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Surreal: While eating lunch at a cheap French cafe at a fancy mall on Saturday, we saw a family with two teenage daughters, presumably on vacation. I was thinking of that feeling when you're on a really cool vacation. Is this really happening? How cool is this! How cool am I! Unless your vacation is longer than a couple weeks, that feeling stays the entire time. And even then, sometimes it floats over you again.

That surreal feeling has come and gone several times for us during our time in India. We've been here four months, which is as long as I lived in Romania. Once when John and I were talking about it, I wondered about the actual definition of the word "surreal." "Sur" in French means "upon", so my definition of a surreal feeling is as if there were another layer on top of reality.

Underlying our regular life is the fact that we live in India. We're so adjusted that sometimes we forget. Then when I remember, that surrealism settles down over me.

[Comments] (2) Spring Dragons: Earlier today, I was telling Maggie about how baby animals are born in the Spring and that's why eggs are a symbol of Spring. We drew some baby Spring animals to celebrate the point.

Now she is asking me, "what other animals are in the Spring? Dragons?"
"No, not dragons. Dragonflies and butterflies."
"But dragons lay eggs!"


restaurant menu = calendar
magnets = batteries
video = radio
bun (hairstyle) = gun
"let's look for a caterpillar coming out of a raccoon."
I have a good idea! or That's not a good idea.
Can I do a bad example?
She still says "ts" for combined consonants (truck = suck, drip = sip).
Her animals are always driving to the cabin, or taking a boat to Pondicherry beach, or flying to India or Hong Kong.
She loves to play "I'm gonna get you!" Dalton also loves this game.
Maggie knows all the words to the Primary songs they are learning this year.
She is getting so tall.

[Comments] (2) About a Boy: Today is Dalton's half-birthday; he is 18 months old. Since we have General Conference this week and will be in Hong Kong the next two Sundays (YES!) he won't be starting nursery for a few more weeks.

He loves cars. He has started lining them up.
He can sign a couple dozen words.
He is very interested in animals. He always notices birds (and signs "bird" and says "caw" if it's a crow making that sound) and dogs (and signs "dog" and says "woof") and cows (and signs "horse" and says "moo") and bugs (and says "guck").
He knows animals sounds and makes them with a passion.
Dalton knows the sounds of all 26 letters.
He loves to color.
He loves to go for walks. If he hears me mention it, he will bring his shoes over. "gack!"
He is not as snuggly as his sister. When we read books, he likes to sit next to me rather than on my lap.
He is very friendly and outgoing and still lets random Indians pick him up.
He just cut his 10th tooth (5 times as many as Maggie had at this age).
He wakes up too early.
He jumps down small steps.
He likes Ring Around the Rosie and other dancing games.
He says "uh oh!" when the power goes out.

[Comments] (1) Prophets and Temples: We watched two sessions of General Conference with our branch today. We had a half hour break in between and the kids were surprisingly well-behaved for all four hours. We had a little help from the usual young single adult men. I’m glad we had the opportunity to go, because there’s definitely something different about watching Conference in a chapel than watching it on TV at home in your PJs, or at your leisure on the computer, or reading it in the Ensign.

We believe in living prophets today, and it’s a joy to take time out of our oh-so-busy Sunday schedule to hear what guidance they have for us for the next 6 months. Maggie is learning President Monson’s name, and was happy to see President Uchtdorf as well – remember we met him hiking recently. She compared the speakers to the pictures in the April Liahona’s children’s activity and I helped her write the names underneath.

A brother in our ward at home is a member of the Tabernacle Choir and seeing him singing made me inexplicably homesick.

I loved the quote from President McKay that the church will shut down temples before they let our people go hungry. I love how involved the church is in welfare and relief. It’s no secret that the church is wealthy. Wealth distributed under the direction of the Apostles and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. No better work can be done.

85% of church members live within 200 miles of a temple. Being in that 15% stinks! Especially because most of them probably can’t afford to travel so far to the nearest temple. We are really looking forward to our trip to Hong Kong this week all the more because we will be able to attend the temple – the only time we’ll be able to during our 11 months in India.

Speaking of Hong Kong, we’ve also booked travel to Bangkok, Thailand for our anniversary this summer. I have always wanted to travel to Thailand and I am really looking forward to the fun and cultural things we’re going to do there.

