Saturday, June 27, 2009

Feelin' Hot Hot Hot!

Oh man is it hot. I had a nice long post started about our visitors from the US and our annual trek home, but the truth is it is just too hot to think about any of those things. I know I am taking a real risk talking about the heat, because a large portion of my readers (if there are any of you left) are in Arizona. Arizonans usually roll their eyes or zone out completely when anyone outside of the Grand Canyon State complains about heat, but please, bear with me.

Most people here don't believe me when I tell them I come from a city where it gets even hotter than New Delhi. It is true though. One day, back in 1990, it hit 122 degrees Fahrenheit, or 50 degrees Celsius, in my home town. I have had the soles of my shoes begin to melt. I have had the heels of my high heeled shoes sink into the melted street surface. I am familiar with hot weather. But this is going to kill me.

The problem with the heat here is that it brings power failures along with it, which means no air conditioning. It is true that we have a generator back up, but as the power dips, stops and surges back every few minutes for hours on end, the A/C units stop trying to keep up and just start blowing warm air. Plus, as the weeks of heat take their toll on the window units, (there is no central air) they stop working, one by one. Despite several repairs and assurances from the repairmen that they have been fixed, they still fail to blow anything but hot air.

The refrigerator and freezer can't keep our food or water cold. Water just pumped from the bore well provides a hot shower without the help of the water heater. Everything radiates heat, especially my children who insist on always being within six inches of me. Last night as Mr. Smith and I dragged ourselves into bed, we realized that even our mattress was radiating heat. Remembering a childhood trick I turned my pillow over looking for "the cold side". To my dismay I realized my choices were the hot side, or the sweaty side. Blech. We laid awake until 3:30am when the power finally stayed on long enough to cool the room to a bearable level.

But do you know what I hate the most? The one thing that really irritates me? As I complain about the heat that is making me cranky, I know that the vast majority of the people around me, even those living in the other beautiful homes on my street, have it far worse than I do, and that makes me feel like a spoiled child. Seriously...I can't even enjoy a good pout.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Say Cheese!

The past month and a half of my life has been focused solely on getting six of the seven Smith kids back in school. Six of seven days of the week were filled with it. There was paperwork, school visits, extra math lessons, paperwork, extra handwriting practice, doctor visits, paperwork, clothing and supply shopping, placement tests and, say it with me, more paperwork. Don't get me wrong, I am used to doing every form of paperwork in multiples, but this has tested my mettle. Today's discussion will not, however, be about the actual filling out of every form ever. Today I would like to discuss an obsession that has India tightly in it's grasp. It is the menace known as...The Passport Photo!

Doesn't sound too scary you say? Fool, I say. Picture this, you are new to the country and you walk into one of several mobile phone stores in your new town's large market place. You are planning to buy a mobile (never say "cell phone", nobody will know what you are talking about) so that you can be connected to the strange world around you. It seems easy enough. Things are going well until the shopkeeper asks for your passport photos. What? You panic a little. No one told you that you would need one, is it a scam? (New comers are always suspicious.) Luckily, you remember you have one in your wallet, leftover from your passport and visa applications, so you hand it over. Whew, that was easy. Until your bank asks for one, then the Residents Welfare Association in your neighborhood wants one, your employer needs three, the appliance sales guy takes another, the dentist and the doctor each demand their due, your children's new school wants three just for the application and before you know it there are hundreds of little thumb sized photos of you and your loved ones floating around the country!

The photos required to enroll our children in school nearly pushed me over the edge. (Watch the running total.) We had to hand in five photos of the child (5), one of Mr. Smith and one of me (7) with every application (42). Then, days before school actually started, twelve more of Mr. Smith (54), Number One Son (66) and I (78), plus two more of each child (90), for ID cards. Are we done? No way! On the first day of school, Almanacs were sent home with each student. These serve as a sort of appointment book for the year and the daily source of communication between parent and teacher. Each book requires two more pictures of the student (102), their parents (126) and their older brother who might pick them up from school at some point in the future (138). Are you catching a glimpse of the mania?

This evening when Mr. Smith gets home from a long day at work, guess where we are going? To get new photos taken, of course! The well has run dry and we wouldn't want to be caught without.

  • Item - Admittance to school for six children
  • Cost - 138 passport photos
  • Item - Knowing my kids are being educated plus a couple of quiet hours to read and write blog posts
  • Cost - Priceless

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Way More Than A Thousand Words

As I have no new ideas for posts, I have decided to look through our pictures from the last few months and share a few of the best. I hope you all enjoy it! First up is our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. In December I found myself unprepared for a Christmas in India. We had assumed that we would always be in the US for our holiday season, but a couple of unplanned trips home last year changed our plans, as well as our budget. With the knowledge that I had to buy gifts, a tree and a complete set of decorations, I will admit that I skimped on the tree. When we pulled the tree out to assemble it, I realized that it was far too small for our large room and high ceilings. Next I noticed that the middle section was actually smaller than the rest of the tree! Apparently some other Christmas tree in India has our middle section. On top of all that, it seems that the photographer had a little too much non-alcoholic eggnog and couldn't focus the automatic camera! But we all loved the tree and by Dec 25 we had convinced ourselves that it was beautiful. Having said that, I am sure that next year our Indian decorations will look gorgeous on a new tree.

Now, you know we got a puppy for Christmas

But did you know we already had an unofficial pet?

This is Jenny. Jenny is a stray who spends most of his time just outside of our gate. Yes, I said "his". When we first arrived, my kids named him Jenny. Soon after, it was pointed out that Jerome might be a more suitable name, but it was too late. Jenny stuck. Jenny was much smaller and much skinnier back then, but after a month or so of eating our leftovers, Jenny's ribs disappeared and my kids had a loyal friend.

Earlier this year Mr. Smith and I went away for a weekend in Mumbai (Bombay). I met some great people and saw some amazing sights, but my favorite was...

The Laundry!

And To The Right, More Laundry!

This laundry facility services the hotels and the hospitals in Mumbai. I never ever want a job there, but it is an amazing sight to see.

It's good to know that after being here for two years there are still new things to see and try. I have no idea what this fruit is called, but it was super, super sweet and kind of buttery tasting. It was too rich for me and to be honest, the sliminess was a little off putting. I have kind of a thing with food textures. If any of my readers happen to know what this is called, please, clue me in.

It Is A Thing Of Beauty

Church has been an adventure here. You might remember that last September I mentioned a few problems we had been having. Before that, we were meeting in our home. This month we have started meeting in a building that is in a market area, not a residential neighborhood, and one that is actually outfitted like a church.

Next To Shawn Bradley, Even Number One Son Looks Small!

You May Remember That Last Year Dennis The Menace Was Not Into Holi...

This Year He Felt Differently

The final picture comes with a bit of an announcement. The six school age Smith kids are going back to school! We have many reason for this decision: We found a new school, our kids are more comfortable here now, I am no good at homeschooling and finally...

My Kids Have Way Too Much Time On Their Hands!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Men Can Be Sparkly Too!

When I was new to India I suffered from sensory overload on a daily basis. Is it any wonder that men's fashion took a while to get through the visual clutter? Forget about the fact that I had a whole new country and it's culture to take in. Women's fashion alone was enough to eclipse the men for months. I mean, think for a minute what they are competing with. The women here wear the brightest, most vivid colors imaginable on a daily basis and top it off with stunning jewelry on every visible part of their body. Seriously, fingers, toes, wrists, ankles, noses, foreheads and even eyebrows. Think I am exaggerating? Consider the wedding photo of Mr. Smiths Indian sister.

Who is going to notice any man in the vicinity? Now it is true that these are only worn all together on weddings days, but I see them individually everyday. Maybe not the chandelier bracelets, but the rest of it for sure. Eventually, though, the gorgeous attire of the women became familiar and other things made their way in. At first I noticed the things you would expect to see.

Turbans, Dhotis, Kurta Pyjamas and Curly Toed Shoes

Then Winter rolled around again and for the first time I noticed The Sweater. Any American who has spent a winter here knows just which sweater I am talking about. I have heard it referred to as fuzzy, furry, grassy and sparkly, but they all mean the same sweater. I give you India's version Winter Wear.

Note Mr Smith's attention to detail in providing us with a close up so that you can fully appreciate the Easter Grass nature of the sweaters.

In the beginning I mistakenly believed that some unfortunate man was cold and only had his wife's sweater to use. Then I saw another...and another...and another! I soon realized that these bright sparkly sweater vests were meant for men. Any man showing up to work sporting one of these babies in the US would be in for years of ridicule (just ask Mr Smith about the time he lost a bet and had to wear a dress to work) and any young boy in a US school would become the prettiest punching bag on campus. Here, however, they are so common that I sent Mr. Smith to work with instructions to get a picture of a fuzzy sweater and he sent me four to choose from almost immediately.

As you can see, a variety of colors are available and, trust me when I tell you, this is just the tip of the sweater iceberg. After a little questioning the young man in the middle admitted that he had in fact bought his sweater in the women's section of the store. What was the give away? Not the pink color, that is one of the most popular colors. No, it was the long sleeves that gave his secret away. Despite their liberal views on color and sparkles, in India, real men wear sweater vests!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Look What Santa Brought

On Christmas Eve a package was delivered to our home. The package was very tiny, very sweet and had four very short legs. The first Christmas gift of the year was a black and tan Dachshund. A sweet little girl that we named Shanti Pria. She was instantly loved and spoiled by seven children. Luckily, in the weeks following her arrival, that love has not diminished. Shanti is also very smart, hence, her training is going very well. So far she has mastered the art of paper training (for the most part), come (when a treat is involved) and sit (if you happen to yell "sit" just as she is sitting). Once in a while I can even get her to play dead. The real trick is not to say it loud enough to wake her up. Her best trick by far though, is her ability to find someone willing to hold her on their lap. She can find a willing lap any time, any where. It is a very useful skill and we are all very proud.

