Monday, December 31, 2007

Vacation Observations

Being back in the US for a few weeks is interesting. I see things differently.

First of all, Wal-mart is totally and completely forgiven for being an evil empire. I know I know, they put people out of business and they are terrible to their employees and their customer service skills leave something to be desired, but have you seen how clean and organized it is in there? There is so much space in there and there are soooo many products to choose from and I can actually return something if I don't like it. No haggling, no emotional blackmail just a shelf full of stuff and price stickers. Beeeea-utiful.

Disney is also forgiven for being an evil empire despite the fact that a large chunk of our vacation money now sits in the Disney wallet. We spent 3 days at Disneyland and not one person asked to take pictures with our kids. You may be mentally pointing out to me that we were Americans in America, so who would want our picture, right? Well nobody was asking any nationality for their pictures. There is something to be said for being in a place where people are largely self absorbed. I also noticed that the lines were orderly and every one stood in them politely (lines generally don't exist in India).

Next on the list, traffic. I just love how people drive in one lane at a time. They use their blinkers a lot more than they use their horns and by and large there are no cattle on the big roads. And guess what people do at the red lights? They stop! It is so cool! I am aware that there are those who break all of the rules, but honestly, it is so much better.

Have I mentioned how lovely America smells? Even LA seemed like clean fresh air to us. Scary, huh?

Of course not all the observations are favorable. America could stand to lose some weight. There are the really fat (I am one of those) and then there are the people that I used to consider thin. Even they could stand to lose 20 pounds. Don't get me wrong, I don't want everyone to be as skinny as your average Indian, but I am surprised at how "well padded" most Americans are. I now believe all the statistics I used to roll my eyes at about how many Americans are overweight.

I remember now why we were always flat broke. Everything is so expensive here! Honestly, I am afraid for when we return in 2010. I forgot just how much it costs to feed 9 people in the US. Two income families have very little to do with equality and a lot more to do with necessity.

I am most surprised by how little I am enjoying the food that I have been looking forward to. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my first Quarter-Pounder with Cheese an awful lot, but I grew tired of it all very quickly. The one exception has been the root beer. I love root beer. I have been drinking so much root beer I am going to have brown eyes soon. I probably smell like root beer. That stain on my shirt? Root beer. Why, oh why, doesn't India have root beer. They have satellite TV, surely they could work out root beer!

Being here has made me ask myself two interesting questions: 1. How on Earth am I going to make it two more years? 2. Is it time to go home to Noida yet? Vacation is wearing me out!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Half Way Around The World In 80 Hours

Despite 2 weeks of planning, I was still packing three hours before we were supposed to leave for the airport. I think someone should invent disposable clothes for your family to wear while you do vacation laundry. Seriously, how are you supposed to wash and pack your family's clothes when they insist on wearing them? Then there is the constant debate over what gets packed and what gets left behind. No you may not bring 5 stuffed animals. Yes you must pack clean underwear. No we are not packing your remote control car. Yes you can bring a book, no not all 7 Harry Potter books. No electric guitars. What do you mean your dad already said yes? If your dad said yes, then why are you asking me? Are you toying with me? I could snap at any moment you know...

Finally we were packed and we even had time for one hour of sleep before it was time to go. At 2am we piled in to 2 vans and hit the road. By 3:15 we were in line waiting to have our luggage x-rayed. Behind us was probably the drunkest man I have ever seen. He was weepy and kept apologising for something. I was thinking, Is he apologising because he is going to kill us all and his conscience is bothering him? I was saying, "Don't be nervous, he is just sad about leaving his family. I am sure he is a nice man who is just sad." Thinking, Please don't kill us! Here is where I would like to thank the wise and watchful people at British Airways for not letting that man fly. Although he would have had plenty of time to sober up.

