Monday, August 25, 2008

More Sikkim Pictures

Like our main road to Gangtok... and the backup route!
This is our car slowly (without us in it) maneuvering around the washout and
driving over the rocks just thrown down by bystanders. At least a 100 foot drop off on the edge there.

Journey to Northern India

Bob the blogger is back!
While Chandra and the kids were enduring a 51 hour adventure to MN (she can blog on that when she returns to blogging), I traveled to the state of Sikkim in Northern India. I had a great time traveling childless with some of the other ex-pats. Before Nepal opened up, Sikkim was the gateway to Mount Everest. Beautiful mountain views we were told. It was cloudy for most of our trip.


"taxi" ride done the mountain

The waterfalls have been known to wash out roads!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

In the Air!!!

I (Bob - Blog #2 this year) just spent a majority of the last 48 hours gaining our prized Visa Extensions from the Indian Government. If there is a system more messed up on this planet, I want to see it. Three FRO visits, one in which I practically begged the commissioner to except the faxed copy (He Didn't- the guy has a doorbell on his desk to summon people into his office even though the distance is about two feet) When I explained that my family was flying tomorrow and that we needed the extensions to leave the country, he looked back at me and said "plenty of time, you get the original and I can have it all done in five minutes." When I arrived at the FRO today after the paperwork was "found" at the courier's office after an hour, the commissioner made me wait for 20 minutes before "ringing" me in. When all was said and done, I spent almost two hours at the FRO instead of five minutes. We started the entire process over a month ago and with the help of a service were able to acquire our extensions with four hours to spare. I left the FRO at 2 pm (flight at 6:30 and I am still 45 minutes from home and home is then 1.5 hours from the airport) I buckled up and told Raju to get home as quickly as possible. That statment is his excuse to drive as fast and recklessly as humanly possible. Oncoming traffic does not faze him, about the only thing he does not do is jump the sidewalk.

Everyone keep Chandra in your thoughts for the next 30 hours or so as she travels half way round the world with two energetic kids to entertain in coach. We did book our flights on Emirates which has personal movie screens and every Disney movie ever made so hopefully the flights are OK. It is the two 5 hour layovers (Dubai and JFK) that may have her cursing me.

While Chandra has that adventure, I am leaving in about 11 hours for Northern India to explore Darjiling and Sikkim. I'll figure out how to post pictures when I return

The "only" Fischer in India

And We're Off...

En route to airport via the Foreign Registration Office (hereafter known as FRO) to pick up our visas just in the nick of time...which should surprise no one that lives here.

Thank you Ganesha for whatever part you played...

The Fischers
U.S.A. bound,
in India

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sometimes You Just Need A...

Pooja, my friends.

Like when you are out shopping for gifts for your first trip back to the U.S.A and you buy several small clay Ganesh statues and then, upon arriving home, promptly drop the bag on the floor and find that you have broken almost_everyone_one. (Yes, almost...except for the one that your daughter has chosen as a gift for the driver...) Raju picked his Ganesha up, kissed it and said with a grin, "that is because I love the Ganesh, madame!" He kindly waited 2 days before letting me know that it wasn't really *proper*, nor particularly wise, to drop and break him...

Ganesh, being, among other things, the Hindu deity that blesses journeys...beginnings and endings. Ganesha is probably the most popular Hindu god and he is our family's personal favorite, as well.

And then, when you find yourself without a renewed visa ...only days before you are supposed to depart. And you are waiting. And Time Is Not On Your Side... A person might, if they were inclined, start to fret. or Holler. or something that forces others to see your less than admirable qualities.

Yep, given the circumstances and all that broken clay... and the fact that I am quite willing to take God where ever she might meet me:

Pooja Time... Raju thought it was an excellent and very necessary plan and was pleased that I had read his mind: He brought the bananas, coconut and jasmine flowers and we set off for the local Ganesha temple. Pointedly, prior to our Brunch reservation, because, as Raju, pointed out, "Madame, you will be drinking the champagne again?" (ummm...yes...?) "There can be no good pooja after drinking the liquors, madame." (okay... clearly he watches out for us...and is often wise about all kinds of things that I am not.)

We entered the temple, each ringing the bell. Raju conversed with the temple priest about us

and we were asked our names. Offerings were made, Coconut smashed, Incense lit, Prayers were said, and then the car had it's turn. "God Bless You" to each of us from the priest, a mark upon our foreheads and Prasad given (blessed bananas and coconut...which we ate). Limes placed under the car wheels... Jasmine hung in the window. Jasmine around Owen's neck.

And we did feel blessed. And calmer. Even the car honked more peacefully.

God Bless All of You, Too...

Om Tat Sat.

The Fischers

Calmly Awaiting Our Visas...and Packing like mad,

in India

Monday, August 4, 2008

Just A Regular Day...

You're probably going to think I'm odd (because so far, it hasn't been obvious, right?) but you'll never understand the pleasures of the simple grilled cheese sandwich until you're in a place where the cheese is either incredibly bad or eye poppingly expensive and erratically available. Humor me. I'm a Little Insane. Ha-Ha. Really...

See that Cheddar...350 Rupees...$8.50 for a thin little block of it. Imported from the U.K. Missing for the past two months. "Here Only There Is The Cheese, Madame."
And Again... Cheese. Note that nice loaf of bread. Not Homemade. Things are looking up in the bread department here... Instead of sweet, squishy, yucky, preservative laden loaves; we can now get whole wheat and a pretty decent baguette. "Here Only At 1:30 pm, Madame. Come Tomorrow, Come Firstly!"

