A glimpse into a bazaar…

Jaipur, the Pink City, is a wonderful representation of all that Rajasthan has to offer!  300+ year old pink sandstone buildings, an impressive fort complex stretching over hillsides, palaces, monuments, markets, parks — history, intrigue, and adventure!

Today, we were joined by our friend, Bela, and members of her beautiful and gracious family, who were kind enough to have us for dinner last night.  After an exciting morning that included riding an elephant up a hillside, being blessed by Shiva Devi, and gazing at vistas over the city — we set off for the city’s famous bazaars.

With our guides, we tried a variety of snacks and treats — and delighted at the beautiful fabrics and wares geared towards the upcoming Diwali holiday.  It is festival season!

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Dawn at Taj Mahal

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Sunset with the Taj Mahal

The guidebooks agree: if you only splurge once, this is where to do it.

In part, they say, you do it for the hotel.  It’s an award-winning facility (Travel + Leisure rating #2 in Asia and #5 in the world for 2010) with posh services and amenities.  All that is nice, of course, but the true reason you shell out for this place is because of the view.

It’s the only hotel in the Green Zone and the closest to the World’s Most Beautiful Monument.  And all the rooms have this view.

We’re doing it right.  We ordered dinner through room service and ate on the balcony, watching the sunset on the city while the local mosques answered call to prayer.  The music and prayer are a constant soundtrack to the experience of being here — so much so, that the hotel provides earplugs to get you through the night and morning.

In addition to the views and music, the hotel offers nightly music and entertainment (dancing) on a platform above the pool deck — another little something to watch from our balcony vista.

With the help of the hotel, we were able to get special night-time viewing tickets for tomorrow night.  Night-time viewing is available each month during the time of the full moon.  Actually having the opportunity to participate is a process that involves delivering your passports to the Indian Archeological Society at least 24-hours in advance of the viewing time (if not before).  They decide whether you are granted the opportunity to buy a ticket.  Only 50 people are allowed in at a time and only for 30 minutes at a time.

The staff at the hotel managed to get us a viewing time tomorrow night.  In lieu of this opportunity (and at how tired the kids were after the long car-ride to Agra this morning), we are staying in Agra 2 nights.

It was a wonderful evening.  In fact, it would be the most romantic evening Paul and I have ever had together… if not for the two reminders of romantic nights past along with us!

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Dining On Top Of The Taj

(This is Paul doing a guest post – Holly is doing another site visit and the kids are passed out after being up since 2:00 AM with screwed up sleep schedules)

So after our not so successful attempt to go to Wasabi, I decided to try talking to the concierge for more recommendations.  Initially he was polite but very hesitant since his first question was what room we were staying in and I had to confess that we were not guests at the hotel.  But I explained to him that my wife, Dr. S., was a guest of the Tata Institute for Social Sciences and we were staying in their guest quarters.   That led to a brief discussion of how long we were in India and where else we were visiting in the country.  And I will confess that I may have implied that we were contemplating returning to the Taj and the end of our month before returning home…

Eventually the concierge warmed up considerably and we discussed a wide of variety of the fabulous restaurants there at the hotel (Indian, Chinese, Japanese, etc.) but nothing quite seemed to resonate with me.   So I asked what he recommended for a family with children and specifically stated that I’d prefer to dine earlier so as to be the least disruptive to the other guests (lunch  is usually taken late from anywhere around 1:30 to 3:00 it seems).   I emphasized that I really wanted something memorable for my children since it was the trip of a life time for them and, of course, as all parents believe: my children are perfect little angels.

That must have struck a chord as he got a twinkle in his eye and made a quick phone call consisting of a completely unintelligible (to me) but obviously playful conversation.   Once he was off the phone, he proceed to tell me that we had reservations at 12:30 (when the restaurant opens) on the top floor of the hotel.  It was a Mediterranean restaurant called “Souk” which means marketplace in Arabic.

So at 12:30 we took the elevator to the roof and we’re greeted by a phenomenal view of the city…

…and of the Gateway of India:

The restaurant itself was beautifully done in a sparse manner so as not to detract from the views and Will grabbed a camera and started taking pictures at all the windows.  Since we were the only ones dining and all of the staff kept smiling we let him have free reign.

That’s Will, Kate and I at our window side table.

