Sunday, October 26, 2008

Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies

or, Where Does Chris Go All Day?
The front gate. (A word about the swastikas. In Sanskrit Swasti means luck, so the swastika is a lucky symbol. The observant will notice that these swastikas are 'backwards' versions of those used by the Nazis, but in reality, it was Hitler who co-opted the image and reversed it. The swastika is also a symbol of settled-ness and permanance so it is quite common to see them on houses and other buildings. I'm not quite to the point where I don't notice them anymore, but it is not nearly so jarring as it was at first.)

A couple of shots on the grounds.

Like the Deer Park, the Tibetan Institute is a bit of an oasis from the rest of India. Peaceful, quiet, not smelly and usually sparsely populated, all of which we like.

Two weeks back they had a sort of school talent show which we visited with Nisha's family. Each of the classes did a traditional Tibetan performance. Neat, but a bit baffling for the non-Tibet-ophiles among us.


Chris's Ladahki friends, from South India, Yeshe (left) and Chos Dak (right).

Gun-Gun's 5th birthday party.
[l-r: Caitlin, Gun-Gun, Vaishnavi, Shambavi, Ben, Ishu, Ishu's little brother, Shilpi (Manju's daughter), Bunti (Manju's son) and Gun-Gun's grandmother.]

And Gun-Gun and Ben...

HGTV in Varanasi, pt 2

I think we've gone a full week now without any sort of major home renovations, so it must be time to show pictures of the inside of the house. Keep in mind that just getting things like a kitchen counter and western toilet have been major undertakings so we haven't gotten around to interior decorating yet... And since these pictures were taken a while ago they don't all represent the current situation.

The Kitchen. The picture was taken before the counter top was installed. It is dark green marble with bright flourescent sky blue grout about an inch thick. Sweet! The stove works beautifully now that I know how not to blow it up, but no oven. Our doctor has invited me up to his house for baking though!
Bedroom 1. Right now we all sleep in here together. We use the A.C. at night not so much to keep cool anymore but rather to drown out the fireworks everyone is lighting in anticipation of Diwali. After Diwali the kids will move into the other bedroom, and Chris's office will merge with our room.
Bedroom 2. For now it is just Chris's office and a sort of storage room. The kids keep their stuff in the big cupboard and have a clothing shelf in there. Today we bought Ganesh statues to match the elephant tapestry the kids bought in Delhi, so they're eagerly anticipating moving in there and decorating.

Living Room/Dining Room. This is all looking a bit more pulled together now, but you get the idea. Just over Chris's left shoulder in the top picture is the door to our balcony which runs along the front of the house, overlooking the street. A nice place to sit, especially in the early morning or evening. The dining table is much more presentable and functional when pulled out from the wall and spruced up with a cloth (which is usually is!).

Entryway/Bathroom complex. Yes, we have too many shoes and no, we don't keep them all there anymore! The door in the foreground opens onto the shower room which now has hot water and no dirt (yay Chris!). The farther door is for the toilet, and I do mean the sort you all are thinking of. Can't tell you how happy this makes me! The front door then leads to another little balcony which overlooks the yard.

Stay tuned for interior decorating posts... there is much to be done and much already in place that deserves its own post.

, no


Food = Love
Where to start? Cooking is just the beginning. Manju comes everyday to make us lunch and dinner. (No, I have no idea how we got so lucky!) Every meal includes 3 or 4 dishes, one of which is always fresh homemade rotis or puris. Always delicious, never spicy, Manju's food dominates. The woman even learned how to make mac and cheese for the kids and held back her opinions of such a bizarre food.
I was really pretty homesick the first week or so we were here and there was no fooling Manju about it. She, through Chris, spent a long time talking to me about how my new Indian 'family' was here to take care of me, and how, if I was sad and cried, my 'sisters' (Manju, Sunita and our friend Nisha) would cry too. She sat and looked at our book of Madison pictures and my huge collection of pictures of friends and family back home, ooh-ing and ahh-ing in all the right places. Then, after extracting a promise that I wouldn't cry anymore, Manju intuited that the best way to comfort a Wisconsin girl was with fried cheese, so she whipped me up a batch of fresh deep-fried paneer. A few days later she rightly suspected that the malaise wasn't quite banished so she plied me again with fried food - eggplant this time. (Mom, I really did like it!)

