Friday, July 31, 2009

Instant Rewind #2...

City Market, Bangalore, India...March 2009
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Slices of our summer...

Owen has taken to the trees... Not long ago, I was relaxing on my blanket at the park while the kids played when I heard a familiar, yet oddly placed voice, "Hi, Mom!" Startled out of my mom alone reverie I looked around. "Up here, mama, I climbed the tree." And climb he far up that his head stood out above the leaves and a bird circled his noble (and breakable) head. "Umm, Mama...I think, maybe...maybe it's gonna be harder to get down?" Why yes, my son, maybe it is! After a bit of discussion in which Owen learned that mama doesn't really climb trees (shocking, I know,) and my encouragement to make a plan before he moved, he successfully and quite sure footedly scaled his way back down. "Ya know mama, that was kinda like climbin' a mountain and I'm pretty great at that." Super. I think it is quite clear that this child does not have agoraphobic leanings. We did settle, however, on his asking mom if it is okay to climb before he does so...and I'm holding him to that until he's at least 35!

Somewhere, in the midst of this rather tumultuous summer, Grayce managed to turn 8. I've forbidden her to grow further. Up until this year, she planned on living with me forever... Now, she's planning on going off to college "and living with some cool, smart women." Luckily, her plans include a return to the family in which she and Owen envision living together in a house directly next to mom and dad...

Isn't she great! She wants to be a veterinarian. She is a lovely dancer. She's funny and she has a flare for drama. She is a flashlight-under-the-covers kind of voracious reader. And she totally does not let me get away with unfairness, subterfuge or bad mom behavior, including the ability to recall the things I say with frightening accuracy...

Birthday bouquets from Daddy... She was delighted to find out that Bob has not ever brought me TWO dozen roses!

Beautiful milkweed in the backyard...

Crispy Kale...from the garden. Kale, good olive oil, roast in hot oven till crispy...add sea salt. Even the kids love it.

"Pirates like MEAT, mama...Grrrr." Better even than crispy kale...Fourth of July feasting.

Peaceful boy and butterfly...a fine example of nature's gifts.

And a last photo: Kids camping...dirty, sweaty, sticky, awesomeness with friends.
The Fischers
in Minneapolis, MN

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Conscious Wander...

Wow, have I ever let this blog slide! At one point I had visions of posting our transition to life back in the U.S. but as it turns out, life was just a bit too complicated and the transition more awkward than even I, expected. I needed space to process. Heck, I needed space to manage normal social interaction, trips to the grocery store, and lecturing myself for not embracing the challenges of the return in the same way that I embraced our move to Bangalore. Oh...and for trying not to snarl at people, because, well...we do wish to have and maintain a certain amount of amiability! In the midst of all that, my Dad was diagnosed with liver cancer. And I discovered I had a previously unknown half sister. Honestly, I began to feel as if we were right smack in the middle of some bizarre and badly written reality t.v series!

So I haven't blogged. And I have despaired. And whined. And felt sorry for myself...and all those other little self-involved but seemingly necessary things that human beings tend to sink into when life feels inside out and upside down.

And then I felt...just...bored with myself...and I knew it was probably time to dust off my sense of adventure and recall that the law of attraction works both ways.

So, we carry on. We took a break from homeschooling (had been planning to school through the summer), listened to a lot of Michael Franti (because his music tends to remind me that I need to get over myself and start a revolution some where...even if only in my own mind,) went back to yoga (grounding, plus there is an awesome studio three minutes from our house,) and generally tending to the small moments in our days, the needs of our family, the pull of chairs on the back deck and the ever impending realization that winter is coming and we will not be ready ;-)

My Dad still has terminal cancer and that has been a terrible see him so sick. Yet our family remains hopeful. My new half-sister, as it turns out, is really great and she has two really great boys, of whom appears to be Owen's kindred cousin. We are all looking forward to an August family reunion with all my siblings and their significant others and the kid's cousins. My family is scattered across the U.S. so the last time we were all together was last year for my sister, Alicia's, wedding. It will be a chance for us to gather in support of my Dad and Mom and be together. We'll celebrate my sister Sasha and her new fiancee, Tom, and hold a baby shower for my sister, Mari. We're a loud and talkative bunch...each of us a piece of our unique family puzzle.

