Today, Ender’s 1st Grade class performed a play for the school and parents.  I can’t stress enough my admiration for a pair of teachers who could take nearly twenty 6 year old children and pull off a play so wonderfully rehearsed and extremely well-executed.  Everyone knew their parts, everyone knew when it was their turn to speak, everyone managed to move around the stage precisely and accurately when it was their turn.  The whole thing was incredibly impressive, and I thank the grade 1 teachers at ISH for orchestrating such a fabulous show for us all and for giving these kids the opportunity to get up on stage and speak and perform, incredibly important life skills that are all too often overlooked in education.

The play was based on what the children had been studying in class – dinosaurs!  A group of archeologists were out searching fruitlessly for fossils and had just about given up the hunt.  They went to sleep and dreamed of the days of dinosaurs.  A parade of different dinosaurs marched through their dreams, introducing us to several different types.  Fossils, too, spoke of past days of glory while the dinosaurs roared their superiority.  At the dawn’s light, the dinosaurs returned to bones, and the excited archeologists were rewarded at last with the discovery they had been waiting for.

After it was all over, those that participated in the Science Fair yesterday received their awards.  The children loved being recognized for all of their hard work.

Enjoy the pictures of this superb theatrical achievement by grade 1 at ISH.

Dinosaurs do not want to listen to fossils!
Great actions!
Ender and fellow T-Rex walking up to deliver their lines
Ender and fellow T-Rex walking up to deliver their lines
The archeologists discover that the fossils do can see our little T-Rex in back, now a fossil himself
The archeologists discover that the fossils do can see our little T-Rex in back, now a fossil himself
Addie gets her science award
Addie gets her science award
Ender gets his science award
Ender gets his science award
Checking out the Science Fair

The day of the big Science Fair has come and gone.  Judging by the high quality of the projects, a lot of work went into this day from every child that participated (and often from their parents too!).

Let us give you some insight into what went on in our house in preparation for the big day.

We will Start with Addie.

“Mom, I want to make an erupting volcano”.

“Honey, that’s great, but I’m afraid there will be a lot of volcanoes there.”

“Ok, how about an UNDERWATER volcano?”.

A few days of much excitement from all sides…wild ideas are thrown out.  A water-filled aquarium, spray foam for the eruption, actual fish swimming around….  These ideas were not just from Addie.  Scott was particularly inventive, and I had to keep reminding him that this needed to be something that she could actually do mostly by herself, and anyway, our access to an acetelene torch and electronic volcano detonators was strictly limited.

Finally, we worked our way into a series of 4 stages of the underwater volcano culminating with a volcanic island, sans water, laid out in a cardboard box with the explanations of each stage above.  We mixed the clay for the volcanos (simply flour and salt), and she set to work creating volcanos with a little input about size and placement from me.  Addie and Ender both helped in the building, and when it was all over, she had some really nice looking volcanos.  Both kids painted the box to make it look like water, and Addie carefully printed each step and placed them above, and made little signs within the box describing different elements.  I did consult and advise, and I did cut out the letters for the title for her, but she really did most of the work on her own and was quite proud of the results.  I’m sure you’ll agree that it turned out splendidly.

Addie's Underwater Volcano Display

Ender, on the other hand, was less “into” it.  At 6 years of age, though he loves science, he’s certainly not in the mood to write about it.  We began with “I want to mix water together and see what I get”.  We tried to pull something out of that with colors and such, but it quickly became pretty apparent he just wanted to play in water and make a mess and call that his science project.  While I’m sure there are a lot of scientific principals involved in that, we were at a loss to make an easily understandable experiment from water and mess.

Then, Inspiration stuck.  We took our trip to Delhi, to the Taj Mahal, and had the opportunity to take one of the classic goofy tourist photos.  You can stand on a platform and put out your hand, and the photographer can position himself so that it looks as if you are touching the top of the Taj Mahal.  Why don’t we take that picture and explain the phenomenon?  While water and mess were still more appealing, we got him to agree that this was pretty cool too.

The rest of it was not so simple.  It was decided that just that picture wouldn’t be enough.  I scoured the internet and came up with the “see this little person standing in my hand” photo, AND a cool printable room to construct that made it look like two same objects are different sizes when they aren’t.  The whole thing could be titled “Optical Illusions”, and he could explain them.  I showed it all to him and he sounded agreeable, and he loves taking pictures.

