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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Azeem's Excellent Adventure in Delhi!

So, it’s Azeem finally blogging here. I know you have all enjoyed Zeena’s stories for the last couple of weeks as have I. But now I have a chance to contribute to the saga. The trip here was actually quite easy, just long. I got into Delhi on Monday morning, managed to get a “prepaid” cab and make it to the hotel all before breakfast. Yesterday, was kind of quiet, as you may have read in the previous blog, but today (Tuesday) was quite an eventful day.

We started our day using the car and driver that will eventually take us to Agra tomorrow. Our first stop was to the US Embassy to file for Zaleeya’s VISA, luckily there was no American Holiday today! We got in line about 8:45 and were ushered in about 45 minutes later. The inside of the Embassy grounds was like a park, quite tranquil and serene. The only people we saw while walking to the USCIS office were gardeners working on the gardens and lawns. We spent another hour and a half in the waiting room, until we were called in for our meeting. We were a little nervous, well actually I was really nervous, since the paperwork has been my responsibility to complete. We went through the paperwork one item at a time and then the processor asked us about our address, which was kind of weird. We said it’s in “Irvine” he replied “yes I know, but where in Irvine is your house”, so Zeena said, “off Sand Canyon and the 405”. I’m thinking, how did we just get into a conversation about a freeway and directions to our house with an adoption processor in India? Well come to find out he LIVES in IRVINE! We just travelled 8000 miles to have our paperwork processed by a guy who took a 2 year job with the US Embassy, who happens to live 5 miles from us. Small world, go figure… Needless to say the rest of our 10 minute meeting went just fine and we were on our way to start our tour for the day.

Next stop was to Old Delhi. Delhi is a city with two identities. New Delhi is representative of its colonial British rule. It’s apparent in the architecture and design of the streets (many roundabouts). Old Delhi is much older and shows it’s influence from the Mogul rulers of centuries ago, with it’s Islamic architecture and mosques. One of which was the largest mosque in India called the “Jama Masjid”. We stopped there and walked through the mosque; Zeena had to wear a cover since she was wearing short sleeves and capri pants (check out the guy on the cell phone!). On our exit, we took rickshaws for what we thought would be a “short little ride” to the Red Fort. Boy, were we in for an adventure! Our ride took us through the Chawari Bazzar, which ended up becoming a 1 hour whirlwind tour of a crowded bazaar that looked right out of a movie, but in fact it was the real thing. There were twists and turns through alleys, total gridlock where no one could move for minutes at a time, all sorts of close calls with scooters, other rickshaws and pedestrians. This is not recommended for those who are even remotely claustrophobic, because there are a lot of people in a very small space with all kinds of commotion going on. It was amazing to see how the crowd just flowed in chaotic elegance, and in the end everyone got where they needed to. With a little bit luck, we got to where we needed to be which was to the Red Fort.

The Red Fort “Lal Qila” was built by Mogul Emporor Shah Jahan (also the builder of the Taj Mahal) in 1638. It’s a magnificent Fort built to fortify the Mogul palace and his personal grounds. It’s now more like a park with people relaxing in the courtyards enjoying what has been nice weather, a bit warm but not stifling hot like we expected. We then finished off our tour with a drive by of the parliament and presidential buildings and a quick walk through the Gate of India, where we happened to see the changing of the guards ceremony. All in all, today was the day I realized that I was in India. I was truly amazed at the diversity of culture and history, even though I’ve only seen a small fraction of the country, but I have a new found respect and fascination for the land of my origins.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Day Zeena Went Down

Yeah, so, they all warn you. Don’t get sick in India! Don’t drink the water, only eat in nice restaurants, don’t eat fruits or veggies, etc etc. Well I followed all the rules, but still got a little bug. Well not exactly little, enough to knock me over for over 24 hours. Please don’t order Malai Kofta from Nero’s restaurant in Jaipur.

The night before our flight to New Delhi I started to get feverish. I took some Tylenol but a few hours later the symptoms got worse, and let’s just say it took the maximum dosages of Tylenol and Immodium to get me on the plane to Delhi the next morning! All blog entries about the pleasantries of flying in India are now retracted, because the Jaipur airport was a bit of a nightmare (smaller airport) and combined with my illness, the trip was tough. Once in Delhi though we checked into our super nice room and I slept, and drugged myself up, and slept. I didn’t emerge from the room until this morning after Azeem arrived to our room. YES! Azeem is here!

