Tuesday, May 19, 2015

summer time fun

Summer time is in full swing here...sorry for those of you experiencing a cold snap back home.  I think I would trade you though. The past few days have been at 110 degrees, it's pretty unbearable.

I've been keeping very busy lately (don't laugh), and also have been getting anxious about our move back home, so I haven't blogged in a while.  To avoid the world's longest post, I'm going to post a top 5 of the best things I've done this past month.

1. Girls Trip to Delhi

We had a great weekend road trip to New Delhi. On our way we made a stop at Neemrana Fort for lunch, and it was a beautiful surprise in an unexpected place.  Our trip consisted of shopping and eating, enjoying the things we can't get in Jaipur. One of our food highlights was ice cream fondue at Haagen Dazs. Delicious!

2. Bowling
My friends and I discovered three bowling alleys in Jaipur! (We've tried them all).  It's a fun way to beat the heat, and especially fun because it was the first time for some of my friends.  

3. School
Some fun things have been happening at school.  We have a new volunteer from Spain who will live there for 18 months.  We have gotten the library set up in a more functional way, introduced some more activities, and made new initiatives for the next session. 

4. Pink City
My friends and I had an adventure in the Pink City...

First we went shopping with Camila as our guide. (We made a bit of a mess).
Then we took a a tuk-tuk to Bapu Bazaar in search of spices.
Finally, some lunch at Jai Mahal Palace - delicious! 
5. Going Away Party!
Our amazing friends threw a party for Isilda and I as it is nearing the end of our time here.  We had a fun Indian themed evening, with a puja to give us well wishes on our new journey, a traditional veg meal complete with a Taj Mahal made of chocolate. Marcela also made Isilda and I amazing scrapbooks filled with pictures of our time together. It was a great evening.

Laura & Isilda :)

Gabi practicing his birthday wish for his party next week.
The countdown is on with only 4 1/2 weeks left until I head back home! It's a bittersweet time for me, as I am eager to get back home, continue with my career and be close to our friends and family. However, I will dearly miss the friends I have made here. I am also seriously going to miss my housewife life...apparently when I return I have to clean my own house, do my own laundry, drive myself, and get something called a "job." Sigh...

Monday, April 6, 2015

Gangaur Festival & Easter

Gangaur Festival

All of my friends in India always are teaching me new things. A few weeks ago, our friends Isilda and Patrice took us to see the Gangaur Festival outside Tripoli gate in the Pink City.  We sat in the rooftop designated for foreigners. It's one of the few perks of being an expat...the seating is free, they give you sweets and water, and you get the best view.  This festival is for young women who worship Lord Shiva, in hopes of being blessed with a good husband. (It's my recommendation they try going on a date or signup for eHarmony, but what do I know...)

Easter Weekend

This weekend I was so happy to share something new with my friends... the awesome tradition of coloring Easter eggs!  My mom sent us the dyeing kit, and it arrived just in time. We had a great time coloring the eggs, preparing for the EB's arrival.

On Easter Sunday, we all had a delicous lunch at Roberto and Marcela's home  Our eggs made a beautiful centerpiece.  Good food, great friends, nothing is better!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Vilamendhoo, Maldives

We just returned from the seven most blissful days ever!

The Maldives has been on our list of must-see countries since before we even moved to India.  I had honestly never even heard of it until just a few years ago.  It is a small chain of islands in the Indian ocean, and only took a four hour plane ride to get there.

Usually our vacations are very spontaneous, sometimes booking flights just a few weeks in advance, but this vacation has been booked for well over a year.  After I spent weeks of research trying to find a place that not only had excellent reviews but was also in our budget, I decided on Vilamendhoo Island Resort. Due to their monsoon and Matt's schedule, we knew March was the ideal month for us to visit.  However, last March was already full by the time we decided where to go, and my stubbornness meant I didn't' want to settle for a different resort since in my mind I already deemed this one "the best," so we booked a year out and it was totally worth the wait.  

Male International Airport, surrounded by ocean

After arriving in Male, we took a 25 minute seaplane to our resort. I thought it was a little sketchy that the pilot was wearing shorts and sandals and his co-pilot was barefoot.
We landed just 100 yards from the island at a small pier.  A boat came to drop off people checking out and heading back to the airport, while we got our ride to check-in. 
Our awesome over-water bungalow.  It looks like there's a lot of bungalows, but it was actually really private and quiet.  It was so nice to just walk from our room down into the ocean to snorkel.  

