K is for Kind

For some, India is an acronym for I will never do it again.

For others, India is an acronym for I need to do it again.

Despite a few rough moments (here and here and here) I loved being in India and have been planning my return forever.

Why? Because despite the bad press India receives sometimes, the country is full of incredibly kind people who will go out of their way to help you, even if the “help” looks and feels a lot different than you are used to 🙂

Expect the unexpected. No where is this more true than India.

Want to feel like a star? Hand out some autographs? Become pen pals with the world? Go to India.

Me, the glamorous tourist (NOT) handing out autographs.

Me, the glamorous tourist (NOT) handing out autographs.

Want to be kindly told what to do? Go to India.

Want to kindly help put out a fire? Good luck and go to India.

2015-04-02 11.42.19However, if India feels like too much too soon, then I highly recommend Cambodia, which for me, has some of the kindest people in the world.

For example, are you married? Did you invite a heap of strangers to your wedding? Didn’t think so.

However, Cambodians are so kind that they do invited strangers to their wedding; this time, being me, over and over. I even had to have a wedding wardrobe sewn to keep up!

At one of many Cambodian weddings. The bride is in the background!

At one of many Cambodian weddings. The bride is in the background!

And what about The Netherlands? A kind Dutch family wrote on their bench.  Please Take A Seat …but don’t smoke any weed or other funny stuff. Our kids are a bit too young to get stoned… Enjoy the best bench in Town!

1238710_10151856460972390_1854675771_nThe kindness of strangers.

Just like you who stop by to read, yet, we haven’t officially met.

Thank you for being so K for kind from the Family C on their path to A to Z.

Who are some of the kindest people you have met on your travels?

Read the Fine Print First: A Massage Gone Wrong in Udaipur, India

My dad made a friend in India, Udaipur to be exact.

He was a charismatic friendly restaurant owner who would sit and chat with my dad for hours about anything and everything. He seemed to have a lot of time on his hands; a clue I should have picked up on. I spent so much time there that I had memorized not only the menu but the tile floor. Looking for something, anything to do, I found the man’s tourist book.

Now tourist books filled with quotes and recommendations from fellow travellers can be an effective tool. However his tourist book had nothing to do with his restaurant. He was also a masseuse; his side business; and from the looks of the tourist book, a more profitable one.

These sorts of books are very common on the backpacker trail. If Sally from Spain, Son from Singapore and Sergio from Suriname all think Mr. Masseuse gives great massages, than people like me, will surely want one too!

I am living proof that such tourist books work well to increase sales.

Having read through the numerous comments in a variety of languages, it appeared to be all above-board. Well, except for a couple of comments that warned that “conservative” customers might be taken a bit off guard. I thought – key words – “thought” that this must mean people who are not accustomed to getting massages. As I have had massages around the world, I wasn’t too concerned; I have seen it all. I have been rolled around and stomped on in Thailand, beautifully worked over in Indonesia, surely a massage in India couldn’t be that different. 

I have never been more wrong.

Heading up the tiny narrow winding staircase to the massage room, I enter, what looks like, a regular room with a bed. No fancy massage table, no mat, just a bed. Ok. Well, this isn’t quite what I was expecting but I reflect on the tourist book and put faith in it.

And from that moment on… the tourist book fails me, lets me down, and I begin to curse Sally from Spain, Son from Singapore and Sergio from Suriname who have clearly led me astray.

Mr. Masseuse is most likely a real masseuse but in my mind, his liberal approach is a bit too much for my conservative Canadian blood. His need for full access to all my joints, all my muscles, all my aches and pains might work for those who were raised on European beaches or nudist colonies, but it didn’t work for me.

Pretending to be ill, I jumped off the “massage table” and made a run for the restaurant where my dad was eagerly awaiting his relaxed and much calmer daughter. Instead, he received a much more flustered and stressed out version of myself. Inquiring, I said to him, later… much later…like, when we have left India, later.

