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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Jaipur (Part III)–Amer

Our second stop on our second day in Jaipur was Amer. Amer is actually just outside the city and was Maharaja Jai Singh II’s original settlement before he founded Jaipur. I was a little confused about the name because we kept seeing signs for Amer and Amber but apparently there are two spellings of the name. The pronunciation is Amer (no “b” sound), so I will stick to that.

Amer is a fort and palace complex built on a hill adjacent to a reservoir. It’s much bigger, more imposing and more beautiful that I imagined. Some of the scenes in my favorite Bollywood movie, Jodhaa Akbar, were filmed here as well, so I couldn’t wait to see it.

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You can climb up the hill or you can take an elephant ride. We took an elephant ride, which was quite the adventure, because this was the route (actually, only part of it)

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and this was the vehicle

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The ride is a little bumpy and we were sitting in something like a seat, which was moving precariously. I was holding on to the side of the seat with one hand and clutching Max tightly with the other because he was trying to wiggle out. But then there were the hawkers, who were relentless, like this guy for example, who almost brought me to tears because he was so desperate to sell his stuff (miniature silk paintings) that he got up on top of a garbage can, pushing his wares  in my hands, insisting that I look at them and buy. His paintings were fine and quite inexpensive in fact but I was so worried that Max would fall that I had to push his stuff back many times before he finally gave up. Those elephants were tall. Probably twice my height. A fall may not kill the kid but would certainly injure him.

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Stressful as it was though, the ride was really neat because the views were spectacular (these pictures are courtesy of my wonderful husband because I had my hands full.)

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Our ride ended in a large square, where we dismounted our elephant and went on to the palace.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Jaipur (Part II)–Monkeys, Monkeys Everywhere…

On our second day in Jaipur, we got up early, had breakfast at our hotel (Royal Orchid Jaipur, which we recommend) and set out to for more sight seeing. We did a little driving tour of town with the guide pointing out a few sights that we didn’t have time to visit the previous day but the major things we wanted to see that day were just outside the city.

I had read somewhere about an interesting place where you could see monkeys in the wild but up close. The place is the Temple of the Sun God. I mentioned it to Her Cuteness and she said she really wanted to see it. It is about 2.5 km/1.5 miles East of Jaipur in an area called Galta. There’s an actual Hidu temple there, as well as two pools (one for women and another for men) fed by a spring. The local people believe that those pools have special powers and that you could wash away your sins, if you bathe in them. There were quite a few people bathing in the pools, so who knows. Nonetheless, it was a really neat place to visit.

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More interesting than the temple itself, however, were the gazillion monkeys that were roaming around the area. Unfortunately, Max had just fallen asleep in the car, so he and Paul stayed behind while Nia and I spent some quality time with the monkeys:

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But the absolute best and cutest part was watching the babies with their mommies:

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So, if you/your kids like monkeys, I highly recommend a visit to the Temple of the Sun God (a.k.a. Monkey Temple) just outside Jaipur. I have to say that monkeys in India can be aggressive and we were a little bit nervous but these seemed nicer than others we have seen. I still wouldn’t pet them though - that would be pushing my luck but we could watch them from a few feet away, which was enough to give both us and them a certain level of comfort.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Incommunicado

It’s been a while since I have posted here but that’s because there’s been a lot going on in our lives.

Shortly after I accepted the offer to join the Foreign Service, I realized that I may not be coming back to India and we hadn’t seen anything outside of Delhi. So I got all panicky and with three weekends left until my departure back to the US, I got busy and organized three trips. The first one was to Jaipur and we all enjoyed it tremendously. (I started blogging about it and haven’t finished but am hoping to do so soon.) The second trip was to Agra to see the Taj Mahal among other things but it fell through because my husband got sick. I was majorly disappointed but such is life. My last weekend in India was Labor Day weekend, so we went on a 5-day trip to Shimla in the Himalayas. It was another awesome trip (and I am hoping to blog about it and post pictures) but Chutney picked up some virus on the trip and was under the weather for quite a while.

I had only a couple of days after Shimla to repack and get ready for the trip back to the US. As I have mentioned before, we decided to keep Nia in India with Daddy as she was already enrolled in the school there and take Chutney with me because he’s too young to be without Mommy. But since I was going to be in class all day, I had my mother join us in the US, so she could take care of Chutney during the day.

Everything worked well with my plans except Chutney was sick. He had really high fever and was not eating or drinking hardly anything. We visited the Health Unit at the embassy a couple of times before we left India. They ran a bunch of tests on him for the usual suspects in India – Dengue, Malaria, Japanese Encephalitis, and Influenza. All came back negative but he was still not well. There was nothing to do but get a bunch of medication for the flight and go. So we did. He was very good on the flight and I even thought he was getting better but as soon as we landed his fever came back, this time accompanied with diarrhea. Some people get Delhi Belly (when they go to India), we got DC Belly, which unfortunately is still with us. The fever is gone now and he started eating and drinking a few days ago and I thought that was the end of the DC Belly but I was wrong. So I finally took him to the doctor yesterday and now we are in the process of figuring out what’s causing our DC Belly, so hopefully, we’ll take care of it in the next couple of days.

In other, very important news, this past Monday, I officially became a US diplomat. For reals – as in sworn in and even given an officially official ID. How amazing is that?!!!  Way amazing considering I grew up on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain,  in a small town in Bulgaria and my parents were a book keeper and a driver. I was not the likeliest of candidates for the Foreign Service but as unbelievable as it may seem, I made it all the way through the long hiring process. It’s definitely one of those “Only in America” things because I don’t know of many other countries where anyone, even those without diplomatic pedigree, can apply for a diplomatic job, let alone an immigrant like me. So, I am absolutely thrilled to be an American and to have this incredible opportunity to represent the US overseas. I am quite literally living the American Dream and it’s fantastic though I do still take my ID out and look at it from time to time, just to make sure I’m not dreaming.

I had a chance to meet and talk to most of my classmates and am truly humbled to be one of them. They are all very bright and have done some amazing things prior to joining the Foreign Service. Getting to know them and hearing their stories has been awesome. I look forward to doing a lot more of that before we scatter all over the world.

Of course, last week’s events in Libya and Egypt also showed us once again how fragile our world is and how quickly things can spin out of control and harm diplomats, security personnel and regular folks. They reminded us that the work of diplomats is often dangerous and unpredictable. These last few days have been somber and difficult for many folks at the State Department. My heart goes out to those brave souls and sincerest condolences to their loved ones!

Last but definitely not least, a couple of days ago we got our bid list and I’m happy to report that there are a couple of New Delhi positions on it. Either one of those positions would be perfect. There are a lot of other cool positions in interesting places and normally I would be all over them, however, this time it’s different. Anything that’s not New Delhi means separation for us. I am fully aware that I have said multiple times during the hiring process that I would be worldwide available and I am. I will go anywhere the Service needs me but it won’t be easy. So yeah, bidding as a tandem has a different feel to it. A lot less excitement this time around, a lot more trepidation. But I feel I have good chances for one of the Delhi positions. I took Recruitment Language Program bonus points for Hindi (formerly known as Critical Needs Language points), which means I have to go to a Hindi Speaking post on my first or second tour. I also took ConGen last year, which means I am ready to go to a Consular position. Those things should work in my favor but it remains to be seen if they are enough for the Career Development Officers to give me one of the Delhi positions. So, keep your fingers crossed for me, folks. I really need all the help I can get.

That’s all I have time for right now. I am hoping to be back soon, so I can finish writing about our trip to Jaipur and document our trip to Shimla – with lots of pictures.

 
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