When in Katherine. And Elliot. And Tennant Creek.

Today I shall tell you what we did today and how we came to be in all three cities.

We started out this morning at around 7:20 am and left our apartment and started on a long day of driving. At first we were all looking around, eyes wide in excitement for being on the road and looking for kangaroos. We passed a couple of dead ones before Mother finally said that she had seen one, but it was too late to go back so we kept going past the corpses that were practically piled up on the side of the road. Since it was more boring than expected, I went to sleep. I was only asleep about half an hour but almost as soon as I got up I saw a kangaroo.

Those were the only two kangaroos which we saw alive today, but we saw lots of dead ones, from empty brown skins to full kangaroos that seemed like they had just been hit. Mother said that she saw some cows, and since she is a truthful mother, we have to take her word for it. We passed through lots of towns, but the only ones we stopped at were Katherine and Elliot to get fuel for the car.

Now we are in Tennant Creek in the Eldorado Motel and are getting ready for bed.

A Thousand Kilometers of Nothingness

 

Today we got to see 992 kilometers of “sealed” road go by on our way to Tennant Creek from Darwin. That’s a long way to go south in one day, but we do it from home to California just about every summer. Anyway. I rode up front for the first three hours, then Ethan, and then Mom rode on the left side for the last 256K.

992 kilometers of dead kangaroo after dead kangaroo. Ethan and Mom each saw a live one, but Dad and I got to see a dead horse. That’s a fair trade…right?

Once we finally arrived, Ethan and I jumped at the chance to swim in the pool. It was FREEZING! Okay, it was probably just about the same as a lake in the Cascades, but to our India-hardened bodies, it was Antarctic. After a mere fifteen minutes we hopped out and went to Room Five of El Dorado Motel. There we dried off and warmed up and got ready for supper, which we had at a Portuguese restaurant run by a Portuguese woman. We ate tiny portions of our pasta to the tune of Nicki Minaj, hardly making dents in the huge amount served.
After we refueled the Kluger, we passed the Red Rooster restaurant sign. You should look it up.
Ciao!

Water Way, Water Day

Today was our water day. And guess what? We even went to a park! Not a waterpark, officially, like with slides and rides, but it was Berry Springs Nature Park. It is supposedly crocodile-free, and we didn’t see any so I can’t officially argue with that. A lot of people on TripAdvisor and signs at the springs said that there are lots of wallabies and water monitors, but we didn’t see any. So why am I supposed to believe that there are wallabies and water monitors and pythons and no crocs?

At first it was uncomfortable. The rocks were slippery and spiky, the fish were nibbley, the people (namely Ethan) were annoying, the croc attack was imminent, the water was dirty, and the bugs were buzzing and biting.

We left the first and shallowest pool through the shallow canal to the Main Pool, where nothing really interesting happened except Ethan and I got brave enough to do handstands and I thought I saw a crocodile’s head. We went through another canal to get to the Lower Pool, and this time Mom said, “Wow, the current’s really going!” Dad tried to float with the current but kept hitting rocks and I said, “Currently, I’m feeling no current.” And when Ethan said that the current was really fast (or something to that effect), Dad said “Is that a currant or a gooseberry?”

What pathetic comedians we make.

Anywho, we got into the Lower Pool alright and went to the little dock. Ethan was singing the tune to Jaws. I was doing handstands. Mom and Dad were off to the side talking, probably about us. I did handstands and front flips to my heart’s content (not!) and then we swam downstream a little ways. We couldn’t find the weir, so we turned around. Ethan tried touching the bottom where it was twenty feet deep (feet-first). Actually it could have been deeper than that. We couldn’t see the bottom.

Oh, by the way, he failed. He also had a moment where he was scared of logs.

We fought our way upstream through the really-going current ‘til we got to the little platform at the Main Pool. Ethan snuck up on me and touched me with a leaf. I freaked out because I was still worried about crocs. He said, “Geez, it was just a leaf Eryn!” And I said, “That’s just like you hitting me with a log!!!” Of course that made him mad and he started lurking (though he was already mad about something else). (That’s when you lag behind because you’re mad. Not to embarrass Ethan; I do it too.)

Dad was the first one to the Upper Pool, and he and I stuck our heads under the waterfall. It was really heavy and I almost (not) drowned. Then Ethan and Mom came and Ethan and I stuck our heads under the waterfall, and eventually our whole selves til we were in this little cave. Then we left it backwards and floated out with the current-that-is-not-a-grape.

We finally left, picked up ice cream at Crazy Acres (two mangoes, one banana, and one passion fruit), and fed fish bread at Aquascene. It was mostly the same boring old slimy (yes, we touched them. We know) fish, but there was one spearfish- Speary, officially, but Ethan called it Speargun- and four rays: Raygan (the first and biggest one) and a group of three we called Robbie, Ronnie, and Rex. Robbie is short for Roberta. These and Raygan and Speary were too shy to get any bread, but I tried and tried for Speary. And therefore I failed and failed.

We’re also planning on going swimming again tonight. Yay!

Ciao!

Berry Springs without the Berries

Today we went to a spring out in the Australian Bush and swam around, doing something that goes along with the following:

When we got to the springs, we went up to the top pool (about 3.5 feet deep) and got used to the water for a while before going downstream to the main pool (very deep) where we just swam across and went down a little creek to the next pool, which was deserted. But then when we came, lots of other people came but it still wasn’t crowded.

I humored myself be going off a little ledge and going down feet first to the bottom but it wasn’t that deep so it was easy. Then we went downstream. It is a fairly large river by then and you have to swim or find a rock to stand on out in the middle, where it is very deep.

When we were headed back upstream, I found a rock and tried to get to the bottom but it was too deep and even after five tries, I still couldn’t make it and just kept going upstream until we reached our stuff at the first pool.

Top 5 Lists for Thailand

Challenges:

No tap water for brushing teeth, drinking, ice, washing fruits and vegetable

Communicating with those who don’t speak English in rural parts of the country

High heat and humidity

Coping when Eryn got left behind at a subway station (doors to train closed before she got on.) Fortunately Eryn knew which stop we were going to use and just caught the next train. She was not stressed at all. I did not remain as calm.

Figuring out life on the road — living out of suitcase and backpack, how to get laundry done for four people, how to do both homeschooling and travel activities

Favorites

Riding an elephant thorugh the rain forest

Looking at the very colorful orchid blooms at an orchid farm or in public buildings such as the Bangkok airport

Relaxing with a Thai foot massage

Attending the full-day cooking school

Seeing all of the beautiful details on many wats (temples)

Scooters in Thailand

Scooters seem to outnumber cars in parts of Thailand. They are a common form of self or family transport, as well as a hired vehicle or delivery service, such as pizza delivery. In Bangkok scooters are usually driven by men and not women, probably because of the busy roads. In Chiang Mai men and women, as wells as teenage boys and girls, drive scooters. We saw many, many scooters parked in front of high schools and universities.

It was not unusual to see two or three people on a scooter. Several times we saw four people on a scooter, but three of them were young children.  And we often observed small dogs riding in the front basket of a scooter.  One of the scariest sights was a side car attached to a scooter with one or more propane tanks going over a bumpy road.

Driving a scooter without wearing a helmet is a 200 bat fine (about $6 US.) Since there are so many scooters on the road and bunched up in front of cars while waiting at intersections, police officers don’t attempt to pull offenders over to write a ticket. The officers just merely walk around the scooter drivers stopped at a red light and take 2 photos for each driver not wearing a helmet – one photo of the driver and one photo of the scooter’s rear license plate. Using a cell phone while driving a car or scooter is also a 200 bat fine.

A Bicycle Built for Two, or one

Tonight, I got a bike out and rode it around the beach area around our apartment. I rode for a long ways one way and turned off on a bumpy road. Then I turned around and turned right and went across a bridge to the other side of the stream. The bridge was yellow and very narrow so I went slowly as to not crash into people. On the far side of the bridge, there was a road leading of into the Federal Reserve of Nightcliff or something like that and I didn’t want to go there so I turned around and went back over the bridge. On the other side of the bridge, I passed playgrounds and water fountains while heading back to the picnic table where everyone else was having dinner. When I had finished with my dinner, I went the other way through the parks and got to a point before going back to the picnic table. When I got back, I found out that the table was deserted but luckily found my father a little ways away and went with him across the street.

