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It was fun, but the morning after is better!

I love boxing day.  There’s no pressure.  The toys are assembled and fitted with working batteries, there are lots of left-overs, there’s no need to cook, no where to go, and no one to entertain.  A long lazy day awaits to simply enjoy and recover from Christmas.

And what a delightful first Christmas in India it was for us.  The journey to it however, was a bit bumpy .   I walked through the front door at seven on Christmas Eve, toppling over with packages and groceries and totally unprepared for the upcoming 24 hours after a week of not feeling so good.  Poor Lala was upset because we weren’t going to the Orchard, the restaurant where we have spent most of our last six Christmas Eves in China.  The nanny made home-made chicken nuggets and Lala flipped:  “It’s Christmas Eve!  YOU CAN’T EAT CHICKEN NUGGETS ON CHRISTMAS EVE!  I wanted to cry too because my tender and sensitive daughter was so disappointed and I hadn’t been able to make the evening all warm and fuzzy like it has always been.  Jim and I worked hard to salvage the night and to see that the kids went to bed happy and hopeful.

Christmas morning always comes too early for me, especially after a long night of cooking and wrapping.  Here we are in PJ’s waiting for the coffee to brew and for our traditional Chrismtas morning muffins to come out of the oven.  (Cranberry, Orange and Nutmeg):

In our house, Santa brings three gifts to each child.  The gifts represent the three presents given by the wise men to the baby Jesus.  This lovely idea came from a dear friend in Houston when I was a new mother and looking for a way to combine the secular and the religious themes of Christmas.   (See Erin, you are always with my family!)  Of course, there are lots of other prezzies under the tree from Mama and Baba and relatives.

Here’s a taste of the morning: (notice eddie’s hands – the universal location…)

Santa brought  Jimmy a doorway from Rajasthan:

And Mama got a…. TOASTER!  Hmm… mustn’t have been good this year:

Santa did bring me a lovely bauble…  but the toaster has got to top the sexiest gift list!  Also, Georgie gave me a beautiful necklace, which I’m seen wearing above – it’s a picture of the Hindu God Ganesh:

My climber:

In the afternoon we went to a polo match.  It was a fundraiser for an organization started by a local friend of mine to help educate girls in India.  He selects needy families and then pays for their school fees.

It was an interesting scene of wealthy Indians, expats, embassy folks, and polo buffs. I don’t know the intricacies of the game, but it was fun to watch for an hour.  What I liked most was that the riders were both male and female – it appears to be a non-gender game…. or so, this match:

Theo and Jimmy being all Ralph-Lauren-ish…

Sadly, this is what we drove through to get to the lush polo fields:

And just feet away:

There’s lots to say about this in another post.

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We returned home to play air hockey – the boys’ favorite gift:

And to share a warm and yummy dinner with our friends Mark, Karen, and Elizabeth.  I invested in a Butterball from the American Embassy this time.   I panicked on the night of the 23rd – called the American Club – and for 116-bucks, bought myself less worry!

The day ended with a silly night of games and songs…  Mark, I’m posting this photo to thank you for the framed newspaper article you gave me, titled:  “Event A Breeze For Elderly.”  (referring to the Delhi marathon!)

Merry Christmas dear family and friends.  May yours be blessed with love and the unexpected moments that make it all memorable…

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Different but not Necessarily Worse

I haven’t been feeling well this week and had to go to the doctor.   It wasn’t my first time visiting one here.  In August I had a bruised rib – and I’ve taken the kids to the pediatrician (office hours:  10:30 to 12:30 and 4:30 to 6:30!)  This time I went to see someone who worked at a hospital instead of a home-based office, which is quite common here.   It was an interesting glimpse into the differences between the first class and bloated medical system that we have in the states and a system that operates independent of the insurance juggernaut.

Basically, here’s how it works:  When you arrive at the hospital you pay a cashier to see the doctor.  Then you take your receipt to the doctor’s receptionist and wait a not-too-unreasonable time to see her.   The visit is thorough, professional.  I did notice though that no one took my blood pressure or weight at the beginning of the visit which is standard at home.

