Happy Republic Day!

Camels, smog, and hot toddies (for me). Can’t think of a better way to celebrate India!

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Camel bling.

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Chai break.

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And…the magic chai float. Obviously.

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Photo of the Year

So much to report back on – we’ve been to three countries in the last month and crossed the equator twice. I don’t have time to give you all the juicy details yet, but I do come bearing gifts: Behold! The Unlikely Diplomat Photo of the Year:

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I call it “Parenthood.” But I welcome your thoughts on alternative titles and/or captions. Happy holidays!

Fort Kochin

If Jhodpur was the perfect weekend getaway, Fort Kochin was our Indian reality check: a hot, sweaty, rough 3 days to look at a few old fishing nets and a trash-strewn beach. Part of the problem was that I had envisioned a unique little European village on the waterfront. The other problem was that I completely failed at researching for this trip, and booked it at the very last minute, without realizing that

a) Fort Kochin is a 3 hour flight from Delhi PLUS a hellish 2+ hour drive in Indian traffic from the airport

b) Fort Kochin has European roots, but is still very much India

The two highlights: Our small hotel, which was in a great location and run by the friendliest staff on the planet, and the antique shopping in Jew Town (terrible name, I know). I could have spent days picking through the old relics and architectural pieces in the shops there. What I could have done without: the EPIC traffic jam we had to sit in to get there, which involved several delivery trucks, a motorcylcle, many pedestrians, our tuk tuk and one tiny street; and the half dead kitten my kids wanted to rescue, until they relized one of the poor thing’s eyeballs was hanging out.

Anyway, my advice is to plan better than we did and see much more of Kerala. Here are a few snaps from the trip:

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Abandoned People’s League

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Ice cream break

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Earth first

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The Chinese fishing nets were pretty cool.

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Catch of the day

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The family that pulls in fish nets together, stays together. That’s what I say.

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Highlight for The Babe: Getting a new toy cell phone for 20 rs. It plays some crazy loud music in Hindi, which a waiter later explained was the theme song from an old Bollywood film. He could not explain who “Benign Girl” is.

Jodhpur

The past month has been full of 3 day weekends, and the next month has even more in store. So we took that as a sign to pack our bags and see some of India. My only requirements: the destination had to be an easy flight away. No 5+ hour bumpy car rides with 2 screaming kids, thankyouverymuch. Unfortunately in India, this limits your options. It seems like all the cool stuff requires planes, trains, automobiles and antimalarials. And even if it’s a cheap, easy flight away, it often requires a long, death-defying drive once you land.

Not so with Jodhpur. Less than 2 hours in the air, and 15 minutes on the road and we were at our spectacular hotel, tucked in the tiny streets of the blue city. We woke up to a panoramic view of the Mehrangarh fort, and the kids had their own loft room upstairs. There was a pool, great food, and other kids to play with – which means this mini-vacation was a win on all fronts. Here are a few snaps from the weekend:

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Some kind of holiday procession going through town.

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Our own procession wasn’t as pretty.

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The hotel had its own blue auto-rickshaw. With gold tassles. I want one.

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Pretty blue walls in the old city.

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Some local kids insisted that we come to their house and meet their pet turtle.

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A gaggle of ladies waiting to visit the fort – dressed to the nines, of course.

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The ancient step well next to our hotel was otherworldly.

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Beautiful sunlight on the walk up to the fort. It’s still privately owned by the royal family, and exceptionally well maintained.

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Who needs playgrounds?

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Every morning I opened my eyes and saw THAT.

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Wait. What?

Fire-breathing A/C

At exactly 2am last night the ancient industrial air conditioning unit that’s about 12 inches from where I sleep started spewing smoke and flames. I mean, it has been running on high non-stop since February, so I guess I shouldn’t have been suprised by this violent uprising. But I bolted awake to see what looked like a jumbo sparkler whizzing and popping from beneath the machine, and immediately started screaming FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! while running for the door. Poor Husband leapt from the other side of the bed, unable to see the fire-breathing a/c but alarmed by the smoke and my screaming. By the time we both collided, there was a crackling POP and then darkness: the beast had exploded and fizzled out.

We took a moment to collect ourselves. Did that really just happen? Is there any damage? Did Husband believe that I was running for the fire extinguisher, and not to save my own ass?

The next morning we were greeted by a very nonchalant maintenance guy who didn’t seem concerned in the least by the fact that I seem to be plagued by blood-thirsty household appliances wherever I go. Apparently the motor burned out in the middle of the night. No biggie. Happens all the time.

I’m not sure why exactly that would happen all the time. But I can tell you this: I am actually excited for the cold smoggy weather to roll in so I can turn the damn things off for a few months.

In case you were wondering…

This is what I’m thinking about pretty much anytime I eat anything in India that I haven’t cooked myself. The aftermath is inevitable. YOBAGOYA!

Technicolor dream.

Just a few shots from a recent trip to Anupamaa Haveli – the workshop of local designer Anupamaa Dayal. She specializes in bright, modern takes on traditional Indian textiles, and goes out of her way to provide work to the people of local villages. In other words, she’s pretty awesome.

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I learned how to block print, fell in love with some fabulous printed silks, and may have done a little shopping. Ok, a lot of shopping. But I couldn’t help it! It was all so gloriously bright and pretty! Like Anthropologie on steroids! (they are one of her biggest customers, of course) Highly recommend a visit to her shop if you find yourself in Delhi.