Where are we now?

View Where are we now? in a larger map Jo, Annie, Miles and I are living in Northport, Alabama and working at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. We've been glad to be in one place for a bit after what appeared to be semi-permanently traveling (in actuality for a period of 2.5 years).We started this blog to catalogue some of the adventures when Jo and I were sequentially conducting our dissertation research in India and Brazil. While we've fallen off the blogging bandwagon somewhat during recent trips to Brazil, we're trying to pick it up again now that we're back in India!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Dehradhun: Visiting Temples and Shrines

Leaving Mussoorie, we headed down the mountain to Dehradun. We only spent one night there, but stayed at undoubtedly the most phenomenal AirBnB we have ever visited.

 Below is the review I left for Poonam and her husband:

Our stay at the Bungalow Retreat was simply perfect. The room were splendid, very clean, spacious, and well appointed. The garden was a lovely respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. What really made our stay fantastic was the extraordinary hospitality that Poonam and her husband offered us at every turn. They welcomed us into their home like family, and sure enough, before too long our two small children were calling them "Grandma" and "Grandpa". We wanted to go visit a temple, but had trouble finding a taxi; Poonam's husband was incredibly gracious, and took us in his own car. Poonam is an amazing cook, and wowed us with some phenomenal food. We hope that she will start offering cooking lessons in the future! This was the nicest AirBnB experience we have ever had. The quality of the lodging, and the extraordinary hospitality can't be beat. We are already looking forward to visiting "Grandma" and "Grandpa" again soon. Thanks again!

 Here's a photo of "Grandpa" holding up Miles to try to pick mangoes (still about a month shy of ripe).
And here's one of us all (minus me as per usual) before heading out

As mentioned in the write up above, Poonam's husband, Ajay, was kind enough to take us to visit the famous Tappkeshwar temple. Here's a little bit from the wiki page on it:

Tapkeshwar Temple in Dehradun, also known as Tapkeshwar Mahadev Temple, is one of the most famous temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Situated by the forest side, the main shivalinga at the temple is inside a natural cave. Water drops from the ceiling of the cave trickle down over the shivalinga in a continuous downpour, making for an interesting spectacle.

Below is a photo from the inside of the cave.

Miles was a VERY big fan of ringing the bells!

and also a big fan of Lord Ganesh.


Incredible Hanuman statue (Annie can now correctly identify four Indian gods: Hanuman, Shiva, and Ganesh)
We even got the opportunity to dip our feet in the fetid creek, because Annie and Miles saw other kids doing it and were adamant.

The next day, on our way out of town, we made a slight detour and stopped at the Tibetan Mindrolling Monastery. A little blurb on it from wiki:

In 1965, Khochhen Rinpoche and small group of monks began the process of re-establishing Mindrolling monastery located near Clement Town, in Dehradun, Uttarakhand state, India. It now contains Ngagyur Nyingma College, one of the largest Buddhist institutes in India.

It is known as having both one of the tallest stupas, and tallest Buddha statues in the world.

As we descended the stairs to it, Annie said "The temple looks like it's touching the sky!"

And of course, there was lots of prayer wheels to spin.

And from there, it was to the airport, and down to Kerala!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Mussoorie: Part 3

 We took an afternoon explore in a nature reserve outside of Mussoorie. It was incredibly peaceful in the woods, well sort of. The kids both had major meltdowns, and so the majority of the time we were each hiking while holding one or both of them. That said, we saw some amazing birds, and beautiful mountain vistas. We hired a taxi, which was an old ambassador. I think we got more of a kick out of it than the kids.

The area is famous for its rhododendrons, but we had just missed the bloom. The forest seemed fairly old, but turns out was just 40 years old, having been restored from old farm land.

The kids were very excited, albeit a little scared to find leopard scat on the trail!

 Our turn-around point was the top of a very narrow ridge with gorgeous views to either side. And look, a rare complete family photo!

Annie was very proud of this feather she found. 

And I found what would make a perfect new writing desk...

Of course, a good hike deserves a good ice-cream....

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Mussoorie: Part 2

Company Gardens

At the recommendation of a cycle-rickshaw driver--who clearly knew the tourist stops better than us--we decided to take a trip to "Company Gardens," which is a few kilometers outside of town. The ride over there was just lovely. Once you leave Mussoorie and "The Mall," it becomes so incredibly quiet and peaceful--save for the beeping buses as they pass you. The gardens turned out to be a family-entertainment destination, complete with all sorts of rides and insanity. We did find a few flowers to smell, however.

