Monday, November 30

!ndia photos

Fatehpur Sikri - a fortified ghost city which was the capital of the Mughal empire from 1571 to 1585
Palace of Winds (cool place to be during the summer apparently cause the wind blows through all the windows)

Sikh temple in Delhi
me, Erin, Radena & of course the Taj Mahal!

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Incredible !ndia (just like the advert says)

Arrived back into London this morning at half 8. Don't have photos to share just yet, but here is a run down of what I did for my week in India (primarily a tour of the Golden Triangle)
Landed in Delhi, went to hotel, slept, eat breakfast, took nap, had lunch, went to see a Muslim temple, eat some curry, went back to sleep for the night, went to Sikh temple & helped prepare meal - they feed 4000 people/day free of charge to anyone (no matter what race, religion, caste, etc), got lost walking around, finally found metro got back to hotel, had dinner & went to bed as our train was at 7.10 the next morning, so we got up & left for train at 6am since traffic in Delhi is as manic as Hanoi (including just as much honking of horns!), got our seats in the A/C train section and just relaxed for 3 hours enjoying the scenery & sleeping.

Got to Agra around 11am, got taxi to our hotel, took showers & went to see the Red Fort which is really amazing! Then had quick lunch & got ready for the main attraction in Agra of course, the Taj Mahal. We were there for sunset & I have no words to describe it - a mate of mine said, "nice tombstone huh?" which just made me laugh so hard I nearly cried! Course every time someone said The Taj, I was thinking of dad's Taj Garage.

Next day we drove to Karouli (half way between Agra & Jaipur, but 1 hour south off the toll road). It's not a tourist attraction, but we went to stay at the palace of the princess of Karouli (yes the real princess, though in India this title doesn't mean nearly as much as it use to now that they have a democracy) It was amazing, I mean it's not Buckingham Palace, but it's the original King's palace built in 1933, how cool is that?????? Hung out there for the afternoon with them, dinner with them & then tour of the property the next day, including the polo ponies she breeds, the school she's started & of course the swimming pool & garages with all the old sedans to carry the king around the city.

Then we drove to Jaipur, which is a rather long 5 hour drive on roads you don't want to drive more than 20mph yet they drive it at 50mph!! Visited the markets and apparently the second most photographed building after that Taj called the Palace of Winds. Also went to the city of Amber & saw their fort & palace & Great Wall of India as I named it (really just a walled city). Second day we wandered the streets getting lost, buying stuff, seeing a Bollywood movie, more wandering & basically being followed by small children clinging to you asking for money, food, or whatever English/French or Spanish word they'd learned recently. I have to say that aspect of it really made me sad & at times drove me nuts. I've seen beggars before in other countries, but never ones who literally hang onto you arm as you're crossing the street. I also got my ass grabbed at the Delhi train station night before last on our way back from Jaipur, as did 2 other of my mates since there are just so many people it's very easy for those types of things to happen.

On a more personal note & Dad you might not wanna read this as I know you don't like hearing about bodily function, I'm very lucky in that I was the only one of us who had diarrhea for a few hours but recovered painlessly - others had stomach cramping and diarrhea with or without throw up & felt like shit for 48 hours, but not iron stomach Sara (my new nickname)
So that's the gist of my week away in !ndia :)

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Friday, November 20

I'm off to Delhi, India

I'm leaving tomorrow for Delhi, India & will be back on Dec 1st hopefully with lots of fun stories & photos to share.

To all the America's who read my blog:

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

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Thursday, November 19

USA July 1, 2010

I've booked my flight HOME to the USA :-) I arrive at 9.30pm on July 1, 2010 - can you believe it nearly 5 years after I left saying I was moving to London for a year to get a masters I'm finally actually coming home . . . I know I'm actually still in shock!

