Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Visiting the neighbors

Hola folks! I am back, I am back :-)! Wait, make that a sad face - I am back :-(! After a lovely vacation in Toronto, Canada, I am back to home sweet home today and to work sweet (!?!) work tomorrow. The trip was simply awesome - but utterly exhausting. Which probably explains why I am ready to fall asleep right now. Unfortunately it is all of 5.00p here and hence kinda too early to crash (before any eyebrows are raised - it's 8.00p in Toronto now. Feeling sleepy at 8.00p - my current body clock time - is not that bad, is it?)). I have to while away the next couple of hours before going to bed. Being too dazed to do anything else, I have decided to blog (hehehehe).

Anyways, the way the Canada trip was planned out was like this. Shilpa's relatives had invited her to visit them in Toronto during her summer break. She thought it would be fun if both of us could make it to Canada at the same time and do sight-seeing together. Her nice relatives extended a hearty welcome to me too. And that was it. Applying for the visa (planning took a month, the actual process took a week) and ticket booking around the Memorial Day holiday was soon done and we were all set. Hmm, I seem to be "all set" to go to some place or the other every month :-D!

So, last week, S landed in Toronto on Wednesday and prepped me abt what to expect. Thursday morning, I set off. The usual routine - V dropped me off at the airport. I realized that having Canada so close by to the United States is very deceptive. I landed up at the airport at 8.00 a - exactly an hour before the flight's departure. After all, I did not have any checkin baggage either, right?

Wrong. At the airport, I figured that, as it was an international flight, I could not do a self check-in and had to check-in at a counter. There was this huge crowd of people waiting to check- in at the counter and as the minutes ticked by, I was getting more and more worried. Finally, at 8.30a, just when all my panic alarms were beginning to go off, my check-in got processed on a priority basis - as my flight was departing at 9.00a. The ticketing agent gave me a big lecture on how I was supposed to be at least an hour and a half early for international flights. Sheesh. And I have travelled to India like a zillion times. Somehow Canada just sounds like a place next door instead of a whole different country!

Anyways, I walked/ran to my gate and joined all the other passengers who were boarding. Phew! After that the flight was pretty much unevenful. I landed in Phoenix, well ahead of my connecting flight's departure, stuffed myself well, boarded the next flight, nibbled on the 10 peanutes that they offered on that flight and finally touched ground at Toronto. After all the stories that S had told me, I was extremely apprehensive about the questions at the immigration counter.

Fortunately, the immigration officer I landed up with did not ask me too many questions. He asked me who I was staying with. As per Shilpa's instructions, I told him that I was staying with a distant family relative (who the heck are non-family relatives?? Duh!) instead of saying that I was staying at family friend (which was nearer the truth). I officially stepped into Canada after a few more easily answerable questions. Yaay :-)!

S, her aunt and her two cousins had come to the airport to pick me up. S's cousins are aged 12 and 8. It was very good fun staying with her family. Families always spoil you silly while visiting :-)! Anyways, from the airport we got back home - a very pretty house in a suburb of Toronto called Missisuaga (or Missi-something like I confidently told the immigration officer ;-)). On the way, the freeways and the traffic looked very much like the US. The biggest difference I noticed was with the sign-boards - most of them had English as well as French directions on them. I am sure I will improve my reading/written French a lot if I live in Toronto!

At home, we had a very nice dinner made by S's aunt and uncle. The younger kid, let me call her B, was most thrilled to have guests in the house. She kept hopping up and down in excitement and kept telling S and me about all the exciting things we would do! Very cute. After dinner, we all spent some time watching S's wedding videos. Then, while everyone else went to bed, S and me continued to yack till very late (ah, now you are beginning to see why I am so sorely lacking in sleep) and finally slept.

That was arrival day. More to follow soon! People who read both S's and my blogs are especially going to be begging for mercy soon ;-)!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A.R. Rehman, here I come!

