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There Are No Helmets in Heaven

It’s too hot to get mad when the temperatures rise to 115 degrees.

Still, I manage to dig into reserves of mad when I order my iced coffee at the school coffee shop and they tell me that there’s no ice.

There’s ice in Old Delhi though.  People are lying on blocks of it to stay cool.

We don’t talk about the “heat index” when it’s 115 outside.  My friend Cecile said it best on her Facebook page in her beautiful French-English:  “How to explain?”

Her husband, Peter, can explain.  He says it’s so hot in their living room, the unlit candles are drooping.

Recalling one exceptionally hot summer, a biologist told me that he was sitting under a  tree to rest from tracking tigers when a freak gust of wind blew and the birds in the tree fell to the ground, dead.

Even stranger, Eddie put himself to bed at 7:30 the other night.  No books, no snuggling, no negotiating.  He was already asleep when his head hit the pillow.

Still, all this heat doesn’t make leaving easier.

Some places ask more of you than others and India asked a lot.  It is a good bit Hell and a good bit Heaven.  What lies between the two is complicated.

And so is saying goodbye.

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It was nice to have my long and dear friend, Karen, visit from New York.  She jumped into the chaos of our last three weeks and while this could have been a disaster, it wasn’t.  I returned to places with her that I hadn’t seen for four years and she helped me bring this chapter to its end.

I will not forget our bicycle ride through Old Delhi.  And I can safely promise that I will never visit  this urban maze on two wheels again.   I sacrificed a few of my remaining lives on the trip, and stole a few lives from people who nearly found themselves under my wheels.

My favorite memory of the adventure:  Karen turned to me as she was trying to negotiate through a traffic of cars, cows, rickshaws, goats, and ox-carts to shout:  “I’m surprised they don’t make us wear helmets!”

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It was difficult to take photos while negotiating the streets of Old Delhi, but we managed a few:

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A bit of California comes to my neighborhood every Sunday at the “Organic Farmer’s Market”….

It’s all rather shabby chic:

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And a few other photos from our last weeks.  The kids and I have ten days left.

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Count Down

On the way to school today we stopped the car for a peacock to cross the road.  I told the kids to remember this moment because I doubt that we will bump into a peacock, or a cow, or a donkey or a buffalo-cart in Roma.

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When in Rome:

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Jim says a vintage Vespa will disappear the minute I park it in Rome but I am so tempted to buy one.  What is Rome without a little Roman Holiday?

I’d tinker with the color.  Maybe deep blue and white?  Rich maroon and gold? Metallic Red?

The Vespas are refurbished in a local workshop in a dusty urban village in Delhi.  We walked through dirt lanes and typical chaos to get to the shop which houses carcasses of  old Vespa scooters and Royal Enfield motorcycles.  You can buy either for a fraction of the price of a vintage model elsewhere.  In Rome, there are oodles of old Vespas so fixing one isn’t problematic, though it may be more expensive.  The workshop sells a  survival pack of basic parts and quick fixes.

 

On the way to the Vespa shop I found this woman busy at work:

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Can you imagine the strength in her neck?

There’s a small jeans factory on top of the scooter store.  It was hot upstairs but the conditions weren’t as tragic as they could be à la Bangladesh:

 

There are many factors playing out in the division of labor here and in the photo of the woman carrying bricks.  And the natural next sentence would have me describe those factors – but they are complicated and this isn’t the forum for such detail.  Attend the same dinner party tonight and you will hear me pick someone’s brain about this.  First question:  Is the manufacturing economy not yet large enough to employ women?

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Last month I was in the US for a family wedding in Austin, Texas.  It was the week of the Boston Marathon bombing and news coverage was exhaustive.  It is worth noting that the explosion in Waco, Texas the same week that killed 14 and rained fire on the town of West wasn’t covered as extensively – when in fact Americans are probably more threatened by industrial accidents like this one than rogue acts of terrorism.

I was turned off by the street-side celebrations and Fenway park hoopla after the Tsarnaev brothers were killed and caught.  I instantly thought of the daily news that I digest in India – the dozens of people killed by bombs in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Iraq (still) – places where the US is involved or invested in the outcomes of these countries.

I read a suggestion that the unlikelihood of such terrorism occurring in North America made the news worthy of disproportional coverage.  That such an event can happen to Americans leads to the perception that no one is safe.

Since 2009 when I moved to India, 92 people have died from terrorist bombs here and oodles more were injured.  The blasts killed men, women and children in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Hyderabad, Varanasi and Srinagar – cities with marathons, universities, culture and recorded histories of at least a thousand years.

North Americans are very lucky for their disproportional safety.  I think I would have felt more comfortable watching Boston celebrate if it reflected reverence and thankfulness for this and recognition that in so many other places people die all the time by senseless bombs.

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Spring temperatures hit 106 degrees farenheit in Delhi today.  It’s hot enough to give you high blood pressure.

I ended up in the emergency room with a BP spike and scare the other night.  (Details unnecessary – I’m fine.)  The first three doctors I saw never touched me.  None listened to my heart;  None took my BP or heart rate;  None felt my tummy or did any of the usual stuff docs do in the US when you present yourself.  They didn’t ask my age or other relevant history – and not one had any clue about birth control.  (I wanted to know whether estrogen could have caused the spike.)

I did find a good doctor eventually – and I was lucky to have two friends from Seattle living in Delhi who are physicians and who patiently fielded my drama and helped me cross-reference everything.  Thank you, Delaney and Peter.

One funny note:  A few days later in the middle of a variety of tests to find the cause of the hypertension, I went to a lab for a urine test.  The technician disappeared and instead of bringing me a little sterilized cup, he plopped this in front of me:

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I told him that I didn’t think I would pass that much urine.  He explained that I needed to collect my urine for 24 hours.  I nodded in understanding.  Then I asked how he wanted me to get my urine into the small opening.  (I admit, part of me was playing with the guy…) And he answered, heading bobbing:

A mug!

(I opted for a funnel.)

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Wedding photos:

 

And a sneak peek of Rome from my quick visit: