Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mid September and Vacation Plans

Oh India, you toy with me.
You treat me to beauty and fun and then you knock me out with a tummy bug. 

Last week a friend and I attempted to do a bit of after-school India exploration. She got the name of a salon to try out for a pedicure so we navigated one of the markets and found it upstairs around the corner from the Urinal Block. Turns out a pedicure in India is a very different experience than in the US. My favorite moment was when she asked if they had a dryer for the polish and a gentleman came over with a blow dryer and hand-dried her feet for about five solid minutes. It cost us about 500 rupees (less than $10) and was definitely an experience. The unexpected? (Because yes, that was not necessarily the unexpected part of it.) We left the salon and stopped in at a few shops for some house items and ended up running into the parade marking the end of the Ganesh celebration, called Anant Chaturdasi. 


We were mesmerized by the music, the dancing, and the general happiness going on. It mostly seemed male-dominated and us two American girls received quite a few stares as onlookers. But again, it was Ganesh - Oakes' favorite! so we dealt with the stares as we took video and pictures. Oakes and Wren were thrilled.

Ev found a nursery nearby and has started getting our porch ready for planting and I'm hoping to head to a new market with a friend on Saturday to explore some more. Evan and I have had the chance to see a little more of Delhi through dinners out and weekend errands around town. I've also spent much time this week researching the markets, eateries, and pubs in Delhi and there is so much to explore. So. Much.

Our shipment finally has an arrival date of this Friday. It's been sitting in Delhi for the past ten days due to some technical error at customs so this has been a lesson in patience and understanding that Delhi has its own ways of doing things. Friday will be a wonderful day! 
One of the highlights of our week was attending Oakes' Open House. It was during the last hour of the school day so he got to show us around his classroom and we got to put together a crown and watch him build a flower. Love this boy.

Please notice the beard.
An unrelated but thrilling note... we finally have vacation plans set! 

Our first long weekend is coming up and we've decided to stay put. We may either go to the Taj Mahal for a day or try to make it to the India/Pakistan border to watch that awesomeness.

After that, our next break is Diwali in mid-October and we are attending a training for Restitution in Bali (Bali!) for that. And since it coincides with our Diwali break, we are heading to Bali early for a week there. This girl is just a tad bit excited.

Thanksgiving is still open and I think we'll probably do a short day trip during that break. For Christmas, we've booked tickets to Germany for the first week to visit Evan's grandparents and aunt (and to stock up on European supplies that we can't find here). We'll return to Delhi for about 2 days and then fly to the coast to Kerala (or rather, Kovalam Beach) for six nights. I'm still not 100% sure how Santa will play out, but now that we are here and we've seen how things are, I feel like that is a secondary concern for everyone in our home. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Bringing Me Down to Earth a Bit

This week has been much tamer for us, and I feel like things are balancing out a bit.

Evan and Oakes began plowing a plot of earth here on-campus for our family garden. A couple other families also have plots and I envision an abundance of fresh vegetables at our fingertips in the coming months. 

I joined a few others this morning volunteering at the Vivekenand Camp across the street. Our school has a tradition of spending time on Sunday mornings reading, playing, and just interacting with the kids. I brought a few of Oakes' and Wren's books with me and had a great time reading with a group of about 8 kids. 

They were enthralled with the "hot dots" pen I brought.

Their library - the books here range from beginner readers to Grade 12 books for exams.

This is their classroom - the whiteboard is behind me.

After study time, the library is closed and the chairs are put away so the kids can have some free time. There were soccer games, badminton, Twister, and some net-less volleyball games all going on. Some of the kids had sidewalk chalk and no sooner had I drawn a hop-scotch board, they were busily hopping and tossing their rocks onto it.

Some of the kids came right up and held your hand or brought a book to you to read while others stayed back and just observed and listened. Some were fluent in English while others could only say "My name is ___" and understand little more than that. I feel both humbled and honored to be able to work with these kids. I returned home and showed the photos to Oakes and Wren, explaining a bit about what we did this morning. Both are eager to go over next week, though I'll likely only bring Oakes. I feel confident Oakes will open up (with maybe a little prodding) and while Wren will likely be in my lap or arms the whole time, I hope that she'll eventually shake her shyness and join these kids in some games and reading. With that said, I think we may wait a bit to bring her over.

Truly, my heart was full when I left.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Thrills and Scares

I feel like it's been ages. One day here can show so much - it's no wonder I have a lot to write about after a week.

