Well…I am back.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything positive to write about for quite a while and had written the following, but had decided not to post it until we returned to the USA.  I am now at a place and time in our lives where I can resume my Blog.  It has been a difficult couple of months, but we are dealing with things and are trying to move forward.  To that end, I decided to post where the trouble started…back in December…

“What’s the deal with me spending so much more time in Hiranandani Hospitals…two different ones…than anywhere else lately?  There has been a rash of illness and injury that has besieged our little group in the last month or so since moving into our apartments.   Some, I think, is most probably due in part to our new location and the conditions here.

My first experience with the hospital was taking a friend who was in excruciating pain in her lower back to the hospital.  She had been there the day before on an emergency room visit and they gave her medicine that should have stopped some of the pain; however, it didn’t touch it.  So, I assured her husband that I would be happy to accompany her there the next morning to see the doctor again.  She ended up having an MRI of her spine and was admitted to the hospital.  Her only option was surgery and she was absolutely not able to be flown back to Korea, her home, for treatment so they decided to have surgery done here.  She managed well through the surgery and is recovering. 

Not long after that amoebic dysentery began and raced through our ranks like a small raging fire.  I don’t know what the total number is of those who got it, but I was one of the fortunate ones…so far, but my husband was not.  He was the first to be admitted to the hospital out of the group for treatment for it.  He spent three days and two nights in the hospital with IV’s pouring very strong antibiotics and fluids into his body.  It was a frightening time with the doctor who first saw him at our apartment believing that he was bleeding internally.  The doctor called for an ambulance and I rode with him in the back along with two ambulance personnel.  If you remember in my post about Mumbai traffic, I think I may have mentioned that I never wanted to be in the back of an ambulance here in Mumbai as I didn’t think you could make it to the hospital in good shape.  Well, I now have a firsthand account of what happens and it is not a good one.  They are basically a transport service with no medical treatment en route and the back portion where the patient is, and I was, is no more than a tin box.  Very crude compared to ambulances in the USA.  We chose to go to the closer of the two Hiranandani Hospitals even though we knew the further one was better.  In Tom’s condition he would not have been comfortable on a one to two hour ride across the crowded city.   I can’t even imagine!

After getting Tom in the back of the ambulance while on a stretcher…interesting to watch…and rather frightening too when they couldn’t get the back doors latched…we headed out!  We left the apartment complex through the back gate and I had no idea where we were or where we were going except that it was to the hospital.  I was being bounced around on metal side benches with my head repeatedly being banged by something large hanging on the side of the van.  I moved the best I could to avoid any damage to my own head.  They put an oxygen mask on Tom and that was it.  No IV started before we left…nothing.  They said they couldn’t put an IV in en route and I was very thankful for that as we were hitting every pothole there was…and there are many.  Cars, motorcycles and tuk-tuks were trying to squeeze in front of us even with our siren on.  No one would yield to us.  I would really not want to be having any kind of cardiac problem and have to be in an ambulance here.  I bet the odds are against you in that event!  We finally made it to the hospital in about 20 minutes and they took Tom right in to the Emergency Department and they started taking care of him.  We were both happy that ride was over!

A wonderful couple we’ve become friends with met us at the hospital and stayed with me for support until late that first evening when Tom was settled into his room and the rest of us could go back to our apartments.  It was a rather frightening ordeal to say the least.

A week before Tom was struck down by the parasites, he was working at his desk when there was a malfunction of something involving the fire alarm system at work and he suffered acute severe sudden noise trauma to both ears.  He immediately was disoriented, would lose his balance and caused a severe headache.  These symptoms continue to get worse.  This has resulted in the company placing him on Workers Compensation and they are sending him back to the United States for further evaluation and any treatment that may be available for him.

Meanwhile, I have visited my friend who had the spinal surgery when she was in the hospital, accompanied yet another friend several times for a very strange malady and continue to go with my husband for his repeat visits.  I had hoped I wouldn’t see the inside of a hospital here, but it seems that is all I am doing lately.  I wouldn’t be anywhere else than with my husband and my friends though.  If they have to be there, I’ll be there with them.”

