Friday, December 9, 2011

Sports Day at Indus (and I'm bragging on Wills behalf!)

Our second Indus sports day and Wills has graduated from obstacle races where taking part equates to a medal, to more serious stuff!

Most of the events and heats were on Tuesday and I agonized over whether to go or not and decided against. Wills came home clutching 2 gold medals (out of 3 events) and luckily a place in the finals today, so I didn't miss everything!

Sports day started with the drill which again, as per last year I was feeling a bit unexcited about. However to see all the kids in line and pretty well synchronized I was soon appreciating the practice (lots) and discipline which had gone into the show. It was quite a picture.

Wills was in the final of the boys 1st grade 50m sprint, red war paint on (house colors) and set to go:
The picture is pretty pathetic but as it was a close race I was too busy cheering Wills (far right) on to click away with my usual abandon in the crucial finishing stages - real life took over from my usual diligent picture taking. While all this action was taking part on the sports grounds, Ads and the other middle school and higher school kids were scribbling away inside, completing their last half-yearly exam.

Wills kicked hard to take another gold...and make another trip to the podium. What was especially cool here was that the Mom/Dad of the gold medalist got to present the medals to the three medalists. As Simon is away reminiscing in Oxford I got the job!!
And that wasn't the end of the matter - having taken 3 out of a possible 4 gold medals, Wills got the Individual 1st Grade Boy Championship cup:
and then to celebrate with the other cup winners from the elementary grades:
Looking back at his Prep 2 sports day pictures last year, this has been an amazing change, from doodling around in an obstacle race to being high fived by his head of house..... The change from everyone's a winner to winner takes all did not seem to have any negative effects on the kids who didn't win, they just accept that they hadn't won a running race, a bit like Wills accepts in the classroom he never gets 10/10 in a spelling test. It was actually nice to see them have a 'proper' sports day, bit like we did at school, though I never made the podium!!

We miss Ads sports day next week as we leave for the airport in a few hours - I guess that means I need to go pack. First time back on US soil for over a year, first time entering the US as a citizen...lots to write about I'm sure!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Coming around for the second time!

This must be a mile stone...I have been to an annual event for the second time.

Last year I remember warily approaching my first bible study meeting with trepidation, especially as it was the Christmas meeting. I remember as a student just starting university - I was not a cool kid but I not totally wet, I went and looked in the window of the Christian Union meeting and decided everyone looked too limp and low key even for me, same with the bridge club so I headed for the wine society - enough said!

Anyway going blind into a regular meeting where you have handed over your email address, will no doubt bump into the folks again on your ex-pat travels is also a bit scary incase you need to extracate yourself from the situation.

However, I have to say these ladies from all over the world with all their different stories have been a real blessing to me over the least 12 months. Ex-pat life has a real potential for hiccups both big and small. The combination of living in a foreign country and being so far away from kith and kin throws up its share of anxieties, angst and anguish. Being with such a group of sisters on the journey, to give praise for the highs and prayers for the lows has been incredible support.

So, this year, I bounced up the drive way of our host's house, excited to see my friends, yes they are now that, to celebrate the coming of Christmas.

When I run I always find the first mile the hardest. The second the best as I'm relaxed, warmed up, in a rhythm........ but not yet getting weary. Will this metaphor work for our second lap around the Indian track, only time will tell!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I said I wouldn't .......

but I couldn't resist.

Yes we are leaving Bangalore for Christmas and I tried really hard but I simply had to put up the tree! It maybe as small and lacking lustre as last year but its is a Christmas tree!!

Even my Hindu neighbors have there trees up, so I couldn't be out done!!

Last year in Bangalore I'm sure Christmas didn't really get going until the week before the actual event, and I really struggled to find a tree and decorations, and then it was a very low key event outside the big shopping malls and international hotels. What a difference a year makes!

Christmas music, the usual golden oldies were piping loud and clear round the grocery store just after Thanksgiving as I ordered at the deli to "White Christmas", had my fruit and veggies weighed to "Rudolph the Red" and cashed up and out "Rocking around the Christmas Tree." There is a Christmas Tree/ornament shop along Commercial street and even the little road side fancy stores abound with ornaments and even cards. I really think Christmas has hit bigger, louder, and earlier this year in Bangalore.

