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Boy, has Delhi changed since I was last here 12 years ago!  Last time Mike and I arrived in a very tired old airport where people lined up back to belly and it was a long complicated process to get through customs, and then a scramble out of the airport to find transportation into town.  This time, we landed two months after the new airport opened – and it is a world of difference; a welcome modern facility and customs was an absolute breeze.  There is even a beautiful Om sculpture that graces the entry over customs.  They have a pre-paid taxi stand which prevents the inevitable shenanigans that accompanies any taxi transaction in India.

The hotel was nice enough, and since the next morning was Sunday, I decided to see what I could see before meetings kicked in on Monday and Tuesday.  It was also Independence day and the concierge told me everything would be closed, but he apparently was totally incorrect.  I hired a driver for $10 and he drove me all around south Delhi for the entire morning.  I visited a lovely Hindu temple (Chattar Pur Temple), which is a very large template complex – I forgot how welcoming Hinduism is – there are no rules about hindus and non-hindus, everyone can roam anywhere.  Those Hindus have some crazy-looking statues too – goddesses with three heads and seven arms… There was also a giant Hanneman on the premises.  It was very lovely roaming around solo with the rest of the Indian families.  The driver took me to the Qutab Minar, ruins from the Moghul empire, with a massive tower that loomed well over all the buildings in South Delhi.  After emptying liters of sweat into my clothes, I returned to the hotel, but not before the driver dropped me at a textile shop to earn a little extra commission from the shopkeeper – it turned out to work to my advantage, as I remembered my aunt Jan wanted an Indian bedspread – stoker!

In the afternoon I joined Anil and we visited Connaught place for a little nostalgia – the cab driver would not take us to Paharganj, where I stayed as a backpacker 12 years back – he said it was too dangerous and refused to drop us there.  But we got to see Connaught place, which is still under never-ending road construction same as when I was here last.

The madness of India, and especially India traffic, is unfathomable to someone who has not traveled outside the States or Europe.  There are no rules on the road, to speak of, and every form of transportation converges at once into a weaving path of utter chaos.  Cars, rickshaws, bikes, motorcycles, pedestrians, buses, trucks, and cows all dance to the New Delhi  horn-honking mayhem.  It is really not possible to imagine myself doing the 1 hour commute that most delhi-ites make every morning and again every evening, through this craziness.  To live in the chaos, madness and dirt that is India is to truly require a state of zen – and this is what makes India rich with soul… The soul to live through extreme madness, extreme poverty, extreme wealth and extreme tolerance EVERY SINGLE DAY….  I love this country and it will forever hold a special place in my heart.  I look forward to traveling here with Kailani and Soleil one day very soon – and to see it through their naïve eyes, and experience it again in its magical state.

During my meetings over Monday and Tuesday, I learned two fun words that are key components woven within the cultural fabric of India:

  • Chalta Hai = “It is good enough”, commonly referring to the corrupt politicians and the way people blow off some of their mis-givings.
  • Jugaad = “A way around”, basically meaning, to work the system

I love words like this that cannot be directly translated because they are so embedded in the culture of the community – I always thought that would make a great book to collect words like this in languages around the world and then try to photograph the essence of the meaning….

Departure out of New Delhi was a little less welcoming than on arrival.  They checked my boarding pass like 17 times, and gave me like 5 pat downs…. Unfortunately, I still don’t feel very secure leaving this airport, as they were letting people go when the metal detector beeped and stopping people when there was no beep – I think some of them took down the wrong notes during security training.  LOL.  Anyways, onward to Dubai for two days with my parents, and then home to my three angels.  Honk if you love India!



Happy Birthday my little girl!  I miss you soooooooooooooooo much and can’t wait to hold you and give you a big hug and eat all your toes!  The last two years has been one of the greatest privileges of my life to watch you grow into the little being you are today.  You embody,

JOY – since you were a tiny baby you have the gift of absolute joy and happiness.  You love making jokes and most of all making people laugh – especially your sister.

SISTERLINESS – you make your sister soooooo happy – Kailani has been absolutely enamoured with you since the day you came into this world, and you have returned this love with utter devotion to your sister – watching and copying everything she does. laughing at her silliness and crying with her when she is sad.