To bring you up to date, we are now safely back in the USA, in our home state of Washington where Tom has been seen by a specialist and has been diagnosed with a marked loss of hearing, damaged hearing aids, tinnitus, and an irreparably damaged gyroscope (the thing that controls balance) in his right ear.  He was also evaluated by Winni, a tiny but spunky little Physical Therapist who is awesome with her handling of my tough old bird!  He will be undergoing therapy for eight to twelve weeks in the hopes of training his body to compensate for the loss of balance that he suffered.  We are hoping and praying for the best results possible.

Our time in India is now over.  Tom’s company has released him from the project he was on because of the length of time required for his possible rehabilitation and the fact that there is no way to know if it will even help him.  It is in God’s hands now…although my Sweetheart must do everything he can to cooperate with Winni to get the maximum benefit from her services.  This has been quite a ride and we aren’t through yet!  I am hoping I can be back to writing more positive posts…and I’m sure our adventures will continue in some form or fashion.

Here is my Sweetheart after a therapy session.  He is wiped out and is VERY dizzy!  It always brings on a raging headache as well.  It is difficult to go through, but I know he will do his best and hopefully can regain some of his lost balance.  I believe in the power of prayer…

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On the ride across Mumbai into Navi Mumbai to inspect our apartment, I was struck by the amazing congestion and flow of traffic here.  We began the ride with our driver at the Renaissance Hotel where we had been staying for nearly seven weeks.  Initially it seemed uneventful, although busy, as it was a work morning.  Traffic is always heavy in Mumbai.  The taxi’s, private autos, motorcycles, bicycles, buses, trucks, construction machinery and tuk tuk’s all share the road with pedestrians, cows, oxen, dogs, the occasional goat, elephant or pig.  It totally amazes me that all these modes of transportation and the members of the animal kingdom share the road with considerably few accidents.  It typically works like a well-oiled machine.

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The traffic circles they have here are rather amazing.  It appears that the people “in the circle” are the ones who have to give way as those vehicles coming into the circle from four or five different directions don’t even want to slow down; although they are forced to once they hit the circle.  Indians don’t seem to pay much attention to the rules of the road.  They make six or seven lanes out of three or four.  There are mere inches between vehicles…and I’m talking two to four inches.   It is actually like a dance with the gyrations forward, angling to the left, angling to the right, sliding between two vehicles vying for one spot on the road.  Red lights don’t seem to mean much either.  You just seem to go if you want to.  You only stop if there are police in sight.  There is some beeping of horns but not in anger as in the USA.  It is like a code.  Beep…I’m behind you, beep beep…move over I’m coming along side you and it goes on and on.  From what I am told, there is an actual language of the road all in the beeps.  Every beep or series of beeps means something different.  Rather like Morse code.  There doesn’t appear to be any road rage here although I have seen a driver of the car I was in get into a verbal altercation with a driver of another vehicle when they were coming at our car narrowly missing a head on collision in the wrong lane in an underpass!  That was a bit frightening to say the least.

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As we drive along at a snail’s pace, I notice the passenger train is speeding by on the tracks just to our right.  It is an amazing sight with five to six people hanging out every open door along the train cars.  They are “train surfing”!  From what I understand, over one hundred people A DAY die here taking the train.  They are either pushed or just fall off the train trying to hang on at the doorways.  Everything is so overcrowded.  That is one mode of transportation I will not try here.  With over twenty million people here, I suspect they don’t worry too much about losing a hundred a day.  Rather sad, really.

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I have seen only a few accidents, one was a car turned upside down in the middle of the freeway.  Usually the drivers can spot a traffic jam early enough to slip off the road onto a side road that winds through the slums to avoid whatever is causing the stalled traffic.  Only once did we see a possible fatality…a woman who was obviously a pedestrian being carried from the center of the road where she was hit by a vehicle.  We don’t know what happened to her but I pray she survived.

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When we arrived at the gate to the office complex to drop off the other employee, Tom and I exited the vehicle as I am not allowed in without credentials.  Our driver took our other rider in, dropped him off and came back to pick us up.  Then we were on our way to the apartment.  Within minutes we hear a siren behind us.  The traffic is so thick it is difficult to imagine being in an ambulance here and having to go to the hospital with an urgent medical need.  The traffic here does not pull over and stop to let them pass.  It is impossible to do so.  On one trip there were three ambulances at different times trying to get through the mass of vehicles.  I can’t imagine the odds are very good that you make it to a hospital safely.  I pray we never have to find out! 