In between traveling, cursing traffic, procuring consumables (imported or otherwise), and bouncing from one unimagineable craziness to another, our days pretty much look something like this:

Grayce and Owen in our School Room...really an empty bedroom that we're trying to maintain a semblance of organized chaos in. Grayce is helping Owen to show off the Giant Letter "O" which he built from his "connectors" set. Which is a good thing, because, "Mama, I don't weally wike da alphabet...I can wead wead to me all the time...I wanna be a Boxer." Yes, he is wearing a dress in the photograph... "My name is Jack, I'm a boy who wikes to weah dwesses!" (though sometimes, Grayce pretends he's her sister "Lucy" which he's pretty much okay with.) Unless it's "Owen, Amazing Supa Boy" Day... Gotta Love a Vivid Imagination :-)
A close up... featuring Owen's Famous Wink. Imagine that in your favorite college bar...Yikes!

Owen's "favowitest, eveh, eveh, eveh caw pwesent fwom my daddy!"

Diva Grayce practicing her Bollywood-Fairy-Princess-Curtain-Closing-Bow...

Some of our favorite "science projects" start in the kitchen...usually with cookies. Grayce LOVES to bake and Owen equally loves making a mess!

'Nuff Said... I bought "The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion" off Amazon and had it couriered to Bangalore for an obscene amount of American Dollars on one of those days when Bangalore was just a little toooooo much of everything. We love cookies. Yes, we do.....

Oh Yeahhhh, Baby... That is my newly upgraded Toaster (i.e. ONLY) Oven... One of the feet melted off last week and today (after baking) the timer/on dial just fell off in my hand...ARRRRRGGGGHHHH. As Vimala would say..."very bad quality, madame!" How the Hell are we gonna bake those COOKIES?!?!?!? I have my priorities, ya know...

Once the cookies were baked and mommy was done having her broken-new-toaster-oven-seizure, the kids decided that it was time for a tea party... Afterall, it's officially "Friendship Day", Tea and Cookies and Playtime with Friends.

The Fischers

We Blog About Cheese!

in Bangalore, India

Saturday, August 2, 2008

"Eclipse Shuts City Down!" (Page 2 headline, in the Times of India)

Honestly, this is why I love India...

Such a mix of old and new: The Ganesha Birthday Party Shop and Infosys, automobiles and bullock carts, Spar Hypermarket (home of Belgian Beer and imported cheese and shiny shopping carts) and City/Russell/neighborhood Market (home of Brinjal, Banana, Giant Bags of Rice, Caged Live Chicken and Freshly Butchered Goat), Washing machines and The River, Sarees and Blue Jeans, and that bullock cart driver wearing a longhi with his cell phone pressed to his ear... There is no place on earth quite like it and no other place that could carry off the contradictions with only a well-timed head bobble. Some of these contradictions can be humbling or even horrifying, some frustrating and others so full of mirth and joy that they serve to make life a little MORE...

You may know that yesterday there was a Solar Eclipse. You may even know not to stare directly up at the sky. What you probably have missed, is this:

-No eating after 2 pm, assuming your eclipse begins some where between 4 and 5 pm. Stronger ultraviolet rays may enter your food and cause potential harm. Apparently, it's okay to eat if you are aged, a child or an invalid, which I kind of don't get:

"Honey, mom and daddy won't be eating tonight to avoid too much UV radiation...but you go ahead...dig in! No, no, don't worry about the funny glow your soup's good for you!

-Do not go outside during the eclipse.

-Especially if you are pregnant, nervous, psychologically unwell... (heck, that's at least 50% of the expats!) Or if you're alive.

-Tulsi leaves (a local wonder-herb...also known as Holy Basil,) may mitigate the effects of all that radiation. Put some in your water jug. Put some in your food. Actually, that goes for pretty much all the other days of your life, as well... Just shut-up and take the Tulsi, dammit!*session*id*key*=*session*id*val*

-When it's all over...don't forget to shower! Or else... You may become Unwell. Or Cursed. Not an auspicious plan, you fool!

Now, I'm kind of a superstitious person and I'm here, only, to tell you, that living in India has given me a whole new set of variable circumstances in which to test my fortune...

Mythologically speaking, the Hindu story behind the Solar Eclipse is "...the tale of the 'Samudra Manthana' when the divine churning of the milky ocean brought forth the elixir of life. Cleverly disguised as the beautiful Mohini, Lord Vishnu gave the ambrosia to the devathas and not to the demons. Two demons who slipped in and tried to feast on the ambrosia were caught with the help of the Sun and the Moon. And every once in a while, Rahu and Ketu take revenge on the Sun and the Moon by 'devouring them'..." (Times of India)

Scientists say that an eclipse is "a result of the natural movement of the bodies of the universe." Scientists claim that there is no proof that the solar eclipse is dangerous or unhealthful. But then they only believe in things they can see and they sometimes suffer from an utter lack of imagination...

Which story do you like best?

Back to India: Plenty of people in India don't believe the mythology. And, there are alot of Fine Scientific Minds here. That doesn't stop the city from shutting down, though. Or schools from letting out early. Nor does it stop mythology from intertwining with, influencing and easing every day life. You'd never get away with that in the U.S...sure, you're free to believe whatever you want, people...and the major Christian holidays definitely have their own story and influence...but commerce so rarely stops long enough to honor history, much less a mysterious act of nature, in the same way that it does here.

And you never might become Unwell.

The Fischers
Who Do As They Are Told,
In India