Friday, August 30, 2013

Orange You Glad It's Friday, #53 - Pacifica, California Sunset

On September 3rd, I'll be in India three months - with three more months to go.
So far, I haven't seen a sunset to rival this one back home in Pacifica, 
California.  Of course, we're finishing up a very rainy monsoon season so,
with the cloudy skies, I haven't seen many sunsets at all!

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How India Began ( for me ) - August 29, 2013

I can remember, eighteen years ago, when India, for me, was just a mysterious 
country, far down on my list of places I wanted to visit.  I knew the beautiful Taj
Mahal was there and I'd read novels about the country but I'd never even seen a 
Bollywood movie.  I had, of course, been eating wonderful Indian food for most
of my life but I didn't have even one friend from that part of the world. 

On April 16, 1995, when I boarded the Monarch of the Seas, for a seven day
cruise from San Juan, all that changed.  I stopped by the ship's library to donate
the book I'd finished reading on the long flight and noticed the Champagne Bar
across the corridor.  I decided a drink was in order and that is when I met its
bartender, Odelio Santos.  No one else was in the bar so I stayed for a glass of
wine and a chat.

Much to my surprise, Santos, as  his name tag read, was from India.  I thought
he was from the Philippines.  We chatted about Mumbai, his life and family 
there and a friendship was formed.  Throughout the cruise, I went back to that
lovely, peaceful bar and got to know him better.  Besides that, he introduced me
to at least a dozen more Indian crew.  As I wandered about the ship, I realized
several hundred crew members were from India.  I thought how difficult it must
be to leave their families for six months at a time, to work so far from home.
I learned a great deal about India, its culture, and its problems from the crew,
many of whom have remained dear friends to this day.

In February 1997, prior to cruising from Thailand to Singapore, I spent ten 
days in Mumbai, at the home of Odelio Santos and his wife, mother and family. 
 I had really not foreseen visiting India and, had I not been invited, I might never 
have come to what I now call "the country of my heart.".  It was a wonderful ten 
days, passing much too quickly.  It was exciting for me to experience living at 
Sahar Village.  I was overwhelmed by the generous hospitality of the Santos
family and other people in the village.  I also got to see two other crew members,
Edsel Toscano and Sudhir Pillai, who were home for two months on leave. 

The grand finale of that visit was a trip with May Santos, the family matriarch, 
to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, one of the loveliest events of my life.  Words
cannot describe the magic of seeing its splendor for the first time.

Over the next eighteen years, I sailed eighty times with Royal Caribbean,
renewing Indian friendships every cruise.  Those crew members felt like
family and, indeed, they dubbed me "the American mother of the Indian crew".

When I decided to come to India again after my twenty-one year forensic 
nursing position ended in massive budget cuts to Public Health, Ode 
insisted that I stay with him and his family.  I spent four months at Sahar
Village, where people still remembered my first visit.  It was great to get
to know Nick, Ode and Lorna's twenty-year-old son, and Jake, who was then 

I am now back in India for the third time since my stay at the Santos household.
I spent five months living in Jaipur and, this time, I will be in Mumbai for six 
months, living with Rosy and Norman Toscano, Edsel's parents.  Never did I
dream that going on a cruise would afford me hundreds of very special friends
and new ones that I've met during my India stays.

I was just over to see Ode, Lorna, Jake ( Nick is working in Dubai ) and, of
course, their dog, Skip.  I couldn't believe the welcome I got from him.  I
thought he would not remember me but he greeted me so happily, almost
doing flips.

The years have been good to us, in spite of physical changes, of course.  Ode
and the whole Santos clan are my first Indian family and I love them dearly.  
Because of that fateful day in San Juan, I have actually gotten to experience
India as my home,  a place that has firmly embedded itself in my very soul.


Carmen & Ode, a friendship that has spanned almost two decades!

I wish I still weighed what I did when I took my first Royal Caribbean cruise...
but I'm working on that!  After 80 cruises and thousands of meals, Love
Connections ( my favorite ship board drink ) and midnight buffets, I'm glad
I've managed to discard forty of those pounds.

