Camping in the woods

On our third day in Chamba, we were dropped off a place to hike in for about 4 hours in the hills, to our tent spot.

Before leaving, they gave a backpack to each student, a sleeping bag and a coat.  Everyone practiced how to set up the tents before we left.

45 minutes in the bus and then the long hike.  For many this was the first time hiking like this, and camping or sleeping in a tent.  It was lots of fun and a beautiful view.  (I’ll show those pictures of the hike tomorrow.)

Once we arrived there, we did our ‘real’ tent pitching.

This is the smallest tent all four of us together have slept in.  It kept us warm at night.

A great cook.

Pine cones for the bonfire at night.

Seeds stuck.

They brought water for us all.

The students made dinner.

The students made chapatis.  I think for all these boys was the first time cooking.

The food was very good.  As all the other meals.

Few songs, and then went to bed.

Next morning. We packed up, had a warm chai and took the bus back to our base camp for breakfast.

 

Photo by Mark
Photo by Mark
Photo by Mark
Photo by Mark

The Himalayas in the background.

Turning 6

The youngest in our family is turning six today.  I remember as if it was yesterday the day he was born.  As moms know, the months prior to the day our babies are born, we have so many thoughts.  So much to think about.  From how they are growing inside our bellies, to what their personality will be like.  Names, how they will look like, what color of eyes and hair, will they be tall, will they like to read, draw, play sports,will they be healthy, and how their siblings will welcome them.

So many thoughts crossed my mind.  I had many months to plan, and also to get ready for this little boy to be born.  No matter what we did, we were not prepared to what we had to do the first few months.

And here we are.  Six years later, at 12:30 pm today, we are celebrating Lucas turning six.  The day our lives changed just one more time.   I am so proud of who he is today.  He’s changed so much.  He’s learned so many things.

Lucas,

:: you are such a funny person.  We love your jokes and your faces when you want to make us laugh.

:: you are cute, and caring.

:: I love your laugh so much, it makes me laugh each time I hear your giggles.

:: you have grown so much in the last three months while we’ve been traveling, living in a different country.  It feels like you are a much bigger boy now… please don’t grow up too quickly!

:: you are physical and are always ready to go play whenever a ball is involved.

:: you don’t really like changes.

:: I enjoy when you remember a story from a long time ago and you take us back to that moment.

:: you have a great memory.

:: I enjoy your love for baseball and hope you’ve learned a little bit on how to play cricket.

:: you can walk around the school here like you know it the back of your hands.  When three months ago it was much harder to do.

:: I love it when you tell me you like it how I look that day.

:: I am so happy to see you learn new things, like play the drums or the new instruments we’ve seen here in India.  And I am so happy that I can be a part of all that.

:: I love your hugs and kisses.

:: and your snuggles in the morning.

:: I love seeing you eat all that food for breakfast.

:: I also really enjoy when you are quiet playing by yourself in the bedroom, creating stories with the little lego people or the other young friends you have in your city.

:: remember last year?

We celebrated with a castle and knights, wizards and princesses.

You were just turning 5.  You also were in preschool for the first time and had met new friends.

You had Molly and Daniel as your teachers.

You were playing in your classroom in the basement at Childswork, playing with blocks, drawing at the table, reading at circle time, started learning to play the piano.  We went to play in the snow, went camping, went to a farm to help with work, went to hikes, played ball at the park and baseball, we went to Chile, and now, you are in India.

You have met almost 500 new friends, have seen cows, dogs, buffaloes, and camels and elephants on the street by the dozens, you are learning to play the drums and have seen dozen new instruments, you have seen the Taj Mahal, and many temples, and lots of forts.

What a year you’ve had!  Thank you so much for being who you are.  I can’t wait to see what this year brings to you.

Love you so much,

Your Mamá

Diwali

Diwali, the Holiday of Lights, is one of the biggest holidays for Hindu families.  It is celebrated on the new moon between October and November and this year was on Wednesday, October 26.

We were in Chamba and part of me wishes we could have been in Gwalior or another city where we could have seen the ‘real’ celebrations.

When we were reading and learning about India before coming this year, I had found a few kids books on the holidays and read a these books on Diwali.  Siena really wanted to be here for Holi, the Festival of Colors.  But we thought we’d get to see Diwali and that was good too.

Sweets someone bought to share and celebrate.

 

 

 

 

Surkanda Devi Temple

After a long hike and 1 km up a steep hill we reached Surkanda Devi Temple.  We take our shoes off and walk around.