Just like my long-time dream of learning French (which I finally fulfilled about three years back), another long-time dream of mine has been to be able to play the keyboard. I was never musically gifted. Sure, I love listening to music. But my short stint at learning Carnatic music sometime during my childhood convinced my parents that, unfortunate though it was, the next M.S. Subbulakshmi was definitely not going to emerge from our household. Still, I harbored hopes of at least mastering some musical instrument. For a time, I thought of learning to play the veena (my cousin S, who was learning to play the veena at that time was the inspiration behind this). However, this thought was never backed by solid action.

Next, my instrument of choice became the keyboard. The very first keyboard I learnt to play was a miniature toy "piano" bought during a trip to Darjeeling. Most of you must know what I am talking about. The mini-piano had exactly 7 keys in it which were numbered. It came with an instruction sheet which told you which numbers pressed in which order would produce the tune of which nursery rhyme. Within a few days, I became very accomplished at playing demanding pieces like Happy Birthday to You (1-1-2-1-4-3), London Bridge is Falling Down (5-6-5-4-3-4-5), Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (1-1-5-5-6-6-5) - yeah, such an expert I was that till date I can still remember the number combinations! However, knowing a total of 5 nursery rhymes on a 7-keyed mini-piano doth not a musician make! My actual musical talents still only extended to appreciating good music.

When I was in my ninth standard, I decided that that would be the year in which I finally learnt to play the keyboard. The Tamil movie Roja had released around then and all that magical music in the movie apparently came mainly from a keyboard! I had to know for myself.To this end, I coaxed, cajoled and nagged dad till he agreed to buy a keyboard for me. After all, my heartfelt declarations of becoming the next A.R. Rehman if only I knew how to play the keyboard had to have some effect ;-)!

The keyboard arrived - an nice Yamaha keyboard - all the way from Singapore. For quite a few weeks, it was the cynosure of all eyes. I admired it. All guests to our house were treated to the splendid view by me too. My cousins turned green with envy and I was busy showing off the various mixers, sound effects etc. which came with it. Only one minor glitch - I still did not know how to play it.

By now I had run out of excuses as to why I had still not learnt to play the keyboard. I guess it all boiled down to me being too lazy to hunt for a class and join it. Anyways, after getting star treatment for quite sometime, the keyboard finally became a part of the room decoration (kamre ki shobha badathi hai types).

So, recently, when I found that the Adult Education Center quite close to my house offered keyboard classes at convenient timings, you can imagine how excited I was. Here, finally, was the chance I had been waiting for all along. I promptly registered. Today was the first class. Our teacher is an elderly lady - but she is very sweet and patient and seems to have a genuine passion for teaching and music. We had an hour of theory followed by an hour of practice.

In the theory class, I learnt a lot of musical jargon. Now I can throw around words like G-clef, octave, whole notes, bass, measure, legato etc. etc. with gay abandon :-). Even as the class progressed, I was feeling sooooo good :-). A long-time dream beginning to come true. Yaaay!

During the practice session, we got a piano each to practise on. The instructor walked up to each student individually and gave tips. When she came to my piano, she went "My, you have nice long fingers, dear. Ideal for playing the piano." And immediately, out of the blue, a scene from the Tamil movie Singaravelan in which Kamal, in order to butter up Manorama, looks at her hands and asks "You have such beautiful fingers. Do you play the veena?" and then taps each of her fingers with a "ding, ding, ding, dong" sound, popped into my head and I had to resist a sudden urge to laugh. But it felt good to know that at least something was right. I could play decently enough one hand at a time. But together, my hands got thoroughly confused and wound up messing up :-(. Sigh! I need a lot of practice.

But - I am finally on my way :-D. A.R. Rehman, watch out ;-P!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

On time, every time? Right.

So this noon, me and my colleagues decided to leave for lunch at sharp 12.30p as we all had a meeting to attend at 1.30p. S, V and me walked across the street where V bought lunch and S and me nibbled at our homemade fares. Lunch was a merry affair - we were talking about a whole bunch of interesting topics and laughter abounded.