Whether the Christmas story is accompanying the decorative side............

Last year our pre-Christmas run-up was rather thin, firstly because we were drowning in a sea of unpacking boxes and secondly as we didn't really know what we or anyone else was doing!!

This year the pre-Christmas run up is in force which means we have picked out names, bought and wrapped as a "secret santa" for some of Bangalore's less fortunate kids (really just a drop in the ocean, but a lot of drops do make a puddle...etc.), sang carols at Church, have Bible study Christmas do tomorrow (potluck and gift exchange), OWC Christmas lunch Thursday (gift exchange), have already said Happy Christmas to some friends also pulling out early and whom we won't see until after the New Year. Wills has a field trip to see the movie "Puss in Boots" - no idea how that fits in!

The mini Waitrose franchise in the grocery store has exorbitantly priced traditional Christmas cake and mince pies. So ridiculously over - priced I wonder if they just pulled out last years again as I can't imagine who buys!! But one thing I can't get here, at any price, is my eggnog latte - that will have to be in the early hours of Saturday morning in Dubai airport!! We seem to have a "Dubai Airport" family tradition - Starbucks for me and the best ice-cream in the world for the kids! Simon taking the none - kid route via Europe will no doubt find his own treat, yes I get double brat flights both ways!

One 'problem' we haven't encountered before is that neither of the kids really want anything for Christmas. There are just blank pages to send to Santa. Whether this is an age thing (12 and 6), or a reflection of the fact they are a little removed from consumerism here I don't know. Wills spends all his time outside with a ball and a bat - and that is all he wants. Ads always seems busy with what he has, and of course the school day is longer so less time to play. So Santa will have to use his brain and be inventive!!!

So, for a couple of days we will sit and enjoy our little Indian Christmas tree....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Parenting Ex-pat brats!

As well as blogging I have been writing articles for the Rangoli - the OWC monthly magazine which is no big deal as it gets delivered to all members (1,000) whether they like it or not, but its still pretty cool seeing myself in print! Anyway this was in this months issue and spotlights some issues I have!

One of the more subtle changes in my life since touching down in Bangalore has been the parenting issues. We have moved way past the immediate “have we done the right thing” reaction to brat the younger’s tears at the bus stop each morning in our first few weeks, but the parenting issues, nearly a year in, are still somewhat different to those faced in the U.S. I don’t pretend to have any of the answers if, in fact, there are any.

Firstly the helmet issues. Being of US birth and upbringing my kids are used to wearing helmets at the mere hint of a bike ride, never riding their bikes after dark and have endured numerous lectures on “road safety.” Now we live in a community where no child – no matter their age or biking prowess (or lack thereof) wears a helmet and kids on bikes, skateboards and scooters race over speed bumps in the dark with motorcyclists, cars and water tankers. Do I let my kids run with the pack or relegate them to the dorkiest of dorks and insist they wear a helmet and are home before 6.00pm?

I do feel that should one of my kids fall off their bike in the neighborhood someone would patch them up, put them back on board and point them homeward. There is definitely a much stronger feeling of community here than in our US street. However a neighbor with a band aid is not going to be much help after a head on collision with a motorbike!

Talking of motorbikes what then do I say when brat the younger wants to jump on the back of the driver’s motorbike to pop out of the ‘hood to buy cricket cards or because he can’t carry the gift he needs to take to a neighbors birthday party on his push bike? It’s only a two minute trip and I remember motor biking helmetless round the Greek Islands with the wind in my hair and I know that is not the point …………………. But what to do?

Despite having unlimited (almost) freedom in the neighborhood, brat the elder (age 12) has been chaffing to leave the ‘hood parentless with his buddy to buy provisions (aka candy and soda) from the local stores.  On this one I do give the OK. Working out the most sugar and junk food they can get for 50 rupees is good for their math, right?

The only qualm I have when leaving them home with my maid/driver is whether brat the younger will terrorize either into resigning.

