For those of you back in Florida who are missing your daily dose of Ender, I have a few tidbits for you, Ender-isms if you will, zingers that only Ender can come up with. 

1.  “I didn’t want to go to that party. Why did you make me go?  I told you I didn’t want to go.  I KNEW that I couldn’t behave if I was there, and I would get into trouble, I just didn’t tell you that!” -told to me while I was disciplining him for misbehavior at the party.

2.  “Mom, this meal is good!  No, its not good…its supercallafragilistic great.  Its a 10 star meal!” -said to me the night I made sauteed shrimp over noodles, as easy and simple as a meal can get.

Ender and his tree picture - outlined in black
Ender and his tree picture - outlined in black

3.  “Mom, what are you making?” Ender asks, as I am carelessly sprinkling spices into a bowl.  “I’m making perogies,” I reply.  “Mom, how did you find out how to make them?” he inquires.  “I found a recipe on the internet”, I say.  “Oh”, he replies, “Did that recipe tell you to sprinkle the spices all over the counter and outside of the bowl like you are doing??”

4.  “Mom, I don’t like my art teacher.  He’s mean He’s always grumpy, and he makes us outline our pictures in black and he ruins all our pictures.  I make a nice picture and he comes over and says ‘outline it in black’!  Black must be his favorite color or something, but it just wrecks all my pictures!”

Because I know that everyone is interested in what our life is like here, I have, thus far, talked only about things we do and see.  However I do want to also take some time to talk about India itself, as this adventure has to be a learning experience for us all.  So today I thought I would start with something near and dear to my heart, the children. 

While I live in a nice neighborhood with expensive houses and tons of happy kids who attend the best private schools, this is not the norm here.  In fact, many children in India grow up without safe housing, access to school, access to medical treatment, or proper nutrition.  As a result, many of these children don’t get to grow up at all. 

I see these children everywhere when I walk outside of my complex, begging on the corners, selling flowers and bug swatters in the middle of speeding traffic, climbing over piles of garbage looking for bottles and cans. I see the son of our community’s  trash collector, riding along with his father and opening each bag looking for recyclables before throwing it in the back of the “truck” (a rickshaw with a bed on back instead of seating).  I also see them right across the street from me, the children of the servants who tend to my neighbor’s house.  The little boy and girl, the same age as Addie and Ender, who sit and watch everyone else go to school, who spend their days idle or working in the household, who, according to the neighborhood kids, are “dirty” and therefore can’t be their playmates.  It breaks my heart to know that this goes on, yet I feel powerless in the face of centuries of this kind of thought.

Let me share some statistics that I found.  According to THE SMILE FOUNDATION,

  • 95 in every 1000 children born in India do not see their fifth birthday.
  • 1 out of every 6 girls does not live to see her 15th birthday.
  • Over 60% of children in India are anaemic.
  • 58% of India’s children below the age of 2 years are not fully vaccinated. And 24% of these children do not receive any form of vaccination.
  • 17 million children in India work as per official estimates.
  • Less than half of India’s children between the age 6 and 14 go to school.
  • 53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate.

There are numerous statistics at the above website, I don’t need to list them all here.  You get the idea and can click the link above if you want to hear more. 

The numbers are daunting, and the reasons are many.  The endless cycle of poverty, the “abolished” caste system that is unfortunately still alive and well here, the discrimination, the general apathy toward the impoverished, the lack of schools, the lack of affordable medical facilities, the list goes on and on. 

I found an article that sums up a lot of things much more eloquently than I ever could.  Read it if you like.  It is exactly what I witness here each day when I go out.

As for what I can do…I don’t yet know.  I hope to find a way to help, to make a difference, but I’m not sure in what capacity.  Aid organizations abound, yet looking around you’d never know it.  I will actively strive to find the place where my time and energies can have an impact.  For now, I do what I can.  I say hello to the kids across the street, I smile and wave at them when I see them, and have gotten shy smiles out of them.  I treat them as they deserve to be treated as members of the human race, and urge my kids to do the same.  I explain to Addie and Ender about the prejudices in this country and in all countries, the mindset of people not just here, but everywhere, and ask them to think beyond what their friends are saying and what the society is trying to tell them.

