Ender has become a celebrity. Little did I realize that taking him to India would mean instant stardom. I am not sure if it is the fact that he is a boy, the fact that he has those pinchable cheeks, the fact that he is obviously not Indian, or a combination of all three, but he gets attention wherever he goes. It all began in the airport on the night we arrived. One of the the porters working by the luggage return came over and grinned and patted him on the head. He returned twice while we were waiting for the luggage to repeat this process.

I next noticed it while we were shopping the day after we arrived. While we all get stares when we go out because of our foreignness, Ender gets stares, grins, pats on the head, and pinched cheeks. This happened several times while we were out that day, and I even saw a lady snap his picture at one point as we walked by.

The best one was when we went to a little cafe for dessert. A woman was cleaning the floors, and she couldn’t keep her hands off of him. She just kept coming back to look at him, touch his cheek and pat his head. He finished his ice cream before the rest of us and of course got up to wander around (the cafe was empty so it was ok). She hovered around him, and then suddenly picked him up and sat him on a table so she could get face to face to look at him! There he sat just grinning at her while she looked him over and then continued her mopping below his dangling feet.

The novelty isn’t just for adults. Today we went to a game place where Ender found a bunch of building blocks to play with. Unfortunately for him, he became one of the games for a 1 year old girl. She couldn’t stop touching his hair and face. She was pretty much chasing him around trying to touch him. He finally resorted to hiding with his blocks in a corner.

Ender, suprisingly, takes it all in stride. He smiles and charms them instead of being rude and turning away like I would have expected he would do. It did help that we spoke to him about this, as we had been forwarned that this might happen. We told him that things are different here, and that people are interested in him because he is something new and different to them, and he should be polite and friendly. For once, it appears he listened to us.

Of course, the American mom in me has a hard time with this. The first instinct back home would be to snatch him away and demand to know why they are touching my kid. However, I understand the cultural differences and do my best to relax and go with the flow.

Yes, my boy eats up the attention. He loves for people to look at him, as we all know, and is not shy in the least. Now our big problem will be keeping his already overinflated ego from growing out of control.

I did it, I did it, I finally did it! I am so proud. I walked down the street, through the gate and right out of the colony to the world outside. The world went right on hustling and bustling around us. While we weren’t greeted with any friendliness (except by the guard at our gate), we weren’t greeted with any outright contempt either. We were pretty much ignored except for the occasional stare. 

The little vegetable shop is about a half a block from our gate. Bin after bin of vegetables greeted us in this tiny, musty-smelling stall. Most of them were familiar, but a few were not. I will have to do some research to find out what exactly those strange fruits and vegetables are and what I can make with them. Addie chose apples and Ender chose a watermelon (of course). I chose carrots, potatoes, onions and cauliflower to make a creamy soup with. The whole thing cost me 159 rupees or $3.75. Don’t know if that was a good price or if the man behind the counter took advantage of my ignorance, but I got my food and I am happy.The kids dug into the apples and watermelon right away. After so many noodles they were glad to have something healthy for once. I washed them to the best of my ability with filtered water (and dish soap on the outside in the case of the watermelon) and hoped for the best. So far no one is sick, so let’s hope it stays that way. 

The vegetables were cut into pieces and the soup smells wonderful! We are going to eat it in a little while. Before I cut anything up, though, I snapped the above picture. Sudakker came in at that exact moment and stood watching me take the picture. I was embarrassed and tried to explain, but then gave up and let him go off thinking I was insane. I’m sure he already thinks I’m quite bizzare at this point, so me taking pictures of vegetables should not have surprised him.

 

Why is there a pumpkin hanging from my roof? 
It greets us like only a moldy, dried-out husk of a gourd can.  It hangs from a mesh bag attached to wires that were meant to provide electricity to a nice overhead fan.  It watches our every move, it knows our comings and goings, it sways in the breeze.  Where did it come from?  What does it mean?  How long must it hang there like that?

 

 Why does the power shut off multiple times a day? 
It is usually out for several hours each day.  We have a battery backup, but that only runs lights and fans and tv.  Water, microwave, fridge, forget it.  It could be worse..we could not have the battery backup at all.

 

Why does the houseboy stash garbage in my cabinets
This is what I was greeted with when I started organizing things.  Cabinets with empty bottles, cabinets with empty dog food bags, cabinets strewn with newspapers.  What is he storing them for, and if he wants them so bad, why doesn’t he just take them home?  I threw them all out.  Maybe he pulled them out of the garbage, who knows.  Near them, I found an empty bottle of roach killer.  Perhaps its like deer hunting…lure them with food and then move in for the kill?  I haven’t seen a single roach yet, thank heavens.