The day of the great “Addie is standing in my hand” picture-taking was a lazy Saturday.  Knowing that he had to start working on this because time was running short, I made the mistake of pulling him away from cartoons for the photo shoot.  The grumbling began, and continued throughout the photo-taking, with him looking angry in each picture while his sister gleefully “danced” on the palm of his hand. Luckily, we got the shot after a few takes, and he could go back to his cartoons, as we didn’t have a printer anyway.

Yes, I know we made a mistake with that window reflection in back

Daddy was kind enough to get the pictures printed for him, and to cut out and assemble the “magic room” as it was too complicated for Ender to do.  In fact, at one point it seemed to be too complicated for us to do as well, but we got there in the end.  Ender was quite happy with the little room, and liked the way that the objects appeared smaller on the right than on the left.

I did the assembly of the actual project board, but required that he at least sit with me and apply the glue for me.  Then came the big fight…

He needed to do a little write-up of each picture.  Each one required no more than 2 sentences, but you’d have thought he was being asked to rewrite the entire dictionary.  His hand hurt.  It was too hard to write.   He was tired.  He didn’t want to use pen.  The list of ills went on and on.  He just sat there whining under his breath in that incredibly irritating way until I finally lost all composure when he threw his pen to the floor on purpose for the 3rd time, whining all the way.  I took the project board, threw IT to the floor, and said “You don’t want to do it?  OK!  Then you won’t have a project.”  The previously irritating whining ramped up to full-blown howling, and cries of “I want a project, I want a project…” filled the room.  After that, things progressed much quicker.  The sentences amazingly got written in less time than it had taken for him to sit there whining about it, and he helped place them on the board and glue the letters on.

The final project looked like this:

Yes, I know, I should have let him go with water and mess.  Live and learn.  Though, truth be told, I know he wouldn’t have wanted to write about that either in the end.

Anyway, both projects were a big hit at the fair, and both children were very proud of them.  I think we all learned a lot from this experience…  Addie knows how an island is formed, Ender has learned about optical illusions, and Mom and Dad have learned that they don’t like dealing with a  crabby, angry, unwilling 6 year old. (Ok, we probably knew that already).

Next year, you will easily be able to find Ender’s project… just look for the one titled “Water and Mess”.

This morning we had the honor of watching the election results come in with a large number of expats.  The lounge at Novotel was packed to overflowing with excited expats awaiting their party’s victory.  It was a great way to welcome a new administration, and I am glad that we got to be part of it.

Scott got to work and found that the mood of his office was very upbeat and hopeful.  While there is some concern that the Democratic party wants to limit offshoring, the fear of this is overshadowed by the need for change to get the economy back up and running, an economy that the Indian IT industry is strongly dependent on.  

The world was watching this morning, and they seem to have liked the results.

Sorry for the short post…internet was out all evening, and I’m sick as a dog.  I will do better tomorrow. 🙂

As you go through this election day, I thought you might be interested in how expats cast their ballots.  Before we even left the US, this had been on my mind.  I did some searching and found that all I supposedly had to do was register with our local Florida election office and request an absentee ballot.  I filled out the online form and sent it off into cyberspace, only half believing that we’d actually recieve a ballot in India.

Lo and Behold, about a month and a half ago, we recieved our ballots.  It is amazing, actually, as just about everything else that has ever been sent to us has been lost forever, never to reach its intended destination.  However, the ballots came through unscathed, and were delivered to our door in pristine condition.

An absentee ballot looks like a regular written ballot.  Connect the line to make your choice.  After filling it out, you just pop it into the inner privacy envelope, and then place that envelope into a bigger mailing envelope that you must sign.  This is to keep the whole thing a secret.  They check your signature on the larger envelope, and then, hopefully, discard the large one and mix the inner, unsigned envelope in with all the others for opening and counting.  (I’m not sure about this, but that is what I am guessing).

Now, I was quite concerned about the envelopes actually making it back to the US.  Getting here was a miracle in and of itself, I could hardly expect them to get back there on time.  It would be like lightening striking the same person twice.

Lucky for us, our friend Tim visited on business.  He graciously agreed to take the envelopes back to the US for us and mail them from Texas, assuring that they would actually get there.  Of course, we didn’t mention who we voted for, lest Tim disagreed with our decision and dumped them in the nearest trash can when we got to the airport.  (Just kidding, Tim, we know you wouldn’t do that!).

Now, for those expats who didn’t get their ballots for some reason, there was another chance.  Voting stations were set up here several weeks ago where they could pick up ballots and place their votes.  I am not sure how that all worked as far as verification and whatnot, but apparently they know what they are doing.

