Friday, 28 June 2013

Mighty Muscat, Oman

Muscat is the heavy in Oman, the one major city that dominates the country. Home to 750,000 people and growing, Muscat is busy paving, building and expanding. There are a few old parts to the city, but most of the buildings and neighborhoods were built in the past few decades.

The skyline. Unlike its neighbor to the west, UAE, Muscat has purposefully avoided runaway skyscraper development. The city is an antithesis to nearby Dubai.

The Grand Central Mosque. Much bigger mosques have been built on the outskirts of the city. Sultan Qaboos' palace, with column nods to Frank Lloyd Wright's Johnson Wax building in Racine, Wisconsin.

Lots of urban master planning - fountains, green space, government buildings and roundabouts. That's the Gulf of Oman beyond the buildings.

Typical features of Muscat. New architecture meant to look old, no people around, cars, a mountain background, nicely groomed lawns in the desert. The streets are being paved so quickly and without an overall grid that driving around feels a bit like existing within one of the urban sets of Grand Theft Auto.

One of the old city areas, the port and Muttrah corniche.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Beginning, Middle And End Of Our India Adventure

Yes, the India tour is all over and we're back in the United States. Two years, where did it go?

It started here, changing planes in Brussels, June 2011. Notice in the succeeding photos how much we love our travel shirts.

We reached about the halfway point of our tour in April 2012, visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra. Silly short hair due to total head shaving a couple of months previous.

The end of one road; the beginning of another one. The Chennai airport, 4 am, June 1, 2013. Goodbye India, we will miss you!

So, that's it for India. While we're not going on hiatus, we will be posting less frequently - most likely Monday-Wednesday-Friday. Please stay tuned for postings from our further travels and adventures in the Foreign Service. Thank you for taking the journey with us!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Rabbit Relocation (Goodbye, India!)

It's been a wonderful, adventurous ride for Rabbit and us, but now it's time to go. Our two year tour posted in Chennai, India is up and so we're out.

The movers came the other day, Rabbit with his friend Goose all nervous and huddled together. Don't worry, you guys will be coming!

Being organized and labeling everything in the apartment is crucial. People have had all their passports, car keys packed down the rabbit hole. "No" is a good word to plaster about.

Time to get ready for the boxes weigh in.

Boxing up Rabbit, sad Sarah looking on. It's a wrap on this tour.

The movers were nice enough to give Rabbit his proper ID. Too bad the same can't be said for Talalay. Happens all the time.

Our life, out on street. See you in a year Vilnius! Quick, get to googling, where is Vilnius?

Our first tour for the US State Department was amazing - everything we could have hoped for. The job is exciting and rewarding for Sarah and the endless photo opportunities in India, Asia and beyond have been satisfying for James. We'll miss the colors, the culture and the chaos of India. Thanks for being an amazing host!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Empty Spaces In India

It's tough to have a little space to yourself in India, especially in the large cities. And the medium and small cities. Or towns. Or villages. In fields, alleys, anywhere.

More wandering, more patience and a little luck lead to a few discoveries of empty gems in India.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Pay Attention! At The Darjeeling Zoo

Why stop at a little "Don't Feed The Animals" sign? At the Darjeeling zoo, there were all sorts of interesting directions for the humans.

Let's make a little religious reference.

Quiet, the weird pictures of kids on a sign are trying to make you shut up. Do you want to be in a cage?

Dustbin and sign reinforcement.

A little canine connection to the history of the zoo. Another shh! sign with a cute, hand painted touch.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

A Visit To The Darjeeling Zoo

Little Darjeeling actually has a nice zoo to visit. It's small, but well laid out with a variety of animals from the surrounding area. Forget about pink flamingos. But if your neighborhood includes red pandas, Bengal tigers and snow leopards, you get to have an impressive little zoo.

A black bear was there to greet you.

Red pandas were in abundance, filling several cages. Snap! Hanging out, both in a cage and out.

The people watching was also fun, folks moving along a path as if on a conveyor belt or crowded together like paparazzi.
The zoo had a bit of a mystical feel, due to its hillside location at high altitude.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Darjeeling Portraits

Time to sit (or, more likely, stand) for a portrait in Darjeeling.

Girl in town square.

Appliance salesman and girl on hillside footpath.

Two girls who just left a celebration.

Prayer flag store couple and a couple in front of their home.

Boy and elderly man on top of a hill.

School kids and canteen customer.

One more visit with the town square girl, this time with her brother. Cute!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Touring A Tea Factory In Darjeeling

See the tea plantation and then tour the factory.  See how the tea is grown, then see it ground, dried and ready for brewing.

The machinery is straight out of a Dickens novel.  British steel all the way.

Old school record keeping. The drying machine.
Sarah supervising. Do not cross the tea master.

That's some tea bag. A dryer machine medallion, featuring the big four Indian cities of Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. Classic.

The calm, spare drying room. Love the desk chair support.

It's easy to figure out where to put the fire extinguishers. You are at a tea facility, no spitting! Slurping, OK.

The tea factory workers.