Saturday, April 07, 2012

The Big Cross Continent Move!

 I thought it only fit to start penning my "return to the US" adventure on this blog, after all it was my "return to India" move that started me on the whole blog thing way back in 2006!

I wanted to post daily, but things have been so hectic and crazy I am going to have to club the past week into one post....and trust me, it will read like a soap opera. It has trauma, horror, drama, excitement...and finally a happy ending.


March 30th - Hyderabad to Bangalore by road.

Normally this is about an 8 hr road trip, but I'm starting to realize that when it comes to travel - by road, air or sea -  "normal" and I don't work well together.

The bus/van we had booked arrived at 6am, perfect timing, so far so good. But then we realized that they hadn't removed the last 2 rows of seats/6 seats like we had requested. They had only removed 2. Aaarrrggghh! I was gnashing my teeth. How were we going to fit in 4 gigantic suitcases, 4 smaller ones, assorted hand baggages, a cooler with food and drinks, 2 dog crates, 2 dogs and 4 humans???? We forced the driver to get his toolbox out and remove 2 more so very reluctantly he did.
We started the loading goodness, you'd think we were going on a 6 month trek to the outback or something!! I have never seen so much luggage! The crates of course took priority and then everything else came after that.
Junglee was fascinated and poked around trying to find the best seat in the house.
 Little by little it all went in.....
 Suitcases - check: food bag - check: cooler - check...and so on.
The dogs were ready. You'd think by looking at this picture they were excited to go, but they were absolute beasts on the trip. Look at those innocent faces......

After a round of tearful bye byes and a bit of a delay we got on the road at 8.45. We got out of the city fairly soon and were feeling pretty good. The weather was decent, a bit cool, the dogs were all googly eyed at the action on the roads, we all had good seats....yay. Then at about 11am we saw a traffic jam ahead and thought - Uh oh! And we were right in thinking Uh-oh! It was a road block protesting the Telengana movement......I won't bore you readers with the details but its a political thing thats been going on in our state for many years. Suffice to say its a waste of time, energy, resources and a damn nuisance!!!!! We cooled our heels (I say "cooled" figuratively, it was close to 90 degrees in the van) and then finally left an hour later. We stopped an hour later at a drive in restaurant for lunch...well more a place to make our lunch cos we had packed everything we needed to make sandwiches. Using the crate as a table my mom went to work.
While Raga and my dad entertained the dogs. Not sure why Raga has his head in his hands in this pic??

By now the dogs had realized this bus journey was not as much fun as they had anticipated. They hated being put in their crates which were lolling around, they hated being out of it cos they had to be pinned down on one of our laps....they hated the short, they were unhappy. They whined and barked and whimpered in turns in between short bouts of napping. My nerves were zapped!
Lunch all done and feeling a bit better, we head on.

5pm - the driver starts tinkering with the gears as he is driving. Then he stops by the side of the road and tinkers even more - pulling it this way, then that way, up, down, sideways......clearly there is a problem but he refuses to admit it. (This is an Indian phenomenon for you non-Indian readers, we have a hard time admitting there is a problem)! We take the dogs out of the van, so we can all stretch our legs while the gear movement continues in a frenzy. Driver gets out of the bus and disappears under it. We observe a temple on a hill by the side of the road and a statue next to it. At least we think its a statue....we all looked at it for 5 minutes and it didn't move, so yes, it was a saffron statue. Dogs are a major attraction....bikers, motorcyclists all slow down to observe these 2 creatures, one brown, one black, 8 inches high and about 4 feet long...they have never seen anything like this and are fascinated. The dogs in return are fed up! they want to get off the leash and run up the mountain! Finally Mr. Driver admits there is a problem. NO! Really???? So....what to do now?? We are 100 kms from our destination, on a mad highway with trucks speeding, no sign of civilization for miles around, except for a hill with a temple and a statue and the light is slowly fading.

As luck would have it, a motorbike stops by to admire the pooches, 2 dhoti clad guys sitting astride, utterly fascinated by J and L. They ask dog related questions and then realize we are stranded. By now the statue has also come down the hill - you guessed right, it was no statue, it was a real live swamiji and a minute ago out of the corner of my eye I had seen something orange come sliding down the hill. And then in true Indian fashion the bike guys tell Raga to hop on the bike, they'll take him to a village 5 kms away, he can rent a couple of cabs and come back! So off Raga goes with them, sitting in the middle with these 2 guys! If I wasn't so stressed and hysterical by then, I would have seen the fun in it all and taken some pics! I so so regret it now! By now Swamiji had clucked and sympathized and had offered us his temple as sanctuary for the night. And as if to entertain us he told us his life story ending with the fact that he had no money, just the land his temple was built on and what good was that???? So my dad gave him some cash and off he went, swinging his incense burner pot back and forth....into the setting sun!

