Flashback Friday – Udaipur, City of Lakes

Today, I really felt the need to post a Flashback Friday blog post given that I spent half my morning talking with a good friend about my trip to India 3 years ago. It was a roller-coaster ride for sure, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. The memories I made during that trip were unforgettable, engraved in my mind and my heart forever.

So here is a blog post I had written in December 2014 during my stay in Udaipur, India.

Udaipur, also called “the white city,” is quite a stunning place. We were lucky to have stayed at Hotel Pichola Haveli, which is directly next to the glorious Lake Pichola. Its two greatest features, aside its lakes, are the City Palace and the Jagdish Temple. We decided to skip the temple, and it ended up leading to a wonderful set of events nevertheless.

We started off our day early and headed to Sahelion Ki Bari, a beautiful garden built by Maharana Sangam Singh. I won’t go into the history details, but I will quote a bit from our tourist guidebook, Fodor’s Choice: “The garden is painted with exotic flowers and themed fountains that have carved pavilions and monolithic marble elephants. The fountains don’t have pump: designed to take advantage of gravity, they run on water pressure from the lakes.” For the minimal cost of 50 Rs each, we took a lovely morning stroll through this glorious garden. It felt like being in some cheesy romantic film, I swear.

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Directly afterwards, our driver brought us back into town. He dropped us at the entry for the City Palace, where we paid for our tickets (115 Rs per person, 200 Rs camera fee) before heading inside for a nice long visit. Honestly, as magnificent as this building was, eventually, you get tired of the “forts and temples” routine. Around halfway through the tour, we decided to high tail it to the exit and managed to by-pass two large groups; we felt much less rushed afterwards. This was surprisingly one of the busiest spots we’ve visited since the beginning of our trip.

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I should take the time to mention it now that one of the reasons I loved our experience in Udaipur was the size of the city. I actually felt comfortable walking around the streets, trying to make our way back to the hotel (if I haven’t already mentioned it, we’re actually horrible with directions). It was evidently a city and not just some small town, but it had a homey feel to it and it helped me get used to the hustle and bustle of India.

Walking through Udaipur’s streets is also what led us to having a great (but partially nerve-wracking) day. We began by having no fixed goal in mind, but were just checking out some shops along the way. We stopped into one music shop, which seemed pretty good, but not more so than any other shop we had seen so far. We kept going and saw a quaint little shop one street over from our hotel called Krishna Music. We figured we’d go in for a look, especially since Richard’s been looking into getting some prices on a decent-quality tabla. There, we met the shop owner named Krishna, whom we chatted with for 45 minutes about music and different cultures. He showed us his personal tabla, which he was willing to sell to Richard for 9000 Rs (about $167 CAD) with a case, covers, tuner, and all. He played for us and said he could also give Richard a lesson. He offered us some chai, which we instantly accepted, and also showed us some of the more traditional music he played in concerts on Indian drums.

After all this, Richard was convinced he had found the right tabla, so it was time to make the purchase. We didn’t have enough cash on us (duh) so we went back to the hotel, the two of them on Krishna’s motorcycle, me on foot. Here’s where things started to get scary…

When we headed back out to go and pay, Richard got on the motorcycle again and Krishna yelled out to me “You wait here,” pointing to the wharf next to our hotel. I assumed he meant to wait so that he could come back and pick me up, but the distance to the shop wasn’t even a 5 minute walk, so I shrugged it off and walked anyway. At the shop, I found the door locked and no shoes on the front step. Weird… I waited 5 minutes, saw no sign of anyone. I thought to myself maybe he had another shop where he had a payment machine and that’s where they had gone. So I walked back to the hotel and waited. I mean, if we got lost somehow, the hotel would be the best spot to reconnect, right? Unfortunately, I didn’t have the room key so I was stuck in the lobby, hoping not to be bothered by any passer-by. I waited for 40 minutes, sitting on that fancy little couch, trying not to let panic get the best of me. Richard was a grown man, he could handle himself. Not to mention, he is about twice the size of that Indian guy. I shouldn’t worry, I told myself. Get a grip, I’m sure everything is fine… So after that whole 40 minute argument with myself about what could have happened, I decided to try my luck by walking back to the shop.

Relief washed over me as soon as I saw Richard’s yellow and grey running shoes on the front step of that music shop. The door was still locked, so I knocked to ask what had happened. I know Richard must have seen the panic in my eyes, despite the fact that relief was flooding through my body from that point on. He apologized for the whole ordeal, even though it was really no one’s fault, and explained that Krishna had taken him to the ATM to get cash out to make the payment. OH. Doy. That makes so much sense. And right after, Krishna only had an hour or so of free time to offer the lesson so they had gotten right down to it, assuming I would come to the shop. Well, lesson learned: always communicate clearly with someone before splitting up!
When I think back upon that experience, I’m glad I didn’t actually let myself freak out, because I could have. But I needed to trust that he had made safe decisions that hadn’t led him into a bad situation, and that we could handle being on our own even though we didn’t have cell phones to communicate with each other every time we didn’t know where the other was. It reminds me of the good ol’ days, as they call them, where you couldn’t just text someone saying “I’m here,” when you arrived at someone’s house. You had to knock, sometimes numerous times and hoped they would hear you and answer the door. And if not, then you went back home, assuming they weren’t there. End of story.

Anyway, regardless of all that drama, we had a fantastic day, and it wasn’t even over yet. You couldn’t have asked for a better ending: riding off into the sunset on a boat ride with a view of Udaipur City. Just remarkable. Absolutely breathtaking.

So to finish up, here are our tips and tricks for spending some time here in Udaipur:

  • Don’t bother taking the City Palace boat rides offered at 600 Rs per person. You can take boat rides for as cheap as 250 Rs per person anywhere along the lakeside; score!
  • You can feel safe about walking the streets in this city, even as a woman on your own. Don’t get me wrong, most places are completely safe as well, but this town just has a homey feel to it and makes you comfortable about being there despite the fact that you are obviously a tourist. (Always be vigilant nevertheless.)
  • Take a break from sight-seeing if you’re tired of the fort-and-temple routine. You won’t enjoy your experience if you force yourself to do something you’re not that interest in. Make the most of your time by according time to what you prioritize.
  • Richard’s tip of the day: Say no to heroin if someone offers you some on the street.

That’s all for now. Thanks for taking the time to read about our adventures; we hope our intel has been interesting, at least, if not useful for some of you!

Namaste. xo

I applied for a new job today.

I don’t think I’ll actually get it, but I applied anyway. I applied for a number of different reasons, but the main one being that my boss told me I should.

OK, that sounds weird. Why would my current boss tell me to apply for a new job? Well, it’s pretty simple – I am a casual employee going nowhere fast and the only way I can move up in the company is by getting a job in the union. Ugh.

So now you’re probably curious as to what job I applied for. Well, I won’t ruin the surprise, but I can tell you that I’m actually somewhat qualified, and it’s an internal job posting so it’s not open to non-company employees.

I definitely thought long and hard before applying to this job, even though I am well aware that applying for a job doesn’t mean accepting a job. The first thing that came to mind was, “Why would I want to leave a job I love?” And as hard as that is to do, I know that I can’t stay here forever. I need to acquire new skills and new experience somewhere else, so that I can hopefully someday come back and get a permanent job doing something I love even more.

Who knows if that will actually end up being at the zoo, but I kind of have my fingers crossed. I love everything about where I work right now. I love where it’s located, I love the people I work with, and I love my non-human workers just as much! I love the routine, and I love the spontaneity of everyday problems. I love my office and all of tasks. And I am super fine with admitting that I love being surrounded by toys and stuffed animals every single day. Oh, and organizing. Duh.

But deep down, I know that all of that is not enough. All of that won’t bring me anywhere, because this job is at a standstill. It’s a casual position, 9.5 months of the year, 3 of which are not full time. No benefits, no sick days, no vacation. And of course, no weekends off, and no overtime pay. Basically, it whomps.

It sucks to think about leaving – which is not necessarily the case – but I know it’s the right time to be doing it.

So today, I filled out a huge form – half of which I did not even understand – and I sent off my cover letter and resume to apply for a new job. I have no idea if I’ll even get a call for an interview, but I did it anyway. I took a shot. And I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.

My First Time

It happened! I actually stepped foot into a Tiny House today!!

Don’t get too excited, we haven’t even started building our Tiny House yet – but what a wonderful experience it was to actually go and visit one.

When I first stepped foot into the first Tiny House we were visiting at Kent Homes in Bouctouche, NB, I knew it was meant to be. A feeling I can’t quite describe washed over me. It was a mixture of joy and belonging, and knowing that I was right where I was meant to be in life. This is my future. I am a Tiny Houser.

I first spoke with Laura Maillet, designer and employee at Kent Homes in Bouctouche, about a week ago. It did not take long for us to set up a meeting time, as I had explained to her that I was interested in getting as much information as possible about Tiny Houses and their place here in Eastern Canada, more specifically in New Brunswick.

Laura was such a pleasure to talk with. We met up with her this morning at 10AM and we hardly stopped talking during the whole 2 hours we spent there.

As soon as we arrived, she greeted us and we went straight to visit the first of their two finished designs. The one we were about to enter was called The Haven, and it’s name was right on par – safe, comfortable, cozy, home. The inside was all wood, giving it a very traditional cottage feel, which is a big appeal for customers in Maritimes and surrounding areas.

The Haven had one large loft for a queen or king sized bed, and a smaller loft which can either be used for storage or as a small second sleeping area. Below that small loft is a custom built couch, which could also double as a spare bed if a customer wanted. Walking a little further into the house is a seating area across from a large screen TV mounted on the wall, and then the kitchen area – personal favourite! On one side, the fridge and the (steep) steps to the main loft. On the other side, some counter space, a four burner propane stove-top/oven, a sink, and lots of storage space! Gotta love that storage space. The house is also equipped with a washer-dryer combo (apparently not very efficient, as I’ve read in many reviews – at least not in Canada) and a nice washroom with a flushable toilet (could also be a compostable toilet), a small sink, and a nice shower.

One thing that stood out to me immediately was the amount of natural light coming into this Tiny House. Laura explained that the average 2-3 bedroom house will have 7 to 9 windows, whereas this particular house has 18, including the skylights. Every space in the home feels light and open, despite the size of the entire building being under 200 square feet. I was happily surprised, I did not feel closed in at all. It was even cozier than I had imagined, if you can believe it!

The more time I spent inside the small little house, the more it became clear that I really was taking a step in the right direction, that this was exactly where I was meant to be. And thinking of that made me wonder about Laura’s journey, and what it is that brought her to thinking about Tiny Houses, let alone designing them.

Laura’s daughter was apparently an environmentalist, very conscious of her ecological footprint, and began sharing information and pictures she would find online about Tiny Houses when they first came out in the early 1990s. Laura was intrigued. She had always been interested in small space designs and fell in love with Tumbleweed’s first series, which consisted of cottages. Since that time, she had always photos or images pinned up around her desk, and one day, a new VP walked into her office and noticed them. Given their growing popularity in the past few years, he suggested, “Why don’t we build one?” And thus the project was born.

Laura and two other employees from Kent Homes actually got the chance to attend a Tumbleweed Building Seminar in Boston – something I’ve long been debating! She let us know how informative the weekend was, and that they had even approached them to partnering up to do this project, but unfortunately, they weren’t ready to commit so Kent Homes decided to do the project independently.

Given their connection with Tumbleweed, they were their first choice for purchasing a trailer to start building their first demo Tiny House – The Haven. Unfortunately, Kent Homes had the displeasure of learning that trailers certified in the Unites States do not meet the Canadian standards. Therefore, their display model will probably remain a demo and never be sold, as it is not road-worthy in Canada.

The bright side: they found a hidden gem nearby. A company named Linkletter’s Welding Ltd (LWL), located in Central Bedeque, PEI, was willing to not only build them custom-made trailers (lowered floor between the wheel-wells), but also to certify the trailer and house as a whole. You read that correctly – they will certify both the trailer, and the plans for the tiny house. Because of this, Kent Homes is limited to only selling the plans that have been approved and certified, so there is not always room for customization. But if you check out their options online, you can see they are pretty much all great choices.

Once they had trailers on hand, they were ready to get down to business – starting the actual build of their first Tiny House.

Laura informed us that approximately 425 hours of work were put into building The Haven – keeping in mind that numerous departments had to play a part in the design and construction of the building, and this was in fact a demo home. She said after ironing out all the kinks, they were able to build a second model (their first sale!) in about 4-5 weeks, working on it full time. But she emphasized about taking the time that is needed to get everything done right, to figure out the best approach for individual project – and sometimes that means standing around for hours trying to figure stuff out.

One very interesting idea that Laura mentioned they had tried out was doing a taping exercise. Basically, they taped off the realistic proportions of the house walls, appliances, furniture, etc., to see how it felt to walk around in it, to make sure it’s comfortable to walk around everywhere and not feel confined in a small space.

“A house doesn’t have to be big, it has to be functional.”