Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Finally we arrived in USA...

Kids on the plane (pssstt... watch that boy)

I always wanted to share my dream trip with my friends and now a competition called "Jiyo Life Moments" Sponsored by Club Mahindra and Indiblogger has pushed me into doing this.

If possible help me out by posting some comments and voting for me on the indiblogger

I was worried about my kids reaction to their first flight. They were cool in the beginning.

Farheena started to feel uncomfortable after a while and refused to eat anything. Rayyan in his excitement of taking pictures somehow messed with the mobile phone and the SIM was lost. I was a bit panicky at this because I had no way to get in touch with Paula now after we were to land in USA. I was angry but got control over myself before I said anything. I told myself he was excited and nervous and I should not spoil the memories of his first flight by being angry or scolding him. So I had to calm down and do whatever I had to do when the time would come. We landed in Dubai and had a break of 2 hours there. There we met a couple from Germany in the waiting room. The woman had fractured her leg on her visit to India. Farheena had vomited on the plane earlier and now refused to eat anything. I had a small chat with Rizwan who had torrents of advice for me.

Back into the jet and we were leaving for NYC. I could not actually believe that this was happening but it was. I had seen the pictures of JFK airport and it sort of overwhelmed me with its enormousness. I wondered how would we ever know what terminal to get into for our FL flight.

I knew it would terrify the kids if they knew I was worried, so I had to be the jolly mom on tour of USA and that I was. The invisible help was at hand as we found a very nice person in JFK who guided us and helped us out a lot. At the port of entry I was hit by another wave of nervousness where I recalled the soothsayers words which had warned me about being sent back to India from that point if they felt we should not be visiting USA. But we were asked just a few questions and soon were given permission to enter the country of USA.

Finally we WERE in USA! Meanwhile the woman who was supposed to push Farheena’s wheelchair had vanished somewhere. The officer who had helped us earlier was back on seeing me pushing the wheelchair and walking aimlessly ;). Though an officer he was willing to push Farheena’s wheelchair around though we did not ask for his help. In fact we said we could manage it but he insisted. He guided us to pick up our luggage, get it cleared in the customs etc. This person who was going about doing his duty never knew what it meant for us and how much difference he made to our trip. Finally we were put in a taxi which would take us to the terminal where we were to board the flight to FL and I saw him pay the taxi driver the fare and tip also. He told us not to pay anything for the taxi at all. After thanking him we said bye to him.

At the airport I tried to get some tea (the mamooli chai ) or coffee for Farheena as I was worried about her being dehydrated. I saw a coffee shop and as the flight was 3 hours away I decided to go and bring some coffee for Farheena. To my horror the food in a cafĂ© looked so different and expensive. My mind which always thought in Indian currency refused to accept the prizes on the eatables there LOL. Now I wish I had someone to guide me there as I thought I would get a coffee (ie with milk and sugar) when I ask for it. But all I got was black coffee without sugar or milk. Farheena refused to even look at the cup so I tried it and went cough cough puke puke… eeewwwwww. So I went back there looking for sugar and milk which I found in small sachets. I thought it was very funny. I did not like the coffee but gulped it down because I was not about to waste the money I had spent on it ;). Finally we got on the flight and landed in Tampa.

Once in Tampa we just went with the person who pushed Farheena’s wheel chair and he left us near the airport door where people were picking up their friends or relatives and asked for a tip of 3$ . I had some change with me (from the coffee shop) and so paid him. We waited there for 20 minutes or so and then Rayyan suggested for me to get inside and look for Paula as we were sure she would not be late. So in I went looking for her. It was getting late and the airport wore a deserted look. A lady was sweeping the floors and I asked her how to use the telephone. Luckily I knew Paula’s number by heart. I asked for change but she paid for the call and told me it is OK. As I was talking to Paula I was surprised to hear her voice so clear. I was amazed how different phones are in USA as I could hear her as though she was talking to me standing right there in front of me where a woman stood wearing purple dress talking in her phone. As I was talking to Paula I could see her lip move to the words being said in the phone. The told the woman who was cleaning that may be I had found my friend as I think it the woman talking into the phone right there in front of me was actually the person talking to me over the phone.