Aside from the breathtaking views, the rest of our lunch was equally delightful.  The wait staff was incredibly friendly and engaged with the kids.   They even brought pillows for the chairs so that kids could sit better or, as Kate put it, “Just like a princess!”  Our waiter’s recommendations for the kids’ lunch were spot on: a grilled chicken breast dish that was not too spicy and a virgin mango mimosa that was heavenly.  At their recommendation, Holly and I both tried their special appetizer buffet which let us eat our fill from a huge variety of appetizers ranging from roasted lamb in tomato cream to the best hummus either of us had ever had in our lives.

The picture above is the vegetarian side of the buffet and below are the non-veg options.

Everything was exquisitely prepared and presented.  The chefs obviously took great pride in their craft and even tolerated the tourists snapping their pictures.

We each had our favorites though both Will and Kate kept begging for more shrimp like true NoLa kids!

The kids were an absolutely delight for the meal but by the end of a leisurely lunch, it was obvious that they were showing signs of crashing.  The messed up sleep schedules and the heat meant that it was pretty obvious a huge nap was due so we decided not to push our luck with a dessert course.

By the end of our meal the restaurant was full of people but most notable was an obvious bridal party in the most beautiful sari’s and salwar kameez ‘s that I have ever seen.   Second to that group was a young American man with his Indian girlfriend that appeared to be meeting her family for the first time.  It could have been a scene right out of a Bollywood movie!

So after wrapping up lunch we walked back to the car and driver that was waiting for us.  He took us for a quick stop on a section of the coastal road known as the Queen’s Necklace and that final bit of exposure to the heat and intense sun was enough to lull Will and Kate into a nap for the remainder of the drive back to campus.

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Venturing into Mumbai

The day starts with chai.  Chai is the Hindi word for tea — so when you say “chai,” you’re really only saying tea.  In the States, people confuse “chai” with “spiced tea,” which it isn’t really correct.  Most Indians prepare chai (stewing tea leaves, etc.) by adding steamed milk, sugar, cardamon and/or cloves with the infused tea.  Others may add things like cinnamon, but I was taught that this was sort of like preparing a dinner of hamburger to your dearest Hindu friends.  People can be very particular about how they like their chai.

Not that Will particularly cares.  He just knows he LOVES it.  His favorite part of the day is 6:30am, when the bedside chai service arrives at the door.

There are monkeys living on the campus.  They hang around the trees trying to poop on our heads.  Kate finds them adorable, especially the babies.  (Based on an experience in India 8 years ago, which involved a monkey-sting-operation to steal my camera, I find the varmints mean and creepy.  We are keeping a respectable distance.)

But it is pretty cool to have monkeys living right along with you.

Okay, so maybe the wrinkly baby face is sort of cute, if you’re into the whole Vulcan-look.  Doesn’t that baby monkey look like Leonard Nimoy as Dr. Spock?

On Tuesday, we went down to India Gate and the Taj Mahal Hotel, which, with Mumbai traffic is a 14-hour commute into the city.  Or something like 14-hours.  The main city is crushed into a tiny pennisula, where hundreds of thousands commute in each day.  There are a variety of building projects for expansion of fly-overs (over-passes which cross over the city), a second commuter rail, and a monorail.  In the west of the city, there is a “Sky Bridge” which literally goes out over the sea to take traffic off of the crowded land.  I’d imagine that the logistics are what make up both the dreams and the nightmares of urban planners.

Here’s us in front of the Taj Mahal Hotel.  (Note: remember the terrorist event a few years back?)

My favorite part of the hotel is it’s history.   Back around the turn of the century, Brits had a super-fancy hotel that they kept “whites only.”  Enter the building of the Taj Palace, “a hotel fit for India.”  The detail on the exterior is truly exquisite.

Here is the Gateway of India.   Not to be confused with the India Gate (the national monument, made in honor of the British Raj — Indians who fought for the British in WWI — which is in New Delhi).  The Gateway was made between 1911-1924.  The British built it to commemorate the visit of their monarch (George V, with wife Queen Mary) to the subcontinent.  George and Mary saw a big cardboard structure, not the one that stands today with tall letters bearing the information from their royal visit.

It’s big.

Big and cool.