We get to see the temple inside.

 

 

Taking the offerings.

And trying fresh coconut for the first time.

 

Photo by Lucas

It is the top of this hill and the view is amazing.

Photo taken by an unknown person who had hiked all the way up this hill.

Looking north, towards the Himalayas snow peaks, like giants looking down on us.

 

They use these heavy rocks, slate, for roofing.  I think it is because of the strong winds.

Photo by Lucas

 

 

The sounds and the view.

 

 

 

 

Then we had lunch at a nice park on our way back to camp.

Photo by Mark
Photo by Mark
Photo by Mark
Photo by Mark
Photo by Lucas

Bt before going down from the Temple, I did something special.  We had bought this ribbon in the store down below where we parked.

And I tied this ribbon with a wish.

So when my wish turns reality, I’ll come back to untie this ribbon.

So yes, I will return someday again, and wonder how many more gray hairs I’ll have.  Will I return with Siena and Lucas and Mark? Or will it be with our grandkids. Who knows, but it is a good reason, I think to try to come back to India, especially to these beautiful hills.  And then I’ll hear the beautiful sound of these bells once more.

 

 

 

Hiking to the sky

After our first night at camp, we got up early and had breakfast. It was the most beautiful morning.  The sun just coming up, the Himalayas snow capped mountains right across from our tent… just beautiful.  A dream come true.

We got on the bus and rode for about an hour.

The terraces, made by men and women, working endless hours. They are so impressive.

Do you see that road in the bottom? We came on that.

Every time we went somewhere in the bus, we had to stop.  Many times.  There was always someone (from either bus) who got sick from riding in the curves.  Quite a few of those times it was Lucas.  Now we’ve confirmed, he has my motion sickness genes!

Some of us looked outside.

While others fell asleep (on top of each other.)

We arrived at the village of Kaddukhal.

Found some women knitting too.

We headed to our first hike of our camping trip.

We went to see Surkanda Devi Temple, a Hindu temple at 9,500 ft after a 1 km trek on a very steep hill.

We ‘dong’ the bell as we enter.

The sound of these bells are almost familiar.  But only because I’ve seen and heard them before on TV documentaries.  Right now we were right here, doing it ourselves.

Some go up on donkeys, beautifully adorned.

But to tell you the truth, walking is much more ‘present’ … if this is a way to say it.

You get hot and it takes you a while to catch your breath.You rest and keep going.

And you get even a better view from up there.

Right here, this is a moment I will never forget.  Seeing my family together, hiking, being outside, in India, seeing the Himalayas mountains in the background, their snow tops, melting with the clouds, touching the sky.

(Notice Lucas is wearing jeans.  This is the first time he’s worn jeans or any long pants, since probably last May.)

And we keep walking. Higher and higher.

Photo by Mark

 

We reach the temple and we can make these bells sound their beautiful songs.

We leave our shoes outside.

Here we are looking south.

We hiked for a long time and we reached the temple,.  With the view that we had, it looked like we were just few feet from touching the sky… or so it seemed like.

Camping : The Nights

Evenings were so pretty.  The most amazing thing for me was to see the sunset in those huge tall mountains in front of us.   These were not even the tall peaks, these were ‘just’ the Himalayas foothills.  Amazing.

We would come back from our exploring each day, take a bath with nice warm water heated at the fire, and then get clean warm clothes.  Yes!  Warm clothes finally.

It would get coool in the evenings, we had dinner, many nights we had a bonfire, and then we headed to bed.

The nights were really cold actually, but we were treated to “guateros” — hot water bottles, just like at home!   I grew up in Chile, and we had water bottles each night when it was cold, and I love them.  I think I can’t really sleep well without them.  It’s such a comfort thing for me.  I love it.  And it was great to have them while camping in the Himalayas. Who would have thought!

The kids were so much fun.  Every time we got, they’d sing.  I have a favorite song… well, I like them all, but this one, it is so pretty!  I just love the energy they have to sing it.

And they sang more songs, made plays right there.  It was so much fun!

Good night.

Thanksgiving in India

Today is Thanksgiving.  As we complete our Thursday evening right now, here in India, it’s just the beginning of Thanksgiving in the US.  (We like to think we are living in the future.)

At home we celebrate Thanksgiving usually with friends, and sometimes with family when they come visit.  We feel it’s very rushed to try to travel anywhere even to go see Mark’s family in Idaho.  Being a teacher, Mark gets out on Wednesday afternoons and then it always seems rushed to get ready for the Thursday celebrations.  So we usually stay at home and enjoy our homemade meal by ourselves or with friends.  Either way, it’s always fun and pretty mellow.  Just as we like it.

