Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hyde Park

Some may think our life is adventurous. Most of the time, it doesn’t feel very adventurous. Most of the time my job feels just like any other 9 to 5 job. Sometimes, I feel more like a bureaucrat than anything else, the person weaving webs of red tape ensnaring the unsuspecting instead of slicing through it. As for home life, we have many of the same worries we would have in the States. We wonder what we will make for dinner, how to get homework done, and finding a babysitter for Saturday night. Of course, too, we have other worries, some that we wouldn’t have if we lived in the good ole U.S. of A.

The things we see and hear that once fascinated us so can, over time, become routine. There is a man who pushes a wooden cart full of bright red tomatoes through the neighborhood next to ours. This is his sole vocation, a peddler of tomatoes. He walks through the street shouting, and women come to the second and third story windows of their flats and shout back down to him. They lower a bucket on a rope to the street with money in it and he sends the tomatoes up. Elise had described the transaction to me after having seen it on one of her photo walks, but it was one thing to hear the story and another to see it with my own eyes.

Nowadays, I see the man every day. I am no less impressed with his business acumen as I was that first day, but I admit I don’t feel the same sense of wonder and excitement I did when I first watched him sell tomatoes to women in high places.

I don’t want to become desensitized to India. This morning on my way to work I saw not one but two platinum plated horse-drawn carriages clopping down the middle of the road. Sundar pulled up behind it and started honking the horn, but the road was narrow and there was nowhere for the horses to trot to. I asked him what they were, and he told me they were wedding carriages. Later this evening they would carry brides and grooms.

No adventure is typical or always wholly expected. It is often the unplanned adventures that can be the most fun.

When we planned our travel to India, both when we first arrived, last November and our most recent trip from the States earlier this month, we planned an overnight stop in Europe, the unofficial halfway point.

In November, we spent less than 24 hours in Frankfurt, Germany, but in that short time we braved the German rails and ended up in a gothic city center near dusk. Church spires were silhouetted against the indigo sky, the black forms of pigeons flapped in flocks overhead. As we made our way over the cobblestones, we tucked our hands deep into our pockets against the unexpected chill. We were looking for a traditional German meal, maybe bratwurst and a stein of beer, but ended up at McDonalds instead.

Clementine fell asleep in my arms, and we fed the boys french fries and took the train back to the hotel near the airport. Elise and I ordered brats and beer from room service.

This time, we stopped in London. I had never been to London before, but Elise and the kids had when they flew out from Chennai to Washington. After checking into the hotel, we took a quick nap, then headed out the front door of the lobby to see what we could find.

Elise and I had already toyed with the idea of taking the kids to the Princess Diana Memorial Playground in Hyde Park so we took the bus back to the airport and hopped on the Underground to take us into town. The train ride alone—as it was in Frankfurt—would have been enough to tickle the kids.

The playground was truly impressive, but what I know was more memorable for me was the ice cream afterwards.

We bought soft serve ice cream cones and sat on the grass near the carousel. The boys finished their ice cream and started pretending they had bows and arrows. They ran through the grass with a sense of abandonment I hadn’t witnessed in a long time. They drifted further and further from where Elise and I sat with Clementine in the grass, perhaps pretending to be two Hawkeyes from the Avengers, but never out of sight. The park was crowded, but they were never unsafe, and we let them run. I was comforted by the security they must have felt there, knowing that we would always keep an eye on them (despite the fact that we did almost loose Petey in the Underground). We let them go. They were having their own adventure.

One of the things I love most about my life is not infrequently I find myself in situations I never could have imagined being in only a short time ago. I never in my life thought I would get to see my sons run happily through a field in a London park. It made me happy to give them that small freedom as fleeting as it was.

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