 

 Why does the trash man ring the doorbell each morning?
The doorbell sits on our gate, right next to where the trash is put out.  He doesn’t wait around for us to answer, he just rings and leaves right away.  Courtesy wake-up call?

 

 Why is there such a serious locking mechanism on the door to the shrine room? 
Is it to keep people out, or to keep something in?  AND…since I don’t have any Gods to worship, is it disrespectful to use it for another purpose?

 What did the ladies who showed up at my gate speaking no English want?  They wanted to come in, I know that much for sure, but I have no clue what they planned to do once they got here.  This morning it happened again, but this lady was able to say “housekeeping?”.  So maybe that was it.  I have a housekeeper, so I guess I can just keep sending them away.  I tried not answering the door, but they wouldn’t leave (probably because they saw Ender’s little head peeking out of the curtains and knew that I was home).

 

What will happen when we visit the chicken pens? 
How will the kids react when I take them to the poultry market and buy very VERY fresh chicken prepared for purchase right before our eyes? (if you get my drift…)

 

 

Why don’t they use P-traps in their sinks and drains? 
Instead, mothballs are put in every sink and drain presumably to keep the smell down and the bugs out. Mothballs make me feel nauseous. I try to avoid the bathrooms as long as possible.

 

Why do mosquitoes love Ender so much?  A million bites on his face alone, and only one or two on the rest of us.  People think he has chickenpox!  Perhaps I should just go and stock up the malaria medication now. I seriously have just 2 or 3 bites, and he wakes up in the morning looking like this.  We have bought more plug-in mosquito killers for their rooms and are now putting mosquito spray on them before bed, but I seriously don’t know where they are coming from.  We’ve got to get this figured out quick!

For our first day in Hyderabad, we decided that we needed to do some shopping.  Upon looking things over when we arrived, I knew there was much needed.  Curtains for the kids rooms were an absolute necessity, or they would be waking at first light every morning.  Scott had plastic placemats on the table that looked like they had been stolen from the local greasy spoon (if they have those here), and only six small water glasses and a highly breakable dish set.  There was maybe 1 pot to cook in, no cooking utensils, and worst of all, no food! 

So, we journeyed out the mall and a few smaller stores for some of these things.  Of course, nothing is going to be easy here, and finding what we wanted was tough.  All of the bedding for the kids looked like stuff from the 70’s.  Addie was thrilled with her leopard/zebra and tiger print sheet set, and Ender chose something that looked sort-of like a pixallated Pacman motif.  They were happy with it, so it was all good.  Pots and pans were ok, but roasting pans are uncommon as not many people have ovens in their homes.  I wanted a toaster oven, so we got one of those, but then finding the pans for cookies, cakes and brownies was challenging.  Finally I found a square glass pan for brownies and a oval pan that I can make burritos and such in.  It will work for now. 

A quick stop at a yummy noodle place (sort of like “Noodles and Company” but with less choices), and then it was time for some food shopping.  We were exhausted by then and all of us were falling asleep in the car.  We decided to stop at a small shop for some essentials..milk, eggs, noodles, etc.  I perused the aisles and realized that I had no idea what kind of flour to buy, what kind of spices, anything!  Everything is so different.  We came away with very little because we were just too tired to think.

Coming out of the airport at 2:30AM, we were greeted by wind, rain, and our driver, Mujeeb.  That was quite fitting, because to me, Mujeeb represents just that…a port in the storm.  No matter how scared I get when we go out, I know that he is there waiting to pick us up again.  Each time we walk out of a shop or restaurant, he is at the door, jumping up to go get the car.  It reassures me to know that he is there to take us home, as he was on our first evening in Hyderabad, and as he is for Scott every night when he leaves work. 

So, Mujeeb was there waving and smiling in amongst the crush of people waiting just outside the airport doors.  He greeted Scott, me, the kids, and ushered us off to a safe, dry place while he got the car that was parked quite a ways away.  The coolness of the evening was refreshing and I was glad to note that Hyderabad does indeed get much cooler than Florida does at times. 

A harrowing drive home in the rain with many whines of “are we there yet” from the back seat.  Finally we arrive at the house.  Sudakker (the houseboy) and Beauty (our dog) are there to meet us.  Addie was so thrilled to see Beauty again, I don’t think she even noticed the house at first. 

Luggage carried in, belongings unpacked.  Addie, Ender and I got some time to look around the house.  The kids were delighted with their new rooms.  Scott had them fixed up quite nicely with beds, rugs and posters on the walls, along with a hidden stash of toys for Ender and art supplies and books for Addie.  The kids took right to them.  While the kids got acquainted with everything, I wandered around checking it all out.  The house was bigger than I imagined it to be, and could use at least one more living room set to fill the very large area on the 2nd floor by the kids rooms that should be used as the play area.  Right now its just a big empty space.  The kitchen is spacious and pretty, the upper balconies are so beautiful in the evenings.  All alone I ventured to the very top of the house, up the spiral staircase to the roof.  A very neat view of the colony and of some of the nearby office buildings is to be had from up there, and the sounds of the city somehow seemed muted and much farther away than they really are.

