Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Christmas Blog...

Is that like a letter? 'Cuz I don't do a letter. It is true, though. Christmas IS coming, the cows are getting fat (doesn't matter though...they know just how safe they are. Go ahead, moo at me in that smirky, "you caaaan't eat me" way...just go right ahead. Hope it makes you happy. Nope. No fatted calf munching around here...WHAT! You mean to say that typically there are geese involved in this rhyme? Yeah, don't live in India. But the cows...they know exactly what I mean.

Have I mentioned how much I like a nice standing rib roast for Christmas?

Okay, okay...honestly, I love the cows wandering our Bangalore streets. There is something so self assured about them. Maybe they are divine. After living here for some time, I am hardly the girl to argue with Krishna (or any Hindu deity, for that matter)! Divinity being in the eye of the beholder, much of the time.

This Christmas has been a little strange. So many people we know are gone or leaving for the holidays....and our friends, The Loud Americans are not only gone for Christmas but they leave for good about 2 weeks after they return from their holiday. Other friends are also departing India. So, it's quiet here and we are thinking about the people we've become close to...

I wonder if I have a Christmas letter in me after all? Hmmmm...let's see. What were the Fischers really up to in 2008????

Bob (aka "Daddy", well disputed KING of the family...or as he likes to call himself, "lord of all") Experienced numerous bouts of the famed "Delhi Belly" and lived to tell the tale. Worked 300 bajillion late hours. Endured various unfriendly wife events with grace and irritation. Was frequently kicked in the back by his four year old bed buddy...aka O-ee P. Fischer, leaver of (aptly named) pee spots. Bright spots were, of course...a free Business class upgrade on the Emirates A380, the pleasure of really enjoying his job, increased "date nights" with his wife, and the arrival of Belgian Beer in Bangalore.

Chandra (aka "Mommy" clearly well known as "The Boss" and less lovingly referred to as...well, I won't bore you...we all have been in those moments, haven't we?) Rest assured, life in a foreign country does not always make you a bastion of extra loving perfect peace and harmony. Luckily, one can always blame that pesky weather! Or Fever. Just have some coconut water and a heaping bowl of curd rice,'ll all be juuuust fiiiine. Ahem...anyway. This year, mommy got to practice testing her patience! Her head exploded only 27% of last year's total and she has been completely unsuccessful in convincing those around her to please put the same thing back in the same place more than one time! And now she doesn't even care! Mommy has managed to stop swearing at buses that veer dangerously close to her vehicle and sometimes has to remind herself to put on her seatbelt. Bright spots are...knowing exactly where to find all kinds of items in Bangalore...even (coincidentally) when they aren't in the same place they were the time before. Homeschooling...Especially alongside some amazing friends., Not seeing any rats for a record 6 months, completing more class work in her midwifery program, and, of course, the lack of additional 51 hour international flights in her life.

Grayce (aka Grayce, eater of white foods...) Dropped out of school and is still plenty smart. Did not throw up during a 4D log role movie, lost and gained numerous teeth, tasted egg yolk and said, 'it isn't too bad." Bright spots include spending hours with her friends "inventing" a new language, learning to play tennis and kick her Dad's arse in Tae Kwon Do, spending hours with her friends giggling uncontrollably, falling "in love" with a cute boy named, Henry and consuming 367 bowls of plain pasta with cheese on the side.

Owen (aka "Ow-ee,", The Boy Who Doesn't Breathe When He Speaks...) Stopped Having "Nummies," Developed multiple Secret Super Hero Powers, Learned to speak "Snake," Resumed his "Rightful in-the-middle-of-the-night Spot" in Mom and Dad's Bed. Bright spots are...teaching himself to peel and cut carrots, Convincing Vimala to turn on the T.V. and let him eat chocolate, Learning to Ride a Two-Wheeler Before His Older Sister, Memorizing Egyptian Facts, Committing Nefarious Deeds with his alter ego, Henry, and Never Losing A Board least according to him.

That, friends, is the sum of our (at least, humorous,) parts. We have not cured cancer. We do not expect to win awards for our humanitarian deeds. Nobody suspects us of Ultimate Genius. Still, we're a pretty cool family. We have nice friends. We're awfully fond of good wine. We're fortunate enough to have traveled in previously distant and foreign lands. The World has opened up to us in ways we never imagined...

