Friday, December 26, 2008

The Post I Would Have Posted


S in the days leading up to Christmas

Our India Christmas was delightful.
Turns out that in the Phil and Kathryn Blackburn house Christmas is about food, specifically baking. Seeing as the only thing we'd baked before Christmas Eve's eve in our thermometer-less wonder of an oven (see previous post for a photo of the little darling) was a small pan of brownies, and we'd been shocked in the process (Yeah, no joke, the oven will on occasion send out a little shock), we went down right crazy and started buying all the fixings for a real Christmas dinner. That meant Phil taking his computer on the road Christmas Eve and traveling 50km outside of Delhi to buy a turkey from a Frenchman that runs a farm here (in our typical fashion we were a little late on the turkey decision, and Phil's phone call missed the turkey delivery wagon by 3 hours). We had some set backs. We'd planned to start the thing at 1:30, at 1:15 the electricity went out. They were installing a light post in the park across the street. Apparently the whole world doesn't stop on Christmas. It was better to have an explanation than not. An hour and a half later the electricity came back on. And we were in business.

Turkey, potatoes & gravy, rolls (a little dense, turns out even though it's not the color I'm accustomed to, it IS whole wheat), fresh green salad. Home made apple pie, and some cookies to deliver to friends. Way to go Sunflame Exotica DX!


Our $20 paper tree, not as bad as I'd expected

This year's big item

While we missed everyone, and especially missed being there for Phil's sister Bonnie's homecoming, we enjoyed our little Christmas. It was nice to have the whole thing toned down a bit. Christmas is a national holiday here, but not actually observed by many. There were cheap decorations available to buy in all the markets, but you had to seek them out. The nicer stores catering to westerners had Christmas decorations, but it was all a lot more laid back. It was nice to be able to choose exactly which holiday traditions we wanted to participate in, and focus on our religious worship. Maybe it was partly because I had enough else going on, but Christmas caused much less stress for me than it has in the last couple of years. Merry Christmas.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Um...

S had a friend over to play. When his mom walked in with him, she said, he's been coughing a lot. I blink a few times. As she's walking out the door, she turns to her kid and says, "If you're going to vomit, tell Kathryn." And then she's gone.

The play date was uneventful, but I was left wondering why I can't be a bit more aggressive without preparation?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Baby N Cried


Santa at the ward Christmas party

My House is no Vacation Destination

So, we moved into our apartment at the beginning of the month... well, we got the keys to our apartment at the beginning of the month. Since then it's been a dusty, dirty, argument filled two weeks. The kind of two weeks that had my mother-in-law writing "it's okay to just give up and come home" emails, and S telling his class about how his house is so dirty that he has special inside shoes to wear.


After the first week my maid got typhoid. Great. So, before you go getting all sorry for her, check out my washing machine (yes, I know this is the third washing machine to make a blogburn appearance):








That my dears, is a semi auto. I didn't know they existed, which I why I mistook the spinner basket for some sort of dryer when we looked at the apartment. No, not a dryer. After you turn on the faucet, fill the tub (on the bottom in the photo), let the machine do it's magic, return, & drain the washer, you move your clothes to the spinner basket and set the spin timer. This removes (I guess) the soap. Then you move the clothes back to the tub, rinse (by filling and draining), you move the clothes back to the spinner and spin again. Then you hang them out to dry.
So yeah, don't be waiting for the Christmas card this year, by the time all the clothes are clean, it might be Valentines.

Here's a few more pictures of our place:


Our newly refurbished kitchen, somehow I don't think everyone had the same vision...

The woodwork that tricked me into agreeing to this place...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Udaipur

Phil managed to get a day and a half off for Thanksgiving, so we figured we'd best be seeing some of this country we're calling home for a bit. We decided to start with Udaipur. The guidebook says it's the most romantic city in India. Romance sounded good. We packed up the boys, took the overnight train... yeah... okay, so no romance.

High and low points:
- Waking up on the train and finding our Ziploc bag/trash bag (filled with carrot peels, dirty diapers, food dropped by N on the train floor), which we'd stashed under the seat the night before, with a hole chewed in the side and it's carrot peel guts strewn about a bit. Rats?
- Walking down the street and being offered elephant rides.
- A peaceful, quiet B&B, 15 minutes from town, where the dirt didn't seem so dirty and we could see blue sky, stars even.
- A boat ride around the lake at sunset (for a few moments, it did almost feel romantic).
- N lost his last pacifier. S responds, "Oh man, now we'll have to figure out what he wants."
- Eating lunch in a decent German bakery with an inescapable view of the cows and dogs foraging on garbage across the street. And we weren't in the wrong part of town, it's just town.
- A very turbulent plane ride back to Delhi. In order: N threw up. Mom threw up. S threw up.


