Monday, 2 December 2013

Travels in the US Part 2 - Austin with Grandkids

A short flight took us on to Austin, with a lot of turbulence on the way. There was a half hour delay while we waited for the US Vice President to leave Austin, with the whole airport shut to normal flights. Fortunately he was delayed and they opened up the airport so we did not have to wait longer. Manjeet was waiting for us at the airport, and with our hire car we followed him home down a maze of highways. About half way the storm caught up with us and the visibility was so bad that we had to stop on one side of the highway, until we could see where we were going.
If it was not for the VP, we would have been home before the storm.

See more photos from Austin - link at the end of this post

We were soon home and began to enjoy our stay with Manjeet, Almu and our two grandchildren Manjeet Jr. and Nicolas. They are both at ages which have their different charms and it was great fun to watch and engage in conversation, play and laugh with them. Manjeet is almost three and talking in both English and Spanish and learning French. What is more he would often say 'That is not how you say that' if you repeated a French word that he had learnt.
Jito at school
See more photos from Austin - link at the end of this post

It was also hard work, and we realised that we no longer had the stamina to either play or look after them for long periods, as we may have done in our younger days with our own kids. Fortunately for us, both spent long hours at the nursery school that they attend, which gave us time to recover and go do some shopping and enjoy the Austin area, which is indeed very beautiful. Among all the lakes and rivers there were also lots of nice eating places and we did a lot eating too (it shows).

Canal walk at San Antonio
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Midway through our stay my birthday came around, and Manjeet and Almu took us down to San Antonio and treated us to a stay at a really great hotel. San Antonio was wonderful. They have managed to construct a canal all around the centre of the city and one can walk along the canal at a lower level than the street without having to tackle traffic and road crossings. The walk is full of restraurants and cafes plus entrances to large shopping malls.
Dancers at the Day of the Dead celebrations
See more photos from Austin - link at the end of this post

While we were out on the canal we noticed a commotion at one point and followed the people who were making a way to what turned out to be a market where thousands of people of Mexican origin were celebrating the day of the dead! There was music, dance, food and a market with stalls and where people were having their faces painted. Plus there were lots of little alters displaying the 'Day of the Dead' kind of materials in pseudo installations to remember loved ones departed. Since we had not been to one of these before this was quite interesting for us.
Marisol and a Day of the Dead display
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There were also a few sights to see, which included some old Spanish missions and the Alamo which was not as spectacular as we expected but historically significant as the famous battleground between the Mexicans and the Texans. Just down the road was a museum which had a roaring dinosaur on display, with which the boys were fascinated, but terrified at the same time. It was really funny to see their reactions to this mechanised display and we could hardly tear them away from this display. At one point I gave a jolt to Manjeet while he was watching the dino with his mouth open, and he nearly jumped out of his pants! Reminds me of my own uncle 'MamaJi' used to do the same to me.
We all really enjoyed San Antonio.
The San Juan mission in San Antonio
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The weather was altogether lovely and throughout the stay in Austin we used summer clothes and dreaded having to come back to northern Spain, which by all accounts was awash with rain and getting cold. There are a few shopping malls and two large Outlet malls, and we spent a lot of time (and money) at these locations making sure we had obtained everything on our long shopping lists..

Towards the end we returned the compliment, by letting Manjeet and Almu go off for a quiet couple of days, while we looked after the boys. This was a tricky operation as we had to figure all the details of a complete day and night. This involved a myriad of tasks not forgetting the drive to and from the schools. Fortunately we had a GPS (or two!) and with shrewd programming we made sure we could do the school trips without getting lost.
But the experience was nothing short of lovely but exhausting, and we were relieved to see Manjeet and Almu return and take up their parenting once more!
See more photos from Austin - link at the end of this post

There was also the day that Manjeet's school teacher invited me to go and read a story to the kids and the the 'trick or treat' expedition for the kids on Haloween night which turned out to be a lot of fun. At the reading I was really impressed by the attention span of these little kids while I read from 'But No Elephants' to them. They listened for 10 or 15 minutes and asked lots of questions! At Haloween we carried pumpkin baskets and enthused the kids into walking upto every doorway in the neighbourhood, then reminded them to say the words. That evening at home too they showed great interest in waiting for passers to come up to them and ask them for goodies, and they remained glued to the porch outside the house for a long time.
The trick or treat expedition
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On other occasions I accompanied Manjeet to his Tuesday football game where his team the 'Lentejas de Tejas' roughly translated 'Lentils of Texas', played their first game of the season and won comfortably. We met some of Manjeet's colleagues, Spaniards fortunate to have nice jobs overseas, and another couple with whom we had dinner, and who could have formed a United Nations with Manjeet and Almu, as they were from Serbia and Iran.
Nico and Jito
See more photos from Austin - link at the end of this post

By the time two weeks were over the kids had got used to seeing us everyday and we had grown accustomed to their company. So when the time came to take our leave it was hard, but we were also looking forward to our next port of call... 
San Francisco!

More photos from Austin

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