We hope that You have founds some of the same kinds of joy in the every day...

Merry Christmas and...Happiest of New Years!

The Fischers
In India, Proud Combatants in Facing the Christmas Flu...Fuuuuuunnnnnn. The Oysters in India?? A Wicked and terribly Un-accomodating Virus?? Who Knows...

Tip of the Day: When the Obscenely numerous packages are (in between trips to the toilet,) unwrapped and Your Daughter Has Finally Stopped Throwing Up In Time For Christmas Bed...Cancel Your Christmas Dinner Reservations and Open a lovely bottle of champagne with your Christmas Grilled Cheese Sandwich...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A little more fun in Singapore...

Our fun cable car ride to Sentosa Island...

Since I'm trying to improve upon my blogging frequency, I thought I'd better post a bit more about our trip to Singapore:

The kids trying to root for Daddy...we missed him at every point!
Marathon running in dripping wet humidity aside, Singapore is a pretty "cool" place, famous for...

The Heat! Yes, hot enough for frequent spontaneous human combustion, (I swear!)

-Dripping Wet Humidity!!

-Really Cold Air-Conditioning!! (Honestly, one minute you are sweating like a piggie and the next you're wishing for a parka...)

-Being "clean and green"... Really, really, noticeably clean. Much cleaner than India by any stretch of the imagination. Helps that it is extremely unlawful to do things, like, LITTER. And they have these absolutely amazing little boxes all over the place. They call them...trash bins! Wow...we have SO acclimated to India that we talked alot (and with great delight) about things like footpaths (aka sidewalks), good roads and yes, the lovely trash bins.

-Money (and the thing that typically follows that, Shopping!) Singapore is shockingly expensive in comparison to India...though not so different than places like New York or London. And there are a ton of huge malls, which usually isn't my thing, but was kind of nice this time, since the malls and the Orchard Road shopping district were completely decked out for Christmas...and that is something you don't see much of in India.

-Food. Yummy, yummy food... Malaysian, Chinese, Seafood...all kinds of great food. Pitifully, we only had a small sampling of the options.

-Being one of the (if not THE) largest shipping port. We loved seeing all the shipping vessels in the harbor and the huge shipping yard full of was surreal.

-An amazing Zoo and Night Safari (as well as the Bird Park)...and Sentosa Island, which is kind of like an amusement park...pretty touristy but the kids loved it and it had an aquarium and pink dolphins and nice beaches.
Grayce and Owen feed the Kangaroos!
The Kangaroos were so sweet...

Lizard friend on the sidewalk...not a zoo resident.

Just some monkeys hanging around!

Owen, the Maharajah of Snake Land...aka Snake Boy!!

Kissing Cousins?? This was so cool...the funny fish came right up to the glass for a look-see at the "strange" creature peering in at him.
Graycie's namesake...she just happens to love Dugongs (Asian relatives of the manatees found in Florida) and though we didn't get any great pictures of this Dugong, she really was beautiful!

We hand fed the Stingrays with bits of raw fish...they actually suck it from right between your's a little creepy feeling!

The Pink Dolphins!Graycie dancing at the beach on Sentosa Island...

Owen, wet, sandy and happy on Sentosa Island...

Okay, one's bursting into flame, here... But the fire dancers at the Night Safari are WAY cool! It was too dark to take any pictures, but if you ever get to Singapore, don't miss this!

Kids and Pythons...can't keep 'em apart. Even our Grayce got in on the snake action...

-Which brings me to another thing Singpore is famous for... Rain! We forgot our umbrellas under a sunny sky and it poured sheets of rain while we were at Sentosa. We were all soaking wet but it didn't stop us.

At Sand Castle Beach...

We didn't get to see or do everything...and missed some of the other things that Singapore is famous for but it was just the break we all needed and we REALLY enjoyed the clean, safe, convenient and cheap (the only thing that really was) public transportation!

The Fischers

in Bangalore, India

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Bird Is the Word...

Have you heard? (This Blog is here on out, dedicated to my Sister, Alicia...)
"Are you aware that 98% of Americans do not, in actuality, know that The Bird Is The Word?"

