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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Munich, December 15-16

After taking the train from Salzburg back to Munich, mom, dad and I checked into our hotel-- the Sheraton Arabella Park. Here's the view from the hotel balcony:

We took the subway back to the city center to Karlsplatz, then walked the pedestrian walkway to the Frauenkirche and Rathaus, drinking gluhwein along the way. To the left is the Christmas tree outside of the Rathaus.

We went to the Hofbrauhaus for dinner. We ordered from the German and Italian menus as our waiter refused to bring us an English one. After two college girls from Oregon sat beside us and received English menus, mom conveniently stowed it in her purse.

When the waiter needed it again, he came searching at our table.

"Where is the English menu?" he asked.

"In my pocketbook," Mom replied.

"Oh, that's okay. You can keep it. Take the German one too."

"I already did," she said.

Found this recipe for gluhwein:


4 quarts dry red wine (zinfandel, merlot, burgundy, etc.)
1 pint brandy
1 cup sugar
6 cinnamon sticks
12 cloves, whole
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp mace
2 oranges, sliced
1 lemon, sliced

Pour the wine into a large pot and begin heating over low heat.
As it begins to warm, add sugar and spices. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
Add the brandy.
Heat thoroughly, but do not allow to boil!
Add the lemon and orange.
Steep for about 1 hour over low heat.
You may add more sugar during this time if desired, stirring well so it disolves.
Serve hot and garnish with orange slices. A stick cinnamon could also be used.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Salzburg--December 14-15

Mom had been hinting that she wanted to go somewhere, so I decided we'd try Salzburg and Munich. (Above, we are standing in front of the Leopoldskron Castle--the back yard and lake used in The Sound of Music. After being in Germany during the holiday season a couple of years ago, I knew that the Christmas markets would be excellent and the hot mulled gluwein would be good.

We flew out on Thursday, December 13 to Munich and had to run very quickly to catch our early train to Salzburg. Dad said it was the first time he had run in 30 years. We got on the train within seconds of it taking off. Snow covered the ground most of the way.

We checked into our hotel, the Goldener Hirsch, which was near Mozart's birth house on a little pedestrian shopping street in the old town. This is a view towards the end of the street:

After checking in, we walked around Salzburg and had lunch before returning to the hotel to be picked up for our "Sound of Music Tour." The tour was a four hour tour that took us to many of the locations used in the filming of The Sound of Music. Here are a few:

Left: The house used as the von Trapp family's villa.

Above: Gazebo ("I am 16 going on 17...")

Left: The road to the von Trapp house, where the children hung from the trees in their playclothes made from curtains.

Above: The fortress overlooking all of Salzburg

Left: Nonnberg Abbey, where Maria was a novice.

Above: Inside the Cathedral in Mondsee, used for the wedding scene. Below: the Cathedral from the outside.

After the tour, we went to dinner and had some great Wiener Scnitzel . Then we walked around, enjoyed more gluwein, and took part in all the Christmas festivities.

The next day was Saturday, and the streets were more crowded than ever with shoppers enjoying the Holiday markets. We walked around some more, and I climbed the hill to get a better view of Nonnberg Abbey. Then we headed to the train station to return to Munich.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


I am in Salzburg with mom and dad! Wonderful time of the year to be here with all of the Christmas markets and lots of snow.

Pictures and more details to come!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Back in Mumbai

We left Cochin this morning at 6:30 am for an 8:30 am flight back to Mumbai. The flight was oversold, and we were worried we wouldn't make it, but all three of us ended up being onboard in first class.

When we got to Mumbai, we squeezed into a rickshaw to go back to Nameeta's apartment in Khar. Because her place was so close to the domestic airport, the cab driver's didn't want to take us. They were all looking for the expensive fare to the southern part of Mumbai. Here we are in the rickshaw:

After dropping off our luggage and relaxing for a bit, we went back downstairs and caught a rickshaw to go the the Santa Cruz market after a masala tea at Coffee Day, Mumbai's version of Starbucks .

Rickshaws are only allowed in the suburbs of Mumbai, but they are really a great way to see the vitality and energy of the town.

Rickshaws and cars are everywhere. Traffic is absolutely crazy. There are no stop signs, and roadway markings, if they exist, are only suggestions. Also, alongside lots of traffic, there are lots of dogs, cows and an occasional horses.

At the Santa Cruz market, I picked up a couple of things, did some Christmas shopping, and ate street food from the roadside stands. Now, most guide books would say not to do this... but I've done it before and I've been eating everything I've been served for two weeks in India, and haven't had a problem. (Knock on wood.) Plus, I've been craving vada pav since I've been here, and it's the first one I've had. How dangerous could it be? It's deep fried. We also had some samosas, fried chili peppers, and fried spinach.

Santa Cruz Market:

Ordering street food:

Me eating vada pav:

Monday, November 19, 2007

Alapuzha, India -- Celebrating my birthday!

