Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Dearest Friends and Family,

Living in India for the past 2 years has made us so thankful for everything in our life, especially you. After the ordeal with our house and Maggie last year, 2009 was much better. It wasn’t perfect since Miss Kitty had to be put to sleep due an unreported illness. It stunned us and we still miss both cats.

We did so much this year that it’s hard to capture it in our annual newsletter. You can always read about and see more of our adventures on our blog at For more frequent updates, join us on Facebook.

The high point of the year was our good friend Katherine visiting us in June. Angela showed her the local area and then we all went on a 7 day trip around India’s Golden Triangle (Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra) and added a side trip to Varanasi. It was a wonderful adventure that we will never forget. We saw too many archeological sites, old forts, and then the world’s most beautiful mausoleum, the Taj Mahal. Varanasi was our favorite because it was so different and electric! The cremations on the banks of the Ganges River and the angst of the mourners are movingly indescribable. Angela and Katherine also skipped over to Chennai to see the famous Mamallapuram temples. They met some Chennai hashers that we found via the web. We don’t have many friends in Kochi so we were sad to see Katherine go.

Our other big trip of the year was in September. While all of Kerala celebrated Onam, we went to a tropical resort in the Maldives for almost a week. It was paradise from the moment we landed and were met by the hotel boat that took us to their island. We went on a different excursion each day: scuba diving, snorkeling, island hopping, a sunset dolphin cruise, and a tour of the main island and capital, Male. On one dive we went to a “cleaning station” where we laid on the bottom of the ocean in 40 ft of water and watched 3 huge manta rays with 9 foot wing spans glide by slowly. As they circled overhead, they were cleaned by many small fish. It was incredible and again very memorable.
In April we went shopping in Dubai to reset our visa clocks. As exciting as the malls were, we went on some tours too. The best was dune bashing in the desert. The jeep ride ended at a traditional desert camp complete with local fare, camel rides, and a belly dancer. In the Dubai airport on the way home we saw a famous Keralite: Amma, the “hugging saint.” Angela impulsively darted past Amma’s body guards and a throng of followers to get a spiritual hug.

Our living conditions changed in May when we moved in to a much nicer and bigger apartment. Its only drawback is that we hear construction and traffic noise. Moving—twice—the four large granite elephants we got in Sri Lanka last year was trying. We knew we were in trouble when the movers showed up in sandals and their only equipment was a burlap bag. After they damaged the old apartment we found out that it is customary for the hiring party (us) to pay for the repairs. We chalk it up as another lesson in Indian culture.

Our birthday celebrations were great this year. Steven surprised Angela for her birthday by taking her to a resort south of town. When they learned it was her birthday, the resort upgraded us to a bungalow with our own private pool. The upgrade and their other special touches made the weekend extra special. Then on his birthday, Angela surprised Steven by hiring a boat for a sunset cruise and arranging a special dinner. As is common for us, there was a mix-up and we ended up being the only passengers on a boat that could carry many dozens. We didn’t complain.

We also took long weekend trips when there was a convenient holiday. For Independence Day in August, we went to Goa, a European tourist hotspot. Even though it is close, it feels very different from Kochi. With a proper donation, we made an offering in a temple, most of which are usually closed to non-Hindus. For Gandhi’s birthday in October, we went to Munnar, a hill station town created by the British for their R&R. We saw wild elephants, endangered goats, and beautiful waterfalls.

For our last trip of the year, we are fortunate to be in the US on a long home leave after 11 months out of the country. We arrived home Nov. 21st but turned right around to go to Indiana where Pam and Larry hosted a warm family Thanksgiving. Back at the house now, we are loving our home visit! We’ve gotten to see more family, former coworkers, and many old friends from far and near. We are returning to India December 28th and we hope we’ll have seen you before we do.

We wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous new year.

With love and peace,
Angela and Steven


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