It is possible that many Singaporeans DO in fact, possess awareness of this Bird-Like, Word-Like, Phenomenon. Singapore, featuring the fantabulous "Jurong Bird Park," cannot be unaware of this immutable fact of the Universe.
Birds are relatives of Dinosaurs...a sure way to winning a young boy's vociferous interest.
"Bird, Bird, Bird. Bird is the word..."

Ask Owen...He knows!

Owen Feeds The Bird...

The Bird Finds a New Home (aka, "madame, please, the birds shall peck out his eyes" courtesy of an informative, Indian tourist). Striking Visual, isn't it?

Grayce may very well have known all about the Bird and its history as The Word had she not been ill with Fever. Fever which strikes without fear (or notice) and forces Parents to dine on expensive (though delicious, amazing, Chinese) room service, drinking wine in the hallway, dodging suspicious security guards wandering sureptiously through hotel hallways while children sleep with octopus bodies in every available bed space.
Owen smiling because, well, afterall....The Bird Is Most Assuredly, The Word.
98% of you are probably entirely convinced that I am unbalanced. The other 2% have participated in the worldwide Bird communicado and are as unbalanced as I. (Note, the other 2% most likely consist of my sisters, my brother, and a few odd(literally) family, friends or aquaintances of the lot of an inside joke, but it there you have it.)
Singapore was fun! As usual, I am the Chief Blogging Procrastinator... Thanks to Bob for the recent "filling of the void" as I attempt to reconstruct our world in the past few months. More Singapore bloggin' to follow (really!)
The Fischers
Spreading "the word"
in Bangalore

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Marathon # 8

Got the job done, but it was not pretty. There was no option to run the half, so I was left to run the full. Finished in five hours and six minutes, a personal worst by over 30 minutes, but still was fun the run the race and see the sights. When I first started training for the race somebody told me I should drag a treadmill into a steam room to train, I thought he was kidding until I started to run the race. The combination of heat, hummidity, no wind in the downtown sections, and 15,000 bodies created a sweltering start to the race, the heat was everywhere. I was not the only one to be covered in sweat before the race had even begun. If I run Grandma's marathon next year I may have to wear a fleece to keep warm.
Before the race I made the decision to take it easy and finish in one piece as I was still not feeling 100% and had run only five miles in three weeks. Had "fun" on the course and was able to enjoy the run versus try to get a better time. One highlight was we ran through the Singapore Grand Prix paddock area and they had about 50 different Ferrari's lined up for our viewing pleasure, great excuse to walk versus run for awhile.
Chandra will be blogging about our other adventures when we return to Bangalore.
The limping Fischer

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Marathon time.....maybe

We are off to Singapore and I will hopefully be running the marathon that I trained four months for. I had no running related injuries the entire time and things were looking good until a nasty flu virus decided to invade me and overstay its welcome by a week or so. I have now been sick with the flu for over two weeks and only run once in 16 days, which was very painful and did not offer much hope. The plan is to quickly recover by Sunday or beg my way into the half marathon.
My backup marathon plan is now in the works courtesy of the just announced Bangalore Midnight Marathon on December 14th. The organizers of this marathon opend up registration only two weeks before the actual race. Most people need at least 3-4 months to train but this group can pull it off it two weeks! A few perks if I do run it: It will cost me $4.50 to enter and it passes right in front of Palm Meadows a few times if I decide I have had enough mid race, which will be about 2-3 in the morning.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sir “Are you going to win? How much are they paying you?”

That is how my discussion began when I explained to our old driver Raju that I was training for a marathon in Singapore.

“No Raju, I will not win the marathon and I have to pay them to participate.” Brief moment of silence as he processes why I am would possibly want to run 42 K and have to pay for it. “How long will it take you?” Four hours, he quickly realizes it is about 10 kilometers per hour and slows to that speed and says “this does not seem that fast”
I reply “then you get out and run 10 kph for awhile and see how it feels.” He declines and stops asking more questions as we log distances so I can escape from Palm Meadows and run in the villages around us.

One of the goals I had for myself when we moved to India was to run a marathon on this side of the world. Bangalore had a marathon earlier this year, the lead runners were both delayed by traffic half way through the race and chased by stray dogs. After searching the web for alternatives, Singapore was the winner, great excuse for another family trip and a very well organized race for over 30,000 runners.

