Monthly Archives: July 2013

Last night in the old apartment

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I am still here, just so busy packing and getting ready to move tomorrow. Also, work had been unusually busy with some later hours than usual and working in the office a lot, whereas I usually work from my home office. This has all made it so I haven’t had much chance to write.

Plus, to be honest, there’s not much to write about. Since India nothing has happened, we haven’t seen any doctors or talked much about the surrogacy plan. I think we just need time to digest how the trip went down and our disappointment.

Anyways, I just wanted to pop on to say I am still here, we are still here. We are still happy and content and together in love and very relieved to finally be moving tomorrow. Finally!

Our hotel in Mumbai

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Now that our trip is over and we are home, i wanted to write about our hotel.  i have tried to consistently never talk about things (airlines, hotels, clinics, etc.) until i have finished using them, so now i can review our hotel and identify it.

for the duration of the three weeks, we stayed at Grand Residency Hotel & Serviced Apartments due to its proximity to our clinic.  we had visited it briefly on our first visit, as we had stayed at a hotel that was farther away, and knew we would not want to take a taxi or tuk tuk almost every day to the clinic, especially since there was potential that i wouldn’t feel great from the shots (or from other stuff, as it turned out).

the hotel is a smaller, “boutique” style hotel with not very many rooms, but a variety of rooms.  it has smaller studio type rooms and basic rooms and then larger rooms with kitchenette and separate living space and two bathrooms.  this is the size we had, and we were very lucky, because we had never needed two bathrooms more in our entire lives.

the hotel staff is very friendly, they learn your names, they are willing to accommodate any request, from room service, to laundry, to housekeeping, to providing boxes of bottled water, to allowing us to use their front desk computer to print forms for FRRO or airline boarding passes, to getting cabs, to booking tours, whatever.  they all spoke English quite well and were great to deal with.  on more than one occasion, we sat in the lounge and chatted with the hotel manager, he was extremely friendly and great to talk to.  the whole hotel had a family type feel, with the staff getting to know you and being so personable.

the room we had was very clean and everything worked, though there was a bit of a drip from the A/C unit.  there was separate A/C in both rooms, separate flat screen TVs in both rooms, and the kitchenette was functional with a microwave, toaster, two burner hot plate, kettle, and nearly full-sized fridge with freezer.  the “living area” had a desk with a chair, a small sofa, a comfy chair, a coffee table, and a kitchen table with two chairs.  there were two balconies you could go on (if you signed a waiver), so you could check the weather and temperature.  the bathrooms were modern and the shower was great; the water pressure rivaled ours at home, and we had really great showers.  the rooms both had blackout curtains, so you can get a good sleep without any light getting in.  the bed was a king size and VERY comfortable.  there was a side table on each side, with lighting for each side, and a large wardrobe with a few drawers and hangers to put your stuff.  the room also had an ironing board and iron for your use, plus hair dryer and the usual shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and soap.

the neighbourhood was good also.  there were many restaurants, small shops, coffee houses, and even a western style grocery store close by, so when we were sick we could get some foods we felt safe with.

as far as negatives are concerned, there were very few.  the main one, which won’t be an issue for long, is that once we arrived there was some fairly heavy renovations going on in the hotel, so there was major banging and hammering from 10:00 to at least 18:30, sometimes 20:30 every day except Sunday.  at my sickest, i had to call the desk and beg them to make it stop, and they were fairly fair about doing so.  we understand that renovations need to occur, but for three weeks, it became unbearable.  we would have appreciated if the hotel staff had let us know ahead of time, so we could have a) made an informed decision or b) asked for a different room farther from the noise.

second negative is that our room faced a convent school, and while it’s very cute to see and hear little girls swarming around at certain times of the day for a few days, it became uncute pretty quickly.  no big deal though, it was for an hour at 13:00 and an hour at 18:00.  the car horn honking goes on for many more hours in the day in Mumbai, so you get used to noise pollution to a degree.

third, we could hear every single door bell on our floor, and maybe some below as well.  it is a very distinct door bell, and by day two we were SICK OF IT!  it would be great if the hotel would turn down the volume, so the residents can only hear their own.  we think the elevator also made the same chime, so it would have been nice not to hear that as well.

fourth, the internet was fairly expensive.  you have to pay a daily rate, and you can only have two devices on it.  therefore, we couldn’t connect our phones or camera to it unless we paid more.  the daily rate was pretty expensive too, though the manager was willing to negotiate a bit on this.  the internet in India is a bit less fast than in Canada, so you have to be fairly patient, but all-in-all we had mostly constant connectivity.