I realize that I am new here, that I don’t know much about this place, and that I come with a predetermined idea of what childhood should be like, an unrealistic expectation, perhaps.  But, if I can find a way to help and teach my kids what I believe, we may be able to make a difference in the end.

For those of you who know me well, I have never been an imaginative cook. I have pretty much stuck to the meat and potatoes formula and it has served me well all these years. It was particularly good for Ender, who for the first several years of his life ate the “meat” part almost exclusively. Anything fancy, and he’d prefer to starve.

My kitchen consists of a gas cookstove, microwave, toaster oven and rice cooker.
My kitchen consists of a gas cookstove, microwave, toaster oven and rice cooker.

Coming to India has forced me to rethink my cooking. Not only is meat harder to get here, it is also much different than what you would find in the states. Everything seems tougher, stringier. Nothing tastes like I remember it, and after the first two attempts with frozen chicken and beef, I was pretty much turned off of it completely. In addition, the very small stores are full of Indian foods and spices, most of which I have never heard of, and which my kids will NOT EAT.

The first week here, we lived almost exclusively on noodles. Buttered noodles, noodles with a little cheese, noodles fried with MORE NOODLES. It was getting old, and certainly not particularly healthy. I knew that I had to find a solution.

So, I headed over to the vegetarian recipe pages, a place I thought I would never be visiting with such a meat-loving family, and started searching for something, ANYTHING that they would find acceptable. With the little vegetable stand right on the corner where the kids wait for the bus, fruits and veggies can be bought each day for the evening’s dinner, along with milk, bread and paneer and yogurt. (more on paneer in a moment). Now if I could just find a recipe using what was readily available.

This is Paneer
This is Paneer

My first foray into vegetarian cooking involved veggie and paneer kabobs. Now, for those of you who don’t know, paneer is a type of cheese. It comes in a flat brick and looks and feels much like tofu and does not melt. It has very little taste but is able to take on the taste of whatever it is cooked with. It is used a lot here because it offers protein in vegetarian diets. There was a picture of veggie paneer kabobs in a book that came with my microwave, so I just made it up as I went along, marinating the veggies and paneer in a marinade mainly made of soy sauce, grilling them in my handy new toaster oven, and serving them over a bed of rice (noodles for Ender).

This meal didn’t earn me many points with anyone. Scott ate it all, Addie ate only the paneer and the rice, and Ender only ate the noodles. Ok, back to the drawing board.

My second meal was much better. I searched the internet for hours for this one. I somehow managed to make paneer fajitas, even going so far as to make my own tortillas! This meal was absolutely delicious, and Scott has asked me to please repeat it. The kids weren’t thrilled about the peppers and onions, but the paneer was a big hit, and everyone loved the flaky tortilla-like things. The recipe is as follows.

Fajita filling:
1 brick of paneer, cut into small chunks
2 large green peppers, cut into strips
1 large red pepper, cut into strips
1 large onion, cut into rings (I use red onions because that’s what is available here)
3 cloves minced garlic
Soy Sauce
Chili Powder
Olive Oil
Spices to taste

Procedure:
1. Create a marinade of Soy Sauce, Chili Powder, a bit of Olive Oil and any other spices you like (I didn’t have

The extent of my cooking utensils
The extent of my cooking utensils

much on hand, but the original recipe listed a bunch of them) Add Paneer, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
2. Saute garlic, onions and peppers in Olive Oil until nearly cooked. Add paneer AND all marinade. Heat, stirring frequently, until vegetables are done and the paneer is slightly browned.
3. Serve over fresh tortillas. (see below)

Flaky Tortillas:
3 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
4-6 Tbsp. butter. (The original recipe called for lard, but of course, I had none. So, I used butter, which, I believe, made them all the more tasty, but was probably why they were so flakey too.)
about 1 1/4 cups warm water
cooking oil

Procedure:
1. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Add butter and cut into the mixture with pastry cutter (or since my kitchen has only spoons and knives, I used my hands!)
3. Next add warm water a little at a time until your dough is soft then knead it for a few minutes.
4. Now you will pull off pieces of dough to form about 12 small dough balls. Let them rest for at least 10 minutes.
5. Pour cooking oil on a flat pan on medium heat.
6. In a perfect world, roll out each ball of dough into a nice circle using a rolling pin. In my world, use a round juice canister because you have NOTHING else.
7. Lay your tortilla on the hot pan. It takes just a few seconds to cook. Flip to the other
side. It should be slightly browned and should puff up a bit, more like the chalupa pastry at Taco Bell, if you have ever tried one of those. Good luck trying to wrap them like a fajita, for me, they just flaked apart. It was best to just put them on the plate and put the filling on top and eat the whole thing with a fork.

