Friday, June 6, 2014

Driving Trip to Florida

Driving Trip to Florida

Cherry Blossoms in Maryland.

 This past April, when Zina had a two-week vacation from her school, we decided to spend some of that time taking a trip to Florida. We left New York on April 12th,which was a Saturday, and headed to Maryland, where we would spend the first night at our friend Sumitra’s house. The next day, Sumitra, her husband Keshab and her 85-year-old Mother got into the car with us. Radhika’s Mitini (best friend), Pancha Maya, was also with us, making us seven in the car. Before continuing further south to Florida, we visited the cherry blossoms in bloom in Maryland, and then we crossed Washington DC. We had made an appointment to have tea with the President, of course, but to my disappointment he was not available, having other things apparently higher on his priority list than having tea with us.

That night, Sunday the 13th, we spent in a nice motel in Georgia. Everything along the road in Georgia was pretty to look at and the next day, leaving Georgia behind, we drove many hours until we reached Orlando. We decided to skip Disney World since everyone in the car was old except Zina, and she had already been there once anyway, six years ago. So we continued on to the home of Radhika’s cousin Sunny, who lives two or three hours from Orlando at 4743 NW 82nd Ave., Lauderhill, FL 33351. Sunny lives with her mother, her husband and their two little boys. They also have three dogs, in three varied sizes, the littlest one making all the noise. Sunny kept them in the bedroom, and her mother made a big dinner for us. We spent the night there, and then the next day we drove all the way down to Palm Beach.

At the entrance of Disney World, Orlando, FL. 

In Palm Beach we took a little sightseeing trip on a boat, with the captain very busy showing everyone the houses belonging to all the famous actresses and actors and basketball stars and Cuban singers. He pointed out one that had belonged to Elizabeth Taylor and another belonging to Jackie Chan, and we were told that those islands are strictly exclusive to the people who own those palaces, and to visit, one needs a special invitation from a resident. Some of the homes pay taxes of $10,000 a month, and one particular house had 80 palm trees imported from Africa planted around his yard, each one costing $10,000. People were living in heaven on earth in this place in these trophy houses, some of them for just one week a year while spending the rest of the time elsewhere, making movies or doing whatever else they do. Then we drove around looking at all the fabulous gardens and houses in this unimaginable paradise. Everything was green and lush on every road.  

We also took a noisy boat ride through the Everglades. It was full of birds and crocodiles and all kinds of plants and weeds. The boat held 15 or 20 people, and we went speeding through the swamp with the motor up above the roof. The blades couldn’t be beneath the boat because the giant weeds in the water would jam them in no time, and with the motor over our heads, the boat just glided over the water. When it stopped, crocodiles would come towards us trying to sniff us out, but then the boat would move again so as not to give the crock a chance to grab anybody, thankfully. They look very weird, the crocks did, with their always-wanting- something-to-eat expression—and given the chance it would definitely grab someone, and that person would be eaten. It was a package tour, and towards the end of the program they had a crocodile show in an enclosure. There were quite a few crocodiles in this place, where a young man and woman gave demonstrations. These were all crocks that had been captured from people’s back yards rather than the wild—crocks who had attacked pets, etc. They were stray crocodiles, we were told, picked up from the road and from yards. The man explained things about them while woman climbed onto the crocks and played with them. She could put her chin at the tip of the crock’s snout and terrible open mouth, fearlessly.  The crock was held inert under her weight. I took some pictures of that moment. It’s not something I would ever try myself without becoming an expert. The woman would also tempt the crock by putting her hand right near its mouth and then snatch it away just as the crock snapped at her. It was an extraordinary thing to see. 
Daredevil Demonstration with Crocodile. Everglades, Fl.

Back at Sunny’s house, we spent another night after a grocery shopping. Her mother, Radhika and Sumitra made dumplings for dinner, which was delicious. The next day we bid farewell to Sunny and her family and headed back North. We spent the night near Orlando.  From there, on April 18th, we drove many hours back Maryland, arriving at Sumitra and Keshab’s house at almost midnight, and spent the night there.

With Sunny’s family at her residence. Lauderhill, Fl. 
April 19th we drove back to New York, Zina, Radhika and myself. Before making the trip to Florida I had thought, Oh, boy this will be an adventure. And as they say, curiosity killed the cat and satisfaction brought it back. It’s a good place, Florida, overall. I would imagine it would be a nice place to live. But you do have floods and hurricanes to worry about. I would have liked to visit Key West, but it was a little too far. I think it would be interesting to go back there some time, to see where Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and Harold Stevenson all spent time. I would definitely visit Florida again, but as for living, I have to say that I’m happy where I am, in New York. And even through hurricane Sandy and a few blackouts, we’ve been very lucky that our house has never been affected.

On May 14th, I attended the submission of one million signatures to the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at United Nations, gathered as part of a campaign to declare Lumbini, Nepal the birthplace of the Buddha. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has already declared Lumbini, Nepal as his birthplace, but the signatures were intended to remind people that Buddha was born in Nepal and achieved his enlightenment in India, since some school textbooks have mistakenly printed India as his birthplace. As printed on the World Heritage web site:

“Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born in 623 B.C. in the famous gardens of Lumbini, which soon became a place of pilgrimage. Among the pilgrims was the Indian emperor Ashoka, who erected one of his commemorative pillars there. The site is now being developed as a Buddhist pilgrimage centre, where the archaeological remains associated with the birth of the Lord Buddha form a central feature.”

Few years earlier, a handful of people started a campaign to collect signatures to reinforce information about Buddha’s birthplace and further spread it around the globe, an effort spearheaded by Prem Guragain.

May 14th saw a very colorful group of people with Nepali flags and some wearing Nepali dress gathered with news media personnel in front of the United Nations on the occasion of the Buddha’s birthday. It was a full moon day. According to the legend, Buddha was born on a full moon day on 623 B.C. He also achieved enlightenment on a full moon day and died on a full moon day, which makes full moon day very sacred in Buddhism. 
The event was reported on in the Himalayan Times:
Nepalese people with Nepali flags in front of UN building on the occasion of Buddha Jayanti for the campaign to submit a million signatures to Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon. May 14th 2014. New York NY.
Indra Tamang

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