She said to me “ If that is your friend then you better find her because she has looked past you four times and I don’t think she is ever going to find you”. So I shouted “ Pee, here I am”. The rest you can watch on the video.

The placard she was supposed to hold was brought out after she met us.. it was beautiful...

To be continued.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

A dream of a middle class Indian girl...

I have been wanting to share my story of my travel to USA with my friends for a long time now but have been procrastinating actually doing it but the now I have a reason to do it for the contest on Jiyo Life moments on Indiblogger. This cannot be said in one blog so I am going to dedicate a few blogs for this happy moments in the life of me and my kids.
Paula started it with the story she sent to my daughter. Now you can see how this all started....

I fell in love with cartoons a long long time ago.. and I am still deeply in love with them. My childhood was filled with dreams of playing with Mickey, Donald, Tom and Jerry etc. Once I read about a land called Disney World where you could be in the world of fairy tales, cartoons etc. Naturally I wanted to go there immediately but then, it is an impossible dream for a middle class Indian girl who had never been outside Karnataka.
Though impossible I never threw out my dream … I held on to it. I grew up got married and had children. Then I realized there had been additions to my dream. I wanted to visit Disney World with my kids. Even then it was near impossible dream for a middle class Indian woman who lived in small house in rural India without running water, washing machine T.V. or any other basic necessities which is more needed than a foreign travel.
I always said the word impossible itself says I- M- Possible. Why should I not hold on to it.
Life goes on… and it goes on a very bumpy road. I had cancer, I survived, lost my mother and sister to cancer, went through depression etc etc.. but the thread of the dream was always there in my hand, entangled with my fingers.
When I felt very lonely I tried to reach out to people for sharing my pain of dealing with cancer. People reached out to me and for some reason they were from other part of the globe. We got close and one of my sister of hearts bonded with my kids through webcam. My daughter fell in love with Paula aunty.
Once when we were discussing our dreams on support board I mentioned my dream of visiting Disney World. Paula told us that if we could travel to Florida then we could stay with her. The dream was just plane tickets, passport and visa away now. Disney World was not the whole attraction for us now. We had good friends to meet in USA. Meeting them meant much more than meeting the cartoons.
MONEY was the biggest problem.. Unfortunately we and our friends had big dreams and big hearts with quite small purse. So first the question was from where to arrange the money. Our house needed a renovation but we decided to skip it for the sake of our USA trip. The biggest miracle was my husband agreeing to send us to USA and also arrange the money ( off course by skipping the renovation or precisely the much needed repairs)
. Then came the question of getting our passports. It got done too. For that I had to collect my TC from college after 22 years. LOL. We had soothsayers everywhere and they were predicting our future for free. All were of the opinion that it was nearly impossible for us to get visa for USA. To add to our woes my kids (both of them) got chicken pox two days before we were supposed to leave for our interview to the US embassy and the interview had to be postponed.
Finally when we arrived, we were nervous but the people at the embassy were too nice. The person who interviewed us abruptly cut the interview short and told us we could go. We were shocked and thought we have been refused visa but he assured us he had no problem sanctioning visa to us… He could see the joy on our faces as we did not hide it. My friends had written wonderful letters to the embassy pleading with them to grant us visa and I treasure that even now.. I know I am not going to be praised that highly ever in my life again. At least not by Duffy Mathias in the way she had done in the letter to the embassy.
Paula and me discussed about many things and among them was her pet dogs who she told us would leap on us to greet us. Farheena was terrified of dogs and we had to find a way to deal with this. The brainwashing began with showing Farheena the pics of dogs and telling her how different they were from the street dogs we have here. We traveled by train to Mumbai and there we had already arranged for a taxi driver from our native village to pick us up. He was waiting for us at the railway station but the VT station was too big for Farheena to cover the distance and get to the Taxi stand. There was no wheel chair available. The coolie came up with the idea of making her sit on top of our luggage. Farheena gave us a strong NO!. We asked her to decide whether she wanted to meet Paula aunty or not. She quietly got on top of the suitcases. I tried to take a picture of her but could not get a clear picture because everyone was hurrying. Me and Rayyan had tough time not laughing at the sight but if we laughed out loud we knew there would be two murders that night.
We went a bit sight seeing in Mumbai. By then we had seen that someone was working miracles for us and everything was being laid down perfectly for us to tread on and reach our destination. At 4 a.m. we were on board of Emirates and were flying towards NYC. Could not believe I was visiting USA with my two kids but I was… I was going to FL, the state where Disney World was but we were not excited about it as we were about meeting our friends there.
To be Continued.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Guest post by Paula Gerding....