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The office complex is approximately a fifteen minute drive to the apartments, so it is much easier and safer for Tom on a daily basis being in the apartment.  The traffic continues to amaze me every time I am out in it.  They do move people here…although I doubt that anyone knows the real fatality count on a daily basis.  I am just grateful we do not have to drive ourselves here although it is difficult to put total trust in strangers to get you to your destination safely. Image

A couple of interesting things I’ve seen in the traffic are below.  Most of the women ride the motorcycles side saddle in their sarees.  I don’t know how some hang on.  And, last but not least…a motor cycle driver with an American Flag helmet.  That put a smile on my face!

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Today a group of us decided to explore some caves we had been told about!  Even though we have heard that there are possibly tigers and leopards who roam the forests, we thought there would be safety in numbers, so we agreed to check out the Kanheri Caves.

The Kanheri Caves in Sanjay Gandhi National Park constitute a group of rock-cut monuments that are located north of Borivali on the western outskirts of Mumbai, India.  These caves date from the first century BCE to the 10th century CE. One hundred nine caves have been carved from the basalt.   Most of the caves are used as the Buddhist viharas, meant for living, studying, and meditating.

Entrance to Ghandi National Park, Mumbai, India

Upon our arrival, we are greeted by monkeys…lots of monkeys!  Once inside the gate and our admission paid, we drive through a thickly forested area on our way up to the caves entrance.  On the sides of the roads we begin to notice monkeys.  Sitting on the edge of the road, swinging from trees, they are all over.  They are our welcoming committee.  As soon as we see them, we hear a very low voice in the car saying, “oh no, monkeys…oh no, monkeys”.  We soon realize it is one of the guys who is with us.  We ask him what’s wrong.  He says he is terrified of monkeys.  He is a very strong, athletic man so this surprises all of us.  He said, “I will always protect you from humans, but I don’t like the monkeys!”  I tell him, I will protect him from the monkeys as I know he always has our backs from any human threat.  Finally we can do something to help him!

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We arrive at the entrance to the caves and get out of the car.  We walk up a tall flight of steps to a landing where we have to pay a nominal fee to enter the caves.  As we are approaching that gate, we see an actual parade of monkeys on top of the fence.  They were walking, one after the other, along the top rail.  What a fun sight to most of us.  We all start snapping pictures.  The guard at the entrance tells us to be careful and hang on to our things as the monkeys like to rush you and take what they can.  Our friend does not like hearing that!

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The group getting ready to head up to the caves…Dee, Hazel, Jin, Me, Kay, Ram

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Our monkey friends turning their backs on us!

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As we enter through the gate a young couple is coming towards us with a couple bags of freshly purchased chips.  As they are attempting to open them, a couple of monkeys zoom in, snatch the bags and are gone in a fraction of a second.  They didn’t even give us time to point our cameras!  We really think they are trained to do that and then take them back to the vendor who just sold them so he can re-sell them!  That could be quite a racket!  Maybe IS quite a racket!

Hanging tightly onto our belongings now as we have become “believers”, we proceed up more steps to the first of many caves.  Remember, there are 109 of them in all.  We know we won’t be able to see all of them, but there is a park ranger type guy at the first cave and he begins telling us some interesting facts about the caves, giving us background on the area and which caves are the most important to see.  We choose to go to those most important first.

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Inside of the little carved out room to the right of the wall carving is a meditation room.  There are lots of these in the caves.

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Entering the Prayer Hall…

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This is inside the Prayer Hall…quite amazing!

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This is how they used to wash their clothing.  The lower bowl is where they would wash the clothing and then pound on the rock to the right…then the water would run down that little trough at the top of the picture in to the first bowl which is where they would rinse.

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Cave number 34 above has an unfinished painting of Buddha on the ceiling.  Very interesting…and so old!

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Up more steps to the cave of 1000 Buddhas…we did not count them!  The accoustics in this hall were AMAZING!  Ram, who was a professional singer until an illness prevented him from continuing sharing his beautiful voice, chanted some beautiful hymns for us.  Kay joined him in a couple. It was spellbinding!

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Now to start the trek back down…

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This very nice park ranger/guide kept grabbing ahold of my arm to help me up and down the steps.  I think he thought I was going to go over the edge as I was taking so many pictures and stumbled once.  I think I made him very nervous.  He was such a nice guy.  He stuck with us the entire route we took.  He was a wonderful guide.  Everything was so uneven you had to really exercise caution to not go tumbling up or down the steps!

