MicroblogMondays: Mid-Visit Report

Microblog_Mondays

A few more days before I go home.

One day I came down with a fever and had to stay in bed for two whole days.  I managed to throw up everything that I ate.

Once I felt better, Hong Kong was hit with two typhoons.  One of them was strong enough for the government to cancel work and school for everyone.  So I was again trapped at home.  The weather next day was better but I had heartburn and nausea.  Extreme discomfort made me feel for those with chronic illnesses and pain.  Feeling normal and healthy is so precious.

I visited with one of my closest college friends.  That wasn’t the original plan.  Originally lunch was with a few other friends, but the plans were changed due to my sickness.  When I finally felt better, I opted to just see this one friend and her 4-year-old girl.  It was nice to catch her up on my journey of DE and surrogacy.  I doubt that I would have shared anything about it to the bigger group of friends.  Her little girl is sort of a marker of the length of my fertility journey.  My friend and I started trying for a baby at the same time.  That was a month after she got married.  She got pregnant right away and I didn’t.  Her daughter is already four and mine has not even implanted yet.  Seeing her, I wasn’t upset or anything.  It was just a thought that crossed my mind.  I know that it will forever be a thought that crosses my mind.  A part of my fertility history.  That my friend’s dream came true right away while I continue waiting for another five years.  Hopefully the wait is going to be over soon.

I don’t know why but many of my friends feel the need to tell me about their own friends’ fertility journey.  I guess because these people also had to use IVF to get to their babies.  This friend told me about her friend who tried for a couple of years, first in Hong Kong, then in New York, and finally now is in her second trimester after trying one more time in Hong Kong.  This friend of hers is a year older than me but she used her own eggs.  Sometimes I don’t know how to react to this kind of news especially when she’s successful carrying using her own eggs but I have to use donor eggs and another person’s uterus.

My grandma’s birthday banquet was last Saturday night.  I responded well to all my younger cousins’ babies as I played with them and interacted with them.  Most of my family was good and didn’t ask me about babies.  Except for one person.  My least favorite relative.  This is my grandfather’s nephew who grew up without his dad so he was raised by my grandpa.  He somehow disliked me a lot when I was a little kid and yelled at me a lot.  After I grew up, I had made peace with his existence and do talk to him when I see him at gatherings.  The moment he saw me, he asked me, “Why don’t you have a baby? You should have a baby by now.”  What the heck?  I didn’t know how to respond to him so I just mumbled something. But it had been a long time since I reacted strongly to someone’s inquiry about my childless state. I guess it’s because I knew that he didn’t mean well, unlike other inquiries. My childless oldest cousin who has had miscarriages and recently divorced overheard our conversation defended me and said to him, “You think it is that easy, huh?” She turned to me and said, “Just ignore him. ” Thank you cousin for being my voice when I couldn’t find one myself at that particular moment.

My best friend told me a story about her elementary school classmate that had me scratching my head. Let’s call her Jean. Jean is our age and tried for a long time to have a baby with her estranged husband.  This is the first red flag of the story. Why would she want a baby with a man she doesn’t like or love anymore?  She eventually got pregnant via IVF and gave birth about a month ago. This is what my best friend discovered through their conversation. Once the baby was born, Jean hired a helper and sent the baby and her husband to her mother-in-law’s house since Jean’s own house is under renovation currently. But, since she doesn’t like her MIL, she won’t let her MIL take care of the baby. Only the helper does all the feedings and diaper changes. What does Jean do?  She watches the baby and the helper’s every move via a webcam on her phone all day long ever since the birth.  She yells out commands to the helper via the webcam.  She has not gone to see, visit, touch, hold, kiss, or feed the baby since he was born.  She sits at home daily by herself and monitors another person’s work of taking care of her own baby. In Chinese culture, traditionally women are recommended to stay at home postpartum, but it’s an extreme that she doesn’t even go visit her own baby who had taken a lot of her effort to make.  So her husband and helper take the baby to all the checkups and she stays home by herself.  She doesn’t have friends and she’s not close to her family. So she is home everyday without any human interaction and just stares at the screen on her cell phone.  You can imagine next month when she takes the baby home she would have missed a lot of her baby’s development and bonding time with her. It boggles my mind.  To each their own.

Finally, I bought a couple of things for my future baby. Here they are:

You know me. I’m not afraid of jinxing things.  I can’t wait to put these cute onesies on my baby.

One more week until transfer!!!

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Finally, the Stress-Free Part of Vacation

Wow.  Can’t believe it’s been more than two weeks since I last blogged.  Sorry for leaving you all hanging after the family feud in India.  Compared to the craziness with Bob’s family in India, Hong Kong was totally stress free.  

I loved spending time with my dad, who is no doubt the coolest guy in the world.  He is almost 70 years old and is still full of energy.  He loves hiking and biking.  When we had other plans, he went ahead and hung out with his friends on the road biking or on the mountain hiking.  There was no pressure whatsoever in how we spent our time.  We were free to do whatever we wanted to.  We went hiking with him one day and we all had a great time.

Another highlight is a trip to Macau on April 30th for our third wedding anniversary, which was a gift from my father to us.  He booked the ferry tickets and one night of hotel for us to celebrate our marriage.  It was Bob’s first time being in Macau.  We walked around town, visited touristy sites, stayed at a very nice hotel, and had a wonderful Portuguese dinner to celebrate.  Image

 

We had pork, mussels, and sangria.Image

 

See how crowded the street was on May 1st, which was a holiday in China.  The streets were flooded with tourists.  Image

 

We went to the famous place for Portuguese egg tart but it was closed both on April 30th for their regular day off and May 1st for the holiday.  We had to have the second or even third best which was to just buy one from a random place on the street.Image

 

Macau definitely was a very memorable trip.

We also traveled to China this time.  This would also be the first time Bob had ever been to China.  My dad partnered with others to open a restaurant in Guangzhou China so this was our first time going there trying the food.  I was also looking forward to getting a massage there in Shenzhen as massages are very cheap.  We had one hour of foot massage and two hours of body massage.

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We had very good Hunan food with a dish of stone pot fish:

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We took the metro to my dad’s restaurant:

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I gotta say the food was very good.  This is the shrimp toast that we had:

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On the way back from China, we waited in line for customs.  I overheard an officer ask a woman from Mainland China a question, “Are you pregnant?”  To give you some background, Hong Kong has been inundated with pregnant women from China who come to give birth as Hong Kong provides a better condition for labor and delivery.  Hong Kong has been trying to prevent this situation by limiting the number of pregnant women from entering the city.  When I heard that question, all I could think of was that I could punch the officer if I were asked that question.  Plus, who in the world would answer “yes” if they really want to just come in and stay there to give birth?

Since we only had ten days in Hong Kong and were traveling to Macau and China, we barely had enough time to go shopping, visit with friends, or see relatives.  We did do all of those, but not nearly enough.  Before I met Bob, I would spend three weeks in Hong Kong and felt that I had a lot of time to just chill, play, and rest.  After we got married, we feel obligated to go to both places and my visit home has significantly cut short.  I am not complaining.  It’s our new way of life… But I would really love to be able to spend more time with my loved ones.  Fortunately, I saw my two grandmothers several times and got to visit with my 106-year-old great aunt.  Last time we visited Hong Kong, it was ten months after we got married.  My great aunt and my grandma at the time were asking why we still hadn’t had babies.  My grandma even joked that Bob shouldn’t go back to Hong Kong without a baby to show her.  This time, nobody asked any questions because they learned not to ask.  And my great aunt is no longer lucid enough to even keep track of who is who.  It just makes me sad that we have nothing to show for… I desperately want my beloved grandmother to hold my child… Although she’s still in great health, she is 95 years old after all.  I don’t really know if she’ll ever be able to meet my future children.  