Kate was also a tourist attraction.  Even though she was a little grumpy, having slept through the bumpy, traffic-filled trip to south Mumbai from the northern suburb of Chembur (where the university is located).

Then we headed along the bay and to the Taj hotel.   Fishing boats were tied all along the docks, with tourist boats to Elephanta Island and Indian Naval vessels anchored further out.

After passing a full 359 degrees around the protected perimeter of the building, we found the entrance.  Walking by the guards and into the check-points and metal detectors in bold, direct steps, we passed for guests and didn’t get hassled going in.

Where we proceeded to play “hotel tourist,” soaking up as much A/C as possible and using the fancy bathrooms with Western flush toilets at least once every 10 minutes.  Just because.

The hotel is, by any standard, quite nice.

Several guests commented on how cute Kate was in her salwar.  And when she turns and says, “Namaste” — well, Paul swears that he saw an Indian grandmother tear up.

Kate is rocking both silly bands and jasmine here.  The jasmine was tied on by an enterprising hussler on the street, who followed us around the building for 350 of those 359 degrees of that round-the-building tour.   Folks here are quite aware of the sorts of costs involved with traveling to India — and for most of the subcontinent (more than 60% of Mumbai live in slums — remember Slumdog Millionaire? — and at 13.6+ million people, that’s over 8 million folks) having the ability to travel means incredible wealth.  So we don’t begrudge folks just trying to make a buck by selling stuff on the street.  (We just wish they would give us a chance to come to them and not rush us at first sight.  But hey, it’s hard not to appreciate their tenacity.)

The kids perked up a bit after being in the withering heat.  Enough to start playing around.

We gave Will the little camera to take pictures.  He canvased the lobby (including making a creative series of photos involving Kate holding up various silly bands) and then posed us for a picture.  I think you can tell from the look on our faces what we’re saying to him… he’s a breath away from knocking over a glass flower vase or priceless antique.

We loitered some more, even in the pool area.  We didn’t see any celebrities, but were trying not to look too suspicious.

We checked out the various halls, displays with jewelry from the shops inside the hotel (mont blanc, Dior, silks and other fineries), and even walked into Chef Morimoto‘s restaurant, Wasabi.  We were chased out of Wasabi.  Turns out they weren’t open yet (but hadn’t yet told the front desk of this change in opening time) and kids aren’t allowed in the bar.  Oh, well.  Iron Chef is so 1990s, anyway.  We went back to exploring.

Then Paul went and had a man-to-man with the concierge.  We were going to have lunch there, one way or another.  20 minutes later, were we sitting in our reserved lunch at the roof of the building, looking out over Mumbai…

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On the other side.

In simplest terms, it’s a triumph of good over evil.  This particular version of that iconic theme go like this: the Demon King of Lanka, Ravana, gets ticked off at the royal family and steals away the princess.  Her husband, Rama, and his brother, Lakshmana, go off and rescue her in a huge battle involving earth, water, and sky.   This battle is celebrated by Hindus (and non-Hindus alike) in many countries as the 10-day Navaratri festival.  The culmination of it all is Dasara, a big night of dancing and music, with marigold-draped cars (and horses!) drawing platforms of festively-decorated deities through streets, passengers tossing brightly colored fistfuls of dust into the crowd as they pass.

This particular holiday was last night.  We arrived in Mumbai right at the height of the evenings’ festivities.  Now that we know what, exactly, was going on, we feel awfully badly for our driver missing out on it all to retrieve our sorry selves from the airport!  From the terminal, we wove through the streets, appreciating the celebration even if we did not yet appreciate the context.  My memorized Hindi phrases and words don’t lend themselves to conversations around Hindu festivals and even if I could truly converse in Hindi, understanding the ins and outs of the Ramayana requires the accompaniment of family charts, maps, timeline histories, and full-color illustrations.

We’re in India for my new job.  I have students completing semester long field placements in Mumbai, based out of a Social Justice program at a partner University based in the city.  The last time I’d seen India was 8 years ago, but there was never any doubt that we would all go again.  If you’re open to adventure and willing to be tested, India is unlimited in its opportunities.

