Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Guest Blog: Just How Do We Begin!!

We have been home for nearly a week, and the thoughts of our adventures in India still bring tears of joy and excitement to our eyes.

We knew that the trip would be special…we had been told that by many friends who had traveled to India before us. But we were not prepared for the extremes in all facets of this remarkable country. Unrivaled physical beauty in so many parts of the country, in particular in the state of Kerala, where we spent time in the massive tea plantations in the mountainous country around Munnar, and on the beautiful inland lakes and waterways, and relaxing on the breathtaking secluded white sand beaches of the Arabian Sea. The rural farm countryside was so peaceful; it seemed to bring us back to another era. All this in sharp contrast to the large cities all over the country, where you see unimaginable filth, poverty and pollution.

The socio economic extremes are startling to naive Midwesterners, and omni present. Luxury housing, five star hotels and restaurants on one block, then turn the corner and you find unimaginable squalor and poverty. Everyone in their place we are told, but hard to understand.

In spite of the shortcomings, at least from our perspective, India is a beautiful, dynamic country, and there is certainly evidence of growing economic power, and a surging middle class.

Our trip of course had a dimension most visitors don’t have, by reason of the fact that we had a “home” away from home, living with our son Bob and his family in Bangalore. Bob, Chandra and our two seasoned traveler grandchildren Graycie and Owen were wonderful hosts; opening their home to us, and making us feel so welcome. We had the luxury of traveling for a few days, or weeks, and then we could come “home” to Palm Meadows (a community as close to paradise as you will find anywhere), rest up for a few days, do the laundry, visit with our Indian neighbors, then take off again in another direction for several days of exploring the country.

Because we travelled basically as a family, and tourist traffic was very low because of the economy and the Mumbai incident, there were no crowds, so we often had the opportunity to visit with the locals during our travels; a very special and enlightening experience. There was a keen interest in our new administration in general, and President Obama in particular everywhere we went.

This has been truly the trip of a lifetime for both of us; yes, because India is so special and diverse, but so enhanced by the fact that we had the experience of living there, and being part of the community, even if for such a short while.

Bob and Chandra, we are so grateful for your help and generosity during our stay, and Chandra, we could not have done this without you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for making all the travel arrangements. We love you all so much.

We will not soon forget enchanting India… Barbara and Dick

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Owen is still Mama's little boy

Chandra has almost always kept Owen's hair long and would cringe when it had to be trimmed but he is starting to get bigger and with some encouragement from dad, thought is was time to change his look a bit.

Happy Owen - around 1
Lots of hair

In need of a trim

Owen's new Fanned Mohawk!

Every little boy dreams of having enough product for his hair

Mama stills loves Owen, dad not as much
It should be noted that he wanted his hair dyed bright red but I stopped short so I can live to enjoy my final five weeks in India.
The Fischers - in Bangalore

Friday, February 13, 2009

Their First Week In Bangalore...

"Look Before You Leap" is a good frame of reference when traveling in India. Most tourists enter India via the airport and jump right into the thick of it. Really fortunate ones get a "soft" landing in Palm Meadows...where India seems clean and orderly and there is a likelihood that you'll be served tea on the terrace at least on occasion.

Keeping that in mind, we planned a nice transition for Bob's parents, Barbara and Dick Fischer. They arrived near 2 am on January 2nd, to Bangalore's airport. Bob was there to pick them up but alas, they had arrived earlier than he was expecting and had exited the airport terminal. As Bob waited in queue for their "arrival", Grandma and Papa walked the airport footpaths, searching. Conveniently enough, Papa Dick had mis-written Bob's mobile number and Grandma Barb became convinced that they were now stranded in India, with no place but the pavement to rest upon. Alas, our hero, son Bob, made rescue and saved the middle-of-the-night. Spirited away towards La-La Land, they had no idea how lucky they were to have landed at the new, clean and organized airport rather than the chaotic, old, run-down, traffic filled, mosquito buzzed, garbage strewn port of yore...

Arrival complete, we organized a relatively quiet week at Palm Meadows, treating them to Sunday champagne brunch at the Taj West End, forays into the insanity of Bangalore traffic and a day out at Gerry Martin's farm (where the homeschool group meets with naturalist and herpetologist, Gerry, for science and nature projects and a picnic lunch every other week). The week also included a visit to Russell Market...where the scent of temple jasmine mingles with the odor of freshly butchered meat and the bleat of goats is interrupted by voices calling out incentive to fruit and vegetable. Oh, and the smells...of those there are many.

A good day in traffic (honestly, photographs will NEVER convey it...)

Owen and Gerry prepare a bucket that soon becomes a
"House for Wayward Crickets (who don't mind being eaten by baby chicks)"

Grayce, Brandon, Maaike and Aswarthi carry the cricket farm at Gerry's

In preparation for meeting Vimala, Barbara learns how to leave the beds unmade and the dishes untouched!

