India Phase 2A: The Upadhyaya Homecoming

Many people do not know that my father, Alok, was born and raised in a small village in the Uttar Pradesh region of India. His village, Haathia, is across the Tamsa River, on the outskirts of Azamgarh city.

From Agra, we travelled to Varanasi– one step closer to my family’s hometown. [Varanasi sits on the Ganges River and is known in India as the Holy city.]

As I began to feel better I started to further appreciate the smells, tastes, and feels of Northern India. The air quality in the rural areas was not better, but it was easier for me to handle. Dust and dirt levels were higher, while car exhaust and burning plastic fumes were lower.

Dad’s Hindi was truly put to the test when he was coordinating our travels to his home town. After many phone calls back and forth, he concluded that his two cousins were driving to Varanasi to pick us up at 7am. We questioned why they were leaving Azamgarh (which was about 4 hours away) so early, but Dad told us not to worry. After waking up early enough to get ready and pack up our bags, my dad told us that he had misunderstood. The cousins were planning on leaving Azamgarh at 7am. This meant they wouldn’t get to Varanasi until 11 (at the earliest).

Alok’s cousins, Praveen, (also known as Hinay), and Keso, (also known as Bara Bhai, Big Brother), arrived shortly after noon. We loaded up the two cars and started our adventure towards Azamgarh. The drive was crazy. Some roads were no wider than the car’s axle, which wouldn’t have been a problem if it were not for the sharp turns and oncoming cars, cows, and bicycles. We stopped for a (much needed) break with steaming roadside chai and pakori.

We arrived at the family’s house and were greeted by Parinda with burning incense and ghee. My father was reunited with his aunt, (who is like a second mother to him), after nearly 30 years.

We all huddled closely to the table, with the rest of the family standing around our chairs, and listened to Amma tell stories.

The youngest generation of women stayed in the kitchen in order to prepare us a delicious snack of Ghughri. Amma asked Alok if he liked the Ghughri. He responded yes and told Ama that he liked the potatoes– probably because he couldn’t remember the Hindi word for green pees. She then proceeded to pick out the potatoes from the extra cup and give them to Dad. The women insisted on washing our feet, which is a tremendous sign of respect in Indian culture.

The rest of the time with family was a blur of posing for photos and communicating through a thick language barrier. Everywhere I turned, there was a flashing camera– documenting this historical reunion and first-time meeting of family members from across the globe.

We went up to the roof during sunset and watched flickering kites backdropped by a killer sunset. Once the sun set we went to the local temple with my dad’s cousin, Urchena, and her daughter Priti.

After the temple we spent some time at the other Azamgarh house. Cousin Chinki did beautiful henna for Kayla, mom, and I. We returned to the first house and were served a delicious dinner prepared by the women. We were served along Amma, however the rest of the family just gathered and watched as we ate. They refused to eat while we were eating– they made sure our well being was prioritized.

India Phase 0: Getting There

We were relatively packed and prepared the night before departure day– considering it was closely following our crazy family’s Christmas festivities. Leading up to departure day, my dad and I carefully scheduled our morning routine in order to arrive at the airport at the optimal time. We calculated the time we needed to get ready, pack the car, pick up Lars, and get to Dulles Airport in time for our 8am flight. In order to decrease the amount of my morning “get ready minutes,” I drew on my eyebrows the night before– with the hopes that they would remain in tact. Kayla laid out her plane outfit which included both utility gauchos and a well stocked fanny pack.

Kayla's Plane Outfit

With a few final permitherin sprays, last minute packing and medication preparations, we turned off the lights for a quick few hours of shut eye before our early departure.

Our 3am alpine start began on a good note. My eyebrows were intact, we all had our passports, and we backed out of the driveway just 7 minutes later than intended (a difference that fell well within our timeline cushion.)

As we turned the corner into Lars’s neighborhood, the Battery Charge indicator light turned on.

*Side note: The last time this light came on in my mother’s van, the van broke down on the side of the highway and my dad and I had to perform a rainy night roadside rescue.

Lars loads his bags into the car and we make it to the end of the street before turning back to switch vans. We didn’t want to take the chance of breaking down on our way up to Washington DC. So we decided to take the “trusty red van” instead.

*Side note #2: The red van has 252,000 miles on it. Despite the occasional need to pop the hood and unplug some wires, and the constant illuminated check engine light, it’s deservingly been named the “trusty red van.” It’s zig-zagged the country, coated the coasts and it’s continued survival has defied all odds.

So imagine the 4 of us, scrambling to unload our suitcases from the blue van and repacking them into the red van, while Kayla is hacking into the bushes of Lars’s front yard. Why was she sick? We don’t know. And we didn’t really ask because our van-switch was more important at the time. We had been wondering which of us was going to get sick first on this India trip– Kayla won (or lost) and got sick before we even got to india.

The whole van-switch hubabaloo set us back another 16 minutes. Although Papa and I didn’t account for a van-switch in our timeline, we still arrived at the airport in plenty of time.


The rest of the 24 hour journey was a blur of surprisingly yummy airplane meals, comical first-time flight attendants navigating their first big trip, and sister-synchronized Supergirl episodes.

Plane Napping

The five of us arrived in Delhi with 4/6 of our bags, and 15 days of adventure ahead of us.

Stay tuned for Phases 1-4.



A Quick Trip to Nashville TN

Last week I headed to DIA to catch my flight to Nashville TN. It was a quick Thursday night to Monday morning trip in honor of Gideon’s Bar Mitzvah. Neither Uncle Marty nor I brought our camera’s this time, but we still managed to document the weekend with various iPhones and my GoPro.

After Gideon’s great Bar Mitzvah service, it was time to party… with 60 thirteen year olds and a wacky DJ, (basically my worst nightmare.) But it was actually pretty fun.

Everybody had a great time out on the dance floor, and it was nice having the whole family together at a time that wasn’t Christmas or Thanksgiving.

…Stay tuned for a video of Theo and the rest of the fam shredding in on the dance floor.

Home for the Holidays

After traveling 4,000 miles across the Atlantic, I made it to Washington DC. After driving 2 hours down to good ol’ Richmond Virginia I snuggled up in my much neglected bed and fell asleep. Due to my jet-lag, I woke up at 5am and went on a light morning run. I returned home only to hop back into the car and drive 700 miles down to Nashville Tennessee.

Our Christmas was a normal family Christmas, despite the fact we were celebrating it in Nashville.

I won’t bore you with any anecdotes, if you’d like to know more, just check out this movie I made.

My Christmas Presents were very exciting. I am now well equipped to survive an avalanche. I gifted a new down jacket to myself, because if it makes me warmer, it makes me happier. Lars and Stacey made the neatest gift that will really ‘spice up’ these bland dinners. I unwrapped a Buddha Board so that I can get my zen on. Grandma gave me a scarf I have yet to take off, and Auntie and Kayla provided me with some reading material so my brain doesn’t go to mush over here.

Collage of Assorted Gifts

After returning to Richmond I was fortunate to catch up with a bunch of my favorite people. Between Chipotle lunches, Panera breakfasts, New Years Eve parties, Pizza dinners, and apartment chillin’ I got to see the people I’ve missed so much. Of course, there were some people that I didn’t get to see, but they will be on the top of my ‘must-see’ list for when I return in May.


And now I’m back in Norway, with three bags that won’t be fully unpacked for days and lots of skiing on the schedule. Peace!