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Amazing views from every perspective!

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My friend Kay and I.  Kay is from Seoul, Korea.  Can’t believe we just walked up and down thousands of steps!  At least it seemed like thousands!  It was probably a couple of kilometers in total with about three fourths of it being steps.  Great exercise!  Just wish it had been a little cooler.  The only shade was in the caves!

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He was waiting for us…

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Greeted at the bottom by more monkeys.  They were very curious about us.  I opened my water bottle to take a drink as it was VERY hot out, but I quickly capped it and put it back in my bag as the monkeys were approaching!  They wanted whatever we had in our hands!

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The group…left to right…Dee, Hazel and behind her is Jin, me in pink hat, Kay and Ram.

It was a very enjoyable outing and I’d love to go back to explore more caves.  We also want to see the animals they have in this park.  Some are in a controlled area I believe…not sure about those who roam on their own…

You can call me brave…or you can call me foolish…but I just had to see what it is like in a typical Indian neighborhood.  The stories I have heard about leopards roaming this and several other areas around Mumbai and occasionally snatching a human right off the street weren’t enough to deter me from going exploring with a couple of my new friends and a local man from the neighborhood who works at the Renaissance.

On foot, the first thing we had to tackle was getting across the water pipes behind the hotel that bring water to the city from 6 reservoir lakes that store rainwater collected during rainy season; it is a short cut to the neighborhood known by the locals. This area is called Vihar Village after the large lake in the area, Vihar Lake is on the Mithi River within the precincts of the Borivali National Park, also called the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, in North Mumbai. Vihar Lake is many times the size of Powai Lake that we look at every day from our rooms at the Renaissance.  This small, much poorer neighborhood is nestled in and around the southern end of the lake.

As we climbed the narrow, worn cement stairs with no railing for safety to get to the uneven, roughly three foot wide platform that allows one to cross the five over sized water pipes to reach the other side, we were a bit nervous about our undertaking.  Watching every spot our feet landed so as not to step in a hole or trip on the unevenness below us, we made it across the pipes and were on the road where a jogger had recently met his fate with a leopard!  We scurried across the road and slipped into the narrow space between two buildings for quick access to the little village.  There to greet us were cows, bulls, calves and people.  This was a much different neighborhood than we had toured previously.

Even though the area is one of the poorer villages in Mumbai, there were huge smiles everywhere!  Especially on the faces of the children.  They all wanted to get a look at us Westerners! “Hi!  Hi! Hi!” they excitedly chattered.  When we said “Hi” back, they giggled and smiled even bigger.  One of the first places we went was up at least 100 uneven steps to see a very old Hindu Temple.  Four little children followed us up to the top wanting to get a closer look at us.  I noticed that two of them were barefoot.  I had noticed them running on the uneven ground at the base of the steps with its sharp rocks and other debris that didn’t seem to bother them at all.  The smiles were still there!  They appear to be happy children!  That is one thing I have noticed here in India.  No matter what the circumstances, there are a lot of smiles!  From people we’ve seen in the finest buildings to the amazing shopping malls, to the people we drive by who are living in the slums, there are huge smiles!  It makes one think!

After seeing the temple, we climb back down the stairs and take a right turn carefully maneuvering through all the cattle and traffic on the street.  These cows, bulls and calves seem to be part mountain goat as they decide to venture off the road and onto a trail that leads down a steep embankment into a small meadow with a vast forested area behind it.

Before we know it, we are on a relatively wide for India, almost deserted road that is winding up and around out of sight.  We continue on the road with a wooded area on the right and a stone wall on the left with acres of wooded hills delving steeply down and then rising up even higher than we are with Mumbai city in the distance.  When we get to the top, we can see Bollywood in the distance.  The hub of the film industry in India.  Our goal, it appears, is a view of Vihar Lake.

Our “guide” asks us to put away our cameras and wait outside of the gate while he talks to the security guards.  Several minutes later, he motions for us to come ahead.  We are allowed to enter providing we do not take photographs.  It seems that this area once was very accessible to all, however, terrorist attacks took place here and since that time, it is very restricted.  I doubt we could have gained permission to get in without the aide of our local guide.  It was quite beautiful. The lake, much larger than Poiwai Lake is really gorgeous.  From what we were told, many, many crocodiles live here.  During the winter months they migrate down river to Powai Lake as it is smaller and stays warmer.  A number of people have lost their lives to the crocodiles who live here.  We managed to discretely snap a few photos of the lake area which I’m including in this post.

