Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Minnesota Christmas...India style

Our Family in Bangalore...

Owen perfects his "wink" (and cookie overloading) at Breakfast With Santa...

Sweet Grayce sitting pretty at Breakfast With Santa...

"Does Santa know where India is ?? Only the "Santa Tracker" website was official enough to lend validity to our assertions. Reassurances abound..."Yes kids, while we all occasionally feel like we have landed on a different planet, India is, in fact, of this world and Santa does know...

"Mom! Look at that candle! It's flickering! Oh, NO! Santa is almost here and we're not asleep! He probably won't come!" Tears, frantic pacing, worried faces.

Ah, the joys of childhood: not only to ponder your recent history of bad behavior, pouting, crying or smacking your sibling around and the possible deleterious effects on Santa's gift load. But also to fear the dreaded "piece of coal" or worse yet...the Rudolph fly-by!

This year's Christmas commentary is joined by: "Mom, did you know that some people don't believe in Santa Claus? But I do, because I know you'd never buy me all those presents!" (see, all those "no, no, NO, I won't buy you the 'Too-Sexy, Overly-Made-Up, Tramp Barbie Doll' even if all the girls in the neighborhood have one...would you jump off a bridge if all the girls did, too???!!" conversations are good for more than just their moral development!)

Actually, the kids should be somewhat grateful that Christmas happened! December suddenly popped up and it was with no shortage of shock that I realized that we had less than a month to make merry... For a Minnesotan, the absence of Fall followed by the arrival of winter, snow, sleet, salted roads, midnight plowing and the annual (for Bob, of course,) "damn it why didn't I put these %$#^& lights on the house in October when I could still feel my fingers," left us woefully underprepared. Add in the utter lack of "Christmas in October..." advertising or decorating and...well, let's just say, it could have been ugly.

In many ways, it was nice to celebrate Christmas at Christmas TIME. Though, we had to modify some of our traditions...

  • Instead of an 8-foot Balsam decorated with our collected ornaments: An 8 foot "tree" made of green poster board and pasted to the wall (which I am certain will probably collapse when we attempt to pull the duct tape off). We also followed a friend's lead and bought a tiny potted Cedar to string a few lights on.

  • Instead of stockings hung by the chimney: Dad's socks (cuz they're the biggest!) hung from the curtain rod.

  • Instead of multiple strings of outdoor lights and window boxes lined with tree tops: A few outdoor lights above our front porch and some fabulous, gaudy, colorful paper stars.

  • Instead of 6 varieties of cookies and several days of baking: Toaster oven or bust! We missed some of our favorites but the fresh ginger gingerbread we did make was divine ;-) (even if it did take all day using my 9x9 cake pan) We also got to join some friends for some fun cookie decorating. But, I'm seriously considering writing a "Toaster Oven Cookbook"...

Owen, Grayce and good friend Maaike decorate cookies...

  • Instead of fudge: kind of was supposed to BE fudge...but, VOILA, truffles. (Missing ingredients get you every time!!)

  • Instead of high expectations and shopping months before hand and/or avoiding shopping in overcrowded, overdecorated and frenetic malls: NO expectations (have I mentioned the relative crappiness of most toys available here?? and the traffic, have I mentioned that?? Once or twice?) and several wonderful unexpected surprise "finds" discovered while out shopping in two trips (plus lunch!)

  • Instead of coats and mittens, hats and boots: Sandals and Kurtas and Palm trees. And mosquitoes. Have you ever applied mosquito repellent in December?

  • Instead of cooking a traditional family Christmas Dinner: Firing up the grill for our last-minute Christmas party. Attending an Eggnog Extravaganza. Finding imported ricotta for Christmas Eve Manicotti ala Barbara Fischer (my wonderful mother-in-law). And a Chrismas Day lunch open house with REAL ham (if you don't get how meaningful that is...well, it's because you're not living here!) And a Potluck, Deep-Fried Turkey Dinner with our Target friends on Christmas Day...

  • Instead of unpacking the "Decoration Box": Driving into the city with our Hindu driver, Raju and our Christian maid, Vimala, to buy a nativity set at the bazaar outside the Cathedral of St. Mary...which coincidentally is in a Muslim community. Beautiful.

  • Instead of mucking our way through overwhelming consumerism to remember the spirit of Christmas: A slower pace and a greater focus on showing charity to others.

Some things never change. Santa Letters barely made it out in time, Grayce and Owen still woke us at 6 am on Christmas morning and we ate waaaayyyy too many Christmas treats.

We deeply missed all our family and friends but at the same time, spending Christmas here, showed us that we ARE making a home here. And friends. And a patched together family of that comes and goes...but is never forgotten.

Merry Christmas... We hope your holidays were filled with blessings of every kind!

The Fischers in Bangalore, India

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tae Kwon D'ohhhhhh!

"I can take all these guys..."

"Who needs to pay attention when you've got this smile?"

"My Brother will never mess with my stuff again!"

Grayce learns the art of self defense

"Om"...Owen achieves Inner Peace.
Tae Kwon Do under a Bhodi tree. We signed the kids up for weekly lessons at a nearby "farm." Grayce works very hard, taking her turn in line, listening attentively, improving her kicks and other defensive tactics while Owen, in true 3 year old fashion, works hard for about 30 seconds and then wanders off among the climbing trees and tropical flowers, has a refreshing drink of water, pets the farm dog, "Brio", jabs his friend, "Henry", returns for another few rounds of "Kya!" kicks and punches and then lays down in the grass.
The teacher is wonderful...very patient with the kids but he makes it clear that he will not teach a child who uses Tae Kwon Do for violence. Sometimes that is a bit lost on the youngest member of the class... (yes that would be our son.)
Grayce was initially very shy... "Can't we just use our words?" She seems to be coming around, though!
Buddha achieved enlightment under a Bhodi Tree...
The Fischers in Bangalore

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Cover" Blown!

It was reported, late last evening, December 9th, 2007, that Bob Fischer, of Bangalore, India (formerly of Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA) is the real Santa Claus.

"Bob" (aka Robert) has spent the past year and a half spinning an elaborate tale of international intrigue. Claiming to be an "employee" of Target Corporation sent on expatriate assignment in "India," the "man -we- all -know- as- Bob" has been, in truth, setting up a new base of Christmas Operations in Bangalore. Additional secret files reveal that Mrs. Claus is completely unaware of Santa "Bob's" second wife, Chandra Fischer and of his two young children, Grayce Lorraine and Owen Patrick. Speaking off-the-record and on condition of complete confidentiality, "Rudy" the red-nosed Bullock had this to say:

"It's just too damn cold in the North Pole. So about 15 years ago (or was it 14?) Santa decided to set up shop in Minnesota. Mrs. Claus's friends and family are all in the NP and she just didn't want to go. To be honest, Santa can be kind of demanding and she was tired of all those elves and Santa's infrequent return visits were okay with her. "

When asked the reason behind the recent move from the Minnesota, Rudy noted:

"It's just too damn cold there, too!"

A "No Comment" was issued upon questions regarding Santa's copious use of sunscreen and mosquito repellant, his plans to pay all Elves in Indian Rupees, the obvious age difference between him and his young wife and his appearance sans Santa Suit at a Christmas Party early last evening.
Ima Crazy One
International Investigative Reporter on assignment in Bangalore, Karnataka, India