I suddenly remembered the meeting and checked my watch. S and V were watching me and asked "Is it late?". It was only 12.50p. We were mighty surprised that only such a short time had passed by. But we all had been rather hungry - so we had just gobbled up our food real fast. Or so we thought. We decided to dilly-dally a bit before heading back to work. After some more time of dilly-dallying, I checked my watch and went "What!! It's still only 1.00p". V went "No way" and pulled out his cell phone to check the time. It was actually 1:27p - for some reason, my darn watch had been crawling :-(((! We had been having an hour-long lunch. To make things worse we were late for the meeting!

We rushed back to work. Everyone else was already at the meeting. All seats towards the back were taken. And I had to take a seat in the front- right next to my manager. My manager mouthed "Why are you late?" as I slipped into the seat next to him. Boo hoo, I am never late to meetings as a rule.

And you know what the greatest irony of it all is? One of the merry topics discussed during lunch involved S and me crowing about how punctual we always were. Sigh!

Friday, May 19, 2006

A bedroom somewhere...

...is missing curtains.

Seriously, why on earth is the lower half of Ash's dress looking as though in it's previous avatar it used to adorn windows in some house?

Update (May 22): With such beautiful ladies, can the guys be far behind? Check out our desi cool dudes:

I almost fell off my chair laughing...LOL :-D.

BTW, here is Preity's I am Dorothy in Wizard of Oz costume:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

New pinch

Yesterday, as I drove into the parking lot of the community recreation center (CRC) where my fitness class is located, I saw that it was rather crowded. The reason became apparent when I noticed a whole bunch of costumed kids. Some performance had just gotten over at the theatre in the CRC. The kids were mostly little girls - probably between ages five and eight. Most were dressed in cute costumes of various colors.

My eyes fell upon one little girl wearing an extremely frilly, pink- colored short frock which flared below the waist. As she hopped and skipped her way over to her friend, I could see her looking down checking out her cute frock every so often. And everytime she looked at the frock, her face would light up with happiness and pride.

I could SO totally empathise with what she was feeling. I was once there. One of my all-time favorite snaps was taken in Nainital. My sis and I were about 8 and 6 years old then. We both are sitting on a stone parapet at the edge of the road with mom and dad seated on either side of us. Behind us is a stunning backdrop of mountains and just below the parapet, on the other side, a lush green valley is falling away from the edge. But neither me nor my sister are looking at the scenery. We are not looking at the camera either. Instead, our attention is completely, entirely, focussed on our feet. You see, we both were wearing new slippers bought especially for the vacation. And our favorite activity then was admiring our new footwear :-)!

Getting new clothes/new footwear used to be quite an event when I was small. There had to be some occassion for new clothes - typically, birthday, diwali, pongal (if we got lucky), a close relative's wedding (if we got luckier) and a summer dress or two. Footwear typically got replaced only when the older ones got completely worn out.

So, whenever I wore new clothes, it was an occassion. The clothes would invariably have been chosen by me with lots of care. Before getting to actually wear the dress, I would have admired it in the cupboard several times. As the day to actually wear the dress approached, anticipation would build up and the excitement would be almost too much to bear.

When D-day finally arrived, it was time to go and flaunt the new clothes before everyone. Also get "new pinch" from peers. And of course, cast stealthy looks at the clothes myself from time to time and sigh in satisfaction. Oh yes, I know what exactly the little girl in the pink frock was thinking last evening.

Nowadays, of course, wearing new clothes or new footwear is no longer a special event. I don't restrict myself to buying new clothes only for some specific occassion. I buy clothes when, hmm, let me see: there is a sale or I am bored or I am happy or as a cheer-me-up or for no reason whatsoever or oh, because summer/winter/spring/fall is here. So wearing new clothes has almost completely lost its charm. Only very rarely do I even notice the new footwear or the wearing-it-for-the-first-time top. While it is very nice to have a big closet filled with clothes and shoes, I think I have lost something in the process.

Isn't it true - we appreciate nice events which happen ocassionally a lot more than nice events which happen all the time?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

My blog's most ardent fan

When I first started writing this blog, absolutely no one but me knew about its existence. It just happened that I did not tell anyone about it. The few visitors that I got landed here by pure chance - my blog happening to have a very plausible URL (for Indians). Shilpa was the first person I told about archana.blogspot.com. She was adding members to the blog she had created for writing about our school memories and she needed me to have a blogger account for that.

