Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Notes on the trip to India

I'm going to try to buckle down to share with you some of the happenings on my India trip, not least because I would love to have a record of this once-in-a-lifetime trip for myself!

While in India, I posted once very early in the trip. That posting was done to this blog; you can read it here. I've since decided that this record really belongs on my own blog, so henceforth any entries made with be made therein, but not theretofore. Ahem.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Splish, splash, I was taking a bath **

Babies in India aren't immersed for cleaning, so it comes as quite a shock to them when we want to put them in water, however shallow, however pleasantly warm, however many toys to splash with. Hope's first bath, in the hotel room sink in India, lasted all of one minute. Her shocked screaming and crying were more than a considerate hotel guest would inflict on fellow guests!

In the days since she has been at home, she has happily watched sister Faith splashing in the water, and has stood at the side of the tub doing some happy splashing herself. So when it came time to try bathing her again, she quickly got into the spirit of the thing, as you can see here!

**Who sang this song? What was the next line?

Love the bunnies, love the bunnies ...

Little Hope decided my bunny slippers were the most coolest most adorable most huggable things she ever saw. She would scoot over to me as soon as she saw them, squeal, and hug them while dropping her entire upper body onto them, headfirst, and just stay there for a few seconds while I said, over and over, "Love the bunnies, love the bunnies ..." and rubbed her back. Then up, squeal, hug, drop, all over again. It was unbelievably cute.

After a few times of this she realized the bunnies were attached to me, so I got a spillover of her affections, uplifted arms, 'uhh, uhh' until I picked her up. We had the sweetest times together.

I wish I had gotten a picture of her while she was draped over the bunnies. This picture was taken after she lifted her head. She isn't always enthusiastic about having her picture taken. For the first couple of days in India, she rarely saw me without a camera or video cam in front of my face. I speculate that may be why it took her a while to warm up to me!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Smiling at midnight

... or more like at 1:30 a.m. after travelling by plane for 25 hours and another couple of hours by car to get home! She must have slept the whole way (or at least I hope so). What a trooper!

We're baack!

Happy Hope

I absolutely love India! Had a wonderful time, met great people, bought some nice stuff, and spent a week watching Hope blossom from a listless, undernourished baby to a contented, intelligent, and sometimes mischievous toddler in just one week! If time and jetlag permits, I will blog more about the trip, with lots of pics. Please check back in a day or two!

P.S. This pic is a little blurry because it was taken from the mirror that Hope was so gleefully admiring herself in. But what joy! Just had to share it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A hopeful beginning

Good travels! After nearly 24 hours en route, we arrived at our hotel at 2 am local time, just this morning. We've taken this day as a rest day in hopes of getting acclimated to the time zone. Of course, needing to start our night's sleep at 3 am after getting checked in and setlled in didn't exactly give us a good start at a normal local schedule! But we'll be OK.

Getting in so late, of course we didn't see much of the city as we traveled the short distance to the hotel. The first thing I did when I awoke at noon was pull aside my curtains. Oh, what excitement!! I looked out on a busy street. Loads of cars honking their way down the road, playing "chicken" as far as these western eyes were concerned. Loads of people walking the "sidewalk", which really looks more like an extension of the road reserved for pedestrians. The men's clothes look very western, although they do often wear the shirts outside the pants, and they are cut straight across the bottom. It's the women's clothes that are an absolute treat. Saris and punjamis in every color, and I do mean every. They are so gorgeous, and so exotic to my eyes.

Directly across the street from us is a series of storefronts that could have come out of Haiti or Bangkok, corrugated metal roof, open storefront, signs with lots of writing on them, mostly unreadable from across the street even though they are partly in English. We sit on on a busy intersection, with lots of busses, trucks, taxis, motorcyles, and motorcycle rickshaws, which are open on both sides, covered, and barely wide enough for two people in the back. Men pushing wooden flatbed push carts walk the streets in the no-man's land between the pedestrian area and the travel lanes. I even saw a cart pulled by oxen! Everyone navigates by honking. If I'm passing you on the right, I honk. If I'm passing you on the left, I honk. If you stop in front of me more than 2 seconds, I honk long and loud. Thankfully, the hotel has thick walls and windows, it's all fairly faint from inside!