lastly, we aren’t sure if we became sick from the hotel food.  we aren’t going to say yes, because we certainly ate other things at first, but we just aren’t sure.  we only drank bottled water, but we have heard horror stories about bottled water being re-filled with random water and resealed, so who knows if that was the culprit.  the restaurant had a variety of western foods, indian foods, and chinese foods, and we tried quite a few at the beginning.  for the most part, they were very delicious, and always arrived hot to our room.  in particular, the cottage cheese corn balls were divine (sounds strange, i know… but yummm!!!).

so, had the renovations not been happening and had we not been sick, we would have loved our hotel stay.  we would still recommend this hotel to anyone, just call ahead to make sure there are no renos happening.  because we were staying for three weeks, the manager negotiated with us to provide a better rate, which was also really nice.  this was a very nice hotel, very comfortable, very clean (no bed bugs either, trust me, i checked!!!), courteous staff, we didn’t feel badgered by staff for tips (like at other hotels), and we felt like we got our money’s worth.  don’t hesitate to stay at Grand Residency.

Musings of an overtired mind…

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I was thinking about our Mumbai adventure, and remembered typing that we had put our feet in the Indian Ocean. So then I started to ponder… Did we really? As hubby can attest, i am the MOST geographically challenged person in all respects.

The answer is no. Mumbai sits on the Arabian Sea, and we had already spent time with our tootsies in it while in Oman many years ago…. So no new body of water for us this time.

Maybe the hokey pokey IS what it’s all about?

Boarding the plane pretty soon…. I can dream of a nap.

Long time – long post

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Wow, it seems like such a long time since I have written a post. We are in the Seoul airport now, on the way home and have a bit of a layover, so it seems opportune. I have a few minutes to reflect too, though i don’t think my reflecting will be particularly fruitful, as i am already lacking in sleep.

Though we have been gone for about nine hours, Mumbai seems a blur. As always when i travel, but particularly this time, I wish we had done more. Though there didn’t seem a lot to do in Mumbai, we even asked people what to do and nobody had great suggestions. I wished we had maybe gone to Elephanta Island, but we just weren’t in any shape to have done a ferry ride and then island walkabout… Even here in the Seoul airport, debarking our first flight, we met a guy who lives seven months per year in Hawaii and five in India (musician, tough life.. Haha!) and he said he tries not to spend much time in Mumbai, as “it’s a shit hole.” he says that he would actually choose India over Hawaii to live, as it’s beautiful in other places other than Mumbai. Interesting food for thought.

So, to round out that thought… After this trip, and during the trip while I was so sick, I wondered over and over and over if I would ever want to return to India. At this juncture, so soon after leaving, my guts (after rotting for three weeks) say no. But there’s a bitter taste in my mouth (both of our mouths) from the experience. Not just the multiple illnesses, but the nearly instant lack of success as well. The trip was pretty much a bust that left us with so many more questions than answers, and we will need to really do some heavy thinking, researching, and working before we can take a next step on the surrogacy journey.

On another note though, the last three weeks has left me with some other amazing stuff. I connected (via email) with a few women who were in Mumbai at the same time as we were, doing surrogacy stuff. One was doing the first step, same as us, and i wish her all the success imaginable. Her wee family is the epitome of folks who deserve the best possible outcome, because they have almost more to offer a baby than I can imagine, from what little I know already. The second couple are from Vancouver, a mere 20 minute drive from our home, and they are picking up their two bundles in Mumbai. They used two surrogates and didn’t imagine they would both be successful, but they were, and they welcomed first a baby girl, then around a week later a boy. How perfect! (for them… Two freaks us right out!) What i can say about this woman so far, is that she is amazing for her immediate willingness to share information with me, even in the midst of all this baby-picking-up. Through her, I will probably be able to share some details about the pick up portion of the surrogacy process, far sooner than if you had to wait for our bundle. So two fantastic women and two fantastic connections for us.

On the home front, we have had sooooooooo much support from our friends and family back in Vancouver. Throughout the last few weeks, even with the time difference, I have felt supported and missed.

One of our close friends actually told me she would be willing to donate eggs to us, if we didn’t think it was too strange. She and her hubby already have two wonderful (and gorgeous) wee kiddos, who we love, and she doesn’t plan on more, so she wanted me to know she would be willing and happy to share. We do think it would be too strange of a dynamic, but to think that someone would just do that for us is amazing.