We also spent quality time with my childhood best friend.  She has two daughters, one six years old and the other one three years old.  She and I hadn’t really talked on the phone in the past year as I was in my daze of fertility treatment and she was busy making money to support her family including her mother with dementia.  So this time we had a chance to sit down and talk a bit about what Bob and I have experienced in the past year.  One very interesting phenomenon is, none of my friends in Hong Kong with whom I have shared about the possibility of using donor eggs and donor embryos were fazed by these alternative ways of having a baby.  They discussed with me about their thoughts and all of them have the same thoughts as I do, that we would go the donor egg route before we would try donor embryos or adoption.  I am just surprised at how educated and how open my friends have become.  

Another highlight is my snake soup.  I know you may stop reading this blog after you read this, but I love my snake soup.  I grew up eating snake soup and I have to have my snake soup every time I go.  Unfortunately, Bob is very scared of snakes.  Poor guy.  He was traumatized sitting in the snake shop watching me eat my snake soup.  It’s a step forward from last time when he just stood outside of the shop refusing to go in.  Kudos to him. 😀

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We were determined to catch the egg this time.  We are proud to say that we tried to do that once in India, once in Macau, and once in Hong Kong.  Imagine DTD with my dad next door.  EEEWWWW.  Too bad we didn’t get to do so in China.  Sad to say that we lost that egg since my period came a few days ago after a disappointing 20-day cycle.

On our final day, we went to the cemetery where both of my grandfathers rested.  It was good to introduce Bob to them.  This is the view looking out from grandpa’s place:

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We also had a very nice dinner at grandma’s house:

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On the way to the airport, it was raining cats and dogs.  In fact, the rain was so heavy that we experienced what they called amber rainstorm, red rainstorm, and black rainstorm.  You can read up about them here.  The two car accidents that I had in my life were both in the rain.  So needless to say I was extremely nervous.  At one point, we couldn’t see out of the windshield because of the rain water that was kicked up by these huge trucks that passed by our car.  I. Was. So. Scared.  My dad was brave and just maintained his composure to send us safely to the airport.  Also very grateful that he drove home safely.  Our flight was an hour delayed.  My lovely brother came to pick us up at 11:30pm.  My lovely mother welcomed us home with a very clean house with clean floor and clean bathrooms.  My family is just lovely.  

It hasn’t been too hard to get over our jet lag.  We slept through the night every single night and I went back to work okay.  However, every single evening I couldn’t keep my eyes open… I would doze off at 7:30pm every night.  Hence the reason you haven’t seen an update from me.  Finally I got some energy to write today.

I know the following is about India and not Hong Kong.  But I have got to share this.  We wanted to buy our future child something last time we were in India, but never actually did it.  So this time we were determined to find something and here is a shirt for our future child:

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It is my hope that I can put this on our baby in the very near future.  

Oh, and I think Bob and his parents are still on speaking terms, so that’s a good sign that they will eventually totally reconcile.  

 

 

 

Family Dynamics

Final day in India.  I thought things were going relatively well for days until yesterday.

As usual, we were at my in-laws’ house.  We brought our laundry along.  Since my MIL is usually afraid of anything electrical, my FIL is usually the one who operates the washing machine.  I vaguely remember that he did Bob’s laundry on our last trip.  It was a lot cooler last time so I didn’t need to wash my clothes.  This time I sweat a lot more so I also had laundry to do.  I was doing my own thing and didn’t pay much attention to what was going on.  All of a sudden I heard that my MIL was raising her voice at Bob in Tamil.  Bob came to her and muttered something.  She yelled at him and he started yelling back.  I had no clue what was going on.  My instinct was to tell him not to yell at his mom, so I did.  He then stormed to the balcony where his dad was.  His mom was immediately upset and started tearing up.

A minute later, his dad came into the house and started yelling at Bob’s mom.  I was very confused and went to the balcony to see Bob.  He was holding a bunch of wet clothes looking very annoyed.  After talking to him, this is what I gathered.  His dad was not pleased that Bob handed him my clothes to wash.  Bob wouldn’t have minded handling my clothes, meaning hanging them dry.  But he didn’t know that his dad was already in the balcony trying to hang Bob’s clothes only.  By the time his mom raised her voice to tell Bob, Bob had gotten up to go to the washing machine which is in another room from the balcony.  His mom didn’t realize that he had gotten up to go help.  When he was walking to the balcony to help, she yelled at him for treating his dad like a lowly laundromat worker.  His dad also yelled at him and said that he should’ve known better to not hand his dad my clothes.

This is all out of pride and lack of communication.  And it is definitely not just about laundry.

According to Bob, things have been brewing ever since we arrived in India.  I didn’t know because he had been shielding me from it all.  But basically, his parents are still treating him like a little boy, thinking that he should’ve done a lot of things that they told him to do.  These include staying at the big corporation job, marrying someone that they choose, so that they can come to the States freely being taken care of by their chosen Indian Hindu Brahmin daughter-in-law.  None of this has happened.  He switched over from a big corporation to a start-up company and ended up losing his job.  He married somebody older and non-Indian that wasn’t chosen by them.  They have no desires to come visit us because of me.  They don’t see that these things happened for a reason. There is really not much we can do to change their thought process.  Poor Bob.  Instead of getting yelled at by his mom every week on Sky.pe, he gets yelled at in person every single day.

This is what I don’t get.  We have been married for almost three years.  They have known this for five  years now.  They don’t get to see Bob all that much.  They get to spend 9 to 10 days together every two years.  Why not use this chance to be nice to one another and just enjoy the time together?  Why spend the energy on fighting each other?  I really don’t get it.

Bob was so angry at his parents that he wanted to leave right away.  He also said that he didn’t want to come today, the last day of our stay.  I didn’t say much but I told him that after he’s done being mad, he’d change his mind.  He patched things up with his dad quickly, but his mom refused to talk to him for the rest of the day.  She was actually talking to him through me.  She said that she was too sick to cook so she would take me to a restaurant for dinner.  She complained to me about Bob.  I was determined to stay out of it and not to take sides.

The funny thing was, during those hours that they had this fight, there were these unannounced visitors.  His mom was in the middle of crying and the doorbell rang.  She opened the door and the visitors came in and chatted.  Then everyone appeared like nothing had happened.  The cold shoulder continued when the visitors left.  Then some other unexpected visitor would come, and this whole thing would start all over again.

I am not worried about them.  They are a family so they will sort things out.  Today his mom still appears to be a bit mad. But they have patched things up for the most part.  I just wish that there is a way for them to improve their relationship by accepting the way Bob is.  On some level, they may have felt betrayed by a son that did not fulfill the dreams that they have for him.  They are taking an extremely long time to get over it.  We have been praying for them to get to that place in the future.  This visit shows me that there is still a long way to go.

One thing I am very sure of is that we will NOT stay with my in-laws the next time we come.  We need that personal space away from them daily to recharge and to rest.  I can’t imagine how good Bob’s psyche would be if he had to endure this kind of interaction 24×7 for more than a week.  I don’t think I can stand not having a place to just be myself.

Nine more hours.  I can smell freedom.

The In-Laws

Day six in India.  Things are going relatively well.  I’m surviving having a period during this time.  I’m also surviving hanging out with my in-laws daily.  By hanging out, I mean I bring my laptop, iPhone, magazines, and books, and sit in my in-laws’ living room throughout the day.  Bob and his parents would chat and do whatever they do and speak in Tamil.  I will try my best to go online and chat with whomever is still online on Facebook.  I am kind of hooked on 2048.  I rarely play any games on the phone.  Before I left for the trip, I searched for the game that had the highest rating and found 2048.  I can understand why now.  Anyhow, I did it because I knew that I would be doing what I am doing everyday, sitting at my in-laws.  