My next successful meal was perogies.  I won’t give a recipe for this, it can be found all over the net.  I used potatoes and onions for the filling.  The kids gobbled them up, and I had plenty of potato filling to serve the next evening as mashed potatoes.

The other recipe I have found is VERY simple.  I wanted some cookies.  Cookies are definitely available in the stores here, but when I still was afraid to go out, I didn’t have any.  What I did have though, was a boxed cake mix.  Did you know that you can make cookies out of a cake mix??  I bet you didn’t!  So, here’s the very easy, VERY yummy recipe.

Cake Mix Chocolate Chip Cookies

Take a boxed cake mix (I use chocolate).  Add 2 eggs and approximately 1/2 to 3/4 cups oil.  If you live in India and don’t know where to get chocolate chips, like me, just chop up a chocolate bar into small bits.  Put the bits in the dough and mix well using your hands if you have no utensils, again, like me.  Heat toaster oven to 170 degrees C (ok, for those of you in the US, regular oven, 350 degrees F).  Make small balls of the dough and place on pan, using a glass to flatten the dough a bit.  Bake for 7-10 minutes.  Let cool a bit before removing from pan or they will crumble. 

The kids love them, and the neighbor kids do too.  I have started something here…they come over and I hear “Miss Stacy, did you make some more of those cookies??”  I have to hide them to keep them from all being eaten in 1 sitting!

Finding success where I can, that’s what its all about!

I am happy to say that the first day of school was a great success!  Addie and Ender were very apprehensive going into it, but it seems that all of their fears were unfounded.

The day began with us getting up at 6am.  Kids were great at getting clothes on, teeth brushed, and dirty clothes put away.  A bit more difficult was the packing of the lunches…there aren’t a heck of a lot of choices here right now and they were not too thrilled with what I presented to them.  However, we figured something out and were in the car at 7:02.  Mujeeb, always erring on the side of caution, told us that we should give ourselves 40 minutes to get there.  It took 20, so we were plenty early and had a chance to look around the school grounds a bit. 

Ready to Go!
Ready to Go!

To enter the school you have to pass through the guarded front gate.  In the morning it is open to allow parents and kids to come in, but as soon as 8 am rolls around the gate is closed and visitors have to talk with the guard to be allowed in.  The school is actually a grouping of a couple of buildings.  There is a nice green area with picnic tables where the kids can eat lunch, with an overhang for rainy days.  A great playground sits off to the side.  A round, curving brick staircase leads up to the 2nd floor of classrooms in the main building.  If it were inside and made of marble, it would be the type of staircase that a southern bell would drift down in a classic movie. 

We were soon directed to the open area where chairs had been set up with a bunch of good sized throw rugs placed on the ground in front of them.  Each rug designated an age group, and the kids were shown what rugs to sit on.

Addie looked positively green by this point, she was so nervous.  Surrounded by her peers of many nations, she seemed to be the palest creature around…even lighter than the little blond girl next to her.  I thought she was going to be sick, really.  Ender, too, was unnaturally subdued.  He sat on the rug as the other 1st graders filed in and for once had absolutely nothing to say. 

The music teacher was introduced and she, with the help of her keyboard, led the kids in a song.  Then the principal came up and gave his two cents worth.  He gave us a lot of facts about the school… this year there are record numbers, 156 students in the elementary portion, breaking last year’s record of 142.  Of those, about 42% are US citizens, 17% Indian Nationals (most of whom have been living in other countries and have returned to Hyderabad recently), 10% British and 4% Australian.  Along with those, the rest of the kids come from an astounding 22 other countries including Japan, Ethiopia and Mexico.  1/3 of the student body in the Elementary grades are new this year, so Addie and Ender have a lot of company.