Our great friend/building mate came through for us and took grand care of our cats for three weeks. If it weren’t for him, we couldn’t have gone i don’t think. There isn’t anyone else we can think of who would visit our boys twice a day to take care of their needs. Amazing!

And last, but certainly not least… We mentioned we got a new apartment, but what I hadn’t mentioned yet, was that our current apartment had to be shown to potential renters, and since we had been so sick before leaving, it was far from pristine and show- worthy. So, at the drop of a hat, my best friend went over and took care of it. I can’t even believe it. It was then snapped up by the first people to see it, so no more showing!

Plus, as always when we travel, hubby and i got along so wonderfully. We always get along really well and have a great connection, but it seems that when we travel, our symbioticness really comes out the most. Maybe being out of our comfort zone pulls us together…

So… I have felt more connected in the last three weeks, and that is something I value mega, mega! Even though we don’t have a million friends, the few we have would go through fire for us… And that is, I dunno.. I don’t want to say something cliche here… So use your imagination.

It’s official… India hates me.

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I have spent another 36 hours deathly sick. I don’t know what keeps getting me here. Normally I have what I consider to be a strong immune system, but every germ in this country seems to have gotten to me. Well, that’s a slight exaggeration, I don’t seem to have malaria or dengue fever or typhoid, so that’s a positive. It’s so hard to be sick, then nearly better, then totally sick again, and over and over.

At this point, we are just counting down the days to go home. Get home, get moved, get healthier, get on with getting on. Think about what our future holds.

It’s funny to hear my husband say, “when we get on the plane, I am eating EVERYTHING!” i guess it’s because he was so sick on the way over that he rejected every meal, and now we have had such a hard time with what we assume is food-bourne illness here, he is just waiting with baited breathe for something he feels is safe. He’s also listed all the foods he wants to eat at home. I am dreaming about fresh produce and milk. We have only found UHT milk here, which is in a tetra pack and is only good for 48 hours after opening. It’s just odd.

Mumbai in a day (so much better than two days)

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We went on a tour yesterday via hotel car. It was amazing. When we had been in Mumbai before, our previous hotel had told us we could probably get a taxi for all day for about 1,000 INR, but you wouldn’t be guaranteed (nor even have much of a chance of) a driver who spoke a decent amount of English. Therefore, since this hotel offered a car and driver for a whole day, for about 2,200 INR ($50 CAD), we opted to take this option. You couldn’t get a tour of an alley for that price in Vancouver.

The car had air conditioning, but we found that every time we got out to look at stuff or take pictures, my glasses and camera fogged up. It was cool enough with the windows down and the wind blowing in as we drove, so we ended up leaving the AC off most of the time. This also afforded us a great opportunity to take pics as we drove along. Our driver would let us know when to do up the windows because there were beggars or vendors coming up, and this worked out fine.

It was a beautiful day, with just a tiny monsoon for less than five minutes, mostly overcast and very hot, but not the hottest so far. Our driver really knew everything about Mumbai and took us to all the important spots and told us where photo ops were. He also would get out of the car with us and walk wherever, to explain sights and make sure nobody bugged us too much. He never interfered with my bargaining skills when shopping, but we would always ask afterwards if he thought we got ripped off. He would always answer honestly, and sometimes I had done a good job, and sometimes he felt the vendor got the upper hand. It was funny. They usually start at five times a good price and work their way down, as i mentioned before.

As far as shopping is concerned, there is a lot of junk, as there is anywhere, so you have to look carefully. Our one big regret is that we bought a painting from an artist, and after we got back to the car, we wished we had bought several, as we really loved the one we got and wished we had a series. We circled the area a few times and she was gone. It’s hard to find handcrafted d stuff amongst the junk, so if you do find some and like or love it, buy it.

We hit all the sights and had lunch at the famous Leopold Cafe and ended the day at Juhu Beach, which has the most beautiful light reddish brown sand with no rocks at all (except for the cool, picking up kind), and the warmest water. It’s fairly garbagey there as well, but more on the upper beach, not right by the water. We weren’t sure of the water cleanliness, but we waded up to midscale and picked up some neat rocks. We have now put our feet in the Pacific, the Mediterranean, the Arabian Sea (aka Persian Gulf) and the Indian Ocean. We have a few more to go, but it’s a start.

We were very tired by the end of this long day and felt we had really gotten more than our money’s worth. Our guide was excellent and we will be writing a letter the hotel manager to commend his excellence.

Here are a few photos, including the painting. Unfortunately, these are all pics from my phone, as my camera doesn’t have bluetooth to transfer them. But they give you another wee taste of Mumbai.

