December 2, 2012

Zoo-Time in Darjeeling

"We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo!
How about you, you, you?
You can come too, too, too.
Cause we're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo!"
That was my favorite song to sing at the top of my lungs, driving my brothers crazy, on our home-school trips to the zoo. We had a really great zoo only an hour or so drive from our house. There were quite a few years where we had season passes, and to take full advantage of those passes we would frequently make the trek down to Columbia, SC to hang out with some animals.
The whole group (minus Juhaa who was taking the photo) and a statue of Tenzing Norgay, the Shepa guide to Sir Edmund Hilary (the first men to reach the top of Mount Everest). 

Last week Lindy, Manju, Jeewan Loy, and I took a trip to Darjeeling to visit the zoo there. It is suppose to be the best zoo in India, but my expectations were pretty low. We were joined by the Finnish family  who live downstairs as well as another Finnish family who was visiting them. So we all got up before dawn, bundled up with tons of layers, and piled into two jeeps. There were 11 of us in our jeep, including 4 month old Joseh (pronounced yho-say)! Little Joseh was a champ and didn't cry or fuss all day long. On our way the road wound through the foggy hills, and through tea plantations. We stopped at a place about half way for momos. Momos are a staple here in north east India. They are like the dumplings you can get at Chinese  food places in the states but the ones here are SO much better. So we had momos and tea for breakfast in a little hole-in-the-wall roadside restaurant overlooking the tea plantations. It was so cold that we could see the steam from our mouths and rising of our food. BRRRR!
Heidi and I 
 The city of Darjeeling feels lot like Kalimpong but is much larger. It is situated on the rise of a hill and is at a higher elevation than K'pong so it was MUCH colder than K'pong is. It was really foggy the day we were there, but apparently there are so really beautiful views all over town when it is clear. There are many quaint old buildings on small inter-tangled roads and alleyways. We didn't get a chance to explore very much because our group was so large and there were so many kiddos. Heidi (the girl who is helping out the family downstairs) and I are thinking about coming back, just the two of us, to explore for a weekend. There is also a YWAM base somewhere too.
The Animals we brought with us:
Nelika, Sara, Lyydia, Manju, Jeewan Loy, Siiri, and Lyymila

So the zoo was a nice surprise (though they charge foreigners double just because they can). They had a nice selection of animals. I was sad they didn't have an elephant or camel, but I guess the climate here is too cold for them. There was also a mountaineering museum at the back of the zoo. It was a lot larger and better done than the one I visited in Uttarkashi. There was a whole bunch of exhibits about all of the people who have climbed (or attempted to climb) Mount Everest. We weren't allowed to take photos inside the museum but here are some pictures of the animals they had in the zoo:

Jeewan Loy checking out the tortoise with the girls.
Hey there bear!

Mountain Goats (this one is for you Chrissy) 

"Y" for yak

Pacing Panthers

but what if I just want to feed them?

The most colorful bird I have ever seen

Pretty Pheasant

Tiger or "Sher" in Hindi

Red Panda- such a cute face

Momma Monkeys and their Babies

Fishy Fish

Hungry for Honey
After the zoo we walked up to the center of town, which was quite a long walk. I was able to pick up a warm hat at the Hayden Hall shop which sells items handmade by local women to support their families. Before leaving we bought some Darjeeling oranges and stopped for coffee at CCD. At the coffee shop they played a song from a Bollywood movie that I have recently seen called Barffi, which takes place in Darjeeling. How wonderfully coincidental!
Cafe Coffee Day
The drive home was nice a cozy will all 11 of us packed in the jeep again. We shared oranges. Throwing the peels freely out the window "Indian-style." Mari (the mom from downstairs) shared stories in Finnish from her childhood with the kids. Even though I couldn't understand, it was precious to be a part of such a wonderful family moment. Winding through the dark hills with lights sparkling all over them was quite magical. It actually made me think of driving home from Grandma and Grandpa Swartz's in the Santa Cruz, CA hills. It was a day abundant in good things of which I am deeply thankful!
Siiri and Manju - silly best friends

December 1, 2012

Celebrations and Cold Nights

Manju, Lindy, and Jeewan Loy enjoying the Thanksgiving Feast
 Thanksgiving came not quite a week after Lindy got home from her trip to America to get a new visa. With her home safe with a new visa that will enable her to stay in country for five years without having to leave, we all had lots to be thankful for. There were lots of goodies from America to be thankful for too. We spent Thanksgiving day relaxing and praising the Lord for what he has done in our lives.

Baked Chicken with Stuffing (my favorite)

We also got to enjoy an American style dinner, with a whole baked chicken (can't find turkey here and even if we could it wouldn't fit in our oven), stuffing, corn, mashed potatoes, gravy, coleslaw, and for dessert apple crisp and egg custard. We enjoyed all this yummy food in the sunshine on the terrace. It was glorious!
Half Eaten Thanksgiving Feast

On Saturday I woke up to Christmas music blaring through the house. After enjoying a cup of Pumpkin Spice Chai (thanks Sarahsdids) Manju, Jeewan Loy, Purnima, and I walked up to the football field above our house (it is at the top of the hill we live on and is where you can see the Himalayas on a clear day). We gathered evergreen branches, poinsettias and some daisies for good measure. We looked pretty comical tramping down the hill with a bundle of greens and handfuls of flowers. Once we got them back home we used them to decorate the house for Christmas. Lindy found a artificial Christmas tree in Kolkata a few years back, so we decorated that too.
Fresh Greenery
Each one of us has a stocking that we hung by the Christmas tree. Jeewan Loy checks everyday to see if someone has put anything in his yet. He also checks everyone else's and notifies us when there is something new. He is so precocious. We have all decided to wait until closer to Christmas to put anything in because of his prying eyes.
Christmas Tree
The days are still pretty warm, but as soon as the sun goes down it gets quite cold and windy. After dinner we each retreat to the warmth of our own beds and usually call it an early night. Before going to bed I will usually boil some ginger root in water to make fresh ginger tea. So warm and spicy! I have picked up yarn and kitting needles in town and have started knitting a scarf. Knitting, cold nights, and warm tea go together so well.