The doctor ordered a series of blood and urine tests and an ultrasound.  (Let me say here that I am very healthy – no worries, all!)  Again, I had to pay for the tests first. I took the receipt to the lab receptionist and he gave me a number.  When the number appeared on an electronic board, I entered the lab.  The lab was a bit worn, but orderly and efficient.  I have a particularly fabulous vein for giving blood on my right arm and every plebotomist that meets it comments.   There wasn’t any banter about it here, and the needle entered much lower down the vein than typical for me – and it HURT!  Again, unusual.  However, vile after fat vile was filled with ease and I was in and out of there in 5 minutes.   For the urine test, they gave me a cup with screw cap lid, much like at home but smaller and not wrapped in a sterile plastic bag.  I was sent to the bathroom around the corner – it was smelly and dirty and didn’t have alcohol wipes OR toilet paper OR hand towels.   Women, in particular,  are well conditioned to giving a clean sample so you can imagine my horror!  But I got the job done.

Next, the ultrasound:   Again, I paid the cashier, took the receipt to the receptionist, sat down to wait and hopped right back up two minutes later when my name was called.  The room was cold and dingy, but the equipment appeared to be state-of-the-art and looked just like every other ultrasound machine that I’ve seen through my pregnancies and veiny leg stuff.  There wasn’t a sheet to keep me warm or discreet through my half nakedness – but this didn’t matter much as the review was relatively quick.   An actual doctor did the ultrasound and she discussed the results at the end.

The receipts are stamped with a time and date in which you can collect the results of your tests.  Some are ready within hours, and others, within days.  Once you have collected your results, you make another appointment to meet with the doctor to discuss them. I spent several visits back and forth following this routine, and after the initial confusion of bouncing from wing to wing and desk to desk, I actually found the system worked rather well.

That said, I think that I would elect to have a major in-patient procedure done at home but I know people who have had babies here and other procedures, all without incident.  I’ve also talked with people who have had very scary emergency experiences.  I think that this may be the weakest link in healthcare here.

As for cost:  170 USD total.   That should make my insurance company happy!

Here are few photos of our latest escapades… I call this one Rush Hour:

Eddie and a buddy at the school holiday sing-a-long:

This is what I have to deal with trying to get out of the house in the morning:

This is a typical winter street scene.  Security guards, street vendors, the homeless sit around little fires to keep warm.  Evenings and early mornings can be quite smokey:

Local dancers performing an Indian version of the Nativity…  I believe these are the shepherds:

One of our weekly family activities:

This would be one of Eddie’s more creative tantrums:

I took the kids to ride an elephant last week – and I was the only one to actually get on the beautiful beast!  Her name is “Monie” and she’s 20 years young.  Note the Christmas tree drawn on her trunk!  I’m looking into her eye here – it was so expressive!

And finally, look at those gorgeous hills!  We spent the afternoon at a guest house here having lunch and chasing cows, baby pigs and foul of numerous varieties. This little paradise is located less than an hour from our home:

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The Ugly American

I was reading one of the six (6) newspapers delivered daily to our home when I came across this little paragraph tucked away at the bottom of a page of the Times of India:

“Ganges Sounds Like a Disease”

The Ganges ‘sounds like a disease’ Fox News commentator Glen Beck has said, drawing protests from Hindus.  On his show, Beck said:  “One big river they have there, that sounds like a disease.  Come on, it does.  I mean if somebody said, I am sorry, you have a really bad case of Ganges.”….

I googled and binged (for my microsoft buddies out there…) the remark to verify that he actually said this, and I’m sad to report that yes, he did.   In doing so, Beck only highlights his own stupidity.  There’s plenty to argue here about the insensitivity of the remark, especially since the Ganges River is one of, if not the, holiest site for Hindus.  I’ve already written about my visit there – you can check it out if you haven’t seen it on the old blog site, http://www-standupcomedy.blogspot.com (River Rituals).   What Beck obviously doesn’t know is that Hindus don’t call the river the Ganges.  It’s Ganga, in Hindi.  Ganges is simply an English translation of Ganga.  If Beck thinks that the word Ganges sounds gross – he can blame his mother tongue.

And shame on him for being so juvenile.

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Here’s a little winter scene infused with Indian cheer….

Seeing this made me smile big!  I love the universal beauty of folk art.

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Why?