Likewise when the kids are crabby she cuts up papaya or apples for them and teaches them Hindi tickling games. She also very patiently teaches me the Hindi names for all sorts of food and quizes me daily on time-telling in Hindi and counting. And if Caitlin's hair isn't braided by the time Manju arrives, she braids it for us.
She has 3 kids - a 4 yr old son and 2 daughters - 10 and 13. The eldest lives with her grandmother in Allahabad, but we got to meet the younger ones the other night at a party (more on that in another post). She's just a bit older than I am, but light years tougher. It really does feel like I've got a big sister on the scene now that we've gotten to know each other a bit better, which is such a wonderful thing.


I've written about the people who work for us a number of times, so it seems only right to give them full credit here on the old blog.
First, Sunita. She's our housekeeper extrodinaire... Everyday she bounds up the stairs with a "GOOD MORNING!" and laughs and laughs at everything. She has named Ben "Babu" and is as sassy as all get out. I'm not sure how old she is, but she isn't married - probably 17ish? She is leading the charge to teach me Hindi by talking to me all the time at top speed and with the clear expectation that I'll figure it out, which I do, about 80% of the time. She seems to give Chris a fair ammount of grief, which is good for him and she really dotes on the kids.

T.I.I. Brand Name Edition

We live in a house protected by...

and illuminated by...

so is it any wonder we prepare our food with...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A General Update

Getting my one picture of Thich Nacht Hahn onto the blog was a gargantuan chore at this internet shop, so in the name of my sanity we're going to have to be picture-less until I have a chance to blog from my own laptop at Open Hand, our wi-fi/coffee/chocolate cake connection. My apologies! There is so much to show you all, as well as just tell...

We've been quite busy this last week or so and finally seem to be getting into something approaching normal life.

Chris is up and off to Sarnath 6 days a week, taking 2 Sanskrit classes and availing himself of all the resources at the Tibetan Institute. He's run into a bunch of his former English students from the monastery in south India. Two, Chos Dak and Yeshe, came over for lunch on Sunday and played and played and played with Ben. I hav a great picture of them all playing chess, but unfortunately you'll have to use your imagination to see a monk wrestling with my 4 year old. The work seems to be going well as the Sanskrit teacher is both rigorous and lots of fun.

Our house is now about 95% fixed up, including a western toilet and hot water! There are pictures, but no words to describe how happy I am about these developments. The carpenter and electrician no longer make daily visits and there is hope that our new battery/inverter contraption will arrive today so that we can have power even during blackouts (which happen about three times in a 24hr period). Next we will turn our attention to some cosmetic improvements.

My Hindi is improving just the slightest bit, but enough to allow me to limp along with our cook and maid, and to let me go out to buy veggies and whatnot. Hindi lessons are still in the works and hopefully will start soon for me and the kids.

Caitlin and Ben seem pretty well settled. They have a solid routine down and are starting to make some good friends in the neighborhood. We hang out at home in the morning and do project-y/school-y things and then after lunch we have some sort of adventure - shopping or internetting or even the pool at our favorite hotel. Then home to meet the dud-wallah (milk man) and prep for English Class (which is actually now more like Play Time at the Americans' House, but that's for the best, I think.).

At our last visit to Open Hand Cafe I got to talking to one of the owners and he clued me in to a play group of Westerners. I connected with one of the women a few days ago and the kids and I joined in on Wednesday. There were maybe 7 women and about 20 kids from Caitlin down to a baby-in-sling. The gathering was a bit unusual as the hostess is about to have her third baby and the women were doing a sort of baby shower/prayer circle for her, but enjoyable none the less. They are all very Christian, but not missionaries, so I'm hopeful that we'll be able to agree to disagree about religion and just be friends anyhow. They were all quite welcoming to us and I finally feel like I have people to call for real help. The kids seemed to have a good time with the whole big group and I think they're looking forward to the next gathering as much as I am. I have felt like such an outsider here that it is a relief to spend time around other women who dealing with the same sorts of things I am. For a white, female, non-Hindi speaker India can be a pretty rough place at times!

Looking forward to posting pictures for you all to see! Huge thanks to everyone who is reading and commenting and emailing - all the voices from home mean so much! And if you're harboring hopes of coming to visit, go for it - 3 brave souls have already bought plane tickets...

Love to all.

