A day in Papiliorama

On a cold, depressing morning, Mike decided to take us to PapilioramaLocated in Kerzers, in the Canton of Fribourg, the French part of Switzerland, Papiliorama is a Botanical Garden with exotic butterflies, birds,  insects and nocturnal animals. More than 60 species of butterflies from all over the tropics can be found in this garden.

Here, visitors can observe the complete life cycle of Butterlies from egg to a vibrant adult, and the stages of caterpillar and pupae in between.

 

One of the highlights of Papiliorama is the Jungle Trek. Papiliorama has reconstructed an exact copy of a jungle in Belize. Once you enter this area, you feel like you are walking through a Central American Forest (I haven’t been there yet, but watch the movie “Rio”, and you will know what I am saying). You can spot birds like Toucans and  roseate spoonbills spreading their wings alongside fascinating reptiles like the Iguana.

The plants, the humidity and the temperature is set to help the wildlife survive in this frigid country.

Another interesting feature of this place is The Nocturama, in which an artificial moonlight is created for the nocturnal animals like night monkeys, bats, tree porcupines. Visitors are allowed to wander freely here, while bats fly right at them… Don’t worry, they are harmless!!

 My 2.5 month old was quite mesmerized with this place and so was I. I carried him around in the baby carrier I use, so that even he could enjoy the sights and sounds. Papiliorama is a family-friendly place with a restaurant serving simple yet delicious meals. Entrance fee costs CHF 18 for adults and CHF 9 for children between 4-15 years of age. I highly recommend visiting this zoo (with or without kids).

-Madhurya

 

Trip to Japan Part 2

This is a guest post by my brother-in-law, Mike, about his recent trip to Japan. You can read Part 1 here. Thanks for taking the time to record your experience for us Bro!

The Sales Manager of our subsidiary in Japan picked me up in Tokyo and brought me to Osaka, the second largest metropolitan area in Japan and among the largest in the world, with nearly 19 million inhabitants (according to Wikipedia). We checked into Hotel Osaka Garden Palace, freshened up and left our rooms to meet the client, who was already waiting to get the Job done.

The maintenance manager there is over 70 years old and is still in good shape. He works as a consultant and isn’t planning to retire anytime soon. He reminded me of my grandfather-in-law in Mangalore, whom we fondly call “Nana”. Without any further discussion, we directly went to the workshop to begin our work. It took about 2 and a half hours for me to fix the compressor.

The Customer was very happy!

As a symbol of apology for the inconvenience caused to the client, I handed over 2 big bars of Toblerone! Apparently, they are very fond of Swiss chocolates. Once the job was completed, our sales manager insisted on taking a group picture. It is a general practice here in Japan to take a picture with all the members involved after completion of a work.

11_at clients workshop

To celebrate, we went to a restaurant called Japanese BBQ. It is also a common practice in Japan to get to know someone personally before doing business; You have to go out, eat and drink beer and Sake (Japanese rice wine made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran) together. I drank some beer and sake and tried Sushi and Sashimi, which are special Japanese delicacies.

20_Dessert

With a respectful bow and a hand-shake we returned to our hotel after dinner.

The next morning (Wednesday) we headed back to Tokyo by train to visit the office of our subsidiary. In the evening we boarded another train to Yokohama, where our service center is located.

Yokohama is in the outskirts of Tokyo. Most people who work in Tokyo live in Yokohama as living costs are cheaper in Yokohama but the salaries are higher in Tokyo. I checked into the Royal Palace hotel, which had a beautiful view of the city. Yokohama reminded me of Winterthur; Small but busy.

The next morning on Thursday, we took a train back to Tokyo. After finishing my work, I decided to leave from the downtown area at 7 pm and take a bus to the Toyo Narita Airport. After the formalities, I relaxed a bit at the Emirates lounge, which was pretty big, and reflected on the past week with satisfaction. I’d accomplished what I set out to do and and had experienced another culture and cuisine along the way. It felt good, but I was anxious to be back with my wife!

 

Hawaii

“Aloha!” is the most common word of greeting or farewell in Hawaii. The Insight guide describes it as a composite of 2 words- “Alo” meaning “to face” and “ha” meaning “the breath of life”. To me, a vacation in Hawaii, nicknamed “the Aloha State”, felt akin to facing the breath of life!

