Sunday, December 28, 2008

Zaleeya the Walking Queen!

So it's happened. Zaleeya has finally chosen walking as her primary mode of transportation. She actually can walk, turn, walk again, fumble, stand back up, walk again, turn, fall, and get up to walk again. She can also get up on the couch, pat her belly attempting to get Ziggy to "come", and put legos together. Here's a fun video for you to enjoy!

As for the holidays, they were super nice. We went to a fun party on the 23rd with a bunch of my friends from elementary, junior and high school. There were 7 children all under the age of 2.5!! BYOB (Bring your own baby) The house it was hosted in was baby proofed complete with high chair and dino chicken nuggets. It was the most fun I've had since being home. I finally fit in!!

On the 24th we also went to a party where Zaleeya charmed everyone, and she actually had the best night of sleep since she has been home (1 wake up). Her sleeping made Christmas amazing as we visited both sets of parents, napped, ate well and opened a ton of presents (these pics are with Cousin Kaden). However the high from the holidays ended when she came down with ANOTHER cold and passed it on the mom AGAIN! Now we all smell like Vicks.

I must be honest when I say that Zaleeya is doing much better than mom and dad. We still are both suffering a bit from the loss of our old lives. This past weekend we gave each other a chance to get out for a few hours, but when do we get to go out TOGETHER!!?? Some nights I look into my future and all I see is laundry, cooking, cleaning, warding off snot and poop. Maybe it's the post adoption blues, but sometimes I think I wasn't "made" to be a mom. I wonder what hormones I might have missed in the pregnancy process. The domestic gene never really hit me and this transition has been tough.
It doesn't mean we don't love Zaleeya to pieces; she's a pretty amazing little kiddie and fits our family perfectly! Anyhow, I promised to be honest in this blog, so there it is.
Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Our Version of a Baby Book

So everyone keeps saying, "you should put that in your baby book!". Well honestly, I am not crafty and barely have photo albums, so this blog is going to have to suffice. I figured it will have everything Zaleeya needs someday minus the strip of hair and first tooth. I can actually do video here, so I would say that a blog is better!

So in the spirit of her baby book, today's post is just a quick relay of her current major accomplishments. Still hesitant in walking, she is quite capable but still hasn't quite decided yet that she WANTS to walk as her primary mode transportation. She is finally settled into a schedule of one nap a day averaging 1.5 hours (though today she went 2.5 hours!!) and nightime continues to get better with usually only 1 to 2 wake ups. Mom is still quite tired (yes this is a quite appropriate picture of how daddy finds her most evenings).

She stills babbles a whole lot with her only intelligible word being "Giggy" (for Ziggy). She is starting to understand phrases such as "stand up" and "put your foot down" (when she's at the dinner table- her foot makes a constant apprearance). She likes to play with legos and tupperware and cups and anything she can chew up and spit out. She is teething big time; contantly drooling, fussy, chewing on things and drooling some more. She LOVES the bath and would spend hours there if allowed. And she still tolerates the stroller long enough for mom to get exercise.

There she is in a nutshell! We are venturing out more often now so we even have a picture with SANTA! She was quite facinated by the big white man with funny fur on his face. :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blogging during NAP TIME!

Sorry it's been forever since we've blogged. I can't believe the holidays are here and it's been chaotic!

We went to Vancouver 2 weeks ago for the Thanksgiving Holiday! Yes we braved another plane flight but luckily this one was less than 3 hours and a piece of cake. Zaleeya continues to grow developmentally and has even gained a whole pound since she's been home! Her new favorite developmental exploration is placing objects "inside" each other. I giggle all time as she's fascinated with putting things down and inside her top. Not funny though when attempting to change a diaper and finding graham cracker crumbs!

Vancouver was probably premature but it was good timing to meet a whole slew of family at once due to our Imam's visit there (visit for more info on this). She slept pretty well and ate decently but did end up catching a cold from the chilly weather. :( Aspirating a runny toddlers nose is NO FUN!