After leaving Vihar Lake, we walked back down the road and into the little village.  The days catch was displayed before our eyes!  Small fish, large fish gasping desperately for air, and eels.  Quite an array!!  We walked on up the road in the other direction and saw a few interesting structures along the way.  Our destination now was to see if we could gain entry into the campus of NITIE, the famous institution, the National Institute of Industrial Engineering.  Again we were asked to wait while Rajesh talked to the guards.  His brother actually works there however was away on business or holiday so he was attempting to talk to his brother’s boss to gain entry.  He was not able to reach him, so we turned around and began heading back down the street.  Within about two minutes, someone came running after us shouting to come back.  It seems the boss had returned the phone call and they were going to admit us entry.  The campus had a small pond we walked around with quite a nice view of the Renaissance Hotel.  I snapped a few pictures of that from different angles.  I loved the way the buildings reflected in the pool of water.  It was very peaceful there.

We left the pond area and began walking further into the campus pasting buildings that house the students and faculty, the educational buildings and then we came to a field surrounded by woods.  There were a number of young men playing some game out there.  Rajesh tells us that just two days before, two leopards were seen at the back of this field!  Oh oh….now I get a little nervous again!

We do, however, continue on.  This all seems to still be surrounding the pond.  We come to a turn in the road.  If you go straight ahead up the gravel path in front of the utility building, we are told we would have a better view of Vihar Lake.  Or, we can continue on the road around several more bends with it becoming much more wooded to get another view of the lake.  Rajesh informs us that it could be very dangerous!  He had confided in me as we were walking a little ahead of Kay and Hazel that there are lots of leopards that hang out at this end of the lake and it would be extremely dangerous to walk to the lake from here.  Kay wanted to know why it was dangerous.  He tells her, but she doesn’t quite understand.  She speaks great English, but is Korean and there are some things she doesn’t fully understand yet.  So I explain in words she does understand.  “If we go through here to see the lake, there are many leopards and they could get us.”  “Leopards…what is leopards?”  I spell it and say cats that kill.  She says, “ohhhhh….lay o pards…that’s how we say it in Korea.”  I tell her if we go it could be very dangerous…but I was betting I could outrun at least one of my companions and that’s all I would need to get away!  She laughed and said she was great at track when she was in high school.  Then she said she didn’t want to go.  I totally agreed as did Hazel.  It was definitely not worth taking the chance.  I told Rajesh that the view we had of the lake from the other end was sufficient!.

We begin our walk back to the little village and our shortcut back to the hotel.  We snap a few more pictures on the way and when we come to the area where we are to slip between the buildings, there is a cow with it’s head stuck halfway into the entrance to the bar/restaurant owned by Rajesh’s family.  Of course that is cause for taking more pictures!  Hazel’s love of animals draws her up close and personal to get some shots of the cow when I notice a big black bull eyeing her and the cow.  The bull puts it’s head down and starts to advance!  It makes me very nervous, so I start calling her name getting louder and louder.  She doesn’t hear me…finally some of the locals see what is happening and the manage to shoo the bull away.  I’m not sure if she was really in danger, but I tend to err on the side of caution. Finally Hazel sees what is happening and she rejoins us for our trip back across the pipes and the safety of our hotel.

It was a great outing and I am so glad we did it!  Thanks for the tour, Rajesh!

Hazel tells me that on many trips to Mulund, a fun and very interesting shopping area that attracts many locals, she has encountered an elephant…a pretty lady with a painted face.   Excitedly, Kay, Tumee and I are off with Hazel in search of the pachyderm accepting the fact that we may or may not see her!

As we head out, we go through the usual mixed bag of areas.  Some frighteningly dirty and others like any other city in the world with beautiful buildings and well-kept grounds.   We have our eyes and ears open to see if we can spot the gigantic lady strolling along the streets.  Before you know it, we have arrived at our designated shopping area near the Mulund train station.   No elephant on the way there today…but perhaps on the way back to the hotel.