Field Trip

Monday (or maybe Tuesday?) Caitlin and I ventured to Sarnath to hear a Dharma talk and do some walking meditation with Thich Nacht Hahn. He's on an international tour of some sort so he spent a few days in Sarnath. He spoke at the Damek Stupa (Chris, spelling?), in the Deer Park which is where the Buddha gave his first teaching. The sun was setting behind the stupa as he spoke and being in such a lovely, outdoor and informal setting was just lovely. Everyone sat on the ground and we were maybe 100 feet away from him. No security, no hassle, and only $2 to get into the grounds of the stupa. I can only imagine what such an event would've entailed in the US! He spoke about the need for understanding suffering and the path to happiness - pretty basic Buddhist doctrine. Caitlin seemed to really soak it up, which was neat to see. I'm afraid my pictures couldn't capture his warmth and liveliness - he seemed always to have a twinkle in his eye.

We wound up not doing the official walking meditation around the grounds of the Deer Park but wandered around the ruins on our own instead. With the sun setting it was quite cool and the soft light really turned the place into something special. Even better was being able to look over and see hundreds of people walking silently behind Thich Nacht Hahn and maybe 100 or so other monks and nuns.

In so many ways it was a wonderful escape from the grind of "normal" life in India.

Friday, October 17, 2008

English Class

Our career as English teachers has begun!  We started class on Monday with 4 kids from our street.  Gun Gun, our friend's daughter is in back next to Caitlin.  Beside her is Ishu, right in front is Shambavi and between Ben and Caitlin is Vishnavi.  The little ones are all roughly Ben's age - 5 or close to it.  And Vishnavi claims to be 8, but I think she's got to be more like 10 or 12.  She and Caitlin have hit it off really well.

Class is 90 min a day, 6 days a week.  So far we've covered the basic formalities of meeting and greeting each other and delight in practicing very excellent table manners while having "biscuits" (read:  cookies) and juice.  We play an American board game or card game each day, and sometimes draw pictures.  Everyone's undisputed favorite activity is playing "What Time is it, Mr. Fox?"  in the street.  The kids love it, but so do all of the neighbors who discreetly watch from their balconies, as well as the fruit juice wallahs who now make it a point to be on our street between 4 and 5 and who just stand and openly stare.  (Chris says its very rare for adults to play with kids in India so the sight of a western woman running madly over the cobblestones with a pack of kids must really be something!)

The kids all study English in school so their vocabulary is pretty good, but pronunciation is a bit lacking.  The mothers have charged me with teaching the kids to speak like Americans...  not sure how that'll turn out, but we're all having a good time in the process!  

For the Melvin Sisters

In Delhi we found an unexpected bit of home...

T.I.I. #1

A frequent refrain in our house is "This Is India", or as my father says, "T.I.I.".  It serves as an adequate response to the strange/confusing/funny/ridiculous/confounding/etc sorts of things that we often run into here.  Along those lines I'm going to inaugurate a series of posts entitled T.I.I. to give all of you at home a taste of the weird, wild and wonderful we're discovering...

First up:  Laminated Napkins

  When dining out if you get a napkin at all, it is almost always laminated, seemingly to prevent it of being any use at all.  

One blessed exception to the laminated napkin phenomenon is Open Hand Cafe, where I am right now.  It is a haven, complete with excellent coffee, huge pieces of chocolate cake and free wi-fi.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

HGTV goes to Varanasi, pt. 1

Our house, from the street. That's one of our bedroom windows visible on the second floor, with the big swamp cooler in front of it. (No, we don't use it. Somehow wind blown threw wet hay doesn't seem like a particularly good idea, especially not here.)
A view of our yard. Behind the papaya trees you can see the carpenter building our bed and Dr. M's garage/out-building/servants quarters.

A view of the street from our front door.

And a view of our balcony, which is off the living room.

Looks a lot like Hawaii, huh Val?

Train Tips

Backing up a bit, I'd like to offer some tips for train travel in India.

1. If you are carrying ridiculous amounts of stuff which you must hire porters to carry you had better be able to swear at them loudly and effectively in Hindi because they will follow you onto the train and after you pay them what you agreed to, they will demand triple the agreed-upon rate, your first-born child and probably also a kidney just for doing their job. (Major props to Chris for dealing with this really intimidating and awful situation skillfully and quickly - I would've been in tears and broke had I been on my own...)

2. Make sure your cell phone has lots of international minutes on it so you can call your mom. There is nothing like talking to cheerful, sane, loving family in the midst of railway insanity.

