Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Boo! Humbug!

I must begin this post with an apology, I am sorry to my family,who has heard this all before. My family has heard my rantings and ravings on Halloween and has born it with love and patience. I would also like to state at the beginning of this post that the following paragraphs contain my personal opinions on Halloween and in no way reflect the beliefs or feelings of the rest of my family or blogger.

I hate Halloween! This is a bone deep hatred. You might assume that this is some kind of theological problem. That perhaps I object to this day because it seems to be celebration of all things evil. No! This is a purely selfish hatred. I hate what Halloween requires of me.

I have not always hated Halloween. As a kid I thought it was great. My neighborhood was a good place for Halloween. It was well established, we knew everyone, and the Coleman's house could always be counted on to scare the kids thoroughly. No my hatred for Halloween didn't begin until somewhere around child number three. By the last week of October we couldn't afford candy, not to mention costumes. For a few years we were able to get away with things like Cowboys or Football Players, costumes we could pull together with things we already had. But eventually we had to go to Wal-Mart and choose from the poor quality, over priced selection offered every year in every large chain across the nation.

This is where somebody usually says, "Why don't you make their costumes?" I'll tell you why, smarty pants,because I have no talent for sewing or costume making of any kind. None. Plus, I have never talked to a single person who doesn't end up spending more on home made costumes than on store bought ones. You know it is true. But one year, out of motherly guilt, I gave into the pressure and sewed ghost costumes for three of my children. We had absolutely zero money for costumes that year, so I told my kids to think of things they could do with what we had at home. For three of them I actually cut up old bed sheets and tried to sew ghost costumes. Do you know what else people used to make out of bed sheets? Here is a hint...as we were walking into the Halloween party Mr. Smith asks, "Where are their burning crosses?" How nice of him to pick that moment to point out to me that I was sending my kids to an elementary school party dressed as bigots. Luckily the hats stayed on for about two minutes, then were promptly handed off to me for the remainder of the evening. In my defense, I had five kids, I was seven months pregnant with twins, and although I wouldn't know it for about another month, I was in severe heart failure. Looking back, I think it was a miracle that everyone made it out the door with pants on. I am 97% percent sure we all had pants on.

Next comes the candy portion of the event. Trick-or-Treating just isn't what it used to be. Four out of five houses are dark so you have to walk forever to get a decent haul. Plus, now you feel guilty if you let your children accept candy from someone you don't know really well. But as inconvenient and annoying as I find Trick-or-Treating, it is nothing compared to the week that follows. Those who plow through their candy in two days are sick, then later, angry that their siblings won't share. The ones who stretch out their candy seem to enjoy torturing the others with the fact that they still have candy. Then there is the candy itself. Wrappers and half eaten candy in every corner of the house. By the second week of November I feel violent tendencies fighting to be free every time I step on a piece of wet, sticky candy.

This is one of the days that I am completely content to live in India. This year we are celebrating Halloween with candy I provide. Costumes are optional and are to be created by the wearer of said costume. One scary, yet child friendly movie will be provided for the evening's entertainment and bedtime is extended to midnight. Not bad.

Happy Halloween to all, and to all a frightening night!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Forget Kilts, What Do They Wear Under Their Saree?

The inaugural post on this blog includes a rather unfortunate picture of me in a saree at my first Hindu wedding. There is a story that goes along with that saree that I have not shared with anyone. Not Anyone. After reading a few of my posts (particularly the one where I was accosted by a masseuse, or the one where my pants fell down) you might wonder, "What on earth could be too embarrassing for this girl to write about?" Well, quit being so impatient and I will tell you.
One of the women that my husband worked with was getting married. I was very nervous about this wedding for a number of reasons. 1. We were still new to India and I had no idea what to expect or what was expected of me. 2. It was my first unofficial Indian corporate shindig. 3. Mr. Smith bought me a saree to wear. Men have a thing about sarees. Sadly, I am fat and would never go into public with my midriff showing (you're welcome), but just try to explain that to the tailor who in his whole life has never heard anything so silly as a saree where the stomach is covered. 4. I had no idea how to put on a saree and the woman who could help me was a very new employee. Asking someone you hardly know and who hardly knows English to help you get dressed is a hard conversation to have. Plus, I really prefer clothes that I can put on all by myself. Having someone dress me is a little too 1800's for my taste. But I was determined to be a good sport and so I asked Camla to come upstairs in 20 minutes and help me put on my saree.

Ever wondered how a saree stays on? I figured it was some ancient Indian folding technique passed down from mother to daughter. Maybe a few safety pins thrown in for good measure. No, there is a secret that nobody tells you. Not the people who sell you the saree, not the tailor who makes the blouse to go with it, not even your American friends who are supposed to be smarter than you. They wear a petticoat! They tuck the saree into the drawstring waistband of the petticoat! My only contact with a petticoat up to this point in my life was "Petticoat Junction", an old show that I used to watch the reruns of as a kid. I could sing the theme song for you, but that's not really pertinent.

Twenty minutes passed and Camla came upstairs to help me make a dress out of a huge piece of fabric and I was waiting for her in my blouse and my underwear. That's right. Poor Camla, she was so embarrassed and just didn't know how to explain to me that I was missing a vital part of the whole saree ensemble. Finally she flipped up the end of her own saree to show me her petticoat. I was mortified. Eventually we found something that would work for the night and off I went. "Why is she telling us this?" you might ask. You are just full of questions today! This week Mr. Smith received another invitation to another wedding. This time my saree will be green, as will my brand new petticoat.

Monday, October 22, 2007

My Very First Movie Review

Lately Mr. Smith and I watched an Indian film called "Guru". This film was released early this year and was a big hit. The fact that it stars Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai had a lot to do with the success, I am sure. They are India's version of Bruce and Demi or Brad and Jennifer, except that they are still together. We were very excited to see this film because we had heard such good things about it.

It starts out well. A young ambitious man, Gurukant Desai, works hard, looks for opportunities and begins to succeed. When he tries to break into the world of big business he finds that corruption has closed all the doors for the average man. Through determination and his wits he is able to break through. Unfortunately, to increase his success he eventually becomes just as corrupt as the men he fought at the beginning. Bribes, false financial documents and all kinds of illegal business practices become his new way of life.

Finally he is brought up on charges and I thought, "Aha! Here is where he regrets what he has become and returns to his honest ways." No such luck. Instead he is portrayed, once again, being unfairly targeted by the establishment. He even compares himself to "another man that was called a criminal" Mahatma Gandhi. That's right. Wouldn't all those former CEO's in the US who served time for many of these same crimes be glad to know that they are actually heroic figures? That they were only practicing that long celebrated tradition of Civil Disobedience?

Don't get me wrong, I know not all movies portray actual good guys as "the good guys". I love a good heist film. I like revenge films. I even like it when a hero is shown to be a flawed human being, as long as what he/she did to become a hero was actually heroic. But this film starts out like It's a Wonderful Life, and ends with George Bailey beating Mr. Potter by becoming Mr. Potter. Not exactly the triumphant, feel good ending it's presented as.

The artistic quailties of the film are good and the characters are interesting, unfortunately the disappointing story line ruins it for me. I guess the film in my first film review gets one out of five stars.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Snips and Snails...

One of the things that makes living in India difficult is that it seems everything is different. Absolutely everything. Sometimes, in the morning, the thought of having to do everything in a slightly different way is overwhelming. Of course there are some things that are different and good. We love Limca. It is a lime soda (forget that tag-along lemon) that we all like. We will actually miss it when we go home. And some of the differences,while slightly disturbing, are just entertaining.

For instance, a couple of weeks ago we went to the mall as a family. This almost never happens because a visit to the mall with seven kids is generally more "fun" than I am up for. Nevertheless, there we were. Before heading home we stopped into the toy store. We gave the kids a limit and let them each pick something small. One of daughters (who has asked to remain nameless) picked out a baby doll. This doll appeared to be the run of the mill, super cheap, take in the tub kind of doll, and believe it or not, I thought it was just that.

I know. Your thinking "Silly, sweet, slow learning, slack witted girl. Don't you read your own blog? Nothing is ever what you expect!" That day we learned some interesting facts about baby doll's in India. They are boys and they are anatomically correct...ish. Enjoy the picture!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Water Water Everywhere!

Those of you who have read my blog for a while might have noticed that water is a continual issue here. For one reason or another, I have a water related problem almost everyday. Here are a few of them from the last 8 months.

4 year olds don't get that they can't drink tap water
4 year olds don't get that they can't use tap water to brush teeth
4 year olds are afraid of the bath water (Can you blame them?)
Tanks aren't filling from city
Illegal well water is no longer fit for use
Pump won't work
Faucets won't work because the screens are full of sediment
Gross water making laundry look dirtier than before I washed it
Heavy rain making sewage back up in downstairs bathrooms
Rain is coming in the house, forming a waterfall down the stairs
Dennis The Menace turned on the actual waterfall (yes we have one in the house)
Dennis The Menace broke the waterfall (solved previous problem nicely)
Water from construction next door making one whole wall of house wet, inside
Paint peeling off wet wall
Mold growing in corner of wet wall
Puddle on roof next door breeding mosquitoes
"Filtered" drinking water has sand and dead bug in it
Out of bottled water

And finally, the most recent...too much bottled water!

My kids have a habit of opening a bottle of water, taking a few sips, then abandoning it as undrinkable. Their defense of this practice is that while they weren't looking, somebody might have taken a drink. The somebody they are referring to is the previously mentioned 4 year old, Dennis The Menace. As well as being a bit of a rascal, Dennis seems to always have an abundance of saliva in the general area of his face. So, nobody drinks after him. Nobody. Over a period of a couple of weeks I noticed that the partially empty water bottles were piling up. One day I decided that it was getting a little embarrassing, so after Uday and Camla left the house, I recruited all of my kids to gather the abandoned bottles. I was stunned. Then I ran for my camera so that you could enjoy the craziness.

Anybody want to count them? I keep losing my place. There were also four or five unopened bottles that were returned to the fridge. Needless to say, we tightened up water bottle security. We still waste some water bottles, but not as many. Luckily, bottled water is relatively cheap here. Now I'm thirsty, but I promise to finish off the bottle!
Notice the unopened box of water just waiting for us?
I wonder what the raddiwallah thought.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Tell Me How You Really Feel

First, as it is a holiday here in India, I must take a minute to say, "Happy Birthday Gandhi-Ji!"

Now, on with the show. Recently Mr. Smith has decided to grow a beard. This is something that he does about once a year. It starts out as a full beard, then it is whittled down to a sort of "follow the jawline" kind of beard, then it becomes a goatee. At this point it usually goes away. Once in a while it becomes a mustache or soul patch for a day before disappearing altogether. The reason I bring up Mr. Smith's facial hair is that it started a conversation he and I had about how blunt people are here. His beard has received mixed reviews. As usual, the negative responses are the most entertaining.

Every morning Mr. Smith walks past a desk with a guard or two behind it on his way up to his office. They usually salute sharply and leave it at that. The beard, however, was too much for one guard to let go without a comment. "Why do you grow this? It is for the uncivilized." This is an interesting opinion in a country where facial hair is often tied to religious traditions, and where most men at least grow a mustache.

I wish I could say this was the first such incident. Oh no. Our size often produces those warm and fuzzy comments that make you feel extra confident throughout your day. Here are a few of my favorite: "We have yoga in the park every morning, if you joined us you would not be so fat." "As a Doctor I will tell you that you must walk every morning. I do everyday and you can see I am very slim." "You are a very big man, but you move so well. Where do you get so much energy?" "Have you ever considered reducing?" Why, no! I have never considered 'reducing' before, thank goodness you mentioned it. You have changed my life forever! How I long for the days in the states where people just looked pointedly at the ice cream in my shopping cart.

One day I was invited to a neighbors house for tea. While I drank my warm, unpasteurized, unhomogenized, whole milk, I was informed that only uneducated people have more than one or two children, the school we had chosen for our daughters was sub-par, our generator was too noisy and polluting, and the furniture that had been provided for us was cheap and tacky. Oddly, we have not become bosom buddies.

Even at our favorite restaurant we are not safe. There is a Chinese restaurant here that we love. Mr. Smith and I generally go there for our date night. It always starts well, they bring us menus. We peruse the menu and choose what we would like to try. Then the waiter comes with a pad in hand as if he is going to take our order. He listens politely and sometimes even writes things down. At this point, he informs us why our order is wrong and what he will order instead. Someday I am going to ask why they bother giving us menus.

I can only hope that this habit of brutal honesty has not rubbed off on my children, as if kids aren't embarrassingly honest enough. This could make for some awkward moments when we return to the US.