The cross street is framed by two large green trees, making it more scenic than the dusty thoroughfare in front of us.

To our left is a work zone, where construction goes on into the night. Men use hand tools to break up concrete and scrape up rocky soil and carry it all ten feet to dump it into a pile. There's also lots of standing around and pointing and discussing messy piles of hoses and cords. It reminds me very much of a worksite in Haiti. More work could get done if they used large equipment, of course, but fewer people would be employed. It's a sensible approach, overall, if you're not in a hurry to get the work done.

When Nan got up, I ran & hugged her and dragged her to the window to look with me. It's so incredibly exciting to be here, where life is so different and yet so the same. I'm sure I spent a couple of hours today just looking out at the crowds.

Tomorrow we leave for Pune, where we will be met by Minal, the Indian social worker who has been keeping an eye on Hope throughout this process. She will take us shopping. Yes, out in the crowds we go! I'm very excited. Can you tell?

The hotel (Kohinoor in Mumbai) is great. We got a suite, thinking there would be two bedrooms. Turns out it's a bedroom and a living room, so we split up, with Nan on a bed in the living room because she's accustomed to sleeping on a smaller bed than I am. And I think she's just a better sleeper than I am, and gracious to boot!

The staff here are numerous and pleasant. They're accustomed to dealing with Westerners, so they don't stare at pale, blonde me. I expect I'll start to be stared at more when we get out amongst folks in the crowds. But it does seem to me that the Indian folk have great dignity. I'm guessing I won't be made uncomfortable by it. Time will tell!

Running out of time on my rented internet access. More to come when time and connections permit!

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Sorry I haven't posted in a while, but we learned a couple of days ago that we would be leaving tomorrow for India, and life has been a bit of a whirlwhind since! We depart from Boston at 8:30 pm tomorrow, Monday, arriving in Mumbai in the wee hours of Wednesday. Two nights there, then off to Pune Friday, picking up Hope Saturday, then leaving for New Delhi Monday (I think). Doing the obligatory paperwork there to get her a visa for the U.S. Leaving in the wee hours Saturday morning, arriving in Boston Saturday night, staying one night there and then home!

Our hotel in Pune sounds great: the President Hotel. I can't really draw a bead on the one in Mumbai; it's the Kohinoor Continental, and it could be very nice or it could be so-so. In New Delhi, it's the Diplomat. Definitely an average hotel there.

Poor Simba ... we were gone a week for Thanksgiving, so he stayed with "Uncle Pete." I dropped him off there again tonight after just 6 days home, for two weeks. Returning from India, I'm home for just 5 days and then he goes back to Uncle Pete's for the Christmas holiday. He's going to start to wonder where "home" is!

It's so nice to have the prayers of friends, for safe travel and health and a happy transition for Hope. My time at church was spent responding to "we'll be praying" comments from all sides. People are so thoughtful, to share in my excitement and to care to pray. And God is good to motivate them to do so.

Anyway, there's packing to be done and dreams to be dreamt. I'm hoping I'll be able to post from the road, but can't be sure. If not, you can expect lots of pictures and thoughts upon our return!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Loss, panic, nausea, relief, anxiety, insomnia ... just another day

I lost my passport. We want to leave Monday night, and I couldn't find my passport. Understand, this passport wasn't just a passport. It was a passport with a visa, obtained from the Consulate of India in New York. You can replace a passport with a trip to Boston. The visa is another matter altogether.

Nan was trying to make our flight reservations for Monday (yes! Monday! Oh joy!) and called to ask me for my passport number. That's when I realized I couldn't find it, and near-panic set it. My usual spot for it is in a certain desk in a certain spot, very safe, very easy to see ... when it's there. It wasn't there.