Next weekend, we're off to Brule, Wisconsin...for our annual week at a river cabin, with Bob's family. It's the first place that Grayce (our girly, girl) realized that getting dirty is a whole lot of fun and a peaceful place where we've created a lot of enduring happy memories with Bob's family.

The past week and into the next I've been spending time thinking about and planning our upcoming homeschooling year and planning for continuing my own midwifery and birth studies. The kids will be doing Kindergarten (Owen) and third grade (Grayce). A lot of people have assumed that we would put the kids in school now that we are not living in India. They assume that we homeschooled in India because we "had" to. In all actuality, we started homeschooling in India because we felt we could best serve *our* kids' education that way (and our desired travel schedule!) In doing so, we came to love it and appreciate the flexibility, fun and strengthened relationships that it's offered us. We are eclectic, relaxed homeschoolers...with a real unschooling bent. We do use varied curriculum, which is sometimes parent-prompted and try for a family rhythm (a la Waldorf) so we can't totally call ourselved unschoolers, but we take a LOT of child-led side trips along the way and very rarely adhere to straight curriculum. We are, like the title of this post, "conscious wanderers," in our homeschool, as well as in, (we hope) our lives.
Lastly, the kids and I spent a glorious week in New York City (and Long Island) with our terrific expat friends(the same friends we traveled to Oman with)...Laura Lee, Lucia and Henry! It was so much fun to see the kids together again and for Laura Lee and I to have the chance for a regular conversation rather than a skype call filled with kids showing each other their belly buttons...As the kids said, in reference to our friendship..."chat, chat, chat, coffee, coffee, coffee, chat, chat, chat, wine, wine, wine..." We explored the parks of Manhattan, went to the Met and Central Park, shopped at American Girl and FAO Schwarz, walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, went to a Whaling Museum and the Fire Island light house, met Laura Lee's parents and had the kids up till 11 pm almost every night...Blissful :-) They are off to Hong Kong on their next assignment and the kids are already "planning" their next trip!
Grayce and Lucia on the Brooklyn Bridge
Owen and Henry on the rooftop garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owen and Henry: Long Island Lobster Feast...
Hair Raising on the deck of the Fire Island Lighthouse!

At a Long Island Park...

Ahoy, Mateys! Pirate dress up at the Whaling Museum...Long Island.

Grayce in a tree...New York City park...near Battery City

Owen in a tree...Battery City Park, New York City.

Grayce, Hen and Lucia playing...Battery City Park...New York City

The foursome at the Met rooftop...after 5 hours exploring the museum.

Grayce and Lucia...birthday money or economic stimulus?

Brookly Heights pier...apres ice cream at 10 pm!

Best Friends walk over the Brooklyn Bridge...

Bryant Park playtime....New York City.

And that is where we are at. We still miss India and hope to return one day, but we are looking forward; trying to focus in on the now, while at the same time, continually re-imagining our future ;-) Who knows, where we'll end up next?!!
The Fischers
in South Minneapolis, MN, USA

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Instant Rewind...

I found my favorite traveling sandals in a box. The sandals that have carried me across continents...across India and parts of southeast Asia. The sandals that were comfortable to hike in, wade in, swim in, stomp through dirt and filth and god-knows-what-is-in-this, muck, in. I carried them to the laundry room; sat them on the floor. When purchased, I was assured that they were washable...

But WHY?

I couldn't bring myself to do it...this washing away of foreign, familiar dirt...of MY India. Looking down I see the red dirt ground in...the spatter of pink and purple from this year's Holi festival among generous and loving friends, the hours spent sweating on a bus through Northern India. These shoes, my dearies, were most definitely made for walking...

To wash away all of this is unimagineable...

Soooooo....the next time you see me and you wonder why-on-earth-she-doesn't-spring-for-a new-pair-of-shoes...

Just remember...the whole story is in the soles of my feet, the rubber arch, the dust.

For those of you who know our Grayce...let's just say this is the lovely antithesis of her usual self...

Aswarthi...our host for the Holi festival...great people who we miss a whole lot! We could not have asked for a better homeschooling group, in any country...

The Story of Holi...come to our 1st Annual Holi party next spring and we'll clue you in.

Grayce and Owen got smart and wore swim goggles, this year :-) Mom forgot a change of clothes....
So...I thought it might be fun to post more of India. We have so many wonderful memories and SO many photos that never made it to the blog...
The Fischers
for whom India was a life changing "moment" in time...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

In Honor of Friendship...