After a long, sleepless and tiring 8 hour journey from Phoenix, we reached the Big Island. But once we set foot onto the tarmac of an airport too tiny to be called “International”, we were overjoyed to see it dotted with coconut trees and buildings with tiled roofs that were reminiscent of South India. We felt like we were home!

Kona, or the Big Island, stretches for about 60 miles from Kona International Airport to beyond Kealakekua Bay(1). It is one of the 8 main islands of Hawaii, which is the 50th state of the US. But it was so easy to forget we were still on American soil. “Aloha!”, names like “Kealakekkua Bay” and, simply, the whole environment felt so unlike the mainland that I kept expecting to come across a different currency or language.

If we were overjoyed to spot coconut trees and tiled roofs, we were thrilled to have a beautiful balcony with a spectacular view of the ocean from our room at the Royal Kona Resort. Sleeping to the sound of waves splashing against boulders felt like lullaby to our ears at the end of a day’s exploration and adventure.

View from our balcony.
View from our balcony.

For about 5 days we explored the length and breadth of Kona starting with Kailua Kona where we explored the sunny beach, the cool interior of Mokuaikaua Church, the exterior of Hulihee Palace (which had been turned into a museum whose tranquility We didn’t wish to disturb by taking a couple of feisty kids inside) and its tiny shops selling accessories resembling exotic Hawaiian flowers like Plumeria, and other knickknacks.

Royal Kona Resort.
Royal Kona Resort.
Mokuaikaua Church
Mokuaikaua Church
Musicians performing in front of the Hulihee Palace.
Musicians performing in front of the Hulihee Palace.

Kealakekkua Bay was one place that we visited almost everyday at different times to catch a glimpse of Dolphins sleeping after a night of foraging. But we never spotted one. A localite we spoke with said they were out greeting the whales that were arriving just then from Alaska. Makes one good story, doesn’t it? But that didn’t deter us. We loved its postcard-like views of the mountains and the ocean and went there whenever we had time. Sometimes we took our lunch there so we could have picnic by the ocean. Medha just loved the idea of eating outside where she didn’t have to follow table manners!

Kealakekkua Bay
Kealakekkua Bay
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Lunch by the sea.
Lunch by the sea.

“Kapu” refers to the ancient Hawaiian code of conduct of laws and regulations. Kapus were strictly enforced. Breaking one, even unintentionally, often meant immediate death(2). A kapu-breaker’s only chance for survival was to evade his pursuers and make it to a puuhonua, or a sacred place of refuge. Once there, a ceremony of absolution would take place and the law-breaker would be able to return to society(3). Puuhonua o Honaunau National park preserves one such sacred site. Before we got there I had assumed the place must have been full of sinners but I was wrong. It had a “Great Wall” that secured the Royal grounds where “Ali’l” or Chiefs lived,. There, we saw the royal canoe landing; the Keoua Stone, the favorite resting place of the high chief of Kona; as well as halau (thatched work house), fishponds and a heiau (sacred temple)(4) with beautiful wooden statues carved out of coconut tree trunks. A breath-taking view of the ocean pulled us to the Two-step beach close to the park.

Halau or thatched work house.
Halau or thatched work house.
The Great Wall.
The Great Wall.
Heiau or the sacred temple.
Heiau or the sacred temple.
Wooden statues carved out of coconut trees.
Wooden statues carved out of coconut trees.

“It was like an aquarium out there!”, Prasad exclaimed after a bout of snorkeling in the ocean. His exploration took him through jungles of coral reefs inhabited by colorful fish. One experience couldn’t satisfy his thirst for the sea and adventure; he wanted to don his snorkeling gear and go swimming every chance he got. He had found his passion and he wanted me to partake in his pleasure; but being unable to swim and having to look after the kids, I resisted the idea. “If only I could rent an underwater camera!”, he wondered
, wanting so badly to capture that world for me….. (continued in my next post)

(1)gohawaii.com
(2)wikipedia
(3)gohawaii.com
(4)gohawaii.com

Mexico (part 2)

(Continued from part 1)

My Visa interview that lasted less than 10 minutes took forever to happen. The guards at the gate did not permit my phone or my handbag, so I carried in a few dollars, a stack of documents and Medha as I entered the premises of the US Consulate. As time dragged on and my little girl started feeling hungry, I tried desperately to force a $20 bill through the vending machine. It accepted only pesos. Watching me struggle with that unyielding machine, a kind Mexican worker dug through her pocket and handed me a few pesos to buy a pack of crackers. God bless her, that kept Medha going for the 4 hours we killed waiting for our turn.

Finally the visa was approved. We decided to give the consulate some time to process my new visa before walking towards the DHL courier service a few blocks down, hoping to collect my passport. I was asked for a waybill number about which I had no clue. But I nudged the front desk operator to look for my package. She obliged and came out empty-handed. On an average, she told me, reluctantly, it takes about 6 days for the Visa processing. She asked me to check in after a couple of days. We were planning to be out of Mexico that day; so the news came as a shock. To avoid slipping into depression we decided to make the best use of the time dealt to us.

Up and down the streets we strolled, once again, watching kids display their skill at leaping off the wall of an old building; biting kernels off corn roasted by a street-side vendor; and simply comparing and contrasting the populace of the 2 neighboring countries. As long as Prasad was by my side I felt like a junior ranger excitedly exploring a new terrain. The moment he was compelled to head back home on an urgent business I began my descent into an area I hate to be – the feeling of helplessness and despair.

To avoid trouble I decided to remain bound to my room. With no human contact other than a kid who was running out of ideas and toys to play with, everything began to look sinister. Where once I saw families and couples buzzing about the streets, I began seeing notorious-looking men. The friendly porter who had always seen me with my husband began looking suspicious after he enquired where my husband was. Even a slight knock on the adjacent door left my heart racing. Every few minutes I refreshed my web account with the US consulate to check the status of my passport. It remained unchanged: “There is no information on your DHL waybill number”.

The prospect of getting ready and going down for breakfast exhausted me as I sat moping. Medha scattered bits and pieces of play-doh all across the carpet and broke into a song to entertain me every time my tears threatened to erupt. That provided some respite from gloom.

I had to do something before my fear of unknown could drive me insane. I shut my laptop, freshened up and went down with Medha who was super-excited to be out. My decision to brave up was already having a positive effect on me. After eating something to keep starvation at bay I decided to head to the mall. We spent a couple of hours at the play area and took the train ride up and down the mall. Feeling refreshed, I decided to take a cab back to the hotel. With considerably better English than most Nogalans I had met, the driver asked me where I was from and what I was in Nogales for. We talked about the train of vehicles waiting to enter the US near the border. As he dropped us he took less-than-the-agreed-upon fare and blessed my Chiquita (pretty little girl).

I returned to my room to a call from my husband congratulating me on the arrival of my passport. I could believe neither my ears nor my tears that were gushing down even though what I heard had a happy note to it. When I checked my account there was the waybill number I’d been waiting for. We rushed out, took a cab to the DHL and returned with my passport, beaming. I hurriedly packed my bags and checked out of the hotel. With Medha in tow I walked up towards the border where my identification was verified and my entry approved. I could finally go back home!

The first thing I did was to march up a steep ascent towards a Burger King where I ordered a meal of Veggie Burger with Fries. As I sat sharing a big bowl of Chocolate Brownie Sundae with my daughter I looked out of the window at the tallest building across the steel border- The Hotel Fray Marcos. Someday I would go there again, that is, when I cease looking back at my time in Nogales with fear.

Explore. Dream. Discover

Here’s something I try to remind myself often, not just before a trip, even as I live my everyday life –

“Any trip can be fraught with disappointment: Expectations are always high and anything can go wrong. Here are a few suggestions for both the first-time and inveterate travelers: More important than packing a bag full of money, pack a bag full of patience and curiosity, allow yourself- encourage yourself- to be side-tracked and to get lost. There’s no such thing as a bad trip, just good travel stories to tell back home. Always travel with a smile and remember that you are the one with the strange customs visiting someone else’s country. Relying on the kindness of strangers isn’t naive- there are good people wherever you go. And finally the more time you spend coming to understand the ways of others, the more you’ll understand yourself. The journey abroad reflects the one within- the most foreign and unmapped landscape of them all, the ultimate terra incognita.”

– Patricia Schultz, ” 1000 places to see before you die”