She's getting closer and closer to walking. We posted a video below so you can see a few of her first unsupported steps. Daddy is a good walking teacher. I can't wait to see how it goes when he teaches her to DRIVE!

We opted for a small tabletop tree after much contemplation this year to avoid having to stop her from eating the tree all the time. I am happy we have a tree and daddy is happy it's small enough to toss in the trash can at the end of the season. Zaleeya didn't even notice the tree's existence.

Anyhow this will be a short but sweet entry for now since her naptime is almost over! I will be better about posting in the coming weeks...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Online OCRegister Link

Here is the online link to Baby Z's Newspaper Debut!

The hard copy has about 4 pictures as well as a teaser picture on the FRONT page of the newspaper! Enjoy...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

OC Register on December 8th!

Hello to all our blog readers! If you are LOCAL to Orange County make sure you pick up a copy of the OCRegister on December 8th and check out the LIFE section. Our blog and Zaleeya's story will be featured. Fun!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Day at the Beach!

Hello! So last Saturday we took advantage of the hot weather to hit the beach with baby Z and doggy Z. After taking much longer to get out of the house than expected (welcome to parenthood) we made it in time for an amazing sunset. Today's post is all about sharing the pictures. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How Do I Find Time To Blog?!?

Azeem said to me the other day, "The last blog post was Nov 4th!". I apologize, but honestly, how does one have time to do anything anymore? A friend with two kids sent me a long email yesterday in the middle of the day. I thought to myself, she must be emailing during NAP time! I have learned to shower before both Azeem and Zaleeya wake up and check emails on my phone while she munches on cheese. It's a very delicate balance and luckily getting better by the day.

Baby Z is doing pretty well. We found out last week she had a little stomach parasite- quite normal for kids in her situation so we had to do a course of antibiotics. It's no fun trying to squeeze a syringe of horrible tasting liquid down a squirming 1 year old's mouth THREE times a day. And her diarrhea and fussiness that ensued as a result of the meds was no fun either. However despite this, last week she seemed to start to settle into a groove; I even started sleeping in my own bed for half the night and only moving into her room once she awoke for her midnight changing.

However everything changed this past Monday when she decided to stop taking her bottle. It shocked me as her bottle has been something she SCREAMED for up until now. I even took her to the doctor fearful of an ear infection, only to find out she's teething. Luckily we learned at the doctor that she has gained 7 oz in 2 weeks! I must say I was happy to see I was able to help someone GAIN weight despite my profession. She still doesn't take the bottle, or milk in any kind of fashion, which worries me as it was a large source of calories in her diet.

Feeding time is really quite stressful. She only really likes to eat foods she can feed herself and often wont try a lot of things after a quick sniff. Fish sticks, tator tots, chicken nuggets, sweet potato fries, rice crackers and graham crackers are staples. She likes a few Indian sweets and of course will never turn down a piece of cheese. Fruits are veggies are still alluding her, much to my horror and dismay. I'm waiting for the day I drive through the McDonalds drive through; don't be alarmed if I'm wearing a mask so as to not be recognized.

Despite the meds, and teething, she continues to do quite well and seems to be adjusting to her family. She gets very excited when Azeem comes home from work and is still quite clingy to both of us. Despite this, she is great with new people and will play and giggle and explore as long as one of us is near by. She now recognizes our favorite song on the radio and understands when we ask her "Where's Ziggy". She stands on her own occasionally and has taken a few unsupported steps on her own. She is fearless and flexible and fantastically joyous. She cracked me up yesterday when she started to climb into her leggo dump truck. I thought it was cute so I snapped a picture, and then looked up to realize she had paused to POOP. She climbed into her DUMP truck to take a DUMP! Oh my... I guess we should start looking forward to potty training.