The VP came up and talked for a bit and introduced the teachers.  She is the one who runs the school for the most part as the Principal works from the middle/high school campus across town.  Both campuses are “The International School of Hyderabad”, but they are separate because of space right now.  The new elementary is currently being built on the Middle/High School grounds and should be ready next year.

Ender is strangly subdued
Ender is strangly subdued

So, after the presentations, the teachers led the children to their respective rooms.  Scott and I stuck around a bit and chatted with a few of the parents, figured out the bus route, and bought the required PE uniforms.  Afterwards we snuck up to the kids rooms (both on the 2nd floor up that pretty staircase) and gave them one peek through the door. 

It was hard leaving them in the middle of Hyderabad and going back home.  I tried not to worry, but of course all kinds of terrible thought were running through my head.  What if something happened to Scott and I and the kids were orphaned in the middle of India?  What if they somehow got on the bus when they weren’t supposed to, how could they tell anyone where they lived since I had neglected to teach them their new address and phone numbers??  Exhausting myself with those stupid worries on the ride home, I arrived at the house and promptly fell asleep.

We picked them up at 2:30.  Ender came bounding down the steps first, full of excitement.  He told us about his teacher, the new friends he met, the things he did.  He declared that he didn’t want to leave!  He was quite impressed with the playground and the fact that he actually got to play on it!  All in all, a great day for him.

Addie was a bit more subdued.  While she didn’t look like she was going to be sick anymore, she still looked rather stressed out.  I think its mostly the idea of not knowing anyone.  She did say that she had a good time and told me about writing about her summer vacation and playing on the playground with 2 new friends and going to Hindi class and Art class.  She was exhausted, though, and her and Ender dozed off a bit in the car on the ride home. 

They went to bed early tonight…let’s hope the 2nd day is as good as the first!  Tomorrow is another new adventure…Taking the bus!

I am proud to say that Scott has been driving us around a little bit.  He does amazingly well, considering the road situation here.  When I tell you that people just pull out into the middle of traffic, when I tell you that no one recognizes lane markers or attempts to stay within them, when I tell you that its pretty much a free-for-all on the roads with the cows being the only ones who are driven carefully around, I am not exaggerating in the least.  More than a few times I have become convinced that we were going to hit a pedestrian, traffic cop, scooter or another motorist as we went whizzing past.  In any case, the traffic is horrible, the driving is terrifying, and the being a pedestrian on the side of the road seems like suicide. 

Into all of this comes Scott the brave.  Driving more cautiously than anyone else in town, he attempts to ignore all lights, signs and long-accepted US rules and force his way into huge lines of speeding traffic just like anyone else.  And, he does a darn good job at it too!  He does get annoyed with my constant gasping at ever near miss, so I have learned to gasp quietly, and when I can’t take it anymore, to close my eyes and think happy thoughts until the car comes to a stop one way or another. 

Mujeeb is off on Sundays.  He will come if we need him, however we don’t like to ask that of him, after all, he does have a wife and two small children too.  So, yesterday we decide that we would like to go to a gaming place called “Lounge Habits”.  It is not too far away, and Scott is confident that he can get us there and back safely.  The ride there is uneventful.  Not too many close calls, and Scott drove us right to the door.  We played games, relaxed, ate dinner and then it was time to go.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, Scott immediatley knew that something was wrong.  We drove for about half-a-block when he pulled over and said “there’s something very wrong with this car, the way its pulling to the left.”  Sure enough, a flat tire on the front passenger side.

So, there we are, parked along a busy highway in front of a rather nice gated estate, changing a tire in the dark.  Lucky for me, my husband always knows just what to do, and is quite adept at changing tires. He had the car jacked up, the old tire removed, and the new tire almost in place when two men who were walking by came and forced their way in to take over the job.  Now, Scott was perfectly capable of completing the process, but not wanting to be rude, he let the men finish the job for him while we frantically searched our pockets to see if we would have an appropriate amount of rupees to give them as a thank you.

Soon we were back in the car and on our way.  We came to a busy intersection currently being directed by a traffic cop.  (yes, they do have those, but they never actually give a ticket or anything…who would even know where to start!).  The police officer motions for us to pull into oncoming traffic, and then begins YELLING at us to pull out.  The traffic coming toward us is nearly bumper to bumper and going fast, and he’s freaking out at us to pull right into it!  So, Scott tenatively inches forward until someone stops and he pulls in front of them and joins the stampede with everyone else.  We wished that we had a video of a police officer yelling at us to pull out into oncoming traffic in this manner…no one would ever believe it.

When we entered our community, there was a dead dog lying right in the middle of the road.  Just lying there, with cars going around.  It was yellowish like Beauty, and of a good size.  We were all horrified, until the dog raised its head and looked at us.  Not dead at all, just sleeping in the road, of course.  Silly us.  It seemed like a fitting end to our crazy adventure.

Needless to say, it was an interesting trip home, but it definitely gave us something to laugh about!

So, to give you a little more insight into what goes on here, I am providing a detailed look at some mundane things.  Today, its the laundry.

Let’s start by saying that in general, I don’t do my own laundry.  Sudakker takes care of it all, and I enjoy that immensely.  No more do I have to search for clean clothes for the kids in the morning because I have failed to catch up on my laundry for the last week…now he comes each day like clockwork and throws a load in.  All that we have to do is make sure the laundry is piled up by the door of each room.  (If it was piled or thrown anywhere, he would still find it and do it, but I have been insisting that the kids at least put it in the same place each morning before he arrives.)

The Laundry Room

However, the method of doing laundry is much different here.  The industrial-sized washers and dryers in each house that we are used to are gone.  Instead, we have a small ringer washer and a clothesline.  The washer is currently placed outside on the balcony on floor 3 right outside the master bedroom. 

The first time I tried to do laundry myself, there was definitely a learning curve.  First, the washer had to be turned on.  So, I press the button…and nothing happens.  Turns out that the electricity to that outlet is off, and the outlet first has to be switched on in order to get going.  Ok, I figured that out.  Next, choose the water level and add the detergent.  Ok, got that.  Finally, start it up.  Nothing happens.  Ok, ponder for a moment….then realize that the water has to be turned on also.  So, I follow the hose to turn on the water.  It comes out as nothing more than a trickle.  As it trickles out, I think, “this is not right”.  Luckily, I knew of one more switch that must need to be on…the water pump for the house, located, conveniently, in the master bedroom!  (the switch, not the pump).  So, I go inside, turn that on and come back out.  Yes, the washer is filling.  Unfortunately, as much water as is going into the washer is also coming out of the hose attachment.  The thing leaks like a seive.  A huge puddle is forming on the roof.  A bucket is conveniently located under the faucet to catch the water, but it quickly fills. I get smart and take this bucket and dump it into the machine, thereby hastening the filling of the machine and lessening the waste of water.  I have to be proud of my little accomplishments, they are all I have.

The machine stops filling and begins its cycle, sounding somewhat like a breadmaker turning the dough…a little “rrrrr, rrrr, rrrr” noise.  The ringer moves slowly back and forth, barely jostling the clothing. No wonder nothing ever seems all that clean here.  Of course, as soon as it stops filling, the leaky hose starts spraying the excess water about  6 feet into the air, I hop through the puddles to quickly turn the water back off. 

Now, in my effort to conserve water, I realize that I might as well just bring a book and a chair and sit by the washer, as I will need to turn the water back on again for the rinse cycle.  After all is done, I turn the water back off, the pump back off, the electricity to outlet back off.  (I could leave it on, but GFI outlets are non-existant here and its just best to keep them off.)

Now for the drying.  Scott has conveniently strung ropes across the balcony for this.  However, Sudakker didn’t seem to ever get the idea that that’s what they were for, and has been hanging all of the wash over the stairway railings for the past few months.  I hung the clothing where it belonged, embarrassed, of course, to have my underwear hanging out there too, but fairly sure that no one would be able to see it unless they stood on the neighboring roof and looked down.  Seeing as I’m the only person who appears to hang out on my roof with any regularity, I figured that I’d be ok. 