I am still suffering from “hover” withdrawal.  Although I was never such a low flying hovering helicopter as some, I did spend substantial time “hovering” –in the guise of volunteering, at the kids elementary school in the US, cheering on the sidelines at soccer, den mom at cub scouts etc. etc.  Here I have had to let go big time and it’s not been easy.  I have much less idea what my kids get up to at school or running wild in the ‘hood once they are home and at weekends. I honestly sometimes don’t know if they are at home or in who’s home. But I guess they are essentially enjoying the freedom and independence I did as a kid – I need to consider maybe I am here to pick them up when required, not to continually prop them up!

Then school, coming from a world of extra credit (yes in the US it is perfectly possible to get over 100%), where phonetic spellings are quite acceptable, praise comes cheap, the honor role is extensive, thorough supervision is provided in the limited free time in limited play areas, parents are welcome to hover as much as they wish…….  there have been some parenting concerns. However brat the younger has evolved from being shy, sad and scarred to requiring some reigning in at times and although brat the elder initially found it difficult to accept that it is not possible to be a straight A student with relatively no effort, he is now enjoying having to rise to a challenge and also looking out for himself a lot more.

Then there have been the questions.  About the poverty, the pollution, the religions, the traditions…… Life  - the good, the bad and the ugly is out on the street – no hiding it away from the brats or pretending it doesn’t exist. In this wild, exotic, frenetic country, there are so many teaching and learning opportunities both for us and to pass on to our kids, I just hope I can do them justice.

If when we leave here my kids have a glimmer of social conscience, a global perspective, a wider spiritual awareness, an environmental responsibility, and a sense of adventure, and of course there have been no bike related trips to the hospital, I will feel as parents we are on the right tracks!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Holy Cow!

Q :How can you spot a newbie in India?
A: They are taking photographs of street cows!

We've all been there, done that and then deleted all the pics. However I had to write an article for the Rangoli (OWC magazine) about the beast which in Bangalore is more effective than any speed bump. So it was time to probe a little deeper!

These cows are not, as one might first imagine, wandering nomads. They are, in fact, owned and are the major bread winner for some families. Apparently, cows do have a pretty good homing instinct but in any case do not wander far. Their owners are thus close by and are very quick to appear if any man, other beast or vehicle is doing their cow harm. During the day the cows will roam free, scavenging for food and taking naps as and when – we all know that drill! As evening falls, milking time, the cow will return home – to be relieved of its milk, and also, if it’s lucky, more food. These cows usually live in a shed next to their owner’s house. There are places in Bangalore akin to little urban cow farms/dairies; essentially where a few sheds are built round a bit of scrubland, deserted by day but a mass of milk machines by night.

Historically, leaving your cow free to roam and forage was both an efficient and cheap way to feed it. There  being plenty of grass to be found. In today's world it costs 250 rupees a day to provide a cow with the food and nutrients it needs, outside the pocket of most cow keepers. However, unfortunately, a major health hazard lurks indistinguishable by said beast from the waste food it forages for in the road side trash – plastic!!  A case was reported in Mumbai where 30kg of plastic was removed from a cow’s belly during a surgery lasting five hours. Apparently her belly was so distended and her digestive system so screwed up, food was coming out of her nose.  It was reported that a full recovery was in fact made.

The cow has a very important role in Hinduism, which seems to date back to Krishna – the naughty, cheeky little blue boy playing his flute, who grew up as a cow herder, aside from being a supreme being and a major contributor to the Bhagvard Gita.  The cow, itself, is not actually worshipped in any way and only sacred in that it is taboo to harm it. In the Bhagvard Gita, Krishna said that one of the three activities of the rural worker should be ‘cow protection”. The cow provides five important basic elements – milk, obviously for nourishment especially for children, butter-ghee, curds, and also cow dung (for fuel/energy) and cow urine (yes – you did read that correctly!) But drinking cow pee?….yes! In 2009 cow urine was packaged, launched and marketed (if you google you can also find cow urine champagne) This was supposed to be the real thing – the healthy alternative to pepsi and coke!! “Gau jal” – cow water - is actually sold in auyeredic health shops for its medicinal properties, and also can be used for cleaning - it apparently has antiseptic powers.