3. Drink a lot of chai. A LOT. No really, you need to drink more than that. Plan to buy at least 6 cups of chai every time the chai wallah comes by. Why? Because you will have no other sustenance if you forget to...

4. Bring food. A LOT. No really, you need to bring more than that. You may have heard that there is plentiful and delicious food available on Indian trains, but you are mistaken. Chai will be almost the only thing you partake of all day. There will be a biscuit wallah who comes by only twice. The first time he will have many delicious biscuits. You will think it is not yet time for biscuits and let him pass. He will only return again after approximately 82 thousand hours have passed and then he will only have yucky crunchy spicy noodle snacks which you will have to buy and eat in order to avoid eating your family.

5. Play chess on the computer and be sure to thank the powers that be which have equipped the 2-AC car with electrical outlets.

6. Think twice before encouraging your husband to venture off the train to try to buy food at one of the "longer" train stops. (Yes, the schedule says it will be 20 minutes. Don't be fooled. Apparently everything in India takes 3 times longer than anticipated, except for train stops which take about a tenth of the stated time.)

7. If your husband does get off the train and the train starts to leave the station without him you may find solace in the mantra, "He WILL come back, he WILL come back, he WILL come back."

8. Try to sleep because once you reach your destination the REAL fun will begin. Again with the porters. Also beggars, aggressive rickshaw wallahs, Indian men who get too close and stare WAY too long. And then you get in the car...

Good times, folks, good times. Next time I'm bringing food for an army, my fast talking, much-swearing husband, a lot more for Ben to do, and lots more money for the 1st class AC car! Only 4 months until we do it all again...

Animals Animals

Tio, you are our most favorite dog and of course we miss you. However, we would like you to know we are not without animal companions, both domestic and wild..
This is Alushka, the daytime dog. She now responds better to Caitlin than she does to Dr. Maurya, and has taken to camping out at the top of the stairs, guarding our door specifically.

These horses and the goat visited our street a few days ago, of their own accord. Our neighbor across the street laughed at me for photographing them, but how often do goats show up in the street in Eagle Heights?
Most frequently we see cows but usually only one at a time on our street. There are are LOTS of them on the bigger roads and depending on what sort of vehicle we're travelling in, they're more or less intimidating. The cows are always quite mellow, but it is a bit unnerving to be hurtling toward a bull at roughly 30mph on the back of a cycle rickshaw. Goats are also pretty common, and in our neighborhood we have a pretty decent pig population. The pigs make me a bit nervous but I'm working up the nerve to get close enough to photograph one. Also many stray dogs, which we give a VERY wide berth.

For Paul

Our favorite med student wanted to know what Malaria meds we're taking, and luckily, Chris must have had a premenition about just such an enquiry...

The kids are taking Malarone, and I'm taking Doxycycline. Chris isn't taking anything as is his M.O. while living in India. We met an American doctor the other day and he gave us some Varanasi-specific info. In his 3 years working here he's only seen 2 cases of Malaria, and neither he nor his wife, nor 4 kids take meds. But he said that the next few months are the big mosquito time so if one was to take meds, now would be the time to do it. We're tolerating the meds just fine, and since we have about 40% screen coverage in our house I'm feeling good about keeping them going.

This may all change in Pune (but probably not), and in Ladakh we won't need them since we'll be blissfully above the mosquito line!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What do we do all day?

A bunch of you have asked what we do all day, and honestly, there's no easy answer yet. We're still working on getting things up and running so everyday there is a new project or shopping trip or something to attend to. Our hope is to start "normal life" on Monday. Chris will go up to Sarnath to work and the kids and I will start developing our own routines.

For now though we usually get up around 7 and try to scrounge up breakfast. As far as I've been able to tell most people here eat something like lunch or dinner for breakfast but we're not there yet. Grocery shopping has been a challenge (no grocery stores, per se), but we've finally found peanut butter, oatmeal (strawberry flavored, but still), and cream of wheat, so we're in business. Meals seem to take longer here, so after about an hour we're all done eating and getting on with things.

Most days we don't brave the shower until evening. It is rather hot in the morning, but that cold shower really feels best right before bed, when its still in the 90s in our house. Good times. I know you all are dying for bathroom pictures, but I'm holding off until either the bathroom cleaning woman comes or I can screw up the courage to fully clean them myself.

Then the chess games begin. Both kids are really into chess lately and play a lot through out the day. Ben can beat me outright and he's getting to be a good match for Caitlin too. Chris is still the undisputed champ.

