He is here!

The new year has been ushered in. Year 2014 is the thing of the past. But, I am still reeling in the joys that 2014 has been. It was the year where several of our dreams came true – a new house to call our own, the baby news, my mom visiting from India !

The best of the reasons why 2014 will always be dear to me, however, is the gift that arrived at the very end of the year.

Yes, He is here ! :)
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‘Donut’ made his entry on the day of Christmas eve – Dec 24…when the world was in the best of spirits, celebrations and happiness all around :)

We are a family of four now!

It has been about 3 weeks now and things still feel surreal.In the haze of constant feeding, diaper changes, sleepless nights, and recovery, we are gloating over every sleepy smile of the newborn.

The story of the birth needs to be recorded and I shall put it up shortly. Glad to say, it was as less eventful as can be.

The big sister was initially taken aback by the baby out of Amma’s tummy! But, once warmed up, she has been unable to stay away from her tiny pink blob of a brother. Constantly hugging and showering him with kisses, she shows him off to anyone who cares to look.

I realize she misses her parents complete attention at times, but tries her best to accommodate and keep a smiling face. Makes me proud to watch her act with such understanding and maturity at this tender age.

Sounds so cliched, but just when you thought your heart was full with this all consuming love,  it makes space for more! It brims over and rolls down as tears when you hold the 4 year old with the 4 day old close to the chest while the husband stands close and watches on.

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Hoping 2015 carries forward these wonderful moments.

To all of you lovely people out there – May the new year bring you the joys of adventure, high of success and warmth of love ..all through and through.

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Posted in Donut Diary, Need to share this | 12 Comments

Dear Donut

Dear Donut,

At 36 weeks, you are not just a baby growing inside, you are already part of this family :)

You know what else you are? Here is a list:

You are Strong. There are no kicks and flutters anymore. There are pronounced nudges, stretching and squirming from you now. At times, they are so strong, I literally have to stop doing what am doing and wait for you to calm down :)

You are Cared for. The Big sister loves and cares for you to extents you won’t believe ! (Remember this when she might be bossing you around as a teenager :D ) She reminds me that I should not lift/carry her, insists I don’t run while playing with her , asks Appa not to drive the car too fast when I am around – all because she wants you to feel safe inside. “I don’t want Donut to feel squished inside Amma!” she says. Every single day, she never forgets to stop, kiss and bid you a very sweet ‘Bye Donut, have a good day’ before leaving to school.

You are Loved. At night , before going to sleep, your dad and big sister sing to you sitting on the bed with me.. They sing softly one by one and sometimes in chorus. They compete who can get more closer to your ears ( near my tummy) and smile along as they do so. You seem to listen- silent for the words and a little nudge when it ends :)

- You are Funny. Your tiny toes move around pretty obviously when I am lying on my side sleeping at night. They wake me up with a tickle most times :) Now that your movements are so pronounced,the big sister watches you move sometimes and giggles hard – imagining your antics inside ! Also, the hiccups. You get vigorous hiccups at times and although it is very common, I only started noticing it in the last few weeks. Oh man, those hiccups make my tummy literally throb to the beats of hic-hic-hic. Silly baby :D

- You are Sensible. You remain the perfect little one inside during my bad days.It is as if you feel my emotions from within , know when Amma is angry/sad and keep calm. It is the thought of you that brings me back my cool too. Thank you !

You are Celebrated. While we get your bassinet, clothes, closet and other necessities ready, your grand parents are preparing for you in much grand ways. Their flight tickets are booked to visit you. They have shopped the heck out of baby stores to pamper you upon arrival :)

You are Dreamed of and Prayed for. I pray for your well being every day , asking God to bestow you with all the health and happiness. I dream that you are smart, cheerful and kind. I imagine you to have loving eyes and a warm personality. I hope for you to be emotionally strong and content. We, as parents will strive to provide you the resources for that, as best as we can.

You are much Awaited. This feeling of you inside my belly is very comforting. Yes, the extra weight, the tiredness and fatigue, the hurting back – all if it sucks. But, am ready to ignore all that to cherish this little you growing in there. It is a feeling of immense love and gratitude I feel for your existence. You know, your little family cannot wait to meet you in person, my dear! You are much awaited.

