this moment

A beautiful and fun Friday ritual. Inspired by SouleMama.

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. – Amanda Soule
If you’d like to share ‘your moment‘ leave a comment and a link to your post here.  Thanks for sharing!  Have a beautiful weekend.

Ketchup as a vegetable

We’ve been here for one month and a half, and we are having an experience we will never forget.   Moving to a different country to live for an extended period of time is always hard on everyone.  We had never done this with kids before but when the opportunity arose, we were ready for an adventure as a family.

Our own experience as teenagers told us that we’d need time to adjust.   Time to get to know people, to learn to get around, to learn to eat new foods and to cook new foods, to learn new ways of doing things in general.  And even though it’s been hard at times, missing things and people back at home,  it has been pretty good in general.

Back at home I gave a lot of thought about the food.  We try to eat healthy and buy as many organic foods as we can afford, buy local, support our farmers.  But I knew that coming to a new country would mean to be a lot more loose about things.  And I was ready for it.   Siena more than Lucas is great at trying foods and I thought they’d do that here too.  We brought a multivitamin to supplement a little as well, as a peace of mind.

They have done a great job at trying most of the foods at The Mess.  A lot of the teachers say the food in the cafeteria is really spicy.  Knowing that now, it makes me feel a little “less wimpy”… I guess it’s good.

I really try not to worry too much about what Siena and Lucas are missing in their daily consumption… or have too much of.  I know what they are, and I try my best to level it when we stay at home for a meal or for snacks.

There are so many delicious foods to eat so here’s a little picture menu of what we’ve tried for you to see.

These are sweets from a shop Mark and Siena found one day down The Fort.

The vegetables we’ve had in the meals at The Mess are mostly cooked.  I miss fresh vegetables…. a big green salad sounds so good right now!  But we’ve found some fruits that are really good too.

10Rupees.  25 cents. A whole coconut.

This was our last peeled apple we had few days ago.  I’ve been washing everything really good and nobody has gotten sick.  And some guavas, bananas, pears, papayas…

These are the meals we’ve had at The Mess.  

Clockwise: Gourd (on the right), Paneer vegetable (top left), dal (middle top), cucumbers, carrots, beet root and onions salad, gourd (bottom right), chapati with plain rice.

Potato (aloo in Hindi).


Papar, Indian curry (top middle), chapati, sprouts of lentils and beans, rice, potatoes and peas .

Custard fruit. Pickle. Puri. Potatoes and peas. Fried Rice.

Sweetened curd (top left), kidney bean (rajma in Hindi),  plain curd (yogurt), vegetable mix, chapati and rice.


Sometimes for a break, we’ve ordered pizza.

Yes, pizza in India. I never thought we were going to have pizza delivered while here.  But it’s been nice, especially for the younger people in our family to get something non-spicy.  Leaving the little bag of chillies we get with the delivery on the side.

I personally love ordering pizza.  It’a a whole ordeal.  First we need to find someone at home with a phone.  Or we’ve also have decided last minute and come back from the school and ask someone with a cell phone to help us out.

Then when we order we need to give them the phone number we are calling from.  We never know the number. So we ask.  Most people with these numbers have ordered pizza before, so we get asked if it’s the same address.  We say “no, we are borrowing the phone.” So they type the new name and address.  So when our friends want to order pizza again they need to change their address back to their own, so they can get their pizza delivered to the right house.  Then they need to call us back to this phone number to make sure it’s a ‘real order’.   Then the make the order and we have to wait for 45 minutes or so.

This is the short version.  Because we need to add to all this, my Hindi skills, the English of the person at Domino’s Pizza (or them trying to find someone who speaks English), and then ordering and using the coupon we’ve gotten, changing address, confirming phone numbers.  It makes the ordering much more fun. Don’t you think?

And then there’s the mall, down in the city.  As much as I don’t like malls and crowds (I’m having to get used to this last one very quickly) I am seeing ‘the mall’ with totally different eyes.

Chip told us about these corn snacks and that we should try them.  Chip and his family came to the same school last year and we were able to ‘meet’ them (by phone and on email) and get their thoughts and suggestions before we left.  It’s been great hearing their adventures and now that we are here, fun to put faces to their stories.

So when Siena asked for this corn snack the other day, when we went to the mall to get shampoo, a pressure cooker and other foods in the store there, I’m thinking “YES let’s get some! It’s a vegetable!”

And when our plans changed last minute and we found ourselves in the evening still in the mall dinner at McDonald’s seemed OK too.

Small pieces of lettuce in this sandwich (vegetable– check), chicken (protein– check), french fries (vegetable– check), ketchup (vegetable– check)…. a perfectly good meal!