Darwin Down Day

It was so nice to be able to sleep in today!

After a (too-long) breakfast of rice, beans, and toasted (and non-toasted) crumpets, Dad sorted pictures, Mom did laundry, and Ethan and I forced ourselves through grueling hours of schoolwork: a review and mid-book test in Science, reading a lesson (or five) and a book in History, and doing a day’s section in Math. I also finished reading Prince Caspian and started on The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. So far, Reepicheep, Kings Caspian and Edmund, Queen Lucy, and “Useless” Eustace have been captured as slaves. Aslan has not yet appeared. (In case you don’t know who I’m talking about, I would advise you to read The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis.)

After eating our peppermint Magnum bars, Dad decided it was time to Do Something. So we got in the car with our swimsuits on to go to the beach and Do Something. Casuarina Beach is an actual beach, unlike the rocks outside our apartment. Ethan and Dad went way farther out into the surf than Mom and I did because I was worried about jellyfish and Mom didn’t want to be burnt to a crisp.

Soon enough we left and drove to Wentworth’s. Mom and Ethan got out there to buy groceries while Dad and I continued to the Greek restaurant and ordered supper. I memorized the twelve flavors of ice cream alphabetically: Boysenberry Swirl, Butterscotch, Chocolate, Chocolate Chip, Coffee Chip, Mango Swirl, Mint Chip, Rainbow, Rum and Raisin, Strawberry, Triple M&M, and Vanilla. Sadly we didn’t get any, but we did get a salad (consisting mainly of cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions and not much lettuce) and four pita-wrapped things in three different flavors: one Chippy, two Falafel, and one Saguaraki (we think that’s how it was spelled). We enjoyed these at a picnic table across the street from our apartment, and Michelle, our landlord, came to talk to us.

Ethan biked up and down the path by the side of the beach until he tired of it, then we all came in, and hopefully we’ll have chocolate ice cream and go swimming before bed. Ciao!

Crocs in the City

is one of the names for the Crocosaurus Park in Darwin. In that park, there are lots of things, from crocs to snakes, to sting rays. We saw all of them and enjoyed it, so I’ll go into the details:

There are at least 6 fully grown crocs, 5 male, 1 female. There are also hundreds of babies and you can fish for them with pieces of meat (and let them go. I did that) or just look at them through glass or hold them and get your picture taken. One of the things that you could also do was take the cage of death, a round cylinder that they lowered into crocodile water. We didn’t do it because it was over a hundred dollars per person. There is also a reptile farm and we got to see them feed an olive python and then I got to hold another python and some lizards. In one of the corners, there was a glass square that had a metal crocodile mouth in it and it chomped down to show how powerful the bite was on just a block of ice. In the shop, there were lots of expensive items, like whole crocodile skins or crocodile wallets. All in all, I think we had a good time at the Crocasaurus Park.

Meet the Crocs!

Today we went to Crocosaurus Cove. It is (obviously) in Darwin but it took us a seemingly long time to get there because we couldn’t find it at first. Once we did find it, we parked two blocks away and walked through the heat to the entrance.

After paying, we walked through the little cave at the entrance, ran past the aquarium displays, sped up the stairs, and arrived at the Jaws of Death just in time to see the (fake) crocodile head bite a piece of ice. The saltwater croc has over a ton of pressure behind its jaws.

The lady then showed us most of the crocs in the display: first there was Burt, and one of the other croc-keepers, Paul, fed him chicken. Burt starred in the original Crocodile Dundee and provided the basis for the computer-generated croc in Rogue. Next to Burt was Chopper, who was named after the Aussie criminal Chopper Reid because “they both have missing limbs and fierce attitudes.”

After Chopper came Denzel who is apparently the meanest crocodile at the Cove. In confinement next to Denzel was Wendell, who was named after the rugby star Wendell Sailor. Sailor said that the name was fitting because the croc was big, bad, full of attitude, and loves the spotlight. Wendell is the largest croc at the Cove right now at 5.5 meters, just barely longer than Chopper, who is also at 5.5 meters.

Houdini and Bess- nicknamed William and Kate in honor the royal couple- came next. Houdini got his name for getting fish out of a trap and escaping enclosures at the Darwin Crocodile Farm. He has been tamed since being put with Bess in 1991, and Bess laid a clutch of eggs in November 2011.

Harry was named after the inspector in Dirty Harry. He is apparently psychic as he has correctly selected the results of the Federal Election, AFL, and World Cup Grand Finals by picking the chicken under one competitor or another.

After we all were introduced and friendly, the four of us left for the mall, which sadly closed at 3:30 pm because it was a Sunday, the pool at our apartments, and the Deckchair Cinema, where you sit out under the stars and watch a movie. We saw Brave. Ciao!

Silence at Sunset

Have you ever been out on a beach at sunset, feeling the sand slide beteween your bare feet? It feels nice, and I know that lots of people have felt it and enjoy it. My story will start out when a family left home after supper. There were four of them and their names were Eryn, Ethan, Susan, and Jerry.

They left their apartment a little bit after 6:30 pm and where on the beach a few minutes later. After wading across a small creek, Eryn kicked off her sandals and called out to Ethan, “I’ll race you to the ocean!” and they took off, leaving their parents, Jerry and Susan behind. When they got to the ocean, Ethan tried his hand at telling a story about how feet came to be, about a giant foot who went around (by flying, of course) giving people the wisdom of the foot. The result didn’t turn out to well and he went off, abashed by Eryn laughing at his efforts. Susan and Jerry walked around before also heading away from the ocean and back to the park and from there back to the apartment.

Corroboree Crocs

Corroboree Billabong was our destination today, and we arrived after many kilometers in our Kluger.

We got on the flat-bottomed boat with two dozen of our new closest friends and rode out on to the billabong, which is an oxbow lake that connects to the river system in the wet season. Corroboree is forty kilometers long and is home to over 1600 white-bellied seagulls. After seeing just one saltie (saltwater crocodile), we had a lunch of salad, cheese, a boiled egg, and two slices of bread. We then saw more salties and a couple of freshies (freshwater crocodiles) and plenty of seagulls, bats, and other flying things.

There is one croc, Rosie, who lurks in the area around the docks. She is very territorial because she is a female saltie, and one of those could have a territory with a radius of up to one hundred kilometers. Their bodies can be a significant fraction (one out of 25,000) of those hundred kilometers as they grow to be about four meters in length. Males are even larger, growing their whole life and even to a whopping 8.6 meters!

They also have a good memory, sharp eyes, and a keen sense of smell. They can smell you (if you give off a strong enough scent) from ten kilometers away and can see colors just like you or me. They can feel vibrations up to a kilometer away using the sensory cells that are all over their body.

Salties can live in both fresh and saltwater, unlike freshies who can, you guessed it!, live only in freshwater. Some other random facts from today include:
1. The bats were there to eat mangoes.
2. If you cut off a saltie’s leg, you can count the rings on it and know how old it is, just like a tree.
3. The jabiru (a type of bird) bend their legs in the opposite direction as us.
4. The male jicana (another bird) takes care of the babies.
5. The white-bellied seagull was originally the white-breasted seagull, but its name changed because of the need for political correctness.
Ciao!

Yet ANOTHER Park

Today it was Leanyer Recreational Park, which was run by the YMCA so it was free. It has a playground, a skate park, shade, a café, and, best of all, a waterpark!!!

It included three tube slides plus a water playground and a big pool. The playground had two short tube slides (pink and green), water guns, two superfast red slides, and a huge bucket that dumped water every three minutes and twenty seconds (Mom counted). Ethan and I had races following one format:

  1. Go through a tube.
  2. Run back to the stairs and go through the other tube.
  3. Go to the net.
  4. Climb up and go down one of the superfast red slides.
  5. Pull the three ropes (that activate water flow) that are near the main stairs.
  6. Go up the stairs.
  7. Ride the other superfast slide.
  8. Run to the water gun in the corner.
  9. Touch it first.
  10. WIN!!!

The three big tubes were okay. The blue and yellow tubes were for people only (no inner tubes), which meant that you felt the bumps as you changed section of slide. Those hurt. The red slide was good. You had to go down in an inner tube, so Ethan was in the back and I was in the front. It is pitch dark in the tube once you get away from the entrance and exit. That meant that I could tickle Ethan’s feet without him knowing I was going to do that. And that could have been the sole reason to go to the park! Ciao!