In Karnataka in 2010, the state government passed a prevention of cow slaughter bill, amidst much opposition from non-Hindus (presumably beef eating and leather wearing) and also Hindu cow owners. It is now illegal to kill livestock under the age of 12 but, sadly for the Bangalore cow population, these rules are mostly ignored and go unheeded. Most cow owners are not wealthy and thus old, past their milking date cows and of course any bull babies are a financial burden and usually sold off to butchers for beef eating non-Hindus. The financial aspect taking priority over the religious angle! The slaughter is carried out in extremely unpleasant and painful ways. There are charities in Bangalore which have been set up to try to protect both cow and oxen, which manages to strike a balance between protecting the cows and being sympathetic to the financial constraints of the owners. For example, when a cow comes into heat it will be artificially inseminated and if pregnancy does not ensue, obviously its milk yield falls, it loses it's financial credibility and, odds on, its end is nigh. The charity, financed purely by donations, visits the villages and gives these cows hormonal shots to try and increase the chance both of pregnancy and the pregnancy holding, and hence both income for the owner and life for the cow. The Indian breeds of cow, while strongly built to walk long distances, do not have a particularly high milk yield, so a lot of hybrid cows are bred which produce more milk but are not suited to either the Indian extremes of temperature or the inherent walking lifestyle. This gives rise to more bovine medical conditions which the charities try to address.

Bangalore bovines do not have terribly happy, healthy or hopeful lives but come one day in January, after Pongal (the Kannada harvest) and the supposed anniversary of when Krishna was promoted from calf minder to cow herder, it is their day. They are dressed and decorated, Pooja done on their behalf and hopefully another year of mindlessly meandering the streets of Bangalore producing magnitudes of marvelous milk lies ahead.

So next time you are delayed in traffic by a ungainly, malnourished, but gentle-looking beast lying unconcernedly mid-street taking a nap, you can take a mooooooment (I resisted all bad cow puns until this last paragraph) to reflect on its history, its present and it's pretty gloomy future! 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The show will go on....OWC Christmas Bazaar.

It was wet, soggy and dark. This was not the sharp, fast, warm, torrential cleansing rains we are used to in Bangalore, but enduring, steady, cold and grey. As a fellow early bird volunteer commented, "it was like waking up in England this morning". With rain jackets over our festive but totally unsexy green or red volunteer tee's and aprons, the main stay of the OWC arrived at the church grounds in the dewy to survey the damage done to the previous afternoon's set up by the elements.
It was 7.00am and no sign of anything but grey. It was hard to believe this annual fundraiser was going to fly. The vendor tables were soaked, there were steady persistent drips from the shamiana overhead. We all had rain jackets but everything we needed to set up: tickets, signage, arts and crafts, baked goodies weren't so protected...where to start....

Even the stage for Santa, his elves and the performers from local schools had lost it's sparkle and looked jaded and sad.

However, the women of the OWC, like all volunteers, are a  mix of optimism, fortitude and true grit! So the show would go on!!

Then, life got busy, the vendors started to arrive and unpack their produce - their grimaces and complaints fading with the rain. The skies brightened and we were in business. As part of the finance team we were first in and last out so it was a long day. Floats went out and money came in from all directions - parking, vendors, entrance tickets, Santa photos, kids corner, raffle tickets, bake sale, refreshment sale... all of which had several selling desks and multiple shifts. Our infamous bright yellow bag, padlocked and secured to a tree, was soon bulging with takings - counting starts on Monday!!

It was a whirl of hectic activities - kids singing with enthusiasm if not always talent, folks shopping for the Holidays  - jewelry, clothes, scarfs both high end and hand made for charities, food from candy floss. hand baked cookies, breads and cakes to the food vendors with international fair.
And all too soon it was done, after all that work and effort over the last few weeks - but it felt good to be part off and to know we have raised lots of money for the charities the OWC supports. For all volunteers wherever you are - a huge thanks!! We battle on in all weathers, take flak left and right from all and sundry, put in hours and hours when we could be by the pool, at lunch, the remember where-ever you are VOLUNTEERS ROCK!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

One Year In and....................