Well, we made it. It was a long journey, but not quite as bad as I had feared. I will start from the beginning.

We had a wonderful send-off on Saturday, August 2nd. Many friends came over to celebrate Addie’s 8th birthday and to say goodbye. It was wonderful to get a chance to say goodbye to everyone, and the kids had a fabulous time swimming the afternoon away. Here’s my girl with her friends during the birthday song.

The next morning we hurried around the house getting ready to go. Things were going quite smoothly until we were gathering up the cats and found that one of the cat carriers had been ripped. Ender fessed up to the act, but that didn’t change the fact that the carrier was now unusable. A quick stop at Petco on the way to the airport fixed that up, and we were able to also get something to drug the cats with as well while we were there.

The first flight was short, only 3 hours to Detroit. We figured it would be a good test to see how the kids and the cats would do on the longer flight. To our amazement, we found that they both did wonderfully. Addie and Ender played with their Nintendo DS most of the way, and the cats were well-behaved except for take-off and landing, where they did start to yowl for a few brief minutes. All in all, we felt good about things when we landed in Detroit.

 

In Detroit we met Scott’s parents, as we had a 4 hour layover. They came bearing sandwiches and drinks and a deck of Uno cards. We sat in International Arrivals and ate.

Addie Loves her kitty!!
Addie Loves her kitty!!
Addie and Grandma
Addie and Grandma

As our flight neared, we decided that it would be a good idea to drug the cats for the 2nd flight. So, we pulled out medicine and the syringe, and proceeded to be outwitted by flying claws and hissing teeth. We got a little of the medication down Three’s throat, but Tiger was having none of it. Oh well, they did great on the first flight, right?

The 2nd leg of our journey started out well enough. However, I did notice quite quickly that it was a very quiet plane, with many adults and very few children. Soon this was to become a big problem. The kids were fine, well behaved, quiet. Unfortunately, the cats were not. About 2 hours into a 8 hour flight, Three started crying. It was quiet at first, barely discernable above the airplane noise, but quickly grew to be an incredibly annoying, tedious, repetitive cry. I tried everything I could think of. I pet her through the carrier, I talked to her, I tried giving her food and water, all to no avail. I took her in the bathroom so I could take her out and hold her for a bit, I had the stewardess let me use one of their seats in the back of the plane so I could get her away from the poor passengers for a while. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I found that if I petted her head and ears aggressively enough, she would calm down. Seemed the pressure on her head reassured her (or maybe just cut off the circulation, I’m not sure which!). In any case, I was able to sit in my seat for the next 4 hours with the carrier on my lap and pet her in that way. She’d quiet for a bit and I would fall asleep with my hand still on her, only to be woken up 15 minutes later to her crying again and I’d have to start all over. Unfortunately, nearing the end of the flight, Tiger started up too. Scott tried to keep him calm while I focused on Tres. I thought Scott was going to chuck them into the overhead bins, he was so mad! We arrived in Amsterdam irritated and exhausted.
Waiting for the next flight...
Waiting for the next flight...

Determined not to have a repeat on the prior flight, we decided to drug them again. It had been about 10 hours, so it was plenty of time in between. As we waited for our next flight, we administered the next dose. Again, Tres got some down her throat, but Tiger absolutely freaked out. The medicine went everywhere, AND he managed to rip the 2nd carrier right down the side with his back claws. I commandeered Addie’s shoe lace to sew the carrier back together (it was mesh), and we waited for the next flight, full of dread for what was to come.

However, much to our surprise, we never heard a peep out of them. Apparently, resigned to their fate, they decided there was no use in yelling anymore. For another 9 full hours, they flew across the world and didn’t have a thing to say about it. Addie made a new friend onboard who was happy to play Nintendo DS with her, both kids found out they hate Indian food, and Scott, Addie and Ender all were able to get several hours of sleep, while I stayed awake and fretted and worried that I had inadvertently OD’d my babies and that I would pick the carriers up after the flight only to find that I had killed my cats. Luckily, this wasn’t the case, and we all arrived unscathed in Hyderabad after 30 some hours of travel (and they never even messed their cages!).

We waited nearly 45 minutes for our luggage, and went through customs in about a minute and a half. The man never even looked at the health certificate for the cats…I could have stuffed 20 rabid rats in the bags and he wouldn’t have been the wiser. All that work and running around for nothing!