Caitlin reads a lot, and Ben plays all of the usual stuff since we brought a big stash of Legos, Star Wars guys, etc from home.

Chris often is called away to consult with Dr. Maurya, the landlord, or Nisha about various house issues.

The waves of help start coming around 9:30am and demand a certain level of attention and input and protection from the dog. My second Hindi sentence is "Kuta bund hey" which means literally, "The dog is closed" but can be translated as, "The dog is put away (in it's kennel)."

Journeys away from home take at least half a day, often more. Yesterday we went down to our friend Mike's neighborhood and our absence completely threw off the cleaning/cooking/laundry/milk man schedule... We'll have to figure out how to have our household continue to run even in our absence.

Speaking of the milk man, we have to go out to the street a few times a day to buy veggies or fruit or to collect our milk. My Hindi is now good enough to transact the purchase of bananas or the hijacking of someone else's milk man, so I'm feeling pretty proud.

Next week we'll start up our little English playschool for Nisha's daughter Gun-Gun and 2 of her friends. The kids are eager to teach the neighbors and Chris and I are hopeful the teaching will work both ways. Also for the kids, we have Hindi lessons and tablas lessons in the works too. Caitlin has expressed some interest in studying yoga, and I'm interested in having music lessons and doing yoga too, so perhaps we'll coordinate all that somehow.

Much farther off in the distance I still harbor hopes of connecting with women doing some sort of birth work here. Yesterday in the bookstore I overheard an American woman talking about a midwife she's working with here, but I didn't have the gumption to barge into the conversation and introduce myself... Once my Hindi is a bit better I'll start asking around.

Sun goes down promptly at 6 and dinner follows shortly there after. By Indian standards we eat VERY early, but by the time we're done the kids are ready to crash and often so are Chris and I.

Hope that answers everyone's curiosity!

There will be pictures next post, I swear. Every internet shop is different and now that I've found one I like and have learned their picture uploading protocol the real fun can begin!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Home, but not Alone

Finally, we have a home in Benares! We are renting the front half of the upper level of a lovely house and after 2 days it is begining to feel like a homey, livable place. Our landlord has called in a veritable army of workers who are doing things like installing a power inverter, making screens, replacing the toilet (with a Western one, I hope!) , and building us a bed. Also on the job are 4 women who cook (lunch and dinner), clean (twice a day), do our laundry (daily) and clean the toilet (weekly, and that's all she does... toilet topics warrant their own post I think) - all arranged by our across-the-street neighbor and all-around saint, Nisha.

I have had my hesitations about having so much domestic help, and I know many of you have had conversations with me about this back home, but honestly, its a god-send. There is so much to figure out and take care of, and doing simple things like cooking, cleaning and laundry are rendered gargantuan, inscrutable projects because of the differences in equipment and technology.

For example, laundry. Neelam, our laundry woman, washed a huge duffle bag's worth of our clothes yesterday, in a bucket, in our shower room. (Yep, shower is seperate from toilet, and occupies its own room.) She then carried all the laundry down our steep marble stairs, and then up 3 flights to the roof to hang it to dry. All in about 30 minutes. I'm in awe, and so grateful, as there is just no way I could manage that task while simultaneously keeping my family on the rails.

And then there's the matter of cooking. This morning I blew up the stove. Trying to boil water. If there was any doubt, this morning's episode has confirmed beyond any shadow of a doubt that its for the best that someone else handles the cooking!

Beyond the in-house workers, our landlord, Dr. Maurya, frequently checks in on us and is managing all of the handyman types. He gives the children sweets at least once a day, give us chai, has Chris over for chats and is encouraging the kids to make friends with and train the 'daytime dog' Alushka. Uncle-ji nicely sums up the role he's playing for us.

Best of all though, is Nisha. Finding us the house was just the begining. She arranged for all of the women who are working for us, and took me shopping yesterday for all of our household equipment and the food to stock our pantry. Without her these tasks would have taken us weeks, but in just a day, everything is all set up. And far from being the sort of hassle such a thing would be at home, she and I really had fun yesterday riding around and doing all the shopping. Taking a cycle-rickshaw to do the shopping was fun, and having Nisha point out sights and give me the insider scoop on things was great. I don't feel at home in the nighborhood yet, but at least I'm now known to the shopkeepers as Nisha's friend and feel confident visiting those places on my own.