If only the rest of the Christmas arrivals had been as cute. Just after Christmas Mr. Smith noticed that Star On Stage was scratching her head often and with gusto. Mr. Smith suggested washing her hair, thinking that perhaps an excess of dirt and oil on the scalp was the culprit. However, a clean head did not stop the scratching. Reluctantly I called Star On Stage over and looked through her hair. know what is coming. You're probably scratching your head right now.

Is it on me? It feels like it's on me!

Star On Stage had lice. Of course this announcement sent the family into chaos. Number One Son grabbed Dennis The Menace and off they went to the barber. Their thinking? You can't get lice if you have no hair. I have no idea if that is true, but either way, 30 minutes later the young men in our family returned home with no hair. The girls scratched a lot and tried to count how many times in the last few weeks they had come into direct contact with Star On Stage's head, pillow, brush, play wigs, hats or scarves. For the next several hours we researched methods of de-lousing, ripped off bedding for washing and started the long process of louse hunting. The first night we found an even 50. All on one head. Everyone take a moment to get over your heebie-jeebies...ok, let's continue.

Poor Star On Stage suddenly became persona non grata as far as all of her siblings were concerned. You can't blame them, really. It is hard to hug someone good night that just had 50 bugs crawling around her head. Not to worry, ever the caring parent, I sat down with her and explained that they were just afraid that they too might end up with lice. She admitted that she would have felt the same way had it been another child with lice. Then, in a final show of solidarity, I bit the bullet and hugged my mega infested child. Then I scratched my head...

Over the course of the next few weeks the lice count dropped, more hair was cut, other kids were checked, re-checked and cleared. Finally, the lice count was zero...except on my head. Yes, I had a creepy crawly resident on my scalp. Fortunately, the level of paranoia that existed in our house lead to an early detection and a quick eradication of my unwanted guests.

Mr. Smith will no doubt be pleased to see that I have finally come out of my low tech hermit cave and have once again joined the cyber-world. However, he has already decided that one post will not be enough to make amends for my neglect. He has, therefore, decreed that two posts are required this week by way of penance. Later this week...Men's Fashion.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Variation On Where's Waldo

I am sure that many of you are familiar with the book series "Where's Waldo" in which Waldo, the title character and protagonist, as it were, is hiding amidst the crowd in many different situations and different crowds of people.

For today's blog posting, I give you, "Where's mrs smith", an exciting search for the legendary, yet lately absent, author of this wildly popular blog. So please, enjoy the search and, if you miss her regular ramblings, make a comment and let her know.

Good luck!!

mr smith

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Eye Of The Beholder

I wonder what your first reaction was to seeing this symbol on my blog. When I first arrived in India I was shocked when I saw my first swastika. I could tell it was different than the one I had seen in movies and history books, the one that meant evil and hatred and danger, the one that marked everything it touched as repugnant. The angle was different (although I didn't realize that until Number One Son pointed it out), the black field was gone and the block-ish shape had been replaced with an artistic flair. I knew that if it graced homes and cars and store front signs that it had to mean something else here, in this land that was so new to me. Despite the fact that my logical brain picked up on all of these things, my stomach still turned every time I saw it. My eye would slide around it, as if not looking directly at it would make me feel better about it.

When we got the van that we would be driving for the next few years, some kind soul decorated it for us. In India, buying a new car is something to celebrate. You bring sweets to your friends and co-workers and you decorate your car. On the hood there was a beautiful red ribbon (sorry, no bow) and right there, front and center, was a bright red swastika. For weeks as we drove around the city I felt like ducking so that no one would see me in the swastika car.

This isn't something you can ignore for long in India. It is everywhere. Clothing, wrapping paper, even sidewalks. They come in all shapes and sizes and are made with all different mediums. They also often have four dots included with them, like the one below.

Even our neighbors house is decorated with them.

I decided to try to find out just what this particular geometric pattern represented in Indian culture and as usual found that there were several different opinions. The ones that came up the most were, a blessing of wealth, good luck and general well being. I think it is so interesting that one symbol could have such diametrically opposed meanings, depending on where you were raised.

I admit that after almost two years I have lost a lot of the old emotional reactions that I had, but I still don't choose keepsakes with swastikas on it and I don't see that changing anytime soon.