Dearest Friends and Family,
We’re back! All good things must end and our expat adventure was one of them. Traveling and living in Asia for the last 5 years was incredible and we had many bittersweet feelings as we readjusted, but we are glad to be home for good. We arrived in the States in September and made several trips around the country visiting friends and family. We’re sorry if we didn’t get by to see you.
After missing a connection, we nearly started the year off stuck in Dubai, but we reached our apartment just in time to watch the fireworks from the balcony. We aged a bit as we entered India when the immigration officer detained us. We found out that visa rules had changed while we were gone. The senior officer let us in but required Angela to register with the government. Under the new rules, Angela wouldn’t be allowed to reenter India unless she stayed out for more than 2 months. This drastically changed our travel plans from pan-Asia to intra-India. On the plus side, we’d have more to spend on antiques!
Like last year, we went to many weddings, temple celebrations, and festivals. Our favorite was a puja (Hindu ritual) for a baby and watching the snake boat races was a close second. While Steven worked, Angela spent her time getting ayurvedic treatments, taking yoga classes, and going shopping. She also went to the hugging saint Amma’s ashram and was hugged again. http://www.amma.org/.
Our first trip of the year was to Varkala for Angela’s birthday in February. Varkala sits next to the Arabian Sea atop cliffs that are unique to the otherwise flat Kerala coast. It is a laid back hangout for western backpackers and hippies. The many hotels and restaurants are unpretentious and serve (unlicensed) beer in coffee mugs. The beach is beautiful and water gorgeous. We liked it so much we took the train there again for another holiday in April.
Also in April we flew to Chennai over on the southeast coast of India. Angela found a great package deal where we got to stay at a Taj Resort. On our 5 day visit we toured the temples of Mamallapuram (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), took a day trip to Pondicherry, and went to a cricket game. We would have done more except the resort was so relaxing.
We caught World Cup fever in June and watched several of the games at an outdoor restaurant. One night we came across two baby street cats who were cute but sick. With the manager’s urging and perhaps one too many beers, we took the kittens home with us. We named them Billi and Poocha which are the words for “cat” in Hindu and Malayalam. We found a veterinarian who made them better and they in turn made our life better. Knowing we would be travelling a lot, we decided not bring them back with us. We found a loving home for them there but still miss them very much.
Even with Billi and Poocha to entertain us, July found us more and more fed up with India and homesick. We weren’t too upset when Steven learned his assignment and job would be over at the end of August. There was lots to do to prepare for moving.
For our last hurrah, we planned a 6 day trip to Leh in August. Leh is in the upper Indus River valley just north of the Himalayas. We were lucky to go after a cloudburst hit the Ladakh region resulting in fatal flash floods and landslides about two weeks before our trip. Things weren’t quite back to normal while were there but it was a most memorable trip. We landed in Leh at 11,000 feet and only went up.
We visited many of the ages old Buddhist monasteries and palaces for which Ladakh is famous. The history of the area has been well preserved and the unique Indo-Tibetan culture is still active. We drove up to Khardung La pass. India claims it is the world’s highest motorable road at 18,379 feet but modern GPS pegs it at only 17,582. We had good weather and were able to see K2 on the horizon. We took a day trip to Pangong Lake. The lake’s blue hues were amazing.
So here we are back at home. In addition to our U.S. travels, we’ve turned the house inside out making room for our shipment from India. It finally arrived and we’ve been busy unpacking our 69 boxes of goodies. Each box brings back many memories. Staying home together has been somewhat challenging. Things should get back to normal in January when Steven starts his new job at Rockwell Collins.
We would love to hear your updates. Please write, call, or visit us when you can. We wish all of you a wonderful holiday and much happiness to come.
Angela and Steven