Darwin Day

A day in Darwin sounds more appropriate, but you can’t be too picky, so I will leave it at that for now.

Okay, so, today we woke up. If you can call it that; more like I got jolted into counciousness when I heard my mother and Eryn conversing in hushed (loud) voices. I immediately was up and started reading (rereading to be exact) the Magician’s Nephew, until later when I took a shower and got dressed. We had breakfast and then went to the Defense of Darwin war museum, which was very interesting. There is a theatre with a multimedia experiance where I sat and watched and listened while the stroble lights flashed, the speakers boomed machine gun noises, and planes flew across the screen bombing a small Darwin. It was kind of sad though, listening to all of the stories that they had recorded and you could see where those people were on a big screen.

Then we went to the Leanyer Recreational Park (run by the YMCA) and Eryn and I had fun having water dumped on us while the parents sat in the shade. There was a big pool, two long body slides, one long, dark, inner-tube slide (for two people at a time), and a playground that had a bucket that dumped on people below. We had fun and got wet.

When in Darwin

Yesterday, when I didn’t write a post, we went to the mountains. We boarded a train around 11:22 and rode for one hour and forty-eight minutes before arriving in the Blue Mountain town of Katoomba. We got there and walked down the street to the shop called the Hattery, which sells hats. In that shop, there are hundreds of Akubra hats, lining the walls of the building. Surprisingly, there weren’t that many customers and I was the only one trying on Akubras for most of the time. In the end, I got an olive green ‘Tablelands’ hat, with a wide brim and a kangaroo leather strap.

When we finished with that, we went to a French bread shop and a ‘Go-Lo’ shop to get food and water for the day before heading down the street to Echo Point. At Echo Point, we had our snacks and looked over the edge. It was a very long ways down. Once finished, we went down a path and crossed on a wooden bride a span between to rocks of about ten feet. That wasn’t very interesting and we left after taking some pictures of me in my new hat.

I know that probably you are shifting around in your seats, trying to telepathically go into the past and tell me to hurry up and get to Darwin, so I will.

After waking up this morning after our last night at Andre and Sabrina’s guesthouse, we went to the airport and waited for our plane. When we got on our plane, we sat down and started reading to pass the time while the plane taxied around for what seemed like hours before taking off.

Once in Darwin, we proceeded immediately to the Hertz rental car place and got our car and went to our apartment. There, we put our stuff down before immediately heading off for a supermarket, where we bought ice cream and the other necessities of life. Then we had a supper of pasta, broccoli, salad, and some ice cream and did our own things.

A (Mostly) Darwin Day

The day started off with breakfast at the Wus’ consisting of cereal, eggs, toast with Nutella, and oranges. We took the apples with us.

After finishing packing and saying good-bye to Andre, Sabrina, and Anthony, our host took drove four people, four backpacks, four suitcases, and two hats to the Sydney airport where we checked in. We got on our plane at Gate 5. There were a lot of people from the US Army on our flight, and when we touched down our captain wished them “the best of luck here in Darwin.”

The flight lasted four hours and forty minutes, and we were entertained by the movie Mabo about an Aboriginal man fighting for his land and The Big Bang Theory episode. Once we landed and got our luggage, we got our car from Hertz and watched (and heard. Definitely heard) the F-16s take off from the air force base next to the airport. Dad told us to be quiet on our short drive to our apartment because he hadn’t driven in about two months and hadn’t driven on the left side of the road in about two years.

We arrived safe and sound at Villa de la Mer, which is right on the Indian Ocean. After settling in we drove to the nearby Woolworth’s and picked up a week’s worth of groceries, including, but not limited to, lettuce, potatoes, tomato sauce, cupcakes, and butter. We hurried home to see the sunset, and we could watch the pink sun sink below the horizon. After that we hung out on the rocky beach for a little while then came home to have a homemade supper of pasta, tomato sauce, beans, broccoli, salad, and chocolate ice cream.

That makes for full people and a full day.

Ciao!

Feelin Blue

 

Today was our day in the Blue Mountains, which are a three-hour ride from our house. We missed our first train so had to wait an hour for the next one. Meanwhile, I had a Drumstick and the other three had Magnums.
Once in the little town of Katoomba, we walked down the street and walked in to Hot French Bread. After long moments spent dilly-dallying we finally chose: a cinnamon roll for Mom, a piece of cake for Ethan, a chocolate eclair for Dad, and a sticky, sultana-y snail danish for me. We enjoyed these about
 an hour later at Echo Point overlooking the hilly forest. After eating those and some crushed multi-grain Pringles we looked down the cliff and walked out to the Three Sisters via the Giant Stairway. The mountains and sixty-degree weather had it feeling like home but with the Three Sisters…
After that we walked to Katoomba Falls on the muddy track. We saw the last trolley go by following a photo shoot starring a flock of yellow-crowned white parrots.  I went to entertain myself on the playground while Dad finally came to conclusion: we would walk back to the train station.
It wasn’t that far. It only took us thirty-three minutes including our time in Subway ordering our sandwiches. We ate on a bench in the cold but finally moved when it started drizzling. Just like home, right?
Ciao!

Time-taking Transportation

Getting to places from a suburb called Beverly Hills takes forever in Sydney. Thankfully there is a complex transport system and a handy app called NSW TransportInfo. (NSW stands for New South Wales, the state in which Sydney is.) To get to the main harbor (Circular Quay train station) from here takes about an hour.

First you have to walk to the Mortdale train station. You have to get on and head toward Bondi Junction. You get off at Central (or Redfern or Town Hall) and change trains. After riding a few more stops you get to Circular Quay and the main harbor.

The way with less walking is: walk to a nearby bus station and ride to the Padstow train station on the green line. Get on the train and ride all the way to Circular Quay.

Once we were there we poked around until we missed the 2:10 ferry to Watsons Bay. To waste forty minutes we got on the train, switched at Redfern, and crossed the bridge to take in the view. We promptly got off at Milsons Point and took the next train back to the quay.

Finally we were on our ferry. We went through all four stops and were informed as we stepped on to dry land that that was the last ferry to Watsons Bay.

We were stranded! (Not.) So to ease our minds Ethan and I went to a playground and rode the spinning seesaw. After we tired of that, we walked up the hill to the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The last time we saw the ocean (not from a plane) was last spring in Costa Rica. And it was the same ocean, too.

Ciao!

Playground Post!!!!!e!

Yes, my post is about playgrounds.

Eryn and I have played on many playgrounds this trip, and here are some of them and a description:

Park in the Olympic Grounds: A big park on the riverside, this park offers everything from rope webs to wooden towers to swings. You can take a zipline or try your balance on the round balance beam. And since those are just a few of the things, you’re bound to find something that you like.

Park at Watsons Bay: This park is small and so is the amount of equipment, but some of them are very fun. There is a seesaw that spins and goes really high and some monkey bars that are curved upwards.

Other Park in the Olympic Grounds: This one was more like a jungle gym, but is still fun. There are lots of bars to climb and slide down. There is also a ‘climbing wall’ that kids can climb on.

Also, at our house, there is no electric heating and it gets down to 55 degrees farhanheit. Luckily, however, there is a wood stove that heats up the whole living room.

I went loony at Luna Park

Luna Park, a place of fun, dizziness, and music.

We went to Luna Park today and we all had fun. After waiting for about half an hour while my father bought Eryn and I unlimited tickets for the whole park. Eryn and I went on the ferris wheel before I had to go back to the counter to get a new entrence  pass because the old one was too loose. Then we went on to the Tango Train, a really fast wheel with cars on the end.

While riding and getting squished I thought there was music like We Will Rock You.

When we were done with that, we went to the Wild Mouse, a really fast roller coaster that is kind of because you go straight towards the ocean edge and then abruptly turn off to the right before doing that again and again.

After that, Eryn and I went to Coney Island. Coney Island is a large building that houses  twelve different things that you can do, seven of them just being different slides that all look the same. There is also a maze of mirrors that is just boring and a couple of moving walkways that go in circles. There are also two circles that go around in different directions. Then there is a place with moving boards underfoot and you have to try to get across. Then there is a spinning thing, people sit in the center and try to stay on the middle as long as they can while the circle is spinning quickly.

Later, I went on three different rides that spun around called the Music Ride, the Moon Ranger, and the Flying Saucer.

 

Another Park!

