In January I went again to India. Again, it was an exciting and uplifting experience. My beloved Mrinalini, now in her mid nineties, is still as inspirational and bright as ever. What a privilege to feel part of that amazing family.
The last week in May and the first 2 weeks in June I went on the trip of a lifetime. Through an excellent charity called PLAN I have, for many years, sponsored a child in Ecuador. We write to each other, and when he wrote he would like to meet me and for me to see his beautiful country, I thought "Why not!" I am now 86, and want to see what I can while I can! I took Yasmin and Dave, and off we went one early morning in May. Our flight was cancelled and we had to spend a night in Madrid and lose the first day of our trip, but after that it was absolutely wonderful.
We flew to Quito, the capital, very high but we were lucky not to suffer from altitude sickness, and from there we went on a lovely day trip to the North, including a visit to a Rose Farm, where they pick between 7000 and 12000 roses A DAY, and ship them all over the world. Also a colourful market, full of beautiful handcrafted goods made by the indigenous people. We flew to a town further South called Cuenca, including a visit to a Panama Hat factory, an orchid farm, a weaving house and a village that specialises in filligree silver.
Everywhere we had our own car and guide, and we were driven through a National Park over a very high mountain (we did have brief attack of altitude sickness at the top!) to a Cacao plantation. I had no idea that chocolate came from a huge nut, which was cut open with a machete and inside were the little beans which they dry out and send to a chocolate factory. To a large city called Guayaquil, and onto the coast. Including a trip on a boat to see Mangrove Groves and masses of exotic birds.
We drove up the coast, seeing many things of interest on the way, including a Hippy Village, to the port of Manta. From there the charity looked after us for the day and took us to visit my child, Jose Ignacio. Which was a once in a lifetime experience. First we went to his school, where I was welcomed like the Queen! Many of the children are sponsored, but I was the first one to visit them. I had in interpreter by my side for the whole day, and the remarkable headmistress made a speech of welcome, and telling how much the charity had done for the school---putting roofs on the classrooms, buying them desks and chairs and, most proud of all, building indoor toilets. My little boy of 10, very shy and serious, kept hugging me. The school put on a special performance for me of singing, dancing and reciting, and my Jose Ignacio invited me to join him, so I danced with him and the children. And later on, with the teachers and parents. Then they took us on a tour of the school, and, there in the middle of nowhere, there is even a computer room.
From there we went to Jose Ignacio's home. He is on only child, but his cousins, aunts and all his family were there to greet us, and his mother cooked us a delicious lunch. I discovered, just before leaving England, that you can translate into any language on the computer, so I had prepared a little speech to them in Spanish. And gave them all gifts. It was a magical day which will stay with me for the rest of my life.
After that, we flew to the Galapagos Islands and had a 5 day cruise, seeing animals, birds and fish that can only be seen there. Thrilling. Our favourite was the Blue Footed Booby, something like a duck but with blue feet, and when the male wants to attract a mate, he dances! Lifting one blue foot, then another blue foot! And when his mate joins him, she dances too! Ecuador is on the equator, and one evening we were taken onto the top deck of the boat at night, and shown stars from both the Southern and Northern Hemisphere. Back in Guayaquil we were shown around that fine city, and flew home in a daze of excitement.
Click here to see a video of my visit to Jose Ignacio
My third trip of the year was in September/October to Turkey and Israel. For my nephew Shimson's 60th birthday, what he most wanted was for his nearest and dearest to gather at a place he loves on the Turkish coast. So he,his partner Miri, his 2 children aged 23 and 18, his brother Meir and I all met at a little place called Mazi, a 45 minute drive from Bodrum on the Aegean Sea. It was glorious. We stayed in a small pension, my room opened up onto the patio with all the dining tables, shaded by palm and olive trees. Down 4 steps you are in the clear, silky, heavenly sea, at the head of a bay and surrounded by mountains. No television or phones, nothing to do but eat, sleep, talk, read and swim. I was so glad to be with the closest members of my family...much laughter and a special party for Shimshon. The only other excitement was when we were taken out on a boat for the day to explore nearby coves and beaches. We watched the fisherman coming onto our jetty every morning, and ate his fish every evening. What a happy time. I stayed there 10 days, then flew to Israel.
There I was kept busy seeing my step-daughter, my 10 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. They could not give me more love and honour if I were their real grandmother. And saw my many precious friends---I think I ate in a different restaurant every day.
I am home now, and grateful for every day of good health and happiness. I have lost more dear and important friends this year, and I miss them, but keep myself busy. Only work was some commercials for Kentucky Fried Chicken!!!
Now on to Israel and the children