The timing of a hundred things coincided perfectly to support and justify this trip.  We’re in Mumbai for a week with the students and the University (we’re staying on campus in the lovely guesthouse) and then will move on to North India, flying to Delhi to visit friends and do sight-seeing up north.  In total, the trip is just under 4 weeks.  In one of the beautiful synergies that formed in the planning for this trip, a few days before we left, a colleague from India flew into town to teach a course in the School of Social Work.  She is living in our home while we travel, scheduled to depart on the very day we get back.

We’ve been in the country for less than 24 hours and are slowly adjusting to being almost exactly on the other side of the earth.  More to come as our trip unfolds…


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Songs to Grow By

My parents gave Will and Kate MP3 players.  The idea is that this is the kids’ “traveling music” for our upcoming trip.  The following is a list of 136 songs, with input by both parents and actual implementation by me and Paul.

I haven’t figured out how to change the ordering (currently it is in alpha order by “artist”) and the variety may induce seizures, but so far the kids love it.

Keeping in mind that this collection is for a 6 year old and 4 year old… and that they will be doing a lot of listening to it in confined spaces… what did we leave out?

Take a look.  What would (or does?) your kids’ MP3 player hold?

✓    Tipitina And Me    2:52    Allen Toussaint    Our New Orleans: A Benefit Album
✓    Sister Golden Hair    3:20    America    History (Greatest Hits)
✓    City of New Orleans    4:33    Arlo Guthrie    The Best of Arlo Guthrie
✓    Handel: Water Music Suite #2 In D, HWV 349 – Alla Hornpipe    3:28    August Wenzinger
✓    Love Shack    5:22    The B-52’s    Cosmic Thing
✓    Solo Un Segundo    3:59    Bacilos    Caraluna
✓    People    3:27    Barbra Streisand    Funny Girl – Original Broadway Cast Recording
✓    If I Had $1,000,000    4:27    Barenaked Ladies
✓    Black Bird    2:18    The Beatles    The Beatles (Disc 1)
✓    Love Me Do    2:21    The Beatles
✓    We Can Work It Out    2:15    The Beatles
✓    Penny Lane    3:00    The Beatles
✓    All You Need Is Love    3:48    The Beatles
✓    Let It Be    3:51    The Beatles
✓    In A Big Country    3:55    Big Country
✓    No Rain    3:35    Blind Melon
✓    The Bare Necessities    4:50    Bruce Reitherman & Phil Harris    Classic Disney Volume II
✓    Thunder Road    4:49    Bruce Springsteen
✓    The Ugly Bug Ball    2:59    Burl Ives    Classic Disney Vol. 1
✓    Morning Has Broken    3:19    Cat Stevens
✓    Wild World    3:20    Cat Stevens
✓    Suite: Judy Blue Eyes    7:29    Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
✓    Marrakesh Express    2:37    Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
✓    Jack’s Lament    3:17    Danny Elfman    Classic Disney, Vol. 3
✓    What’s This?    3:08    Danny Elfman    Classic Disney, Vol. 5
✓    So Much To Say    4:06    Dave Matthews Band    Crash
✓    Best Of Whats Around    4:17    Dave Matthews Band    Under The Table And Dreaming
✓    Ain’t No Mountain High Enough    3:32    Diana Ross
✓    I Hear A Symphony    2:45    Diana Ross & The Supremes
✓    You’ve Got A Friend In Me    2:05    Disney    Disney’s Greatest, Vol. 1
✓    I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song)    4:40    Disney    Disney’s Greatest, Vol. 1
✓    Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo    1:18    Disney    Disney’s Greatest, Vol. 1
✓    Bella Notte    2:41    Disney    Disney’s Greatest, Vol. 1
✓    When You Wish Upon A Star    3:15    Disney    Disney’s Greatest, Vol. 1
✓    Winnie-the-pooh    2:20    Disney    Disney’s Greatest, Vol. 2
✓    A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes    4:36    Disney    Disney’s Greatest, Vol. 2
✓    Heffalumps And Woozles    2:05    The Disney Chorus    Classic Disney, Vol. 3
✓    Little April Shower    3:56    The Disney Chorus    Classic Disney, Vol. 3
✓    The Rain Rain Rain Came Down Down Down    1:40    The Disney Chorus
✓    Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me)    4:46    The Disney Chorus
✓    Cruella De Vil    4:08    Dr. John    Classic Disney, Vol. 5
✓    World I Never Made    4:02    Dr. John    Our New Orleans: A Benefit Album
✓    Beethoven: Bagatelle In A Minor, WoO 59, “Für Elise”    4:20    Elyso Bolkvadze
✓    Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)    3:39    Eurythmics
✓    It’s The Same Old Song    2:46    The Four Tops
✓    Etude In E, Op. 10, No. 3 (Tri    4:27    Frederic Chopin
✓    Dog & Butterfly    5:24    Heart
✓    Candle On The Water    2:59    Helen Reddy
✓    Brahms: Hungarian Dance #5 In G Minor    2:33    Herbert Von Karajan
✓    Clean My Room    2:35    Imagination Movers    Calling All Movers
✓    I Want My Mommy (time for Bed)    2:28    Imagination Movers
✓    The Medicine Song    1:26    Imagination Movers    Good Ideas
✓    Nina’s Song    2:17    Imagination Movers    Imagination Movers
✓    Closer To Fine    4:02    Indigo Girls    Indigo Girls
✓    Watershed    5:46    Indigo Girls    Nomads – Indians – Saints
✓    Galileo    4:14    Indigo Girls    Rites Of Passage    Folk
✓    Strange Fire    5:30    Indigo Girls    Strange Fire    Folk