Another Park!

This time it was Luna Park, which is an amusement park. It is ridiculously overpriced, but entry is free and only two tickets (for Ethan and me) were bought. If you get an annual pass and go three days of the year, you save money.

Our first order of business was, after buying tickets and shedding our jackets, riding the Ferris Wheel. It went around a surprising five times and we could see for miles (if the skyscrapers weren’t blocking our way). Ethan and I took pictures of the Sydney Opera House and the park and listened to the chatter of Ruby and Rosa, two English girls who said that their mum had a ticket but hadn’t gone on any rides and was drinking coffee.

Next we went to the Tango Train. It was set up like this: two dozen cars (we were in #5) on spokes from a sparkling pole. The spokes are covered in a yellow-with-red-stripes plastic sheet that is supposed to be a woman doing the tango’s skirt. Since the “woman” is dancing, the skirt naturally goes up and down… and so do you. At first you go backwards at about ten seconds per rotation. The lady slowed it down and told us we were going to go forwards, fast. We did. Soon we were going at four seconds per rotation. It was crazy.

The Wild Mouse was next. It’s a roller coaster, the only one in the park. It looked very tame. It was very jerky. First you go slowly up a hill in your car (#1). Then you speed up and hurtle towards the edge and the harbor. You seem to go over the edge when WAM! Your neck jerks as you turn sharply and face the rest of the park. After more painful turns and Ethan saying, “Death number three. Death number six,” we found ourselves closer to ground as the turns slowly took you down a hill. There is another sharp turn and a nice, smooth run when CLACKCLACKCLACK you turn another sharp corner, then another, and then you’re screaming as you go down a hill and up and down and up and hope the camera wasn’t back there. Another turn and another and you can see those to Us that you went up and down. You start going down and then a flash blinds you. Darn, you think. I just ruined my picture.

Back up on top and another two corners. You slow down, the man unbuckles your seatbelt, and you step shakily on to the platform. Only one minute and one second of your life have gone by but it feels like an hour (and most of your brain cells).

Coney Island was next and there were steep slides that you go down in potato sacks, tricky floors, a mirror maze, and so much more (and some inappropriate pictures). After some more walking, Ethan and I found ourselves at the Rotor, which you can watch free but with the tickets you can participate. You are in a cylinder. The floor comes up and you put your back against a wall. You’re slightly tentative about this as there is an audience above you. It starts spinning fast and the floor lowers.

You don’t. You’re stuck to the wall because it’s spinning so fast. Minutes later it slows down, you slide down, and the door opens. Not like I experienced this. Ethan did. I chose not to. Earlier he also chose to do the Flying Saucer without me and later he did the Moon Ranger without me too. We also each did the Music Trip three times each (not always together). You’re strapped in on this row of chairs and suddenly you’re up up up and spinning up and down and back and forth and you’re thinking I’m going to die or puke my guts out. Why why why?

And then it’s done.

We also did the Wild Mouse again and it was less scary that time. Ciao!

Oh! I almost forgot…….When in Sydney

Public transport, trains, ferries, buses.

We needed those things today, but instead of using them, Eryn and I decided to walk (and drag my mother along too) to a ferry wharf that was a long ways away from where we wanted to be, a big park. When we got to that wharf, we called father to see where he was and it turned out that he was where we had wanted to go and he wanted us to join him there. We saw a sign that said ‘Park: 2700 meters’ and walked for 2.7 kilometers.

What we now wish we had known was that where we wanted to go actually wasn’t that far, but we thought that it was closer to the wharf than it was and went the wrong way. On the way back, we rode a bus that took us right where we needed to be, when we needed to be.

However, nobody died or anything like that so I thought that it was a good waste of time.

Parking [a]Lot

Isn’t it interesting how you park on a driveway and drive on a parkway?

(Unrelated content above.)

Today we went to three parks. Two were intentional. One was on the side of the road. The three parks were Plaza Park, Millennium Park, and Sydney Olympic Park. The Plaza and Millennium Parks were in the Olympic Park. We saw the Millennium Park as we rode by on a ferry up Parramatta River. We got on a train at Parramatta (which is a city, separate from Sydney) and rode to the Olympic Park. Once there we argued about the correct way to go and finally went the right way (my way). After a few minutes, Ethan saw the playground at Plaza Park and headed for it.

It was a climbing playground, filled with ropes walls just begging to be scaled. Ethan was done in five minutes.

Kilometers later, we arrived at the ferry wharf and walked the 2.7K to Millennium Park. Dad was waiting for us there.

The Millennium Park is awesome. There is a giant chess board with foot-tall pieces (the king is two feet), swings, a giant fort, slides, tunnels, climbing “walls,” a spinning thing, a giant spider web, and zip lines. Ethan and I had a race that went from the top of a hill, through the tubes, across the web, up and down the fort, down three slides, across a beam, and to a pole. It got cut short after Ethan had gone down two slides and I had gone down one. The sun had set so the park was closed. Ciao!

Exchanged

After a day spent taking in the Delhi sites- the minar in a complex, the lotus temple, the India Gate, government buildings, ice cream- we hopped on the plane at 11pm. After a few hours and a couple of time zones, we flew in to Bangkok at five. A few minutes later, we were in the Thai Royal Silk lounge and enjoying the “free” cake, fruit, and hot cocoa. Our time came to leave and we loaded the near-empty Boeing 747. Sadly we weren’t on the top floor, but our seats were comfortable enough. The seats were 3-5-3. Dad had the whole middle section to himself, and I watched our first Australian sunset out Ethan’s window after watching The Hunger Games.

 

EXCHANGE RATE:
1 Hindi word IS 1 English word
1 cow pie IS 28 bird droppings
1 Taj Mahal IS 1 Sydney Opera House
1 wrinkled paper rupee note IS 1 plastic Australian dollar bill
1 veggie burger IS US$24.00 (AU$22.83)
2 meals at waterfront restaurant ARE AU$500.00
1 family’s week-long train passes ARE 3 tickets (second child is free)
1 40-degree Celsius reading IS 1 40-degree Fahrenheit reading
Ciao!

……and lovin it!

 

Yes, that’s what we are doing now in Sydney, Australia. We are loving being in a place that doesn’t have cow poo everywhere and you have to watch where you step every second of the day.

We left the India international airport two days ago. Since then, we have ridden two planes and spent one night in Sydney. It is cold here, and we have finally dug the down jackets out of our suitcases.
Our harbor cruise today proved nice, and the sea was a new change.

Teeter-Totter Train, Take Two

We finally arrived in Delhi, India, after eighteen hours on the train from Jaisalmer all the way to the Old Delhi Station.

The ride was relatively uneventful. We had take-out from Hotel Surja that included rice, paneer, pakora, korma, and chipatis. It was very good, and we finished supper with cappuccino Bourbons, which are the best cookies here.

First class was a relief, although I didn’t think much of the mouse that crawled down my curtain.

Today is Independence Day here, so the taxi drivers had a day off. We were hoping for a pre-paid taxi, as Sandy Jerath, owner of Jerath’s Villas, said that he could send a driver but it would cost twice as much as a pre-paid taxi at the station.

Well. Even Sandy’s drivers had a day off today. So Dad called and Sandy told us what to do. We got on the Metro and rode to Green Park station. We got off and walked a little way to the white temple. Sandy picked us up in his car and drove us to Jerath’s Villas. We went up all the trillion million stairs to our rooms and decided to rest. At about five-thirty we went outside, had ice cream, and went to the park down the street.

We returned in time for supper at seven-thirty. It was good, and we once again had Bourbons to finish it. Yum! Ciao!

Kite

Yes, kite.

Today we came on the train into Old Delhi to see: kites!!! Lots of these colorful flying pieces of paper adorned the bright blue sky as children gathered below to control the kites. Many a time, we saw kites on the ground, broken and useless. Yet still their little owners found ways to be happy on this year’s Independence Day, celebrating the 65th year of independence.

The Indian people use kite flying to show how they feel about their independence from Britain. Most people have kites and they use them in games to cut one another’s string and for contests of duration and height.

Super Supper

Yet another superhero title (see “Power Post,” August 12, 2012).