There are active organizations in most countries for “Democrats Abroad” and “Republicans Abroad”, who were doing the best to get the word out about their candidates and assure that all expats vote, so we aren’t cut off from what’s going on back home like some might imagine.

Tomorrow morning, some voters will be getting together to have a brunch and watch the election returns come in.  I figure that it will all be decided by about 9am our time.  Hopefully the news will be good.

Whatever your political leanings, make sure you vote today.  If we can do it all the way from India, you’ve got no excuse.  🙂

This morning when I got to school, I was thrilled to be informed that the kiddos’ picture had been printed in the Hyderabad Times!  There was a little article on the expat Halloween event, with a nice spread of pictures.  Perfect thing to keep for the scrapbook.  Now…if I only HAD a scrapbook.

The text of the article reads:

“It was an evening where everyone was sporting masks and scary costumes of vampires and witches.  And though the Halloween party organized by the city’s expats, at a star hotel in Gachibowli, was meant for kids, their parents too joined the celebrations with gusto.  There were spooky lights, candles, pumpkins, scary masks and skeletons all around.  And after the Halloween games, there were Halloween movies and music.  And those who weren’t worn out let their hair down to some hip hop and western popular numbers.  There were mock punches and candies for kids which even parents relished….”

I know there are a lot of teachers who are reading that and cringing right now because of the crummy grammar, but let’s just say that that is typical of the papers that I have read here.  As a result, I don’t read the paper very often.

It goes on to say “Overheard:  ‘We don’t miss our home country anymore’

Now, while I will admit that it was a very nice event, and that it went a long way toward making us feel a little less lost than we usually feel, I think it will be a very long time (like never) before we could say that we didn’t miss our home country anymore.  I could be wrong….

Anyway, the moral of the story is:  Kids made the paper and they were quite pleased. (Their parents were too!)

It was with great anticipation that we watched the construction of TGI Fridays in a brand new mall here in Hyderabad.  The signs were up, the lights were on, but on 3 separate occasions we made it to the door only to be told that they weren’t open yet, and were given conflicting dates for the big grand opening.  We had been told by the manager that the menu was the same as the US menu, so we were very VERY excited, especially when he assured us that they did indeed have ribs!

Tonight was our lucky night!  After a long day of working on Science Fair projects, we needed to get out for a bit, and we decided to try Fridays once again, in hopes that this time we would be welcomed in.  Sure enough, the lights were on, the doors were open, and the music was playing!

For a brief time it felt like we were back in the US.  Classic rock played on the speakers, the familiar red and white stripes surrounded us, and the waiters were reassuringly dressed in silly hats and lots of “flare”.  (ok, maybe they didn’t have quite enough flare, but we’ll let it slide).

The menu was definitely similar to the US, but that doesn’t mean that it tasted the same.  A burger here and a burger in the US are not equal.  The meat was much different, much more crumbly.  I have a sneaking suspicion that someone in back was trying to pass off mutton as beef, but I’ll never know for sure.  Still, it was ok.

Scott’s steak was a bit tougher than a US one would have been, but it had that nice seasoned taste we have all come to know and love.

The appetizer of potato skins, hot wings and cheese sticks was good, but again, not quite the same.  They don’t have sour cream here, so we had to do with blue cheese on the potato skins, and the cheese inside the cheese sticks was of a type unknown to us.

Ender’s ribs were great, though, and Addie’s fettuccini alfredo was delicious.  The price was in line with what you would pay for a family of 4 at Friday’s in the US, which is, of course, quite pricy by Indian standards.  However, for a little taste of home, we were willing to pay it.

The kids were showered with gifts…hats with built in sunglasses, balloons, crayons, and little personal fans.  They loved it!

I was wondering, as were were eating beef (I think…) and pork, who they have for a chef.  The majority of people in Hyderabad are either Hindus or Muslims, and one cannot eat (or presumably prepare) beef, and the other believes that pork is unclean.  I would assume that willingness to prepare these foods has to be part of the job description, so does that mean that they can only draw their chefs from the small Christian population here?  Things to ponder…. but I digress.

While I will probably stay away from the burgers from now on (they are not bad, its just the disappointment of them not being like the US burgers), we will definitely go back there again.  It was a great way to get a little taste of home, and sometimes, we just need that.