My in-laws are “interesting” people.  At least, their lifestyle and Bob’s upbringing are very different from what I am used to.  My MIL doesn’t believe in eating out.  She cooks every single meal daily.  In fact, when they came to visit Bob five years ago in the States for almost two months, she cooked every single meal except for eating out once.  I can understand my husband’s preference of eating at home and why he had a very difficult time with the concept of going to a restaurant when we first started dating.  So my MIL’s idea of our time in India is for us to go to their house daily for both lunch and dinner.  She also wants to see her son most of the day since it had been two plus years since they all got together.  That I get.  But, imagine me flying all the way to India sitting in my in-laws’ living room daily.  

You may say that we can arrange for my in-laws to go sightseeing or shopping or hanging out with us so that we can all have fun together?  Then there is my FIL who does not like to go out.  He’s a homebody and doesn’t change that for anyone, even his son.  The only time that he would go out is to go with Bob to see Bob’s grandma, who lives about 10 minutes walking distance away.  Otherwise, Bob’s dad stays home.  In order to hang out with his dad, Bob stays home too.  And Bob’s wife?  She stays wherever her husband is.  Hence, iPhone, laptop, magazines, books, and games.

This is how my MIL’s ideal day will go: We arrive at their house in the morning, have lunch there, hang out in the afternoon, have dinner, and go back to the hotel. 

This is how my ideal day will go: We have breakfast, chill, workout, or do whatever we want to in the hotel, head to a sightseeing place/mall/whatever, have lunch, head to his parents’ place for dinner, and head back to the hotel.

You see the difference?  I think my way is better because you keep a non-Indian wife sane while allowing my MIL to have her time with her only child.

But I don’t get my way all the time.  So we headed over to my in-laws’ for two days.  With the spotty internet, it’s sometimes difficult to maintain my sanity.  My MIL doesn’t want to go out in the afternoon because of the heat but she often wants to take us out instead of letting us venture on our own.  Yesterday, we didn’t head out until 5 something.  We first went to my MIL’s uncle and aunt’s house for a visit.  Again, I sat there, smiled, and did not understand a word of Tamil there.  When we were leaving, I was given a parting gift with a piece of cloth called blouse bits, fruits, and a string of jasmine.  As a married woman, I am to tie that string of jasmine on my hair.  So I did.  

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There is a nice fragrance of jasmine lingering around me all night long.

My MIL didn’t quite know how to get to places.  We rely on the auto rickshaw drivers to take us to places.  They aren’t always the most trustworthy.  The first one after we got out of the station took an additional passenger in the front:Image

It was a total stranger.  He didn’t ask us if it was okay for him to take an additional fare.  He dropped us off early and claimed that it was our destination: the alley way that we needed to get to.  Of course it wasn’t.  So we had to walk quite a few blocks and asked for directions for a few times before we got to our first destination.

After we left the relatives’ house, we were heading to a mall that was supposed to be only two miles away.  We stood by the roadside and were quoted by many auto rickshaw drivers two times of what we were supposed to pay.  My MIL finally settled on one guy who had absolutely no idea where he was going.  Well, my MIL wasn’t any better than he was because she also had no clue what the mall was supposed to be called.  The mall was called Phoenix Marketcity and she asked to go to “supermarket”.  It’s beyond me how they communicated with each other and how we eventually got there.  The guy stopped to get gas, raced his rickshaw down the roads in a general direction, and eventually stopped two more times to ask for directions from two auto rickshaw drivers.  After an adventure of about 20 to 25 minutes, we got to this very modern looking mall.  I was appalled that the auto driver had the guts to ask for 25% more of the fare because he drove longer.  I was even more appalled that my MIL paid him.  Didn’t we agree on one fare?

The mall has many brands that are available in the US.  I wasn’t interested in any of them.  I knew that there are some Indian department stores that sell traditional Indian shirts.  I bought a bunch of them at another mall last time. So we bypassed all the modern stores and went straight to an Indian department store.  Happy to report that I got some very nice shirts.

