Flies in My Wine (and other things that bug me…)

I’m really pissed-off at this place:

That’s where I used to go to dye my gray roots and to keep my toe nails ablaze in icy-hot blue, the only color I wear down there.

Until I discovered that they use little boys to lug their dirty towels to the wash wallah.  Very little boys.  George’s age.  Maybe younger.

It’s no secret that child labor is a thriving business in India – even in the capital city, home to an upstanding national constitution that guarantees, among many things, six fundamental civil liberties:  equality, free speech, freedom of religion, the right to education, equality before the law and FREEDOM FROM EXPLOITATION, prohibiting forced labor, child labor and human trafficking.

Sadly, India fails miserably on the latter.   I’ve already written about young girls stolen from rural poverty, sold and resold into the infernos of sex slavery.

In India, children mine coal, iron ore, diamonds;  they weave carpets and sew clothes.  I’ve seen some statistics that say there are more child laborers in India than in any other country in the world – from 20 to 50 million little souls sweating through a day’s wage and getting far less in compensation.

I didn’t see the little boy at the salon doubled-over carrying a sack of towels, but my friend did.  She came to me because she knows that I, too frequent this place and she was very upset.  Rani is half India, half German and she speaks Hindi.  She overheard the staff talking poorly to this boy who came into the salon to gather the dirty towels.   When she saw him walk off, clearly struggling with the burden on his back – she asked to speak to the manager.  Manager, owner, staff – all shrugged their shoulders and said that it wasn’t their responsibility.  The salon hires a washing service and they argued that they couldn’t control who the service sent to collect the towels.

That’s the problem here, no one seems to think that they’re empowered to do anything about the raging injustices that often define this place.

I have another friend whose driver, every morning  hired a little boy to wash their car.   When you live in a place where it’s not unusual to have a driver, it’s often the driver’s responsibility to take care of everything car related – including maintenance and cleaning.   It’s not too outlandish to think that this driver may have considered it below his status to clean the car and so he hired a child  to come at 7 a.m. and clean it instead.

If I thought that this was more like having a paper route (I had one when I was 13), or working at Mcdonalds (I did that too, age 16) or cleaning houses (started a business when I was 14) than I wouldn’t mind so much.

But the driver didn’t hire an over-eager middle class kid from down the street. He probably hired a waif – because they’re everywhere here, because he probably thought he was helping in his own way, because he saw nothing wrong with using little hands  to do a man’s job.  ( No gender reference intended…)


Should I give Delhi the benefit of the doubt and assume that there are culturally arguable reasons why city law does not require women to wear helmets when driving or riding a motorcycle?   The law insists that men wear them and I hear that it’s strictly enforced, as it should be.  My own informal survey shows that most men do wear helmets.  That’s not a 60-percent-sort-of-most…. more like a 95-percent-most.

Sikhs are exempt because they wear turbans and it would be difficult to get a helmet over a turban.

So, I wonder why women are exempt?  Hmm…


I was teaching a health class the other day.  The kids were studying a unit on drugs.  In this  particular lesson we looked at cigarettes and nicotine addiction.  After the kids took a pre-test to see what they actually knew about cigarettes, smoking, nicotine, statistics, etc… we watched a movie about the health effects of smoking and the powerful addiction of nicotine.  Afterwards, we discussed what they learned.

One boy raised his hand and asked me this:  If nicotine is so addictive, why isn’t  it considered an illegal drug?

GREAT question.  Mrs. Yardley thought quickly and came up with this:  If you smoke a cigarette, your senses are not impaired.  But if you smoke a joint, they are.  Perhaps this is one reason that cigarettes are not considered a “drug” in the legal sense.

Remember, I’m no expert here – I was just covering this class for another teacher.  I’m really good at stepping-in and taking-over with  authority and with breadth of knowledge (versus depth of knowledge) and getting through 90 minutes of most disciplines.

Anyway, my answer elicited stares.  Blank stares.  Until finally, one child asked me, “What’s a joint?”.


Do you think that a class of 14 year olds from the US could easily answer that question?  Are my expat kids that sheltered?

Or maybe there’s another, more modern name for a marijuana cigarette?

This incident made me think of a friend’s comment:  that my children, who are growing up in a third, unaligned culture, are an odd mix of mature and naïve.