Raga called to say he had reached the village and was making arrangements for a couple of cabs. But before that he and his accomplices were caught by a cop for riding "triples" on a motorbike, and after a Bollywood like chase through the paddy fields of the village, they managed to throw the cop off their trail. At 6.45 or so he returned with a large SUV and a mechanic to help get the van fixed. It took us quite a while to transfer all our stuff from one van to the other, but finally amidst a lot of noise, confusion, chaos, dog barking and dim lighting, we managed. We had had enough of the van, so we paid the guy what was due till then, said adieu to him and took off for Bangalore all tightly packed like sardines in the SUV.

We zipped along for the first 60kms or so and then we hit Bangalore city like a brick wall. The city's traffic is rotten! (It never was like that but has become so in recent times). The roads are all dug up to make way for the metro, existing roads are narrow, there is no sidewalk to speak of...add to all this unruly drivers and ineffectual cops and you have a total mess. We plodded along the remaining 30-40 kms and after a lot of phone calling and meandering arrived at our homestay at 10.30pm - 14 hours after we left Hyderabad!! WHEW!

The villa was wonderful.....gorgeously landscaped, beautifully lit lawns, nice big rooms and a dining table all laid out with dinner for us. We freshened up, and then sat down for dinner....laughing at our adventure for the day and being grateful for inquisitive passers by. I was still a bit stressed, but the nice meal helped a lot. The dogs were ravenous and scarfed their dinner down. Poor guys - little did they know this was just a prelude to their BIG plane adventure coming up soon.

March 31st, April 1st: Chilling at the Farm:

The next 2 days were spent at the homestay/farm, gearing up both mentally and physically for the flight to Seattle. Raga spent his time alternating between the laptop and the hammock, drinking inordinate amounts of fresh coconut water and then eating tender coconut meat, provided by the ever obliging manservant around, Rajender.

My dad took long walks around the farm and then napped on the hammock to reenergize himself.
Lucy and Junglee sent their time observing the various animals in the farm and being totally fascinated by the rabbits.

It was a restful 2 days, one that my nerves badly needed after the harrowing road trip. My mom and I spent time admiring the flora and fauna, chatting with the folks there and just hanging out.

On Sunday evening, we got our things ready and left for the airport at 8pm, for our 2.30 flight. Why so early?? Well, 2 reasons. One is the legendary Bangalore traffic and there was no telling how long it would take. Opinions ranged from 1 to 3 hours and we were not about to take a chance. Second, we had the dogs and didn't know exactly how long the checking in process would be for them. Sure enough it took us about 2 hours to get there.

After a very sad goodbye to my parents, Raga and I went in with the dogs. we wanted to delay putting them in their crates for as long as we could, but once we entered the airport, there was no choice. They were not happy and barked their heads off. It sounded deafening to me but when I looked around no one seemed really bothered. After a lot of checking this and that, and a lot of stickers getting stuck on their crates - weight, name, priority labels, addresses etc - the ticketing guy told Raga their crates had to be scanned. So R took them to another area and I waited for him to bring them back so I could say my byes to them. But he came back about 20 minutes later and said they had been whisked away... :-(
I was devastated!!! I had not got a chance to kiss them and say my byes. It took me a good 10 minutes to get over that and I dragged myself to our own security process.

When we finally boarded at 2am, I handed the flight attendants a box of chocolates, along with a pic of the dogs and a letter telling them our dogs were on board and to please let me know when they were boarded. The reason we flew Lufthansa was because I had heard repeatedly that they were great with pets, and they did not disappoint. They told me when they were loaded, they kept us updated on the cargo cabin temp, and reassured me they would be fine.

So all I could do was trust them and try to relax over the next 2 legs! Easier said than done!

April 2nd: Bangalore - Frankfurt - Seattle:

How ironic is it that the first time I get to fly business class I am too worried to enjoy one bit of it??? Yes, that's exactly the case.......seats that reclined all the way back flat, an awesome entertainment system, gourmet food, unending drinks in crystal cut glass, personal attention...all were utterly wasted on me. I was too freaked out and depressed about the dogs being on the cargo hold. No amount of updates by the cabin crew and friendly reassurance would help....I hardly ate or drank anything and I just could not concentrate enough to watch a movie. I alternated between some vague music channels and news shows trying to get my mind off of them. I imagined every possible wretched scenario....dogs not getting loaded at Frankfurt and being left behind, them freezing in the cold below, crates rolling about in the turbulence and their getting hurt. I wondered if they thought we had abandoned them??? The last I remember was looking at them through the crate opening...Lucy, all wide eyed in wonder and bewilderment, Junglee's eyes sad and teary??? Basically, I was a basket case. Raga I know was equally worried, but he would not show it. 

Our flight landed in Frankfurt a bit late, so instead of a 1 1/2 hr layover, it was 1hr 10 minutes and that did nothing to help the situation. We raced to the gate, and even with that it took us a good 20 minutes. I refused to board till I knew for sure the dogs had been transferred on to this plane. After a lot of calls the ticketing agent said yes, they had. So we got on the bus that took us to the plane. There we noticed a cargo guy hanging around and Raga accosted him and got confirmation from him too. Then we did the same chocolates, letter routine with the crew on this flight and we got FINAL confirmation that they had been loaded. 

