Sorry for the lack of timely updates in the past week.  Things have been really busy here in preparation for our trip back to the US.  Our driver will be here in the next 1/2 hour to pick us up and take us to the airport.  Our flight leaves for Mumbai at 4AM.  After a 2 hour layover, we head to Chicago on a 20 hour flight.  We are apprehensive about the length of the flight, but we come well prepared with games, books, crayons, and a movie player.  Let’s hope it all goes well.

In the US I will try to reinstate my daily posting habit.  There will be lots to write about!  Thank you for your patience and understanding.

To those of you in the US…. See You Soon! 🙂

Addie all dressed up to sing
Addie all dressed up to sing

This weekend we attended a holiday bazaar at the school.  The bazaar is a yearly event, offered by the PTO, giving us homesick expats a bit of the Christmas joy that we seem to be missing here.

We were offered the ability to purchase student-made crafts, rummage sale items, items from local businesses, and of course, food.  The kids enjoyed making cookies, trying their hand at a couple of games, and running around with all of their friends.

Ender’s craft was a decorative wreath and Addie made a sparkly bowl. We bought them, of course.  (What a racket, huh?)

The librarian shared some special Christmas books with the children, and at midday, we were treated to a pint-sized chorus singing Christmas Carols for everyone to enjoy.

The kids had a great time.  We topped it off with an early dinner at City Center Mall.  During our dinner, the lights went out for an extended period of time, prompting the waitstaff to wander around in the dark delivering candles to each table.  The candles were birthday candles, though, and didn’t last long.  Fortunately, the power finally came back on and we were able to finish our meal.  Addie and Ender have grown quite fond of sweet corn soup, just for your information.

We ended the day with some heavy-duty shopping for our upcoming visit to the US.  I think that we are finally all set with what we wanted to get.  All in all, a good day.

Ender on stage with some of his classmates
Ender on stage with some of his classmates
Making cookies
Making cookies

Those 2 or 3 long-time readers of this inane blog will remember the sad saga of the pool that would not be filled.  The pool in our complex remained stubbornly half-full and green despite the repeated rantings and threats that I issued to anyone who looked like they were even remotely in charge of maintenance or association matters here.

So, this weekend, when we were informed that it had indeed not only been filled, but also chlorinated, you can bet that we’d be the first ones there to test the water.  I mean, after 9 months of being told “next week, next week,” it is a glorious and exciting day when “next week” finally comes.  Never mind that it is winter here.  Never mind that there is no pool heater.  Never mind that there are piles of construction materials surrounding it, rats in the adjoining rooms and dirt on the pool deck.  The pool was filled, clean AND clear, and the kids were going in.

Wetsuits donned, towels and robes in hand, the children eagerly raced to the clubhouse for the moment that we had all been waiting for.  I brushed aside the dirt from a step down into the pool area to make myself a place to sit (there were no chairs, of course), and cheered the kids on as they made the great leap.

The first place they landed was in the small “hot tub” area.  NOw, this isn’t a hot tub because there is no heater, but it looks like one.  Both of them bravely jumped in into water that went about to their knees.  Wow.  Impressive. NOT.

I finally encouraged Ender to jump into the real pool.  He made a nice splash, prompting one of the clubhouse managers to come running, afraid that he couldn’t swim.  He seemed amazed that Ender could swim…it is actually not that common here.  I’m not certain what he planned to do about it…I kinda got the feeling that he probably didn’t swim himself.  After he assured himself that all was well, he and his buddy stood for about 15 minutes watching the proceedings with big grins.

Ender jumped in the pool exactly 2X and swam back and forth maybe twice both ways, and then headed for the very exciting “hot tub” again.  I’m not certain what the attraction was, but that is where he stayed.  Addie swam in the big pool for all of 5 minutes and then joined her brother in the hot tub as well, where they splashed around like toddlers for the remainder of our stay.  I tried in vain to get them to make use of the actual pool to no avail.  After a short time, they began to turn blue, and our little swimming adventure was at an end.

Though we didn’t use it long, at least we used it.  The kids were thrilled, and I felt like all my hard work and agressive posturing paid off.  The payoff was a long time in coming, and I had truly given up hope, but it came just the same. Next time I won’t give up after 3 months and instead, hold out until 4.  Maybe 4 is the magic number!

