Things I love about the holidays this year

To follow up on Amanda’s post few days ago, I’d like to share here so I can remember the things I love the most about the holidays this year.

::: being home.  I think this was the best decision we could have made.  Just being home together was just perfect.

::: having the ‘welcome home’ banner on our living room made by our friends.

::: having enough time to get a Christmas tree to decorate and give us the spirit and lights of the season.

::: the cold weather to remind me that we are home for the holidays.

::: going to the park with friends after so many months of not being home, even in a cold afternoon, with the sun shyly peaking through the tall trees.  A beautiful sight for sure.

::: the love and excitement of Lucas finishing Siena’s present with Mark.

::: pulling the tree ornaments out of the boxes and remembering when each one was received, as we do each year.

::: seeing the magic of having holiday traditions and what it does to our family.

::: hearing the rain outside.

::: seeing the lights in houses and the trees inside their windows.

::: seeing the river again going through the middle of the city.

::: seeing the mountains around Portland all white with snow.

::: the ‘welcome’ signs posted on our porch, a fresh wreath, a beautiful banner in our living room, homemade cookies and delicious oranges all waiting for us when we arrived at home from our 4 month adventure, just a day before solstice.  Thank you dear friends.

::: going to see the lights at Peacock Lane like every year.

::: musical snow globes.

::: Jan Brett‘s books and beautiful illustrations.

::: invited to make our own gingerbread houses with friends.

::: Christmas day: breakfast at home, pajamas OK all day, no plans but play all day long.

::: making cinnamon rolls, like every year.

::: eating said cinnamon rolls.

::: being together.

One more time around the sun

We are home now. We arrived 10 days ago from our 4-month-long exchange to India. I think now we are all feeling much better our bodies adjusting slowly to the new time with the 13 1/2 hours difference between home and our last home in Gwalior.

And today we celebrate the man who has changed my life in so many ways, and many times in my lifetime, as couples do as they grow up together.

Mark was born in Idaho, 43 years ago, to what seems today two young parents. Look at him!

(I didn’t take these pictures, of course, being so much younger and all, though I really wish I could have met this baby cutie.)

I’ve known Mark for almost 26 years.  We were very young, in high school actually when I first met him.  And it was a love at first sight, that grew, and we never knew that it was going to turn into sharing our lives together.

I am so lucky to have met him so long ago and that I’ve lived with him for more than half of my life.

We’ve grown up together all these years.  From a high school love (as an exchange student) to college days to our wedding.

We’ve travelled together to foreign lands, and to not so distant places.  We’ve done lots of things together.  Some crazier than others.  But the most amazing thing of all is to be living with this man each day.  How lucky can I be!

Love you, Mark.  I know… 43! and still as a beautiful (actually even more!) as at 17.  I’m so glad we can celebrate your day together.

Have a beautiful birthday.  –marcela

Come on down to Goa with us

After spending four days in the forest in a place where insects and birds and plants is all what surrounded us.  No car or truck noises, no people noises (besides our own). Just silence and nature’s sounds is all we heard.

The driver from Wildernest Resort took us to the hotel we were going to get together with the other Fulbright teachers doing the exchange.  It took about 2 hours and it was a crazy drive.  It wasn’t a dangerous drive in any way, but it was full.  Full of different sights and sounds.  I’m sure it was also full of different smells, but since I don’t have the sense of smell, I couldn’t tell you, but I did hear from the back seat “it smells like ocean!”

For me, it was the view.  The view from the front seat coming down from the forest, up high.  I don’t really know the altitude where we were, but it felt much higher than it really was.  But it was a great trip coming down to the ocean level.   New sights, and it seemed really different from what we had seen the past 3 months.

Here we go. Com on down to Goa with us.  Enjoy the drive.


There was some kind of festival, and we found lots of people in this area who were walking.

Coconut trees.  These were the first ones Lucas and Siena saw.  Again, it is incredible to see where al the fruits they eat are coming from.  I love it.  I wish we can do more of that at home, not only for fruits, but with everything.


There’s always so many people riding, driving, or walking. Everywhere!

Always going.

Others coming.

This truck is full of bananas.  Lucas was so excited to see it! He loves bananas and they were so good in India.

Coming through towns.

As we are getting closer to the bigger city you can see there’s more and more vehicles, and bigger buildings, but with all this, more garbage everywhere.

Even with all the crazy driving (in my opinion) we didn’t see many accidents.  But here is one.

After two hours driving we were really ready to get to the hotel.

Goan Village

On our last morning in the forest in Goa, at the Wildernest Resort, Siena feeling much better (but me starting to feel the same illness) we decided to go see a small village.

They took us in this bus.

I wish I’d remember the name of the village.  And by this sign I couldn’t tell either because it was in Hindi.