Thus commenced a search in all the likely places, double-quick, run here, run there, NO! nowhere! Do it again more slowly. NO!! Where else? Oh my word, did it get tossed into the recycling bin? I remember seeing it on top of the desk waiting to be "filed" in its normal place, but didn't I also see it on the table? Could it have been cleared from the table into the recycling bin with other papers by mistake??? If so, it's probably gone, run downstairs, look at recycling bin, the thought is so dreadful I can't even bring myself to look.

Stop, call T. Has he seen it? Leave voicemail. Pray.

An hour has gone by, I need to call Nan back and tell her. I don't want to. I don't want to admit I've lost track of my passport, and I don't want her to be burdened with the worry. But I need another person to pray. Call Nan. Nice, calm suggestions, confidence that we'll find it from that direction, and the promise to pray. Back to looking.

Increasing panic, close to nausea. It's just not turning up. Get on the web to research what I would have to do to replace it. Drive to Boston Friday (first appointment available) and hope they'll issue a passport in one day. Come home. Fly to NYC to go to the Consulate of India for a visa in their "emergency hours" of 11 to 2 Sat & Sun, and hope they'll consider a lost passport a good enough reason for expedited service, since their website lists more dire reasons (like death!) as an acceptable reason. This is NOT looking good.

There are definitely days when I hate being me, and this is DEFINITELY one of them.

Call T, ask him to skip his men's bible study to come home and help me. Go through every. piece. of. paper. in. the. house. Find the passport between notecards in a box. Remember. Passport on desk waiting to be put away, notecards placed on top, notecards put away.

Breathe. Again. Spend the rest of the night trying to flush the adrenaline out of the system. Good NIGHT! Fall asleep, wake up at 4:30 with brain spinning.

Just another day in the life!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Still waiting ... and Hoping ...

I came back from being away for a week for Thanksgiving and checked my answering machine first thing, certain it would contain a message from Nan about our departure date. To my surprise, there was nothing there. It was too late to call her, so I called her yesterday morning. Would you believe, no date has yet been set? The hold-up is a paper that needs to go from the court (in Pune) to the orphanage (in Pune). It's been two weeks. The paper still hasn't reached the orphanage.

Once they have it, though, it's a simple matter of the director of the orphanage signing it, and then we're good to go. The paper (in case you're wondering) just says that if for any reason the adoption of Hope in the U.S. doesn't go through, the orphanage will assume responsibility for her. India has designated Nan & Bruce to be Hope's guardians. Actual adoption will take another year or so in the U.S.

In any case, there's every reason to believe we will be able to pick her up on December 10th, as planned. We just need to get the "go" signal from India to make our arrangements. We're hoping to get that GO today!!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Hoping plans settle out soon ...

It's taking longer than we expected to set the date for our travel. Given how things have gone so far, why would that be a surprise? At present, it looks as if we'll be spending a couple of days in Pune doing our sightseeing and shopping before we pick Hope Aradhana up. The days after that will mostly be spent jumping through all the bureaucratic hoops and administrivia to get permission to bring her home.

It's looking like a departure date in the neighborhood of Dec 5 or 6, and total trip time of somewhat less than 2 weeks. We had intended to fly on Northwestern, but even with their adopters discount of 50%, the airfare is over $2000 each. Nan's pretty sure we can beat that by quite a bit, so we'll shop around. British Airways is a possibility. I have the fondest memories of a BA trip where the attendant who did the routine announcements about seat belts and emergency exits was rude and sarcastic and completely hilarious. I bet the entire plane listened to his entire shpiel, because we all were laughing so hard.

Have you had an otherwise mundane plane trip transformed by an excellent airline employee? Add it in my comments, I'd love to hear it!

The Hopeful Hope-less Family

Nanette, Faith, Bruce
(Shih Tzu Teddie not shown)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Hope's dress

As Hope's soon-to-be aunt, I am so looking forward to establishing a relationship with her in the days after we arrive in India. What kind of little person will she be, I wonder? Will she be affectionate or thoughtful or temperamental? Will she be happy or frightened? Will she like the foods we offer her? Will she be fascinated with my blonde hair or will it just seem weird to her?