On Monday night, after all the commotion of the attempted break-in died down, I remained blissfully unaware that the thieves had actually managed to snag something.  It wasn’t until Wednesday night when I went into the kitchen to turn on some music while I cooked that I realized the horrible, horrible truth…

Right on the counter, within in arm’s reach of that back door that I had found mysteriously open at 8:30 that night, sits a huge pile of assorted paperwork, kid’s art projects, plastic bags full of unnecessary junk, and my Bose ipod docking station with my treasured ipod.

On Wednesday I discovered that the huge pile of paperwork, the kid’s art projects and the plastic bags of junk remained untouched.  However, the ipod and docking station were nowhere to be found.

The buggers took my Ipod!  As I always said, the Ipod was the one thing that I had that was mine and mine alone.  It contained MY songs, MY playlists, MY memories.  Nobody was allowed to touch it, and the kids wisely left it alone unless asked to turn it on.  It saw me through happy times and rough times.  My playlists reflected my every mood, and the vulgar croonings Red Hot Chili Peppers from the well-worn speakers got me through many a lonely night when Scott was in India while I remained in the US.

Its not that the music and the ipod can’t be replaced…I have all the music on the PC, and Scott has promised to buy me another ipod and docking station as soon as we get to the states.  But, its more than that.  Aside from the usual stuff…my kids, my husband, my overwhelming box of un-sorted photos from the past 12 years, the Ipod was my next most treasured possession.  It was old, it was scratched, it was dirty, but it was MINE, darn it!

Ridiculous, I know, but it is how I feel.  The new one will be newer, nicer, fancier (they don’t even make my old model anymore), but it will never be the same.  Some things just can’t be replaced.

Addie got 2 new dresses and the henna tatoos when we went to the craft market the other day.  Here she is showing off her new look…

She wanted this dress so she could wear it to school
She wanted this dress so she could wear it to school
Her hands look great, as does her smile!
Her hands look great, as does her smile!
Not sure where or when she will wear this, but it sure is sparkly!

Last night, after I put the kids to bed, I walked into the kitchen to find the kitchen door partway open.  “That’s strange,” I thought, but I closed it and locked it and located both cats, and didn’t think too much about it.  I assumed that perhaps the kids had used it and not closed it all the way, and that a breeze or the settling of the house had opened it.  This was at about 8:30 or so in the evening.

The rest of the evening progressed as usual, until around 11pm.  I was sitting by my computer (where I am usually found after the kids go to bed), and suddenly the dog lets forth a terrible racket from the vicinity of the living/dining room.  At first I didn’t jump up…I just assumed that it was Scott letting himself in and that the dog hadn’t yet realized that it was him on the other side of the door.  I would like to say that I run to the door each time he comes home, but the amount of running I do is directly proportional to how long he has stayed at work, and at 11pm he doesn’t get any running.  He’s lucky if he gets a “hi” by that point while I continue on with my facebook wordtwist game.

However, the barking continued just a little too long, and I didn’t hear the door open or Scott’s normal friendly greeting to Beauty to get her to calm down and realize that it is just him.  I called to him, thinking that perhaps he lost his key or something, but there was no answer.

Beauty continued to bark, along with the low growling that scares the heck out of you if you encounter it even on the other side of a high fence.  The strangeness of it all prompted me to get up and go look.  As I walked out into the living room, the scene that awaited me was the dining room door to the back of the house hanging wide open.  I mean WIDE open, with Beauty standing firmly in the doorway barking and growling like a rabid street dog.

I stared yelling “Scott, Scott, SCOTT!”, with growing urgency, hoping that maybe it was him coming in the back door for some reason, but knowing that it most likely wasn’t by this point.  Whoever it was had no business here, and Beauty let them know that.  They were long gone by the time I even got out there.

It took some courage, but, drawing strength and courage from Beauty’s presence, I raced to the back door, slammed it shut and locked it.  I got on the phone to Scott immediately, prompting him to jump in the car and hightail it home, while Beauty and I checked on the kids and started turning on lights.  Looking out the front window I noticed that the front gate was wide open as well.

