Beautiful day for a parade.

I’m lying. Yesterday was cold and rainy and generally inhospitable to any parade goers. But since we had a secret spot to watch the festivities just a few blocks from home, we braved the elements to see just what this epic Republic Day parade was all about.

They’ve been prepping here in Delhi for months, doing full dress rehearsals and closing down roads and setting up flags and fences. Tanks have been parked around India Gate for weeks, and workers were out straightening street signs and painting curbs up until the last minute. This happens every year in the lead up to India’s national celebration – not just when Obama visits.

So it was definitely a bummer that after all that work, the weather did not cooperate. There were barely any spectators, and I heard they canceled the elephants because it was too wet and cold out. But that’s ok – we got front row seats for the spectacular marching bands and camel brigade!

creepy mansion

This is the abandoned property where we set up camp for parade watching. Slightly terrifying. But so close to the parade route.

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Cletus waited patiently for the camels (and refused to wear a dang raincoat).


Camel brigade!

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Yes, that is a guy playing a tuba on a camel.

That’s not the best part though: After the camels, the marching bands abruptly stopped in the road, put down their tubas and drums and walked over to the sidewalk for a snack. Parade half-time, I guess.

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We took that as a sign to walk home. On the way, we were stopped about 500 times to take photos with the other spectators. Next year we might have to just put Cletus and The Babe on their own float.

making friends

And this is who greeted us at our gate: one of the street dogs who lives out front, dressed to the nines for the big event.


All aboard.

Looks like you're on the wrong train, kid.

Looks like you’re on the wrong train, kid.

That's better.

That’s better.

Last weekend we took advantage of the cold, foggy, smoggy weather and headed to the National Rail Museum. I’d heard that it finally reopened after a lengthy renovation, and we needed somewhere to let the kids burn off some energy. Unfortunately, when we arrived we discovered that the Rail Museum is mostly outdoors, thus, still smoggy. And it is still very much under construction even though officially open.

But all was forgiven when Cletus and The Babe discovered that our entry fee included a ride on a cute little minature train that circled the grounds.

They could ride this thing all day.

They could ride this thing all day.

We hopped on with a bunch of school kids on a field trip (kids have school on Saturdays here) and chugged our way around all the historic locomotives and old passenger cars. It was adorable. Except for the stinky camp fires. In the middle of the museum.

Wait. What?

Wait. What?

A simple trip to the courier.

I had to send a package to France today. Just a small gift for a friend, nothing crazy. My housekeeper convinced me that the regular Indian post would take an eternity, and ultimately might not be the most reliable choice. So I went with my driver to the local courier. In my mind I was thinking “courier” was just local speak for UPS or FedEx. In reality, it was a ramshackle kiosk on the side of a busy road, which by all indications seemed to specialize in cell phone plans. Or batteries. We walked up, pushing aside the other customers waving rupees at the man behind the counter. After a brief back and forth, my driver tells me it will take 72 hours for delivery. I say that’s fine, and without further ado the guy behind the counter waves down a passing motorcyclist. Motorcyle guy runs over, takes a peek at the mailing address, and starts punching numbers into his phone. Before I can voice any concerns about this stranger taking over delivery duty, motorcycle guy takes off to the shops across the street. A few minutes later, another guy comes back with the shipping rates and a shipping receipt – I pay and sign on the dotted line and pray to the god of international mail delivery that my package actually arrives in Europe. I’ll keep you posted!

**UPDATE** The package arrived, a couple days late. But someone on the other end (not te recpient) signed for it…and it’s MIA. WhaaWhaaaaaaaaaaa (sad trombone)

Wats happening.

I am insignificant compared to ancient temples and teenagers

We spent a lovely week in Siem Reap over Christmas. The little bit of Cambodia that I got to enjoy was touristy but somehow still laid back, full of gracious hospitality and cool little tuk-tuks that looked like wooden chariots hooked to the back of motorcycles. We ate well and breathed in the sweet tropical breeze. So sweet, in fact, that when the Babe stepped onto the Siem Reap tarmac she looked at me with concerned eyes and asked, “What’s that smell, mommy?” I can’t tell you how much it pained me to tell her it was CLEAN AIR.

Even Buddha is laughing at me.

Other than reveling in the ability to inhale freely, we spent a good amount of time trekking through some incedible temples, eating wacky street foods (spiders, anyone?) and cruising on the Tonle Sap lake. But my favorite experience (other than when a giant toad jumped from the roof of our moving tuk tuk and hit my sister-in-law in the face – hilarious but traumatizing) had to be waiting in line for an elephant ride and overhearing an exchange between a gray-haired dad and his grown, twenty-something son.

Dad, in baseball cap and fanny pack: So I posted a shot of Angkor on my Facebook with the headline “WAT’S HAPPENING, SIEM REAP!” Get it? But it only got 10 likes. The photo I posted yesterday got 15.

Son, in Ray Bans and Nikes:  Hmmm. (supressing eyeroll with all of his power, making mental note to never check FB again)

I giggled to myself for a few minutes over that one. But then I realized: I’m probably closer to the old fart demographic than the young twenty-something one, mostly because I considered that exact same caption the day before.  Someone please teach me SnapChat so I can be cool again.

Nope. Still not cool.

Travel Tips

– While our hotel was beautiful, I’m not sure I would recommend it. Super close to the airport, but farther from town and temples. It was a bit disorganized. And there was a saw mill right next door, so we got to hear buzz saws all day and got treated to a huge trash fire one morning – the smoke made it feel just like Delhi! Better options in town, off the airport road. This place looks amazing for people without kids. This is where I wanted to stay, but it was already full when we tried to book.