The village.

Where the water is for the village.  Everybody has their jug and they wait for their turn for when there’s enough water.

Here this woman is carrying her water back to her house.

This is their community center where they hold the town meetings.

Bananas tree.  Here in India, few months ago, was the first time Siena and Lucas had seen a banana tree. It was pretty exciting to see where one of their favorite fruits comes from.

We saw so many bricks laying everywhere, and houses being built that it was hard to not pay attention to them.  They told us that lots of people from the village were going down to the city to work now, but they still wanted to keep their home here in this small village and they had enough money to build a better home for themselves.  So it was good news for everyone here, new, better houses for some of these families.

The bricks.  The clothes drying. Wood pieces. The cricket bat.

They are working on building a new house.  Notice the woman carrying bricks on that basket on top of her head.

Every house in this village had a special place for a Tulsi plant.

We crossed a little creek to go see a temple.

In the background you can see some women washing their clothes.

An ant hill.

Looking down to the village from one end.

 This is the Hindi temple we went to see.

Hanuman Temple.

Photo by Lucas
Photo by Mark


Photo by Mark

A lizard we saw on our way back.

Photo by Mark


As we were leaving this family invited us into their home.

Their chicken.

Photo by Lucas

It was a beautiful visit.

Folk dance : Goa

On our second night there was a folk dance showing at the Wildernest Nature Resort.  It was about half and hour of showing different types of dance, from that area.

The night was perfect.  It was a little cold, and while we sat there in the darkness, we only had nature sounds.

These women were amazing.

I made a few videos of their dance.  This is one of them:

They invited us to dance, and to tell you the truth, even trying to understand which way to go was difficult enough without having to do all the steps and the music.  Amazing their energy and coordination.  And just beautiful moves.

One more short video I made:

Hiking to a great view : Goa

We did few hikes while we were staying at the Wildernest Nature Resort, in Goa.

The guide was telling us that people collect this moss to make pillows.  And now people are trying to teach them that it’s not good for the trees and the forest to remove these.  But I can see why they feel it’s OK.  There is lots of it around here.

We found a herd (I think it is) of wild boars.

And we also saw one wild hen.

We also found this crab, I don’t know how many miles/kms away from the water.  But we took it to the small pond we were walking to.

Photo by Lucas

Lucas and Mark went on a couple of hikes that Siena and I stayed back because we were not feeling our best.  I know we missed on some beautiful views.

The guide from the resort took them to this Plateau Hike.  

Look at these pictures Mark and Lucas took.

These pictures remind me of Africa.  I can almost see the giraffes passing in the back or eating from these trees.

Look at these beautiful colors. Beautiful sunset.

What an evening.  What a place really. If you are ever here…. you must visit it. It’s beautiful!

To celebrate the holidays, I will be quiet here in my space for few days and I’ll be back next week. This will give us some time to re-adjust to our new time zone (13 1/2 hours is a lot to ask of your body!), enjoy being a little more quiet, and truly enjoy our days together at home.  Reconnecting with all that is known to us here, seeing friends, and being present in the celebrations coming up.  There’s lots to think about and lots to celebrate.  Hope you can celebrate too.

Have a beautiful next few days with those you love, wherever you are.

Happy Holidays.

The meals : Goa

The resort where we stayed all the meals were included, which made it so nice not to have to worry about what to cook or figure out for lunch or dinner.  It was all Indian food, and it was delicious.

At every meal, we’d look for the monkeys and see where they were and if they were coming closer.

It was lots of fun.

I love how they display the dishes.  They put their names at each meal, and have a sample of the vegetable they use.  Besides the beautiful presentation it was delicious.

Drink for after the meal.


Pausing to say goodbye

After four months in Gwalior, India (in the state of Madhya Pradesh) we leave today and go back home.  About 7,339 miles apart, two flights away, about 23 hours of travel. It’s all it takes.

With mixed feelings we’ve been saying our goodbyes for the past few days. It wasn’t an easy experience for us to live in India for the past 4 months or so, but it was certainly beautiful.

We had never traveled for this long as a family, with two young children, and I am very glad we did.  It is an experience we will never forget.

We made new friends, and we met so many people.  All the students at the school talked to Lucas and Siena at some point of our stay here, and they were always so nice to us.  They wanted to hear our stories, see pictures of our home, and hear what we had to say over our days in India, as well as our days in Portland.

With more than 500 people to say goodbye, my heart fills with emotions.  So many emotions that is hard to put into words.

We met beautiful teachers, without whom we could not have survived our days in Gwalior.  They showed us the ropes on how to live up in The Fort.  From where to buy pots and pans, to where to buy vegetables and fruits, and where to buy fabric to have nice, comfortable Indian clothes made.  And how to get help in the house, and in our garden.  Where to get the newspaper and milk delivered and where to find the monkeys.  And how to get a taxi and pizza delivered.  All important things that made our days easier and more fun.