After waiting a couple of hours it was time to board the plane. I was very excited that we were only about 20 minutes late. We got all 9 of us in our seats and all of our carry on luggage stowed in an overhead compartment or under the seat in front of us and waited for take off. And waited...and waited...getting a picture here? We sat on the runway for four and a half hours! Not a good beginning. Luckily we were able to make up an hour and a half in the air, unfortunately, we still missed our connecting flight to Phoenix by about an hour and a half. Here is where I would like to ask British Airways why they choose to fill a plane with passengers and then begin the repairs that are necessary in order for the plane to fly.

After many wrong turns we managed to find our way through Heathrow Airport and make it to the hotel that we were put in for our unexpected stay in London. The next morning we went back to the airport, back through security (where 3 of my daughters set off the metal detectors and had to be searched for the 3rd time) and back on to the plane. 9 hours later we finally landed in Phoenix and even found our luggage waiting for us. Yeah! Then we had to go through customs. Boo! They asked us if we had any seeds or plants and we told the truth. Sometimes it is annoying being an honest person. I had planned just which seeds to bring back for a family member's garden and felt like crying as I watched the customs guy toss them into a box as he explained that the law had recently changed and that I had to get a certificate from the Embassy in Delhi in order to bring the seeds into the country. Sure the law changed, he just wanted my seeds. I bet he is laughing it up right now as he plants his red carrots and his musk melons. Hmph! I am on to him!

Before you feel too bad for me, one step into the clean, orderly spacious neighborhood Super Wal-Mart made the whole ordeal fade away. "Oh-oh say, can you see..."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Dinner & A Movie

The makings for my favorite date night.

Everyone in our family is looking forward to different foods when we are back in the US for our vacation. But I was thinking, why not throw in some movies and make it complete? I mean dinner by itself is just Wednesday night, but dinner and a movie is a party, right? Don't get me wrong, we have enjoyed watching some Bollywood films. But I am so excited to see American films again, I can hardly stand it. The problem is, I have no idea what movies I have missed.

So, you tell me what I should see. What DVDs have come out since January that I need to rent? What movies shall I make Mr. Smith take me to see in the theater? What DVDs should I buy? My only requests are these: Nothing racier than PG-13 and they must have a happy ending. And none of this "they're not together anymore, but they are better off and stronger" crap! I want Happy Endings! I know this is shallow, and I am sure that I will miss seeing some great films, but I only have three weeks. Here is a general guideline:

Loved The Notebook - Hated Titanic
Loved Somewhere In Time (I know, I'm old) - Hated Titanic
Loved Notting Hill - Hated The Break Up
Loved The Wedding Singer - Hated Little Nicky
Loved Ever After - Hated Never Been Kissed
Loved Tommy Boy - Hated Hated Hated Napoleon Dynamite

In general I also like feel good sports movies and pretty much anything with Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) in it. Please don't mock me. Have you seen him?

Oh yeah, since I do have a husband and some kids you can also include movies that they might like. I want lots of suggestions, so if you read this post, you had better leave a comment with a recommendation! (You can stay anonymous if you must. Big chicken.)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Short, Sweet and Superstitious

***************Mr. Smith is normally a hard working, level headed man who is blessed with a good sense of humor. Once in a while though, his superstitious side crops up. For the first several years of our marriage Mr. Smith was convinced that the birthmark on the inside of his right knee was in the shape of Africa. He liked this thought because he served his mission in South Africa. In the last few years, however, he has decided that it is actually shaped like India. This really tickles his fancy (for obvious reasons) and is often brought up in conversation. I must admit that the resemblance to India is definitely stronger than Africa. It does become a little annoying though, when I feel like complaining about India or being homesick and Mr. Smith smugly points to his knee as if to say (use big ominous voice) "Do not argue with The Birthmark!" But, generally speaking, it is cute and endearing. Since nothing interesting happened this week I thought I would share this with you.
P.S. In the interest of preserving my current state of marital bliss I would like to point out that the adjective "Short" in the title of this post should be applied to the length of this post and not to Mr. Smith who is 6 feet tall. Clearly nobody would ever refer to him as short, although sweet and superstitious are certainly applicable. Thank you.