Shortly after I moved here, I discovered an interesting phenomenon.  I have concluded, after much observation, that things rot differently in India.  Food rots from the inside-out here.

On several occasions, I would buy perfect-looking potatoes from the little market, only to cut them open to find that the inside was completely brown.  The skin would look just fine, there was no indication that anything was amiss.

Same thing with apples…nice, red apple, no soft spots to be found, only to reveal a soft, mealy center upon cutting.

Just when I got used to this strange thing happening with my apples and potatoes, a new vegetable decided to join the elite group of inside-out rotting.

Behold, the Green Pepper….

It looked good from the outside.  Green, firm, shiny… offering no warning of the horror that awaited inside.

Perhaps its a sign?  A symbol of our moral decay?  Maybe its just an omen meant for me alone.  Or maybe, in India, even the vegetables are a little different.

The drivers here in Hyderabad are a peculiar sort.  As we’ve mentioned in the past, the driving is a nightmare.  There seems to be virtually no laws or rules, save for one:  Always keep going.

Don’t stop for people, they’ll jump out of the way.  Don’t swerve for dogs…they are nimble enough (except for those hobbling along on 3 legs…they didn’t quite make the cut).  Swerve for the water buffalo, because they will dent your car, but always find a tiny space to squeeze through in the middle of the herd…they don’t seem to get too angry if you cut them off. Don’t worry if you are surrounded by other cars on all sides…you can always find space to squeeze into…just keep going!

However, when there are 2 cars wanting to go in opposite directions on the very same part of the road, there is trouble.  A little game of “chicken” commences, with both of them trying to veer into the empty space at the same time.  This inevitably results in the two cars facing each other, bumper to bumper, with nowhere to go.  The mad honking and gesturing begins, as if whoever can lay on the horn the loudest or longest will magically be awarded with a little bridge over the other car.  Of course, no little bridge appears, and the cars will stay like that for many uncomfortable moments, until one of them surrenders and veers off, nearly scraping the side of his enemy in the process.

My driver happens to be one of the more stubborn ones.  I am not certain that I have ever seen him back down in one of these exchanges.  In fact, I swear he tries to get in those situations.  A car will be coming toward us.  Due to cows or people or broken-down auto rickshaws, there is only room for one to go through.  Any sensible person would pull over and let the other car through, seeing that two cannot possibly fit, but not our driver.  He plows ahead as if he is driving a presidential limo, and everyone must move out of his way.  When the other driver does not comply, he starts gesturing wildly and mumbling, and tapping his head in a universal sign meaning “This other driver is obviously stupid and/or mentally unstable”.

As you might imagine, I am not too fond of these little exchanges.  I sit and stare dumbly ahead, pretending that I’m oblivious to what is going on beside me.  I keep expecting, at any moment, to have the other driver jump out and start pounding on our car.  Luckily, that hasn’t happened.  Eventually, everyone just seems to move out of the way.  Perhaps what I see as the universal symbol for “idiot” is actually some sort of sign language for “get outta my way or this mute western woman beside me will crack your head open like a ripe coconut!”  Who knows?

Anyway, today, when I experienced this yet another time, I thought of a poem by Dr. Seuss.  It is very fitting in this situation, as it seems to sum up the attitude of our driver (and many Indian drivers) perfectly.  Enjoy!

The Zax

One day, making tracks
In the prairie of Prax,
Came a North-Going Zax
And a South-Going Zax.

And it happened that both of them came to a place
Where they bumped.  There they stood.
Foot to foot.  Face to face.

"Look here, now!" the North-Going Zax said, "I say!
You are blocking my path.  You are right in my way.
I'm a North-Going Zax and I always go north.
Get out of my way, now, and let me go forth!"

"Who's in whose way?" snapped the South-Going Zax.
"I always go south, making south-going tracks.
So you're in MY way!  And I ask you to move
And let me go south in my south-going groove."

Then the North-Going Zax puffed his chest up with pride.
"I never," he said, "take a step to one side.
And I'll prove to you that I won't change my ways
If I have to keep standing here fifty-nine days!"

"And I'll prove to YOU," yelled the South-Going Zax,
"That I can stand here in the prairie of Prax
For fifty-nine years!  For I live by a rule
That I learned as a boy back in South-Going School.
Never budge!  That's my rule.  Never budge in the least!
Not an inch to the west!  Not an inch to the east!
I'll stay here, not budging!  I can and I will
If it makes you and me and the whole world stand still!"

Well...
Of course the world didn't stand still.  The world grew.
In a couple of years, the new highway came through
And they built it right over those two stubborn Zax
And left them there, standing un-budge in their tracks.

There is an interesting custom here in India that I am growing to really dislike.  It seems that every time there is a party of any sort, there are a plethora of balloons involved.  While I’m used to parties that have lots of decorations with balloons as an accent, here, balloons seem to be the decorations exclusively.  People are hired to come in and put up the balloons, always in a distinctive 4-balloon pattern that looks like a tripod of three balloons with another balloon sticking off the top.  These are stuck on the walls and ceiling and every available space.