Lift-onomics: Indians think that to get the elevator to come down to you, you push the down button - regardless of where you want to go once you get in the elevator. This usually works fine if you are the only person using the elevator. Once you get in, you push the floor you want to go to, and it takes you there.

But if you're on the 6th floor and want to go to the 8th floor and push the down button to get the elevator to come down to you, and I'm on the ground floor wanting to go to the fourth floor, the elevator is going to come all the way down to get me and drop me off first.

Just saying.

Auto-nomics: We took an auto home from church on Sunday. We live near a very well-known store, so our apartment isn't hard to find. Yet we had trouble finding an auto driver at the auto stand willing to take us. Even the drivers that approached us said no.

Finally one pulled over and said he'd take us for 100, which is what we usually pay to get to church, though the fact that he offered at 100 means we could have paid less. On the way home, I recounted Rachel's version of Newton's First Law of Motion.

An auto at rest will stay at rest unless a large force acts against it.

It's much easier to flag down an auto than convince one to move from a tea break.

I Yelled in the Grocery Store Today: Here's the basic problem: Indians like to get in line, then go and do their shopping.

I waited 5 minutes in one line, which had an unattended shopping cart in it. The guy in front of me and I scooted past it as the line moved up. When the lady came and tried to shove her way back in, I ignored her, until I realized the checker wasn't even there. So I went and got in a different line. The people in front of me were clearly waiting for someone else to come back with something. Irregardless, they started unloading their cart. Apparently they were waiting for two people to come, and then paying three different ways, and arguing about who was paying for what. So annoyed. When it was nearly my turn, another person showed up, with the same group. He tried to sneak around to the cashier after I wouldn't let him past and I started yelling at him.

No! You are cutting in line. I have been waiting. If you're not ready DON'T get in line.

The cashier, who obviously didn't like all those people cutting either, told him no and started ringing me up. I was so mad and a bit embarrassed that I was shaking.

When I left, the guy was three people behind me in line. Hah.

Another Maggie Quote:
Me: What are you going to count to? (she counts while she stands up in the bath for me to wash her).
Maggie: Zero. Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Zero! ... Marse One!

Later, I used "Minus one" (that's what they call the basement level here) in a sentence so she'd know the correct way to say it. Then we started calling it silly things and she said "Plus One!" I was very impressed that she put the "minus" and "plus" connection together.

Remember When: I love when Maggie says or does something that shows she remembers Our Other Life. The kids are playing with playdough and I spent 5 minutes looking for the rolling pin Dalton got out earlier (it was under the couch). "Hey Mom, remember that little rolling at our other house and we didn't bring it with us." When I asked her what color it was she remembered.

Also, yesterday, I asked if she remembered when Jill and I made the bat pillows and she said, "and I was playing in the sun room!"

Not India: One of the reasons we are so excited for our trip to Hong Kong - besides the fact that we've been planning this practically since we got married - is because it's Not India. We can't wait to get out of the country. 4 1/2 months is too long. 9 weeks is too long to go without a vacation and we won't be doing that again. But 3 months is about the limit for staying in India.

Easter Wednesday: We celebrated Easter early yesterday, since we will be in Hong Kong until afterwards. Basically, I wanted the kids to enjoy the stuff we (I mean, the Easter Bunny) got them. John hid everything 'cause he's good at stuff like that. Here's our homemade/makeshift Easter hunt:

Fisher-Price nesting eggs
Fabric pocket eggs
Starburst jellybeans (thanks, Jill!)
Littlest Pet Shop rabbit, turtle, and chair
sand/water toys (funnel, castle-shaped watering can, etc)
toy boat
blow up baby pool
dinosaur stickers
yellow and black nail polish (a la Ember the bumblebee)
Cadbury eclair candies
and two little cloth bunnies I made trying to replicated the felt bunnies from last year.

Later in the day, I made an actual felt bunny from the felt Jill sent.

[Comments] (1) Bangalore-Kuala Lumpur-Hong Kong: John blogged extensively about our trip through Kuala Lumpur and our first day in Hong Kong so I will just add a few things that I thought were interesting.