What has happened to me? Not that we’ll be going to the city every day to eat here, but even to think that going to McDonalds is good for a “boost” of protein and vegetables… makes me laugh out loud.

But not to scare anybody, we are also going to the local store ‘Rawaldas’ to find great snacks, and beans and nuts.  We always bring something new to try.

Like these. ‘Khakhara’. I made homemade salsa.  Tomatoes, onions, cilantro, some chilies, lemon juice, salt…. it was “almost” like eating the chips and salsa at home.

But these are the most favorite snacks at the Teacher’s Break Siena and Lucas enjoy.

I’m working on learning to make some of these foods. Probably not the pizza.

The Fort : our home

The Fort is in the middle of the city.  We’ve walked in few places all the way to the edge and want to walk our way around one day.  To see all the possible views of Gwalior.

It’s amazing* (see note below) to see this fortress, one of the biggest forts in India, and we live inside it.  The first place that is recorded to have used “zero” dating from 876 AD.  Is that exciting to anybody else?

From our short walks we’ve had beautiful views.  We can see the town and the houses below, and other buildings further away.  We can see cars and motorcycles driving down the walls.  We’ve seen Langus monkeys on one side of the fort.  And on the other side, by the Students Houses, Mark, Lucas and Siena have seen lots of Rhesus monkeys.  We’ve seen peacocks, parrots, and lots of other birds I haven’t learned the names yet.  Lizards and butterflies of many colors, and so many other colorful insects.

I can’t get tired yet of being amazed* at how people were able to build these fortresses hundreds of years ago without the modern tools and equipment.

Photo by Mark

This is one of the views of The Fort from a little lower ground.

And you can see The Fort from most of the places in the city.  It stands tall in this hill, showing the power of the kingdom that once was.

Photo by Mark

*NOTE *I think I used these words (amazing, and incredible) at least once in every post, but everything is just that.  And it still seems like a dream to be here. In India.

Our day at The Fort

This might have to be few postings, because there are so many things to do and that are happening each day.   And also I don’t know if there is a ‘typical’ day.  It is a place full of energy, creativity and friendly-ness.

It makes my morning each day to get out of the house (in my not-so-morning self) and walk 10 minutes to have breakfast in the school’s cafeteria (The Mess.)  As soon as I step out of our house there’s always someone walking and no matter who, there’s always a “Good Morning, Ma’m”.

We pass the two temples, many motorcycles, cars and probably the two school buses full of students coming from the Junior School to have breakfast as well.  Squirrels, lizards, mongoose, cows and dogs (that are becoming familiar), parrots, maybe peacocks, and so many other birds I’m still learning to identify.  Guards and people walking.  Teachers, students going to this school as well as to others, people we don’t know and few we do.  Getting through the school gate to the school grounds.

By the time we arrive to The Mess to eat breakfast, and my first thirty minutes of my day, I’ve been  ‘good morning-ed’ more than 25-30 times.

The busyness of the meal times at The Mess makes me smile. There are 600 students and probably 50 or 80 other people eating the meals each time. But everything is very organized and goes incredibly smooth. 

This is The Mess at a non-meal time, if you nwere wondering.

We walk into The Mess, wash our hands and line up to get our tray and dish up our foods.   Our taste buds have been overwhelmed by flavors but we are getting used to them. Siena and Lucas have done a great job in regards to foods, since we’ve arrived.  They try a little bit of everything.  A lot of it is too spicy for them still but they try it anyways.  They’ve learned to grab a chapati and curd (yogurt) where there is some and have glass-full of water at the table.   Then they go back if they are still hungry, or if they decide they like something.

After breakfast we like going to The Assembly.  They meet in the Assembly Hall the older grades for about 10-20 minutes.  There must be about 300 students and teachers, gathered here each morning.  They make the announcements of the day.  Awards and trophies are given to the students and teachers. There’s a prayer, a passage, and singing.  It’s the most beautiful sound.  I love it each time.  I think I’ll have to record it so we can listen to it later when we are far away and we can’t listen to it anymore.

We then go to the library for some work.

We’ve taken advantage of the invitations from teachers and going to classes to learn new things.  They’ve been making paper and other crafts in the Paperwork class.

Siena is making a project with beads and starting a new one with yarn.  They’ve tried the pottery wheel.  And they’ve also started going to the Metalwork class and have done their first pieces.

They’ve also enjoyed going to the art classroom to spend some quiet time on their own and do some art at the same time.  A very inspiring space.

And Lucas,  especially has been enjoying going to the music classroom.  To watch, to listen and play some of the many instruments they have.

This is Mr. Raja, our neighbor and great person, who’s been inviting Lucas and Siena to come to learn to play the harmonium. And so we’ve taken up his invitation and so far we know how to play the musical scale.  And I didn’t know the women’s scale started at a different note.