After Hindi class, I decided to pop over to the market to pick-up a few much-needed essentials in our fridge – yogurt, butter, yummy cream for my coffee.  We are a full-fat household and I love living somewhere where I don’t have to fuss through rows of non-fat, low-fat, non-food to get to the real stuff.  However, I have other obstacles in just getting to the store.   This little one tore open my heart yesterday:She wrapped herself around  my left leg and wouldn’t let go.  I walked, stiff limbed, with her riding me and begging me for money.  Coincidentally, I was on my way to the bank to get cash for groceries.  This precious little thing held on and refused to let go.  I caressed her head, spoke to her, tried to pry her off, to no avail.  The security guard at the bank yanked her from me – and she dangled by her arm –  mid-air, screaming.  When I walked out of the bank, this is what I saw:

The security guard is on the left, probably calling the police to remove her from the area.  The child saw me walking away and she ran after me and  re-attached herself. We repeated our walk, with me dragging her along on my leg.  People were yelling at me to not give her money.  I stopped once again to pry her off and was successful, but this time she grabbed my knee-length cardigan and so we walked with her being pulled along in my wake:

The security guard at the grocery store pried her from me and I entered the store alone.  I didn’t see her again when I returned to my car half-an-hour later.

And so, you might ask, why didn’t I give her money or food?  There’s no simple answer here.  Had I given her something, I would have been surrounded by numbers of other beggar children.  What would that feel like?  Did I not give to save myself this discomfort and inconvenience?  Does not giving solve the problem by encouraging beggars to move on?

The Delhi city government thinks so.  In preparation for the Commonwealth games next fall, the city is wrestling with ways to rid Delhi of its beggars.  Short of rounding them up and relocating them, which is one solution under discussion, the city has directed people to not help beggars in hope that they will return to their rural homes.

It’s not easy to harden your heart when faced with a small child, dirty and barefoot, desperate from either truly being hungry or scared from being pimped.  I told this story at dinner because my children are not immune to this sort of scene – they see some form of it everyday – and because I thought it might lead to some fruitful, cathartic discussion.  I was soo wrong!  Lala asked me why God allows this to happen and I stumbled through a totally imperfect and messy, untouchable answer – something about God’s laissez-faire approach to managing the world.  The conversation ended not-too-comfortably there.

Lala is smart enough to go only one “why” deep when she knows that mommy simply has no real answer.

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Indulge Me…

There have been large protests in parts of India this week following a decision by the national government to create a new state, splitting AndhraPradesh in two.  There were protests for the split and a high-profile fast beforehand, and now, in the wake of the decision, protests against dividing the state.  There are also renewed calls from other regions that want their own states as well.  Jim wrote about it this week and you can follow-up in the NYT if you want to read more.

My interest in mentioning the protests is this:  Why can’t the good people of India rally in similar civil disobedience and start demanding basic public services that would immediately improve the quality of their lives – like clean water, electricity, safe school buildings, equality in education, sidewalks, garbage pickup and safe trash disposal?  Live electric wires, sink holes, uncovered water mains are common hazards and people die regularly because of them.  I witness small acts of road rage daily  – revealing the heightened anger the comes from constant exposure to unbearable traffic, regularly broken traffic lights and gridlocked intersections.  Migrant workers live on the edges of the economy in cloth tents, makeshift homes and temporary settlements that are awash in filth and rubble and that line the city’s streets, exposed to all and seen by few.

Why doesn’t anyone complain?   I mean, really complain – use their numbers and storm city hall?  Where is the fervor to gather en mass and force leaders to address the government’s egregious failure to serve the people?

Just had to get that out…  I was fuming about this while making breakfast today. (Hubba, it’s a good thing that you left early to work on your book or you would have had to bear the brunt of my spew!)

Happy Saturday all…

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smorgasbord

Can you imagine NOT having cold water in your house?  Move to Delhi and you will find yourself missing it.  Our water  is pumped into a holding tank on the top of the house and it gets pretty warm sitting in the sun, particularly when it’s 105 degrees outside.   So during the 9-month-long summer the water arrives in the house anywhere from hot  to very hot.  In fact, I rarely turn on the hot water to bathe.  But it’s winter now – defined as slightly warmer than a Seattle summer by day and chilly at night – and the water in the morning and evening is actually cold… which isn’t necessarily a good thing during our winter since we don’t have a central water heater.  We only have small water heaters in the bathrooms so the kitchen and the laundry room don’t have hot water unless it’s hot outside.  It’s all mixed up here!

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On to BEER.  I’m a woman who likes to drink her brews ice-cold.  Those who know me well are accustomed to me throwing my beer into the freezer for a ten-minute pre-consumption chill-down.  I’m also the proud owner of a good handful of tacky beer “coozies”.   (Always a good gift for my collection.)  As for Indian Beer – ugh!  It just doesn’t taste good.  I was told that one of the reasons for this is that glycerin is added to the brew.  Apparently, glycerin (clear, soluble… used in face creams) is also a good preservative/stabilizer.  Transporting beer and other goods rarely happens in cold storage here and it’s easy for beer  to go bad.  I’ve been told that glycerin keeps the beer fresh but at a cost to taste and I’m guessing, to health as well.