We set out going in one shop after another mostly looking at sarees (I have already purchased one beautiful one) and Churidaar (loose pants), Kameez (tunic top) along with a dupetta (scarf) that come as a set (I also have purchased one of these).   I was supposed to pick this up today after alternations to the tunic, however with the death yesterday of a top political figure here, it was advised that we do not leave the hotel today.  I’ll just have to get it next week.   We went in and out of the shops, enjoying all of the beautiful fabrics and other items we saw along the way.  The fruits and vegetables in front of all the shops were wonderful.  It is also recommended that we don’t buy food off of the streets, but once we are in our apartments, I think it is okay to purchase things that can be peeled or cooked before consumption.  We’ll have to see how brave I get on that one!

When we first got out of the car, it was near the ox carts and there were quite a number of oxen standing and laying around.  Remarkable!!  I couldn’t stop snapping pictures of them.  It’s amazing to see these animals right on the streets.  As we were strolling along, we spotted a black one (most were blonde) walking along in front of us.  We hurried to catch up so we could take its picture.  Just about the time we caught up to it, it made a mad dash for a large basket of sweet potatoes on one of the vegetable stands and had a mouth full before you could snap your fingers!  The woman at the stand didn’t seem to mind at all.  It must be a very normal occurrence to her.  I managed to capture a number of shots of the brazen beast!  He was really a handsome fella!

There were several shops I would like to go back to at a later date.  When it is closer to time to take a trip back to the USA for me next summer, I would like to go to this children’s shop we stopped in.  I saw a number of dresses with the pants and scarves that I know Grace and Brooke would love.  I will get updated sizes in the spring and have a very fun shopping trip I am sure.  Buying things for my granddaughters is always a labor of love!

After we had perused enough shops for one day, Hazel called for our driver to pick us up and we were headed back to the Renaissance with our eyes peeled for that elusive pachyderm!  Unfortunately, she was nowhere in sight.  We’ll just have to try another day.

That was Friday, yesterday (Saturday) Hazel and I had to go back over to the Beverly Park to check on some things with the apartments.  I took a number of pictures from the Penthouse…what amazing views!  I’ve shared them below.  We were very happy to see that there is activity at the Beverly Park.  They are working on getting the apartments finished so we can all move in.  We will have so much more room.  Living at this beautiful Hotel and Convention Center is rather fun, but it’s difficult to call a hotel “home”.   We are holding out hope that we will be in by the end of the year…but there are no guarantees.

Shortly after we left the compound in search of a lighting store to find desk lamps for the apartments, Kamal, Hazel’s driver, says…”Elephant!  Elephant!  Want me to stop?”  ”Yes, of course!!” is our reply.  He pulls over and we scurry out, me with my camera already turned on and I excitedly start shooting pictures.  The elephant comes up to us and stops.  Hazel and I pet her and continue taking photographs.  One at a time we each put a 100 rupee bill in her trunk and she hands it up to the boy on top of her.  Her face is painted in pastel, almost iridescent colors.  She swings her trunk around, with me being very careful she’s not going to knock me over with it, and she keeps lifting her left front foot for some reason I do not know.  Almost like patting her foot!  Was she impatient with us?  I must admit I was a bit nervous so was rather cautious about getting too close…especially to that foot.  I mean, it’s my first time to meet an elephant on the street!  She was quite the lady though and did no harm!  I so wished I could have ridden on top of her…but I think I want a more controlled environment in the event I have that opportunity.  I think she would have had to lift me up with her trunk!  It’s a long way up there!!  Can you picture that?  I can!!  Maybe I’ll have that opportunity while I’m in India.  I can only hope!

Yesterday, since Tom was off for the second day in a row out of three for the Diwali holiday, I suggested that we sit at one of the tables scattered throughout the hotel to play a game of Farkle.  I thought that some of our new friends may happen by and we could entice them to play a game with us.

We found the perfect table and comfy chairs in the main lobby.  We were on our second game, when this little Indian boy kept inching closer and closer to see what we were doing.  When we looked up at him and said hi, he scattered off to be near his father.  A few minutes later, his curiosity got the best of him and he was inching closer again.  Finally, in one swift move, he slid into one of the four chairs surrounding the table we were at.  About that time, one of the elevator doors opened and a number of people exited.  Two young girls were among the people as they stood there talking.  Spotting the young boy who turned out to be the brother of one of them, they came running up to the table asking a dozen questions at once.  

