Monday, November 17, 2014

Vatsalya Udayan Fundraiser

The holidays are approaching fast!

In honor of the season of giving, I have created a donation page on GiveIndia in hopes of raising $2,000 between now and December 25 for Vatsalya Orphanage. Please watch the video below and read more about this amazing cause on my donation page HERE!

CLICK HERE to make a donation and get more information!

Need help making a donation?

After clicking the above links, you can select the amount you would like to donate. It is set up in Indian Rupees, so remember that 60 rupees = $1. 
After clicking "donate", you will be prompted to sign up with GiveIndia. Please fill out all the parts and select "other" for the state you live in if outside India.
To pay by credit card select paypal/credit card
On the next page, select debit/credit and enter your card details.

If you have more questions, please email me at

*video created by Laura Kantrud
*music - "The Winner Is" - by Mychael Danna and DeVotchKa 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bhangarh Fort

After wasting all of last weekend laying around watching movies and eating pizza, we decided it was necessary to pry ourselves off the couch and get back out to see something new. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE wearing sweatpants, watching trashy reality TV, and eating carbs, but there's only so much laziness my body can handle. It's my longing for all things "fall" that has created this lazy mood. I have been cooped up with my pumpkin scented candle, scrapbooking and turning the A/C up so it's appropriate to wear a hoody. But eventually I had to head outside in the still-too-hot weather and face the facts.

With a recommendation from one of Matt's co-workers, we made the two hour drive to Bhangarh Fort. I invited my friend Isilda and Matt's co-worker Ryan visiting from the U.S.  Isilda LOVES India, so she is a refreshing influence on me.

Bhangarh is a "haunted" deserted village from the 17th century. My driver referred to it as "Old Jaipur", but now it is said to be cursed so it is merely a tourist destination.

Since the fort is not very close to the main attractions of Jaipur, it was all Indian tourists and lots of school field trips. Even though we were the only foreigners, we were not bothered, and it was really pleasant to walk around in a green, quiet space.

These are ruins of the old market.

Gotta have pictures of monkeys. Impossible to go anywhere in India without seeing dozens of them.

I give this place two thumbs up. Peaceful, not crowded, and green. Just make sure you use the bathroom before you go...the toilet situation is "not possible". 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ranthambore National Park

I had my first girls trip in India!

No, we didn't go eat happy hour sushi downtown, or get mani/pedis...

We went to Ranthambore National Park on a "tiger" safari!

It was an interesting/exciting/frustrating/memorable trip, as most things in India are. I was glad to be able to travel with  friends I've made here, and enjoy some rare female independence.

Our trip started in Jaipur with a three hour car ride to the park. I went with my friend Marcela, her son Gabrielle, and Marcela's friend from Bangalore, Gabriella.

Here we are on our way with Marcela's driver. In case you're curious... when your driver takes you somewhere out of town, you pay for your driver to stay in a nearby hotel. Without him our trip wouldn't be possible. It is also great that Marcela's driver, like mine, speak great English so they can always help us translate in tricky situations. Plus, he almost never uses the car horn. Music to my ears.

Our hotel only cost about $40, so you can imagine the conditions. Ranthambore is essentially in the middle of nowhere so your options are really limited. There are two hotels which are large chains, the Taj Hotel and the Oberoi Hotel. But since it's peak season, these hotels cost upwards of $700...absolutely crazy! So if you aren't in one of those, you're taking a chance, which we definitely did.

 The sheets had some holes, but appeared clean-ish. The door kind-of locked even though someone from the front desk found it appropriate to just walk in without even knocking. (Trust me- I threw a fit about this at the front desk and also made sure to note it in my TripAdvisor review.) Overall it was a place to play Uno, eat a ridiculous amount of cookies and Pringles, and attempt to sleep. A lovely rooster outside our window gave us a nice 5am wake-up call.

Our safari adventure started early the next morning at 6:30am... or at least it was supposed to. Since we are on India time, the safari didn't actually pick us up until 7:00. Staff from the safari tour and the hotel came to meet with us FOUR times the night before to tell us to be in the lobby at 6:30. I would've thought they'd make more of an effort to be on time.

The whole point of the safari was to see Tigers. I can see a zoo on the streets in Jaipur every single day with cows, donkeys, elephants, camels, etc. etc. So we were really excited to find Tigers.

But tigers were to be found.  The most frustrating part of this was we passed other jeeps that had gotten there ON TIME and they saw a mother and cub tiger. Frustrating, but as I said, not surprising...

The beginning of tourist season was also part of the issue. With dozens of jeeps, probably a hundred within the entire park, it's no wonder the tigers were scared away.

Marcela's souvenir hat was a smart purchase! My hair was a mess from the wind and all of the sand. My camera is actually completely covered in dust and sand, so if you have any cleaning suggestions I'd love to hear them!

Even without seeing Tigers, Ranthambore was still a good trip.. Even Gabi, who had his binoculars out the whole safari and was so excited to see a tiger, had a great attitude.

He LOVED the hotel. He LOVED the jeep. He LOVED everything! His spirit about the whole thing helped me put my own attitude into perspective.

There were so many tourists in jeeps having the time of their life because they had just arrived in the country and had not yet had to deal with the crap we experience as foreigners who live here.

Their ignorance forced me to put on a smile and at least try to pretend I cared about the monkeys or stray dogs in the park.

And you never know, I could still see a rogue tiger on the streets of Rajasthan some day.