So, while at times its a bit overwhelming to look up and see roughly 7 people in the house doing things, and to be going from meal to tea to outing to tea to meal with someone or another, I think we all feel very welcome and cared for. I know I do, and its making all the difference for me as we get adjusted to our new home.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Delhi, pt. 1

I am learning (and making my peace with the fact) that everything takes much longer than I think it will here in India. Happily, this leaves me with plenty of time to do a proper post, with pictures, at long last!

For those of you keeping score at home, we just spent 5ish days in Delhi. My dad put us up at a great place which gave me and the kids a chance to rest and get our bearings before being thrown directly into the mix here in Benares. The hotel was adjacent to the Air Force School so each morning we were greated with a sight very much like this...

This was a blue day. There were also white days. Some kids arrived before 6:30am for soccer and basketball practice, which our friend Tanya (a school principal in Delhi) tells us is customary. Sports practice before school and then class from about 7 or 8 until 1 or 2. She says private tutors are very popular so kids have those in the afternoon. From what we could see there was a lot of recess too. Not at all my vision of what Indian school days would be!

We did a bit of sight-seeing early on, stopping at India Gate and the Parliment building. I think the kids like the monkeys better than the buildings. Quite lovely and impressive. (Both buildings and monkeys.)

A favorite was Pahargang, the backpacker ghetto and wild street scene.

And surprisingly, to quote the Big Lebowski, its as Jewish as F***ing Tevye.

These were our laundry guys. Note the preferred brand of incense.

And now, my children have run out of patience for the molasses slow pace so we must wait to post the hair cut pictures in favor of rousting out the biscuit-wallah and procuring massive quantities of sugar.

Dear India,

You're fweakin' me out.

love, Maggie

PS: I hope we can still be friends.

Spot check-in

We are alive, intact, and remarkably calm and sane given the circumstances. In Varanasi at the moment, and going to our new home in the coming minutes. Updates a-plenty in the next 48 hours....

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

We're Here!

We made it! Blogging now from an internet cafe in Conaught Place, in Delhi. The connection is slow, Blogger is slower and the letter between J and L doesn't function on this computer, so I fear this will be a limited blogging session... I'll do a general recap here and then if possible, pictures in another post. (And please forgive what I'm sure will be a somewhat stragnely worded post, as I try to avoid using the letter between J and L!)

Entirely due to the help and benevolence of my mother, the children and I made it out of Chicago, what seems like a lifetime ago. I finally caught the cold that the children had in HI/Seattle and was nigh unto zombified by the time we arrived in Chicago - too many red-eyes and way too much mucous in my head. Happily my mom arrived just in time to watch the children while I hit the O'Hare Urgent Care Clinic. After a trial getting into the airport (TSA, I hate you!) I completely fell apart in front of the very patient Dr. Ahrens and Simone. (Tip: The area between Terminals 1 and 2 in O'Hare is a veritable heaven on earth, between the children's play area, the family bathrooms and the infinitely patient Dr. Ahrens.) The patched me up physically and emotionally, armed me with prescriptions and sent me on my way.

Chicago to London was wretched (another red-eye), but the Air India flight from London to Delhi was wonderful. Brand new, luxe plane, and only 1/4 full. I relinquished all pretenses of being a reasonable parent and let the children watch as many movies as the could during the 8.5 hr flight. (3, in case you're curious, including Shrec 3 - yes, again Uncle Dan and Jen!)

I was cursed in Hindi inside of our first 30 min in India (a "helpful" man whom I repeatedly tried to brush off bristled when he was given no money for the "help" I didn't want or need), but that really has been the worst of it. Chris was waiting outside, with an AC car. We were whisked to our very posh hotel (thanks Dad!) and promptly fell asleep.

Day 1 started with a leisurely first meal of the day in an American diner more authentic than any diner I've been in the US, and then an adventure to Pahar Ganj (spelling, Chris?), the backpacker ghetto. We dropped off our laundry, tonsorial attention was given to the boys, I bought some pants and we all revelled in the sights, sounds and smells of India.

Upon returning to the hotel I crashed while Chris and the children went swimming, ate meals and continued on with business as usual. Ben pooped out at 5:30 with me and rumor has it that Caitlin and Chris had 2 dinners, the second at McDonals (no beef, but no idea how local it is Jen!).

15.5hrs of sleep and a hot shower later life is good. We're off on another day of exploring and shopping.

Chris and Ben have returned so the picture post will have to wait.

Love to all!