Scott made it home in 10 minutes (he can really move if he wants to!), and he brought the security guards with him to do a thorough check of the house, yard, servant house, and roof.  They carried with them a bamboo pole with which to firmly beat the intruder about the head and neck.  About as effective as a willow switch, if you ask me, but at least they had SOMETHING with them.  I’d have preferred a little firepower by this point.

Ender opened his eyes as we checked his room, and I thought he would be scared to see Scott and I and 2 men examining his bathroom and closet, but he never said anything about it this morning so he must not have been really awake.  Maybe he just thought that it was a strange group of tooth faries coming to shower him with money while he slept.

We slept last night with a large chair pushed in front of the dining room door, and a 50lb bag of dog food in front of the kitchen door.  Scott was going to call today and get decent locks on those doors like we have on our front one.  The houseboy has suggested us locking our front gate also using big padlocks, but its just another key for me to lose.  I really need a keyless entry.  ( I have a horrible problem with losing keys)  Anyone who really wants in can scale the fence quite easily.  (Just ask the kids…they do it all the time!)

The thought is that someone came and pushed the first door open early in the evening and found that we were all awake.  Or, maybe they were just testing it.  (That will teach me to lock my doors!).  After we were presumed to be asleep, (I turn most of the lights off by that time and sit in the dark by my computer), they returned.  If burglery was thier intent, I think they would find it to be slim pickings here, as we have very little worth stealing.  But, of course, they don’t know that.  Our houses look like mansions to many here, and the definition of “wealthy” all depends on your perspective.

Don’t worry, we are fine.  Beauty took care of us and finally earned the title of protector of the family.  The homeowner’s association and the security have been notified, and the new security company that was scheduled to start on Monday will be notified as well.  (Guess we now know why they fired the old ones!).  I am not overtly scared now, just more cautious.  Extra caution and vigilence are an asset in these troubled times, and the lesson was not lost us.

And as for my huge, furry, somewhat stinky protector:

Well Done, Beauty, Well Done!

My baby is growing up!  I can’t believe he finally lost his first tooth!  I know it is actually quite late for that, he’s a “late toother!” However, I still was very sad about the whole event.  I’ll miss those perfect little teeth and can no longer deny that he’s not a baby anymore.  How quickly they grow…

Scott has a problem with this picture…says that he doesn’t look cute in it and you can see right up his nose.  I’m posting it anyway…  All the others were even worse! 😉  Now that he’s in the tooth-losing stage, he’ll look funny for 2 years or so…in my opinion, it’s the perfect picture for the occasion!

Today we ventured to the local craft village to pick up some holiday gifts for our trip back to the US.  Now, the craft village is a sight to behold.  It is a little oasis in an otherwise loud, crowded city.  Spread out over quite a large area, pathways snake through rock gardens, statues, ponds, and a “museum”.  Statues of craftsmen and native farmers and such dot the landscape, looking right at home among the beautiful scenery.  They are very life like, so much so that at a distance they appear to be real people going about their daily business of crafting, farming, fishing, painting, and…  building statues themselves!  It is all quite charming and peaceful.  Unfortunately, for the second time, I forgot to bring my camera.  Next time…I promise!

On this visit, Scott convinced Addie and I to get our hands done with henna.  Now they have different names for it here which I don’t really know, but to me it is henna.  I have seen it on many people here.  It is always very intricate.

Though it looks very detailed, the whole process on Addie and I took about 10 minutes.  They apply the paste with little tubes that look like cake decorating bags.  The paste dries in about an hour, and then you can flake it off.  It takes some work to get it off, and I can imagine that the process would get pretty tedious if you had a large portion of your body done.  After the paste is removed, you are left with a light-colored stain.  Supposedly, in the next 24 hours, some sort of chemical reaction occurs that makes the color much darker.  You are not supposed to get it wet in this time as it will ruin the chemical reaction.

Unfortunately, it was evening and the kids needed showers before bed.  I had to sacrifice myself so that Addie’s could remain somewhat dry.  I washed her hair for her while she stood there like Frankenstein.  As a result, hers is darker than mine and will probably last longer, but mine is still pretty.