✓    Least Complicated    4:12    Indigo Girls    Swamp Ophelia
✓    Back Water Blues    3:32    Irma Thomas
✓    I Want You Back    3:01    Jackson 5
✓    Abc    2:59    Jackson 5
✓    You’ve Got A Friend    4:33    James Taylor
✓    Me And Bobby Mcgee    4:34    Janis Joplin
✓    Take Me Home, Country Roads    3:12    John Denver
✓    Annie’s Song    3:02    John Denver
✓    Thank God I’m A Country Boy     3:30    John Denver
✓    Grandma’s Feather Bed    2:13    John Denver
✓    Rocky Mountain High    4:44    John Denver
✓    Imagine    3:08    John Lennon    Imagine (Remastered)
✓    Star Wars Main Theme    5:53    John Williams    Star Wars Trilogy
✓    The Imperial March    3:06    John Williams    Star Wars Trilogy
✓    Chelsea Morning    2:32    Joni Mitchell    Hits
✓    The Circle Game    4:52    Joni Mitchell    Hits
✓    Both Sides, Now    4:35    Joni Mitchell    Hits
✓    For Me And My Gal For Me And My Gal    4:23    Judy Garland And Gene Kelly
✓    Feed The Birds (Tuppence A Bag)    3:51    Julie Andrews    Classic Disney Volume II
✓    Stay Awake    1:46    Julie Andrews    Classic Disney, Vol. 3
✓    Walking On Sunshine    3:59    Katrina & The Waves
✓    Oogie Boogie’s Song    3:18    Ken Page & Ed Ivory    Classic Disney, Vol. 4  Soundtrack
✓    This Is It    3:59    Kenny Loggins    Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
✓    Stormy Weather Stormy Weather    3:54    Lena Horne
✓    Ev’rybody Wants To Be A Cat    2:03    Liz English, Phil Harris, Scatman Crothers & Thurl Ravenscroft
✓    Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans    3:01    Louis Armstrong
✓    Basin Street Blues    2:06    Louis Prima    New Orleans
✓    Dancing In The Street    2:41    Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
✓    Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)    3:15    Marvin Gaye    Greatest Hits
✓    Ain’t No Mountain High Enough    2:29    Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
✓    Once Upon A Dream    2:47    Mary Costa & Bill Shirley    Classic Disney, Vol. 3
✓    My Guy    2:50    Mary Wells    Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971 – Disc 1
✓    Be My Life’s Companion    3:13    Mills Brothers    The Best Of The Decca Years
✓    Glow Worm    2:41    Mills Brothers    The Best Of The Decca Years
✓    Stardust    3:16    Nat King Cole    Greatest Hits
✓    (I Love You) For Sentimental R    2:55    Nat King Cole
✓    Straighten Up And Fly Right    2:26    Nat King Cole
✓    Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71A – Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy
✓    (I Wish I Could) Shimmy Like My Sister Kate    4:50    Preservation Hall Jazz Band
✓    We Will Rock You    2:02    Queen
✓    We Are The Champions    3:02    Queen
✓    Crazy Little Thing Called Love    2:44    Queen
✓    Try Not To Breathe    3:51    R.E.M.    Automatic For The People
✓    Man On The Moon    5:14    R.E.M.    Automatic For The People
✓    Nightswimming    4:18    R.E.M.    Automatic For The People
✓    Shiny Happy People    3:46    R.E.M.    Out Of Time
✓    Half A World Away    3:28    R.E.M.    Out Of Time
✓    I Will Go Sailing No More    2:58    Randy Newman
✓    Strange Things    3:20    Randy Newman    Classic Disney, Vol. 5
✓    Ya Got Trouble    3:59    Robert Preston & Ensemble    The Music Man
✓    Building A Mystery    4:07    Sarah Mclachlan    Surfacing
✓    Adia    4:05    Sarah Mclachlan    Surfacing
✓    Sunny Came Home    4:24    Shawn Colvin    A Few Small Repairs
✓    Goodnight My Someone    2:52    Shirley Jones    The Music Man
✓    Till There Was You    2:59    Shirley Jones    The Music Man    Soundtrack
✓    Lida Rose / Will I Ever Tell You?    4:15    Shirley Jones & The Buffalo Bills
✓    Ol Man River    4:08    Showtunes    The Best Of Broadway – The 30’s
✓    Tears Of A Clown    3:00    Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
✓    My Cherie Amour    2:53    Stevie Wonder    Motown 40 Forever – Disc 1
✓    You Are The Sunshine Of My Live    2:53    Stevie Wonder
✓    You Can’t Hurry Love    2:52    The Supremes
✓    And She Was    3:39    Talking Heads    Little Creatures
✓    Mad World    3:29    Tears For Fears    Tears Roll Down (Greatest Hits)
✓    Everbody Wants To Rule The World    4:14    Tears For Fears
✓    My Girl    2:46    Temptations    Greatest Hits    Motown
✓    Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone    6:58    Temptations
✓    Lie To Me    3:28    Theresa Andersson
✓    Birdhouse In Your Soul    3:21    They Might Be Giants    Flood
✓    Istanbul (Not Constantinople)    2:38    They Might Be Giants    Flood
✓    Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, K. 331    2:52
✓    One    4:36    U2    Achtung Baby    Rock
✓    Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Hor    5:17    U2    Achtung Baby
✓    Pride    3:50    U2
✓    With Or Without You    4:59    U2
✓    Where The Streets Have No Name    5:38    U2    The Joshua Tree
✓    William Tell Overture    3:10    Various Artists    Symphony on the Green [Disc 3]
✓    Barber of Seville Overture    2:12    Various Artists    Symphony on the Green [Disc 3]
✓    The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room    2:41    Wally Boag, Fulton Burley, Thurl Ravenscroft & The Mellomen
✓    Treaty    3:37    Yothu Yindi    Tribal Voice