As Ender was sitting on the couch watching Eon Kid (his favorite show), and waiting for his turn for face painting on Friday, he caught some movement outside the window.  The yelling and screaming that commenced when he realized that it was a monkey walking on our fence was priceless.  I couldn’t tell if he was excited or frightened, exactly, but seemed to be leaning more toward being scared of it.  It was quite big, probably the size of a 1 year old child, and it quickly traversed the side of the house and headed for the back.

Now I have been told that they are around here, and have heard of sightings of them from time to time from other expats, but have never seen one myself.  Apparently my friend Louise encountered one while walking to the kid’s bus stop, and another friend, Meena, saw one in our own colony go into a house and help himself to a banana which he proceeded eat while sitting on the curb in front.

Of course, I ran for my camera while Ender fretted about what we should do, but by the time I got the door open, the monkey had already made it 2 houses away (still walking the fence line), and I could only get a picture of his back while he sat there contemplating his next move.  Unfortunately, much like my deletion of the original Halloween Post, I also managed to somehow delete my sole picture of Mr. Monkey before saving it to the computer.  I was able to find a picture of a similar monkey online, so just imagine this one sitting on a fence with Ender freaking out nearby. (oh, and no, he wasn’t reading a newspaper either, but I’d be glad to give him one if he would like!)

After my picture was taken, the monkey hopped down from the fence and headed to the next road, presumably in search of open doors and bananas to steal.  Addie and Ender wanted to run to the store to get bananas to leave out on the fence for it, but I decided tha we’d better not encourage it.

Now, my new mission in life will be to capture my own picture of an actual monkey, preferably in my colony, and hopefully even in my yard!  I’ll keep you updated.

Ready for Trick or Treating
Ready for Trick or Treating

I previously wrote a post about Halloween in India, but it unfortunately got deleted in an amazing display of stupidity on my part.  I don’t remember what I all said, but I’ll give you a brief rundown.

Halloween is not normally celebrated in India, but due to the large amount of expats here, we were fortunate to have both a Halloween party AND trick or treating to go to on Friday.  The lead-up to Halloween was definitely missing, but at least the actual holiday progressed pretty much as it would in the US, making us feel a little less homesick.

On Thursday, a friend and I got together and had our kids paint gourds (no actual pumpkins available), make crafts and decorate cupcakes.  The kids had a great time, and it went a long way toward putting us all in the holiday spirit.

Ender and Varun decorate cupcakes
Ender and Varun decorate cupcakes

The costumes were a bit of a stress for me, as I had no idea where to get the materials to make them.  Luckily, the kids made it easy by requesting a white tiger and a jaguar costume.  My creativity kicked in and I found that you can do amazing things with an old t-shirt, a needle and thread, some poster paint, and a headband.  The needle and thread were iffy there for a while, as no one seemed to know where I could get them, but luckily the little “provisional store” down the street had a baby food jar full of (used?) needles and wide array of thread, as long as you were happy with either black or white! 🙂 I worked long into the night on Wednesday and Thursday, and think I did pretty well considering.

Little Jaguar (or leopard or cheetah...take your pick!)
Little Jaguar (or leopard or cheetah...take your pick!)

Youtube taught me how to paint their faces, and I must say that I was quite happy with the results.  Let’s hear it for modern technology!

On the way to the party, we stopped off at Scott’s office so he could see them off.  He was happy to see them, and to show them off to everyone, and they were thrilled with the attention.  Its not every day you see two little wildcats walking through Hitech City!

Daddy loved seeing his little kitties at work!
Daddy loved seeing his little kitties at work!

The party was crowded but fun.  Ender lost his tail early on to the hands of another over-sugared party-goer, and Addie’s ears began to droop after my shoddy sewing job gave way, but they came through it all still looking pretty decent.

Trick Or Treat!
Trick Or Treat!

Trick or Treating was held at the neighboring colony.  While not very many houses participated, there were just enough for a fun hour and a decent-sized bag of candy.  The kids enjoyed themselves immensely, and the people had a great time watching the little ghouls and goblins carry out their strange expat custom.

The kittens change to mountain lions when they encounter some rocks
The kittens change to mountain lions when they encounter some rocks

All in all, a pretty decent Halloween.  Next year when I’m more settled perhaps I can help make it even better…Haunted House, anyone?

Words cannot describe the pain that we are all feeling right now.  Your incredible journey through life was cut way too short, leaving an emptiness in our hearts that will never go away.