Stay safe in there now and when you come out to this beautiful world in few more weeks, come happy and healthy. Come, complete this family.
We love you.

Your,
Amma

Posted in Donut Diary, Need to share this, Paapu Tales | 5 Comments

Hatching New Dreams…(continued)

Continuing from the first part here…

Some dreams take birth within the subconscious, even before you realize it. This one was just that for me.

When Paapu was about to turn 4 this year, I knew I wanted a second child.I knew Paapu was ready to be a big sister ( she coo-ed and cuddled with any baby she saw anywhere, sometimes among strangers in a park!). I knew it was the perfect time come to expand the family.

Heck, there are a dozen logical reasons I can quote to justify the decision, but none would sound authentic. It just felt right, that’s all.

But, did the husband feel the same way? Err..I soon found out – No. He thought we were fine as we were, why another child? I could not explain the ‘why’ myself, so there was no insisting or logical debate to follow. I let the topic slide. But, when you cannot let go of a dream, it is bound to come true!

I do not know how or why, but right around the time Pappu turned 4, the Husband was ready to join me in the project “Baby 2″ :D

When he was ready, it was me who started chickening out. “What? This is really happening?!”, “Am I ready for 9 months of pregnancy and symptoms that come with it?!”, “Can I handle two kids at a time?!!”, “Oh, the diaper changing, the sleepless nights!!”. But then, the dream had been passed on to the husband and he was the one who convinced and cleared my mind.

So, there. We were all set to start trying.

Did I tell you this ‘trying’ is one of my favorite parts of the entire baby business? ;) It also helps to have a personal reminder like this one, constantly bugging you to make a baby soon! :D

The day after we moved into our new house, I took a pregnancy test. Too much fatigue could be attributed to the stress of moving. But, missing the periods by couple days was reason enough to test. And there it was – the Positive line!:)

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Have been there, seen that before. But, was still overcome with joy and nervousness all together! Husband, surprisingly took it very calm. No ‘jump for joy’ moment there. “I knew it. It had to be now”, he said as he hugged me gently.

Paapu could not be told right away, not yet. A four year old is very impressionable and we had to be absolutely sure before we told her. Although the parents were made privy to the news, we patiently waited for the first 3 months to pass without any events, especially since this past incidence still haunts me.

The whole of first trimester was relatively smooth. I say this, because I have known friends and cousins around me who suffered hell during the first 3 months of pregnancy. I had no nausea or extreme aversion. However, I was fatigued and tired like a over-worked mule all day long. Climbing a few stairs made me light headed. Standing more than 10 minutes made me tired. Finally it all came down to anemia, detected in a blood test. Taking extra iron supplements helped a lot.

Although I did not physically show a bump at this point, Paapu had to be told. So, we did. Her reaction -” No, Amma, I don’t believe you!. You need to have a BIG Humongous tummy to have a baby there!” :D

It took a few ultrasound pictures and an actual visit to the doctor with us to convince her there really is a baby inside my tummy! She named the tiny thing “Donut”. It was the first thing she could think of when I asked for a name. Well, it is sweet ( literally) and small. So, why not? ;)

Paapu now, is already a very loving big sister to her Donut. She brings an extra candy from birthday parties for Donut. She colors an extra page on her book for Donut. She comes close to my ( now big) bump and asks “Where is the baby’s ears?”. When I point out randomly, she bends there and softly sings ‘Row, Row, Row your boat..’ to Donut.

I already see so much love in her, waiting to be shared with her sibling, it fills me with utter gratitude for these beautiful moments I witness.

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In my 5th month now, I’m walking waddling like a duck holding a football ;) I feel the little one move around, not just butterfly flutters, but actual kicks too!

Although not new, it still feels surreal :)

By January, the dawn of new year 2015, I will be a Mother of Two !  :O
Please wish us luck for a healthy pregnancy and a safe delivery. Really need those wishes.

Thanks for standing by.. {{Hugs}}

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Posted in Need to share this | 28 Comments

Hatching New Dreams…

The second half of the last year was a period of dreams for us, as a family.

Dreaming of new horizons and getting out there to achieve them.

It took humongous effort for the husband and I to dream beyond our comfort zone, to break the monotony of daily living and start thinking what could be.

It was scary, it was unnerving, full of doubts – what if we chose the wrong timing? What if all the dreams and plans were just not meant to be? What if..?!