Once upon a time in a land far from Spring Hill, Florida there lived a wonderful girl named

Farheena. Farheena was also a very stubborn girl!
If Farheenaa decided that she did not want to do something not even a monsoon could make her change her mind. It was this very wonderful (but stubborn) girl who decided that she wanted to go to Spring Hill, Florida to see her Paula Aunty. In fact, Farheena, even though it scared her and excited her at the same time, knew that the only way to
get to see her Paula Aunty was to fly in a huge airplane. She knew she had to cross over many lands and mony oceans and seas but that did not even stop her from wanting to go see her Paula Aunty. Not even the 4 dogs that lived with Paula Aunty were enough to make her change her mind! Now this was one brave girl!
And so the journey began. This meant Maa had to work some of her special “Maa magic” and first get passports and then visa's and then airplane tickets. All of this required many, many rupees...mor rupee's than Farheena could ever imagine!!! But, Maa being a wonderful Maa who also wanted to go see her friend Pee and Rayyan also wanted to go see Paula Aunty so Maa just had to work her magic and the wonderful trip began.
It was a rough start on the trip. Our poor heroine got sick on the plane and had a nasty infection that made her ear hurt and she just felt terrible. Ohhhh, would things EVER get any better? It took time but things did get better. Farheena, Maa and Rayyan all had a wonderful time visiting Spring Hill, Florida; other parts of Florida, Disney World, Philadelphia and NYC!!!
They met many wonderful people, all of whom fell in love with them and with whom they had a good time. Farheena particuarly had fun shopping! Shopping and going in the car! I don't think there was a girl in the entire world who loved going in the car more than Farheena! The time finally came for Farheena, Maa, and Rayyan to go home. It was hard to leave and Farheena was not happy about leaving. Luckily the plane ride home was MUCH better for Farheena as she and her family took many, many souvenirs home from America to show to their friends.
Sadly, Farheena was not happy once she returned home. She did not like the way they would lose their electricity for hours on end. She did not like the heat or the dirt that got all over her and she missed wearing her American clothes. She really missed her friends whom she had made in Spring Hill, Florida (Spring Hill, Florida misses her too!).
Being a very stubborn girl, Farheena would not let anyone forget how unhappy she was (“If we were with Paula Aunty we would have electricity now.”). Farheena also missed going in the car and going shopping very much! But there was one fantastic thing that Farheena learned (maybe the most fantastic thing)...because of her trip to Spring Hill, Florida. Farheena learned how to really talk! She could talk so that others could understand her. She was making sentences and asking full questions. Also, Farheena was walking soooo much better than she had before she came to Spring Hill, Florida. In fact, Farheena got to go back to school and she became an excellent student who won awards for being such a good student. Farheena also had done some very serious growing up when in Spring Hill, Florida and had become even prettier than she had been before she came (although that seemed almost impossible as she was already beautiful!). In fact, this was a new Farheena that no one had seen ever before in her land. And so begins the excitement! One day Farheena will be back in America, the land that she learned to love and the land that loved her. Paula Aunty and Jay Uncle hope that when that day comes they will be able to give Farheena the biggest hug in the whole wide world to make up for all of the lost hugs because she had to return to India. Lots of Love,
Aunty Pee

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Can't believe it has been 14 years since I last saw my sister