Her new home will be vastly different from anything she has ever known. Nan has taken great care to make room for her, clearing out the current toy room of any toys that wouldn't be safe for her, rearranging a loft room for Faith's play area and moving big-girl items up there, setting up a bed in Faith's room so now it's the girls' bedroom, and laying in all the necessary items for care of a toddler. She's been at it for months, and now everything is in perfect readiness ... including Faith, who can't wait to have a little sister!

Me, I've been looking at dresses. It's the privilege of aunthood, to ignore all the practical stuff and just look at dresses. Frilly dresses, velvet dresses, sun dresses, play dresses. Pink, purple, yellow, green, and all the shades in between. With the dark coloration of these girls, you can do some outrageously bright colors or deep colors. It's so much fun! I'm bringing this dress with us on the trip. It's the only one I bought that is small enough for her tiny frame. And she will no doubt only wear it once or twice in India, and then never again, because when we return to the Northeast, it will be winter. That's OK! I'm sure some other little girl will enjoy wearing it. Or maybe it can be tailored for a life-size doll. Whatever.

When we return to the States, she'll be living about a 5-hour's drive away. We'll be home for a couple of weeks, and then T & I will head south to spend a few days with them at Christmas. Will she remember me? I'm a little sad that we live so far apart. But she will have such a happy life! And someday maybe she will read this little blog. Now that's a happy thought!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Our Essential Hope

Click any picture to see it larger ...

Hope at one year
Hope has been on our hearts and in our minds ever since we learned she was to be ours, right around her first birthday. "We" is her new mom & dad, Bruce & Nanette, big sister Faith, and of course all of us in the next concentric circle of family. All of the paperwork was done and submitted early this summer, and since July we've been in a bed-of-nails, bite-your-fingernails sort of waiting state. Each month that goes by has made the waiting harder, as she grows older, takes her first step, learns her first words, and becomes, no doubt, more attached to her surroundings and caregivers.

16 months

Hope lives in an orphanage in Pune, India. By all reports she is thriving and healthy. She is thin, as you can see, and small for her age, which is not uncommon for kids in overseas orphanages. Big sister Faith came to us in the same state, and she's now filled out and shot up and setting records for sociability and reading skills in the first grade. We have no reason to believe little Hope won't do the same.

The last I heard, our plans are to be in India about two weeks, arriving in Mumbai, travelling immediately to Pune to pick up Hope and spend a couple of days there, and then on to New Delhi to complete the rest of the paperwork needed to bring Hope home. At that time, Bruce & Nan will be her guardians. Official adoption will happen some time later in the U.S.

I am privileged and thrilled beyond belief to travel with Nanette to pick up this little treasure. We're so excited to have her for her first Christmas!! I'm glad that she will have a couple of weeks to settle in to her new home and family before the Langille hoards descend upon her for the holidays. It all may be a bit too new and scary for her ... or she may have adapted beautifully and be just as outgoing as her big sister. We'll see! What I do know is that she's going to a wonderful family, with a mom, dad & sister who will love her and nurture her. She's one lucky little girl. Not that luck had anything to do with it. :o)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

You might want to bring ...

A step-down converter
They come in a variety of wattages, so you’ll want to know what appliances you’ll be bringing and what wattage they require. For instance, some hairdryers can pull as much as 1800 watts (more?), so you’ll need a converter that can handle high wattage and also lower wattage for a travel clock radio or an electric shaver.

I found a great converter kit with a set of adapters on Ebay for a total cost of just under $20 including shipping.It can manage 50W to 1600W. That about does it for me! Of course, I haven’t used it, yet, so we’ll soon see if it was a bargain. The one linked above is just an example.

Good headphones and an adapter that will let them fit into the funny little two-pronged outlets in planes.

Snacks for the long flight and layovers, plus more for your stay.

A good travel guide book

Monday, October 31, 2005

So, you want to go to India ...