There are so many options and we are trying to make the most of it all.

We go to the teacher’s room mid-morning for their break.  Chai and snacks we’ve been able to try, of all sorts.  For us this is the only time we get to meet and to know people.  Most adults in the houses around us are teachers so they work during the day.  The afternoons are filled with activities and it is so hot that we (and most people) don’t really hang out in front porch a lot.  This is also the time Siena and Lucas can talk to other adults and track prospective play dates.  And is also my time to connect with other women and moms and ask all my questions from living in a new country.   Like where to get food and how to get there. When and how they get down The Fort.  Or how to cook meals or use the pressure cooker. Or learn a new recipe.  Or where and how I should buy clothes.  And so many other questions that rise in a “regular” adult conversations.

So we meet here and have a fun break with other adults and even get to see papá while he’s at work!

Afterwards Siena and Lucas head to another project in another classroom. I’ve been going with them to all these places, but Lucas and Siena are getting more comfortable being by themselves and visiting the teachers and classes on their own.  They like the freedom of this place.  It’s safe and they know the school now so they don’t get lost anymore.

At 1:45pm we usually meet for lunch at The Mess.   Siena now, is almost always sitting with her new friends.  Lucas still sits with us, even though everybody knows him (and Siena) and want to talk to him.

After lunch there’s Hobby time .  It’s like a club, where the students go to where they’d like to participate.  There are so many options that I don’t know them all.  Mark is teaching an engineer hobby.  There’s also music, crafts, art, debate, drama, photography, band.

From  3:30 ’til 5:30 there’s sports. Tennis, squash, football (soccer), basketball, archery, track, hockey, horseback riding, cricket, table tennis, skating.  I know I’m missing some.

Siena and Lucas have really enjoyed getting to know the students.  They have some friends they see each day and play when they have free time.  Which is not much for the students attending the School.  But other younger children, the staff’s kids, get home around 1pm and have more time to play with Lucas and Siena.

Siena has been staying for crafts classes and paperwork and walks home with Mark, after his engineer hobby.  Then she gets ready for horseback riding (not every day) or just hang out at home alone or with friends.  Lucas has been going to watch the school’s cricket and hockey team play.  Trying to learn how the games are played.

At 5:30 we all head to the swimming pool, when the staff has 30 minutes to use it.  It’s been a great way to cool off for the day and really fun to practice swimming.

After getting dressed and feeling refreshed (for few minutes anyways) we head home for some play time, go for a short walk, or go to another activity at the school.  Depending on the day.

Dinner is not until 8pm in The Mess, if we decide to go.  After that, sometimes there’s games or assemblies, or plays, or something going on and we stay to watch those.  If not, we head home to get to bed right away.

Our days here are much fuller and much longer than in Portland, so we are usually very tired by then.  Ready to take another shower and get in bed.

It’s been over a month since we arrived and it’s been mostly good times. We are always learning something.  Not much Hindi yet, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to remember my words that I try to use.  I think my brain has shrunk since I last tried to learn another language!  But I do enjoy listening everyone talk Hindi.  It sounds so pretty.

Namaste. नमस्ते

Fresher’s Evening

This was an evening few weeks ago that the “freshers”, the students from the sixth class (six graders) and the youngest of the school offer.  It was a fun evening, sharing all their creativity and energy.

We had gone to see parts of their rehearsals because Renu, our next door neighbor and French teacher of the school, asked Siena and Lucas to be part of one of their French songs.  The students would sing the song and Siena and Lucas would walk up and down as the queen and prince, and another student as a king.  It was a song about days of the week, and them walking up and down and seeing something…. I do not know the song nor do I know French, but it was something like that.  Here’s the video.

The teachers worked so hard to make it all work and great.  Kids sang songs, created two plays, and they worked until late hours at night practicing.  It’s incredible the amount of work the teachers and the students do to make things fun for everyone to enjoy.

The floor to the assembly hall was painted just for the occasion.

And here are some pictures of the students getting ready for their performances.

Practicing before the show.

The kids all play great music.

The play : The Royal Paper.

And the Principal thanks them for the entertaining evening.

Orchha : Chhatris

There’s a group of chhatris by the Betwa River, in Orchha.  There’s 14 cenothaps that are built together and are seen from many places in Orchha. They say  “their shimmering reflections are probably the most haunting image in Orchha.”

And now we continue to our last stop in our guided tour. 

These cenotaphs are a testimony to the once powerful rulers of the Bundela clan.  They were built between the 16th and the 18th century, all of them built to look like temples, elevated in square platforms.

So we climbed the stairs of one of them.