We didn’t want to spread unfounded rumors about Indian beer, so Jim and I tested a Kingfisher for glycerin.  We were told that if you hold the bottle upside down in a glass of water you will see the glycerin swirl out of the beer into the water.  The water in the glass holds the beer up into the bottle  – scientific principle of equal and opposite force, students.  However, glycerin is heavier than water and if present, should ooze out of the beer into the glass.  The results?  EXACTLY as described.  We were grossed out watching this substance swirl out of the beer – for a good long time, I might add… several minutes before we threw everything into the sink and swore to NEVER drink another Indian beer again.  Now fairness would require us to test a Corona but a six pack cost 20-bucks here and we’re loath to sacrifice one golden drop!  I’m happy believing that imported beer is pure, so if any of you know otherwise, don’t spoil my willingness to overpay to quench my thirst.

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Does this make sense to anyone out there:  When entering security at the American Club  I now have to turn off/on my cell phone to prove that it’s not a bomb detonator.  (?)  Do you think the security guards now get paid for hazardous duty?

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Here’s a photo from Sunday:  

He’s protecting the local ATM with a double-barrel shot gun.  I’m not going to get into a discussion about whether bigger is better, but I am wondering whether smaller might be easier… to tote.

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And in the same shopping center – South Delhi’s high-end, overpriced market frequented by expats, tourists and wealthy locals – The Sidewalk:

On bad days, this really bugs me.  On good days, it’s charming!

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And this photo makes me think of a line in Marc Cohn’s song Walking in Memphis:  Are you a Christian, child?  Mam, I am tonight!:

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There are lots of motorcycles in Delhi and plenty  of women riding side-saddle on the back.  The other day while driving on a highway  I  saw a beautiful woman clutching luggage and holding on to the back of a motorcycle with one hand.  It concerned me that one major bump or one unanticipated swerve and she would be thrown from the bike.  Then someone pointed out to me that most woman riding motorcycles don’t hold on to the man in front because it’s not polite to touch in public.  I’ve been on the watch and have been hoping to find a woman clutching her man, but I haven’t found ONE yet… This sort of thinking drives me batty!  See here:

I guess it’s difficult to straddle in a sari.

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And sanity:  My baby and his T-Ball trading cards:

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And finally, Saturday night at the African community celebration:

We danced and danced and were humbled by a few particularly capable hips on the dance floor  that night.  But we gave it our best…  and had fun!

Have a good week, all…

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Trees

Today is World Disability Day which I discovered when I went to visit my dear little friends at Astha.  They were celebrating with special art projects, including this “Tree of Togetherness”.  One of the red dots is my thumbprint and of course, the leaves are all the little hands at Astha:It always happens that there’s one child who manages to especially capture your heart.  In Beijing, it was little Larry – so named by me because the poor thing looked like Larry King.  That child was a fighter:  weak and underdeveloped, he managed to thrive and slowly grow stronger.  Yet, at a year-and-a-half he still couldn’t eat solid food or hold a bottle or sit up.  Anyway, I may tear if I continue to write about him so on to Yogesh, my new, bigger friend.  He has an infectious smile and sweet manner.  He’s very shy and I have to sit close to him to get him to communicate.  Today, he asked me my name, which touched me.

I’ve had one of those 24 hours that has left me exhausted and sapped.  For the first time, I can admit that moving three kids to India is not proving as easy as I have forced myself to pretend.  Everyone seems to be crashing in some form – George with his extraordinary defiance;  Lala with her desperate pining for old friends, which I think represents a need for shared support  in what she’s finding a strange and chaotic place; and eddie with uncharacteristic tantrums.  My own patience is frayed and I think that we’re all in need of familiar comforts.   Had we been able to foresee this, it would have been smart to plan a Christmas vacation at home.  But alas, this is when the world becomes a large place – flying to the states isn’t feasible to throw together at the last minute – and so this year becomes our 7th Christmas away.  My new challenge:  to find a Christmas tree of some sort (most likely fig…) and to create our own tree of togetherness this season.

On the cheerier side,  here’s a photo of the kids coming home from school: