Sunday, July 29, 2007

10 Things I Love About Living In India

Here they are, as promised. Believe it or not this list was easier to come up with! I have tried to include pictures where I can. Once again, in no particular order....

1. Our Employees - I am really uncomfortable with this issue. I have huge guilt issues. I hate that people refer to them as servants, I hate that they live in the servants quarters. I hate the whole thing. But I absolutely love these people. I seriously would not live here without them.

Uday cooks wonderful dinners and yummy treats. Every day with no effort on my part a fabulous dinner appears on our table at 6:30 pm and by 7:30pm it is cleaned up. If that means that sometimes we pretend to like something we don't, so what! If I occasionally have to send jello with fruit in it down the drain when no one is around, who cares!

Camla keeps our house spic and span. It is true that every morning we get up and straighten up the house and make the beds, but she does the rest. I have not cleaned a toilet in six months. "How is that different from when you lived in the US?" some of you may be asking. I'll tell you, now my bathroom is clean instead of scary! But that is not all she does. She seems to actually like my children. She helps them and plays with them, and after our Hindi lessons she asks them what their names are in Hindi. She is a very sweet person.

Kirpa Shankar is the man! I spell his name a different way every time I mention him, but we love him all the same. He tells us what is going on when we miss something. He knows where everything is, and if he doesn't know, he finds it anyway. He follows the traffic laws when no one else does. He keeps his eye on us when we are in public. I honestly believe he would help us if we were in danger. He is truly a good man.

2. Salwar Kameez - I love these outfits. I actually had Mr. Smith take a picture of me in mine, but I couldn't bring myself to post it. But, can you see why I would love them? You can buy them off the rack (if you are the size of the average Indian woman) or you can have them made. Now I can always to find 3/4 length sleeves! To me these are better than Saris. You might think they would be too hot, but for some reason they really aren't.

3. Fruit And Vegetable Market - The fruit here is so yummy and sweet. Some of it is new and some is familiar, but it is all good. Everyday there is fruit for sale at roadside markets, but Thursday is the big one. A main road near our house fills up with carts and stalls and tables brimming with every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable. Don't even try to drive down this road in a normal amount of time because there are just too many people, some people just stop and buy things through their car window. I don't know where the market in this picture is, but it was as close as I could get to ours. Some Thursday I'll be brave and send Mr. Smith out to take a picture of ours.

4. American Women - The women that I have met here are so cool. I am truly a home body. I consider the women in my family my friends, and if left to my own devices, they would be the only friends I ever had. Luckily these women are outgoing and have pulled me into their circle. I will be grateful to them forever for the kindness and camaraderie they have shown me. I only have a picture of one of them (the unofficial ring leader) but there are about 6 all together.

5. New Sights To See - I love that there are such cool things to see in India. Some of them we see everyday, like the Lotus Temple. Some we have to make an effort to see, like the Taj Mahal. But I must say, it is worth the effort, and never in my life did I ever think I would see the Taj Mahal!

6. Trees In The Road - I do not even pretend to understand the logic. Can someone explain to me what makes a person decide to simply leave the tree in the road? Not curve the road around the tree. Not remove the tree from the path of the road. Just lay the road and leave the tree. Please don't think this is a rare thing, we had 3 or 4 to choose from in our suburb alone. I don't understand it, but I love it. It gives me a chuckle every time we swerve around one.

7. Store 18 - Store 18 is like a super market without the produce. The reason that I love it is because they import things from the US. I can buy fruit roll ups and peanut butter there. Lately they have had Pringles and Doritos. Once they even had M&M's. They were stale and gross, but it was exciting anyway.

8. Learning Hindi - Seriously, when would I have ever learned Hindi? We just started, but already the kids and I are enjoying it. My goal is to be able to understand what people are saying about me in public places. I know they are talking about me. They all are.

9. Ice Cream - There is a company here called Mother's Dairy. Luckily they have a store right around the block from us. They have the best ice cream ever. If I could think of a way to transport a gallon of their Vanilla home for my dad, that is the gift I would bring him from India. I just noticed that 4 of my 10 items deal with food in some way. Do you think I have issues with comfort food? Hmmm.

10. My Computer - I love Skype and gmail and Blogger and and all the ways this computer helps me keep in touch with the people I love. The fact that I can live in India and not feel lonely is a miracle too me.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Me? Did she say Me?

Shauna at Up In The Night gave me this very cute award. Since this is as close as I will ever get to winning anything ever, I will pull out the speech I have been practising in the bathroom mirror for years.

I am very honored. I would like to thank those who made this moment possible. My kids for providing funny stories. My mother in law and her sister, for reading when I was a nobody. My sisters and Beth for keeping my sarcasm at it's best. Anyone who has ever read or commented, because the fans are the most important part of this work. Wait! Don't start the music, I'm not done! Finally, I would like to thank my sweet husband for moving me to India and giving me things to write about! Thank you! (smooch) Thank you! (smooch) Thank you! (smooch)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

10 Things I hate About Living In India

I have fallen into a bad habit of posting something about every eight days. I really do mean to post more often. The problem I face is that I am trying to keep this blog about our family's experiences in India. So for instance today I shouldn't write about how much I loved Harry Potter 7. It isn't an India related topic. But I really did love it.

As I was fretting over what to post this week I had several small ideas, but no big ones. So I have decided to compile a list. Now I recognise that this is not a positive or uplifting list, so next week I will even the score with "10 Things I Love About Living In India". For now, here are the things I hate in no particular order.....

1. Water Supply - How I miss drinking from the tap. How great it would be to shower and not worry if some water seeps into your mouth. How fabulous to rinse your toothbrush out in running sink water instead of bottled. Do you have any idea how hard it is to retrain yourself not to rinse your toothbrush out in the sink water? It's hard!

2. After Rain Smell - You know how it always smells so good after it rains? Not here. Here when you walk outside after a good rain, it just smells like wet garbage. I had no idea this would effect me emotionally, but I really miss that smell.

3. Water Problems - We have had more problems with water since we got here than in the previous 17 years of marriage! The latest one is a large (and getting larger) wet spot on our Living Room wall. It took us several tries to get someone to take this seriously. I think when the two shades of fuzzy mold (or mildew) started cropping up, it really helped our case.

4. Indian Sweets - It seems that a lot of Indian sweets and desserts are based on curdled milk. I am not kidding. Frankly, they are just plain nasty. Seriously how does one come to the decision that balling up a lump of curdled milk and pouring syrup over it will be a good thing?

5. News Paper Articles - News articles here are written in a very annoying way. I will make up an example for you. It was reported that the young girl was seen dancing around the pool and acting very strangely. "She was dancing around the pool and acting very strangely." said Deepak Sihng. This happens in every article. I once read an advice column where the first three paragraphs of the answer was the advice guru restating the situation in three slightly different ways. By the time I read the actual advice I had heard the problem four times (including the original letter asking for help). It is a silly thing, but after 5 months, it starts to get on your nerves.

6. Begging - Begging is huge here. They come out into traffic to knock on your window. The children try to hold your hand as you walk down the street. Some will actually try to block your car door as you are getting in so that you can't get in until you have given them money. And if you do give them something you had better run. Every beggar within 100 yards will be on you in a flash. Don't even think about turning them down after you gave to someone else. And, it had better be the same amount or more or you will have some very angry beggars.

7. Naked Men - Actually I should say "Seeing naked men with 7 kids in the car". You would not believe the ruckus that follows a naked man sighting. "EWWWWW!" "That man was naked!" "Oh gross!" "I saw his you-know-what!" "He was pooping outside!" "Did you see that?" "What?! I missed it!" "Look. Right there, see the guy with the basket on his head? Right behind him. See? You can see his 'hmm-hmm'" "Oh! Now I see it! Mom, do you see it?" I am just waiting for the day my four year old son drops trow and squats at the park. We all know it is coming, it's really just a question of when.

8. Beautiful Women - I am telling you, India got more than their fair share of beautiful women. Not only are they gorgeous, but they do not leave the house unless they look fabulous. Hair, make-up, jewelry, clothes, cute matching shoes, all must be in place. I swear, I think they even iron their perfectly factory faded jeans for casual days. And only men wear tennis shoes. These women wear spiked heels everywhere. And the jewelry! Don't even get me started on the jewelry! I seriously don't need this kind of pressure.

9. A Company Life - I am sure that it is worse for us because we are here for work and we live in a company house. However, it seems that employers have a lot to do with their employee's personal lives. They want to be the one to take you to the doctor. The doctor tells them how you are doing. They have the guards call the office directly when there is a problem instead of telling us. It's almost as if they are keeping tabs on us. We found out a while ago that they record and listen to all phone calls made to or from the office and the calls made on the cell phone that Mr. Smith got through them. I have wondered if they have access to our computer since they arranged for our Internet and set up our computer for us. Hi guys!

10. Indian Stretchable Time - The cable company in the US has got nothing on these guys. We broke a glass shower door. A man came to the house and measured the door and said he would be back tomorrow with the glass. About a month later he showed up with the glass. Everyone swears they will be back tomorrow to finish the job and they never are. I am not exaggerating. In all the time we have been here we have never had someone actually show up on the day they say they are going to.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Is There A Doctor In The House?

Today instead of missing root beer, which I pine for nightly, I am missing pharmaceuticals that I know and love. Lovely sounding things like Phenergan and NyQuil. Oh how I miss those beautiful gel caps. But since I am thinking about the health care system, I decided to write about it as well.

As we were planning to move here my sweet mother-in-law expressed concern for our health. I told her she had nothing to worry about, so many of the good doctors in Arizona were from India, it would stand to reason that there were good doctors in India. The thing is, I wasn't sure I believed it. So before we left the states we took care of all the medical things we could think of. We single handedly paid for our pediatric dentist's Christmas vacation, I am sure. We also took care of glasses and an ingrown toenail and anything else we could think of. Once we got here we quickly learned that we had wasted a substantial sum of money!

Our first brush with illness was our 8 year old, Star On Stage. We called a popular pediatrician expecting to be put off until the following week. He said to come in that afternoon. When he heard we were from Arizona, he said, "I practiced in Phoenix for 10 years!" (What do you know, I was right!) At the end of the visit he charged us 600 Rupees or about $12 for the visit! This was our "initial visit", a phrase which usually costs an extra $100 in the US. As if that weren't enough, later in the week the doctor called to make sure Star On Stage was doing well. Since then we've had: A midnight emergency room visit for an asthma attack - $16; a doctor visit and x-ray on arm after a spill down the stairs - $19; a consultation, surgery and follow up visits for the previously mentioned (and "fixed") ingrown toenail - less than $150; and the most expensive..... ER visit, x-ray, MRI and 6 physical therapy sessions for a painful back injury - $290!

Now we are trying to think of all the things we could do before we go back to the US. How many kids can we get through braces in three years? What about Lasik for Mr. Smith and I? Does anyone want a nose job? Tummy tuck? Face lift? This is the time!

My favorite thing about Indian medicine is that medicine is cheap and you don't need a prescription! There is a family that used to live here that still comes back once a year for business. Before they leave the US they get a list of all the things their friends in Delhi want. In return, their friends procure a year supply of all the prescription medication this family will need. During the visit they swap goods and money and everyone is happy.

Now that I think about it, I could probably get something with codine in it....See Ya! I'm off to the chemist!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

This entry is not for men, or women who offend easily!

More than a week since my last entry? Bad blogger! Bad, bad blogger! Unfortunately there has been precious little to write about. We did have a flood caused by our poor plumbing, but I am tired of water stories. I am happy to announce that both the plumbing and my washer were fixed quickly. Now, on to this week's story.

I have a hard time finding hairdressers that I like. I am indecisive, so I need someone who doesn't mind making suggestions; but I am also picky, so they must have good taste and skill. It is not a job for the faint hearted. I was in need of a hair cut when we got here in February, and this being July, you can imagine how badly I needed to find a salon. It is not hard to find a salon here, there are lots of them around. The problem is that they all look kind of icky, and I assume that no one speaks English. This wouldn't work for me. When I see the finished product, I often feel as if the person who cut my hair didn't understand a thing I told them anyway, but I would like to think there was at least a chance.

Yesterday Mr. Smith noticed that a new salon/day spa had opened in the shopping complex nearby. After scoping it out for me, he made me an appointment for this morning. I admit, I was excited. I decided that I would have a cut and color. Then I started thinking about the "day spa" portion of the business. After much internal debate, I decided to go for a facial too. My face has not felt clean since we got here, and my breakouts were increasing. When I got there they went into high pressure sales mode. After looking at all the services they offered, I picked a more extensive facial and I chose to have my eyebrows threaded as well. I have plucked my eyebrows exactly once in my life, so they were definitely bushy, and it was only 40 rupees which translates to $1.

Just by the way, threading hurts. If you were one of the unfortunate people who tried an Epi Lady, imagine a tiny one made just for eyebrows. Basically they twist up a long thread, then use it to rip out hairs as they twist and untwist it. Now, common sense told me this was going to hurt, but I had forgotten why I had only plucked my eyebrows once in my life: because I'm a baby, and it hurts like a son of a motherless goat!

The facial was an interesting experience. Several goopy substances were smeared on, massaged in, then wiped off my face. Twice I felt an electric current being sent through my face. The first time by some kind of wand, the second, by special gloves. Weird, yet cool. At the end, a VERY thick goop was applied to my face, effectively sealing my mouth and eyes shut. This was left on for about 20 minutes while the girl massaged lotion into my hands, arms, shoulders, neck and then WHAM!...she went to second base! I am going to assume that this is normal, surprising, yet normal.

The interesting part for me is that through the whole thing I was totally terrified someone might try to touch my feet. The marble floors dry out my feet big time, so my heels are cracked and no matter how hard I scrub, my feet no longer look clean. So, essentially, what I have learned about myself is this: It's O.K. with me if you want to have a go at my girls (a term I picked up from my niece-in-law), but if you want to see my feet, I'm going to have to know you better. This is a revelation to say the least.

All in all, the score card looks like this:
Five hours away from the kids: Good
Hair color: Fabulous
Hair style: Cute
Eyebrows: Neat and trim
Facial skin: Not a big, blocked pore in sight
Embarrassment factor: High - Next time I will opt for the less extensive facial