About that time, I was blogging fairly regularly. I had also linked to the blogs of a few undergrad classmates. Spark found my blog resultantly. Archana landed up here on her own thanks to sharing my first name. Saranya came through Spark. And a few others through them. At that point, I felt bad that my own family still had no inkling of my great writings. So I mentioned my site to them as well as to three other friends. Till date, most of my other friends are as yet unaware of this site and for whatever good reason, I am more comfortable keeping it that way (in case you were wondering, NO, it is not because I plan to crib about them here ;-)).

Anyways, once my family came to know about the blog, my sis mailed back saying that it was a good source of tp (tp=timepass) for her. My mom totally oohed and aahed over it. "Archu, its really nice. I love reading it. I totally agree with what one of your commentators has said. You do compile everyday happenings into a very interesting read." I had to point out to her that that was my comment for someone else! Mom was a bit dampened on hearing this news but bravely rallied around with "Oh, I still do think it applies to you too!" From that day, my mom checks my blog everyday without fail. Apparently during morning coffee, she first checks mails and then checks my sister's and my blogs.

Nowadays, thanks to gmail chat, it's a whole lot easier to catch my mom online. On a typical day, conversation goes like this:

Mom: *Did you eat well, sleep well, eat enough veggies and fruits and other yada yada*

Me: *Dutifully say yes, yes, yes for everything*

So, I checked your blog, you did not put up anything new.

Oh, I just finished putting up a post.

*absolute silence*

Mee ('mummy' has been shortened to 'Mee' by sis and me over the years)? Are you there?

*some more slience*




(finally): I just finished reading your post. Nalla irukku (it's good). (She always says 'nalla irukku' irrespective of what I write)

I am chatting with you live right now and you ignore me to go and read my blog - grrr!

I couldn't wait. It's nice to read la!


Yesterday, I was making my scheduled weekly phone-call home. After all general yada, yada, my mom told me that she just read my latest post. I told her that it was just a general update on my everyday life. Mom immediately said that I should put up new posts everyday even if it is just everyday stuff and then she would read it. I was like "Mee! Hello! I email you practically every single day with every single event of my happening life!". And my mom went "I know, but I still like reading your blog better". I was speechless!

With such an ardent fan, can I even contemplate ignoring my blog? Of course, I know that my number one fan is completely biased and in her eyes I am *always* THE BEST (along with sister dear). But it's still nice :-)!

Come to think of it, my whole family always roots for me. My own, personal, three-member cheerleading troop. On call 24/7. Great :-D!

Friday, May 12, 2006

The week that was

Annnnnddddddd....the weekend's here - eeeehaw :-D! Significant accomplishments for the week:
  • Finished the Da Vinci Quest successfully. The eternal optimist that I am, now I am waiting to receive my cryptex in the mail :-P!
  • Managed to work on a couple of days inspite of sorely lacking on sleep. The milestones and goals actually accomplished on those days are minor technical details which shall not be gone into.
  • At long last, got out of my "got to eat every single edible thing in sight" phase (I think). Hurrah!
  • Watched the movie "Meet the Fockers" - I am going to write to the movie producers regarding compensation for the mental trauma I had to undergo resultantly. Better still, I would like to have them shot.
  • Voluntarily ran around the park as a part of the fitness class routine. Sure, I sounded like a leaking-tyre with all the huffing and puffing after that. But - I RAN.
  • Done with reading Dorothy Parker's short stories. They are all slices of life and most of them have an underlying tinge of sadness to them. A good read - still, should pick up a total masala book next.
  • Watched three Balayya videos. I have now shifted loyalties from Vijaykanth to Balayya as the ultimate stunt-master. Here are the videos if you would like to see them. Statutory warning: watch at your own risk!
If you plan to watch them, for your own mental and physical well-being, do take adequate breaks between videos and do not dwell on them for too long. And yes, laws of physics are still valid for the rest of the world.
  • Wanted to use rocketpost to post on my blog. And it crashed successfully on my very first attempt. Some explosive writing here, huh ;-)!