Sunset pool

Our entire trip was spent being completely lazy and enjoying every minute of it.  Matt went scuba diving most mornings, while I enjoyed coffee on our balcony and took a walk around the island. It only takes about 20 minutes to walk the entire island along the beach, but despite how small it is, we never felt crowded.

Our days were spent like this:

read in a lounge chair*snorkel*eat*drink*repeat

The best part of the island is the house reef.  Circling the entire island just 20 feet from the beach is an amazing coral reef.  We saw incredible marine life every day, including dozens of reef sharks swimming right along the beach, sting rays, an octopus, eels, and a huge variety of beautiful fish.  

We did one excursion which was to see whale sharks.  The best way to describe it would be chaotic and hysterical.  It was a 45 minute boat ride to where the whale sharks were, and of course there were several other boats from other islands already there.  When we reached the spot, it was crazy with everyone trying to jump off the boat at the same time, being clumsy with their fins on, shoving people out of the way. Once we were in the water, I was desperately trying to catch up with the guide who was waving us to follow him, while maneuvering my way through a crowd of people distracted by their underwater cameras. I briefly saw the whale shark but he swam away from the madness quickly.  Then we were waved to get back into the boat quickly to go to another spot. As we were headed back in, some woman literally came within two feet of getting run over by another small boat. I've never seen people so crazed to look at something. Geez

We quickly sped off just a few minutes to a new spot, and when I got into the water, I saw the most gigantic creature I've ever seen in the water.  It made being kicked in the face with fins and being shoved numerous times well worth it.  It was about 25 feet long.

Below is a clip Matt took. When people swim near the whale shark, you can get some sense of how big he was. (Ignore Matt's selfie mid video)

Here's another clip of a reef shark. These little guys swam along the beach all day.

This was our first vacation that required absolutely no planning. We literally showed up, took off our sandals, and relaxed for an entire week.  It was so worth the wait!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A day in pictures

I have again been in a "blogging funk" lately.

I've been feeling like I have nothing exciting or adventurous to share.  My life has consisted of seemingly routine things...teaching at Vatsalya, running errands, shopping with friends.

But the other day I was inspired by another expat's blog, who documented her entire day in pictures. She didn't do anything out of the ordinary, but to someone unfamiliar with the culture or environment it was really interesting.

I spend so much time in the backseat of the car, completely tuned out to what is going on around me. As soon as I get in the car, I put in my Dre. Beats (thanks again, mom and dad), blast Spotify in an attempt to block out the horns, and space out.  I rarely stop to notice the heard of goats blocking traffic, or the guy texting on top of an elephant as it maneuvers through a traffic circle.

So last Saturday I tried to take pictures of my routine errands... You'll notice that there was sadly no Target or Trader Joe's involved.  However, I did manage to get almost everything crossed off my list.

First stop of the day was my favorite restaurant, Palladio.  I had a salad and enjoyed
some peace and quiet. 

Beer & Wine Shop
Watch out...these tricky guys will try to sell you toilet wine (which I've accidentally gotten before and exchanged it
after giving them a good scolding.)

Shoppers Paradise
"Paradise" isn't exactly the right word to describe this place.  They're the only store with imported items, so they think they can get away with charging $9 for a block of cream cheese 

What a deal! Half eaten, unsealed peanuts...yum!

All of city's dairy products are shoved in here. With the prices they charge for cheese,
I could be shopping at Whole Foods!

Next stop, the fruit and veg stand.
These guys consistently charge me fair prices, and they usually have the good stuff hiding in back if you ask (like mushrooms and lettuce.)

At On The House (OTH)
In my opinion, this is the best bakery in Jaipur.  I called ahead, so when I showed up,
a french baguette was waiting for me!

Back in the car for a ride into the Pink City.

I stopped in here with some sari fabric I had to get it made into a "sari for dummies."
One of my friends knows this guy, so she recommended him to me as an honest person to get the job done.

On my way out I got distracted and wandered into the attic of this store.  I think the lanterns are beautiful, I just have to find a way to get one into my suitcase. 

On my way back from the Pink City I saw Spiderman on a rickshaw.

Finally my busy day of errands ended with some delicious Valentine's day cupcakes.

I have to say that I really miss being able to go to one store and get everything I need.  It can be exhausting to drive all over town in search for something. The other I day I was searching for paper fasteners for a school project. I tried four different stationary stores and was unsuccessful.  I eventually got annoyed and gave up.  I've even resorted to washing and re-using Ziploc bags I brought from home because the store I can get sandwich bags at is too far of a drive. It's annoying, but if things were easy then it wouldn't be India!

And no day is complete without a wedding parade...there's some horses and a camel down there somewhere.