The Friday after, we’ve been going on hikes for many years now,  except the year I was pregnant with Lucas, because it was cold and I felt really big and with all what was happening with him at the moment, I just felt like staying home and putting my feet up. So we did, 6 years ago.  But every other time, we go into nature and celebrate our weekend that way, after a day of delicious food.

Here in India, this year, it is completely different.  We were not planning on doing anything special today, and it hasn’t been a big deal skipping any of the holidays so far, but we thought it would be fun to have a dinner a little special for tonight.

So after a regular day of work for Mark, we hang out at home. Siena had her Mehndi class and Lucas played with the puppies we had in front of our house… that now are living in our yard.  How can you say no to these faces!

Both of the children and the puppies!

So today, after puppy-time, playing in the school grounds, and playing with friends, we made our Thanksgiving Dinner The India Way (as we’ve named our different ways we’ve learned to do things here.)

A much searched and finally found bacon, with potatoes, and fried eggs.

With cucumber salad, salsa (made by us) and some new-to-us fruits.

And this completes the last of the ‘treats’ I brought from home and had hidden away.  It was the perfect day to enjoy them!

In a day we needed just a little bit of comfort.

Hope your Thanksgiving comes filled with comfort, food, family and friends.

The Ropes : a lesson in letting go

The first activity after settling in our tents, was the ‘ropes course’.  First was crossing the “Burma Bridge’ and then going on the ‘flying fox’ (in India) –or ‘flying squirrel’ as they call it in the US.

I’ve never done either one of these before, but Mark has taken his students to a place like this back in Portland, to do with them as a team building exercise.

We walked down a little from the tent area and we were in the forest.  The guide explained to us what all the equipment we needed for safety (helmet, harness, carabiner) and then he picked a few kids to go first.  He picks Lucas and he’s ready to go.

I wasn’t so sure about him trying it.  He seemed very young, and he was the youngest in the trip. Also, I’ve never seen this ropes course before… I just thought he shouldn’t do it.  I looked at Mark, I bet with a ‘mother look’ full of fear, because he just tells me “he’ll be OK.”

And yes, Lucas was OK with it, and was excited to do this.

Can you tell?  I just made sure Mark was bluckling him up.

He was so very excited to do it.  I thought maybe he doesn’t know what he’s getting into. Wishing, he’d back out of it.

But no. No matter how many times I looked, he was very excited, as well as his friends.

I kept looking at Lucas giving him the look of a mother saying “it’s OK if you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to”… wishing he wouldn’t want to do it anymore.

I am so proud of him.  He went ahead and did it.  He crossed the small cliff by walking on this bridge made out of ropes.

He’s so excited.  Ready to go.

I am on the other side of the bridge with my heart in my throat, but at the same time, saying encouraging words… is that something us parent have to learn just by having kids?

Letting him go and letting my fears go.

I did not want to share with him (or Siena) any of my fears. They were just mine, to be kept in silence, this time (and shared a little with Mark.)

He did it, and he did it just fine, and had so much fun while doing it.  Lucas was so proud of himself.

And I was too!

Look at this little big boy of mine… he just grew up in front of my eyes in those few minutes.

Usually is Siena the one doing all these activities first, just because she’s older has done more things ‘first’.  But we had never had the chance to do an exercise like this together as a family.  It was great to see Lucas go ahead with what he wanted to do, and having him try something new before everyone else.

And here he was telling Siena that she should do it, that it wasn’t that hard, and that he thought she’d really like it.  You can tell by his voice and by his face he was very proud to have done it and be able to comfort Siena before her first try.

I was proud of him. We all were.

Now is Siena’s turn.

My heart in my throat again, beating hundreds per second.

She’s always so sure of herself.  She knows she can do it.  I know she can too. Siena is so strong, and so full of courage.

It is great for everyone.

These moments I will never forget.  A face I saw in everyone after crossing the bridge.  A face telling it all.  A face with a huge smile, a sigh of relief and everyone, everyone so proud of themselves.

All these young boys, 10 to 12 years old, for many it was their first camping trip, by themselves with no parents to help them get out of this if they wanted to, but with teachers and friends helping, cheering them on when it was their turn.

And me, how lucky I was to be right there on this side of the bridge to see their faces as they finished and got off the ropes.   Their hearts beating loud enough that I could almost hear it.  And their faces, their bodies completely filled with pride.