And so life goes on! Have a jolly, merry weekend folks :-)!

Saturday, May 06, 2006


Michael Joe Jackson - my very first major celebrity crush. I was in the seventh standard when I first started listening to MJ songs with more than just a passing interest. Soon, I was totally hooked and wanted to own all of his cassettes (no, CDs weren't popular then). Shilpa was my primary partner in this madness. Both of us used to gift each other MJ cassettes for birthdays and other occassions - so that our combined collection could grow. I think together we owned tapes of almost all the MJ collections available in Chennai at that time.

We transcribed the lyrics for most of his songs and exchanged notes about it. We knew the lyrics by heart for almost all the songs in his Thriller, Bad and Dangerous albums.We argued over whether it was "pleasures" or "plow-shares" in Heal the world. We could compose entire essays with just the titles of his various songs. We watched his movie Moonwalk (did anyone else even know about the existence of this movie?) plenty of times. Yeah, it was total, complete insanity - we were SO smitten!

When my dad got transferred to a different place when I was in the ninth standard, S's parting gift to me was a huge poster of MJ. I faithfully stuck it to the wall of my room in the new place. That was the year when Michael Jackson was supposed to come to India. The newspapers had contests - I think BPL was the sponsor - if you won one of those, you could get free tickets to MJ's concerts. My eyes sparkled at the prospect. I forced my mom to let me send out four different entries just so I could increase the probability of winning (my mom's grumbles about wasted stamp money fell on deaf ears). Of course, that was the tour which finally got cancelled at the last moment. So, other than the Indian postal service, nobody else benefitted much.

I don't know when exactly the crush ended. I think it just came on gradually. One fine day I just took the poster off the wall. And with that stopped the obsessive tracking of anything related to MJ. Oh, I still liked listening to MJ songs, but that was about it.

When I was preparing to travel to the US for the first time, Bad and Thriller found some of the precious space in my suitcase. Once I landed here, I managed to locate the songs and get them on CD. I still listen to it from time to time (and now have it on my ipod too) - and I still like them a lot. Sadly enough, MJ's life has turned into a topic for ridicule now for quite some years now. But I still think it does not take away what he has contributed to the music world.

All these memories came flooding back tonight. It being a quiet Friday night, I was reading a book and watching bits of Minnale (for the nth time - I find some of the Vivek comedy in that movie too funny). Then suddenly it struck me that I could search for long unwatched Tamil videos on youtube. I watched a couple of favorite Tamil videos when a typo brought me to a video of MJ performing live for the song Billie Jean. As I watched the video, I remembered how crazy I used to be about the famous "moonwalking" step and realized how superbly MJ does it (obviously, he has to - its his invention I guess!). Then, obviously, I HAD to search for other MJ videos too. So Liberian Girl (which I have never seen before), Black or White and Remember the Time followed. Man, those videos are simply awesome. So much thought (and money I guess) has obviously gone into it and every frame of each video shows that!

By now I was completely hooked and had to find more videos. And I continued to watch. It was then that I discovered the video for the 1988 live performance of The Way You Make Me Feel at the Grammys. OMG! I never thought I would see that video again! That was the very first time I saw Michael Jackson in action - I remember being very impressed by the super dancer. At home, we used to tape the Grammy awards regularly. So we used to have a video cassette which contained the Grammy awards ceremony from different years. This particular performance (the bit where MJ and a group of guys dance in complete sync) used to be a favorite with all of us kids and that portion of the tape became quite worn out due to the constant requests for encore! I don't know where the tape is now or if it is even in existence...

Seeing the Grammy performance reminded me of another very favorite video - Bobby McFerrin's Don't Worry Be Happy. The song is very uplifting and the video is funny! We used to watch this video over and over again too on that cassette. There is this one particular step where all the three guys featured in the video hop around on one leg in a single file. In eight standard, my friends and I used to try to do those steps during free periods in the classroom. It used to be major fun :-D - ummm... my wonderful eight standard life *happy reminiscenses*. And guess what, I found that video on youtube too :-). The link to it is right here if you want to see it :-):

Ah well, to all those generous souls who put up this stuff on youtube: May you live long and happy lives (btw, is uploading videos legal? Regardless, you still have my good will ;-))! I had such a lovely trip down memory lane :-)!

