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).

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Week Two of School? Under our belt!

Last weekend was a wonderful three day weekend, full of fun and camaraderie! We spent Friday evening on campus (with Indian Independence Day + a new Prime Minister + high security + living in the Embassy district, we were more or less told to stay put). Many of the on-campus folks met up at the playground to grill out, play lawn games, and relax with friends and beverages. We all had a great time and I can't emphasize how nice it is to be able to let Oakes and Wren run around for a few hours with friends and not even have to worry for a moment if they are okay.

Saturday was spent on a family outing to purchase 2 new carpets and hit the market. For the carpets, we had to go to the home of the seller (the basement, actually), where he and his son rolled out rug after rug for us to view, walk on, and admire. We settled on two large area carpets and a small carpet for Oakes' bedside. While waiting on the gentlemen to run our debit card, we noticed a photo in the corner of them and former President Bill Clinton. Of course, I begged questions. And yes, they've met him and sold to him. So, if we rely on Kevin Bacon and 6 degrees of separation, then I can totally make a generalization and say that we buy our carpets at the same place as Bill Clinton, right? 

Crammed in the rickshaw. It was actually fun, despite Evan's facial expression.

Our living room rug. I love it. There's another in our dining room that Ev loves more.
After shopping for floor coverings, we hit Khan market with the kids and then took a rickshaw home in time for the kids to make an on-campus birthday/pool party. 

Sunday was also pretty amazing as a group of us got together for brunch at one of the nicer hotels here. They had a supervised kids' room so we could eat/drink/talk and the food spread here was impressive. Unfortunately, I was coming down with a head cold and wasn't hungry/thirsty and really didn't feel much like socializing. But it was still a pretty awesome 4-hour brunch.

Oakes was retrieving Wren after she rolled herself to our table from the kids' room.

KISS cover band

Some other awesome news:

  • Wren was moved off the waitlist at her preschool and will hopefully start next week (Ev and I will tour the facility on Monday and bring the paperwork - we aren't completely sure of a start date yet).
  • Next weekend our family goes out of town for our first India excursion! The school is sponsoring a retreat weekend at Fort Neemrana Palace and we are totally stoked to see a bit beyond Delhi.
  • I'm finally feeling human again after about two weeks of tummy rumbles and a few days of a cold. I'm pretty sure this only means I'll get Dengue Fever next week but in the meantime, I'm enjoying feeling whole again! Speaking of which, I should probably go get my rabies vaccine...