I write about this because it’s part of the experience. The lesson learned is two-fold: don’t get overconfident, and ALWAYS travel with Tylenol and Immodium. Instead of posting pictures of me sleeping in a bed, I decided to litter the blog entry with all my favorite beautiful pictures in India. The first sunset is from Yasmin’s place, the second from our hotel in Mumbai, and the third from our hotel here in Delhi. The pool shot is in Jaipur.

A few hours after Azeem got here today we went to the US embassy to file Zaleeya’s visa forms. We arrived in our taxi to find the embassy CLOSED. After watching and being careful about all the Indian holidays, we forgot today is COLUMBUS DAY. Hilarous! Luckily we have 2 more days here so it won’t be an issue, but alas we all got a good chuckle out of this one. I can see Tami (our amazing adoption coordinator from Dillon) rolling over in her sleep as I type.

Anyhow hopefully tomorrow I can join the men and gallivant a bit in Delhi and see the town. We pick up Zaleeya a week from today!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Day I Rode an Elephant!

Yes, it’s time to talk Jaipur now! For those of you not familiar with Indian geography, Jaipur is in the northern part of India in the state of Rajasthan. The town is known for a few things. First it’s called the Pink City due to the coloring of many of the buildings, and well, it is quite pink. Or more like coral. Jaipur is also known for its artistry and marble/stone exportation. I’ve had to lift my shopping hiatus here because there are so many artists at work offering jewelry, textiles and painting. Gem stones are huge, which if course is incredibly tempting.

The history of Jaipur is also interesting, as it’s a town with a rich and long story. The main attraction is the Amer fort, which was built by the Hindu king Man Singh about 400 plus years ago. Man’s sister was married off to the Muslim Moghul king Akber the Great which made for the first major Hindu/Muslim alliance and in turn helped to expand the Moghul Empire in India.

Upon arriving in Jaipur on Thursday night, I knew immediately we were in the country. The roads were less crowded and I could see (even in the dark) wide open countryside. Our hotel was beautiful, however I couldn’t really appreciate the beauty until I awoke the next day to the most amazing lake view! I’ve included a picture of course.

We rented a car/driver who took us to Amer fort and requested an English tour guide to help us for the day. As soon as we got out of the car we got ushered into the area where we were encouraged to board an elephant for a ride up to the fort! Yes, an elephant! Luckily boarding this gigantic monster was easy as we walked up a set of stairs to a platform at the level of the top of the elephant. I wasn’t fearful at all as we climbed on and slowly started our rocky accent up to the top of the fort. Our poor elephant seemed to be a bit lazy as were passed by another elephant, but eventually we made it. The pictures from this part are amazing, especially of my father donning his new hat. Maharaja (King) Mohamed rules the fort!

The fort itself was interesting as we toured with our guide who spoke a variation of English. Honestly I struggled to understand his broken, often repetitive phraseology but he was gracious and pointed out some beautiful things we would not have noticed otherwise. Along the fort we saw some snake charmers (Rajni I had to mention this!). Yes real snakes! I was nervous to even get close enough to drop off my 10 rupee tip.

After a grueling few hours in the heat at the fort we ventured into some shopping area where we watched them make rugs, textiles and jewels. We decided to spend our second day dedicated in Jaipur to shopping! After the fort and a stop of a quick Indian lunch, we headed to the City Palace where we saw some interesting astronomical equipment (ala Galileo). I guess Man Singh’s heir Jai Singh was a big fan and had an entire area dedicated to devices to help him read the sun, moon and stars. If I didn’t already miss my husband, this sealed the deal. He would have enjoyed this!

If you can believe, in the span of 24 hours in Jaipur, we met some lovely (notice use of word) business travelers from Laguna Niguel and then ran into some Ismailis from the San Fernando Valley at the City Palace! Small, small world.

For the Dillon moms interested in maybe visiting Jaipur, I would recommend 2 days here; there isn’t that much to see however the fort is worth it and it is quite relaxing. Make sure you choose a nice hotel since you will spend most of your time here; unlike the bustling big city of Mumbai this is more of a resort style local. We are at the Trident hotel which is beautiful and has a nice restaurant with good food.

Anyhow today (Saturday) is a day of rest including some pool time and shopping. We head off early to Delhi tomorrow where we start expanding our traveling crew: Azeem comes Monday and my cousin Farah flies in from Kabul on Wednesday. Here we start the paperwork process for Zaleeya and the realism of why we are here is starting to set in!