“What are you playing?” the tallest girl asked.

“Farkle” I answered.

“Farkle?” she said.  “How do you play that?”  

Spotting my ‘cheat sheet’ for scoring, she asked if she could see it.  “Yes, of course” I said.

Then the shorter of the two girls asked what our names were.  “This is Tom and I am Gloria” I said.

They ran around the table with their hands extended to shake our hands.  “Nice to meet you, Gloria” they each said as they shook our hands.  “Nice to meet you, Tom”.

They watched and I explained the game as we played.  The tallest girl asked where she could get a copy of the rules for the game.  I told her that if she went online and goggled Farkle, she could print them off. The other girl…a head shorter…started asking questions addressing me as “Auntie”.  She was adorable!  I answered the many questions they had.  They seemed fascinated with everything we had to say.  

They asked if we spoke Hindi.  “No”, I admitted.  “Where are you from?”  I asked.  “A little town north of Mubai” she said.

About this time, her parents were finished with their conversation and her mother approached our little group to retrieve them and apologize if they were bothering us.  “Not at all” I said.  

“Where are you from?” the tallest girl asked.

“America” I answered.

She smiled this huge smile and was so excited. “Oh, America!” she said.  

Her mom, hearing this asked, “America?…Do you like Obama?”  “No” I answered.  “Why?” she asked.  “He has done enough damage to America” I said.  “We wanted Mitt Romney to win.  We think he would be better for America” I said. 

They all had to shake our hands again saying “Welcome to India, Auntie…welcome to India, Uncle!”

Our conversation continued about where they were from and of course the game at hand.  Their parents were ready to go, so they reluctantly left with lots of “Goodbye, Auntie’s!” and “Goodbye, Uncle’s”.  They were just adorable children.

We passed them in the hall last night on our way to dinner.  “Hi Auntie, Hi Uncle!”  Just so cute!

This morning we went down to breakfast and were nearly finished when their families walked in.  When the tallest girl saw us, she came running over to our table with the other two close behind.  “Hello Auntie, hello Uncle!”  They each shook our hands again.  The mom came over then to chat with us.  I asked her how old they were.  The two girls are 9 and the little boy is 5.  Evidently the tallest girl and the little boy are hers while the other shorter girl belongs to another couple they were traveling with.  I told her what adorable children they were…so polite and inquisitive.  She told me that they are always talking to people when they travel.  They want to know everything they can about other parts of the world.  They have this wonderful curiosity about the world and it’s inhabitants.  After learning new things about other countries, they tend to make up lovely stories about sitting and talking with people from different lands.

What a special experience we have had with them!  I know they will go far in this world.  I hope they continue to have that love for knowledge and travel. Reminds me of our granddaughters!  Gracie is just as outgoing and inquisitive as these children are.  I’m not sure how long they will be at our hotel, but hoping we run into them again.  I think they have adopted us.  It feels very special when they call us “Auntie and Uncle”.

I would have taken a picture, however, I didn’t want to freak their parents out!  I wouldn’t want strangers taking pictures of my granddaughters no matter how harmless they seemed.

 

I’m sitting in our new, larger room at the Renaissance Hotel that we were finally able to move into this afternoon, watching fireworks through the wall of windows.  What a wonderful end to a trying day.  The reflection of the display is reflected on the dark surface of Powai Lake.  A picture just wouldn’t do it justice!  They have already begun the five day Diwali holiday celebration.  It is known as the Festival of Lights and is the most important Hindu celebration.  This is considered their “Christmas”.

We began our day having our usual breakfast together and then being picked up by our driver for the long ride into Colaba.  We had to go to one of the government buildings to “register as resident aliens”.  Today is the sixteenth day we have been in India.  The requirement is to register within fourteen days of arrival, but the people preparing our paperwork were having difficulty getting it right.  Surprised?  We aren’t!  Anyway, we endured the one and a half hour drive into Colaba and after signing in with the guard, climbed the three flights of stairs to what we thought was our 9:30 AM appointment.  We were really surprised when there was a queue of about fifty people.  Luckily, the minute we stepped into the room, a young Indian gentleman asked if we were Mr. and Mrs. Cullins.  We said yes and he told us to stand by him…he was the third person in the queue!  We gratefully joined him.  Tom knew Rajesh was going to be there to “handle” us.  