We didn’t really do anything today, so I’m going to focus on our supper. It was cool outside, in the low eighties, and lightning was still flashing in the west. We went to Hotel Surya, right next to our hotel, Surja, to eat. We got our menus and sat on the still-wet plastic lawn chairs. We ordered a butter naan, a garlic naan, a banana lassi (for Mom), a Maaza (mango soda by Coca-Cola for me), a Fanta (for Ethan), a bottle of water, vegetable pakora, jeseera rice, aloo mutter, vegetable korma, and paneer tikka masala. I predicted that it would cost 710 rupees (about US$14.20).

It was good. True, the naan was really chipati, but it was still good. The sunset was spectacular because of the late-afternoon rainstorm. The sky was pink and purple and blue and then black. We could see the silhouettes of the monster-sized bats as they flitted about. The lizards caught flies in the light of the lamp. The people from our hotel watched us eat. The lightning made a backdrop for the dark gray clouds. The moon rose behind a cloud, and we could see a moon beam. Old, 70s television shows were discussed (not like Ethan and I’ve seen any, really) after Ethan asked who Samantha Stevens of Bewitched was.

After we ate most of the food, we paid the 710 rupees (YES!!!) and left, but only after seeing the men on the rooftop kneel towards Mecca and hearing a Justin Bieber song. Sigh. At least the giant bats didn’t touch us.

Ciao!

Jaisalmer Blues

Today was our last day in Jaisalmer, and we spent it staying around home and doing work (reading and schoolwork). We went on a shopping trip (we being Eryn, my mother, and I) to use up my money and for Eryn to look at patchwork things. The first shop that we went to didn’t have much, but the second shop was more interesting to Eryn, as she saw a pillow case that she liked. We walked down the street to a small table that had miniature auto rickshaws-tuk-tuks- (Eryn: ‘CUTE!’) and small elephants. I bought an elephant and something else while Eryn bought nothing. We went back to Bobbi’s place to look at pillow covers before heading back to the second place to get the pillow cover that Eryn liked at the beginning. I went on another motorcycle ride with Raj before heading back to the hotel in the middle of a storm. Now, there is water in the streets and people are happy for more rain.

Going to School in Thailand

The Thailand constitution guarantees children a free basic education for twelve years. However, it is not clear that the schooling is really free. We talked with the father of a high school student (one of the drivers we used for out-of-the-area trips) and he told us that he has to pay each year for his daughter to attend a government school. In addition to government-provided schools, there are a large number of private schools that offer some or all of the instruction on English. Children are required to attend school through the ninth grade. 

School days are officially Monday through Friday, and we also saw quite a few students at middle and high schools on Saturdays. The school year begins in May and ends in March. Students have a break in September.

Preschool through university students wear uniforms.  The color and style of the clothing usually identifies which level of schooling the student is attending: pre-school, elementary, secondary, or university.  Preschool and kindergarten boys and girls wear red/pink shorts and shirt with an apron over the top. Starting with first grade, the standard girl’s uniform is a knee-length dark blue or black skirt and a white or light blue blouse.  Boys wear shorts or pants that are dark blue, black, or khaki and a white shirt.

In addition to the standard uniform, students in elementary through high school also have 2 or three other uniforms that they wear during each week. These other uniforms include

  • athletic (polo shirt and athletic/warm up pants) – worn on the gym/athletic day
  • boy/girl scout type uniform – worn on the day that students spend a couple of hours of the school day working on scout badges/honors
  • historic or cultural uniform – worn in some area. In northern Thailand the Friday uniform was in honor of the Lana kingdom.

University students have an accessory added to their uniform:  tie for the young men and gold or silver pins on their blouse collars for the young women.  One day on a bus I sat next to several female university students and noticed that some of them had one pin and some had two pins.  I asked them why they had different numbers of pins and they did not understand.  But they seemed to get a good chuckle out of my attempt to talk with them.

Even the teachers wear uniforms.  I noticed that at high schools the teachers were in military-style uniforms.  In elementary schools they all wore the same color shirt and pants or skirt with each day having a different combination of shirt and pants/shirt colors.

 

Bob

That’s what I’m going to call the man at the Om Restaurant. He didn’t tell us his name, but Ethan and I told him ours. We had an interesting conversation while the four of us enjoyed our ice cream.

Bob works at Om. He’s the cook and was very excited when he found out that Mom teaches cooking: “Oh my… goodness!” He shrieked. “I am the cook… I could teach you Indian cooking!” He grew up in a village of fifty people on the border of Pakistan. He said that there is no electricity and the water comes from wells.
“The people, they… cut stone and raise cows and camels,” Bob said. “I came to Jaisalmer for money.” First he worked in a restaurant in the old city, but its owner married an Australian and moved to her country.
So Bob went to a hotel. He didn’t like it because the tourists were getting drunk. One day a man (who was drunk) grabbed him by the back of the neck. Bob immediately knew what to do: he whacked the man with the hot frying pan he was holding. And then he left.
Bob’s only been working at Om for a month but has been working at his English for years. He said that, in his village, the kids get no education and they don’t know how old they are. His younger brother is trying to get an education, and Bob is earning money for him as well as his mother and the rest of his family. He gets the last of his rupees.
Ciao!

My Mansion

We went to a mansion today and it was made of stone. It had lots of stone. And lots of bats. And lots of guano, too.

Despite all of that, it was a cool (by which I mean hot) house, with at least four floors and a rooftop with towers jutting out. Eryn and I spent most of our time on the towers watching the parents go around and around on the lower levels, and when the reached the top, we went down. We did that for a while before going to the next house over and discoving that it was the one that was so important, because it actually had no bats and someone who cleaned it. I liked the other one better. At the second one we went up and down the stairs, looking at the exhibits of locks and musical intruments before going to the resturaunt at the bottom of the stairs. While there, we got some cool drinks before heading back towards the hotel.

Tea, a Drink with Jam and Bread (or honey)

Tea, a drink with Jam and Bread

Yes, my post is about tea. Today I will tell you how to read tea leaves to tell your fortune. Actually, I’m not. I’m going to tell you what happened in a poem.
Here it goes:

Mom put the teapot over cup,
She pressed the handle and tea went up.
It sprayed all over clothes and the floor,
And then breakfast wasn’t such a bore.

We sat silently, numb with shock,
and then began to laugh and talk.
The waiter asked if he could help,
Right as Mother began to yelp.

The tea had burned Mom on the arm,
But for us, the tea did no harm.
The tea then poured so easily,
What was lost was very measly.

I said it would be in this post,
and then the waiters came with toast.
Eryn’s toast had lots of gold honey,
But to me, it was too runny.

Power Post

Mom said that sounded like a super cereal. I said that sounded like a blog-entry title. Whatever.

The point is, we’re out of power. We lost it at around 8:15 pm after one hour and fifteen minutes of waiting for supper. We lost power twice already today, from ten to eleven and two-thirty to three-thirty. Those were planned, though, to ration out electricity in Rajasthan. This last one started with a flash of light and then… darkness except for where there are annoying people with batteries.

It’s only been an hour, true, but it seems like a lifetime. At supper at the Little Tibet restaurant after the power went out, the couple at the table next to us started talking loud (-er than before). They were playing Bananagrams and used his lighter/flashlight to see. They’ve been everywhere we have in the same order in India (“this trip,” he said) except for Udaipur. I’m not sure where that is other than it is in northern India.

We’re already drenched in sweat now that we’re inside and it’s so stuffy. Ugh. I hope they solve the problem soon. Ciao!

Okay, this kind of loses the effect but the power is back on!!! It is 9:50 pm. Thank goodness!!! Ciao!

Camel Ride: Not as Smooth as a [Flying] Carpet Ride

In case you’re wondering why there wasn’t a post yesterday, we were abducted. By camels. In the Thar Desert. And left to die.

All that is true except for the abduction and the dying parts. We did ride camels yesterday and today. We left at around 2:30 yesterday and went to a cemetery, a temple, the empty village, and the camel village. The empty village used to have people until the 1700s or 1800s when everyone packed up and left overnight. Now it is “of archaeological, historical, and architectural importance.” Next to it is the Jurassic [Cactus] Park. We didn’t go there.

The camel village is in the middle of nowhere. We got there after a long, long ride in the Jeep driven by Amin. We had chai tea in someone’s house and then got on our camels and rode off. Goonpat and a man rode on the first camel, then Dad, then me, and then Mom. Ethan didn’t ride in our line.