A Last Sleep Bangalore. On the night of the Grown Up Going Away Party (the kids at our house, the adults at Laura Lee and Dave's!)

We miss you, "Brother H and Sister L" !!
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Moving Day...

Well, we're still here. Except here, now, at least, has a house address. After three weeks in a hotel we had all had enough and we were all tired of not being able to eat a real meal at home. ( In theory, the hotel had a full kitchen. In practice, there was one semi-sharp paring knife and a few dishes...making it impossible to do more than boil water for macaroni and cheese, make a sandwich or pour a bowl of cereal.)

Everyone keeps asking us why we aren't buying a house. Interest rates are incredibly low and it is a buyer's market. The answer? Too permanent. Renting lets us keep our options open. Who knows where we may end up in the future?? (hey, we never imagined we'd live in India, either...) Honestly, most days, we still aren't sure which end is up! I do feel, however, a bit like we just graduated from college, just got married and are searching for our first place...with the exception of the two kids who won't let us stay out late, sleep in, or check out that "cool new band..."

That being the case...we started moving into "The Rental House" (as Owen calls it) on the 16th. When the humongous moving truck arrived, our new neighbors came out to watch, commenting, "That's an awful lot for that tiny house!" It was a bit like an archeological dig, being that we had little recall as to the items in our storage. Here's a tip for future reference: KEEP LESS STUFF.

By the way...Did we sell any of you our DVD player when we moved to India? We can't find it. Can't remember anything about it. No? In that case, I've got a fine assortment of assorted and mismatched dishes and towels we've had for 15 years, which, apparently, we could not bear to part with. Hmmm.

O and G spent most of that first day opening each and every box that was labeled "kids" or "toys"....therefore, their new purple room (the half story of the house) is strewn with a mix of puzzles, books, and O's toddler toys, which he is entirely confused about, "Mama, where are all my big kid toys from storage??" Ummm. Honey. You don't have any because you became a "big kid" while living in India...
Yes. Oh. Time has a way of slipping haphazardly past us...

We remedied this situation somewhat by the purchase of a t-ball set that has an automatic soft toss and pitch and introducing both boy and bat to the new back yard...
I'll bet you didn't know that herpetologists have incredible eye-hand coordination??
Yessssssssssss....ssssss. According to Owen, there might be a speckled cobra in the overgrown garden. Maybe.
Now for the sea shipment...but just where we're going to put THAT, I have no idea!
The Fischers
here and there and everywhere

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Current State of Affairs...

So, this photo (from a sign located in Palm Meadows) pretty much sums it up...I think.

I sat down to write and wrote a page of drivel. Really. All the prophetic and wise things I want to say began to sound like this: "Like Sands Through The Hourglass, These Are The Days Of Our Lives..." Which is pretty much already taken.

I wish I could put into words what being back in the U.S. really feels like. What being out of India, REALLY feels like. I can't. Perhaps it's too soon. Perhaps the words will flow once we stop living in a hotel room. Once I have more than 2 pairs of pants and 1 sweater to wear. Once the sun comes out, stays out and forces the god-forsaken temperatures to RISE. UP. Once every Indian-English inflection that comes from our children's mouths doesn't feel home. We feel uprooted. Unsettled. And that, ultimately, is nearly impossible for me to describe in any way that doesn't sound obnoxious or self-absorbed.

So...anyway. We're here. We've rented a house for less than our previous mortgage (good.) Apparently, we've bought a mini-van (good?) Bob has located his express-bus route to work, which he starts again on Monday. (I'll be driving him till we move into the house...around the 15th). We've seen a few friends. The kids have played with a couple of good, old friends, (really, really great.) We have an official membership to The Children's Museum and have been to the library (oh my, have we missed THAT! Great Libraries are like the soul of a community...) Last weekend we took a trip up to Duluth to see Bob's parents and reconnect with our long lost dog, Coltrane. Grayce ended up staying the week after which she informed me, "mom, it was a good thing you missed the blizzard!" (Yep.) We've been to Target twice, where I had a difficult time assimilating. 15 brands of stawberry jam pretty much put me into a 2 day overload trance. 15! Why? (After near 2 years of stumbling across Bangalore looking for a variety of just. seemed. like. overkill.)