For the past several months, I’ve been “on call,” waiting to hear that India has approved the adoption of my soon-to-be niece, Hope Aradhana. When she gets The Call, Nanette will spin into action, making plane and hotel reservations for approximately two weeks later. It’s good we have more than two weeks to plan for this trip, though, because there are an amazing number of details that need to be managed before going to India, not least of which is to apply for (and hopefully receive) a visa. I thought it might be helpful to blog all the details, for my own future use if I ever return, or for others who might be contemplating going. What to do in preparation? What to bring? What to wear? Here’s what I’ve learned.

First order of business: get your visa! This assumes, of course, that you already have a passport. If not, then get your passport! moves to the top of the list. To apply for a visa to go to India, you will need:

  • Application form for visa, completed.

  • The appropriate fee (at this writing, $60) in a cashier’s check.

  • Your original passport, which must be valid for a minimum of six months beyond the date of intended departure from India

  • An extra passport-sized photo pasted on the application. By the way, you don’t need to go to any special place to get this photo. I printed one in the appropriate size from a nice head shot I had of myself.

If you cannot hand-carry these items to an Indian Consulate office, you can mail them. Of course, you will want to send them by certified or express mail, and you will need to include appropriate postage to get them returned the same way. Consult the Indian Consulate website for details. There actually appear to be several Indian Consulates throughout the US; we used the one in NYC. Its website has all the information you need to get your visa. It also can direct you to the other Consulates. Look for their Where To Apply For Consular Services page.If all this seems to be too hard, search for “India visa” on the web. You’ll find many services that will help you for a fee. I haven’t done that, so I can’t recommend any.

Ok, now you have your visa. Now what?

Next, you want to find a good travel book, which will orient you to the vast complexity that is India. Over 1 billion people as of 2001, compared to just under 300 million for the US. The population of New Delhi is 13.8 million. The largest city in the US, New York City, is around 8 million. It’s home to hundreds of religions and sects,more than 200 different languages. It’s a wiiiiiiiild and crazy place!

Some practical things you’ll want to consider, traveling to India from the US (sorry, that’s the only perspective I can offer):

The electricity is 240v, so you’ll need not merely an adapter but a step-down converter if you want to use any of your electronics.They come in a variety of wattages (I say this as if I have a clue what I’m talking about!), so you’ll want to know what appliances you’ll be bringing and what wattage they require. For instance, some hairdryers can pull as much as 1800 watts (more?), so you’ll need a converter that can handle high wattage and also lower wattage for a travel clock radio or an electric shaver.

I found a great converter kit with a set of adapters on Ebay for a total cost of just under $20 including shipping.It can manage 50W to 1600W. That about does it for me! Of course, I haven’t used it, yet, so we’ll soon see if it was a bargain. See an example here.

The flight to India is long, usually with at least one stopover. You might want to consider bringing some snacks with you. I'm guessing they might come in handy during our stay, as well.

In recent years, I’ve found the sound of the engines become very wearying on long flights. This trip, I’ve purchased some excellent headphones and an adapter that will let them fit into the funny little two-pronged outlets in planes, in hopes of finding something to listen to that will engage my hearing without wearying it. The headphones also fit comfortably and closely on the ears (called “closed-design”) and have a noise-cancelling option (requires batteries), so perhaps for once I will be able to watch a movie on a plane without the need for using one or both hands to press the earphones to my ears!

If you’re thinking about shopping in India, then be sure you travel very lightly unless you want to ship some items home. Many airlines only permit 50 pounds per bag now, with a 2-bag limit.

For women, you might want to consider bringing only one or two changes of clothes appropriate to the time of year you’re there. Tailors in India purportedly will take your measurements one day and have the items sent to your hotel for you the next day. You may be more comfortable wearing the sort of clothing Indians customarily wear. If you’re not up for a tummy-baring sari, the pajama-like Punjabi suit might do.

We were advised by the social worker in India that it's important to dress modestly. Low necklines and even sleeveless tops are considered immodest by some. In the heat of the summer, we were anticipating needing to bring only cotton clothing, but all the delays of our trip have had the positive side effect of sending us to India when the weather is in the 70's and 80's F, with much lower humidity than if we had gone when originally planned. So sleeves and slacks will be very comfortable, a wonderful thought for me!