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Tuesday, November 17

A long strangely unstressful week

So with the CDC coming to inspect our new facility tomorrow everyone here has been running around like headless chickens preparing for their arrival . . . you'd think I'd be completely stressing, but I'm not! I've reached the point where I know everything I've done for the past 3 weeks is complete and I can't do much about the things which aren't as completely ready, such as the building works which to my knowledge are still going on as I type (or at least I hope they are cause as of noon today they weren't finished!)

I cannot lie the past few weeks have been very difficult for me for multiple reasons (getting visas for my ATW trip, planning parts of my travel, preparing for CDC inspection to name a few) but I'm doing so much better this week. Maybe my "f**k it" attitude comes from the fact that I've been reading my favourite book in the world, F**k It, by John Parkin.

A combination of reading that book, my trainer saying go for it, & my parents agreeing are the reason I'm going on my around the world trip. I mean I wanted to go as well, but I needed support from others whom I trusted!

Have I shown you a map of all the places I'm going? Here it is, I've even drawn a black line so you can see it more clearly (I hope) I think you can click on it to make it bigger if you want to.

As a friend pointed out recently it's really around the world in the southern hemisphere, and yes she was correct, I start & end north of the equator, but for about 6 months straight I'll be south of it.

Okay, back to work for now . . .

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Thursday, November 12

TB Clinic Discharge

It's official the TB clinic has discharged me :)

They actually said I don't need to finish my 5 weeks of medicine, but I'm going to double check that with the doctor who gave it to me, just to make sure. I don't hold total faith in the clinic here.

Today the doctor argued with me about how to pronounce the disease I work on . . . starting off by saying, "I think you'll find that here in Britain we say, blah blah blah, but as you're Australian you say it differently." I was good & just said, "okay" but really don't you think after 3 years if I'd been pronouncing Burkholderia psuedomallei incorrectly that someone would have told me?? I mean there are some differences in the way I say tomato and basil, but her pronunciation was totally off!

ok, back to work now . . .

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Tuesday, November 10

CanAm Thanksgiving report

So CanAm Thanksgiving was a huge success! Since Jen's studio doesn't have an oven, I made the mashed potatoes, stuffing & sweet potatoes ahead of time. Jen prepared the salmon (she doesn't eat meat, so no turkey) vegetables and butternut squash soup. She also managed to find apple crumble at Whole Foods for £2.99, as compared to the apple pie which was £9. It was pretty darn tasty if you ask me!
Here you can see my plate:Here we are enjoying our meal, you can tell we're North American because of our thumbs up :)

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Friday, November 6

Half Boy . . . Half Man

Here is a poem I was sent in an email - I decided to copy it into my blog, as I know many people serving in our Armed Forces (Chris, Rob, Trevor, Timmy, Adrianne, Susan & my "big brother" Michael)

The average age of the military man is 19 years. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country. He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father's, but he has never collected unemployment either.

He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away. He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and a 155mm howitzer.

He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk. He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark. He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.

He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional.

He can march until he is told to stop, or stop until he is told to march.

He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity. He is self-sufficient.

He has two sets of fatigues: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry.

He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle. He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts.

If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food. He'll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low.

He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands.

He can save your life - or take it, because that is his job.

He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay, and still find ironic humor in it all.

He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his short lifetime.

He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed.

He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to 'square-away ' those around him who haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking. In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful.

Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom. Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years.

He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding.
Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.

And now we even have women over there in danger, doing their part in this tradition of going to War when our nation calls us to do so.

As you go to bed tonight, remember this image . . .

A short lull, a little shade and a picture of loved ones in their helmets.

'Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us. Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. Amen.'

When you read this, please stop for a moment and say a prayer for our ground troops in Afghanistan, sailors on ships, and airmen in the air, and for those in Iraq , Afghanistan and all foreign countries.

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Thursday, November 5

CanAm Thanksgiving

For those of you who are still reading this, I think we might be down to just my dad, but I'm off track already! Some of you might have realised that my travel plans to India happen to be the same week as American Thanksgiving. Obviously this is not a holiday celebrated over here in jolly old England, nor will there be turkey with all the trimmings in India either.