Random Thoughts of Mumbai

I’ve left Mumbai now and am about to embark on my first day in Jaipur, however I still have thoughts and experiences left to share. In no particular random order:

TIFFINWALA (aka Dubawalla): My father bragged about this for days and we planned to go see this phenomenon at work in downtown Mumbai. Many of the local suburb families make food for the husbands/ wives who work downtown. This food is placed in a tall series of tin cans called tiffins (like Tupperware) and then placed in a cloth bag. This food is collected by a collector in the morning and sent on an unimaginable journey by train, then bike or push cart to the recipient downtown. Imagine 500,000 tiffins delivered on time, at their exact desired location, with no computer assistance! And this service costs less than 300 rupees a month ($8). At around 12pm each day you can watch the tiffins unloaded from the train station and then distributed to the motorbike/pushcart delivers. My father has likened this to the "fedex" of food delivery service.

Unfortunately, the day we planned to watch this at work, happened to be a holiday! Silly Americans forgetting that there are MANY holidays in October in India as the Hindus have a 9 day festival at the beginning of the month (Navrati) and then Diwali, the festival of lights on Oct 28th. Anyhow I was sad to have missed this, but thought it was worth the mention. Oh and I did include a pic of out hotel decorated with flowers for the end of Navrati festival.

CRICKET: This games is HUGE here and I finally got to see some playing. My father was the captain of his high school team so he's quite versed in the sport and he has been attempting to teach me the rules. Currently there is a Indian/Australian "test match" going on which is quite important and on a lot of the news stations. Australia is the best team currently, therefore the Indian team loyalty is in full force. I've included a great action pic of some locals playing in the big field in downtown Mumbai.

SERVICE: I’m not sure why Indians can’t seem to get it right in the states, but the service here to far in India has been excellent! I believe it’s the “upper class/ lower class” divide that makes the workers in the hotels and restaurants incredibly gracious and helpful. In the hotels, each employee you pass in the hall greets you with hello or Namaste and jumps at any request or opportunity to open your door. I’ve included a pic of our afternoon fruit service at our hotel in Mumbai.

AIR TRAVEL: I must admit to having been a bit nervous getting into our car heading to the airport for our flight to Jaipur. How ridiculous this seems now as the experience was better than in the states! Again the upper class here seem to have it made as the airport was shiny, clean, air conditioned and offered excellent customer service. The airplane was brand spanking new, had great leg room, offered DELICIOUS Indian food and left and landed EXACTLY on time. In fact from the time we landed to the time we were in our car, it took 15 minutes (fast baggage claim!).

Anyhow I’m in Jaipur now and have a host of new experiences to share but you’ll just have to wait for the next blog entry.

Yoga, In India

Those who know me well are aware that I’ve recently discovered the benefits of Yoga both physically and mentally. It’s also helped that I’ve worked at YogaWorks for the last 8 months! My exploration of Yoga is still incredibly new, however I knew I couldn’t leave here without at least a little experience of Yoga in its home country.

It’s quite intimidating here, and actually nearly impossible to “drop in” to a class. Most studios require you to go through a medical check up with a doctor and have rigorous beginner programs for people starting out. So “jumping” into a Vinyasa Flow class like I do at home just clearly became an impossibility.

However with the cost of labor being as low as it is, the best plan was to have a Yoga instructor come to my room for a private session (little over $30). I was given a name from the hotel concierge of a gentleman named Mr. Anshol, who was to arrive at my room at 7am the next morning. I wondered how this would work; would he cue me and push me like I do with my Pilates clients at home? Or would we just meditate for an hour? Was he an old swami type with ragged clothes? Or a modern young yogi wearing Lululemon and donning a cell phone?

He ended up being quite young (late 20’s) and showed up at my door in jeans and a button down shirt. I must say this surprised me; I was at least expecting someone in exercise clothes! However immediately he asked me a few questions, we got to work, and I forgot what he was wearing and the awkwardness of working out in a hotel room.

He keyed into my back issues immediately and forced me into immediate relaxation breathing (lying face up on pillows). Then he started with a series of standing postures in no particular order or flow. Some I recognized (triangle pose, high lunge, chair pose, camel etc) and others were familiar but different. There was a LOT of back bending- something I’ve avoided recently however I know this is the root of “real” yoga. Within 20 minutes I was sweating and feeling my body working hard.

In his strong Indian accent he would say things like “sit in this position for a bit and feel the intensity” and “visualize your back and stretch it out”. He gave me tips on some positions and others he let me feel it and just pushed me deeper. Honestly, it was similar to a session I would receive at home, minus the oddly dressed Indian man and the backdrop of the Arabian Sea.

I loved his blend of mental with physical as he ended our session with some relaxation breathing and visualization. He mentioned that often the “mental/ spiritual” element of Yoga is missing in the states- something I know I need to work on. He was all in all very polite and respectful and obviously knowledgeable. My body and mind felt energized and I was happy I experienced an Indian version of my newfound love of Yoga.