As for parenthood, Azeem and I are still struggling with the loss of independence. I particularly have had moments of extreme lows- feeling claustrophobic. However we feel more comfortable that Zaleeya is adjusting so my mom is starting to watch her an hour here and there so I can escape for some exercise and fresh air. We're formulating a plan for me to go back to work 2-3 days a week in January which I know will be good for everyone.

Anyhow it's naptime (of course) so I'll see if I can squeeze in a nap myself. Thank you as always to everyone for the amazing support!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Day Baby Z Went Down!

I apologize for a long break between posts. Being home now is all consuming, especially since Zaleeya is definately bonding with her parents and getting more demanding of us each day.

But let me back up. Feeling conident and finally excited about our new (adorable) daughter, Azeem and I embarked on one too many trips outside the home last Friday. At the time Zaleeya seemed ok. She fussed a lot getting in and out of the car seat but eventually calmed down and often snoozed while the car was in motion. We attempted a nap that day which barely lasted and then that night her sleep was quite erratic - up every hour or two. Saturday was worse; she didn't nap at all! Both of us started to melt down, especially me and we could tell Zaleeya was especially cranky feeding off my stressed out energy. It's amazing the thoughts that go through your mind when under extreme sleep deprivation!

Finally, again, we called for reinforcements. First I posted on the Dillon adoption forums for tips of how to overcome our problems, then we called in my in-laws for a relief break. The Dillon moms were amazing in reminding us how easily stimulated these adopted children can get in the beginning. We have to remember that ALL she saw for 14 MONTHS was the inside of 4 walls. So we decided to slow way down out trips and visitors, knowing that down the line we can resume our active social schedules. As for Saturday night, Mom and Dad saved the day by helping us feed and put her to sleep. She slept for 12 hours that night and Azeem and I escaped for a 45 min sushi date!! We have decided that for my mental state to remain positive for baby Z, I will need to escape from our home for an hour or two every few days.

As for Zaleeya now, she has gotten more clingy and needy of us, which everyone says is normal and good for the attachment process. It can be overwhelming, as its impossible to get anything done! She continues to speak more and smile and dance. Early early mornings are her best times as she is a super babbler and we've included some fun video of this. This gives new meaning 'of "egg on your face!" She and I have a favorite song now (Alicia Keys "No One") as we listen to the radio most of the day. She enjoys her new stroller but is still apprehensive to try a swing at the park. She loves to play with paper and tupperware and is warming up to playing in the bathtub. The most fun thing to watch is her bond with Ziggy as she genuinely smiles and giggles sometimes when he shows up and surprises her. And he is warming to her now frequently sniffing and licking and even snuggling with me now in the bed in her room.

Anyhow its 6am now and the house should be awaking soon so Ill sign off! Enjoy the video...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This Child is NOT a Vegan...

I (Zeena) write at the end of the DAY 5 of Zaleeya's homecoming. She is asleep, in her own crib, hoping this will last to at least 5am. Please hope with us.

I think many people reading this blog have enjoyed it due to our openness and candid reflection of this process, therefore I will continue to be honest. The last few days have been tough, but luckily things are finally paying off. It's amazing what a little sleep will do for everyone!

After a few fitful nights of sleep, we decided to move me into Zaleeya's room to sleep with her. We had been advised to "co-sleep", which means to put her in our bed, but we decided this was not the decision for us. Instead we aimed to get her comfy in her crib, and moving me into the room has made a major difference in the last two nights! Poor thing- we imagine it's been a bit scary for her to sleep in her own room. She is quite fitful and moves a lot in her sleep (still some head banging, which is normal) therefore it makes us ALL feel better that I'm nearby in case she wants comfort. The bonding between us if definitely beginning to form as she turns to me for comfort, and to daddy for good old fashion jungle gym play.

Our trip to the pediatrician on Monday was excellent. The only concern so far is her weight- she is only 15.5 lbs! So much to the dismay of her gluten free, dairy free fishatarian mother, this child's diet consists of cheese, butter and dark meat chicken. Crazy! She has a pretty healthy appetite and in fact SCREAMS when she doesn't get her food in time, so feeding her hasn't been too much of an issue. Messy.... but I've discovered that messy is now my middle name.

