Jan 25, 2011

London and India, 2010

Last December, my family and I went on a fabulous vacation. All my in-laws live in India, and it had been quite some time since we'd last been there. So, we scheduled a trip over Christmas break and decided to stop over in London for a few days on the way.

Oldest has been to London twice, but he was only a year old (both times). DH was traveling there for work, so Oldest and I tagged along a couple times to see the sites and visit with friends. Oldest doesn't remember any of it, though (since he was, you know, a year and a half). This time, though, he'll remember it. In fact, he knew exactly what he wanted to see.

Once again, the Magic Treehouse series has given him the desire to travel and see various parts of the world. Book #25, Stage Fright On A Summer Night, is where Jack and Annie meet William Shakespeare and act in one of his plays (A Midsummer Night's Dream, I think). Before we'd even started packing, he asked if we could see the Globe Theater. So we did. :) Our kids were the only kids in the tour, but Oldest was just as fascinated and paid as close attention as all the adults. Then he turned to DH and asked a question.

Oldest: Will we get to meet William Shakespeare?
DH: (confused look) Um, no. That's not really possible.
Oldest: Why?
DH: Well... He died a long time ago.
Oldest: (shocked and horrified) He died?
DH: I'm afraid so. Hundreds of years ago, actually.
Oldest: (looking like he's going to burst into tears) But I wanted to meet him.
Me: I'm sorry, sweetie. He lived a long time ago. But, you know what? There's a Shakespeare Theater in Chicago. It's not The Globe, but we can go see one of his plays there. Would you like that?
Oldest: Yeah. (perking up slightly) Can we see the same play that Jack and Annie were in?
Me: I'll do my best.

He was much happier after that and was able to absorb all the details of the theater. He thought it was pretty cool that there was no roof, and that the huge space in front of the stage was a place for people to stand and watch the play.

Both boys wanted to see the ravens at the Tower, plus the Tower bridge (they kept calling it London bridge, and it took a while to set that straight). We also went for a ride in the London Eye ferris wheel, which I'd never done before. It was pretty cool, and had great views of the city. It was cold, but we had a great time. The only damper was the night before we were supposed to leave for India...

I was packing up our suitcases, walking from one side of our hotel room to the other, and my knee gave out on me. One second I was standing, and the next I wasn't. And, wow, it hurt. It felt like my knee had slipped out of the socket. I was able to limp around the room and finish packing (I was almost done anyway), but, the next morning, I couldn't put any weight on it. At all. The hotel was great and brought me an elasticized sort of bandage, which helped a lot, and then they found us a pharmacy that was on the way to the airport. DH got me a knee brace, more bandages, ice packs, and ibuprofin. When we got to the airport, the wonderful lady at the check-in counter took one look at me and set up wheelchair services to get me to the gate, as well as for after we landed. I am incredibly grateful for that, because our plane wasn't at a vestibule. We took a bus to the plane and everyone walked up about two flights of stairs to get inside it. There was no way I was making it up so many steps. Fortuntely, I didn't have to. They put me (and about five other people in their seventies) on an enclosed lift and raised us up to the plane. I did have to walk back to my seat, which was painful and difficult, and a saint of a flight attendant helped me the whole way.

The flight to India from London is about ten hours, and, fortunately, my knee started feeling better. By the time we landed, I could limp along okay without hurting myself. But I was incredibly slow, and I couldn't carry or pull any suitcases, so, again, I was grateful for the wheelchair. We had a connecting domestic flight, and by the time that plane landed, I was hobbling along at a pretty quick pace. I'd even figured out how to do stairs--again, I was slow, but I could do it. Which is a good thing because my in-laws' house is a two-story walk up. :)

After about a week, I was walking normally. Still slow, but normal. And, by the end of the trip, I was getting along fine. It still ached, but I didn't need the wheelchair on the way home and I was able to pull along a suitcase. I went to the doctor last week (it was the soonest she could get me in) and it looks like my problem can be fixed with physical therapy, followed by regular exercises. So, that'll start soon (the sooner, the better, because this cold weather is making it ache like a !@#$!).

Anyway, even with my knee injury, we had a great time in India. We visited family, and I got to hold a baby--which is kind of a miracle. My in-laws live in a town that doesn't have many tourists, so I'm something of an attraction because I'm blonde and pale. Everyone stares, and at least one guy yelled "Hey! White girl" as I went by. The kids usually stare at me like I'm from another planet (which, to them, I kind of am), and a two-year-old girl actually rubbed her hand on my arm and then looked at her fingers. I guess she wanted to see if my skin color rubbed off. :) Anyway, the kids don't usually let me hold them, so I was thrilled when this baby decided I was okay. :)

We also went to a theme park type place that displays the various cultures and ways of life across the different states in India. It was really cool to see, and the kids enjoyed it. There was also a woman doing mehendi, which is a henna paste that she draws on your skin. After it dries, it leaves a temporary tattoo that'll stay on for at least a week, possibly more. My niece and I both got our hands done.

Our trip home was uneventful, and we were lucky enough to avoid the crazy weather that diverted planes and closed down airports, including London. The boys had a great time, and Oldest told me he wants to learn his dad's native language so he can understand what everyone is saying. I told him I'd learn it with him, which made him even more excited. So I'm looking into finding a teacher here in Chicago. Maybe by our next trip we'll all be able to communicate pretty well. :)

Jan 11, 2011

A Writer's Retreat

Last weekend, I participated in a writing retreat. That is, I checked into a retreat center and wrote all day long for two whole days. It was, in a word, amazing.

Normally, I only get a couple hours of writing time per day because Youngest is in school half-day. He comes home before lunch, and then I drive him all over the city for things like baseball, gynmastics, soccer, etc. It's not really possible to get anything done once he gets home.

So, to be able to sit and write with no possibility for interruptions was just heavenly. I wrote almost thirty pages in two days, worked through a really difficult transition in my story's plot, and figured out the rest of my outline. Even though I worked my butt off and my brain was exhausted at the end of each day, I left that weekend feeling so refreshed and relaxed. It felt SO GOOD to write.  Guess I'm a writer through and through. :)

I'm going to keep this momentum I have going as best I can, even with the two hours per day. It'll keep that smile on my face. :)

Jan 4, 2011

Happy Holidays!!

Hope everyone had a wonderful and safe holiday!!  We were in London and India for much of December, and also went to Florida over Thanksgiving. Too much traveling over too short a time span! Live and learn, I guess.  :)

We're pretty used to traveling, though, and we take our kids with us. In fact, I've been to India four times now (all my in-laws are there), Oldest has been there three times, and Youngest has been there twice. It takes two days to get to India, so we're all accustomed to long plane rides. In fact, Youngest asked a hilarious question just before Thanksgiving...

Me: Guess what? We're going to see Grandpa in Florida over Thanksgiving! Does that sound fun?
Youngest: (squeals) Yes!! Who else is going to be there?
Me: Well, Great-Grandpa and Grandma, and there will be a couple kids to play with, too, who are your age.
Youngest: (more squeals, then he stopped and looked very thoughtful) Mommy, how many days will it take to get to Florida?
Me: (stifling laughter) It's only 2 and a half hours.
Youngest: (aghast) Two and a half days? That's really long!
Me: (laughing now) No, sweetie, two and a half hours. You could watch a movie on the plane, and when it's over we'd probably be landing.
Youngest: Oh! Okay. (he grins) That's really short.

I guess it's all in your perspective.  :)