Now, comes the bad part.  Shortly after the party starts (we’re talking 10 minutes tops), the popping begins.  Each and every kid arms themselves with a toothpick or fork or pin or whatever they can find, and goes off on a balloon popping frenzy.  Generally, 30 minutes into the party, there is not a balloon in sight, as each and every one has been popped.  The noise is deafening, as you might imagine.  The kids are relentless in the pursuit of balloons to pop, and adults become willing accomplices, pulling the balloons off the walls and ceiling for them if they can’t reach.

The first time they encountered this, our kids were reduced to tears, as they watched the balloon they were batting in the air snatched and popped before their eyes.  They have tried hiding them with us wherever we are sitting, but the others just come and pull them right off the table in front of it.  There’s just no fighting it.

The last party we went to saw Ender finally join in the popping.  I guess he’s adjusting.  I’ll just have to remind him not to do it in the US…I don’t think his friends (or their parents) would appreciate it.

What I witnessed when I walked in Ender’s room stopped me in my tracks, then made me roll my eyes and run for the camera.  And while my reaction was a lot less severe than it would have been a couple of months ago, I still warned the kids not to go anywhere near Ender’s room today while the workers were up there putting the new tile in.  Why, you might ask?

Well, because their power tools were hooked into the 220 outlet in the following manner:

And, yes, they ARE working in a bathroom with plumbing and leaky pipes.  I’m expecting a panicked scream and dimming lights at any moment.

And, yes, the wall really IS that dirty.  🙁  I think it has moved up to the top of the “next to be painted” list.

Well, it is with great shame and embarrassment that I have to say that we seem to have a problem here.  For the past two nights,  our home has been invaded by a very unwanted pest.  The cats, who alerted us to the this problem, don’t understand why we cower and shriek while they have the time of their lives playing with these new curiosities.

Yes, folks, in the past two nights we have been visited by 3 cockroaches.

It happens like this:  The cats find a cockroach and start throwing it in the air like a crunchy, crawly juggling ball.  The noise and commotion alerts a kid (who is supposed to be asleep), and the yelling starts.  I come trudging up the stairs, wondering with on earth the problem is, only to be confronted with cats and roaches being launched through the air and two young spectators laughing and cheering like its a day at the circus.  All of the playful warfare has the benefit of leaving an upside-down, stunned roach in the middle of the room, making it easy for me to put a cup over it, slide a piece of paper under it, and flick it out over the side of the balcony.  (I can’t crush them…I’m much too squeamish, and would end up puking my guts out shortly afterward if I tried.)

Now I am at a loss to explain how this could be happening, for a variety of reasons.  Let me list them:

1.  The kitchen is clean.  The food is put away.  It is by far the cleanest house I have ever lived in due to the fact that I have someone who actually CLEANS it EVERY day. (And the fact that we have very little food!)

2. We have never before seen any evidence of them.  The cats are going nuts catching them, so its certain that they would have been going nuts catching them all these months if we had an infestation, and they do leave little telltale signs if they are around, signs that I have not seen.

3.  They are not even IN the kitchen.  All three have been found on the 2nd floor, in the common area between Addie and Ender’s rooms.  There’s no food up there!  ( I have no evidence that Ender has been stashing uneaten food in his room, though I certainly can’t rule that out…he IS pretty sneaky.)

I can deny their right to exist here all I want, but the truth is, they are here, and I’m certainly not happy about it.

The teachers at school told me that it is common this time of year, that they come in when it starts warming up.  Maybe…but where are they getting in??

I do have 1 theory, but I have my doubts…  We brought a bunch of plants for Addie’s room this weekend.  Could the little (ok…BIG) buggers been clinging to them?  Maybe hiding in the stalks, just waiting to spring out as soon as the coast was clear?  Could be, I just don’t know.

Anyway, I’m finding a solution this weekend.  Exterminator?  Window and door sealer?  Plant disposal?

Or, perhaps, just a few more cats! 🙂

I’ll leave you with a version of the words to that well-known Spanish song that I have unfortunately been humming to myself for the last 2 days.

Traditional:

La cucaracha, la cucaracha,
Ya no puede caminar
Porque no tiene, porque le falta
Las dos patitas de atrás

Translation:

The cockroach, the cockroach,
Can’t walk anymore
Because it doesn’t have, because it’s lacking
Its two back feet

There is a version that is probably more popular, but less family friendly.  You can read all about it here, if you like!

Let me start by saying that this has absolutely nothing to do with India.

For those of you who don’t know, my son Ender is named after a very popular character in the world of Science Fiction.  The “Ender’s Game” series of books, by Orson Scott Card, is legendary.  I was first introduced to “Ender’s Game” in High School, when Mr. Elliot, my English teacher, gave us a choice between reading “Farenheit 451” or “Ender’s Game“.  Being the geek that I was, I chose the much longer of the two of them, and my life was never the same.  In the years that followed, I read and re-read the book countless times, along with others and the series, and somehow managed to find a husband who was a fan of the series as well.