I will never forget these moments I was able to witness.  I am so lucky.

Here goes Siena.  She’s ready and excited.

And I had to let it go… again.

Courageous words is all I found.

Siena is so proud of herself.

I am too.

So very proud.  We all were, again.  And then they go to the next thing.  The ‘Flying Fox.’

More letting go on my part.

Siena had been talking to Mark.  Lean back so you can get more speed!

And Lucas did a few of these ‘Flying Fox’ runs because he loved it so much.

Photo by Mark
Photo by Mark

And I had to let it go once more.

Photo by Mark

And Lucas talked me into doing it too.

I had to let go of my fears too.  It was OK.  I didn’t fall, and it was fun, but I don’t think I’d do it again…

It was a beautiful morning, and I will never forget the air filled with pride by everyone, and my lesson once again, of letting go.

thankful

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US and lots of people are celebrating this day.  I hope is a beautiful day for all.

There’s not much we have found here in India that we can make Thanksgiving a real celebration this year.  It will be like another day. Mark will be working, same schedule as always.  Lucas and I will probably stay at home for breakfast to start our mornings a little slower, and then go to the school later to meet everyone for the mid-morning break.  And we’ll have lunch and dinner at home and we’ll be together all day, like the other days.  It has been a great treat to be able to do this.  it is a real gift.

We won’t be eating turkey or ham or anything fancy.  Maybe noodles, or rice and dahl, or something else, I’m not sure.  But my cooking skills haven’t gotten any better in the past three months and I wish I could have learned a lot more.  I know I’m missing out on a lot of Indian cooking but it just hasn’t worked out to learn.

Right now, it is the time to get ready for the holidays and celebrate three of our four birthdays.  I love this time of the year, perfect to make all sorts of things.  It feels funny to think of all the things we were doing last year this same time.

Getting ready for the Winter Faire.

I know we are living in a different country, sharing, enjoying and learning all we can while here.  But I also know where home is.  But for all what we have, I’d like to remind myself of how lucky I am.

::: I am thankful (and looking forward) for the nice shower we have at home.

::: I am thankful we haven’t gotten sick here.

::: I am thankful that the weather is getting cooler, finally.

::: I am thankful of my family with whom of course, I wouldn’t be able to be here in India right now.

::: I am thankful for Mark and his hard work in making the best out of his days here, even when sometimes seems hard.

::: I am thankful for Lucas’s laugh.

::: I am thankful for the help we’ve gotten here in India, from our friends, who are always ready to call the taxi when we need one, or have helped us cook, translate when our Hindi is too limited.

::: I am thankful for Siena’s thoughtfulness and questioning life and differences.

::: I am thankful for our families and friends in the US and in Chile who have sent us letters, postcards, cards and packages with goodies and lots of love.

::: I am thankful we were able to share our lives here in India, with Glenda.

::: I am thankful that back at home we don’t have to walk a kilometer to get drinking water.  We can have it straight out of the faucet.

::: I am thankful for my camera and being able to share our days here with you all on this blog.

::: I am thankful for having food to cook to have on the table.

::: I am thankful we’ve been able to see a different culture and learn about it, and take home our experience.

::: I am thankful for being able to see the Taj Mahal in person.  Twice!

::: I am thankful Siena has learned more Hindi than me.

::: I am thankful that Lucas and Siena have found good friends.

::: I am thankful there’s a post office here in The Fort.

::: I am thankful for the bike we have in loan for the past few weeks.

::: I am thankful for our friends back at home who have helped us with our house and garden and all the urgencies that have come up while we’ve been gone.

::: I am thankful for the internet and Skype.

::: I am thankful for the friendships we’ve made here, without whom we would not have made it this far, or at least, this much fun.

::: I am thankful for the teachers who have helped and opened their classrooms for us to come visit and learn at the school.

::: I am thankful also we’ll be able to celebrate some of the holidays back at home.

Thank you my dear friends, for everything you’ve done and Happy Thanksgiving.

Camping : The Food

THe food was incredibly delicious.  I know you are usually tired when camping, after hiking and all the fresh air, but this was by far, the best food I’ve had while here.  The cook was amazing.

Here he is on the left, with our guide Amit.

This is a tandoor oven.  This is a cylindric tube, made out of clay with a metal outside (like an old barrel) and the fire was in the bottom part only, started by wood.

Chapati making.

Delicious!

 

Thanks everyone for sharing these meals with us.