Actually we think death is the end. But is it? I don’t know. It was never so when I lost my sister more than a decade ago. It was the beginning of something painful and sense of loss.We grew up together and almost shared everything. My younger brother is 6 years younger to me so we had a lot of time for ourselves before other siblings intervened in our lives. We always had everything shared between us, an apple would be cut into equal half and we would each have a piece. Off course my sister believed in being fair and so it was the person who did not cut the apple (or whatever it was) that got to pick the piece and we would have to cut them alternately.
We were just opposite of each other. Nothing was ever similar between us. We liked different books (ooopppsss I mean I loved books whereas my sister never could read beyond 3 pages at one go), movies, colors, God, food etc etc. We fought over every single thing. She would flare up very fast, and would cool down faster. If I ever succeeded in getting her to beat me in her anger; than I was winner. I could work her around to do many things for me as a consolation. I enjoyed that. I wouldn’t flare up easily but was tenacious, and teased her temper a lot.
I never knew how good these things were until much much later when she was not there physically.Everyone always said she was all beauty and me all brains. The most touching part I remember about her is when we two would start fighting and someone would interfere and try to shut me up, (I was tenacious) and later they would end up scolding me and she would jump in to defend me. I thought that was funny back then but now I am finding it wrings out a lot of tears from me. She loved games, gossip, friends, Movies and outings. Picnics were her favorites. I loved books, studying etc. She would play to have fun where as I played to win, to prove myself always. Even with a club foot I could be very fast runner and excelled in throw ball and many other games. She would never play games where there was competition. She loved funny games.
My lovely sister was also opposite to me in another approach which proved fatal and she paid with her life. She never liked the pills, pricks or doctors. Hospitals were one of the worst places for her and would always postpone treatment as far as possible. I always trusted doctors a lot. One day she announced she felt some lump in her breast and I panicked. At that time I did not know much about BC but still was aware of it and advised her to see a doctor. She said she would. But never did it. I kept reminding her again and again. But I knew she was not interested in consulting doctor. I went to my native place where she was on a visit with my Mother and convinced her to come to the doctors with me. The doctor had just one look and advised biopsy. She said lets come back tomorrow and that went on for few more days. I almost physically dragged her into going for a biopsy and the result said breast cancer. I was shocked. Couldn’t believe what I heard. My parents immediately took her to some more doctors and they all advised surgery, radiation and chemotherapy for her. But she refused. Wouldn’t give in to any pressure we tried to put on her. No one knew she would be gone the next year. She talked my family into believing about miracle healing. I never gave up convincing her to go for surgery. But all was in vain. I can vividly recall how cancer took over her slowly. It is really very terrifying. The lump grew and then opened into a wound which went on covering half her chest. She always cleaned it up herself and dressed it till the end. She was really amazing. Again I was away from her when I heard one day that she was dead. It did not make any sense to me. I expected that but still couldn’t believe it. She left some huge hollow inside me, which yearned to be filled up. I searched for friends. I reached out to people, finding few sisters who filled it in drops. Still the gap needs to be filled. It still hurts so bad. I do miss her so much. I still cant imagine a person who was so full of life gave it up so easily. She just resigned off life when she heard the word cancer.
The one thing about her life that hurts me the most is, the day she got to know I had cancer too. It attacked her right breast and my left one. I joked it was the result of sharing everything but I could see the pain in her. She slowly started sobbing and then cried piteously. Why both of us? She asked again and again. She just broke after that. I still remember and feel the hug she gave me when I left to get myself operated. I was walking out of gate when she came there and hugged me and wept. That was something very touching and can bring tears whenever I remember it. I just felt the love flow from her to me. We again proved to be opposites. She gave up and lost her life where as I fought it out( the odds were very much against me) and survived. I feel guilty of not sharing something with her there. Does she know the pain I suffer whenever I think of her? Would she change the decision if she knew I was going to suffer so? I look up to everyone to find her. There have been many people who have given me a part of her.I have found so many sisters of hearts. They are not blood relation to me but we share the feelings and pain of our heart. We can emphatise with each other. But still the pain of losing a sister remains. No matter what changes takes place. Can we really lose someone after having found them and loved them? Does someone has an answer? I am searching


Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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