Photo courtesy of Kerala Tourism

I spent my 30th birthday in Hawaii, but my 38th will forever be remembered for being a half world away, on a houseboat, floating down the backwaters of Alapuzha (also known as Alleppey) on an overnight cruise. Alapuzha is about 25 miles south of Cohin. In the picture above, Smita is getting onto the boat as we arrived in Alazpuzha.

Our boat had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a sitting/dining area, and a kitchen. We had three staff members, including Sujeesh, our cook. Above are Cindy and Smita in our little sitting and dining area, near the front of the boat. Below, our cook, Sujeesh:

Alapuzha has been described as the Venice of the East. Interlocking canals and backwaters took us through villages that sat on thin strips of land. We joked that the people there could only walk from side to side as their front yards and back yards were all water. Coconut trees and banana trees were everywhere.

As we gently made our way, we were approached by a fisherman on a boat who wanted to sell us tiger prawns. Now these were no ordinary shrimp. They looked as big as lobsters. We bought a couple for Sujeesh to cook for dinner. Here's the story of the prawns in pictures:

At night, we docked by a rice paddy in a small village. We got off the boat to walk around the paddy, and met a young villager named Sundhi. His English was very good, and I think he liked practicing with us.

Me with Sundhi in the rice paddy:

Other village children bringing us flowers:

Smita at Tea Time:

Scenic Views:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cochin, India

I flew in to Cochin this morning where I'm staying at Le Meridian. It's a beautiful resort in Kerala, which is the south western tip of India. It's been a very relaxing day, with the best massage of my life and a nice afternoon by the pool.

Here's the description of the massage the hotel provided:

"ELAKKIZHI: One of the most relaxing and refreshing massages that you can enjoy. In this treatment, fresh herbs are cooked in Ayurvedic oils and packed into bags which are applied all over the body by experts. Very good for lubircating the joints and relieves backaches. Cleanses the channels of circulation and expels toxins through sweat."

Below, the hotel lobby:

The pool:

Last night, after having dinner with my Habitat For Humanity friends at the Leela near the airport in Mumbai, I went back to Nameeta's house for a few hours of sleep before Cindy, Smita, and I headed for the domestic airport for a 5:45 am flight.

Other pics of the hotel can be found at:

Friday, November 16, 2007

November 11-16: Nagewadi Village, near Karjat--Habitat Build

After arriving in Karjat after a three hour bus ride from Mumbai, we checked into our hotel, the Rivergate Resort ( The Rivergate was about 30 minutes to the Nagewadi Village, where we would be building houses for the next several days.

Each day, we would have breakfast, get on the bus by 7:45, and head to the village. We would work until about 12:30, break for lunch, then go back to work until around 5:00. The days were long and hot. But what a rewarding experience!

Nagewadi Village:

Our team of forty people worked on 8 houses while we were there. I worked on house #8. Each house was named and dedicated to the woman of the house-- in the case of my house, Chebi Vithal Thorad. The brick houses we were building replaced houses that were made from reeds, thatched together with cow manure. Here's a picture of a thatched house.

Here's Chebi with her husband and three kids:

As the week went on, the villagers, especially the children, really opened up to us. While we couldn't speak each others languages, we learned to communicate. I made friends with a 15 year old named Kashav who helped us with our house. The children, including Kashav, would mix mud in a pit for us to use as mortar as we layed bricks. They would also bring the mud to us as we asked for "mati" the Marathi word for mud. "Mati, mati!" we would yell, and the kids would bring the mud. Here's our house on the first day, with a view of the mati pit:

And here's my friend Kashav, standing in the mud pit. I think this is before he snuck up on me and left a muddy handprint on my shirt:

Here I am with some of the kids in the guava tree. I had the honor of being the first and only injury on the job site. I accidentally ran into a limb of the guava tree. The medical staff on duty tood it very seriously and bandaged me up while all the villagers stood watch.

Here, on day 2, Smita and I are working on the house:

The kids loved being in pictures, and then seeing themselves on the digital cameras. Front right in the picture below is a 'neighbor kid' named Madhuri, who was quite the Diva, as you can see. She was also really bright. She would continually surprise me by sneaking in an English word when you least expected it: One day, sitting in the guava tree, she counted to 70 in English.

Here's the house on Day 2:

And on Day 3:

And on the last day of building:

While we didn't finish this particular house, the team did finish one of the houses which we dedicated on the last day. Each of the eight houses were in various states of completion at the start. We did have a 'dedication ceremony' and decorated the house to make it look festive. Madhuri decorated the ground in front of the house with rangoli-- a design in colored powders in the sand:

A completed house:

The last day of the build was very sad for me. I wanted another week with the kids, another week to work on the house. Leaving the village and saying goodbye was difficult.

The kids waving goodbye on the last day:

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