Training in India has been a tale of two worlds. Running inside Palm Meadows got old real fast, up and down the palm tree lined roads staring at the same very expensive houses lap after lap. When I reached the 10 mile mark, I decided it was time to journey into the real world and “awaken” as Chandra may say.

The mean streets of Palm Meadows

Before India, most of my running has been the chain of lakes in Minneapolis, whether it was 85 and sunny, 40 and raining, 25 and snowing or even 5 below and too cold for sane humans, I always loved the scenery, company of our old dog Marley and conversations or toe counting with Jeff D.

Once you leave the friendly gates you had better be awake and aware or you’re going to be run down, pedestrians are the lowest rung on the ladder in India. I cannot count the number of times a motorcycle or bus sees the crazy white guy running on the road and deliberately moves a little closer to the shoulder to see if I flinch. Chandra threatened to kill me if I was run down on my adventures, so far, I only have a lot of close calls.

How does one accurately describe the time that I rounded a corner in a village at 7 am and suddenly ten feet in front of me was a pack of stray dogs sleeping in the road? As I “awaken” my senses and count over 15 sleeping dogs, I decide to quickly turn around and calmly walk away.

Other highlights from my runs:
· School children always “joining” me for my run
· People always watching me wondering what I am doing
· Getting caught behind the morning cattle drive – watch your step
· Looking at the beautiful scenery and piles of garbage mixed together
· It is always around 70 degrees and sunny on every run

While I had lofty training ambitions for this marathon that went unfulfilled, I will be lined up on December 7th with thousands of other mentally unbalanced individuals. For a Minnesota guy that loves running in the snow, running a race that promises high heat and humidity will be an adventure.

Two weeks and counting

Monday, November 17, 2008

Awakening to India...

The other day, at the end of my yoga class, our instructor was talking about how the “luxuries” of life tend to make us dull, slow, and asleep at the wheel… To awaken, we often need to feel some deprivation, unmet needs, an absence of ease, or simply the edge of the unexpected.

Why does India hold such powerful sway over people? Why do some foreigners come to this country, with all its squalor…garbage, poverty, strangeness, dust, and find beauty? How can anyone, by Western standards, claim to “love India?” On a personal level, why do we find India both completely, frustratingly exasperating and intoxicatingly wonderful?

I think it is directly related to this concept of being AWAKE, of being present, attuned, attentive to the very moment. It is difficult to be complacent here. Everything, the horrific and the lovely, can be seen. Nothing is hidden. As a friend has said, the highs are higher here and the lows are much lower!

I awake to sound and smell; the pungent taste of the air. We drive and are constantly shifted. I stand still on a swirling street and purposely notice others posed in stillness. A visit to the shops finds empty shelves, or twelve of everything I do not need to buy. A bus has driven off the edge of the earth and 35 people are dead. The T.V. blares out ads for bubble gum and noodles and washing machines, while the woman down the road beats her clothing on a rock. An elephant is accidentally electrocuted by power lines slung too low in a jungle village. My driver who makes the equivalent of $200 per month and has just recovered from some personal and financial losses takes out a loan for a $500 television. There is money here…a lot or a little depending upon your position in society, your karma, your luck… There is passion here…for family, duty, intelligence, God, freedom and at the same time, a lack of freedom. There is brutal hardship here. Corruption here. Laughter here. Some people cannot imagine how India functions, how anyone can claim that India is the world’s next “superpower….” I’ve heard it said by more than one person upset by the seeming disconnection and lack of outrage at the absence of infrastructure that “Indians don’t care about their own country.” I am sometimes as puzzled as anyone…not understanding…exasperated or even angry but I have to say that my experience has shown me that the opposite is true. The problems are immense and some may be insurmountable but it seems there are plenty of people willing to try climbing that mountain, anyway.

The other day, we were invited to spend the day with some Indian homeschoolers. We drove out of Bangalore to an organic farm owned by one of the families. We hiked, the kids swam in a rocky pool in the river, played games, we shared a meal, we laughed and talked of education…what it is, what it means here, what it needs to be for all children.

For several months I’ve been involved with the Bangalore Birth Network, an eclectic group of women working to improve birth experiences and outcomes here in Bangalore. One of our active members has started a mother-to-mother group…the second meeting was standing room only.