But, once those dreams were etched in our heads, there was no looking back.

Today, I wish to share those dreams with you. I wish to share my joy at having hatched them, finally! :) I wish to make you part of my big hug and share the happy tears I feel. I do regret not making you part of my journey towards achieving these dreams. But, I know I am still not too late. You have been virtual family and a very kind, loving one at that.So, here is the story:

Dream I

It was around August, last year, that we got serious about owning the roof that we lived under. Renting a house was very convenient – we choose the location, we decide on a budget, utilities are taken care and you don’t worry about maintenance.
But, the crazy ballooning of the rent prices in our area primarily motivated us to think beyond the comforts of a rental house. Our own house meant more freedom – to customize, to make it cozy to our taste. To hammer a nail on the wall!

Paapu was almost four and deserved space to grow. The 2nd floor rental home, as we realized, was indirectly restricting her. What with Shushing her often, stopping her from jumping, just so that people below would not complain. Kids need to jump and run around, and the rental place was not making it conducive.

The hunt to find our own place, began with cautious slow steps. We went to see open houses, studied the real-estate market for areas of our taste and spent hours discussing over every nuance on the topic.Our real estate agent is one of the best things that could have happened to us during the period. Let’s call her Reema.

The lady was experienced and professional. Honest and outright when you needed her to be, but never pushy. Our criteria were in dozens and the choices were small, but we prodded on.The new year sneaked up on us and we realized we are no where close to our dream of owning a house yet!

Frustration crept in. The amp was raised and the hunt got aggressive.We bid on several houses – even though they were much beyond our budget. But, our offers were outbid or rejected every time! Debates,fights and even angry tears became regular part of our household. Was it all worth it? Just when we began to rethink, the game changed.

We went to an open house in a familiar neighborhood one day – a simple 3 bedroom house with a backyard. The house was very old and creaked at some parts. The kitchen was bad, almost depressing with 60+ year old appliances. Fading walls and horrible cabinet designs.I cringed at the ancient looking wallpaper in the dining room. Also the exposed brick wall in the family room. Also, the backyard had a swimming pool that required heck a lot of maintenance. We did desire for a pool for kids safety reasons too.The roof was so old, it would start leaking in an year!

But..but, it fell within our budget. The neighborhood was great. The people were friendly . The backyard was good even though the big pool took all the space.

We bid on the place with a dollar amount that did not exceed one penny from what they asked for.Given the real estate bubble in our part of the world, it would surely be rejected, no doubt. In addition, we dared to ask the owners to replace the old roof for us. That should have been an obvious suicide for the deal.But, what do we know?! Our offer was accepted! Apparently, the owners (an aged couple) liked us and wanted their beloved home to go to a family like ours :)

First news of them accepting our offer, I went into a state of shock. The agents on both sides were moving fast with the papers and there wasn’t time to re-think. Within the next day, we were sitting with a pen to sign on the dotted lines – to be home owners! I recall having a cold feet. I recall shivering. I recall sobbing and not agreeing to sign the papers. It was Reema who came to my rescue. She helped untangle my confused brain and showed me some clarity. She spoke to me candidly, like a elder aunt and not the real estate agent. She was honest again about the good and bad and she was candid enough to say that I would badly regret if I let this opportunity pass. “This house came too easy.No rejection.How can this be good? Isn’t that what you think?”- She gave the right words to my thoughts.After a long discussion and listening session, I was ready. I knew this deal is the best we could get in the market. I signed the papers along with the husband on Feb 20th 2014. We were officially owners of a house in the United States of America!

It still feels unreal saying that :)

Then, came another hurdle. The kitchen definitely needed renovation. Planning began. Took us a month to finalize a contractor after interviewing half dozen of them.The one we finally signed up with, was a very cheerful Latino who knew how to keep his clients happy while getting the most from his workers. The original kitchen was demolished and a new one ( designed by me!) was raised from scratch. From flooring to the roof and appliances, we spent hours choosing, deciding, discussing and rehashing. Also, made innumerable trips to the city office to get building permit every step of the way. Although it required lot of patience and time- I was happy to see how the city officers worked to help the residents. Each person offered suggestions and explained risks. They seem genuinely concerned! Not a single paisa was passed under the table ( if you know what I mean). The permits never took unreasonably long either.