Scott wanted me to have this done for our trip back to the US.  If it looks as if it is wearing off completely by that time, I will try to get it done again before we leave.  If done right, it should last 4 to 6 weeks.  Next time I think I’ll let Addie go to bed as a dirtball! 🙂

If you have driven around Hyderabad near Hitech City (and presumably other places as well), you will undoubtedly have come in contact with the junk sellers.  Like the beggars, they flit in and out of stopped and moving traffic like Frogger on steroids, but unlike the beggars, they are selling things instead of just outright asking for money.

The junk sellers can be any age or gender, but they all have 2 things in common.  They all have some cheap junk that they feel is incredibly necessary to your life, and they all have this highly irritating habit of standing  and tapping on your window for a very uncomfortable duration.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve waved them away, if you are slowly inching the car forward and threatening to run over their foot, or if you let loose a stream of angry rantings (yes, Scott, I mean you…), they stay there, staring in the window, tapping, tapping, tapping, hoping that you will buy whatever it is they are selling just to make them go away.

Now, I wish that I could say that there is a good selection of cheap junk to choose from, or that the junk changes regularly so as to always be new and different, but it is not so.  Here is a rundown of what we have seen over the past 4 months  (I know that I have missed a few):

Toy Space Shuttles:  The peddlers walk amongst the cars, zooming their space shuttles through the air like toy  airplanes.

Toy well Pumps:  Each peddler has a bag full of them.  Tiny little water pumps with a moving handle that ACTUALLY PUMP WATER.  Though I have never examined one, I know that they pump water because it has been demonstrated at my window-side probably 200 times.  I’m afraid that these people must be suffering from carpel tunnel syndrome with the number of times they pump that little handle a day.

Tennis Racket Bug Zappers:  Is it a tennis racket?  Is it a bug zapper?  It’s BOTH!  Give that mosquito a good wack, and delight in the faint crackle and puff of smoke that results.  The score will most certainly be Love-Love for you and your electrified tennis racket!

Multi-connection car chargers.  Have a Sony cell phone, an Apple Ipod and a Nintendo DS that you want to charge in the car ALL AT ONCE?  Well, have they got the product for you!  They are nice enough to swing it around by the wires so you can get a good look at it too!

Multi-purpose towel:  I’m assuming that this is mostly to clean your car with, but since I’ve seen them wiping the sweat from their brow with it as well, I know that it has many uses.  Just don’t expect it to be particularly clean when you get it.

Rubber Balls:  A multi-colored ball, made of pure bounciness.  This I know because they stand for what seems like 5 minutes demonstrating that it bounces up and down, up and down, up and down.  I am not sure if it is some sort of hypnotism geared toward getting me to buy, but it leaves me wanting to scream:  “Its a ball, it is round, it bounces…I GET IT ALREADY!”.

Bobble Head Dogs:  A dozen little brown dogs that nod endlessly at the traffic from their perch upon a cardboard tray.  Bring one home today…they’re always very agreeable!

Our level of irritation with the junk sellers is directly proportional to how long they stand and tap at the window and how bad the traffic has been that day.

I have no idea what prices they charge for their wares, but I am certain, as with most things in India, the prices have a direct correlation to the color of your skin.  We would find that our price was much much higher than some of our friends here.

Perhaps some day I will buy something, just to find out, but I guess I have to wait for them to sell out of their bouncy balls and well pumps first.  Judging by the huge bags they carry, its going to be a long time.

I have been informed by my loving husband that yesterday I was way out of line.  He said that I was being too hard on the slimy, white cheese.  He even accused me of being downright mean.  “It’s not THAT bad,” he admonished.  I want it said here and now that I apologize for this brutal attack on an innocent dairy product.  It was unfair of me to say such evil, spiteful things, especially after all it has done for me.  For these last 4 months it provided me with my only link back to my Wisconsin heritage, however tenuous, and this is how I repay it?  For shame.  Thank you, Scott, for helping me to see the error of my ways.  Let me submit this as a formal written apology to the cheese, along with 20 community service hours to be spent admiring our neighbors and suppliers of all things dairy – the water buffalo.

Signed,

Stacy Fluegge