I saw more pregnant people in 5 hours at the Kuala Lumpur mall than I have in 5 months in India.
I am apparently used to not wearing seat belts and drivers opening the car door for me.
I love people who actually queue.
We were served dinner on Malaysia Air at 3 am. Seriously. I don't know what's weirder, curry at 3 am, or the fact that I ate it.
You can get away with wearing anything in Hong Kong. Between very short skirts and Muslim women covered head to toe, we saw a lot of different styles. You can dress however and call it fashion and get away with it, I think.
We have four kinds of currency with us.
Malaysia was so much more green than India. It was more lush and jungle, really like we expected India to be. They had something growing everywhere India has dirt. In the sidewalk cracks, up the tree trunks. Red soil is to India as greenery is to Malaysia.
McDonald's BEEF hamburger - so good.
The Malaysia Air flight attendants gave me dinner first (the second time, not the 3 am time) so I could eat while John held Dalton, then vice versa when they got to our row. Very thoughtful. Baby boy also got us cuts in two immigration lines, and a seat offer on a crowded MTR, though I didn't take it.
Maggie slept 18 hours in a row yesterday.
Having church in a chapel with carpet and pews (and stained glass windows and paintings of Christ, and elevators, and toilet paper, and an organ) agreed with Dalton. That boy needs more carpet in his life.
I have some little world travelers with full pages in their passports. Sometimes I am amazed at myself for dragging the kids all over the world. But they don't seem any the worse for wear, so onward we go.

Not Disneyland: Today we went to Ocean Park, a theme park here in Hong Kong. Themed around the ocean, surprisingly enough. Halfway through Maggie complained that we hadn't found the Winnie-the-Pooh ride yet. Lucky her! If that was Disneyland, she gets to go twice.

Dalton loved the carousel. I guess he's over his temporary fear of rides, or maybe that was India-specific. He wasn't afraid of the characters (mascots) either, nor the Chinese women who wanted to hold him and comfort him when he cried because we had to get off the carousel. Maggie seems less afraid of people here, and even waved to the doorman. Maybe she's realized that her cheeks haven't been pinched in two days.

Ocean Park is in two sections, a lower one, then you take a gondola up over the mountain, or a sub-themed train through the mountain to the other side. One of my favorite rides was a rotating view tower. You sit on a bench looking out and it rotates and slowly rises up, then goes down. We had great views of Hong Kong and the ocean.

My other favorite part was the animals. There are several aquariums with fish, sharks, jellies, goldfish etc, but they also have exhibits of Asian animals. For example, Giant Pandas! yay! Maggie wasn't very interested (she didn't want to give up her stroller spot) and I told her, "you might never get to see a panda again, get up and look." I was wrong though; there was another one in a different exhibit just across the way.

John didn't believe me, but I remember seeing Giant Pandas at the LA Zoo growing up. Perhaps a postcard will soon come up, validating that. I was recently validated about my childhood elephant rides, so it's possible. Also, it looks like the San Diego Zoo has pandas right now. You can even watch them on Panda cam. He's walking around right now!

Anyway, I also loved seeing the red pandas. They were so soft and cuddly looking. They were more active and seemed larger than the one at the Hogle Zoo.

They also had a sea lion and seal exhibit, and Maggie got to feed the seals. She dove right in (figuratively) and did it. It's $45 to feed the penguins at the aquarium in Utah, but we only paid $3.50 for three frozen fish for the seals! Maggie kept calling them otters, then she'd correct herself and say "animals" because she couldn't remember the name. They had otters also.

Alternate Universe Disneyland: Yesterday we finally went to Hong Kong Disneyland. Between Ocean Park, and seeing Pixar characters at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, and Peanuts characters at Snoopy's World, it's no wonder our kids think Hong Kong is Hong Kong Disneyland.

We were at the park when they opened at 10:30 and left when they closed at 8. It's like an Alternate Universe Disneyland. I was actually a little freaked out walking down Main Street USA, which is pretty much the same, but different enough to feel a little Twilight Zone-y. The street is brick instead of pavement, and the signs are different. That's about it. Once you split into the lands the differences become great enough that you don't keep thinking you're in Southern California, but before that it's a little disorienting.