Tonight I took a sip of my red wine and there was a lump in it.  It wasn’t the first lump that I’ve nearly swallowed with my vino.  The season that breeds all manner of winged and crawly nuisances has arrived.  And the flies, big and small, use my wine class for their swimming pool.  Drives me batty.  I used to dump the contents of the glass – now I just scoop and flick – and drink quickly.


With helmets:

And without:

Nap time outside the US embassy:

It’s harder to nap here.  A typical scene beneath an overpass:

Science Fair Season:

Beer season – Desperate for new beer coozies…. hint hint.  The trashier the better!

12 thoughts on “Flies in My Wine (and other things that bug me…)”

  1. Your fly in the wine story reminds me of a joke I once heard:
    An Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scot walk into a bar and each orders a pint. When the glasses come, the Englishman notices a fly in his, pushes it away, and insists on a fresh pint. The Irishman also sees a fly in his, but shrugs, scoops it out, and tosses it over his shoulder. The Scot, upon espying a fly in his beer, gets down at eye level to his glass and bellows, “Spit it out, ye wee bastard!” 🙂

    I’m sad to hear about your former salon. It makes me wonder how much more child labor there is that just goes unnoticed.

    I loved hearing about your trip back “home”! Speaking of which, I am flying to Houston for a friend’s wedding in June. I’ll only be in town about 2 days, but I’m hoping to see some of our old neighbors.

    1. thanks for the joke – guess that makes me an irish lass.

      we’re working on summer plans but i fear that houston is on the bubble…

      are you still in austin? your plans make me think not…

      1. We moved to D.C. in 2008–still own the house in Austin (have had it on the market twice!) I’d love to see you if you’re in town this summer. We are not planning any huge trips at this point, mostly day camps for the kids and as much beach time as we can swing.

  2. I definitely feel like our expat kids are more mature in some ways and more naive in others–especially with regards to anything that has to do with pop culture or media. They almost don’t consume any youth-oriented pop culture at all — we don’t have tv reception at home, and the kids at their international school are from so many different countries that no national pop culture / materialist culture can predominate. When we go back to the US, I often feel like our kids are “younger” than kids their ages in America, and definitely far less sexually aware. But then, my kids have been exposed to deep poverty, dirty streets and needy children of a kind that their US-based peers probably don’t even suspect really exists in the world.

  3. Been too long since I read me some Theo. What a great post.

    I want to hear the end of the classroom story; how did you tapdance around answering? 14 y.o.’s here would definitely know what a joint is. Next time time try fatty or spliff. The expat kids’ mix of naivete and maturity is an interesting paradox and def. true.

  4. i get fatty, but why spliff?
    fyi – the stuff grows wild here in Himachal Pradesh… farmed and free.

    i may need to sack at yours with the kids june 26-ish – we land from france and i don’t want to drive down to DC right off the plane.

    did becky tell you it’s girls’ weekend in NYC july 16th? you’re on duty!

  5. Spliff? You should know that one Theo… goes back to Bob Marley, I think.

    Becky has not mentioned July 16 but sounds good to me. May be dad and kids weekend at the beach, which is what I would suggest to the girls as well.

    You are, of course, welcome here on June 26 but I think we will be in Idaho. Have not bought tix yet probably leaving 6/25 or 6/26…if it works to scooch back to Thursday or Friday would be great for us.

  6. I’m on for the weekend of the 16th. Haven’t bought tickets yet but Anabel and I are coming to NYC. Will split the time between Alan and Becky and Mahtab and her daughters. Gorgeous Global Girlfriends…

  7. that bright little spark in your class opened a can of worms on this one Theo…..i want to raise my hand and say, ” but please Ms Yardley why is alcohol legal when it too alters the senses?”

    i spent some time in South America in the late 80’s when GB the first declared the big war against drugs and sent his army down to eradicate the coca crops grown in the high valleys of Bolivia and Peru, destroying a way of life for many people who didn’t abuse the crop but used it to survive the harsh conditions that existed there. Macchu Picchu could not have been built without that leaf, the bulging bolus in the cheeks of the ancient artefacts are proof of that.

    the legality of drugs is so warped with politics, finance and hypocrisy and needs to be untangled and focused to help those that abuse them now and educate those that may in the future.

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