BTW, trivia for the day: This is my 100th post...yaaaay :-D! Just so this post doesn't feel left out, I am putting up an image marker for this one too!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Tulip Town

Hope you had a fun time reading parts one, two and three about my trip to San Juan. I now present to you the fourth part. May I also add that it is the final part? Tsk, tsk, I thought you folks would have kept the volume of the sighs of relief a little less audible *sniff*! Anyways, based on my prior experience, I expect this post to be the longest of the lot. So, if you are planning to read it (and I really hope you do), please do sit comfortably and have snacks and drinks handy ;-).

That night, the allocation of sleeping spots was done. A and S got the spots on the bed near the heater. The rest of us plopped on mattresses on the floor. It was pretty warm and comfy when I went to sleep. How I had underestimated the chilly San Juan weather became apparent when I woke up shivering in the middle of the night. The heater for me, for all practical purposes, was non-existent. The thin blanket I had covered myself with was also almost non-existent along with the heater. I groped in the dark for my jacket and couldn't find it. Now what?

Well, misery loves company. So I shook C (who was sleeping next to me) awake and told her that I was feeling cold. C made some empathizing noises. Then she said, "You know what, you could ...." and paused. It is a sign of how tired I was that I actually hoped that C wouldn't finish her statement - so I could go back to sleep pronto. And it was a sign of how tired C was, that she never finished that statement and went back to sleep instead!

After that, other than C getting up sometime past midnight to don her gloves, socks, muffler and sweater before going back to sleep, nothing more of interest happened that night!

The next morning, all of us were ready in record time again (boy, we were getting good at this). Breakfast was provided by the hotel. The guys in our gang were already seated at the home-style dining room and were digging into the delicious home-made fare by the time we girls arrived. We stuffed ourselves very well with the coffee/tea/orange juice, cereals, fritatta/pancakes, fruit salad and rice pudding. Then it was time to park our car at the ferry dock.

Once that was done, we had free time till the ferry actually left. J and A went to church while the rest of us roamed around the San Juan downtown. Unfortunately, San Juan being a lazy, recreational spot and all, not too many stores were open that early. So we just wandered around browsing in the few shops that were open (we finally got to smell lavender at a store which specialized entirely in lavender-based products - including lavender cookies!). Then the group again split with R and C heading off to another church. The rest of us girls, with P in tow, went to many, many stores trying out accesories - poor P must have been bored out of his wits. But we girls had a very nice time :-)!

After some two hours, we had to get back to board the ferry. The one and half hour journey back to Anacortes was uneventful. Most of us slept well, charging up batteries for the rest of the day. After arriving at Anacortes, it was time for lunch (food, again? Oh well, now you know where our priorites lay ;-)). We had decent food, well, at least decent-portion-sized food at a Chinese restaurant and went onto Deception pass.

Deception pass, which J for some reason insisted on referring to as Desolation point (!?!), had extremely scenic views (but by now I had come to expect nothing less from this place!). We stopped at a couple of vista points and admired the spectacular scenery. The day was very fine - the sun shining merrily, the winds carrying a gentle breeze and the temperature just right. We also stopped over at the North Beach and did a small hike around the place. Some of the more adventurous folks among us climbed down the rocks there.

It was a lovely spot for simply hanging around!

But then we had to hurry on if we wanted to spend some time at the Tulip fields before I had to get back to Seattle to get my flight back home. Some of people in the group had already seen the tulip farms in the previous years and were not too keen on seeing it again. But of course, me, who has never seen it, did not so easily give up and threw a tantrum and nagged till everyone agreed to see it again ;-).