Barb and Dick in the flower market at Russell Market. The jasmine swags might be hung from a doorway at festival time, offered at temple or used in pooja to a truck or automobile. This is nice place to refresh ones sense of smell after a late day perusal of the meat or fish stalls...

The Beef Market is a separate building across the street from the rest of Russell can also purchase Camel meat here, or a pet guinea pig should you have a hankering.

Oh, and vulture watching is an excellent past time should you find yourself waiting streetside.

Live Turkeys... one of many noble Russell Market Fowl.

Mutton, anyone?

Fresh Limes...just outside the fruit and vegetable entrance.
And now...on to Pondicherry!
The Fischers
Entertainining Grandma Barb and Papa Dick
in Bangalore!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Program...

With A Test of The Emergency Broadcast System. BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP.

Or maybe not. Do you suppose there is a test for the Repatriating Expat Emergency System? Because if there is, now's the time.

We are, impossibly though it seems (to us,) slated to depart Bangalore for a return to U.S. soil on March 18th, 2009. This is not a total surprise. We have known that our return was likely this spring or summer...but, of course, nothing is said and done until it really, officially, is...soooo, nothing is publicly said and announced until then.

This would be the public announcement.

The past 18 months have been a whirlwind. Time has very literally flown by as we wrestled with all the ups and downs of cross-cultural living. I recall the months before our move, the time in which the pages of this story were blank and filled with unlimited possibility. Of time, (and Rat,) and travel. Of all the moments where we faltered and those in which we shone. I remember Bob's interviews for this posting...and how I "knew" that we were coming to Bangalore.

We have come to really love living here. Our friends are true. Our children have blossomed. Our lives broadened. Living in India is both incomparably challenging and vigorously rewarding. Sometimes it is difficult to decide, at any given moment, which part of the spectrum you currently occupy!

We are grateful to the forces that put us here. To Target for providing Bob and his family with such a great life opportunity. To the Universe for seeing us poised on this path. To our own committment to one another to welcome new adventure into our lives. To our children, for reminding us on a daily basis, how very lucky we are.

Philosophically speaking...all is right and good with the world. the words of two year olds everywhere...

"I don't WANNA go-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!" Wahhhhhhhhh.

Ah, well. Back to Philosophy. There is a Time and Season for everything. And so it goes....

The Fischers
Adjusting in India

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Some pictures

Everybody except me is off traveling again as I was left behind to work, so I thought I would post some pictures until Chandra can give the full travel details.

The Taj Mahal - Incredible!

Anyone want to join us for a 10 hour night train?

They sleep soundly when the day is over

Owen LOVES snakes

Munnar hill station - Tea Plantation

Gingee Fort - Where Papa Dick took an ill considered "leap off the mountain"... If this story about Papa comes out, I may be completely cut out of the will!
The Fischers
in Bangalore - for now....

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Traveling Times...

Are times like these. In all actuality it's difficult to know where to begin. Christmas came and went. The New Year arrived. Soon after, on January 2nd, Bob's parents arrived from the U.S. for a six week visit and we've been on the move, ever since. Bangalore, Pondicherry, Kerala, and then the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur) plus Udaipur (Delhi and Agra are in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Jaipur and Udaipur are located in Rajasthan). Bob's parents also spent a day in Mysore and 3 days in Varanasi, on their own.

Let me start by assuring you all that having my in-laws here for 6 weeks is no hardship (people keep asking me how I'm doing...which makes me awfully grateful that I don't have THEIR in-laws!) Maybe I'm just lucky, but Barbara and Dick Fischer have always been incredibly easy and enjoyable people for me (and Bob) to be around. Since we're on the subject...if you happen to be a are hints as to why I love mine and a few pointers:

*Tell your child's spouse how much you love and appreciate them. Really. It works.

*Admire your children's parenting skills. Nothing wins a parent's heart more than hearing how wonderful a job they are doing raising the kiddos.

*Be open minded... I'm an independent woman who tends to veer out of the mainstream...breastfeeding my 3 year olds, homeschooling and studying homebirth midwifery, among other things. Despite all that...never once have I felt judged by them. Rather, they have shown a lively curiousity about who we are, what we are up to and why.

*Keep your sense of humor tuned. If you can't laugh with someone, you are in BIG trouble. other words, we mostly have a lot of fun, together. Plus, my father-in-law makes the coffee every morning, and an excellent gin and tonic in the evening. They both like dessert, my father-in-law likes to shop, and they say things like, "don't worry about us, you don't need to entertain us" and actually mean it.

Enough schmoozing...Each trip is worth a post of its own, so I'll sign off and get to work...

The Fischers, at Agra Fort. Yes, that really is the Taj Mahal in the backround next to my left shoulder! More surreal photographs to come...