Photo by Mark

The light that day was changing all day long.  We arrived mid morning with sun, then it rained so hard that left puddles everywhere.  Then the sun came back out, the clouds were passing by, we even saw a rainbow by the river, and the light seemed to go perfect with the background, I thought.

Thank you Sanjay for a beautiful trip.

Orchha : Sights

After seeing and walking through the palaces for over three hour, hundreds of years of history, we were ready for lunch.  We were invited to this place.

It was raining, so we couldn’t eat outside.  But look at this view.

And some other great sights of the town.

These are wood carvings used for printing.

This is the Betwa River.

It is very high at this time of the year.  The road is covered in water but they are still crossing it.

Siena spots a monkey.   Sanjay keeps driving talking to us and his friend who is taking a ride with us.  Lucas, Siena, Mark and I are freaking out in the back seats, not paying attention to what they are telling us but instead wanting to just jump out of the car to go see the monkey.  Sanjay hears us, stops the car and here I am out of the car in two seconds.  But then my instincts kick in.  I don’t want to get too close. So I leave the car door open.  But there’s other cars passing (zooming and beeping) by…  one photo and I go back right away.

Hmmm. The monkey walks away too.  OK, so maybe he’s not that interested in me. Perfect!  Lucas brings me the zoom.  I can stay where I’m at and get closer pictures. Even ‘more perfect’!

Wait! He’s looking this way.  Lucas runs to the car.  I make sure to tell him to leave the door open. Even with cars zooming by.  But they have the AC on. OK. Close the car doors, I’ll be fine.

OK. He’s leaving anyways.  We are all safe.  And I got some good pictures (up close) of our first monkey in India.

In traffic.  Buses, cars, motorcycles, trucks, auto rickshaws, cows, we are all waiting for the train to pass.

Orchha. A beautiful town.

Orchha : The Palaces : Part 2

Photo by Lucas

Now we are climbing and going into the courtyard of the Jahangir  Mandir.


Siena reminds me that she liked seeing that the doors for women were smaller than the ones the men used.  This was so when the women came out of the door they appeared bowing to the men.

The elephants are carved and painted and appear everywhere in many constructions.

Photo by Lucas

Walking through labyrinth stairs and walls we find views like these.

The more stairs we climbed the higher we got.

The better the view to the outside.

And a beautiful view of the palace as well.

Photo by Lucas

I love these moments….

and what’s going on in his mind…

“Hang on to your hat because it’s getting windy… yes I am…” and so the story began.

The hat flew off her hands and landed on the roof of the many levels of the palace.  We climbed down the stairs to ask for a ‘large stick’ for a very hard to explain reason.  A man ended up climbing on this roof even with pouring rain to rescue this very old-found in a garage sale-hat.  It was saved and it meant a lot.

Large vultures.

A great tour guide indeed.

A beautiful place as well.

Now to lunch and more sights of Orchha the next posts.

Orchha : The Palaces : Part 1

Orchha, means hidden.  And many say that this was the comment a Rajput Chief said ‘ondche’ meaning ‘it lies low’ because it was surrounded by mountains, forest and the river Betwa, a tributary of the Yamuna River.

One of the gates coming into the city of Orchha.

The gates into the palaces.

Many of the monuments in Orchha are attributed to Bir Singh Deo’s reign.  He lived between 1592–1627.

We first visited The Palace which is a compound of three palaces. Raj Mahal, Jajangir Mahal and Sheesh Mahal, now a hotel.

We pay the entrance and then go on to our tour.  Sanjay had one of his friends give us a tour of the palaces.  He knew so much., it was great to be with him to show us around.

Cows are everywhere.

Paintings from the 1500’s.

Paintings in different rooms.   Different motifs. Different stories.

Photo by Lucas



We are trying to capture every moment as it comes.  With pictures.  Drawings. Stories.  Notes.  New friends.  Each of us in our own ways.  We are all enjoying them.

No matter the size, it makes you feel so small standing in the middle of this fortress.

The view.

Seeing this amazing work of art in such a scale it’s impossible to understand how they did it hundreds of years ago, without the machinery we have today.  Unbelievable.

Climbed lots of stairs.

Right at this moment we went in to one of the palaces, Shish Mahal, which has been turned into a hotel.  Not very expensive.  about $80 per night a double occupancy room. We went in to use the bathroom and to have a delicious cold drink in a room with AC. Perfect break for everyone.

Next post is the other places in Orchha.

this moment

A beautiful and fun Friday ritual. Inspired by SouleMama.


{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. – Amanda Soule

If you’d like to share ‘your moment‘ leave a comment and a link to your post here.  Thanks for sharing!  Have a beautiful weekend.