After a couple of phone calls for directions, we managed to find our way to Skagit where Tulip Town was located. Even as we parked our car, I could see a wonderful carpet of color in the distance. As we walked closer, I could make out the rows of tulips. It looked extremely beautiful. Remember the Anniyan song "kumari"? It was like being in the song! I went crazy and clicked picture after picture!

We also took plenty of pics of us with the flowers too :-D! After an hour of admiration, it was getting late and we started walking back to the car. The sun shone strongly behind us. That's when all of us tried our hand at making shadow animals on the ground! J had the brilliant idea of taking a pic of the shadows which you can see below. Can you guess what animals we were trying to depict?

All of us girls stopped in between to buy freshly cut tulips from the exhibhition there. It was around 5.15p then - I had to be in the airport ideally by 7.10p to make it for my 8.10p flight. S, A and C were coming to the airport to see me off. So I waved goodbye to P, J, R and D and then we were off.

Of course, in an ideal world with ideal traffic conditions, it would have taken us two hours to get to Seattle. But being in the real world, as soon as we exited the tulip farm, we got stuck in an enormous traffic jam and our car was simply crawling along. After 45 minutes, we had not even reached the major freeway which was supposed to take us to Seattle.

It looked as though we were going to be cutting it real close. C was hyperventilating on behalf of all of us and I was mentally running over all the options I had if I missed the flight. Mercifully, thanks to S's skillful driving, we manged to make up for the lost time once we hit the highway. And by 7.20p I was deposited outside the airport. After quick farewells, I checked in and managed to make it to my gate by 7.50p (darn, Seattle airport is kinda big - but for all its size I could only find an extremely leafy salad for dinner :-().

And then it was back home. And then back to mundane worklife on Monday. And all I had as tangible memories was the pretty bunch of tulips and the pile of dirty laundry that I had brought back!

I had an awesome time on the trip and enjoyed myself a lot. It was a wonderful change from the normal routine. I was charged up for the whole week after that (of course, the euphoric effects have begun wearing off now). And once again, I reiterate: Going on a fun-trip with friends is one of the pleasantest experiences ever! This trip too receives a five star rating from me :-)!


Photo credits: The first pic on this post, the group snap of all of us on the beach and the photo of the shadow-animals were taken by J. The picture of Mt. Rainier as seen from the freeway is by A. The rest are by yours truly!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Dusk at San Juan

After parts one and two, it is time for part three of the San Juan story. I thought I should put it all down before my memory starts to fade. As I pointed out earlier, memory-fading seems to be happening faster these days than before. Sigh, old age! But I will save that rant for another day.

So we all came back from the kayaking trip, somewhat tired but still going very strong. The next stop was the bed and breakfast place where P had booked us all for the night. We had rented two cottages - a bigger one for the girls and a smaller one (but it DID have what A called a princess bed) for the guys. The hotel was very quaint and pretty and was run by a family who lent a very home-like atmosphere to the place. There were lots of lovely flowers surrounding the cottages - tulips, in particular, abounded. Ah, I love the tulip season!

We all freshened up a bit before the next round of sightseeing. Even as we were getting ready to step out, the hotel landlady delivered a plateful of home-baked cookies - yummm :-)! To get our batteries recharged, stop one was at a coffeehouse. Most of us got some version of coffee or hot chocolate. J and A opted for scoops of icecream instead. All spruced up, were were ready to begin leg two.

This time round, S, M, C and P went in one car and A, J, R and me went in the other. Now, whenever A and me (it usually includes S too but in this case, unfortunately, she was driving the other car and hence couldn't contribue) are put in the backseat of any car, it generally implies lots of fun for us and lots of trouble for the other occupants. So both of us happily sat in the backseat pulling R's leg, offering lots of valuable suggestions, demanding that the songs be changed, chattering non-stop etc. etc. In short, we were having a gala time. I am not so sure about J and R though ;-)!

First stop on the sightseeing itinerary was at the Roche Harbor. I still haven't figured out what exactly we were supposed to have seen there. All the locals recommended it highly as a sightseeing place - we arrived there and did find a lovely view of the harbor but nothing much else. So after taking the mandatory snaps, we were proceeding to the next stop when we saw directions to a "sculpture museum". We got mighty excited - this we had to see! As we drove down down the slopes towards the museum, we saw some twisted pieces of metal in what seemed to a fenced wasteland. Our worst fears were confirmed when we saw the notice that the wasteland was indeed the museum. We did not even slow down and proceeded directly to the next stop - English camp!