I must admit, I still have feelings of "what have I done to my life!!" Her tantrums are quite shocking- she loves to flail her body all over and down right scare both her her parents, but over the last few days we've figured out what some of the cries mean. Usually a diaper change and a feeding will suffice. Luckily her smiles have begun to melt both of our hearts and her personality is emerging. She loves to dance, has hot feet syndrome like her mother and never keeps her socks on, and still loves to chase Ziggy. She always crawls with a toy in her hand and her standing is getting stronger every day. She started to really babble today and learned how to wave goodbye. It is still quite funny though to compare her to children her own age (like the pic with her new playmate Daniel born 3 days after her), she is so tiny! It's like she's gone from newborn to toddler in one week!

I got my first comment today from someone who said "she's tiny just like her mother!". I was more surprised as the assumption that I'm tiny (I'm 5'8") versus the assumption she is made from my genes.

I sign off now since I just found my poor husband asleep on the couch. Time for us all to go to bed! Thank you to everyone for the continued support of our new family.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Zaleeya vs. Ziggy, Round One

I am happy to report that I am in a much better mental state than I was in 24 hours ago, 12 hours ago and even 6 hours ago. Let’s hope it sticks.

After the NIGHTMARE grueling flights we landed on US soil happy to be home, hoping we sail through the “green card” process at the airport. Unfortunately we were displeased to find out we were supposed to have received a “cover sheet” to our visa packet from Kolkata. After numerous attempts to convince them we didn’t receive one while I was melting down trying to calm a hungry baby, we got our green card were off to greet the family. Luckily Zaleeya was miraculously in a wonderful mood to greet both grandmas, Saleem Uncle, Melanie Aunty and cousin Kaden (10 months). Luckily baby Kaden had some food to share with Zaleeya (to help melting mom) and she fell right asleep once in the car seat! I was pleased as this had been a source of stress for us both. No car seats in India!

We approached the house as we suddenly realized that our baby was going to meet her “best friend” Ziggy soon! Even in her slightly foggy state she reached for him immediately as we let out a collective sigh, happy to see she wasn’t afraid. Ziggy on the other hand seem to sniff and wander around a bit displeased. Since it was supposed to be 11pm we put Zaleeya back to sleep hoping it would last, however at 4am she was wide awake at the displeasure of both parents working on only 2-3 hours of sleep! However these moments were most precious as she started to explore her open spaces and crawl all over. She smiled giggled, reached for Ziggy a lot and ate well. However the meltdowns started again and there were a few hours of the whole household suffering for a bit as she eventually went down for a nap (thanks to Daddy!).

While napping we called in reinforcements in the form of Saleem Uncle and Melanie Aunty with cousin Kaden and what a difference it made! I think it was good for Zaleeya to be around another baby again and WONDERFUL for the parents to have people to ask a ton of questions of! Also, the time passed and baby Z got super tired. I’m happy to report that as of 10pm she is fast asleep (in her own crib). Again, let’s hope it lasts.

I look forward to watching more interactions in the coming days, though I must admit to still feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. How in the world am I ever going to handle all this when Azeem gets back to work???

Oh and as for Round One, Zaleeya wins hands down. Poor Ziggy was chased around by a crawling baby all day. So far his only advantage is his speed, but one day she’ll catch him!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Planes, puffs and panic