Lastly, I've decided that the Universe has a seriously mocking sense of humor. Upon driving from our hotel parking lot on a particularly difficult day, I noticed that the new shopping construction next door is called, "The West End" which just happens to be the name of the hotel we stayed at for 2 weeks when we first arrived in Indian and went to brunch at numerous times. Next to that is a restaurant: A Taste of India. Coincidence? Or The Law of Attraction? Cosmic-cold-snowball-hit-precisely-on-the-back-of-the-neck? You tell me...

Thanks (ahead of time) to every single one of you who has to put up with our nuttiness and hasn't blocked our mobile number...yet.

The Fischers
One foot out and one foot in...
Minneapolis, MN, USA

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tap Water Phobia or Be Careful of What You Drink...

So, here we are. Off Indian soil. A London hotel and Owen is thirsty…”so thirsty, I’ll die if I don’t have a drink, mama.”

He wants the bottled mineral water in the room. Not so unusual. Bottled water is standard and free in our Indian travels. Mini-bars are cheap and we’ve emptied them for less than 20 bucks. THIS water is NOT free. And NOT cheap. I’m economizing and London is expensive so I offer him a drink of water from the tap.

From his response it is clear that future counseling may be in order.
He cries. He refuses to drink. I am a desert and the oasis is contaminated.

“If you force me, I will do it.

“Owen, I am not forcing you to do anything. The tap water is safe but you have a choice not to drink it.”

“Give me the bubbly water, mama…!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” He cries. He moans. He bellows like the last bit of dry wind. “If you force me, I’ll drink it…”

Finally, an hour has passed and he must drink. A forlorn head bobble precedes, “Take me to that water, mama…” An endless march to certain doom.

We enter the hotel bathroom. The glass is overtly inspected by suspicious eyes. The tap is opened. The boy trembles. The glass is filled. He sips the tiniest of sips and then a larger, thirst-forced drink, before exclaiming…

“Owww. Owww. I’ve got the tummy crumps! It’s from that water! You MADE me dwink that bad water, mama. You’re a bad, bad mama!”

Indoctrinated time and again to the perils of unfiltered tap water, one can hardly blame him. We leave for a snack and I buy him a bottle of water. Happiness moves across his face. Surety of safety. Freedom from parasite. Purity of purpose…

Later, in the hotel room, I’m thirsty. I pick up a glass and go to the tap. And pause. Thoughtful.
5 minutes later I tell myself that it’s not a crime to want a bottle of carbonated water…

The Fischer’s
Out of Bangalore and Into the Rest of It…

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do...

Can you break up with a place? A country? A way of life? Leaving Bangalore feels a bit like the end of a relationship in which you’ve intensely invested all of who you are…where you’ve struggled through the early parts only to emerge stronger and closer to a person you know has changed you.

At the moment we are sitting in the lounge at the Bangalore airport. Which signifies the end of a journey that has taken us across the world, introduced us to fantastic people and places, and ultimately changed our lives in a myriad of ways…some concrete, explainable and others intangible, illusory.

I have not spent time here on the blog writing about our move back to the U.S. In part, that is due to a certain amount of denial (or, as we’ve all been telling people...our desire to leave this place kicking and screaming!) But mostly, it has to do with being a part of each present moment…in the here and now, with wanting to savor our surroundings and the remaining days with the friends and “family” that were created here. Our privilege has been the gift of community that wove its way around us. India is everything you hear: dirty, loud, smelly, smoggy, crowded, corrupt, poor, difficult to understand, complicated…But it is also filled with a life and living that can’t help but pull you in if you allow it to (and as in all things, surface appearance is a terrible method of judging ultimate worth).

The past few weeks have seen parties, laughter, generosity, tears, love, last days, last minutes, one-last-times… Our children (and us, too) have both celebrated their friendships and agonized over leaving the closeness of every day contact. We’ve shared this space in life with a group of very special people and the gratitude we have for that is pretty much limitless!

We are sad. That doesn’t mean that there are not people and places we look forward to reconnecting with (there are, of course, many). We know the energy that moves life…that can’t help but compel one forward step after another and we welcome the new joys and journeys that a “new” place and new challenges bring. Still, at the moment, we are choosing to move slowly through.