A few pictures:


The view from the balcony off our room.

Anyone for an elephant ride?

You see these irons all over. They put coals in them (as you can see her doing in the background) to heat them up.

We went on a little "hike" near our hotel. She was washing in the lake and drying out the sheets.





Some women who stopped to talk to the boys.
Appetite killing view from the bakery.




Thanksgiving

I feel strange posting about our weekend without mentioning Mumbai, but I don't have any information that the rest of you don't, nor any insight or understanding. I am saddened and sobered.
As Thanksgiving passed, I was extra thankful for my little family and our safety. Another thing to add to the amazing number of things that I have to be grateful for. Another basic that I take for granted every day. I've been realizing how many of those there are recently.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ever the Tourist

Everyone keeps asking for pictures. I'm sure what they are looking for is proof of the craziness. I have had trouble getting those kinds of pictures. I can't bring myself to take pictures of women waiting in line to fill their water containers from the water tanker trucks that bring water to the squatter camps. Nor can I snap a shot of women carrying piles of bricks or twigs on their heads. And as for unbelievable loads piled precariously on rickshaws, or trucks overloaded with goods and people, I'm just not fast enough. You see it, you marvel, you think where's my camera, and they're gone. So, my post contains the typical tourist stuff... sorry, sort of.

This weekend, we climbed the tower at Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque, in Old Delhi.

From there, you can get a good look at traffic.
Sometimes our electricity goes out... This was taken in Old Delhi this weekend.

Doors in Old Delhi
Humayun's Tomb
Some repair work being done at Humayun's Tomb.

Natives

Today S had a little Thanksgiving party at school. The highlight was the cornbread... which had an oddly greenish tint to it. Anyway, I digress. On the way home he was very specific and clear when speaking about the "Native Americans." I guess his teachers here would be too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Not a Good Sign

Today the cleaning guy/houseboy was sure to show me where the space heaters are, you know, since now we're only getting to the high 70's during the day & mid 50's at night. Then he put on his parka and left.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Bikes and the Bees

If we get to school a few minutes early the boys get to ride the tricycles. They have these great two seater ones, so N can ride along behind S. I think it's the highlight of his day.



Yesterday evening after we got home from school, I noticed that there were a number of bees outside my back window (the one by the not-so-ingenious washing machine). Then I opened the door and saw:

This clump of bees (would it be a hive?) is probably close to three feet long. They are clinging to a support beam that runs over our balcony, though the main clump is probably five feet away. They all moved in yesterday. Nice. So, to the atmospheric brown cloud out my window, add the bees.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Price is Wrong


I suck at The Price is Right - India.

Honey Nut Cheerios: 375 Rupees
Pineapple: 31 Rupees
Little pack of cookies: 15 Rupees
Half kilo of coriander: 72 Rupees
Mac 'n' Cheese: 152 Rupees
Exchange rate: about 49 Rupees to the Dollar

There aren't very many grocery stores here. There are tons of little shops. Someone will deliver anything you want right to your door. You just have to figure out who to call... and what the appropriate price should be, and negotiate with them... in Hindi. The result? When I'm shopping in the closest four aisle grocery store, where one whole isle is spices, and N is pulling things off shelves on both sides as we go (yes both sides at the same time, which he can reach from the cart) and I see mac 'n' cheese (=something my kids will eat) I buy it, and I look at the price later.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What Kind of Surprise?


With all the crazy things I've seen here, I'm not sure why this one gets the blog space, but for some reason every time I drive by this sign it make me chuckle.

House Hunters International

Well I can now tell you why you've never seen a House Hunters International - New Delhi. We've been looking for apartments for the last week, with little success. Housing is surprisingly expensive, meaning we're looking at paying Park Cities rents for west of Inwood housing (far west of Inwood). I went out with a realtor yesterday who would not let me get a word in, he wasn't at all interested in what I had to say. The first apartment he showed me was unfurnished (um the listing I contacted you about was furnished??). Then at one point he told me to "listen carefully." Hmm... Cultural difference? Maybe my first experience with the whole women don't really count attitude I've heard much about? Maybe just a bad realtor?