I am writing this bloc entry from a backberry from the plane. Thank goodness for modern technology!
To say things are "hunky dorey" would be a lie. Little Z is still coming out of her shell, which would be a good thing except for the 30 hour travel time home! This is more than a little bit crazy... Where is my concord jet?
You have two inexperienced parents on two back to back 10 hour plane flights with a still traumatized little girl discovering her voice, her ability to throw toys and tantrums. Add in the sleeplessness and teething and you have a fun time!
Here is what we have learned from our first flight:
1. Wear clothes you don't mind getting food all over, and bring changes for everyone!
2. Bulkhead seats with bassinet is the only way to go. Even if she doesn't sleep in it at least its storage for all the crap!
3. The bottle is your friend. Always have one ready and throw all notions of a eating and sleeping schedule out the window! Also feed them in the bassinet so if they fall asleep you don't have to move them. :)
4. Don't bother bringing entertainment for yourself. Those days are over.
5. Snack snack snacks! The puff snacks have worked wonders for us.
6. Learn how to change a diaper with your kid standing up. Seriously.
7. Patience patience patience. All I can think is "there's no place like home!".

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Marvels of Adoption

Today has been a day much like yesterday. Some meltdowns and some smiles. Zaleeya is coming out of her shell little by little. Today we enjoyed a nice meal at Pizza Hut (yes, Zeena ate in a Pizza place!) where she actually played with the menus and tried to eat our spagetti. However between all the playing she still whines a lot and needs to be held- everyone is telling us it's normal. Our major milestone was learning how to drink out of a sippy cup! And I'm marveling at how messy feeding a one year old can be. Thank goodness all my travel clothes are already dirty!

So instead of giving you a specific play by play of the day, we've decided to give you a list of things that we see so far in Zaleeya that are like us. It's kind of amazing! Here are our favorites:

1. Curly hair like her mom: what are the chances of getting a baby with a mop of curls just like Zeena.

2. Taller than most Indians, like both her parents: you won't believe how long her limbs are. It's hilareous!

3. Flops around in her sleep like her mom: I'm sure this is true for most kids but we like to believe she takes after Zeena.

4. Loves her food like her mom: this girl gets seriously cranky when she hungry and sees her food. Sounds like someone we know!

5. Eyes and forehead like her dad: the resemblance is striking and her eyes show the warmth and love that her father is famous for.

We thought this was nice to share. Maybe those of you who meet her will find more traits that link her to her new parents. Thank you to all who are reading and commenting on this blog. It's so fun to have you with us on this journey!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Little Z's BIG First Day

I (Zeena) am going to try to be specific on this blog entry- particularly for those first time moms who intend to go through this process at some point. I will admit it's been quite stressful on many levels. My first thought when we brought her back to our room was "What have we done! We have no idea what we are doing!". I think Azeem has settled into parenthood emotionally faster than myself.

For the first few hours all she did was cry. She wouldn't even look us in the face for fear of realizing she had not idea who we are. Finally after a few hours she latched on to a toy, ate a few bites and relaxed just a bit. In fact we saw a little smiling when we played some music and she moved to the beat. A dancer we think!

Around 9pm last night she took most of her bottle and actually fell asleep and slept for 12 FULL hours! It was crazy. We actually had to wake her up in the morning. Today has been better. The winy crying has reduced, she ate a full day full of meals, pooped twice (I think this is normal??) and smiled a lot more. It's like watching a turtle emerge from a shell. Every once in a while she looks at me and grabs at certain features, like she is learning my face. Other times she grabs on super tight as has no desire to look at who she is grabbing on to. We can literally see her grieving in front of our eyes. We got a good taste of this grief at dinner tonight when she WAILED uncontrollably, while mommy cried with her. I must say we feel quite responsible for her grief- taking her from her home she knows and loves. But then she smiles and we realize that this is part of the bonding process. It's quite amazing.

By the way, there is some wonderful shopping in this area around our hotel (The Kenilworth). Pantaloons is amazing for kids stuff! We got 20 items (clothes/ diapers) for equivalent of $100. So I recommend to any Dillon mom to wait to do major shopping until you get here. We put her in the baby bjorn and it made for a good adventure. Easy 7 min walk away- though it is the streets of India so walk carefully!

We're including as many pics as possible. I need to sign off now as I'm exhausted. I am beginning to understand this whole "tired mother" thing.