I can't think of anything profound to say!

November 19th - one year since we left the US, November 21st - one year since we touched down in B'lore.

I thought that I would have lots to write about, the goods the bads and the ugglies of our first year, the highs and lows, the lessons learned, the things we love, the things we miss.... ..but it's all an ongoing process and most of that reflection would be a repetition of passed blogs.

The ex-pat life in India is a bit like a holiday romance - intense, passionate but knowing it can't and won't last forever, in someways it's not like real life, but in someways it's all so real and will never be forgotten. We have seen, experienced and learnt lessons we never could have imagined. We have been taken out of our comfort zones in a hundred different ways. Life does now have a rhythm  - we have friends, favorite restaurants, weekly activities, but often there are extra beats or missed notes! I really don't think I could live here for ever - and that is a failing on my behalf not this wild, exotic, wonderful country. While I love the exuberance, the enthusiasm, the energy, it sometimes feels like there is too little personal space and too little impulse control for an emotionally stunted Brit. While exciting it can also feel exhausting! It's sometimes all too much, too vibrant, too out there, too harsh on the senses, jerks too hard on the conscience, tugs too strongly on the heart strings for poor little me to ever think I'd really understand what makes it tick and to feel part of it.  I think we would always be both spectacles and spectators. That is an education in itself - we are all on this planet, broadly united in our human forms but also so very different - we need worldwide to acknowledge our samenesses and appreciate our differences.

In some ways life here remains an ongoing adventure but in other ways I feel very safe. While people will try to scam us - it's sort of out there - catch them out and it's a fair cop - almost gaining some respect - its a dog eat dog existence for the poor, and understandably so. But people are so kind and so hospitable. Its a sea of contrasts, the old and the new pushing along side each other, the traditional and the innovative, and the waves are big, exciting but tumultuous. There are so many issues here that need to be resolved but so many facets that it would be tragic to lose as India charges at top pelt into the future. Lesson to be learned from the west, but also so many lessons to teach.

But one thing I have obviously learnt is how to "waffle write"  - put words on paper without saying anything of significance - so lets just say we have been here a year and leave it at that!!

National Children's Day

In India National Childrens Day is an annual celebration - and celebrated it is too. Vista had both party halls in action. One was a compilation of classical Indian dance and song put on by the children of Vista - it was a 3 plus hour long extravaganza, obviously some very talented kids live in our neighborhood with some very patient parents!! What struck me was that all these kids were happy to practice and perform and also not shy to dance/sing solos.

In the other party hall the folks of Vista hosted a party for the kids who live in the sheds behind our neighborhood (shed being one up on a slum but still with no electricity, running water etc.) and some of the offspring of the Vista maintenance workers.

November 14th is the date of Nehru's birthday - India's first Prime Minister who emphasized the importance of giving love and affection to kids who he saw as the bright future of his country and bright these kids were, so gorgeous, bright and alive. 

The entertainment was provided by a magician who really looked the part, had the kids total attention. He spoke in Kannada but the language of magic is universal!
These kids were so appreciative, so open in their enjoyment and soooooooo well behaved! My kids could learn a lot!
They laughed,
They listened from the youngest...
They came in their best clothes .......

and even make-up - (kohl round the eyes)
This little man....was such a dude (see the juice cartoon in his pocket!)
I'm not sure who had more fun and took away more memories from the party - the kids or the Vista adults involved in organizing the afternoon - it sure feels as good to give as it does to get, if not more so. The kids were given party bags when they left with toys, school supplies and some fruit. 
 To think of the future these kids will have compared with the opportunities and experiences ahead for our  kids is hard to contemplate.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

We thought we'd have lots of new experiences moving to India......

but a personal invitation to a fashion show was not one of them!!
Can you picture Simon and me with a "bevy of the city's fashionistas and socialites" (Bangalore Times) - I bet you can't!!

My vocabulary is no way as imaginative or flowery, nor am I such a fashion connoisseur as that of the paparazzi - so beware lots of quotes following!