After waiting about fifteen minutes and giving our passports and paperwork to Rajesh, we were ushered into another room where we had to wait again.  This time for over two hours, with crying babies and lots of impatient people!  Finally, it was our turn to go to counter one and meet with the man who would check our paperwork and register us as resident aliens.  We were informed that it would cost us just under 4000 rupees as a penalty because we were two days late registering.  Tom was aware that this may happen, so we were prepared.  It couldn’t be helped.  The paperwork had to be correct.  This part of the actual registration process wasn’t too bad and we were out of there about forty five minutes later and without having to pay the penalty.  All of a sudden during our interview, the man got up, went over to talk to someone who was obviously a manager type, came back and announced that he was not going to charge us the penalty.  We were very pleased about that to say the least!

On our way down the three flights of stairs, we called our driver and within five minutes he was picking us up and we were on our way.  I think the most difficult part of the ordeal was the drive to and from the registration office.  We went through some unbelievably depressing areas.  It is very common to see men standing on the side of the road, just about anywhere, taking a leak!  On today’s drive, we saw several of them, along with areas with piles of garbage covering every inch of space.  There is trash all over, but some of these areas are positively horrible.  At one point I saw a woman emptying a broken bucket full of garbage.  Not trash…like paper products…but real, slimy, disgusting garbage!  Just dumping it right on the sidewalk!  Not in bags…just loose and disgusting!  The traffic was so heavy, it caused our driver to have to really slow down in several of the areas so I had a very close up and personal view of the garbage…complete with thousands of flies buzzing all over the piles of disgusting refuse.  No wonder there are so many horrible diseases here.  In one of the areas, a cow was laying down right on the edge of the garbage and in another, a cat was feasting on some kind of raw meat with insects all over it.  This is all on the sides of the streets!  Thank goodness our windows were rolled up.  I can’t imagine the smell it must have had.

I chose not to take pictures of these scenes for several reasons.  One being that I don’t want these images to stay forever in my mind.  I’m hoping that without pictures, they will fade from my memory eventually.  Another is because I try to keep a low profile with the camera as there are those who would not look kindly at my exposing this way of life.  If you know me, you also know that I look for the good or “silver linings” in everything…so I choose to photograph the more attractive to the not quite so disgusting things I see.

This coming week Tom will have three days off and we were  looking forward to getting out and seeing some things, maybe checking out a couple of the malls…however…we got a safety notice tonight that means we will be sticking close to the hotel on those days.  It seems that Diwali, although a cause for celebration among the Hindu’s, is also an opportunity for terrorists to do their dirty work.  We have been cautioned to stay away from crowded places, airports, train stations and the like.  There is some evidence that there are sleeper cells both here in Mumbai and in Dehli and they expect there could be trouble on this biggest of holidays.  We will not take any chances. Above all else, we will do everything possible to stay safe.  There will be plenty of opportunities to sight see and shop!  We are to receive another safety update on Monday.  The official holiday starts on Tuesday.

One more little tidbit of information…I was able to go to the 36th floor of the hotel the other afternoon where there is a private club.  It is quite a nice place and the views are fantastic!  You can not only see further from up there, but you can see Bollywood and several other areas as well.  We could look almost straight down on the back side of the hotel and Yvonne, another friend, told us about the man who was chased down the road below us…just outside of the hotel grounds about a month ago…by a leopard!  And…the leopard won!!  Hmmmm…hadn’t thought about leopards running about!  I won’t be taking any strolls outside of the hotel grounds or the compound when we get over there so no worries here!  Just thought it was an absolutely wild story!

Time to end this post as I have a busy day tomorrow.  Breakfast with my Sweetheart, then the first of my personal training sessions in the gym, and then a meeting of the spouses regarding the apartments and what is and is not going on with getting them ready for us.  The last meeting of the spouses lasted about 5 hours!  Sure hope this one is shorter.  No pictures tonight, although I did take some from the 36th floor it was a very hazy day as was today.  In fact, today was the worst smog I’ve seen.  On days like today I feel I should be wearing a protective mask.  Most days aren’t that bad, especially around the hotel, but I stay inside a lot, or just sit by the pool or swim a bit.  I don’t think I’ll be doing anything strenuous outside in this air!

I can go to sleep tonight knowing that we are now legal resident aliens of India…

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