English camp was another of the pretty, thickly tree-filled places (of course, with local "history" to boot) that most American tourist spots seem to abound in. But the difference was that we could see one more spectacular view of the lake (or was it backwaters?). We went for a short hike around the kutti hill in that spot. And of course, took some more snaps.

Then it was off to the lavender fields. P was the one who had been campaigning real hard to visit it. "The lavender field smell so awesome dudes! You guys should not miss it." had been P's battle-cry from the beginning of our trip. So we followed the directions to the lavender fields and arrived at what seemed to be a garden filled with rows of green bushes. We thought it was the lavender garden. But according to P's description, the whole place should have been smelling of lavender. Or at least the bushes should have had violet colored flowers. We could spot nothing. Both A and me went one step further and actually smelt a few bushes. But nopes - no smell, zilch, nothing!

Then the other car with S, M, C and P arrived. We asked P where the lavender fields were. He sheepishly said that these were the lavender fields. You can imagine how big a competition the rest of us must have had to see who could kick P first! We found out only later that it was not the lavender season and that's why we could see nothing!

From the so called lavender fields, we had to hurry to the Lime Kiln point - apparently the sunset from there was spectacular. Here is where I should mention something about our car's navigator R. From the beginning, all of us had noticed that R's navigational skills, which, contrary to his protestations, were barely adequate. However, R bravely took on the mantle to chart our course back to Lime Kiln point and pored over the map on his lap. Then in a questioning voice asked, "Does the sun set in the west? So where is Lime Kiln point on this map?" This was followed by a series of equally profound questions. Needless to say A and me were rolling in the backseat with laughter and J had to make quite some effort to concentrate on his driving. Mercifully we had already passed Lime Kiln point on our way to the lavender fields. So all we had to do was retrace our path and not depend on the R's logical thinking!

When we arrived at the Lime Kiln point, the sun was just making its way downwards, casting a beautiful orange-red glow on the landscape. We had to hike a short distance to the cliffs near the ocean to get to a vantage point. The view of the sun setting behind the mountains, with the ocean in the front was simply spectacular. All of us watched, spellbound.

After that cool show from mother nature, it was time to head back to the town. It was around 8.30p when we reached - our hotel landlord had told warned us earlier that most restaurants closed early in San Juan. However, there was one restaurant called Steps which was open till later. Steps happened to be close to our hotel too. Ah, how convenient, we all thought.

However, once we got to the restaurant, the dinner menu posted outside put several of our predominantly vegetarian group-members off. But there was no other option and all of us were ravenous and at that point were willing to gobble up anything edible. So we ordered the food. After a not-so-short wait, (during which all of us mainly spoke of food), the food finally started arriving. A looked at the rather small plate placed in front of S and asked S if she didn't think the portion was rather too small. S confidently replied that it was the side-dish - when another plate, even smaller than the first one appeared. That was the side-dish.

You can imagine our sad plight. All the miniscule food portions were gone before anyone could blink their eyes. And we were all MORE hungry than we had been before dinner started. We were too hungry to even laugh too much at our fate. That was when somebody remembered the peanut butter and bread. Yeah, the same peanut butter and bread which all of us had disdainfully disregarded earlier that day.

The moment we reached the hotel, there was virtually a stampede (amongst most of the girls) for the peanut butter and the bread. We all had at least a slice each and complemented it with oranges and potato chips. After that, everybody was too tired to do anything much other than just go to bed. The guys retired to their cottage while the girls started deciding how to divide the available sleeping places on the futon, the bed and the folding cot amongst themselves.

Phew! This post is much longer than the other two. Looks like the post sizes are growing exponentially. And I am not even done yet :-O! Please to bear with me!

p.s. If there is popular demand, I will do another chart depicting the increase in the number of words per post ;-)!