– Siem Reap was actually very kid friendly. Restaurants were accomodating and the kids loved climbing all over the temples. When that got boring, we appeased them with coconut water or ice cream from the Blue Pumpkin.

– We are idiots and lugged both car seats along. Be warned: seat belts aren’t really a thing in Cambodia.

–  Kids will love the Banteay Srei Butterfly Center, which is on the way to the Banteay Srei Temple.


Breathing uneasy.

Let’s talk about the air. In most places there’s not much to say: you breathe in, you breathe out, end of story. But here in Delhi, the air is a common topic of conversation. Mostly because it makes its presence known much more overtly here than anywhere I’ve ever lived. You can smell it seeping into every crevice of your house in the morning. You can see it spread across the horizon in a brown haze. And you hear it going through the air purifiers, a gentle whirring reminder that it is now safe(ish) to inhale.

The air here is bad. Millions of cars and natural dust guarantee that every breath you take is not going to be the most pleasant experience. But come winter time, the fires start. Every evening as the temperature starts to drop, millions of tiny camp fires pop up across the city, sending plumes of soot and smoke into the sky. When the sun goes down you immediately start to smell it. If you happen to be outside, it seeps into your clothes and hair. When the sun comes up, its sometimes hard to see through the foggy, smoggy, smokey mess.

We are constantly wiping up black soot around the doorways and windows. The kids’ bikes outside need to be hosed down every few days. When we landed in Delhi after a trip to Cambodia last week, we were immediately hit with a cloud of smog – INSIDE THE AIRPORT.

I think this must have been what Dickens-era London was like: coal dust hanging over everything and hacking coughs on every corner.

If you want to get technical, the US, Embassy has an air quality monitor, which measures PM 2.5 particulates (otherwise known as crap in the air) on a scale of 0 to 500 (great to completely hazardous). Anything over 50 is where you start crossing into unhealthy territory. I think a bad day on the LA freeway is around 60. This time of year in Delhi it’s often in the 200-300 range or higher. So, much like Beijing, we should be wearing masks at all times when outside. Unlike Beijing, no one here really seems to be bothered, except for a few expats.

In a cruel twist of fate, this is also the most beautiful weather we’ll get all year – mild sunny days that hover in the 60s. So it’s hard to stay inside all day, really hard to keep the kids in all day, and impossible to make them wear tiny breathing masks. What can you do? We’re hoping all the clean crisp mountain air of Austria will help balance out all the stuff-I-don’t-want-to-think-about that we’re breathing in here.

But just in case, I’m also thinking about launching a Kickstarter campaign for a south asian Mega Maid in 2015.




I drove today. Drove myself and two toddlers through the streets of Delhi, AND NO ONE DIED. No one got close to dying or even remotely close to getting into a fender bender! This, my friends, is truly a small miracle.

I should note here that I am a good driver on my own turf. My experience behind the wheel dates back to the tender age of ten, when my dad would let my brother and I take the battered mini-van on joy rides up and down our long rural driveway. I took my driving test at 16 on a stick shift. I’ve driven across the country and back. I had to teach Husband how to change a tire.

So my sense of triumph here is not because I’m some timid grandma on the road. It’s because driving in India feels very much like a hyped up version of Mario Kart, complete with strange creatures hogging the road and exploding obstacles flying at your windsheild. Add to that a few bicycle rickshaws, limited road signage, and a population of people who seem to have little sense of self preservation when trying to cross the street, and you have a typical Saturday morning driving experience in Delhi.

Oh, and did I mention the complete lack of rules? Sure, there are lanes. But they offer only the loosest of guidance, and the solid yellow middle one is a mere suggestion. Merging into the many traffic circles takes speed and agression–show any hesitation and you’ll be edged (or honked) off the road. Generally speaking, the bigger vehicles expect deference from everyone else. A packed city bus will not think twice about careening across four lanes of traffic without notice to make a lefthand turn.

Driving here requires your mind and reflexes to be on high alert. You could be cruising along peacefully when WHOA! WHERE DID THAT ELEPHANT COME FROM!? And then HOOOOONK a bus driving down the wrong side of the street! And SHITBALLS DON’T HIT THAT DOG! You swerve around that mess and then the guy in front of you stops dead in his tracks, gets out of his car and starts rummaging through the trunk. I am not kidding.

Meanwhile you’re still trying to get used to shifting with your left hand and keep turning on the windshield wipers instead of the turning signal. This is why we have a driver during the week, and almost always drive with a wingman on the weekends. You need that extra pair of eyes to warn of impending dangers and find another route on the map when you hit a random road closing.

Understandably, I haven’t felt too pumped to venture out on my own yet. When I pulled out of the gate today the gaurds looked worried. But I did it! I made it to the embassy and back. And I feel like I could conquer the world. Or at least a trip to the mall next weekend.

Just this side of oldness.


5 years ago today I turned 30 in Paris. Husband was out at a work function and I hadn’t met any friends yet, so I dragged my lonely, non-French speaking ass to the cafe next door for a chocolate croissant and a Duvel. I may have cried a little bit.

5 years later I woke up to one three year old climbing into my bed and a 2 year old singing in his crib. I’m celebrating my 35th in India, with leftover fajitas and maybe a Corona if I’m feeling saucy. The Babe drew me a birthday cake. Husband wrote me a love letter. Cletus demanded presents. I may cry a little bit, but for all the right reasons.

I am a lucky lady.