Before we crossed the road, we saw the goats of the village heading home. We also saw skeletons of goats and cows. After we crossed the road, we followed a dirt track for about an hour until we arrived at the dunes. Ethan was disappointed because there were other groups of people there and because we were so close to the main road. We could hear the cars drive by we were so close.

Ethan and I jumped off the dunes (sometimes Ethan jumped with Goonpat, the eleven-year-old boy who came with us) until we had some chai tea and supper. After supper we looked at the stars, heard a song by Amin, the man on the camel, and two who came in the Jeep, and went to bed. Our beds had actual sheets and blankets, which I didn’t think I would need. Well, it got cold (in the lower 80s).

We woke up to watch the sunrise, which wasn’t very impressive, and had breakfast which was fruit, toast, and cookies. Then we got on our camels and rode for two hours because Ethan had wanted to. Because my camel kept slamming my leg against Mom’s camel, I got to ride seperately. Ethan was mad because he couldn’t kick his camel hard enough so he had to be roped to Mom. On this ride, one of the two dogs chased foxes and antelope to his heart’s content.

We finally piled back in the Jeep, said good-bye to the camel man, Goonpat, and the others, and rode back to Jaisalmer. I don’t think a shower has ever felt so good. Ciao!

8 Bottles of Beer?

was one of my questions last night on our camel safari. There were five guides, but none of them drank anything. You’re probably wondering if I’m going to talk about anything but beer, and the answer is yes.

Yesterday, I went on a ride with Raj on his motorcycle around the fort. First, we went to the gate and had glasses of fresh juice. Then, we went around the city for about ten minutes before heading up to the main square, where we drank chai and talked with some of Raj’s friends. When we were finished with our cups, we got back on his motorcycle and went down the street. After a brief stop at the hotel, we continued our ride down to a Nokia phone shop, where we talked to some more of Raj’s friends. When we were finished there, we went to the fort and drove around before going back to the square for more chai and a passenger to take to the train station. We were there for a little bit before going back to the hotel for the final time.

Now for the camel ride. We left around two o’clock and rode in a jeep for about two hours to get to a village. At the village, we had a cup (or bowl) of chai tea before getting on our camels and riding off into the sunset. We rode for about one hour before getting to camp on the dunes. We all played around on the dunes a bit before supper was prepared on a fire. It was Indian food cooked to perfection with a little bit of smoke flavor. We looked at the stars for a while before lying down. But sleep would come to none of us. Finally, at about midnight, I drifted off and awoke the next morning covered in sand. We had breakfast and mounted our camels for a long ride.

After about two hours, we were finished and said goodbye to the guides (one of them was eleven) before riding off in a jeep.

French Bakeries without French Bakers

Yes, we found a French bakery, but as you can see from the title, there are no French bakers. More of that later, though. Yesterday I had ended my post with an explanation of the hotel in which we are staying. Now, I will try to give a summary of what happened today, with the interesting bits left in.

We woke up (early, early, early) at 7:30 am to go to breakfast while it was still cool. Again, I ordered something with so-called chocolate (a banana-chocolate pancake), which always turns out to taste like hot chocolate mix mixed with milk. We ordered a cup of tea and drank most of it before heading down so we could leave in the next hour. When we headed out (finally) we had in mind to go and visit two temples and a palace. But then again, days don’t always go the way they are planned.

We went to two temples and then walked down the street a little ways until we saw a sign that said boulangerie. We went down that side street and met a cook who said the restaurant was at the top of the building. We went up there and got some cool drinks and heard that the French chef was out because of his paternal leave. The cook also said that he likes Obama, and that our president was communist because he cared a lot about the country and not that much about the people. We left, went to two more temples and went back to the hotel. At the hotel, I did my schoolwork and went up with my father to the to the outside restaurant on the top floor to see if Raj was there to talk about the camel riding. When we got up we saw that all the cushions were set away in the alcove. We looked to see approaching rain clouds, the first in about a year. The rain started softly, but by the time we had gotten down to our rooms to get the cushions off of our balconies, it was pouring with very fast winds.

My room was almost soaked and I finally got a towel at the bottom of the window to stop the worst leak. The rain continued for about 10 minutes and then settled down to a steady sprinkle. We went up to the top and drank tea with Raj before we headed down to buy clothes for the desert tomorrow.

For supper tonight, we went to the same place that we had the cool drinks at noon. Most of the time we were waiting for our food, Eryn was trying to take pictures of lightning. It didn’t work too well.

Toast Post

 

Today was toasting hot. It spiked to 100° Fahrenheit and felt like 110. We’re inside, though, in the air-conditioned Hotel Surja that serves… toast! For breakfast this morning, Ethan had a chocolate-banana pancake, orange juice, masala tea, and toast. Mom selected a cheese omelette, tea, orange juice, and toast. Dad ordered scrambled eggs, tea, OJ, and toast. I had a masala omelette, tea, and- you guessed it- toast.
After going to the Jain temple complex and buying two wall-hangings from a woman (!) named Bobbi, we wandered around inside the fort. Dad had Ethan and I stand next to a cow for a picture. Ethan was wimpy and stood two feet away from it. Dad tried to pet it like he had another, but this one (the cow, not Dad) was in a foul mood.
We now had a chance to be prey to the vultures/shopkeepers. One young man came up and said, “Sir, I can help you spend your money. We have lots of ways.” Dad said, “No, thanks.” The man persisted. “Please sir. Shirts and pants, twenty rupees.” Dad shook his head again. The fellow was desperate and said, “Please, sir, is there no way I can rip you off?”
We finally reached home, did schoolwork, and got hungry. Not even chocolate cookies could cure this hunger, so Ethan ordered plain (boring) naan and I had toast. I finished teaching Ethan an important math lesson and went to look at the latest gossip on Yahoo. Mom went to clean clothes and my closest male relatives went up to talk with Raj, who is the face of Hotel Surja. Suddenly someone knocked on the door of my parents’ room yelling “Hello? Hello?” Confused and slightly annoyed, I replied, “Yes?” They barged in and strode over to the window. The balcony’s cushion and pillows were left in a heap on the floor and with a short explanation:”The rain is coming.”
What!?!? We’re in the middle of the desert! The cloud I see as I put the cushions under the bed in a nice, neat stack is light years off, farther east than the train station. The cloud that was suddenly at the window was, however, not light years off. Were those birds or trash flying around against the white that was all I could see? And why was I getting
wet? I rushed over to the window and discovered that the wind was blowing the rain in just before Dad returned from the roof. I quickly moved Mom’s backpack and my Kindle out of the soak zone, and soon Dad had grabbed a towel and stuffed it at the bottom of the window and I went to go answer Ethan’s cry for help. His bed and belongings were getting soaked and the towel he had put at the window wouldn’t stay put. I went back and forth between those two rooms, pointing out another leaky window and holding down a towel. My room, where Mom had been, was fine except for the rattling windows because it was facing west. 
This gave a new meaning to “When it rains, it pours” because it hasn’t rained in Jaisalmer for about a year. Dad said we went to the desert to escape monsoon. Well, it caught us. The thunder and lightning are still going, but it’s not so hot that you could toast a piece of bread on the sidewalk. Ciao!

When in Jaisalmer: Another Fort?

Yes, we are in another ‘J’ city. And yes, we are in another fort. However, this time, we are actually living in the fort in a hotel called the Surja Hotel. We have three rooms in the wall; one for me, one for the parental units, and one for Eryn. We are in the Jaisalmer Fort and are a long ways away from the gate, but luckily, we have our own balconies. The balconies are hardly worth mentioning, as they are pretty much window boxes without the flowers or dirt. They stick out of the wall and I like to just sit in one and look out at the city.

The parent’s room has air conditioning, a small balcony, two different beds, and a large bathroom. Eryn’s room is also air conditioned, but it has no balcony, being on the inside of the wall. It has a largeish bathroom and one bed. My room is the only one without air conditioning. It is on the wall and has a balcony, one bed, and a tiny bathroom.

The Surja Hotel has the rooftop as well and has made it into a restruant. There are three tables and each of them has two chairs and a small balcony going out over the side. For supper today, my father and I sat on the balcony overlooking the city and my sister and mother sat on the chairs.