But we were there.....witnessing a "showcase of the transformation of urbanism brought on by an ever-changing world" (from the invitation).

The evening was sponsored by Chivas, the whiskey makers. The complimentary cocktails were you guessed it...a shot of Chivas with every conceivable mixer and given exotic names. Whiskey and grapefruit juice with aforementioned fruit disintegrating in it.......actually tasted pretty good!!

Deepika Govind, Bangalore's "fiesty and spirited" (Bangalore Times) fashion designer put on a great show.  Even tho' some of the clothes could never be worn by folks of normal dimensions without looking ridiculous, the colors and fabrics were beautiful. The models were gorgeous, tho' by western standards were definitely "healthy" and perhaps a little meaty - no skin tauntly covering jutting out bones here! Deepika, although a forefront designer, uses fabrics and patterns to marry the traditional weaving skills and fabrics of times gone by with the styles and images of today. Therein lies a message. As India changes at such  speed with the advances of technology and the invasion of the West she must not loose the traditions and values which make her the rich, wonderful, vibrant country she is.

I won't even try to describe the clothes - "The collection salutes the spirit of the dreamer, the adventurer and the spirited! It’s about women – valiant, dauntless, inexorable, notable and nonconformist, a daredevil of sorts and inimitably stylish" 

The whole evening was " an eclectic amalgamation of fashion, art, mixology, gourmet food and music which offers a unique experience that integrates art and luxury". Mixology is apparently the art of making cocktails (I had to google!) The music was performed by an incredibly cool violinist. It's always great to hear classical instruments jumping out of the orchestra and taking the floor on their own and showing they still belong in this "ever changing world". But the art, this poor guy - in a sort of unflattering pair of nylon looking female 1950's pajama's with a huge amount of kohl round his eyes trying to look concentrated and interesting moving/dancing in an expressive exaggerated manner on a podium in the midst of the bar area. He looked as if he was taking himself exceptionally seriously ...but unfortunately I couldn't!

It was a really good evening - a new experience, one we never expected!

Lazy, lazy, lazy................

Having had so many "busy" trips, having already been to Goa and done the tourist stuff, this was our "do as little as possible except beach and food" trip. And we succeeded!!

Couldn't decide if my orange or black and white sunsets and silhouettes of the boys are you get both!! Enough to say the evenings were awesome.

We rented a little house, with mini kitchen, 2 bedrooms, living area, small yard and terraces 2 minutes easy walk to the beach in one direction and 2 minutes to the main street complete with serial restaurants serving fresh prawns in coconut curried sauce with butter naan and cold more need be said!

Candolim beach was long and golden, just waking up for the start of the season. Beach shacks were literally spring up before our eyes but it was still relatively quiet.

The beach hawkers were already out in force - but when they heard I lived in Bangalore and was not therefore going to be paying as high a premium as the real tourists they knew they were in for a tougher time. In fact the harder I negotiated and the more I beat them down the more respect they seemed to have for me and they'd stop as they walked past just to chat!

Watching the Indians and the European at play on the beach was an eye opener! The Indian Ladies, even the quite young ones, wear their full clothes in the sea - its hot so all dries quickly - no need for towels, sun oil, spare clothes etc. I'm not saying their western counterparts need to copy but surely we could have some sensibilities and not waggle, wiggling, wobbling, white buttocks in their faces!
I took far too many pics of the kids - so here are some of my favorites - the tip of the iceberg!
I love this pic of Adam - I have a similar one when he was younger with him embracing the snow. Both are so symbolic of his approach to life.
Wills, looking purposeful and determined - a look seen quite often these days.
The brothers, how I wish they were more often - sharing, plotting or planning but with a common cause!
And to finish, one of us all -which if I can't manage any better (have grand plans of us dressed Indian style) will be seen again on our Christmas cards!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The wheels on the bus go round and round....all through the night!

The overnight bus was an experience - but surprisingly a good one. I had thought it was going to be a "grin and bear it" type of experience but it was actually quite fun!