We met many other teachers that let us into their classrooms to learn new things, new crafts and skills, all of us.  Lucas and Siena felt welcomed by them and will always have fond memories of their mornings spent with them.

There are many stories that make us think we were not going to make it for four months in this new place.  But we knew coming into this trip, that it wasn’t going to be easy.  Mark and I had been exchange students before, as a teenagers, and we knew of the culture shock graph, and how the emotions direct your days.  But what I hadn’t thought, was that all four of us were going to be in this fluctuating graph, at different times of our stay.  Which made Mark and I be on our toes and aware of Siena and Lucas’s feelings as well as each others.

Those harder days go by, and they are followed by beautiful days, and other days that probably nothing really happened.  But there weren’t many.  We always had something to do.  Something we had never done before.  Like walking down The Fort to go by vegetables in the dozens of carts in the city.  Or get a ride in the scooter or motorcycle from the school to the house.  Or learn to play a little more of cricket, or how to make paper mud or pay a new rhythm in the drums or the bongo. Learn few words of Hindi, or remember to ride the bike on the other side of the road.  See monkeys jumping and peacocks yelling on the walls of The Fort.  And to see so many new places I had never imagined I’d see.  Each day, we had something new to talk and share.  So many somethings that we will never forget.

But it’s the connections with people, that makes your stay invaluable.  Those friendships that who knows what happens in the future.  I don’t know if we’ll ever see our new friends again.   India and Portland, are so far away.  But now a days we can probably see each other online, using technology that when I met Mark more than 25 years ago, I wish we would have had.

We met so many beautiful people, kids who taught us so many things.  From songs, to dance moves, to games, and about their families, and about India. And we learned also  how to be kids here in India.

It is very hard to say goodbye. I can’t remember everyone’s names.  Too many for me.  I wish I knew them all and I also hope we get to see lots of them some time soon.  We will miss them so very much, and I for sure miss their smiles.  I will miss hearing their stories, and where they are from, and abut their parents, and answering all their questions about our home in Portland, and seeing them each day with their smiles in their faces and their “Good morning, Marcela Mam“.

It is hard for me to say goodbye.  Really hard, to be honest.  I said goodbye to Mark as a teenager and young adult, too many times, for someone in love.  And though we always met again, it was always hard.  And now I don’t have to say goodbye anymore, only good nights.

Today, our day has come.  The day to be brave and realize together with Siena and Lucas that all adventures come to an end.  No matter what it is, or how it went, we are closing our chapter today.  We’ll be ready for the next one I’m sure, or at least I hope we will.  But not before a good rest at home for a while.  A long while.  I am ready to be home, be in what’s known to me.  I am ready to see our old friends, and share what we’ve learned and the amazing-ness of it all. But I also want to hear what their four months were like while we were gone, because we missed them too.

So, I guess I must say goodbye now.  Hopefully not a goodbye for long.  Maybe a we’ll see you soon would be a lot better and I would prefer that. But for sure, I’d like to say thank you. Thank you for everything each one of you did.  It made our stay and our experience in India what it is.  Thank you.

I will continue to write about the travels and our days in India for a while, until I feel I’ve covered our days here.  But I’ll write them from home in Oregon.  I still want to make sure we remember everything, or at least as much as possible from our days here in India.  So it’s not real goodbye from the blog.  Maybe this way, it will keep us connected longer.  But I also know our new friends in India want to see what our days look like in Portland, so I will share those too, for sure.

As we were closing our days this past week, we were invited to the Junior School’s Party. And I am so glad we could go. It was so much fun, and I felt it was the perfect way to complete our stay in India.

I leave you with this video.

Thank you again for everything.  We will certainly miss you all. –marcela

Resting to infinity : Goa

After almost four months here in India, and especially after the roller coaster of changing our plans last minute and the bad colds just a day before going to Goa, we felt exhausted. So you could imagine how felt when we woke up after that first morning.  At night we hadn’t seen much (anything really) so when we woke up and realized how amazing the place was, we were excited, and at the same time I felt filled with emotions.  Ready for a well deserved shower, some swimming and some rest.

And I got to do all of these!

At every meal, we’d go and see if the monkeys were there, hanging out.

We’d get a beer and a cold Limca.


Photo by Siena

Afternoon chai.

And snacks.

This is the infinity pool.

Photo by Siena
Photo by Siena
Photo by Siena
Photo by Siena
Photo by Mark

Photo by Siena
Photo by Siena

Every evening.  Every time of the day, the pool had a different light.  All beautiful.

Lots of resting. To infinity.