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I was dead tired though.  We didn’t eat until 9:30.  Bob and I went to a food court.  I ordered this meal with mutton… and 20 minutes later (don’t ask me why it took so long), we were given this tray with three pieces of mutton swimming in curry sauce.  We were totally cheated by this place.  Bob refused to wait in line any longer.  We went to another place… and didn’t get back to the hotel until almost 11pm.

i protested today.  I don’t want to go sit at my MIL’s for the whole day and head out again late in the evening.  So this morning, after Bob’s done with his job search stuff, we’ll head to the mall ourselves before we head to my in-laws’.  This is my last chance to do some shopping before Bob spends quality time with his parents for the next three days.

Hopefully the internet will be reliable at my FIL’s until we leave for Hong Kong.

India: Day Three and Day Four

Not pleased that AF showed up today.  Pleased that she didn’t come yesterday when we were traveling in a car for 2.5 hours and having a difficult time finding a decent restroom to relieve ourselves.  

We traveled to Pondicherry, a coastal city known to be a French colonial town back in the days.  We hired a car for a day.  Once I stepped in the car, I noticed a crazy mosquito flying all over the place.  About half an hour into the trip, I spotted it again.  Bob quickly handed me the newspaper from the morning.  Proud to present to you this:

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Me = 1, Mosquito = 0

I still got a few bug bites though.  It’s inevitable.

Indian drivers and traffic are a bit crazy.  There are lanes but nobody observes them.  The last time I was here, I had a heart attack every 12 seconds seeing how close all the cars, trucks, motorcycles, and auto rickshaws were to us.  This time, I am totally unfazed by it all.  I am sure accidents happen quite a lot.  But I am not as easily startled as last time.  You hear horns honking every three seconds.  That’s just drivers’ ways of saying hi and telling the other drivers that they are passing them on the left, on the right, or whichever direction they choose to come from.

See how close the cars were to one another?

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The streets in Pondicherry were filled with colonial buildings that were markedly different from other streets I have walked in South India.  It was about 1pm when we arrived.  The streets were dead as if everybody was taking a siesta.  This place is known for its ashram, which didn’t open until 2pm.  We walked around a little and ate the lunch that my mother-in-law prepared and packed for us in the car.  

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I didn’t have any internet access so I had no clue what the actual temperature was.  We parked in the shades but eating in the car without any breeze or moving air… it felt like over 100 degrees inside.  My whole being was drenched in sweat.  Still grateful for homemade lunch though.  While waiting for the ashram to open, we were desperately in need of a bathroom.  We couldn’t go explore because the driver left us with the car while he went to get lunch.  I got sent by Bob to the post office to ask about a bathroom.  The lady inside pointed me to a direction and said, walk two minutes then you’ll see pay toilets.  I thanked her, looked out in the crazy hot sun, and thought, no thank you.  A Caucasian lady walked by.  We asked her about a bathroom.  She said she was sure that one would be available at the ashram.  Good thing the driver came back.  Bob and I braved ourselves in the heat for a quest to locate a usable bathroom.  We found an A/C restaurant and were told that the toilet was out of the restaurant around the corner.  I went and it was again one of those squatty potty that smelled extra bad and was totally wet.  Of course there was no flush and no toilet paper.  I was prepared with a roll of toilet paper and I am very good at holding my breath.  Being Chinese, I am also very good at squatting.  I am just thankful that my period hadn’t come yesterday so I only had to take care of one thing.  I don’t know if you realize but in India, people clean themselves with water only.  Even at my in-laws, we bring our own toilet paper.  It boggles my mind but it’s been their way of living for years and years and years.  I’m in no position to judge but I am very thankful for toilet paper.

I learned that an ashram is a monastery type place.  People go there for meditation.  We were told to take off our shoes across the street from the ashram.  We then had to walk barefoot across the street.  The soles of my feet were burning like crazy.  When we went inside, we walked around this courtyard and people were sitting on the ground with their eyes closed and meditating.  We came back out after walking around a bit.  My feet were black and dirty.  You can call it an experience but I really hate to get my feet dirty.  

