jeeps waiting. It took about an hour to get everything stamped and double checked. By 530, the sun was starting to peek over the mountains and we were on our way.
The girls at first were cranky about being woken so early. They quickly rallied and starting being their normal, silly selves.

The sun was just coming up as we made our way through the first checkpoint at the tiger reserve. The cool clear air, blue skies, lack of pollution, being with my was just an amazing morning.
Peacocks out for a morning stroll along the riverbanks.
Future safari guide Rebekah testing out the binoculars Gramcracker (my mom) gave her for Christmas. She loved being just like the real guide.
They even pose on safari :)
The closest we came to seeing an actual tiger was these paw prints or pug marks. They were fresh from the night before. As cool as it would be to see a tiger, I was in some ways glad to not come up close and personal with one. Rachel got a little nervous when she realized that a tiger had been walking on the same road as we were driving.

We were back at the hotel by 1000 am for a delicious breakfast and much needed nap.

Tiger Camp

We arrived at Tiger Camp safe and sound thanks to our wonderful driver Nemlal. I know you are probably tired of hearing me gush about him, but we are just so thankful to have found him. The girls love him, he is kind and gentle, and most importantly a safe, cautious driver. He is quickly starting to feel like one of the family. So, enough about Nemlal, back to the trip.....after a seven hour drive through small villages and cities, fields and farms, over bumps, and around ox, horse, and donkey carts we finally see the sign. Woo-hoo!! It's Tiger Camp!!
The wonderful, courteous staff led us to our own little cottage nestled among the trees. I was sold as soon as we turned the corner and were greeted by this relaxing front porch. Thankfully, the inside was just as nice and comfortable. The girls enjoyed sitting on the porch with their Barbies and a snack most afternoons.
After unpacking and being refreshed, our guide took us on a tour of the property. Again, I can't say enough nice things about him. He was with us throughout the stay at Tiger Camp and had amazing patience with the girls.
Following the path down to the Kosi River.
Such a beautiful sunset over the mountains and river. This is one of my favorite photos of Rachel from the trip. She was relaxed and watching some ponies being led to the river for an evening drink. We were able to capture her serenity at just watching the nature around us. This place is a bird watcher's paradise. Our guide is very knowledgeable on all the flying wildlife around Corbett. As beautiful and serene the river front is, we were specifically told not to go to the riverside after dark. We found out why when on our elephant safari later in the trip.
Along the path to the river, there was tons of elephant poop. Rebekah was jut obsessed with the size of it. She kept asking, "Is it real or pretend." Here she is comparing the size of one elephant patty to her foot. You should have seen how excited she was when we actually saw an elephant pooping. Oh....the little things that entertain the mind of three year old ;)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Corbett Trip

We finally made our first trip outside of the Delhi/Gurgaon area. Rachel had a week off school due to the Commonwealth Games being held in New Delhi so we headed north to Corbett Tiger Reserve. With our wonderful driver, Nemlal, at the wheel we loaded up our Toyota Innova with videos, snacks, and Barbies and headed out early the morning of October 13.
It was a seven hour drive through villages and small cities. The opportunity to see daily life outside of the capital city was amazing. Since we started out at an early hour, we saw the villages starting to wake up and come to life. Trucks were being loaded with goods for market, people were heading out to the fields, and shopkeepers were sweeping entry ways. Students loaded into their "school bus" for the drive to the nearest school.

About halfway through the seven hour drive we came upon this big, new McDonald's sitting along the highway in the middle of nowhere. It seemed strange but was a comforting site. It fit my westernized comfort zone so we made a pit stop for familiar food and a clean bathroom. I felt a little guilty making this stop. Here we are in India, starting on an adventure to the jungle and we stop at McDonald's?? I admit I enjoy my french fries as much at the girls do.
The area around Corbett is made up of many farms. Rice, beets, mango and litchi orchards, lentils, teak, and sugarcane make up the agrarian life in Uttarakhand.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

High points

On the drive home from the Corbett National Tiger Reserve in Uttarkhand, North India, I asked the family what the high points of the trip were for each of them.