With beautiful Lorna, who always worried I wasn't eating enough!  She said 
Ode told her how I used to eat on cruises!  If I had kept that up, I would have
taken two seats on my flight to India!

With my nephew, Jake, who is now in college.  When I first visited Ode
and Lorna, he hadn't yet arrived on the scene!

Father and son

Mother and son

Jake Santos

and, of course, last but not least,


Wild Bird Wednesday #59 - Kites ( Not Those on a String ) of Bandra West - August 28, 2013

The friends, with whom I am staying in India for six months, have a lovely 
apartment on the 7th floor in Bandra West, one of Mumbai's more posh
areas.  I am always amazed to see the frequent visitors to their window -
kites of every age and size.  Of course, Rosy cooks chicken feet which she
throws out to them - & they swoop right up to the window for this effortless
meal!  If she didn't shut the screen quickly, I'm sure one would end up in 
the kitchen!

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

.Happy 31st Birthday to My Middle Son, Alexander Vukasinovic - August 27, 2013

It hardly seems possible that another year has passed and your birthday - the 31st - has 
arrived.  This has been quite a momentous year in your life.  On April 14, 2013, your 
two brothers, Shawn and Jeremy, and I ( plus several other interested parties ) were
at the Sutter Hospital Birthing Center in Roseville, CA, to welcome the arrival of my
first grandchild, the most precious Harper Ann Vukasinovic, weighing in at 8 lbs.  That
wasn't an overwhelming surprise as you weighed 8 lbs, 9 oz when you were born.
Laura was a real trooper and I was so thrilled to have a girl in a family of so many
males ( thank you for contributing the appropriate chromosone! ).

Here you are in your baptismal 
one can see the gobs of gel I put on to tame
your cowlick!!!

Here you and Laura are on your May 10, 2010
wedding day - one of the happiest of my life.

At the birthing center with your brothers, Shawn Smith, 42,
( left ) and Jeremy Vukasinovic, 28 ( right ).  For once,
everyone has a smile.

And here you are, Dad, shortly after Harper Ann's arrival

This is one of my favorite photos of you, with Harper
slung over your shoulder, sound asleep.

While you are taking your own sweet time with finishing college - is the 
major now math with a minor in economics?  I can never keep up.  You may
well graduate, finally, with more credits than any student ever has accumulated!
But the end is in sight.  

I am so proud of the young man you are.  You and Laura already bought a home
( a year before you married ), you manage an incredibly difficult work schedule and
class, and you seem to have taken on fatherhood with great ease.  You manage 
your finances in a way I never could seem to do.

On this birthday, I am in India but I will be home for Harper's first birthday,
hopefully with her Christmas stocking complete.  From 7000 miles away, 
dearest Alex, I wish you all the best life can bring.  You are well on your way
to have it.

In fact, about the only complaint I have is that you don't get on skype enough so
I can visit with my granddaughter and two granddogs.  Otherwise, you are
one terrific son.

All my love and best wishes on this birthday and every day of your life. 


Monday, August 26, 2013

Woman in Jaipur Bazaar - August 27, 2013

India's bazaars are always so full of color, from the produce and fruits sold to the lovely
ladies in saris, buying or selling.  This was taken in the wonderful city of Jaipur in
Rajasthan where I lived five months last year.  I just returned from a wonderful five
days there, renewing friendships and enjoying "the Pink City".

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Auto Rickshaw and Me - August 25, 2013

The little auto rickshaw,
That I use most every day
Instills in me great fear,
I won’t live another day.

On Mumbai’s crowded streets,
Where twenty million thrive,
They whiz in and out of traffic,
Like a creature that’s alive.

Black and yellow vehicles,
That hold just two or three,
Will never be the ride of choice,
For a coward such as me.

Their little putt putt engine,
Strains with all its might,
To see them out in numbers,
Is really quite a sight.