The brand new kitchen was finally ready by the end of April and the result was all well worth it! Here’s a glimpse:

BEFORE:

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AFTER:

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We repaired some creaky parts, removed wallpapers, painted some walls, cleaned up the pool and put a fence around it. Although we were drained of our bank balance, it finally looked and felt like home!
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We officially moved in on the second day of May 2014.
So far, the home has been a sweet nest and I’m loving every moment of it :)

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P.S: I realize this is a long post already. Shall post the rest of the dream series in a follow-up post. Promise, It will be up here within a couple days . Do come back to check! :)

Posted in Need to share this | 31 Comments

A Big Fat Complaint

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Scenario 1:

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“You look so fat! Almost ill ! Oh, look at your face !!Tch, Tch. What’s going on?”

Would this be an acceptable line coming from a friend, even though she is close to you and your family, especially when the words come at you as you just open the door , smile and welcome her into your home ?

Am sure none of us think  this is acceptable.  It is downright rude to speak so bluntly about someone’s weight gain or the way they are carrying it on their face, especially when you first see them.

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Scenario 2:

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The exact same as above, but just replace the word ‘fat’ –

“You look so thin! Almost ill ! Oh, look at your face !!Tch, Tch. What’s going on?”

Now, does it sound more acceptable? Probably..yes?

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Many people I know seem to think so. And, they use it liberally on me. Not just when I open the door to welcome them home , but anywhere and everywhere else possible.

Why does society think it is okay to throw the thin/skinny word around and comment any way they like? The person on the receiving end has lesser feelings?

Why is it the norm to be nice and polite about one’s weight gain, but outright harsh when it comes about one’s weight loss?  Why the double standards?

To anyone who throws the thin/skinny/ill word at me, especially as the first thing when I meet you :

I have had enough and I am not offering any more explanations! I look the way I do and I am perfectly fine with it. I may or may not be feeling ill, but that’s none of your business since you cannot even greet without exclaiming about the weight. Thank you for your unsolicited concern, but I’m geared up for a different reaction this time. You will either receive dead silence that will embarrass the sh** out of you  OR royally hear back open comments about your humongous butt. Either one depending on my mood.

BEWARE.

Posted in My perspective, Need to share this | 4 Comments

Feisty and Four !

Dear Little Paapu,

Couple of months back you turned into a four year old. For the first time ever, you were so proud when the day arrived. “I am Four!” you announced, “I ate all my vegetables and drank my milk everyday. See, I am tall and Four today!”, you beamed.I agreed and hugged you a little more tight, soaking in your beautiful smell…the still lingering baby smell in your skin, the shine in your smiling eyes.

The invitation for your little B’day party at the park went out with the title “Fiesty and Four” and it read:

Fearless, Chatty, Feisty and Fun!
That’s how I am and wish to remain :)
Can you believe, I turn FOUR soon!
Come see, how much taller I’ve grown :)

I think , Feisty is the one word to describe you Paapu. It shows in everything you do – the way you chat up strangers, the way you run out any place anywhere with no care, the way you lead among a group of kids, the way you do what you want to do with absolutely no inhibitions.

Although the same qualities make my motherly heart beat faster, I am slowly learning this is who you are. A free spirit.

Me and your Appa are usually seen running on the walkways, in airports, on the Golden gate bridge, in city halls , public parks and any open areas..right behind you, trying to catch up. You are officially the runner kind. No amount of warning, scolding, punishing has had any effect so far and we are just making peace with running behind you, for as long as we can :)

You are rarely scared of anything and if you do, you’ll try hard to resist the feeling. On a busy road, when I try to accelerate hoping to reach a schedule on time, you slowly suggest, “I am not at all scared right now Amma, but, please can you drive little slower?” :D
You have your ways with showing joy. Other than the “Hurray!” and shrieking, you make up songs to mark the moment. Making up your own lyrics and tune on the spot.I chime in to add to the lyrics , we improvise. The song is new every time, never repeated at all.Hope we continue the tradition for a very long time time come. Fun, isn’t it, Paapu? :D

Speaking of songs, your current favorite is the “Let it Go” from Frozen ( like every one in your age group all over the world). You sing it on infinite loop at any given chance – on the way to school, on the way back, while on the potty, during a shower..gosh, it’s annoying! But, I do enjoy watching you rise to “Let it Go!! Let it Go!!” in a very perfect pitch and attitude to match with it. My favorite is that time when you stood in the center of a plant nursery along with your school bestie and sang the song aloud in chorus – not a care in the world that it is a public place while a dozen people gathered around watching in glee :D

While the songs and sentences flow with an easy, perfect pronunciation from you, I feel the twinge of having lost your baby gibberish behind.Well, my happy moment was when you pointed at a bug on a walking trail and said “Look Amma, CaLapitter!!”. Yes, baby, it is a Calapitter. I don’t think I’ll ever correct you on that :D

Being both – Mamma’s baby and Daddy’s girl

You get attached to people very easily and never want the good times to end ( who does?). You took the scene to the next level during our visit to my friends place recently. Remember how he got so pally with you, you didn’t want to leave his house that evening? I stood outside coaxing you to get into the car, while you clung to him and pronounced , “No Amma, I belong here. This is my Appa”. Ummm.. yeah. That last part.You didn’t mean it, am sure.

You love your school, more for the art and craft work, than the words and numbers. You love it more for the playground and gardening sessions, than the reading and writing ones.

Must admit though – learning wise, there are some things you are really awesome at. You learnt hair styling and braiding all on your own. Your teachers, friends, cousins and Amma- any unsuspecting person with a minimum 2 inches of hair sitting still is your scapegoat. Although it has caused a few episodes of trauma to me ( hair pulled unceremoniously and a 100 clips and hairbands infused), it is something you are currently passionate about. The natural flow of your braiding actually caught me by surprise!

“Really, I did it” look after a hairstyling session on Amma

Speaking of skills, Gymnastics is an additional class outside of school for you and you absolutely love it! Everything from balancing and swinging to leg splits and cartwheel, you give it your best. Although yet to perfect them, I can see how easily you will get there with more practice. Your coach thinks so too :) Cannot wait to see my little girl performing a full fledged gymnastics routine few years down the line.

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Oh, not just Gymnastics, I cannot wait to see the wonderful little person you will grow up to be! With this kind of fearless, cheerful attitude, I am sure I have much to look forward to :)

Stay Healthy. Stay Happy. Always.

Much Love,
Mom/Amma

Posted in Paapu Tales | 23 Comments

The Belize Experience

It’s been a period of extended long silence here, but I am back hoping this space is not totally forgotten. I bring you the story of my experience in this little country called “Belize”. We visited this land in Central America for just about a week in total, but came back with experiences worth a lifetime. Penning-down the good,bad,funny and all that was Belize for me. A long post coming up.But, please show some love and read on, will you? :)

Checking-in at the airport, Paapu was seen talking to this employee – an old lady in black uniform, wrinkled face, wiry silver hair, sharp nose and a pair of thick black spectacles. She was laughing hysterically at something Paapu said. When I approached and asked , she kept laughing and so I asked Paapu. Paapu matter-of-factly told me “I asked her if she was a witch”. * Gulp* Thank God that nice lady had a sense of humor to laugh at this unsolicited question!

The almost-four year old kept at her non-stop chatter on the plane. Talking about this and that, really loud most times. I shushed her as much as I could, pleaded her to talk soft, also warned her a couple of times to no avail. An uptight looking lady in our front seat rose up and turned back only to yell at Paapu’s face -” You are so noisy! Gosh, you have to learn to be quiet!”. While I muttered an embarrassed sorry, Paapu burst out into wails even louder than the chatter! How I wanted the floor to just gobble up and remove me from the scene altogether. Bah, the joys of plane journey with a non-cooperating toddler seated next to a mean passenger.