One of my closest friends…coordinates an English program for several local government schools. She has many volunteers helping.

Our housekeeper tells me about a young woman with several children that lives near her. The family is very poor and the husband has a drinking problem, so our housekeeper brings her extra food. There have been many instances in which I have seen or been told about similar acts of charity by people who have little extra themselves. Poverty is inhuman but it doesn’t automatically strip away human values.

Numerous charitable organization and non-profit NGO’s exist with large goals such as the eradication of poverty and caste, and the economic uplift of women in India. Some work on a more local level…feeding and educating street children, housing the mentally ill, creating small businesses for local village women.

I won’t be the first or last person to note that people everywhere pretty much have the same needs…to love and be loved, to be respected, to not go hungry, to have adequate shelter, and to raise their children with the hope of a better life. In India, the difference is not in the needs, desires, hopes and fears but in the vast numbers and the vast visibility of who has and has not and what is and is not.

We’ve met artists, activists, adventurers, business people, parents, beggars, children, shopkeepers, domestic workers, farmers, gurus and expats from everywhere. People are poor, rich, hardworking, desperate, angry, enthralled, blessed, weak, strong, hungry, happy…and the world continues to spin on that.

The Fischers

in Bangalore, India

Saturday, October 11, 2008

An Old Damn Fisherman...

Sittin' up Now in some fancy boat
a pile of walleye caught
no limits

Blatz in a Brown Bottle
A jar of pickles at his feet
Be careful
The other jar is leeches
And there are minnows hanging off the back of the boat

But the Lake smells like a Lake
And the fish are Biting Fine

All Fish Stories Are True
Even when none of 'em are

Did You know the my Grandad grew the best tomatoes?
Drove a riding lawnmower over perfect grass?
Had a buzzcut?
Took us troll-hunting
in a white pick-up?

Trolls live under all the country bridges in Southern Minnesota.

We used to all pile into his Giant chair
whenever he got up
He'd find us there,


Tell Me a Story...
Even my own babies did the same.

Pickles. Grandad's Pickles!
A secret Cow, kept in the shed?
Never saw him, only heard the moooooooo...

He loved birds.
Suet, seed, the red liquor of the humming bird
all called to Grandad's Yard
where he'd swear at the starlings for making a mess,
Cursing Rabbits
preying on young lettuce.

Damn Deer.

Refill all the feeders.
Plant extra.
Build a better fence.

Beer Battered Perch!
Apples in BIG bags.
He claimed to have caught out the Easter Bunny...
Mercy shown...only the tail blown.

The last time I saw him
he was helping my Grandma carefully outside
to sit and sip the Cuba Libra (Diet Coke, Rum, Lime) he made her
Everyday at 5 pm.

Where she told him ghost stories that he hated
But he loved her so.

Green Beans.
Out picking vegetables with his great-grandkids just last month.

Field and Stream.
Tired Marine.
Out of Breath, now.

My Grandad
We Loved you SO.
With much love, tears, and appreciation for the wonderful person he was, we say a final Goodbye to my Grandad...or Grandad Dan as my kids called him...never Grandpa, because as he said, he wasn't a Pa...he was a Dad. Daniel Studelska listened more than he talked, loved to fish and hunt, had a wicked sense of humor, made the best pickles in the universe and was out in his large garden every day the weather allowed it. He used to pay us a penny for every lap we ran around the house. He claimed to know Santa personally and introduced us to the "fact" that Santa had a dog. As they say...He was "a man among men".
Chandra Fischer
headed home again.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Travels Home - A380 version

I (Bob) followed the family to the US two weeks later, my journey had more ups than downs.

After a very fast ride in the rain to the airport at 2 am, (I found out three weeks later that our driver crashed our car coming home from the airport - future blog as that saga has still not resolved itself) I boarded the 4 am flight to Dubai alone, checked two half full suitcases and one small carry on. Nice and quiet three hour flight.