1) The monkey stealing Rebekah's chips
2) Getting a stuffed tiger
3) Seeing the baby elephant

1) Riding on an elephant in the river

1) Seeing the baby elephant

For me:
1) Watching the elephants being washed in the river
2) Watching the sun come up while riding in an open jeep through the tiger reserve. (Even if we had to get up at 400 am and I was completely exhausted)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Swimming

We recently found out that the church we have been attending, The Delhi International Christian Fellowship, has an early service on Sunday. With anywhere from 20 to 40 people it is small and fits our style and schedule much better. We are in and out of Delhi before many people are out of bed and most importantly, before any of the Sunday traffic starts. Today after church, we decided on a lazy Sunday with naps, games, and time at the pool. For once I remembered to bring my camera. Rachel and Rebekah lived up to their reputation as divas by showing off their modeling skills. They definitely don't learn these poses from me.
Rebekah lounging in the sun.

Rachel has become a very good swimmer but prefers to float around in the ring.

Practicing the pose.

Rachel said, "Am I ready for Project Runway?" She could care less about the designs and designers but L-O-V-E-S watching the models.

Finally the two in one photo just being themselves.

Friday, October 8, 2010

transformation of our home

The first two photos were taken July 2010. There was so much dust, rubble and construction going on at the time. There was no way that I could picture how this place would eventually turn into a home for us. Yes, in the back of my mind, I knew it would happen. But it seemed so far away.
Above is looking into the dining room from the entry way.
Below is from the hallway looking toward the living area.

Above is our dining area today :) This is taken looking through the hall window. (See large hole in photo at top) My helper, Rebekah, somehow managed to get her little face in just about every shot I took. I would make sure she was out of the room, and somehow, by the time I clicked, there she was.
The living area with our new sofa and rug (and fake sleeper). The window above sofa is the large hole seen in second photo. Now it is a nice window that allows tons of light to pass into the hallway leading to bedrooms.
Looking through the hall window into living area and on to dining area.
We still need to hang some of our artwork, get a few more plants, and mess it up a little to make it feel 100% home. But, it is almost there.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cooking at home

Yesterday, I decided to cook our first Indian meal at home. On the menu was Muttar Paneer, Lacha Paratha, and a beef dish (water buffalo). I did the beef the same way I always did in the US just to keep the girls happy and make sure they would have something to eat. I would love to say that I totally went out of the box and made this delicious Indian meal on my own. Unfortunately, I can't say that. Tshring, our wonderful housekeeper/nanny/cook/mama's helper did most of the work. I did watch, hang out with her in the kitchen, and learn from her during the process.
We started with the spices and Ghee. The ghee is on the left. When looking at it in the container, it reminds of post lipo-suction photos of fat that has been taken out of a person. Tshring has worked in homes with children before so she left out the chilis (much to Dan's disappointment).
Rachel and Rebekah helped her roll out the dough and slather it with ghee for the lacha paratha.

A finished plate....yummmmy. Clockwise from top: Muttar Paneer, the plain water buffalo, and Lacha Paratha. Lacha means layers so the dough is rolled out, then you fold it like a fan, twist the dough into a ball again, and re-roll. When it's cooked it has nice flaky layers in it. Again, yummmy.
Up close with the muttar paneer. One of my favorite dishes so far. The girls didn't even want to try it. Rachel said it wasn't "as gross as it looks" and Rebekah made me wipe the sauce off her peas before eating. Oh well....we will keep trying.

one stop shopping

Shopping here in India does not happen with the ease to which most of us westerners are accustomed. I often have to go to three or four different shops to find all the essentials. Meat is better in one place, but the veggies are fresher across town, while good bread is in another location. If for some reason I need batteries, light bulbs, or something "out of the ordinary" then we are off on another adventure. It can take a large portion of your day just to do what I would do in an hour at the local Target. Finally, I have found a place where I can do most of my shopping in one stop. Arjun Marg in Gurgaon is my newest favorite spot. The need to go to three or more shops to get it all done is there but the shops are all together in one city block.
The Fresh Produce Shoppe. They get deliveries on Wednesday so that is the best time to go. They also carry a small selection of imported and local goods. Plus, they deliver....but as I have learned, who doesn't deliver in India.
You can go to one shop and buy your fabric or an outfit and then go to one of the many men and women sitting in the aisles with sewing machines for alterations.
Really, I'm convinced that if I search enough around this area there will never be another need to shop anywhere else.