Not so ingenious


So this is my not so ingenious washing machine. It drains right out the bottom and is supposed to run down a drain on the floor, but first it pools. So far is has never come over the little lip of the door frame and into the kitchen, but really what are the chances? Then to pull your clothes out you have to slide across the wet cement. Of course N is very attracted to the whole contraption.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Good Surprises


Since they were taking pictures of my kids, I figured I could take their picture (I did ask first)

India Gate

Today while S was at school, N and I went to Lodi Gardens. Beautiful. My first public space experience that I would call beautiful since being here.

Surprise

I've been so slow to post because it really has been an overwhelming change. I don't have any idea where to start or how to convey all my thoughts and emotions, many of which are conflicting. I think I've really frightened my mom and my mother in law when I've spoken by phone with them, so I was trying to wait until I was pretty sure I could post without frightening all of my friends too.

I guess I'll start with a few of the surprises, some of which I probably should have been aware of, but wasn't. We're in New Delhi, which is in Northern India, and things vary a lot throughout the country, but here's our experience.

I have been very surprised by how little English is spoken on the street. I guess I was expecting it to be more like South Africa, where most people speak a different language at home, or natively, but English is very widespread, especially anyone that lives in a large city or interacts with tourists. We were surprised when our driver that picked us up at the airport didn't speak English. Neither do the guards, or the housekeepers, or some of the landlords of places we've looked at. We'd gotten used to getting by in Spanish and this has been kind of frustrating.

Air quality has been a surprise. We didn't find the air in Mexico City a problem at all, and of both cities we repeatedly heard that air quality was improving. So we have been surprised that it’s very smoggy. In the morning and evening it’s smoky. I think that’s because of cooking fires at nearby squatter camps (that’s surprise number 3). It’s also just really dusty and dirty. We’ve arrived shortly after the end of monsoon, and we’re basically at the edge of a large desert, but it’s REALLY dusty. Most of the trees that you see don’t look quite green, more grey. They all have a layer of dust.

And then there’s the poverty, which isn’t a surprise. But what is a surprise is that there’s no real getting away from it. No oasis. We arrived at night, so on our first morning I was surprised to find that from my $200/night hotel room I could watch multiple families getting ready for the day, sweeping their dirt floor (if you can call it a floor when it doesn’t have a roof over it), cooking over their fire, and sponge bathing. And it seems to be like that everywhere, in front of the embassy, around the corner from the school, anywhere there’s a little space. We were hoping for a neighborhood like we had in Mexico City. Where we felt comfortable outside and there was a great park nearby. Here all the neighborhoods have parks, and while there aren’t cows (special little gates that the cows can’t get through}, there are usually people sleeping or hanging their clothes out to dry, and it’s all covered in a layer of dust.

Then there are some good surprises: S really enjoyed his school on the first day, no tears, no struggle, no drama. Just a huge smile afterwards and excitement, “Mom, something happened today that I didn’t think would happen! I made a friend!” The amazing monuments right in the middle of the city. The absolute beauty of the women’s clothing.

Then there are the things that are about like we expected: The attention we garner with our two little blonde boys, the crazy traffic complete with cows in the road, pedestrians, bici rickshaws and luxury cars, the weather (currently warm but not too hot), great food (unless you’re S and developing a dislike of Indian food).

I keep hearing it takes six months to figure out how things work and get used to it here, so hey, I’ve got 5 months and three weeks to go.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Menagerie

Today on the way home, after spending the afternoon looking at apartments, we passed 6 cows, 7 wild pigs (two of which were in the process of making more wild pigs), 2 camels & 5 polo horses. S and baby N slept through it all. More to come at 4am tomorrow.

Oh yeah, and sorry the map below doesn't all fit, way too tired to try and figure that out.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Arrival



create your own visited country map

So, I know this map is so last year, but since I wasn't blogging yet, here it is now. With a significant addition.

We arrived in India on Wednesday night. I've heard from a number of people that it takes 6 months to acclimate and get comfortable with the dramatic differences. I didn't believe them. Now I do.

I will, of course, post more... maybe once my kids are sleeping at something approaching normal hours. That had better not take six months.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

10.11.07

Happy Birthday Baby N!