Last week our school held a Ganesh Assembly (Ganesh is the god of wisdom, knowledge, and new beginnings) with a group of dancers who danced a rather beautiful story for the kids. Oakes came home singing the beat and even knew how to feed himself like the elephant deity Ganesh. 


After the assembly on Saturday, a bunch of faculty attended our school retreat in Neemrana at the 15th century Fort Palace. It was a beautiful location with fun, relaxation, and entertainment. While it was sunny in Neemrana, Delhi received quite a bit more rain. Monsoon high season should be ending, but as it is with many other things in India, a schedule is merely a suggestion. So the "high" but dry August ended and the "drier" September came in full swing. Luckily the weather was on our side for the most part while we were away. 

The entrance path to the hotel

hotel at sunset

Saturday night entertainment 

India-ism: I'm pretty positive that's not politically correct, but nonetheless, there are some things that you experience in India that really make you go hmmm. As we left our retreat on our 15 passenger bus (one of many, I might add), we creeped through tight, downhill streets in the midst of a rain shower. About 5 minutes into our journey home, our bus stopped in the middle of the road. Apparently a live electric line was about to graze the roof of the metal bus. We watched as our driver gave his right-hand-man a piece of carpet, and this gentleman, hopped off our bus, climbed on our roof, and proceeded to hold the power line up over the bus while the bus creeped under it. Let me reiterate: wet, moving bus with a man on top holding a power line as the bus tries to cross under. I can't even tell you how nervous we all were (yes, it would've been smart to have hopped off the bus, I know). I think there was a group-wide holding of our breath and when the gentleman hopped back on our bus, we all breathed and cheered loudly for him. 

Friday afternoon allowed me an opportunity to go out to a market for the first time alone. It was very eye-opening for me. There is certainly a level of social structure still alive here and I noticed it as I hopped in line to pay for my groceries. The cashier called for another man, who picked up my basket and showed me to the front, ahead of the two Indian men already waiting. I tried to signal no to the cashier, but they would have none of that; they not only began to ring me up, but then proceeded to grab a bottle of cold water for me to have while I waited. I'm still not sure how I'll handle this in the future, but I have to think of a better way as I felt incredibly uncomfortable.

In other Friday night news, our curious Wren gave us a chance to speak to both the hospital and poison control here in India! She got out of bed while I was in the shower and rather than use the restroom like she told me, she decided to play in the bathroom. When I got out of the shower and noticed her bathroom light still on, I went to check on her and saw her hands, feet, and face covered in sunscreen (she had climbed onto the counter, stood on it, and opened the medicine cabinet. Needless to say that cabinet is now empty of everything except spare toothbrushes -- is this not what half of the Rescue 911 shows were about? Did I not learn anything from watching those things back in 1990?!?). I threw her in the bath and called Evan home. While I quizzed her, she mentioned that in addition to eating the sunscreen she also ate the "vaseline" (Baby Vicks Vapor Rub). You can imagine my horror. Evan was on the phone calling the hospital/doctors/poison control and I was both trying not to strangle the girl and keeping my own self held together. Luckily, the doctors all said she would be okay and yes, she was/is. Moral (aside from never keeping anything in your medicine cabinet. Ever.), is we now know that in a medical emergency, we will very likely be well taken care of by the helpful people here.

In less traumatizing news... 

check out the blue sky!
We had one of the most amazing days here yesterday (Monday the 1st). The sky was a clear blue and the weather didn't reach 90. It felt a bit like a gift of autumn for us as we envy those of you drinking pumpkin spiced lattes. 

Oakes began his soccer practice last week at the British School across the street, both kids are signed up for Saturday Swim School, and Wren had her first day at embassy pre-school today.  

Our apartment was also painted last week - a coat of paint can do wonders for making a place feel homier. We love it. 
Oakes' room (Oakes chose "ocean spray" - it's more aqua than in this pic)
Living/Dining/Entrance (it's light gray)
Wren's Room (of course she wanted yellow)
And our shipment landed in India on the 31st!!! It hasn't been put on the train from Mumbai yet, but I'm happy to know it's on the same continent as us and I'm assuming it will be about 2.5 more weeks until we are reunited. I'm hoping to do an "apartment tour" for you all once our items are delivered and in place.

And lastly, and I'm becoming quite fond of chai and kurtas (I should thank my TA for this).