Expect to see more India blogs and updates on our “repat” life… Stay tuned if you wish and if you’re an old “new” friend in our old “new” place don’t hesitate to give us a call!

Our family motto is taken from the song titled “Be Here Now” by Mason Jennings… In these few words are the keys to an open universe.

Be Well, Friends…
Whatever part of the world you’re in!
The Fischer’s
Just Leaving
Bangalore, India

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Do You Know Where Your Children Are? Always?

Let me first start out by stating that I really am a responsible mother. I bathe my children, feed them regular meals, put them to bed on time and attempt to instill in them a sense of right and wrong.

Imagine, then, my surprise when the telephone rang one day: "Hi, it's Laura Lee. I'm assuming you know that Owen is over at our house."

Ummm. No.....

You see, we are having a table base made for our marble inlay table top and the furniture proprietor came over to pick up the marble piece in his company rickshaw. His driver offered to give Owen a ride on our street, while they packed and wrapped the table top. Owen, grinning ear to ear hopped on in and had a ride. He came back and sat chatting with the driver in front of the house and then came in and told me that the driver would give him another ride and let him help drive, if it was okay with his mom. I told him that it was okay, came out to take his picture and then went inside.

Not long after came the phone call.

Apparently, once they came to the end of our street, Owen insisted on driving the Rickshaw over to his pal, H's house. He pulled up to their villa, climbed down and heading to the door, gave specific lordly instructions to the driver to "wait 10 minutes then I'll come out H can see me drive my rickshaw." Laura Lee, realizing that Owen had arrived unaccompanied thought to seek my motherly input. Once we had sorted out the turn of events, Owen was invited to stay and the ricksaw wallah was told to return to our villa.

Which he didn't. Instead, he waited 10 minutes and then knocked on Laura Lee's door again. She again informed him that he should return to our villa.

Eventually the driver and rickshaw returned to our villa...when we inquired why it had taken so long he replied:

"Ma'am, I was waiting for the little sir. Little Sir informed me to wait"

Aaaah...the changes afoot for one young psuedo Maharajah are frightening to contemplate, aren't they?

The Fischers
Especially Owen
in Bangalore
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Welcome to the Land of the Gently Worded Warning...

This sign, located just outside the business park where Target India is located, is one of many such vivid and creative "public service" sign boards in India. Here, it is not enough to post a speed limit sign, backed up by speeding tickets. The straightforward solution is ultimately the most fallible. A ticket is bribery incentive. But DEATH and dismemberment cannot be cheated...though they are sometimes seen as the ultimate solutions. Despite the signage, traffic problems remain an ongoing headache and a constant source of ire. Ah, least there are entertaining things to read whilst we travel along.

Hmmm. Come to think of first thought on reading this sign was, "We have traffice police?!?"

Even better, the sign attached to the car in front of me the other day read...

"Infant Driving School"

Now that is something to ponder.

The Fischers
Amused Alot
in Bangalore, India

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Oh, Man, Oman, Oh Man, Oman..."

Our friend L gets ready to sing.
Owen takes a leap off the deep end at the Shangri-La Resort!

Shangri-La Beach

Laura Lee and L sea kayaking...

Grayce and L with their belly dancing scarves.

Our Omani Boys...

A Best Friend sing along!

The Shangri-La Resort "boat view"

Captain Owen

The whole gang, hot and happy after trekking and swimming at Wadi Shab
Owen and our guide in Wadi Shab

A "sink hole" where fresh and sea water meet...

Misty view of the mountains near White Sands Beach

Wadi Shab...trekking in the dry river bed

Mom and Grayce hikin' along

First pool at the Wadi Shab oasis

Real Men Eat Meat for Breakfast!

Our White Sands camp site

Mother Sea Turtle

Sunrise at White Sands Beach

Dinner! Middle Eastern Barbecue Feast at White Sands Beach

Omani boy

Beautiful ruins...the stones in this building are large pieces of coral

The Wahibah Sands

"Oh Man! Oman, Oh Man, Oman!!"
The constant refrain heard from the little people before, during and after our latest trip! Most effective when coupled with the Indian head bobble, and a hip thrust...

(the photo at the very top of L was meant to go here!)
L's brother and Owen's best pal, the incredible H

Hey! Multicultural dancing is WAY hip, ya know.

Living on the opposite side of the world makes the unreachable exotic an actual vacation destination. Take Oman, for example. Oman is a middle eastern country on the coast of the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman/Persian Gulf. Ocean aside, the country is bordered by Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). The predominantly Muslim country is a monarchy ruled by Sultan Quaboos bin Said Al Said who took hereditary power in 1970. Prior to his rule, Oman was a financially poor country (at least in modern times) with little modern infrastructure. Sultan Qaboos has done much to change that...dramatically and progressively improving infrastructure and educational and business opportunity, including opportunities for girls and women. One of the best things about development in Oman is that it is not overdeveloped and there are limitations on building size and type with a lean toward traditional Omani architecture...keeping Muscat (the capital) a really beautiful city. Because the Omani government welcomes foreign tourists, we also found it to be an excellent and safe place to learn more about both Omani and Muslim tradition and culture...a real blessing in a world that is all to often shaped by religious radicalism and fear.

This is certainly a hot topic but I'm not going further today...and for the record, there is much about the Islam, the Middle East and the varying countries in and around it, that I don't know. Suffice it to say that we found ourselves surrounded by warm hospitality, by people who welcomed our interest and questions, and, who were happy to see us enjoying the beauty and history of their culture.

Here's how it went:
Our wonderful friends, Dave and Laura Lee and their two children (who happen to be Grayce and Owen's homeschooling buddies and all around best friends) invited us to join them on a vacation to Oman. We hemmed, we hawed, we said, "Yes! We can!" We got up in the middle of the night and drove to the Bangalore Airport where we sadly (at least to a couple of moms but not at all to Bob) did not get to drink our Illy cafe cappucinos... Apparently there is some unwritten rule that says it is okay for a flight to be called and to leave earlier than scheduled! A revelation to travelers who are used to delays... And the kids are pretty mean! They actually laughed at us, taunting us, "no coffee for mommies! ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha," ...but please, it is the only Illy cafe I've ever seen in Bangalore, so grown mothers pouting is NOT out of the question.

Yes, I am a grown-up. Really. Unless deprived of cappucino.

ANY way...
After a 3 and a half hour flight...which was mostly empty...we arrived in Muscat, Oman around 8 am. Our two GREAT "Desert Discovery" guides, Rasheed and Massoud, met us at the airport, at the ready, with Landcruisers, lots of water, and a driving plan that included a stop at Nisswa Fort, Lunch, and Dune Bashing in the Wahibah Sands, before a final landing at our desert camp.
Rasheed begs are way into Nisswa Fort...we arrived and it was just closing for Friday prayers, but they were nice enough to let us take a quick tour!

Along the way we also had the chance to stop at a local Omani heritage home where we were treated to exhibitions of local flat bread making, coffee roasting and a sampling of Omani hospitality a la coffee (coffee with cardamom and saffron) and Dates...which are grown all over Oman and are absolutely delicious!

Dune Bashing was an eye opening experience in which one develops a true appreciation for both desert driving skills and the versatility of the Land Cruiser. Blasting up mountains of sand, perching directly sideways mid mountain, inching breathlessly down vertical dune walls...excitement, fear, the occasional prayer, laughter... Owen, unsurprisingly, loved every second of it! Grayce started out singing and raring to go and then half way through decided that maybe the whole deal was much more than she bargained for...a few tears, a couple of visits to her yoga "happy place", some hand holding, and a lot of bravery later and she declared, "I am NEVER doing this again!" What to do? Can't leave the kid in the desert! (She later told me that she thought dune bashing was just driving up and down the hills...and it was, sort of.)

I carefully asked Massoud, "Um, so, I was just wondering, not because I don't trust you or anything...just for the sake of often do you roll the vehicle?"

He answered with a laugh.

I decided not to ask any more questions! Distraction being the better plan..."Hey, kids, isn't this FUN!" And it really WAS fun...after the first 20 minutes, when you realize you are still alive and you'd better make the most of it ;-)

Since we were two families in two vehicles, it was intensely interesting to see just what the other vehicle was up to...

Bob kept asking if he could drive but we threatend to leave HIM in the desert... "No Daddy, we'll all DIE if you drive!" so sayeth Grayce.

A break at the top of the dunes produced awe and wonder...the Wahibah sands are a place of beauty and solitude...sand running on like waves of water for 200 km to the sea. All the children ran up and down the hills pretending that they were lost desert explorers while the adults cracked some beers and dug their feet in, waiting for sunset.