The kids had a great time. We rode most of the rides and they were happy campers. The Winnie-The-Pooh ride had a lot of changes. There were new scenes added, which was fun and different, since I've been on it so many times. it's a small world was different, too. Again, it's nice to see something different on such a familiar ride. Dalton was enthralled with it. I really loved the Hong Kong scene at the end. Very cool!

We also saw two really great shows, Mickey's PhilharMagic Orchestra and The Festival of the Lion King. The first was a 3D show where Donald steals Mickey's magic hat and is taken through different musical scenes of movies looking for it. The second is an amazing live, musical performance, a quick reenactment of The Lion King. There's dancing, great singing, men twirling fire batons, girls swinging from the ceiling, and, of course, monkeys translating the key points into Chinese.

Hong Kong is awesome. I don't know how much of that is compared to India. Perhaps I would feel inconvenience coming here from the US. As it is, the biggest inconvenience is that I had to do laundry by hand for several days.

The Hong Kong subway system is awesome. All the trains and stations are clean and shiny. The maps light up, letting you know which stop is approaching, which lines you can transfer to, and which side of the door to get out of. Transferring trains is often as simple as walking across the platform - trains running in the same direction share platforms, rather than trains from the same line running in different directions. It is so efficient. The stations have multiple entrances, which means a lot of walking to get to the train, but that the station can easily serve a large area. And there are escalators everywhere. You also buy a ticket based on which stop you are getting off at. And the trains are filled with nice people who give their seats to ladies holding crazy babies.

I tried to go to the temple today, but apparently it was closed for the Public Holiday and is closed tomorrow, too! Sad. There goes my one chance to go to the temple this year. We did have a fun time at a nearby park, at Snoopy's World, and the Hong Kong Heritage Museum. We took it easy today because yesterday was such a long day.

Some more great things about Hong Kong:
A different selection of imported food (we bought sour gummy worms, wild rice, dried mangoes, two kids of goldfish crackers, and different granola bars to take back with us)
A different selection of imported restaurants (I'm trying to convince John to go to CPK again)
Did I mention the beef hamburgers at McDonald's?
Lots of people-watching
People are very friendly
There is a LOT to see and do
Lots of walking and exercise

Shopping: I am not a jewelery girl and I am not a purse girl, but somehow I'm coming "home" from Hong Kong with more of those things. I checked the price on a tiny, plastic purse at Burberry yesterday and it was nearly $400 (US) so I decided to go with the little $2 purses at Stanley Market. I got two tiny purses that'll hold a phone and credit cards and some cash and that's about it.

I also got a jade bracelet. Jade! The lady also looking at them asked the salesgirl if they were high grade jade and the girl laughed at her. So, we spent $13 on a bracelet instead of $2,000. I'm ok with that, and I love it.

We also got Chinese clothes, t-shirts, postcards, a fan, a parasol, chopsticks, and regular clothes for me and Maggie. Lots of silk brocade coming back with us.

I am not looking forward to going back to India. Hopefully the reality is better.

If you've missed any of John's detailed accounts of our Hong Kong trip, check them out.
Kuala Lumpur
Ocean Park
The Peak
Lantau Tour
Hong Kong Disneyland
Temple and Sha Tin
Stanley Market

Home Sweet... Oh Wait.:
Good: Washing machine!
Bad: Power was out most of the day.
Good: Lots of toys! The kids were very happy to see all their toys again. Maggie missed her free play time.
Bad: Two little dinosaurs decided to keep touring the island.
Good: Dalton was willing to start napping again.
Bad: No nap for me, since I had to go grocery shopping.
Good: I didn't yell at anyone at the grocery store.
Bad: Haven't been able to find basil again.
Good: Had a box of scrapbooking supplies waiting for me.
Bad: Feeling overwhelmed with the amount of photos.
Good: The apartment was nice and clean to come home to.
Bad: We also came home to ants.
Good: 32 days until our next vacation.
Good: 1 hour flight.
Good: Swimming, kids club, all-inclusive, beach, relax, and actual bathtub.

Second Breakfast: Indian butter chicken, fried okra and naan. Yum.

I'm on my third load of laundry. The power's been out twice, but we got up super early, so it balances out. Hopefully the sun stays out because I already don't have room to dry this load.

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