PS We got the visa thing done. It was quite easy as the paperwork from Delhi arrived quickly. She is ready to go home! We will wait until Friday though- we feel we all need the adjustment time.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Little "Z" Day!

Both of us are writing this one! We picked up Zaleeya/Pratima this afternoon, after a nervous night and morning. We had a nice quiet breakfast at the hotel, and then we headed off in our hired car to the orphanage. We met with Mrs. Roy the woman who has run the Orphanage for the last 20 years. She is a truly wonderful person and we could tell that all the women who worked there, love the children very much.

We were expecting to go in and see Zaleeya/Pratima after finishing our paperwork which took about 45 minutes, however one of the Ayahs (caretakers) brought her in to see us instead. We were totally caught by suprise (in a good way) and finally set our eyes on the daughter we've been waiting for for so long. She was a scared at first which was expected, and clinged to her Ayah while we got a little closer. She went to Zeena for a bit, then Azeem and then the chaos began of taking pictures. We were taking photos and videos of all the waiting children, and since we are one of the first few families traveling after a long break we had a LOT to take! The children were all super adorable- hopefully we did ok for all the Dillon families waiting for their children.

We handed Zaleeya/Pratima back to her caretakers for another hour while we rode with Ms Roy to the other facility where the special needs children are taken care of. I must admit, this was a tougher part of the day. Those children there definately seemed to need a lot of love and care.

Then we headed back to pick up Zaleeya/Pratima for good. Luckily she had fallen asleep while we were gone which made her a lot more mellow for the car ride home. She rested on mommy's chest for the ride. Since then we've managed 2 diaper changes and a yummy banana/milk meal. She is taller than we expected- very long and skinny arms and legs! She is obviously very traumatized and upset and crying a lot. We hope this will subside in time. I think we are all a bit shellshocked! We are feeling very sad for her as we know she misses her ayahs.

That's all for now. Hopefully we'll get some pics up of her smiling soon!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On the Eve of Motherhood

We're safely in Kolkata now, unpacked in our comfy room and done with our shopping and sighteseeing. My cousin Farah, who I really consider a sister, joined us for our Agra adventure and the four of us flew Kingfisher (wonderful!) to Kolkata last night. We have our appointment at the children's home to pick up Pratima (we will call her this during the transition) tomorrow at 12pm- note that we are 12.5 hours ahead of PST.

I've been writing this blog entry in my head for a few weeks now; ever since I arrived in India. You could actually argue that I've been writing this for over 4 years, ever since Azeem and I decided we wanted to expand our family.

I never imagined I would be getting on a plane and expanding our brood in this unusual fashion. The last few years have been tumultuous to say the least, and through it our amazing support system of friends and family kept saying "don't worry, what is supposed to happen, will happen". But seriously, do you know how hard it is to hold on to this faith through thick and thin? I've never really been the patient type; I married into this trait for a reason.

Well now that I'm on the eve of Motherhood, I can attest it feels true. Spending some time getting to know this amazing land has given me resolve that this was our true path . Sure I'm nervous, terrified actually. But traveling and living here for 3 weeks has given me some wonderful peace and perspective.

I've held back talking about the myriad of children I've seen on the streets here. Everywhere you look you see naked babies, ragged clothed toddlers and barefoot children running freely on the streets. At first glance you feel a sadness for their fate. However other times I envy their naivety, as this existence is all they know. Lack of education shelters them from wanting or needing more.

When a little girl pokes at my window and asks for money, I of course can only think of Zaleeya. People say we are giving her a wonderful gift by bringing her to our family where she will be raised with education and a future. However I think it's important to remember that she will also be a gift to us; bringing us joy, frustration, happiness, laughter and tears forever. But I believe the greatest gift was given to all of us by her birth mother. To her we thank and respect with our hearts wide open.