Instead, my Canadian mate Jen & I have come up with a super duper idea/plan. Being that Canadian Thanksgiving is in the beginning of October & American Thanksgiving at the end of November, we're making up CanAm Thanksgiving to be held this coming Saturday, November 7, 2009!

We like to think of it when two holidays become one. We of course decided this only moments ago, as for any American or Canadian reading this will know, we're a bit behind on the whole planning part, so gotta go figure a few things out, like where to get a turkey (LOL)!!

To start off the season right, I'd like to say, that I'm thankful to my dad for his phone call last night and I'm thankful for all the volunteer ambulance members like my mum and lastly for today I'm thankful for my sister's ability to make me laugh so hard I would definitely be squirting milk out of my nose if I'd been drinking it when we were speaking!

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Guy Fawkes Night 2009

Guy Fawkes Day is an annual celebration on the evening of 5 November. Marking the downfall of the Gunpowder Plot on 5 November 1605 - failed assassination attempt by a group of English Catholics against King James I of England, they intended to kill the King and most of the Protestant aristocracy by blowing up the Houses of Parliament, included in this group was a man named Guy Fawkes,
Here are songs kids sing on days like today:
Guy, guy, guy
Poke him in the eye,
Put him on the bonfire,
And there let him die
Or also:
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of* no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd (or by God's mercy*)
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring. (Holla*)
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!

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Monday, November 2

Overdue update

So it's been over a month since I last blogged, it's not that I'm giving up on the blog, it's just that I've been so busy with everything else that I've not had time to sit down & collect my thoughts for an entry.

Let's see since I last wrote, I went to the Volksfest in Stuttgart, Germany with fellow alumni of Norwich University, we had a guy from the class of '61 who lives in Germany now, two guys from '79 one lives in Germany & the other in England, one woman from '91 who is stationed in Germany, me from '01 obviously living in England, two guys from '03 who are stationed in Italy and a guy from '04 who's also stationed in Germany. It was an awesome weekend!

The weekend after that I was off to Athens, Greece. Another fantastic weekend full of sightseeing, sun bathing and hanging out with my good mate Louise. We were only there from Friday mid day to Sunday evening, but we crammed as much as we could in during that time!

Since then my weekends have been much calmer, as in no plane rides anywhere :) but other not so fun things have happened like ceiling leaks causing flooding in my flat and one of my mum's neighbours lost her battle with cancer the morning of Halloween, but as her step brother said, at least she's in a better place now.

Has anyone else kept to their new years resolution? Has anyone noticed that I've accomplished the goal I set? Yes, that's correct I've already been to 12 "new" countries this year (all by mid October I might add) and I've still got India to add to the list later this month.

So here is the list by month of my past travels:
  • January I went to Geneva, Switzerland (country #25)
  • February I was in US and Canada leaving no time for a "new" country to be added
  • March I went to Marrakesh, Morocco with my mum (country #26)
  • April I was in Ramstein, Germany for Easter & we took a day trip to Luxembourg (country #27)
  • May I went to Sofia, Bulgaria (country #28)
  • June I was sick & couldn't go to Poland :(
  • July I went to Copenhagen, Denmark (country #30) and Malmo, Sweden (country #31)
  • July/August I went to Budapest, Hungry (country #32)
  • August I went to Vienna, Austria (country #33) and Bratislava, Slovakia (country #34)
  • September I went to Helsinki, Finland (country #35) and Tallinn, Estonia (country #36)
  • October I went to Athens, Greece (country #37)
Future travels for the rest of this year (this is above & beyond my 12 new for my new years resolution):
  • November I will be going to India (country # 38)
  • December will probably be full of packing up my stuff, but dad will be visiting me & we'll go to Aberdeen, Scotland for Christmas to visit Louise's family.
I can't think of much else exciting to report about, if you're struggling for holiday gift ideas, always remember there are cool things like bricks & goats from the Itafari Foundation

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