Ah, New Mexico

We’ve been back in Las Cruces for a couple of weeks now. But, believe it or not, it takes a couple of weeks to get one’s life back in order after traveling for three months! It is so strange to dive right back into the life I left here. The one I had before I married Mike, before I traveled to India, and certainly before we visited Paris and Camp Cross on our circuitous route back… home.

First: Good Lord is it hot outside.
And: It is a joy to have Mike here.

Our travel from Paris to the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene earlier this month was not for the feint of heart. Hell, nothing we’ve done this year was really for the feint of heart! But it is difficult to express how long a 33-hour day really is. One where you wake up at 7am at a hotel in Paris, haul your luggage down the concrete steps to an RER train and ride to the airport, play terminal labyrinth 2E edition, race to the boarding area because the luggage and security lines took forever, endure a 10.5 hour plane ride with two meals and many movies, land in Seattle shortly before noon, juggle your luggage again, eat some Ivar’s, scrounge up some fresh boarding passes, take a puddlejumper to Spokane, lose your luggage, meet up with a friend driving the Camp Cross van, wait for the next flight that has 3/4 of your luggage, explain to Alaska Airlines how to drive the missing 1/4 to a dock two hours away in Idaho, ride said two hours to camp yourself, reunite with friends – some of whom have had an unknowingly large impact on your life and who you haven’t seen in ten years, eat dinner (again?), haul your stuff up a hill, sit through two hours of rules/expectations/program for the upcoming week, retrieve the missing suitcase from a thoroughly lost driver, sit through probably one of the most epic set of songs at campfire in many years, and finally fall asleep at midnight.

Yeah, the day was at least as long as that sentence. The week that followed was… well, it was camp! Mike and I both counseled small groups of high schoolers and helped facilitate a killer program. We got to go tubing together, and we donned some Indian attire for the fancy, “classic Hollywood”-themed dance on the final evening.

We spent a lovely couple of days with friends in the Spokane area, and then flew back to New Mexico on August 15, precisely three days before fall semester classes began.

Our cats are alive and well! Our bedroom was overrun with boxes – some we shipped to ourselves mid-journey, but most were wedding gifts that have been piling up since the day we left in May. We’ve finally settled back in to what I guess one calls “normal life” in these parts, and it is great fun to have a bunch of astronomy friends living in our same apartment complex.

Life lessons:

  1. It is nice to be done living out of a suitcase.
  2. I still think the western world needs paneer, but then, the eastern world also needs burritos.
  3. Creature comforts are not overrated.

Now if someone could just crank the temperature from “inferno” to “reasonable,” we’d be all set.


Paris: It’s Not India

Reverse culture shock is a beautiful thing. Mike and I left Bangalore on Tuesday night, and spent a jet-lagged Wednesday afternoon in Paris. It is now Thursday evening, and we are getting ready to take the metro over to the Eiffel tower and eat dinner.

Do you know what we’ve done so far? Walked around, mostly. And eaten food (big surprise, right?). I posted a solicitation for suggestions of what to do in Paris on facebook and Google+, but have been deliberately lax about making any concrete plans. We have been marveling at the walkability of this city – the sidewalks are extant, clean, wide, and even; there are myriads of free and beautiful gardens; there are no hordes of honking buses, trucks, and autorickshaws. After spending two months in Bangalore, I am simply refreshed to be in a place that has emission controls, crosswalks, public transportation, potable water.

That’s not to say Bangalore was all bad, though. Not by any means. For one, I dearly miss omnipresent vegetarian food. Last night, in Paris, we went to a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint and ordered a salad and pasta to share. The salad came covered in ham; the tortellini was filled with some kind of meat (though I was assured the cream sauce was meat-free). In India, virtually every restaurant dish is categorized under “veg” and “non-veg” headers, and all packaged products have a universal green or red dot to indicate the same. But in Paris, you’d think nobody had ever seen a vegetarian (or, heaven forfend, a crazy person who eats chicken and fish but not beef and pork and happens to dislike mushrooms). It doesn’t help that the menus are in French.

Yesterday afternoon, though, we had a lovely time exploring the area near our hotel. We are staying at the Hotel Elysa-Luxembourg, near the Latin Quarter. We stumbled upon the Pantheon completely by accident, crossed the Seine, glimpsed Notre Dame, and sampled sublime gelato. This morning, we enjoyed one of the best brunches ever (hot chocolate! omelette with side salad! OJ that was literally squeezed from an orange! pain au chocolat!) and strolled around the Luxembourg Gardens.

It began to rain as we continued walking around the neighborhood, and we ducked into a beautiful old church for lack of a better idea. The distant smell of incense was welcoming and statues depicting various saints were familiar. The hushed silence was palpable as we gazed upon vaulted ceilings. It contrasted strongly with our recent visit to a huge temple in Madurai, where one must go barefoot and endure any number of unpleasant odors amidst a cacophony of sound and oppressive, humid heat. Both structures are gorgeous, magnificent holy sites, manifested in strikingly different ways. To me, these two places of worship really embody their respective cultures.

I suppose that is at the core of this. My experience in India was so vivid, yet so fraught with confusion. Now in Paris, things feel more muted, yet relatively easy to navigate and understand. I lack any grand conclusion, other than to say definitively that Paris is most certainly not India.