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In other news totally unrelated to surrogacy…

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I know this is not related, but hubby and i did receive some news today that is rather exciting for us.

We live in an apartment building that we like for many reasons, like the people, the area, the cleanliness, the secure parking spot, the convenient transit routes, proximity to work, etc. The ONLY problem is that we are on the front of the building, which faces an extremely busy street and a really, really, really noisy bus stop which has busses stopping with air breaks almost all night. It is extremely noisy and polluted. It’s so noisy, that when we have our patio door open and we are on the phone, people often think we are downtown and ask if they should call us later, but we are really in our living room. Needless to say, the suite itself is not ideal.

So, our building mate has emailed to say that an equivalent suite has come available at the back of the building. It’s the same size roughly, but a different layout, has a glorious view, a larger balcony, and does not face the road, nor is it anywhere near the bus stop. Basically, it’s the best suite in the building, and we have been waiting two years for it.

It’s a wee bit more rent, but manageable, and we will be soooo much more happy on a daily basis. We are overjoyed at this news. We can keep our parking and all the other good stuff we are used to, but have a better place to live. Yay!

Sooooooooo…. We are almost sure (99%) we will be moving when we get home. Stressful, but so worth it.

FRRO Mumbai

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Today was our FRRO appointment, which was something we had been dreading. We had heard several stories and read other blogs about experiences in India’s FRRO offices, and had very low expectations for today’s visit.

First off, we tried to make appointments on the computer last night, because you have to fill in an online application form (each) and then at the end of the process it asks what date you want the appointment. For hubby’s, it told us we had passed our 14 days and asked if I would like to make an appointment with a penalty. How this was false, this was the only option. We selected today’s date and said yes, but it automatically said our appointment was in three days. So then when I went to book mine, I’ll requested the date the same as hubby’s and printed them both out. Upon looking at our print outs, we noticed that hubby’s appointment was for today and mine for Thursday. Jeez! Not surprising, but irritating.

Soooo…. Off we troddled today, in a taxi who knew where he was going as luck would have it, for the 45 – 60 minute ride through terrible traffic, to about the farthest south you can possibly go in Mumbai. The driver parked and we went in and had an almost totally painless experience at the FRRO. Most of the staff we fairly quiet and unhelpful (outwardly so) but when we asked they would tell us what to do. There were tons of people sitting around waiting, and we kinda thought maybe that’s what we should do, as someone had told us “wait and they will call you”. After awhile, we noticed that some people who had arrived after us were going in, so i asked (nicely) someone if we were just to wait, and they ushered us in.

The gentleman who worked us through the process was very lovely and efficient. After he processed hubby, he noticed that my appointment wasn’t for two days hence, and we played dumb and asked if there was possibly anything he could do, or would we have to go back again? He tried and failed a few things on his computer, tsking the whole time, and then said he would go talk to someone. He came back a few minutes later, and voila, he processed me. He even gave us two extra days extension, “just in case”. He was great!

The office was fine, they sold water and refreshments, you can get your papers, xerox copies, and photos there for a fee (we had all this). We didn’t check the washroom facilities, but people were going in and out and seemed fine.

We believe the key here, was that we were the best behaved. There was an obnoxious American guy who was demanding a receipt for his photo, which cost 100 INR ($1.75 CAD) and kept saying he needed it for his agent. Whatever. There was a group of scantily clad yoga and girls from Australia, who were totally disorganized and bitchy, then a bunch of other folks who just seemed very grumpy, and then us. We expected beurocracy and for it to take time, we were prepared, and we were pleasant. So easier to deal with. Our hotel manager had told us the previous day that if you act like a jerk there, they will just tell you to sit down and wait…. Like anywhere else I guess.

We went late, because we had to pick up a letter from our clinic and we had NO idea how bad the traffic was, so we arrived at 12:00, and they stop taking applications at 1:00. We were out of there by 2:00, stepping out into the worst monsoon of all so far, and lo and behold, our taxi driver had waited the two hours for us! He was great too; so much greatness!

Hint – if you are travelling from the top of Mumbai to the bottom or vice versa, and a taxi driver asks you if you want “ceiling”, “sailing”, “sealing” and you have no clue wtf he is talking about, what he means, is “do you want to take the SeaLink” bridge. The answer is yes. It is a toll bridge that costs 55 INR (96 cents CAD) and cuts a 45 min drive to 5 mins…. So just say yes. We had no clue about ceiling, sailing, sealing, and said no because we thought he was asking if we were going sailing, but on the way back he explained it to us… Lol.