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How intimate, TRULY intimate, are you with the significant people in your life?

I’m talking about the stuff that is REALLY INTIMATE.  Passing gas.  Using the toilet.  Discussing bowel movements.  Seeing each other in highly unflattering bathroom moments.  Because when you really get down to it, the list of people we’d sleep with is way longer than those who we’re willing to let see us naked on the can, bearing down on a particularly hard nugget.  Amirite?

So you’ll understand then why it’s hard for me, one who is usually quite open and honest, to talk about my problems.  They involve nouns like “stool” and “rectum,” with illustration by adjectives like “watery” and “bloated.”  And then there’s the discussion of pain.  Everyone has abdominal pain from time to time, just like they have fevers and diarrhea.  So how can one explain this pain?   I could be dramatic: “like a rolling, roving object, splashing and thrashing in your gut, making a low, gurgling resonance that represents the inner lining of the colon opening up, starting to bleed as it quickly loses layers of protective mucosa…”  Or, be self-righteous in the status claim of this being high on the totem pole of pain: “like childbirth, except without the periodic rest periods between contractions.”

I hate myself a little for each of those descriptions above.  I mean, can she get over herself already…?

On the upside, writing about colitis offers endless scatological metaphor.  Explosive diarrhea, like a rocket ship upon lift-off.  Smells that suggest the entire city’s sewer line has been directed to out-gas in your bathroom.  Having an illness that is hard to get behind.  Feeling like you’ve got shitzopherenia (oh you know, fear of shitting) or worrying how you’ll pass off untimely flatulence.