So on this eve I leave you with a quote that I actually heard on one of my Yoga podcasts while on this trip. The writer is Anais Nin, and it spoke to me quite deeply:

"It takes courage to push yourself to places you've that never been before. To test your limits. To break through barriers. And then the day came that the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud, was more painful then the risk it took to blossom."

Please keep reading our blog, as the journey has only just begun.

So You Think You're a Good Driver??

So ever since I (Azeem) got here about a week ago I've been fascinated by the way people drive in India. My first experience was taking a cab from the airport to the hotel, it was 6:30 AM so the roads were pretty empty. However the first thing I noticed was that even if there are lanes on the road drivers don't stay in them. This is because they are constantly keeping their options open. The second thing I noticed is that all kinds of vehicles are fair game on all roads. Here is a list of the hierarchy of vehicles/items on the road: monkeys, dogs, goats, pedestrians, bicyclists, rickshaws, food vendor carts, horse or ox drawn carts, farm equipment, construction equipment, scooters, motorcycles, motorized rickshaws, small cars, SUVs and vans, buses, large trucks, and lastly cows. Yes cows trump everything else on the road. You don't have to stop for a pedestrian but you do need to yield for the cow. The cow is revered in the Hindu religion as the provider for all sustenance. It is referred to as "Mata" or "Mother" translated into English.

The rules of the roads were very confusing to me at first. Coming from the US we are used to some of the most structured driving rules in the world. I consider myself a good driver in many respects. But I would never even try driving here. First of all I have no idea how to use a horn! In India the horn is the most useful feature in a car. It is more important than your brakes! The horn is used to convey the following: get out of my way, move off my lane, you're in my lane, I'm in your blind spot(this is the most important), I'm coming through and not stopping for you, and lastly watch out I'm about to hit you! All this seem the same, but actually, how you honk the horn actually conveys certain messages. I'm still learning this part.
As confusing as everything is on the roads here, I have to say, I have yet to see a fender bender or accident, which is amazing once you see this video:

Lastly, two more important things to note, seatbelts are rarely used if at all available in cabs and they drive on the wrong side of the road (like in Great Britain). I am really looking forward to getting into my car, strapping on a seatbelt, and driving on the 405, in my own lane... :)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Greatest Love Story

India can be a land of surprises, and despite having seen the Taj Mahal millions of times in pictures, in person it still surprised me (this is Zeena by the way!). After a 5 hour rough bus ride and a fitful night’s sleep on hard beds in our less than stellar hotel room, my thoughts regarding this Agra detour were, “this better be worth it.” Luckily, when we rounded the corner to the gate at 6:15am this morning, the first glance took my breath away.

It’s hard to explain, but the magnificence of this monument is overwhelming. With the sun rising and the crowds beginning to pour in, the grounds came alive and the beauty unfolded. Something that is difficult to see in pictures is the details and texture of the stone. The marble has many facets to it, and the sunlight at different times of day makes the stone look different colors. After an hour of wandering around taking pictures at multiple angles, we still didn’t want to leave and kept looking behind us before we walked away.

But an even bigger surprise is the story behind the Taj Mahal. Built in the 1600’s by the 4th Mogul (Muslim) Emperor Shah Jahan, this building took 20,000 workers everyday for 22 years to construct. It was built in honor of his 3rd wife, Mumtaz who died giving birth to her 14th child. Their love was so great that he built this monument for her after her death.

But let me back up for a second. Yes, she was Shah Jahan’s third wife (of 4!) and he even had many other “unofficial wives”. This was a time when marriages were often not for love, but for political gains and a blending of blood lines. And men took multiple wives. But yet despite this, a man loved a woman and together they married against the wills of their families and lived for 19 years. Mumtaz was the only wife that bore his children and after her death he took no more wives. In fact Shah Jahan’s son eventually took power from him and imprisoned him in the Red Fort where he died on a balcony that directly faced the Taj Mahal.

So in this land of surprises, we find a love story so great that millions come from around the world to see its monument. It’s been an appropriate way to start winding down our days of travel and get ready for OUR family love story ahead.