After that, we went to see the ocean.  It was really hard to enjoy ourselves there as the heat was really getting to us.

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It was beautiful but it was about time to get back into the car.  The driver took us to two churches.

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My whole person is so swollen that my feet are getting wider and harder to fit into my sandals.

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You can say that we didn’t do our research before we came here.  The driver drove us a little bit farther away to a place called Auroville.  Before this trip, I had never heard of this place.  I looked it up and it says, “Auroville is an experimental township in Viluppuram district in the state of Tamil Nadu, India, near Puducherry in South India.”  I didn’t expect to have to go get a pass, walk about 1km to get to this golden metallic sphere which was the center of the town, called the Matrimandir.  That walk really killed me.  I was tired.. and hot… and we didn’t know how long it’d take to walk there.  Dirt and sand kept getting into my sandals.  Getting to that sphere thing wasn’t what I wanted to do at the moment.  We did it anyways.  Image

I wasn’t touched by it… didn’t feel its power, tranquility, peace, or other words that were associated with it.  I just wanted to leave.  Luckily there was a shuttle that brought us back to the visitor’s center.  It was then 5:20pm.  I was happy to be traveling back to my in-laws.  I slept all the way through the car ride, leaving Bob to be the only one experiencing the exciting Formula One race firsthand on the road.

It was a heck of a long day.  But I am glad we went.  My mother-in-law made dosa for me for dinner.

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We headed back to the hotel.  I negotiated for a half of a day of down time this morning instead of rushing to my in-law’s house early in the morning again.  The break is much needed.  Since AF hadn’t shown, I had a half of a second of a delusion that maybe we got lucky last month.. that it was finally our turn to get pregnant in between IVF cycles.  Well, we’ll have to wait until next month for that.  But I am glad that AF chose to arrive at the comfort of our hotel room, so I am a lot more well prepared for it.  We also did our travel workout this morning in the hotel room.  I am proud that we did it but boy, it was so exhausting to be jumping around, doing push ups, burpees, and all sorts of crazy things with very tight and heavy muscles and a very jetlagged body.  

This is day four.  Five more days to go.

Greetings from India

After a 24-hour journey, we arrived in India and things are going well despite the very hot and humid weather.

The flight to Hong Kong was uneventful.  We watched many movies, ate every single meal, and slept some.  I finally watched Frozen and Gravity as well as six episodes of Big Bang Theory and three episodes of Elementary season 2.  By the time we arrived in Hong Kong, it was 4am PDT.  Fortunately, Hong Kong is such an efficient place that from the time we exited the plane to the time we got to see my dad, it only took 15 minutes.

Reunion with my dad was so sweet.  He was his usual self, warm and caring.  We had dinner with him and chatted for about an hour before we headed back to the terminal.  He handed me a little thermos that he thought I could use in India.  Apparently it can keep beverages hot for over seven hours.  He also bought me books and magazines.  I really missed my dad and was so happy that the flight was on time.

Not so lucky with the second flight.  Good news is that it was a direct flight.  However, it was delayed.  By the time we arrived in India it was already almost 1am.  We had no trouble this time with our female immigration officer.  It was a joke last time when we were questioned by a male immigration officer of the reason we were staying at a hotel and not at Bob’s parents.  I was shocked that we had to explain our life to a stranger that had nothing to do with us.  He even turned his head and gossiped with the officer across from him.  Luckily, we were not subjected to any of this nonsense this time.

After we went through customs and picked up our luggage, we headed out and were greeted by staff of the hotel where we’re staying.  I can’t tell you how happy I was to see such a stranger holding a sign with Bob’s name at 1:30am.  All I wanted to do was to take a shower and crash.  The airport was a lot calmer than the last time we were here.  I couldn’t get over the image of all the people crowding the arrival hall after midnight.  This time, there were only a few people.  

The room is very comfortable, just like how I remembered it.  Breakfast was great.

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It was a combination of South Indian food, plus some Chinese, and some Western style breakfast, with a cup of Indian filtered coffee.  