A sense of humor may be required to appreciate that upside.

This dude gets it, though I advise to stop the video after his song.

Our first foray into this world began less than a month after Paul and I were married.  It fast-tracked us into old-married-couple territory.  We talk about poo more than Peace Corps volunteers.  Luckily, though, my problems were never firmly pinned down to anything specific, and I have spent the last 10 years without treatment and without incident.  We felt confident it would never happen again.

Until last Saturday.  (Refer to text above for more insight into Saturday.)

So that has been my week.  The upside is that insurance is covering this non-specific colitis (after our sizable deductible) and that today’s scope (while still waiting for news about the biopsies) showed a mild presentation that probably will not require treatment.  This is a very good thing.

For comparison’s to Magpie’s costs, today’s colonoscopy was $1000, total, including anesthesia.  Because this amount is lower than our deductible, we had to pay the whole amount before the procedure.  Another $21 was spent on the colon prep.  (Which, by-the-way, SUCKS way more than the old phospho- soda and magnesium citrate used just a decade ago and available for pennies over the counter.  Also, for those using HalfLyte, the orange flavor, if even detectable, tastes like salty feet.)  We paid for the procedure and meds out of our Health Care Savings Account (HSA) — which, in case you don’t have one, is an account with pre-tax dollars to pay for out-of-pocket health expenses.  It’s pretty much the greatest thing to medicine since the stethoscope.

My constitution is shaken a bit by the fact that this happened, but the outcome (so far) is so great that I feel nothing but thanks.  Also, Paul got in some good fart jokes in the doctor’s office.

I mean this from the bottom of my heart, that I wish you all lovely, gentle, post-coffee Zen moments each and everyday.

So… did I gross you out too much?  Can anyone bond with me over bowel issues?


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Up in flames

We went to the Zoo this morning for a birthday party.  It was in the carousel room, by the famous Zoo Carousel: a one-of-a-kind delight filled with beautiful animals of every kind.

Because it was a party, many kids were getting on and off without parents immediately with them (Will included).  After a good hour of carousel riding, playing with friends, and catching up with other families, I noticed Paul and Kate were walking over to go back on the Carousel.  I was talking to friends and making sure Will was drinking water; I didn’t notice them on the ride.

I did notice, however, when the ride started briefly and then stopped.  It had turned enough that all the riders (who had filled the front of the Carousel) were now in the back.  If you had a kid on the ride, you couldn’t tell, because they were all in the back.

And the back was hard to see because of white mist filling the air.  Were the water misters turned on high?

I noticed a friend, a Dad of classmates in both Will and Kate classes, walk up to the gate of the ride and look up to the canopy.  He looked uncertain.  I took a few steps to the side.  Were Paul and Kate there?

Just then, Kate came around and took my hand.  Daddy told her to find me.  Paul was throwing kids over the gate, parents were pulling their children off.

Then I saw the flames.  In the center of the column.

The smoke was still hazy and white, so it was easy to see the flames.

A moment later, Paul walked out from the back.  No one else was on the ride.

He came out to me and Kate, then turned to take this.  You can hear me comforting Kate in the background, encouraging her to step back.  She was a little freaked out, as were other kids, though everyone was (thankfully) absolutely fine.

The video shows the hazy smoke and flames, then the dark smoke that poured out of the canopy (we assume when the fire hit grease?)

It happened SO FAST, faster than I ever would have imagined.  Paul recognized the smell of the burn inside the engine (apparently it smells similar to burning pinball machine parts) and was pulling kids off the ride before the smoke was too overwhelming.  He wasn’t the only one; other parents were doing the same.  Thankfully, everyone reacted calmly and quickly, no one was panicked or at risk.

The fire department came to the Zoo and handled the fire.  We don’t know how extensive the damage; it remained confined to the center column.  (Paul’s worry with the kids was that it was catch on the canopy.)

The Zoo protocol may not have been entirely worked out, but eventually the area was closed off.   Still no word in local media about the incident.  Hopefully the damage was very minimal and the Carousel will be open again soon.


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Watch out, Old Spice Dude.

Your replacement has been found.  And he’s riding a CHEETAH.

(photo by Paul)


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