Ender’s Game” is the story of an incredible young boy who has been bred and trained to become a military genius capable of making the decisions that can save the human race.  We named our son Ender due to the fact that this character had all of the same qualities that we would like to see in our own child.  Honesty, Integrity, Bravery, Resilliance, Drive, and an incredible, far-reaching Intelligence.  While a 6 year old who encompasses all of these qualities all the time will most likely remain the stuff of science fiction, it is certainly not a stretch to hope that a kid grows up with those qualities.

Anyway, to the real point of this story.  About a year and a half ago, I found that a book was being written called the “Authorized Ender Companion.”  The authors were looking for short essays on how the book had changed people’s lives.  On a whim, I decided to write a little snippet and send it in, a combination story of my love of the book and a good bit about the real-life Ender that we had given rise to.  Then, I promptly forgot about it.

Fast-forward to today.  Scott was contacted by a woman representing the publishers.  She was looking for me with a form to sign giving permission to have my essay published in the book.  It sounds like she had been looking for quite a while, as she mentioned that I was a very hard person to track down.

All this leads me to believe that this thing might actually get published!  I can’t wait to see if they use it.  I always knew my boy would be famous some day! 🙂

1.  Ender’s bathroom is still not fixed.  The sink is lying in an ugly heap in the middle of the floor and Ender is having nightmares about monsters hiding in the crumbling brick walls.

2.  Addie’s room is painted.  It looks beautiful and jungly (is that a word?).  It has 2 brown walls and 1 green wall, and many large potted palms scattered around.  It scared her the first night, as it makes the whole room A LOT darker, but she is getting used to it and seems quite happy with her choice.

3.  The landlord seemed less than pleased with Addie’s color choice for her room, noting that he usually doesn’t paint the walls that dark because other people might not like them.  I pointed out that we were going nowhere any time soon, and that we’d be glad to paint them back to their ugly, water-stained, nicked and scraped, poorly-masked state when we do leave. 

4.  Addie wouldn’t go to bed tonight…she was too busy reading a book all about Charles Darwin.  I, of course, wasn’t about to tell her to stop.  She may be tired tomorrow, but at least she’ll be well-read and knowledgable.  I’m so very proud of her!

5.  The donuts at Mountain Bakery tend to be a little too doughy for my taste, but it really doesn’t matter when you are desperate for an American-style sugar fix!  You don’t get many choices as far as flavors or types go, but at least they are round and have a hole in the middle!  I’m so glad that a teacher at the school informed me of the bakery’s existance!

6.  Ender, though absolutely brilliant and remarkably sweet at times, really needs an attitude adjustment.  He screamed himself to sleep tonight due to the fact that I read Addie 1 chapter more of a book than I read to him at bedtime.  With the way he carries on, I keep expecting the Indian version of social services at my door any day.

7.  I have a splitting headache due to Ender’s lack of self-control. 

8.  We have a neighborhood girl, several years older than Addie and Ender, who seems to have taken a liking to us and our house.  So much so, that she makes herself at home by opening the door and letting herself in anytime without even knocking.  Scott says that it is a cultural thing.  I don’t know, but I still am trying to figure out how to make her go home.  She doesn’t seem to take hints. 

9.  Summer is well on its way.  It is getting hotter and hotter here with each passing day, and starting to get uncomfortable outside at midday.  I know this is only the beginning, and I am not looking forward to what is to come.  Fortunately, our community has that pool.  However……

10.  The pool is empty once again….

Two months, that is, for a package to make its way from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Hyderabad- assuming it makes it at all.

Our friends, Heidi and Paul, were kind enough to send us this little care package containing 2 stuffed animals, some fruit snacks, some m&m’s and various sundries.  Several packages have been sent to us since we moved here.  Only this one has actually made it.  The package in question was sent on November 28th, and arrived on January 28th.

The kids were delighted when they came running in the house with the package, and I still have yet to figure out just who came by and handed it to them.  The box was crushed and misshapen, and you could tell that the tape had been unstuck.  Examination of the contents proved that someone had indeed been rummaging around in it, as 1 of the stuffed animals was MIA.  I like to think he/she is now being cuddled by some little child who never had a stuffed toy before, but its just as likely to be a hood ornament for somebody’s auto-rickshaw.

Anyway, we were thrilled with the package, and thankful to Heidi and Paul for sending is this little reminder of home.  However, I wouldn’t recommend anyone else try to send anything…there are still two packages floating around India somewhere with our name on them, and its been far more than 2 months for them….

As I was going through my pictures, I noticed that either Addie or Ender had taken the camera at some point while we were shopping at the little store near our house.  I’m not certain the reason that they snapped this photo, but I found it kind of funny.

Not exactly the images you are used to conjuring up when I say the words “Fast Food”.   While I must admit that the food will probably be as fast or faster here than from an American “fast food” joint, my guess is that with the amount of oil and frying that is usually involved in cooking here, the health benefits (read:  detriments) are quite similar.

I’m wondering if the the motorcycle is at all involved in the “fast” part of this fast food?