Saturday, February 27, 2010

Delayed... go figure

We're baaaaccckkk. In Chicago. Matt's been working all week, and we were supposed to leave for India on Tuesday, but he just found out (at midnight) that it's a no-go. Apparently there's some holiday in India the first week of March and they can't organize his travel from their end until after the first week. So we're planning to leave maybe next weekend or so. I bought the travel guide yesterday and have been reading up on our city, Vadodara. The locals call it Baroda, so if you want to sound really cool, you'll call it that too. It's my understanding (though I have a limited geographic knowledge) that Vadodara is on the northwest coast of India, in the state of Gujarat. I believe we'll be flying into Mumbai, staying the night and then flying 4 or so hours to our final destination. I'm starting to get really excited... mostly about all my clothes-making prospects, but also just to go somewhere completely different and new. However, I'm trying not to get my hopes up too high because I don't want to be really disappointed. Anyway, I just wanted to send a little information to give you all an idea of where we'll be (if we ever get there). In closing, I'd like to share with you a ridiculous picture of Bella from Christmastime. She looks like a chubby bag lady.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Love Chicago

After much drama, heartache, and sleepless nights, it's official: we're finished with Nola! I know I shouldn't be so excited about leaving because I know what lays directly ahead of me (India) but I am! We're heading out at 6.30 a.m. tomorrow... it would appear Matt's travel agent doesn't care for us much. Thanks Janine. We just bought a bunch of groceries and perishable food items the other day (gotta get our Walmart fix when we can) so I guess we'll be stuffing our faces today trying to polish it off... poor us. Gluttony is our middle name. Anyway, I guess it's Chicago for a few days and then India. I don't know when we're leaving for sure, but I'll probably know by tomorrow or the next day, so I will pass it along. Anyone know where I can get a cheap Lonely Planet India? I'm going broke buying these travel guides.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Wow, Nola

Well, Mardi Gras is over... finally. I have always thought Mardi Gras was like a one day event, or maybe 2 days if it's a weekend. Not so here, I'm afraid. They had parades for more than a week, the culmination of them being (Fat) Tuesday morning. We went to a couple of them, but honestly, (to quote the guy from the bar on New Year's) that's just not my scene, man, it's not my scene. We went down to Bourbon Street during the day Tuesday, and it was pretty ridiculous. Crazy crowds and costumes, and lots of "Jesus freaks" howling about how we're all going to hell. Their shirts said "God hates Mardi Gras 2010". Talk about a downer.We were just watching the fun and not really participating when two college kids came up and asked us what we thought about God. We couldn't shake them, so we just left and came back to the hotel to watch Olympics. Now that all the fun's over, I guess we're all paying the price, as most of the city is sick with the "February Funk". I've definitely got it (bronchitis again and everything!) but Matt seems to be in the clear. The immune system on that boy is phenomenal.

After more than a week of all play and no work due to delays at the refinery, Matt started back on night shift again last night. I guess the situation is that he has to finish the job here (probably a week or less) and then we'll fly back to Chicago for a couple days to pack for India and then we'll be off. Just in time for my birthday! We would've liked a little more time to prep for India because we're planning to be there for so long, but what can you do?

We have had a lot of fun in Nola (did I mention that's what they call it?) on Matt's free vacation. We went on a cemetery tour and visited a plantation house complete with mint juleps on the veranda. Matt's birthday was Thursday and I took him to Emeril's restaurant for lunch (a bit cheaper that way) and then we went bowling.
Big fun down South. We heard a really amazing fiddle player on Lundi Gras (Fat Monday) in a band called Amanda Shaw and the Cute Guys. She's only 16 and I guess is something of a fiddle prodigy, so if you're into that stuff, and I know you are, you should check them out. Anyway, that's about it from Who Dat Nation (cannot tell you how sick of that I am). Oh, on a side note, I went shopping earlier, but because Matt's on night shift I have to get dressed in the dark while he sleeps. I made it through three stores in the mall before I realized my shirt was on inside out. It would appear that I am my mother's daughter.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Love N.O.

Do I REALLY love New Orleans or is it just a clever title? Not sure yet, as I've only been here 2 nights and both have been pretty stressful, even for me. First off, I will remind you that we did in fact go skiing in Breckenridge last week, and were pleasantly surprised to not only have a great time but have our marriage still intact after rolling down the mountain time and time again. I foolishly overestimated my own skill at skiing, as well as severely underestimated how difficult it would be to actually try to teach Matt to ski, and so our first day was pretty much a bust. We got up to the mountain around 11, and after about 5 minutes of me showing Matt the "wedge" on completely flat ground, he said he was ready to try. I was impressed by his go get 'em attitude, and I guess that overshadowed my anxiety that he might die or at least be maimed on the mountain. Also, I was unaware that the "easy" slopes are NOT created equal. I didn't even look at the map, but instead pointed us toward the first ski lift we saw and we were off.... Matt, having never ridden a ski lift and me, not thinking it necessary to teach him, promptly fell as soon as the lift came, and had to ride the one behind me. Oops. He made it off the lift fine (no doubt due to the instructions I shouted back to him through the whole ride) and then proceeded to attempt to follow me down the hardest green on the mountain. What followed was a series of falls, one right after the other, or as it could be better termed, one long fall punctuated by tiny standing victories. It was so steep and the snow packed so hard that I really am surprised he made it down at all. I was just about to tell him to take his skis off and walk when suddenly, the clouds parted, the angels sang, and the mountain flattened out just enough for us to make it to the bottom. (He still fell a few more times, but he didn't cuss as much.) Because it took an entire hour to go down one slope, we were both pretty exhausted so we had lunch at the restaurant and only then did it occur to me to look at the map. Well, there are not one, not two, but FOUR easy "beginners" slopes right next to us, equipped with a training lift and everything. Needless to say, we spent the rest of our somewhat short day on those, and Matt picked it up rather nicely. The next two days he improved greatly, and by the end of it, he probably has at least matched if not surpassed my skill... which is mediocre at best. Still, we ended up having a great time and will probably go skiing again... just not in the near future.