J-Cubed

 

I woke up at- oh, this hurts- 3:20 am take a shower so we could be in a taxi at four. Our train was supposed to leave at 4:45. It left at 6:30.
Between these times, we saw a pickpocket trying to rob a man sleeping on the platform. We think he failed.
Once on the train, we went to sleep and when I woke up, I put my hand on the window. It was the inner of two. And it was almost hot.
Our train finally chug-chug-HONKed into Jaisalmer. The brown buildings were a welcome sight after hours of red dirt. We got off and maneuvered our way to the exit and the man holding the sign that said “Jery.” Four people, four suitcases, four backpacks, and one hat piled into the Jeep. The vehicle slowly wove its way up narrow streets, into the fort, through four gates,  and to a small parking lot. We got out and walked the fifty meters to Hotel Surja. After the necessary obsessing over our rooms, we settled in, cooled off (we were already drenched with sweat after only fifteen minutes outside), and waited through several short power outages.
Dad decided we needed to go explore, so we left the fort and walked up and down a few streets. Thankfully we didn’t get lost. After another short power outage, we went up to the roof and ordered a round of lassis. I should have remembered the hot “chocolate” of Mandore Guest House. It was only a lassi with hot cocoa powder mixed in. Yuck. And that should have prepared me for the custard at desert which was like hot pudding with, once again, hot cocoa powder mixed in. I’m sure breakfast will be better, though, since they have toast, which I pretty much eat by the loaf. Ciao!

Eating in Thailand – Part 3

Foods new to us:

Rambutan – The skin looks like a red squishy ball with lots of green hair. It has kind of a grape texture on the inside and a very mild flavor. The edible portion is about the size of peewee chicken egg and includes a seed that looks like an almond.

Dragon Fruit – We ate two varieties: white and pink.  Most of the time this fruit was served in cut pieces, such as in a fruit salad or on top of a pancake.  It was tasty and looked appealing. We also tried a dragon fruit shake and concluded that this beverage taste like drinking cut grass.  We did not order it again.

Thai ice tea – This is a great drink on a hot afternoon or evening. We discovered that the secret is sweetened condensed milk.

Soy bean leaves – We had to do a bit of research to find out what we had eaten one evening at a vegetarian restaurant in Chaing Mai.  None of the restaurant employees knew the English word for the food so we went to the internet.  We discovered that we had consumed soy bean leaves fried in tempura batter, a very tasty food especially with a spicy sauce.

Eggplant – Thai egg plant looks nothing like US or Indian eggplant.  We ate two varieties: 1) size of large green peas and crunchy in curries and 2) soft golf-ball size and when cooked is very similar to summer squash.

Rice cracker with watermelon seeds — A sweet and spicy snack that has a texture similar to rice krispies bars

Seaweed chips – Lay’s Company makes a seaweed chip that is quite like a Pringles chip in flavor and texture. We tried this and decided once was enough.

Khao Soi – This is a very popular noodle dish in Northern Thailand and Thai folk told us that it even originated in Chiang Mai.  It is like a soup with egg noodles and served with many small bowls of additional ingredients for flavor varieties. Ingredients to add include red onions, pickles, boiled egg, soy sauce, and spicy sauce.

I Got Offered Opium

If you lived out in the countryside, what are the few things that you would need?

Today we went out to the countryside and saw how Indians lived with very little.

Cooking: In the countryside there isn’t time to go into town and buy food to cook, so they grow their own grain in the fields surrounding their houses. Each family has their own fields and harvests everything so that they have millet to make chapatis. We watched a woman make some of those by the following steps: mix water with the flour-like millet, knead the gray dough until it becomes soft, roll it into a ball and then flatten, put on the fire and let it cook. My mother experimented with that and found that it is harder than it looks.

Opium: For those of you who don’t know, opium is an illegal drug, but today we saw some of it in the house of a village tribesman. He said (via translation) that at festivals, they mashed up opium with water and everyone drank. He offered me some, but I declined.

Indian Elementaries

Today was our village day and our last day in Jodhpur. We did this with Lorrianne. Rachel was with us at the very beginning and end.
I  liked the two schools better than the village because the kids were less shy and so cute. The first school we went to was the one where Rachel, our next-door neighbor, is working for three weeks. We only went to her classroom, which was kind of disappointing because I wanted to meet some of the younger students there.
The class sang songs like “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” for us and two of the girls danced. The school was nice enough to serve chai tea, which was so good but scalding hot. We went to a village after that and then another school. This one was in the middle of no where and had far fewer students. We passed out pens and chocolates there and got to “help” some of the first-class students. Khavita, the girl Dad and I were with, taught us that butterfly in Hindi is “tiki.”
We got back in the Jeep and picked up Rachel. On the drive home we saw lots of people going on pilgrimages. They were walking to a temple 150 kilometers away. They were lucky to choose today because guess what??? It started raining at around 7:45 pm!!! Ciao!

Down Day Disappears, despite Donuts

Despite what the title said, we did not have donuts today, but the day did go on, and it was also a down day. It was a warmish day today and we spent most of it outside in the shade of the hanging swing, reading and writing to catch up with all of our emails and pictures. The Internet was down (again) but my father got it to work just long enough so that we have tickets to get home on June 19, 2013. Home being Seattle, but it’s at least on the right side (or is it left?) of the continent. Nonetheless, it is good to know that we are going home, as up until now, we didn’t know if or when we were coming back. Knowing that, it puts an even brighter look on the future of this trip.

Can You Say ‘Cow Poo?’

This morning on our way home from the park down the street, Dad commented on the lack of cow poop in the road.There is a lot on the road, including filling up potholes. “There is some,” he admitted. “But there are lots of cows.” These would be the holy cows, naturally, and a few minutes after he said this, I found two reasons why.

1: There was a wheelbarrow full of the stuff on the side of the road.

2: There were bricks of cow poop drying on the side of the road. Whether they’ll be used for bricks or fire fuel, I’ll never know.

Also on the topic: the walls in the restaurant here at Mandore Guest House are made of cow dung, which would explain why I said, on our first day, “It smells weird.” Ciao!

When in Jodhur: Part Two: A Picture Perfect Post

‘Can I take a picture with you?’ A common question that people have asked about 1001 times since we left, and it is very different than at home, where we see tourists and move on.

In one of my earlier posts, I commented on the fact that some people always wanted to take pictures with us because they wanted to practice their English. Here, however, I think that they do it to show off to their friends. On the bright side, it makes me seem like a movie star, so it has mixed feelings.

Even today, at the fort, there was a large group that all wanted to take their picture with us, and even by ourselves.

Indian Impressions of India (or what Columbus thought was India)

“Where are you from?” the man asks. “United States,” my dad replies. It seems like half the population of India should know that this family are from the US. Obviously five hundred million people don’t, but it feels like they do.

When people ask “Where are you from?” they usually add, “England? Canada? Germany?” No one has guessed the United States. I’m surprised they guessed Germany because they heard us speaking English, which is why most think we’re British.
When we say “United States,” there are plenty of funny reactions. Here are some of my favorites:
Boy: Where are you from?
Dad: United States.
Boy: Oh… Obama, Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan?
Man: Where are you from?
Dad: United States.
Man: Oh, Obamaland.
Man: Where are you from?
Mom: United States. America.
Man: Ah, Mexico.
Man: Where are you from?
Dad: United States.
Man: Oh, land of Obama. I like Obama… He’s Muslim. You can tell by the name: Osama, Obama.
These last two happened today at the bazaar. Ciao!

J-Squared

We’ve arrived at J number 2: Jodhpur, India. We’ve just left Jaipur, and Jaisalmer is next on our list. After a late (7:30) wake-up call, we had breakfast, watched some Olympic highlights, and moved out of Devi Niketan. The Admiral took our picture in front of the building and said he’d send it to us. After saying good-bye and thank-you and have-a-nice-trip, four people, four suitcases, four backpacks, and one hat piled into the taxi and rode to the train station.

Each time we ride, I feel a little less conspicuous. Apparently we look like seasoned travelers (or just English-speakers) so much that a young lady asked us if she was on the right platform (#3) for train number 14865. We told her she was. What we didn’t tell her was that we were on train 14865. I’m not sure if she saw us getting off, but I’m relieved to see her as the train changed from Platform Three to Platform Two. The side of the train read it and the announcer lady said it, but it didn’t seem like she spoke English very well.

After a six-hour train ride in second-class, we almost got off at the wrong station. We took our cue- and a clue- from everyone else, though, and returned to our seats. I wonder what the Indians in seats 1, 2, 3, and 4 thought since we passed them twice.