The Belize airport was so small, almost as big as a bus station in a big town. I recall browsing through the wares in the airport shops and thinking -“wow, this stuff looks really cheap and badly made. If airport shops have such low standards, I wonder what’s in store outside?”. I was wrong of course. The outside, I was to know, had great shopping options, only if I looked at the right shop. :)

Never thought I would be flying on a 10 seater airplane sitting right behind the pilots in the cockpit, but it happened! ‘Tropic Air’ took us from the mainland Belize city to this little island called San Pedro. Vividly recall Paapu seated next to me and singing her made-up song “We’re going in a jet! going in a jet! Hey-ho-the-merry-ho,going in a jet!” while I clapped and bobbed my head along. Jet? Ah, it was not even a real plane, if you ask me :P

The first destination took my breath away. The Ak’bol Resort so picturesque…straight out of a post card! The thatched cabanas and rooms were so rugged, not a piece of plastic or shiny metal used in construction. The mud floor ingrained with smooth pebbles, the hand made clay sink with a beach sea conch for a water faucet, bamboo framed bed with a mosquito net, wooden ladder up to a loft !To top it all, the bathroom was outside, four walls with open top where the trees hovered high. The shower was the bare basic, pulling down an attached string to the faucets showered lukewarm water. Although I missed my regular carpeted floor and automatic showers, this was a humbling eco-friendly experience.

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The ‘soul kitchen’, the restaurant inside the resort kept true to its name and served soulful food, all local cuisine, made from scratch. My favorite was the ‘Papusa’ , a variation of our poori’s stuffed with veggies and black beans, served with spicy salad on the side. Mmmm. Over the period of 3 days, the creaky stools and wood chairs on the sand here saw us gulp countless glasses of fresh fruit smoothies and beer. They even have a special menu of drinks to counter hangovers! Go check out the Michelada recipe if you wanna know :D

While we spent so much time hanging out in the “Soul Kitchen”, we got acquainted with a lot of interesting souls. First to mention would be the owners of the resort – Kirsten and Milio They lived and worked in Chicago . About 10 years back their love for Belize made them pack up and buy a one-way ticket to this remote island, where they set up shop and never went back! She used to be a clothes designer and he a rock punk..and now they run a beautiful resort, teach yoga, employ hundreds of locals and raise 2 kids. To see that they truly followed their heart and are blissfully happy..how inspiring!

The story at Ak’bol resort isn’t complete without the mention of the invisible mosquitoes that make grand entry after sunset. They are so tiny, you’ll never even notice them sitting cozy on your legs and sucking away to glory. No wonder they are called “No-see-ums” ( nobody sees them!). One of the unforgettable momentous I brought back from Belize were the pink/red mosquito bite marks all over my lower legs. Yay! ( not)

To go from one part of the island to another was, in itself, a trip to look forward to. The road access isn’t great, but the water-taxi’s made up well for that. Water-taxi’s run on schedule every few hours and charge a minimal amount. All you have to do it stand at the pier and switch on the blinking light facing the ocean and wait for the these fast engine boats. They stop to pick passengers when they spot the blinking lights. Green lights to travel right and red lights to travel left. I loved sharing seat with random strangers on the boat – some locals taking their kids to a nearby park, some tourists going to the downtown, others returning back after a shopping spree, loaded with souvenirs and sporting huge smiles :D

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If you have “Swimming with Sharks” in your bucket list, this is the place to go! Belize is paradise for snorkelers and deep water divers. No, I am not exaggerating. They take you to so many spots in the ocean – one of them is named “Shark and Stingray alley”. True to the name, we saw huge sharks and gigantic stingrays comfortably passing by underwater. While I literally shuddered to be next to those creatures, they seem to be least bothered about this weird flip-wearing snorkel people ;) However, the experience beautiful overall – clear blue waters, corals of all shape and colors, tiny school of fish.. some yellow striped, some shimmering blue, happily moving around in their natural habitat. It was, as if, I was given this rare invite to visit their gorgeous world and they didn’t care as long as I didn’t bother them :)

The snorkel guide diving in to 'invite' more sharks and sting rays

The snorkel guide diving in to ‘invite’ more sharks and sting rays

Renting a bicycle and going around the little island was one of the best things we did during the entire trip! The warm ocean breeze on the face felt refreshing as we rode around exploring the unknown narrow paths in the island. Every smile was met with a smile back and friendly wave from the locals.While Pappu chattered along from the toddler backseat, I took every chance to stop – to buy banana chips from a shop, check on the handcrafted jewelry, bags and carvings, admire the stunning strokes on a hand made painting, click pictures and watch the sunset  :)

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The husband had booked a driver to pick us to our second destination. He interacted with the company using an email alias which he created on a whim to sound funny. So, this lady driver stood there with a name board awaiting us. It read “Erume” , That means “Buffalo” in Tamil. Yes, they thought it was his name, even though he specified his actual name on emails several times. I laughed so hard, could not stop giggling all the way through the 2 hour car ride.