On to the next topic: New Orleans. Matt had to fly from Denver to N.O. on Sunday because of the aforementioned last minute planning on UOPs part. I was lucky enough to fly back to Chicago for one night so I could go to storage and put all our ski stuff away. Not entirely necessary, as it turns out Louisiana's having a minor cold spell just now, and I wouldn't have minded wearing those ski pants around town. I flew in on Monday, and in doing so missed the crazy riotous partying outside our hotel after the Super Bowl Sunday night. I did however get to see the line of cars lined up for the Saints' homecoming at the airport Monday, and then we sat in traffic for 2 and a half hours yesterday trying to get back to our hotel before the Saints' homecoming parade yesterday, nicknamed by the local radio station as "Who Datius". Are you kidding me? Not to belittle their accomplishment, but if I have to hear one more person shout "Who Dat!" in the middle of the night, I'm going to scream... which will likely go unnoticed amid the screams of everyone else. After the traffic debacle yesterday, I decided not to venture around the corner to view the parade, but watched parts of it on TV instead. They said on the news that the parade floats couldn't even get down the street because of the crowds. I'm happy for them, but I'm a little baffled by this whole celebration for days thing. I just don't think I care enough about anything to sit for 3 hours in a car near the parade route looking for a place to park. Maybe that's my downfall. And, as if we hadn't had enough celebration, Mardi Gras is in full swing here as well, and there will be parades every day until Fat Tuesday next week. I'll definitely try to go to at least one, but I won't be driving anywhere during that time. And we thought our hotel (right in the heart of the warehouse district, near the French Quarter) was such a great idea at the time - "we can walk everywhere!"

That's pretty much all I've got for now. I'm heading down the the river walk today, while Matt sleeps peacefully in the room... ahh, the joys of night shift. It looks like we'll be here longer than expected, as there are three reactors to load instead of just the one as promised. Oh well. Maybe we'll miss the India start date. Darn. Also, I lost my notes on the number of hours I spent at the airport this past week, but it was around 10, I believe. Had to add an extra hour and a half to the total because the airline lost my bag (along with half the flight's) coming into New Orleans. I got it back the next morning, with all my stuff soaking wet. Thanks, United.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I Love Philadelphia/New York

Us in front of Independence Hall

Just got back from our "mandatory" vacation out East. We only spent a day and a half in Philadelphia, but Matt showed me all the historical sights. Most of it was stuff you'd expect to see on your 4th grade class field trip, but don't tell Matt. In addition to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, he took me to the Betsy Ross house where we got to chat with Betsy herself, which was kind of awkward. She was acting like it was still the 18th century and how do you relate to that? Plus, I'm not 7, so I was pretty sure she wasn't the REAL Betsy, but I didn't want to burst her bubble. One interesting fact I learned is that the guy who bought the house in the 1900s and restored it died on the 3rd floor. I know, I know. I'm going through a morbid, ghost-hunting phase. Another interesting fact: the big crack in the Liberty Bell was actually done intentionally to restore the sound. There's another tiny crack that runs all the way from bottom to top and that's why the bell doesn't make noise anymore. Bet you didn't know you were in for a history lesson.
After the history (which included a much-too-long tour of Christ Church where Ben Franklin and co. went) we went and had Philly cheesesteaks (I just had a bite of Matt's. I'm not a fan) and then hit the Mutter Museum of medical history/medical mysteries. It was ridiculously creepy and disgusting. They had dozens of fetuses (fetusi?) in jars, along with gangrenous hands and feet, and an 8 foot long colon that was found inside some guy who hadn't had a BM in months. When they removed the colon (in the autopsy because yes, he died) it had more than 40 lbs of waste inside. There were also shrunken heads and a "soap" woman whose body had decomposed in such a way that she was literally turning to soap. I'd definitely go back to the museum, but it'll be a while before I'm up to it again.

From Philly we headed to Matt's Aunt and Uncle's house about an hour away, and ended up staying with them the rest of the week. Matt's Aunt Bit took us on the bus to NYC one day and showed us around. It was damn cold, but other than that, really fun. We took a boat tour and then basically just walked our butts off the rest of the day. We went to Times Square and Rockefeller Center and then ate dinner at Bobby Flay's Bar Americain, which is probably the only big name restaurant I've ever been to. Food was great, but ridiculously expensive, as expected.I was completely floored by the size of New York city. I thought I knew what to expect having lived in the Chicago area and been to Beijing a dozen times and so on. New York is just a whole other ball game. It is HUGE! And we only saw some of Manhattan. It makes Chicago look tiny.
All in all, we had a pretty great (and long) week. Tomorrow comes Denver and then Breckenridge for some ski adventure. I'll admit, I was a lot more excited about skiing before we spent the freezing week out East. Now I'm kind of wishing we'd planned a beach vacation instead! Matt got an email last week literally minutes after we booked our flights to Colorado that said he was assigned to a job in Louisiana and has to be there on Sunday the 7th, That's the day we are flying back fromDenver, so I don't know exactly how that will work out. He might have to leave a day early or fly straight from Denver. I suppose I'll be meeting him there a couple days later. Lots of flights! Way to build up the frequent flier miles! Oh, and in case I haven't mentioned it, this year I'm keeping a record of how many hours we spend in airports or on planes. So for for 2010, we've spent about 6 hours in airports and 4 hours on planes. And that was just one round trip. My theory is we're going to spend a lot more time in airports and actually flying. But maybe not.