After some time, and a little more spent pulling one stuck vehicle out of the sand, we headed for our desert camp...dinner, sandboarding, star-gazing...and time with friends.

Our Desert Discovery Camp in the Wahibah Sands
Morining romp in the dunes..."water, water...please, water!"

Laura Lee and H relax after a satisfying climb

Day 2 brought more Dune Bashing (we were all really getting the feel for it now...even Grayce, who still wasn't sure it was the thing to do,) We visited a Bedouin camp, counted (and rode)camels and eventually left the desert to head toward our second camp site, White Sands Beach, located on the Arabian Sea.

It's a LOT harder than it looks!

Beach camping in traditional Omani tents, a carpet and pillows to relax in the sand, collecting stones, a swim in the sea, the smell of lamb kabobs and roasting fish, more stars, a little wine, exhausted sleep to the sound of surf...and then a morning surprise! We awoke in darkness. Bob stepped out of the tent and noted...."Hmmm, I don't remember that big rock." To our delight, Mother Sea Turtle had risen silently from the water while we slept, to lay her eggs. A morning blessing in front of the stone "Alter to the Goddesses" the kids had built for Laura Lee and I, (you didn't know we were goddesses? All mothers are!) as we watched them play on the beach the eve before. We gathered around her silently as she slowly covered her nest with sand and returned to the salty sea.
An auspicious start to Day 3, we packed up camp and headed towards the peace and natural wonder of the Wabi Shab...hiking the dry river bed toward an oasis of turquoise water and rock canyons unlike any other place we've ever been. All four kids did amazingly well, even on some of the steeper climbs. Upon reaching the oasis, we unloaded our packs, and dipped into the water. After some discussion with our guides, it was decided that we would attempt to swim through all three pools (with a short, bare footed rocky hike between pool 2 and 3). Owen became the guide's best friend, Bob and I took turns helping Grayce (she was unsure in the water, not happy with it's depth, afraid of the slippery rock surfaces.) Laura Lee took her her daughter, L (also a bit scared) and Dave swam with their son, H. After reaching the third pool, we swam through a tunnel into a secret cave where the sun shone down into the water from far above. It was magic! We took our time swimming, making sure of the kids (though they are all good swimmers, this was a totally new and different place to swim). Our kids are brave and strong and full of courage!
Seriously cool kiddos!

Normally, the hidden cave would be off limits to them as the entrance is usually under water...but the water was low enough for us to swim safely through with our heads above water and it was an incredible experience. Once inside the cave, our guide helped all the kids to sit upon a rock ledge, Laura Lee and I supervised and swam a bit and Bob and Dave decided to climb up the rocks and jump in from above...a little heart stopping!
Day 4, 5, and 6 consisted of swimming in the pool and sea, eating gelato, floating down the "lazy river", eating more gelato, drinking cappucino with a segue into happy hour near the beach where the kids could play and the adults could have cocktails, followed by a kid's room service dinner on our outdoor terrace, bath and bedtime (kids) and then a relaxing grown-up meal. Rinse. Repeat.
Nah...we're not THAT lazy...we also took a boat trip to look for whales and dolphins (saw hundreds of dolphins!) and went snorkeling with the sea turtles (except Owen, who got scared but now deeply regrets not getting back in the water..."Mama, I'm so mad, I didn't see nothin'!")
Laura Lee and I also had a chance to leave the kids with the Dads, (both of whom would rather eat rocks than spend the day shopping), thanks to our desert guide, Massoud, who offered to drive us about...taking a trip into Muscat, visiting the Souq and some smaller, local markets, shopping for frankincense, Omani coffee, and a fruitless search for toy traditional Omani daggers (the real ones, which are incredibly sharp, are on offer to small boys as miniature incredibly sharp daggers...which would surely delight Owen and H, but frightens us!)
All good travel ends... After all, life returns to the day-to-day, even for an expat. This vacation was especially meaningful as it was our last big trip as expats in Bangalore and a chance to spend some time with great friends who we will all miss deeply as we exit India and move along our new path. Our children have been inseparable, more like siblings, sharing time, space, toys, life in India, and lots of learning adventures...

The Fischers
in India...already missing Bangalore!