They are mostly open air,
Which can truly be a pain,
At certain times of year,
When there is monsoon rain.

They really are quite daring,
Darting all about,
Stopping inches from the car ahead,
While I suppress a shout.

They don’t possess a seat belt,
So you have to hold on tight,
My fingers have indentions,
Where I’ve gripped with all my might.

The local folks seem quite at ease,
More relaxed, than me, by far.
I feel like I’m at a carnival,
Riding in a dodge ‘em car!

The drivers are kamikazes,
Who won’t admit defeat,
As they steer their little vehicles,
Usually driving in bare feet!

I think they get great pleasure,
Seeing panic in my eyes,
But I am slowly overcoming it,
Much to my surpise.

Carmen Henesy

Copyright © August 25, 2013 by Carmen Henesy. All Rights Reserved.

Camera Critters #281 - Jaipur Cows

I just recently returned to Jaipur for five days - the lovely Pink City in Rajasthan 
where I lived for five months last year.  As always, I was amazed at all the
cows wandering about, seemingly owned by no one ( though I'm sure they 
must have a home somewhere! ).  

In India, by many, especially of the Hindu religion, cows are considered sacred
animals, "God's useful gift to mankind."  They walk wherever they wish, in busy
crowded streets and seem unafraid.  Horns do not blow at them and cars slow
and wait for them to cross streets.  It is not unusual to see them lying in the 
street or standing up on medians.

People often bring them food to eat as they forage about in search of a meal.

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Skywatch Friday, Season 7, Episode 8 - Mumbai Skies - August 23, 2013

I was overnight at the Ibis Mumbai Airport, visiting a friend passing through Mumbai.
These pictures were shot while I was sitting at my computer this morning.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

FINALLY!! Skype at the Vukasinovic Household! - August 14, 2013

Skype has been a real asset in my life.  I think most people are pretty 
familiar with this wonderful service that makes staying in touch with family
and friends, worldwide, a real bargain.  I use it constantly wherever I am
throughout the globe.  I have it on my computer and on my mobile phone.

With the arrival of my beautiful granddaughter, Harper Ann on April 14 and
my imminent departure for India on June 3rd, I implored Laura and Alex to 
get Skype so I could keep up with that precious baby's growth and to talk 
to my granddogs as well.  

Well, at his usual snail's pace, it took Alex awhile to buy a webcam and
get Skype.  But, this morning, when I heard that familiar Skype ring at 5AM,
I was so thrilled to see Harper Ann's sweet face and bald head with her dad
and both uncles present.  For some reason, Alex couldn't hear me - though I
turned my volume up to its maximum.  When he flicked a dial on his computer,
it blared, sending poor Harper into a bout of tears.  Papa knew just the 
answer - Laura, who is back at her paramedic job while Alex is now on his
paternity leave, came to the immediate rescue with boobie milk.  Laura 
says she is beginning to feel like a milk cow, she is pumping during lunch
and her breaks at work.  As you can see, Harper Ann fell contentedly asleep,
resting in Daddy's arm.

Harper doesn't know quite what to make of all this "Skype" stuff.

Who is that voice coming from the computer?

That "Nana" person is sure carrying on like crazy!

Maybe I am getting a little tired of this!

Nana, you cut off my head!

Whoops, I've got the droolies!

My goodness, Dad, they could hear Nana down at Target!

What do Dad and Uncle Shawn find so funny?  I can't believe
Mom would leave me with them and Uncle Jeremy!  No wonder
I'm frowning!

Uncle Jeremy says he had shoulder surgery - I think he just
doesn't want to change poopy diapers!

Ah, sleeping like a baby.  That boobie milk does it every
and sound in Dad's arms.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Shadow Shot Sunday 2 - Vegetable Seller in Shadow at Indian Market - August 11, 2013

Here in Mumbai, in the height of monsoon season, one must act quickly to
find a sunny moment when shadows are cast.  Such was my luck, one 
afternoon, when I was at the bazaar in search of vegetables for dinner.

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