And so the tourist book remains, maybe to this day, in that very same restaurant. Unfortunately I never added my 2 cents worth but maybe someone else has by now or maybe it was just me, an ultra conservative Canadian who should stick to Canada for her massages. I don’t know. But I do know now… I should have paid closer attention to the fine print or just have eaten another meal at the restaurant.

Raining Bangles In Little India

I was looking for something Indian to satisfy that thirst, that need to take the girls to India.

India was a little out of reach; financially and time wise. For a mere 30 dollars or so and a few hours, we found ourselves a decent substitute, Little India in Toronto. Spending the day wandering, eating (Udupi Palace – great South Indian food) and shopping we found ourselves a little slice of Indian heaven; not too far from our home.

A much cheaper alternative to the real deal but then again, India is major bang for your buck. Despite what it costs to travel there, it will repay us a thousandfold in terms of experiences and memories. I can’t wait.

But in the meantime, we will go back to Little India.

My Dad and His Henna – Only In India and Only My Dad

Who inspired me to travel?

To be fair, both my parents travelled. But my dad (somewhat like me) was obsessed!

We could talk for days about past trips, future trips, anywhere away.

Since my mom was never big on India, we decided to travel it together. Best decision, hands down, made 🙂 Grateful every day that we went for it.

So… we are in India and my dad is the kind of man who would try anything almost once. Scary maybe, funny yes.

A lady walks up to us and asks if we want a henna. For some reason, I am not sure. But my dad steps up to the plate and says, YES.

Dad, I don’t think men get henna tatoos in India. Have you seen any men here with any?”

“Well no Cheryl, but does that really matter?”

So my dad gets it done. 

Seriously, if we didn’t attract a lot of attention prior to henna incident, we sure did after. Almost car stopping, camel stopping worthy attention.

Everywhere we went, so did his followers, looking and talking about his henna.

Only my dad.. Only in India.

Not too long after, my dad died riding the horses he loved on his farm that he loved. If it had to be, he would have wanted it to be just like that. Makes me so sad still, but the memories really help. We didn’t get to Varanasi or Kerala (where he also wanted to go) but someday I will for him.

Here is a pic of us very long ago.

cambodia and india 520

An Oxymoron – Planning India

India is driving me crazy.

I want to take my family there. I want to fit it all in. I know I can’t. What is a mom to do?

I am stuck… between “planning” a trip to the north  or “planning” a trip to the south. I know I should be able to decide but I can’t.

Pros for the North-ish ( a new geography term that includes more than Rajasthan)

Taj Mahal – need I say more

Bundi, Bundi and more Bundi (see pic above) – more relaxed, easier, quaint, kite flying off of the roofs, great options for accomodation, monkeys, fort, all round great

Palaces – you can stay in old palaces and/or forts and yes, some are even affordable for backpacking families

Amritsar – didn’t see it before, want to see it! I have read so much about the Golden Temple and how wonderful it is to eat alongside thousands of people inside it daily and that there is a peace to the place that some just fall in love with

Varanasi – again we didn’t make it there the first time, so believing it is a city like no other in the entire world, it is a reason to go northish

Pros for the South-ish ( a new geography term that includes more than Kerala)

Kerala houseboats – my dad and I talked and dreamed of these many times, even bad photographers take good pics of the Kerala backwaters, it just is that beautiful

Easier? – I haven’t been to the south but any traveller who has experienced more of India than I, says the south is easier, fewer touts, less hassle – important to consider when it is my family’s first experience

Tea Plantation – I am obsessed with tea plantations but have never been. Strange, I know. I just love the pics of them so much.

Hampi – An IT PLACE that travellers go on and on about – I want to be one of those travellers – Walking and biking through the ruins, water running through the area, great sunsets, local people who pilgrimage there, a place to wander. Right up my alley.

Help!  Advice? In any event, it will be an experience.

Meeting for a Moment and Moving On

I was just leaving the temple with my dad somewhere in Rajasthan, India. There was no one around except for her; a youngish girl, carrying home water. She waved and I walked over. We couldn’t talk to each other but we could smile.

Immediately I felt awkward. Our driver in our rental car was waiting for us. We waved good-bye to her. She continued to walk; with the heavy jug on her head. I know because she had let me hold it. Driving away, moving on I looked back at her.

It didn’t seem right. In fact, it wasn’t. At least, we could have offered her a ride. But we hadn’t. Yes, feeling guilty. A common feeling I experienced in India.

Camels Are Not For Wusses

Trust me, the thrill of riding a camel lasts mere seconds… then it quickly turns to mere pain.

I should have learned my lesson the first time around. Dad and I were in Rajasthan, India and when you are there, apparently you must ride a camel in the desert. Or at least I was led to believe. Well dad and I did not last more than 10 minutes. Get on that darn camel, get a photo op and get off &*#! camel.

So why would I ever think that we should drag our bodies all the way to Merzouga, Morocco so that the rest of the family could celebrate the camel ride all over again?

And this was no 10 minute ride. Chris just confirmed that it was an hour and half both ways out into the Sahara Desert and then back again. He also stated that no one was happier than my camel when I decided to bail and get off said camel on the return home. My butt and thighs were forever grateful but my feet, trudging through the thick Sahara sand, were screaming another story.

Overall, not a pretty picture and one I WILL NOT REPEAT in front of those cool pyramids in Egypt (if and when) even if the photo op is to die for (in more ways than one).

The Elegance of an Indian Woman

I was in awe of the women in India. Simply, stunning in all they do.

I would be (as the teens today say) ONE BIG HOT MESS day in, day out. I couldn’t even begin to try. I thought I was doing well if my hair hadn’t frizzled into one massive bowling ball and that was a good day.

Indian women were cooking, they were carrying water on their heads, they were carrying anything and everything on their backs, they were looking after the kids, they were always doing and still… they have that “je ne sais quoi” , that simple elegance that makes you want to run for your camera and ask if you can take their photo.

Personally I know that NO ONE would EVER want to take my picture as I try to cook in my kitchen. It is anything but elegant.

Anonymous In India – NOT!!!

I wasn’t sporting great clothes… I wasn’t sporting a great hair cut (as Jade just pointed out). In fact I looked pretty bad. I was just plain old tired and extremely hot. This is India after all; tired and hot go hand in hand. I just needed to rest. But sit quietly for a moment by myself… rest and relax for a bit…I THINK NOT. This is India. I am not a sitting person, I am a sitting duck.

And so it began.

The man comes over and before I know it, I have a coloured mark on my forehead.

I am confused but that is no real surprise. To understand would have really been the surprise. Culture in India is no basket weaving course. The mark on my forehead is not red, the colour often used in temples. And I am not even in a temple.

So who is to know?

I smile, I say I am from Canada, and before I know it, I have an audience. Anonymous in India… an impossible feat.. but then if it was… it wouldn’t be India.

A Confession of An Unconventional Travel Obsessed Mom

I realize that it gets worse every January… it just rolls around… spitting at first, then pouring, and then soon I am drenched as there is a full-blown thunder-storm of monsoon proportions. The urge to travel…I can’t quite quiet it down. As we are more of the “once a year we take a big trip” kind of families (although I could change that up in a second if a jackpot came our way), January is the middle of my travel road. The memories of that last trip are beginning to fade and the NEED to do it all over again begins to BUILD! I am sure some of you can relate.

So when it comes to our girls, is it wrong that I don’t:

  • revel in the dream of their weddings
  • get glassy-eyed thinking of grandchildren
  • dream of their graduations (in fact I have been known to say that once they hit a certain age, they need to go backwards… like when you reach 15, then you turn 14 until you hit 10 and then you can work your way up again)
  • dream of their first jobs (unless of course it leads to travel 🙂

I care about those things…really I do… BUT I really dream of them travelling. You know when you have that “scare”, that kind of “scare” that rocks you to your core, keeps you up at night, and makes you re-evaluate your life. I had one of those last year (fortunately it was all fine) but during that scare and post-scare, this is what came to mind.

Nothing can happen to me until I know my girls have travelled to Cambodia (my first love) and to India (my second love). I realize that this is not normal… well for many of us… but I will sleep much easier once I know they have experienced these two special countries.