INDEPENDENCE – while you are perhaps less obstinate than Kailani, you still have a strong streak of independence that will carry you far in this world.

FINGERS – you love the two middle fingers on your left hand – they soothe you when you want to go to sleep and calm you when you get scared or nervous.  While I can’t wait to see the kind of girl you grow into, I will be sad when I no longer hear you sucking your fingers in the still of your room and knowing you are falling into a deep and blissful sleep.

SUNNY DISPOSITION – while it may be a cliche, it is overwhelmingly true.  There is a quality about you that is infectious, warm and welcoming.  Everyone who comes in contact with you can feel it.  It is a yumminess that just won’t quit, and I can’t get enough of it.

I love you more every day, and want to spend every day of the next year watching you grow one year older, wiser and more yummy.

Love, Your Mommy.

The agency arranged for a car to meet us at the airport (I even had a plackard with my name on it!), and whisked us directly to our meeting, and then whisked us away to our phat rooms at the Ritz Carlton in Jakarta (only $180/night for a deluxe suite – SWEET!).  There is one thing that occupies the bain of existence for everyone in Jakarta, and that is – TRAFFIC.  There is lots of it.  But from the air-conditioned bubble of our car, only the driver was bothered by it.

My room has 20-foot ceilings and sweeping views across the city.  This is the first hotel I’ve ever stayed at where dogs and men with mirrors greet your car at the gate, and upon entering the hotel you are greeted with an xray machine and a pat down – apparently some Iman just got arrested and they are worried about terrorist attacks.  We arrived in the midst of Ramadan when the entire city is fasting, so at night, when the sun set, the prayer call breaks out – there are about 5 mosques surrounding us and as they announce prayer call it sounds quite magical – they go on and on for quite a while.  Up here in my bubble room, the city feels peaceful and exotic.  Everyone you meet in Jakarta is so incredibly warm and friendly – and that is no joke.  The people have the most amazing smiles that warm your heart to the inner core.

Beautiful room at the Ritz

We took a stroll around to grab some dinner, and the city is definitely NOT a walking city.  There were very few people out, at least in our neighborhood, and the massive blocks and endless traffic does not make a welcome stroll.  The next day we had meetings all day, and then visited some electronics malls with our client to conduct some research.  At the end of the day, we had a few hours left, so I asked our host “If there was one site you could see in Jakarta, what would it be?” – and she said “Nothing!”.  She claimed that there is ABSOLUTELY nothing to see or do in Jakarta – except for traffic!  I asked what the young kids do at night for fun – she said they go to the malls.  I asked what families do on the weekends when they want to get together – are there any parks or plazas to gather in and enjoy together.  She said “No.” – on the weekends they leave the city.  Looking on tripadvisor, it looks like there are 31 things to do/see in Jakarta, a city of between 9-13 million people.  Of those things to do, one of them is Sea World, another (most popular) one is a fish market.

The "Ramadhan Smoothie" otherwise known as a Date Shake.

So the one afternoon we had free, we, of course, went to the mall (another “bubble” of sorts) – which is where many people were in fact hanging out on a Friday night.  There is even “Mall Art” making it half museum, half shopping experience.

Mall Art

The people of Indonesia is really the attraction of this place.  They are incredibly warm and friendly, and I will absolutely come back here with my country for my next two months vacation, but I’ll probably not spend too much time in Jakarta, as it seems the rest of the islands offer far more to the traveler.

Arrival in Bangkok felt like a bit of a homecoming, as it was only 6 months since I’d last visited the city, and I’ve been several times before that during our 18 months around the world.  Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles” because everyone is always happy and smiling – a very warm and friendly culture.  We stayed at the Plaza Athenee Le Meridien hotel – the hotel itself is gorgeous, but the rooms are just ok.  I was pretty tired after the long flight from Istanbul, so after a short walk around town, I fell asleep for the night.  Next morning I worked to catch up on presentations and emails, then went to our meeting all afternoon.  That night we ventured for a stroll to dinner at a place called “Cabbages and Condoms”.  It was a restaurant that has an NGO that was established 30-40 years ago to promote family planning – there are colored condoms elaborately decorating  lanterns, statues and flowers all over the restaurant.  It feels a little kitschy at first, but when you realize you are supporting a larger cause, it feels ok – and the food was obviously delicious as all Thai food commonly is.

The next day we had a morning meeting, followed by a few hours of work – and then we left to explore the city for what remained of the afternoon.  We visited the Siam center mall to check out some computer stores (for research), and then took a stroll through a peaceful Wat surrounded by Bangkok highrises, checked out a crazy Hindu shrine, and marveled at the astounding amount of traffic on the Bangkok streets.  Continuing our walk we strolled through Lumphini Park – which was absolutely beautiful.  The Thais were all out exercising and it is really cute – there are large aerobics groups in the middle of the park with the music blaring and everyone was doing their exercises very diligently – there was even outdoor weight-training equipment where all the Thai muscle men hung out.  Why don’t we have this in America – I would totally participate in an outdoor jazzercise session in Golden Gate Park…

We ended our night at the magical Suan Lum Night Bazaar.  I’ve been to many hectic and crazy night bazaars in Bangkok, but this one was actually relatively chill, and massive with rows and rows of stalls with interesting crap to buy.  Luckily a ran out of the $60 I had exchanged, so I cut myself off – but I was tempted to keep going.  The food stalls are, of course, an eaters paradise – I could have easily eaten a dish from each food vendor, but I also cut myself off after a delicious bowl of soup.  Too bad this place is scheduled to be torn down and replaced with a condo development.  Why do condo developments have to ruin all good things on this earth?

Now, off to Jakarta.

  1. The Creative Director from the Istanbul office was out to dinner with us on the first night, and it is a tradition in Turkey to dump your coffee cup upside down when you are finished, and after it cools, someone from the table reads your fortune.  Sami claimed to be one of the most accurate fortune tellers in Istanbul, so I was honored to have my fortune read.  Sami knew absolutely nothing about me – he and I had not chatted over dinner and here is the JIST of his fortune (note that the actual fortune telling was a 15 minute long process, so I was not able to catch everything): My life is divided into four quadrants and I maintain a very clear separation of those parts of my life.  There are three people who triangulate three of these boxes, and I spend much of my time in those quadrants – these people take up a lot of my energy and thoughts.  There is a dream (or a “unicorn” as he called it) which I have that I would like to spend time on, but my energies in the 4 quadrants of my life don’t allow me to work on that dream.  In the next six months, I will continue to spend a large amount of my time on these quadrants, never getting the opportunity to fulfill my dream.
  2. The second funny moment was when we were out with a Frenchmen, and he was telling us the French have a hard time in English knowing when to pronounce the letter “H”.  For example – in the sentence “I hate when people put out “Ot Hairs”…  Get it… “..Hot Air”.

First of all – I must say, that I miss my girls terribly.  I miss their pudgy little toes, Kailani’s long limbs wrapped around me, Soleil’s soft little cheeks that I gently carress as she falls asleep…  I miss my hubby too, who does so much for all of us every day. </sigh>

We flew from Moscow to Istanbul, and I must say arrival in Istanbul was exceptional.  We had a lively taxi driver who was happy and cheerful and he smiled and sang to us on our way to the hotel.  The air is warm and humid, but with a nice breeze off the Bosphorous, so it wasn’t stifling.  The hotel is beautiful – the room is much more amenable than the one in Moscow – W Hotel.

We quickly freshened up, as our partners from Publicis were taking us out to dinner – Ozam showed up right on time and whisked us away in his driver’s car to Anjelique – an absolutely magical restaurant/lounge right on the Bosphorous – the sun was setting to the light was just perfect and the team members all joined us for dinner and greeted us warmly.  We enjoyed some delicious food – boy, do the Turks love to eat.  The food is all super-tasty – lots of eggplant, dolmas, fava beans and, of course, meat (shish kebab).

Anjelique Restaurant - bosphorous in the background!

The next day was full of meetings – they actually had a waiter who comes in to the meeting to take your drink order, and then at the end of the meeting comes around with tea to serve everyone – it’s a nice way to have a meeting.  Then Vincent took Anil and I out to one of the many busy alleyways where we had some more delicious plates of morsels and delights…  They serve the dishes like tapas, many small dishes of different treats come out, then another round of more delicious treats, and THEN the main meal – usually a large platter of meat with roasted vegetables – and then you have to have dessert after all of that!

We decided to spend the weekend in Istanbul, as we didn’t have our next meeting until Tuesday in Bangkok.  Saturday our hosts took us shopping to do some research on software piracy in the Turkish market.  We had a delicious lunch with Egem and Elem – more tapas plates, more tapas plates, and more meat platters, and dessert platters.  Then we visited the Grand Bazaar, which was super fun – lots of activity.  Then we went to dinner that night with Lize and Egem – they took us to dinner in the garden of the famous Topkapi palace!  We basically had the place to ourselves, and enjoyed another delicious meal of more tapas plates, more tapas plates, a main course (which I could not even make a dent in, because I was so full), and then some desserts.  I honestly think I’ve gained 10 pounds in Turkey.

The next day we had to ourselves to just explore Istanbul.  I walked the famous Istakel walking street, visited the Blue Mosque, and then suddenly felt like I was in a very familiar place… it was the Optimist Hotel, a pretty crappy hotel that Mike and my parents stayed in nearly 12 years ago!

I spent the afternoon exploring the Istanbul Modern museum, which is right on the bosphorous and has a magical café where I enjoyed a meal overlooking the bosphorous.  Then a taxi driver got me totally lost and I spent an hour riding along the waterfront – aargh!  Our flight left at midnight, and I must say I was pretty sad to be leaving Istanbul – but all I could think was how much fun it will be to take the kids here one day!

Here is a cute email I got from Mike while I was on my epic corporate adventure.  He sent the email on 08.08.2010, so a little while back, but I want to remember it for all eternity.

Here is a list of things that I remember from this weekend.

Went to Kais play, fun but pretty hocky and low budge. Kai did good, looked super nervous but did it perfectly

had dinner with Ed and Kathy, they are moving in together, she even quit her job to move to SM.

Cocktail party was fun I made like 3 times too much food for how much people ate, we slowly ate more and more each day.

The kids were up at like 11:30pm when I got back to the hotel.

Soleil did not go to sleep until about 2am, but slept in until about 9am wedding was very very very sweet, all the kids did amazing and the vows were teary, Beth mentioned you..

Post wedding pool party was a blast, russ’s food was good and everything went on well Soleil fell asleep on the sofa around 5:30pm and woke up at 7:30pm

Kai swam for like a million hours I went to the skatepark with Michael and his little british family that is visiting.

I have now been in the SF, Pacifica and Menlo park skate parks and only managed to hurt my wrist

Kai passed out on the way home around 11pm, soleil stayed up the whole way and did not sleep unitl about midnight.

We all slept in until about 9am this morning (sunday) headed back to los altos for more swimming and family fun,

Kai slept in michaels bed for a 2 hour nap wide awake, door open and I told her go to sleep now…ok

House is full of post wedding stuff, laundry, old food …. disaster

Going to great america with Michael and the kids on wednesday, Tuesday going surfing (if some swell arrives) with bill as beth and kids watch our kids May go to discovery kingdom on thursday depending on how wednesday pans out.

school starts up in a week.

so far the kids are being pretty good and I have managed to stop doing any else besides hang with them.

I have no idea what the garden looks like?

The VW is seriously falling apart and I will most likely stop driving it now, we need to decide what to do with it.

I think Portland is off, as we may need the money to invest in a new (new to us) car or fix the passat. Beth has offered that we can hang at her house on that weekend. Might be pretty fun.

gotta run and clean up the house in the next hour prior to my falling asleep.

The kids have been talking about you more each day, “I miss mommy”, “where is mommy”…

all dressed up

Upon first arrival in Moscow, the key impressions were a place that reflects a modern, fast-paced, status-centric society. We had a “important person” car waiting for us when we landed (although, because Anil’s visa wasn’t valid until midnight, the visa officers forced him to wait the extra 9 minutes until the clock struck twelve… no bending the rules here!). I kid you not about the cars, though…. They actually say “Important Person” on the side… I’m bummed I didn’t get a picture.

While my room (we stayed at the Hotel National) left lots to be desired, the bigger problem was the forest fires that were raging outside of Moscow, causing a horrible cloud of campfire smoke to blanket the city. Walking outside was practically unbearable, so our only “site-seeing” trip was to walk across the street to stand in the middle of red square and wonder around the outside of the kremlin – which was of course still magical, despite the smoky surroundings.

My observations of Moscow are:

  • Expensive. There seems to be a large gap between outrageously priced things that wealthy Russians pay happily for ($350 for a pretty bleak room, $120 for a simple hotel lunch, $75 for a small little Russian doll for the girls, in one elite supermarket 1kg tomatoes were for sale for $100!) and then there are the extremely moderately priced things where it seems like the lower-income Russians live (a regular taxi to the airport about 1 hour away was only $40, the ticket for the train to go a pretty far distance was only $10, etc.) but there didn’t seem to be much in between.
  • Enormous. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me, but everything in Russia was HUGE. The buildings were enormous, spanning multiple city blocks. Billboards took up entire sides of buildings, monuments seem to fight each other to dominate the skyline. Everything is simply done on a very grand scale. Russia, as a country, crosses 10 time zones – so doing business here is similar to doing business globally.
  • Drop-dead gorgeous. The women walking around Moscow are absolutely stunning. Every single one is tall, slim and simply beautiful. Unfortunately, many of them smoke, which is how they are probably keeping their 20-year old bodies, but nonetheless, if a man is looking for a girlfriend, come to Russia and the choices will be mind-boggling.
  • Bling. Everyone’s wearing it – Prada bags, Gucci purses, Dolce & Gabana sunglasses, Vertu phones – having nice clothes and wearing status symbols of wealth is an important thing to a Moscowite.

NOTE: doing business in Moscow, I learned a few interesting things. Apparently, by and large, the executive level and above in large companies was 90% of the time expats. There is still a large form of “shady business dealings” that many large companies struggle to maintain legitimate business practices. Russians don’t conduct business over drinks or dinner, as that act is reserved for the second or third business meetings, when you start to become friends and know each other better.

8/1 – Impressions of Warsaw

We arrived after a long flight and went for a walk around Warsaw to keep ourselves awake until night time. The first thing that strikes you in Warsaw is the contrasting architecture of soviet-style 70s buildings, old classical European architecture and ultra-modern condos. We arrived the day before the memorial of the Warsaw Uprising during WW11, which was when the Varsavians (Warsaw inhabitants) organized and staged an uprising against the Nazis. Sadly, no-one came to their aid and they fought valiantly but were easily defeated. The Polish have enormous national pride and this was a somber but pride-ful day to remember their countrymen. At 5pm the city rang out a memorial siren for 1 minute and everyone on the street stood still for the entire minute. It was very moving.

The next day we visited the Warsaw Uprising museum and then a few neighborhoods (The Praga Neighborhood, which was very artsy) to get an idea of the city. The city is extremely walk-able with magical parks everywhere and it was evident that families spend their Sundays in these parks enjoying time with each other. The polish are reserved but also very friendly and happy people – you could make friends easily in Warsaw, I could imagine.

We strolled around the old city as well. Apparently the Nazis, during their cultural revolution, burned to ashes all of the Polish cultural and educational buildings. Of the 1000 buildings that existed, only 64 are left! So the old city was actually re-created from old photographs but it is in fact a “new” city, though it looks quite quaint.

Our hotel was absolutely beautiful – we stayed at the Hotel Bristol. It has old-world charm and elegant surroundings, and is also quite centrally located.
There is no doubt I would love to spend some more time exploring Poland. It was nice that the tourists were minimal as it kept the city much more “real” and accessible.

It is 2:15am, and I really need to go to bed, but I just had to post this picture of my hotel room in Moscow. I am staying in one of the nicest hotels in Moscow literally across the street from the Kremlin and Red Square (which looked amazing from my taxi window, by the way).

My Single Bed in Moscow

Sleep well.