I really can't believe that a year has gone by. Here's the rundown:

He's recently started walking.
He's started to use his voice more to express himself, still no obvious words, but increasing volume.
He's always on the go, and is incredibly persistent when it comes to getting his hands on whatever he sets his mind to.
He's got a contagious smile.
He's a huge flirt, as long as he's in Mom or Dad's arms.


Here are some of our favorite pictures from the last year:






And here are a few from the D-1 babyphotoshoot from early summer. I just got my hands on a CD that works:





Friday, October 3, 2008

Just imagine...

video

S's imagination in action. I'm not sure what he was battling here, but I think he won.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I Hope it Burns

We spent the weekend in Dallas moving stuff around in our storage unit. I didn't actually get a picture of it, so instead you get a picture of one of our valuable boxes. Just imagine that this is a 10x20 storage unit, looks just the same. We opened the door and all I could think was how much time and energy I'd spent getting it all packed up and out of our house in June. I don't miss any of it. I had a hard time figuring out what it was we'd come to retrieve to take to India with us. I guess I shouldn't say that I hope it burns, since then the insurance might come knocking, but really...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Life Goes On

Last Thursday was my last day in our sublet apartment. Phil will be there until middle of this week, but N, S, and I headed to the states to wrap things up in Dallas and visit family. Which also meant that it was S's last day of school. Let's just say he wasn't overly sad to say goodbye to the teachers and students. I however, was. One of my favorite parts of the day has been the twice daily walks to school.

I love the morning walk especially. There are always lots of people out getting ready for the day, unloading delivery trucks, washing sidewalks in front of restaurants, selling tamales. The weather has been lovely the whole time, it usually feels fresh and clean in the morning after the evening rains have moved on. The intense city smells haven't picked up yet.

So as we rode the elevator downstairs on Thursday morning I was allowing myself to feel a little nostalgic already. I will definitely miss this apartment, this walk, this neighborhood. Then the elevator doors opened and I heard the words, "Oh bla de, oh bla da, Live goes on." The portera (she runs the garage in the building, takes care of the common areas) was listening to the radio. And my life had a soundtrack. Finally. Always thought I deserved one.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ingenuity II

On our walk home from school one day this week, we walked past this knife sharpener. The picture is a little confusing because there is a bike parked right behind the bike of interest. The knife sharpener had all his tools on his bike, and his rear tire was up on a stand. He turned backwards on the bike and pedaled backwards, and thus provided the power to his sharpening stone. The stone revolved and he held the knife to the stone. Yes, we watched for quite a while. Yes, I acted like S was fascinated, but really it was me.

Friday, September 19, 2008

La familia Hamilton

The Hamilton's came to visit this past weekend. We loved having them. A few highlights:



Spent Saturday downtown and


climbed to the top of the cathedral for the bell tower tour. I've been on better tours, though the 12 pesos was worth it for the view, and watching everyone gather round the bull horn guy to hear the stats and names of the various bells.


M went to school with S, where they made Mexican flags for independence day. They waved them all the way home, which people found very entertaining.




And lots of trips to the playground. N seemed to fall in love with C, and was always giving hugs, or poking her eyes out. He did that a lot. She mostly put up with the attention.




Thursday, September 18, 2008

¡Viva Mexico!

Tuesday was Independence Day. It's a big deal, two days off kind of a big deal. It all starts with El Grito in the Zocalo at 11pm on Sept. 15. Since the Hamilton's were visiting (more on that later), and Carrie offered to tend to all the sleeping children, Phil and I went.

Here's the proof:



Phil thinks my extreme whiteness in this picture is very funny.... ha. ha.

Here's Phil on our walk into the Zocalo, which meant running the shaving-cream-like-substance and confetti gauntlet. Everyone had these cans of white foam which they were spraying all over everyone and everything. The streets were white from all the foam, and so were most of the people.

video



When it zooms, notice the guy with the huge fake mustache. I think that it a little homage to Emilano Zapata, but I'm not sure, please fill me in if you know. They were selling the fake mustaches all over.

And if you thought that looked crowded, here we are trying to leave:

video

Unfortunately, this year's celebration was marred by violence. In town plazas all across Mexico this same cry is lead by local government leaders. This year in Morelia grenades were thrown into the crowd. Here's a link to an article: http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSN1634595120080916

I can't imagine how frightening that would be, to be in such a large crowd and hear those blasts. Horrible.