When I arrived in Dubai I found out that I would be flying on the new Airbus A380, the new two level plane that only Emirates and one other carrier have to date. I had previously joked with Chandra that I was going to pay to upgrade to Business Class if I was on the 380. As my layover was less than two hours, I had just enough time to go to the ticket counter to find out how much my upgrade would cost. $2300 for the one way upgrade to NY! It was a nice try but not for that much. I called Chandra in the US to let her know my plan was derailed by cost. She laughed a bit and said you still do not have the two kids and the long layovers so I do not feel the least bit sorry for you.

A funny thing then happened when I checked in at the gate, the agent scanned my ticket and then ripped it up, she then printed me out a new ticket. Why pay for an upgrade when they give you a FREE one! I was now smiling ear to ear as I redialed Chandra on the phone, for some reason she was not as thrilled as I was, go figure.

While the plane seats about 500-550 people the upstairs has only 14 first class "suites" and 76 Business Class seats. First Class has access to a shower and behind Business Class is a small Lounge, not a bad way to spend a 13 hour flight. Watched a few movies, had some nice meals, slept a few hours on my lay flat seat with small mattress and even found time to have some great conversations while spending about four-five hours in the lounge. Imagine that, the 13 hour flight flew by!

The Lounge

I somehow managed to finish off an entire bottle of Port by myself

After a five hour layover in NY, I boarded a very small commuter Jet to Mpls. The flight was going along just fine until we were diverted to Green Bay due to lightning in Mpls. After two hours sitting in Green Bay, we finished the flight by flying through the storm anyway.
My total journey was about 32 hours, I highly recommend the middle flight!
After sleeping for about three hours my first meal back was Cheese Curds at the MN State fair.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Present and Accounted For...

Hello, fellow bloggers and readers of Blogdom. It may appear that the Fischers have faded into the Indian sunset...lost in some ditch or clear off the road by the final Rickshaw, we are. Alive and Well. A little lost and lazy, some might say...

I really did plan on blogging while we were visiting the land of our birth...kind of how I planned on keeping up with the yoga, running daily and restricting myself to only the occasional richly delicious real chocolate donut.

Well. Suspiciously tight trousers, aside...the rice and dahl have returned to our dinner plates and Bangalore is home once again.

I had glorious visions of relaxing moments over coffee and wine with friends, of days at the park, library or zoo... Instead, our trip from start to finish, was a whirlwind of constant activity. We had a great (if harried) time visiting family and friends, traveling in Minnesota, California and Philadelphia. There was great food, wine and coffee...just not enough time to see and do it all. If we missed you...well, we did miss you and hope to catch up next summer.

I'll leave you with the following thoughts and a photograph...Imagine a 51 hour travel time from Bangalore to Minneapolis. Alone with 2 kids, 6 checked bags, 3 carry-ons. Feel my pain as you don my sweaty shoes and find yourself in Dubai with a screaming 7-year old with ear pain, a 4-year old that refuses to stand up, and two duty free shopping carts with faulty wheels holding one of each...for 5 and a half hours, without a gate...cuz you're soooo early. Fast forward past the 13 hours flight to New York, past the planned 5 hour lay-over at JFK, past the additional 3.5 hour delay, past the 4.5 hours sat on the runway in the tiniest Delta jet, past the grounding of said flight, and finally towards the moment the Delta agent explains to me, not batting a false eyelash, "Ok, ma'am, we can probably get you out of here the day after tomorrow..." Feel the swelling of furious and uncouth words in my throat, damp, drooling and catatonic "babies" laying pitifully at my feet: "F*$%%&%%#@^*((*K!!!!!!!)

Standby to Atlanta (very late that night...courtesy of now fearful Delta agent)...Arrival near a full day later than planned...missing baggage...a fellow passenger who followed me about and seemed to think I had time, patience, and advice to offer regarding this, her terrible virgin airline flight. And finally, the rapturously overwhelming feel of the Super Target on Jet-Lag near my mother's house, where we stopped to buy the needful (baggageless and filthy as we were) and somehow ended up spending $300.00. Kind of Asleep.

It's all kind of foggy now... The memory of pain fades, replaced by the clarity of humor and the insane desire to TRAVEL MORE. There is pretty much no doubt in my minds that our kids are amazing travelers with the capacity to withstand...alot.

Dubai...finally passed out in the airport...God Bless 'Em.

Further Tales to Tell...

The Fischers

Bitten by the Viscious, Untamed, and Incureable Travel Bug

in Bangalore, India