The next 10 hours was a blur. Every minute seemed an eternity. And then at 11.30am, after flying over the magnificent Cascade Mountains, we landed! I almost screamed in relief! 

The immigration process took less than 5 minutes, clearing the doggie paperwork another 5 minutes and then we got our baggage. That took a while and in the meantime we were notified that J and L would be at the domestic belt carousel for us to collect. My son and SIL were there at that terminal so I called and told them to watch out for them. Fortunately they were delivered just after we collected our baggage. I was expecting to see them all sad and curled up wondering what was going on....but they emerged tails wagging and barking with joy at seeing us. 

It was a great reunion, a lot of barking, hugging, kissing, yelping, and I cried again! Yes, i did a lot of crying on this trip.....

 And after another session of loading our mountains of luggage into the rental van, we headed home.

April 3rd to April 6th: Settling in at Alki:

Since we got here we have been busy settling into our new temporary rental home. Gautam and Andy were here for 3 days and that was a huge help.  They dog-sat while we ran around getting stuff done. Its a small 2 br/1 ba cottage sort of thing on Alki Ave. Alki is a beach community cos its right on the water.....and is a popular place for Seattleites when the weather gets nice and warm. You'll see a million dogs being walked, a lot of folks skating and roller blading, and a ton of joggers and walkers. We used to live just about a 1/2 mile from this place a few years ago, so we know the area well. A 2 minute walk will take you to some of the best restaurants in town.....and Starbucks is a minute away. 

The dogs are in culture shock. They're saying "Its too damn cold, you cannot just bark indiscriminately at people going by, this house is too small, where is our doggie door for us to go in and out, what's up with these sterile sidewalks and why do we have to wear our collars all the time, why is my mistress picking up our poop instead of Krishna the watchman????? But we do like our master and mistress taking us for walks instead of him" :-)

The front of the house

 The magnolia tree in our neighbor's place
 I know what Junglee is thinking...."finally a sunny day after that nasty cold and wind"
 Where the dogs hang out watching people walk by
 A tiny little office area
 Shabby chic meets Seattle coastal

 Cottage kitchen
 Kitchen with laundry room beyond
Its definitely not my style of decor, but a furnished house which allowed pets was hard to find. Plus we know the area well, so we didn't protest too much. This will be our home for the next couple of months. I've stocked up the kitchen and am looking forward to cooking with all those fabulous organic veggies available here. I've signed up for Zumba and yoga. Raga has a brand new car and has started work. Another week of fooling around for me and then I go back to blogging for Saffron Marigold after my 3 month break. Thank goodness because I need something to do. And of course Saffron and Silk will be up and running again. 

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Seattle to Atlanta

25th October to 4th November

The travel gods are still mad at us.......

So after a brief introductory visit to Seattle, we head off to Atlanta and our flight was delayed - again - by 3 hrs. But by now we've learned to take these things in our stride, so we just relaxed, people watched, played "what do you think this man/woman does for a living" airport game, and boarded 3 hrs later.
{A brief side note here - Some of you may not know but Atlanta was the very first city we moved to in the US in 1984. My husband came to do his PhD at the Univ. of Georgia, and I tagged along - a young sort-of-blushing bride with a 2 yr old!!! My memories of Atlanta are pretty dim cos after 9 months there we moved to all I remember was being terribly homesick, astounded that I had to do all the house cleaning myself, and our outings were basically limited to the apartment - campus - KMart triangle!!!!}

So I really didn't know what to expect, but I was certainly not expecting a city full of gorgeous Southern brick and stone homes a la Tara from Gone with the Wind, wide open roads lined with fall colored trees,  people bursting with happiness and cheer, 70 degree weather in November and some good old fashioned jazz and blues wafting out from taverns and restaurants serving up good old fashioned Southern fare! I loved it!

Over the next few days with my brother-in-law and his wife, we toured the Coke museum, got high on at least a 100 different caffeinated drinks, toured the CNN studio where I was really hoping for an Anderson Cooper sighting, took the funicular up Stone Mountain, ate good food and spent some great family time together. My favorite was an evening of jazz at this tavern listenening to jazz master Reggie Hines mesmerize us with the saxophone! We four were the only non African Americans but we were so warmly welcomed and everyone was just having so much unfettered foot tapping fun, we felt right at home!

On my last day I took some pics of my SIL's townhome.

Some gorgeous art work done by my SIL's sister-in-law - Archana of Rang Decor

On the wall behind the sofa is artwork done by by SIL's! :-)

So that was our 10 day stay in Atlanta. I have decided its my next fav city after Seattle and DC! I have also decided Anderson Cooper is not as cool as I thought cos I discovered he is now hosting a daytime Jerry Springer like talk show which I happened to catch a bit of!!! I am so disappointed!