Speaking about the ride, the driver lady, Daniella, was a very interesting personality.She was a mother of two teenagers with a husband who served Belize as a soldier. She was chatty and warm, answering all our curious questions about the life and ways of locals. Told her life story, how every woman in her family were school teachers except for her- who chose to take on the rough roads as a driver. She had lived in Los Angels, USA for more than 6 years as a teenager, taking up menial jobs to gather enough money and buy her own car in her own Belize. Somehow, Daniella made me proud. She stood high as an example of strong willed women who achieve what they set out for.

The Belize Zoo has a story, that brought me happy goosebumps. About 30 years back ,this lady, Sharon Matola, came to Belize in order to work on a documentary on Belize animals. She did not have any plans to make a zoo! But, when, at the end of it, she ended up with more than a dozen animals in need of care, she decided to stay back and build them a shelter. Over time it has evolved into this very well maintained space where mammals, birds and reptiles local to the land roam about free ( almost) and are taken very good care. Most of these animals are old or injured and cannot survive out in the wild. The deers, monkeys, tapirs, owls, toucans, macaws, jaguars and something called the ‘coatamundi’ – they all seem totally at home here. Don’t you love the concept of this ‘zoo’? I do :)

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Paapu was walking around this place, totally amused and looking at all things we pointed out “Look, a Howler monkey”, “Look, a Tapir”. She was quiet and taking it all in very sincerely, when a zoo employee walked out of a gate. She piped up to point him and exclaimed, “Look, a human!”. To say we had a good laugh over it is an understatement :D

Belize hosts a number of ruins from the Mayan Civilization. There are many high profile ruins  ( Altun Ha, Xunantunich, Caracol..). Because of several reasons, we couldn’t go to any of them, so settled-in for this low profile ruin called “Cahal Pech”. This was the hilltop home for an elite Maya family in 1200 BC. It felt surreal to see where the king sat and to imagine a full court of people. The main courtyard, I was told, hosted this special ball games where the winner was beheaded to offer to their rain Gods ! The players still fought to win , because it was a honorable death promising their place in heaven. *gulp*

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Our second place of stay was this highly regarded resort in the country – spanning an enormous 360 acres on the Maya mountains. It offered a range of options to lodge – upscale suites and villas , medium priced cottages and tree-houses and also the least expensive camp sites. We, of course, chose that last option, wanting to stay rugged and adventurous ( ok, also to save money :P).The camp site offered tented rooms with the bare minimum to survive – beds, tables, and 2 kerosene lamps. That’s right – not even electricity :D Although was a bit disappointed at the bare basics at first,the untouched feel of the forest ambiance grew on us. A common area served freshly made local food to the campers. The kitchen next to the common area housed a Belizian family, where the wife was the cook, husband and the grown-up son were the care takers of the campsite. Such warm and friendly people – they loved Paapu like their own for the few days we were there :)

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The resort offered wide variety of options for the lodgers to enjoy – hiking on guided trails, birding, visits to the onsite Butterfly Farm, Natural History Museum, and rain-forest tours, to name a few. How this beautiful resort was established in the middle of nowhere, by a regular couple is a story in itself. Still boggles me to think just a pair of husband and wife got this all started and sustained it so well! Read here to know the actual story.

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On the last day, we canoed down the Makal river, rowing sparsely, and mostly sitting silent taking-in the serenity and sounds of the beautiful rain-forest around us.The guide who accompanied was born and raised in the little village right there and he was very proud of his roots. It was quite humbling to hear from this seemingly smart and english-fluent man say, ” I have worked hard and earned my respect. I have had various offers to go to lot of different countries given my experience in surviving the wild jungle, but I refuse to take them up. This is my home. This is where I belong.I need to be nowhere else in the world to be happy.”

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I guess that last line from the guide sums up the experience in beautiful Belize.

Until I have another story to share, adios my dear readers!

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Wish you a very peaceful, refreshing and utterly gratifying new year 2014.

See you on the other side :)

Posted in Paapu Tales, Things I love to do - Travel, Paint, Dance and such | 14 Comments