Now, I think that you should know a bit about the drainage.  You see, the area that the washer drains into is a recessed area off the balcony.  Many of the homes actually have grass planted up there and use it like a little yard, which I do plan to do at some point.  All of the water drains out onto this recessed area, and goes out a little hole, down a pipe and right to….wait for it….the sidewalk below!  Yes, Ender very much enjoys hanging out below and playing in the water from the washer.  At the end of the sidewalk, there is a drain of some sort, so it doesn’t just sit there forever, but it does amaze me that it just ends up there.

When the recessed area is full of water from the washer, Scott tells me that Sudakker cleans it up.  Lying out on the balcony is a little broom-like thing that Sudakker uses to whisk away the water into the hole….Scott was happy to demonstrate!

Ok, so that’s the story of the laundry.  While I don’t mind doing it, I do appreciate having someone else do it for me.  I still will always do some washing at least once a week (I don’t let Sudakker wash my undergarmets-it just feels wrong!).  I must say, though, I really do miss the soft, warm towels.  Everything kind of feels like sandpaper now.

The kids and I are finally getting out and meeting people, and it is wonderful. There are people out at all hours of the day and evening and they are happy to chat.

We have been thrilled to find out that there are dozens of kids in our community. Last Tuesday a gaggle of little girls on scooters drove by our house while we were outside with Beauty. They saw us and stopped to talk. We were delighted to find that almost every one of them lives within 6 houses of us, and that they range in age from 6 to 9 years old.

The first two that we got to know are Indian, but were born and raised in Houston, TX and just moved here in February. They live 2 houses down from us and were very interested in hearing all about us and Florida and Beauty. They miss the US, but are adjusting very nicely here in Hyderabad. Their mother, who I met that evening, is very nice and I believe that she will help me with anything I need to get adjusted.

There are two more girls on our street, both 8, and another 6 year old on the next street over. At any given time, 2 or more of this group are riding up and down the block on scooters, and I am happy to say that Addie was able to join right in. We went out this weekend and got her a scooter and she took off after them. They are up and down the block, on the next block, at the park, at the garden, all within the confines of our small gated community. I never believed that I could relax enough to let Addie head off down the street and out of my sight, but now I have found the strength to do it in India of all places, because I know it is necessary for her to find her place within this neighborhood.

I haven’t met all of the parents yet, and am actively trying to do that, but nobody seems to mind that the kids spend an hour at one house, then another and another. I had several girls in my house this week, drawing and painting upstairs. They are easy to locate, as you just need to find the house with the pile of scooters in the front to know where your child is. When it was time to go home, one of the moms knocked on the door, introduced herself, and happily chatted with me while her child gathered up her new paintings.There are boys here too, but not as many and not as visibly. Ender found one to play with, but promptly ruined it by hitting him with a stick. Its a tough time for him while Addie is out playing, and I am trying to help him find a friend. It will come eventually… he just needs to figure out how to get along. Aside from the kids and their parents, I have met a few others. One was a nice teenage Vietnamese boy who is going to school here and has lived here since December. He was very friendly and talkative.

The most interesting person that I have met would be “grand-daddy”. Grand-daddy is a 95 year old man who doesn’t look a day over 70. He walks with the aid of his cane, smiling and talking to everyone he meets. He loves to stop and chat, and likes to tease. He lived abroad in Princeton, NJ for many years, but returned to Hyderabad recently to live with his son. I asked him his name, and he told me, but I could not quite understand as my ears have not yet become accustomed to the Indian names. He told me not to worry about his name, that he would prefer that I call him Grand-daddy, because I am young enough to be his grandchild.

So, each evening, Grand-daddy comes “thump” “thump” “thump” down the street, walking much faster than you’d expect from someone of his age. In his pocket he carries sweets for all of the neighborhood kids. They come running when they see him, hands outstreached. I look forward to our evening chats, he always brings a smile to my face. He complains about the rent or the shoddy construction of the houses here, he speaks fondly of his home back in Princeton, he tells me how lucky my husband is to have me, he scolds me for my bare feet on the dirty roads. He is certainly quite a character, and his friendliness has gone a long way to making me feel more comfortable in this strange place.

Meeting people has made all the difference for me. I don’t feel so scared and alone now, and I look forward to meeting more in the days to come.

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!