We had to wait for about ten, maybe twenty, minutes for our driver to come. Then four people, four suitcases, four backpacks, and one hat got into a taxi for the second time in one day. We went on a curvy, bumpy, but thankfully paved, road to get here, and on the way I saw a truck hit a tuk-tuk in the back. No one was hurt but the driver sure was mad.

Happy and Pepsi were the first to meet us; they’re the dogs of Mandore Guest House. Poor Happy has huge amounts of thick black fur. Pepsi is more suited to Indian desert with a short tan coat. Our luggage was carried to the doors of our rooms, which are in the same little cottage. We discovered that we aren’t the only guests here (a first in India); there is a family, a couple of couples, and a group of people that I know just about nothing about except that they’re staying at Mandore Guest House.

We read, walked around, and finally had supper. To finish it, Dad had ice cream that looked like panna cotta (pah-na-COAT-uh) from Boutique della Pasta in Chiang Mai but tasted like tonic-otta (ton-ick-OH-tah). Ciao!

Another Day, A Brother Day

This morning we “did” the pink city’s main attractions: the observatory, the palace, and the wind wall. The observatory wasn’t like I thought; I was expecting a telescope. Instead, it had things like holes in the ground (to tell time/date) and UFO-shaped trees. (Seriously- they were pruned in the shape of UFOs.) We didn’t go in the palace because it cost US$20 for all four of us, but we did see our first snake charmers outside. Mom freaked out and kept her distance. It was my job to keep her calm.

The wind wall is a wall (surprise!) that high-ranking women could go to and watch events on the street below without being watched themselves. There were windows with stained-glass and fancy stone work and shutters (not all at once) and little pagodas that we used as shelter from the sun.

We were going to immediately go to the Rajisthali Emporium but Dad said we had to be in Jaipur. We were in Jaipur. I bought Ethan a rhaki, which is what you’re supposed to give your brother on Brother’s Day (today). In return, they’re supposed to give you a present (yay!). I think that’s kind of a win-win for the sibling, not the brother, because you spend a little money on a bracelet and then get presents. I’m not complaining, though. I’m just stating my opinions.

Ethan got me cookies from Kanha (we had supper at the restaurant above the fast-food floor, which is above the bakery) after another delicious supper at Four Seasons. Because Mom didn’t want to cross the road which has six lanes’ space of heavy traffic (no one stays in the lines), we rode a tuk-tuk there and back. Both were interesting for different reasons: the first tuk-tuk we tried to hitch a ride on wanted to high a price, so we moved on to the one waiting for our business behind it. We got in and drove right up to the Four Seasons, except we were across the road. Dad started getting out and our driver swerved to cross the road. He (Dad, not the driver) almost fell out. While getting out, we saw the first tuk-tuk stop across the road. It had followed us to the restaurant.

The ride home was much, much shorter because we walked some of the way to meet Mom and Ethan after Ethan had bought the cookies. The driver said his name was “Chikki Chocolate.” I want a name like that! Ciao!

When in Jodphur: Part One

Yes, that’s right, we finally arrived in Jodphur today. By train, of course. Our new place is a little ways outside of town. It is called the Mandore Guesthouse and it has 16 roundavels, most of the, with private balconies. We got two of those, and we spent the rest of the day lounging around outside in the late afternoon sun. There are lots of trees and places to sit in the lawn, and it is all very nice. No pool, though.

We had an Indian (obviously) supper and ate till we were full, and then washed it down with tankards of banana lassie. It was good and I think we all enjoyed it.

India Driving

We had heard stories about driving in Thailand and some of its challenges. I must say that Thai driving is extremely civilized when compared to Indian. While lanes and road rules are suggestions in Thailand, they are irrelevant in India. Folks go both directions around traffic circles. And both directions on each side of dual-carriageway highways. I haven’t seen anyone stop for a red light yet. And with monsoon, there can be 1-2 feet of water on the roads in town. Traffic includes everything from guys pushing their handcarts, horses, donkeys, cattle, buffalo, camels, elephants, cars, and monster trucks and buses. In Agra, most streets were two lanes, which means generally 6 vehicles across, in random order of direction-of-travel. And everybody is tooting their horns constantly. Since there is no room for rearview mirrors, people just announce their presence with honking. Spend a few days here and Thai driving will be relaxing.

Cobra Charmers Catching Crowds

Today was another interesting day and here are some of the things that I personally found interesting:

Rhaki: A rhaki is kind of like a braclet and oday was National Brothers’ Day with some Hindi traditions that go along with that. The sister is supposed to by a rhaki for her brother and tie it onto his hand. Then, the brother is supposed to give the sister a present, and is supposed to protect the sister for the rest of his/her life. Eryn got me a rhaki and I got her a gift today. She got me a rhaki with red and silver beads, gold finish, and a red thread. It is very shiny. I got her a box full of biscuits (cookies) after supper tonight.

Observatory: The king had built four observetories before the on in the Pink City, and all of those had flaws. This one, however, has almost no flaws and is the largest stone observatory on planet earth. There are two large sundials and the largest is the largest on earth.

Cobras: On the walk from the observatory, we passed some snake charmers on the street. There were two of them and each of them had a basket in front of them with a live cobra in it. The touched and patted the cobra and it acted accordingly. They also let people from the crowd come and touch the cobras. I did that, and when I went up, I got a turban and got to hold a cobra. It was actually kind of soft, in a snakelike sort of way.

Go Gold!

We’re watching the Olympics from afar and are cheering on all our favorite athletes including the U.S. women’s gymnastics team (Kyla Ross, McKayla Maroney, Gabrielle Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, Alexandra Raisman) who won gold in the women’s gymnastics team event last night.

Sad Silver

Good job to Alexandra Raisman on the beam (bronze) and floor (gold). And three cheers for Gabrielle Douglas in the all-around (gold)! But we are sad about Gabrielle’s losses on the beam and uneven bars, Jordyn Wieber’s loss on the floor, Alexandra’s third-place tie on all-around, and McKayla Maroney’s silver vault.

Ciao!

Good Fortune

Today we had the good fortune to visit three forts near Jaipur: Amber Fort, Jaigarh Fort, and Nahargarh Fort. We spent the most time at Amber Fort because that was the first one we visited. We were trying to get to Nahargarh Fort because the Amber Fort tickets included a visit to its neighbor, but our driver misunderstood and took us to Jaigarh Fort instead. At Nahargarh Fort, we only paid a visit to the palace because we were looking for a good place to take pictures of Jaipur. Apparently the conditions weren’t right, but we did get to smell some more ancient bathrooms that didn’t stop being used once ancient times ended. (When did ancient times end? In a couple thousand years we’ll be ancient.)

Amber Fort also ended up being our favorite for a number of reasons: it was big enough to not get bored in after a short time, it had cool passageways, it had a tunnel, it had shade (yes!), it had ice cream, and we weren’t exhausted and hot when we visited it. We also got an audio guide. Ethan and I were supposed to listen to it and then tell the other three what we’d learned. The whole program was 2½ hours long, so we didn’t listen to all of it. We did learn, however, that the walls around the diwan-e-aam (hall of public audience) that looked like marble weren’t really marble. This was evident by the wasp coming out of a tiny hole in the wall, but we finally learned what the walls were: a strange mixture including yoghurt, limestone, honey, and marble dust. It was polished with agate and felt and looked just like the Taj Mahal marble.

Our favorite part was the zenana, or women’s apartments. There are stairs leading every where, a water pump, passageways just begging to be explored by kids eager to escape their parents, and plenty of smelly latrines. There were smelly areas in the other palaces too, but by then we’d learned to avoid those areas. Ciao!

Amber Fort: A Story

We woke up today to a warm morning, the almost worst time to do sightseeing out in the sun, or so we thought. As we approached the fort, we saw that it was a very big fort, with walls a long ways away. When we entered, we all thought that it was going to be another boring old fort, but, as it turns out, we couldn’t have been farther from being wrong.

The fort is very old and it has lots of passage ways and chambers, making it easy to get lost. There are at least four levels and a very large area of rooms, stairs, tunnels, and courtyards. I commented a lot on how it would be an interesting place to play hide n seek. Inside, there was a room that had a large contraption that was supposed to bring water up from the lake below.

We had gotten audio guides, but they were very long and we skipped around a lot because of all the stairs and tunnels.