Though we had only known each other for a few years, the memories you have left with me will last a lifetime.  Your courage and strength are an inspiration, your positive outlook in the face of all adversity is something few will ever achieve.  I am awed by the amazing attitude that you displayed up the the very last moment, and am angry at your traitorous body that gave up the fight long before your beautiful mind would have ever allowed.

I will always appreciate your advice and guidance and will never forget all that you have taught me.  You have changed my life forever, and I, as well as each and every person whom you touched, will carry with us that spark that burned so brightly in you.  Thank you for all that you have given us.

Life will carry on, as it must, for those of us left behind, but a little piece of each of us died with you this day.

We love you, Kathryn.

You will never be forgotten.

Diwali is a holiday celebrated in the latter part of October by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs.  Called the “Festival of Lights”, it signifies the victory of good over evil in every human being.  The story goes that Lord Ram had been in exile in the forest for 14 years.  He was able to finally defeat evil Ravana, and was welcomed home by his people with rows of lit oil lamps.

Today, people celebrate Diwali with many pujas (prayers) at differing times throughout the festival, colored lights akin to the US Christmas, lit oil lamps (called diyas) and, of course, the fireworks.

Words cannot do justice to what we witnessed last night.  I can tell you that it was loud, I can tell you that it was colorful, I can tell you that I had a great time and was scared for our lives all at once, but I can never even begin to describe it all the way it deserves.

The fireworks were non-stop, and EVERYONE had them.  Many were the kind that would be illegal in the US:  Professional fireworks that you’d see at the community park on the 4th of July, and loud blasters that would be more suitable for use in a rock quarry than on the street in front of our house.  It seemed to me that each and every member of every family, old, young, man, woman, were all out there taking turns lighting them.

Though impatient celebrators were lighting fireworks throughout the day, the bulk of the noise began at around 6:30 when it got dark and ran on though the night.  The noise was deafening.  It sounded as if we were surrounded by bomb blasts and machine gun fire.  Rockets were flying in all directions, fountains and noisemakers and firecrackers everywhere.  You took your life in your hands just walking down the sidewalk.

The grass in the public garden down the road caught on fire early on.  A bucket brigade managed to put it out, but it was iffy there for a few minutes.

Imagine the noise and light of the grand finale of a fireworks show.  Now imagine that going on for 4 hours straight.  That’s Diwali.

At one point a rocket fell from the sky and hit me in the hand.  I managed to burn my thumb lighting a sparkler and our friend Rajesh managed to singe a good portion of his hand lighting something else.  Addie and Ender were desperate to light the fireworks like all the other kids were being allowed to do, but I have to have a little control left in my life and didn’t allow it.  IT was bad enough that they were lighting their own sparklers by the end using a candle, giving me fits in the process.

Unfortunately, Scott and Rajesh felt that it was wise to spend most of their money on noisemakers instead of pretty fountains, so we ended up with a bunch of very VERY loud fireworks that they were trying desperately to get rid of so it could just all be over.  We also had a plethora of sparklers, so the kids spent a good deal of time devising a sparkler forest on the grass in order to use them up all at once.  The small grass fire that ensued was easily put out with a bit of stomping.

The streets were covered with spent firework debris.  Some of the neighborhood kids busied themselves collecting the big stuff and creating quite a nice bonfire with it all.  Of course, a few dud fireworks got thrown into it now and then, so it really wasn’t too safe to get too close to it.  Guess we’d better pass on the s’mores.

I wish I could have taken a video, or at the very least recorded the sound of it all.  Let it just suffice to say that it was probably the most incredible celebration that I have witnessed, and we are certainly fortunate to have been a part of it.

The kids made Diyas at school.  This one belongs to Ender.
The kids made Diyas at school. This one belongs to Ender.
Addie and Ender and thier lit diyas
Addie and Ender and their lit diyas
This group had a ton of fountains
This group had a ton of fountains
Scott makes fire
Scott makes fire
Ender and a sparkler
Ender and a sparkler
Addie and a sparkler
Addie and a sparkler
Rajesh showing off his moves
Rajesh showing off his moves
Scott and a fountain
Scott and a fountain
Setting up the sparkler grand finale.  Notice Addie's fistful of sparklers.
Setting up the sparkler grand finale. Notice Addie and her fistfull of sparklers.
Lighting about 30 sparklers at once.  The community didn't really need that grass there anyway, right?
Lighting about 30 sparklers at once. Who needs grass anyway, right?
The street, littered with spent fireworks.
The street, littered with spent fireworks.
Bonfire in the middle of the street - what better way to clean up?
Bonfire in the middle of the street - what better way to clean up?