We took a taxi to Bob’s parents’ place.  I vaguely remember the roads.  Everything felt so familiar.  When we rang the door bell, we were received warmly.  This was so unlike the last time we were there.  During our first visit, I was told not to go visit them at their place.  This time, instead of being told not to go visit them, my mother-in-law this time repeatedly expressed the desire to have us stay with her.  She asked me several times why we decided to spend the money on a hotel room.  I just smiled and told her, “Next time”.  

It was a lovely first day visit.  My in-laws were genuinely happy to see their son.  It warms my heart to see the bond between Bob and his dad.  They pat on each other’s shoulders and smile.  They chat about various different things, the kind of interaction exists only between a father and a son.  I can’t help but wonder if Bob will ever get to experience that kind of bonding time with his own children in the future.

Compared to the first day of my first trip, the first day this time was much more manageable.  In 2012, my MIL came to the hotel room on the first day, took us to the most crowded local street for shopping, took us to her sister’s place for a visit, and finally sent us back to her apartment at the end of the day.  It was one very tiring day full of cultural shock, jetlag, being bombarded with questions by salespeople at the first shop about Bob’s marriage with me, and smiling to relatives who were strangers.  This time, we went to my in-laws’, had lunch, took a very long nap, had dinner, and called a taxi to go back to the hotel.  So much better.

One thing I missed the most was my mother-in-law’s home cooking.  It is so tasty:

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The biggest change this time was her attitude towards me.  Last time she was courteous but guarded.  This time she clearly sees me as family.  After my nap, she took out a bunch of jewelry and offered them to me… so unlike last time!  She did not offer me anything last time.  Whatever she gave me, I took.  Here they are:

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Of course my mother-in-law is still upset about Bob marrying me.  But offering me jewelry is such a huge step forward.  I have no complaints about that.  My father-in-law appeared more open this time.  He still doesn’t directly talk to me though, which is fine by me.  

It is really hot and humid here.  I rarely wear my hair up in a ponytail.  After I washed my hair last night, it became so frizzy that I couldn’t tame it without tying it up.  We walked ten minutes to the train station in the heat and took the train which cost only 10 rupees each way.  See the train without doors?

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People just hang out there without the fear that they’d fall out of the train.

When we arrived at our destination, we had to take an auto rickshaw to my in-law’s.  By now, we know the drill.  I stay behind while Bob goes to negotiate for the fare.  He got very good last time with his Tamil and was able to bargain for the local price of 30 rupees.  The drivers raise their price when they see me.  However, this time, he couldn’t negotiate for lower than 40 rupees.  He definitely needs more practice on that.

In the evening, after another three-hour nap, we braved ourselves and went to the most crowded shopping street here.

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I also know exactly what kind of clothes I want to buy this time.  It felt so nice to walk into an air-conditioned department store.  Although where we went was very local, I didn’t get too many stares today.  I searched through racks and racks of clothes with a saleslady standing very close to me, waiting for me to make my choice.  I am not used to that but I am okay with it.  What I am not okay with was the second place we went to.  You stand in front of the counter facing a ceiling-full of folded, plastic bag covered shirts.  You rely  on the salesperson to pull shirts for you and you keep on shaking your head.  Nope.  Didn’t make a purchase there. I did buy two shirts that I liked from the first place.  It was quite an experience trying on clothes when my body was super sticky.

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We had dinner at one of the chain restaurants that we frequent in the States.  This is going to be one of the handful of meals that we would eat at a restaurant since we’ll most likely be fed by my MIL most of the time.  Food was very good though:

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All in all, it has been a very lovely visit… but also very tiring.  All the people, walking, stickiness, crazy frizzy hair, thick air, jetlag, understanding my MIL’s English… Two days done already.  Seven more days to go.

Finally, here is a glimpse of the night life here:

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So far so good. Will be traveling to Pondicherry tomorrow, which is the town featured in Life of Pi.  Thanks for reading.  Good night!