 This was probably the first time that the kids ever rode any real amusement rides. We tried the "Hopping Frog," which was incredibly jarring, but Miles became obsessed with (and at .25 a ride, we said 'go get your fill'). Annie wanted to try another one, so we gave the swinging pirate boat a shot. She was definitely underwhelmed.

We've been pestered by folks trying to get us to take pictures in traditional Garwhali dress since we arrived in Mussoorie. Well, we finally broke down and gave in while at the Company Gardens. Miles was seriously underwhelmed with the prospect. 

 The rest of us took the entire experience in slightly better stride.
 While the photographer was taking pictures, I couldn't help take a few of my own of Annie and her props.

 And now, for the horribly-staged portraits.

Kempy Falls 

One of Mussoorie's main attractions is Kempy falls, which is about 45 minutes down a hair-raising road out of town. The falls are beautiful, but the area is incredibly overdeveloped, and choked with tea shops and souvenir stands.  It felt like there were several thousand people swimming (almost all men), and with the pumping Bollywood music, Jo and I beat a quick retreat with the kids a little farther past the main falls to where there was a more tranquil family-oriented resort.

There we had the unique pleasure of renting swim "attire," and taking a dip. The water was let's say not the cleanest, nor were the bathing suits, and so our swim was quite short!

There was a bounce house, however, below these religious statues (you can see Annie bouncing in the bottom right). And a bounce house rarely fails to entertain.

Perhaps the true crowning glory was the infamous duck boat ride. 

Tibetan Monastery

While Jo was out doing some interviews the kids and I took a cycle-rickshaw down the mountain towards a Tibetan monastery. The rick-shaw would only take us so far down hill, because it was so steep, so we ended up walking for a few more kilometers downhill to reach the site (provisioned by an ice cream stop, of course).

It should be of little surprise that the kids were fascinated with turning the prayer wheels (they're wheels, and they spin, what more could one want?) 

Thankfully, Miles was able to spin them, or we might have had a serious problem. 
 The big wheel--stored in its own building--was quite difficult for even me to turn, but the kids really enjoyed trying!

Later on, I even got a chance to take this little gal for a lunch date while Miles and mama napped.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mussoorie-Part 1

While our time in Delhi was simply wonderful, we were very excited to beat the 119 degree heat wave, and get up to the foothills of the Himalaya, where it is literally cooler by a mile.

We flew up to Dehradun and then took a taxi to Mussoorie.

The drive from Dehradun up to Mussoorie is only 45 miles or so, but takes about 2 hours given how sharp the turns on the mountain roads are, random cows, and everything else that one finds on the roads here. Annie counted 31 total animals on the taxi trip up (including cows, dogs, and two types of monkeys---she was dead set on summing them together).

Once you get close to Mussoorie, however, the air begins to feel instantly different. Soooo much cooler! The view isn't half bad either. 

Mussoorie is a hill-station town that was largely developed during the British era. It served--and continues to serve-- as a location to getaway from the heat. The town is defined by a "largely"-pedestrian mall (unfortunately cars and motos can now pay a tax to drive on it, which makes walking a little unpleasant/precarious). The mall is a phenomenal location for people watching, and being watched. Folks love to come up and pat Miles/Annie's head, and have their photos taken with them. We love how kind and open folks in India can be to children, and how ours instantly feel safe when someone smiles and offers them a hand to hold. From the customs agent who wanted to hold our two year old, to the grandpa on the metro whose welcoming lap Miles instantly jumped into when there were no seats, to these folks who wanted to stroll with them and hold hands and all those in between. Annie and Miles walked with these random folks for about 5 minutes without a care in the world. Jo was with them for a minute or so, but then dropped back with me, and the kids didn't seem to care at all.
Requisite cow photo, check.

While in Mussoorie we've introduced the kids to another new form of transportation: cycle-rickshaws. These rickshaw-wallahs really earn their keep pulling all four of us around.The kids love it.

Rock wall painted like a lion--which Miles now roars at every time we walk by--to the complete amusement of the pedestrians. 

We're staying at a really lovely 'heritage hotel', which has a playground for the kids and plenty of seating overlooking the Dehradun valley.    

One of the nicest things about being at this hotel has been how many quick friends Annie has made. Most have only stayed for a day or so (we're here for over a week), but she's had a really phenomenal time with them.

Mussoorie is a little bit like Pigeon Forge, TN, only with slightly more taste. There are tons of family-oriented activities, including this roller-skating rink which has an incredible view over the valley.