Bus depot or even bus stop is an exageration for the non marked "pick-up" area for all the overnight buses. We had booked tickets on the top of the range model : the volvo a/c sleeper bus. All the buses use the same road side stop areas and believe you me, there must be a lot of buses rolling along the roads of India through the night. You seriously need to have your wits about you - buses pull up, folks climb on and bus disappears into the night. No checking names off lists or making announcements. But true to Indian style everyone seems to end up on the right bus with their bags! So many people waiting - the young turks headed to party city (some did return mummied up, victims of motorbiking induced road rash), families of multiple generations carrying new borns and propping up the extremely the aged, a few white travelers - backpackers headed for cheap beds and booze, intellectual middle-aged pseudo bohemians choosing to see India the "real" way and us!, a couple of nuns, business men....... a people watching heaven!! So many people, so many buses, so much potential for bus rage - but no, that Indian calm, "it'll be alright on the night", "c'est la vie", attitude prevailed even when some folks were seen tearing down the street yelling for their bus which was gathering sped and spitting out vast quantities of black diesel, to stop and open it's doors, which it always did!
My plan was to catch the bus at it's last pick-up point on it's way out of Bangalore, so we spent the least time possible onboard. With hindsight, not a good idea as we just spent more time in the car and we tumbled onto the bus in the dark. The berths are on either side of the bus, up and down. I had elected lower berths. Each double cot is the size of a normal double coach seat. I had wondered why when choosing your beds you had to check "male" or "female" - that is which you are not who you want to sleep next to! Now I know!

Once we had found our berths, not so easy in the dark as the bus was already on the move, the kids fell straight to sleep. Wills and I had an all night war over my shawl as it was cold and we hadn't asked for blankets which you can rent for the journey. In his sleep he seemed to have more perseverance, determination and strength than me and end up swaddled while I shivered. Once I had worked out how to subdue the a/c it was surprisingly comfortable - after lurching and bumping around the streets of Bangalore by car, I was expecting lying horizontal at the back of a bus with limited suspension, to be akin to being inside a spin dryer on maximum rpm -but not at all - this was OK - not comparable to my own bed, but not bad in fact very civilized!

It was quite amazing - sleeping on this bus hearing people snoring, fidgeting, coughing etc, but having no idea who they were (curtains for each double berth) until toilet stops or the morning. Aghhh the toilet stops - pretty basic ranging from a field (definately the most hygienic!) to the test your thigh muscles ceramic hole. The kids, who woke for the first time at the 6.00am cup of tea stop, are so used to Indian toilets, they don't blink an eye and are proficient at the don't touch anything routine. That cup of chai at the buzzing, bustling bus rest stop tasted so good. Once again tho' you can't get distracted - bus driver does not count people off and on - when he is ready the bus hits the road. And hit the road, or something thereon, we did on the return journey. At 3.00am, in the pitch black at the side of the road the bus crew were trying the bashed up bumper back onto the bus!

We arrived at our Goan home efficiently and by mid- morning were unpacked and ready to head for the beach - instead of still being at the airport waiting to hear the latest delay for that elusive Kingfisher flight. Would we do it again.... the kids a resounding "yes", for them it was efficient - they slept so well, had more room than they would have done in the car and are fed up of airports! For me, the cost is a big incentive - the cheaper the travel the more we can travel and the more we can see of this wonderful country, for Simon?????

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ladies Night at I-Bar

After whining that OWC India Night was all work and no play and most importantly no dancing - I got to shake and shimmy at I-Bar in Bangalore on Ladies Night. This really was Ladies night - vodka and whiskey based drinks free to the gals!! These gals are a really fun, welcoming group, friends of Shubha and lots of fun!
The shots looked a lot more fiery than they tasted - colored sugar water in the most part, but the flames added a dramatic twist. The bar doesn't actually have a dance floor but that didn't stop us - chairs were cleared aside and we moved!

Tonight was "commercial night" music wise, which appears to mean the prevailing top hits, - which thanks to my syncing (is that the correct terminology) with Ads i-pod I am well familiar with. I didn't see the day coming when I would be boogying to the music Adam listens to but it has arrived! I have however been able to educate Ads, giving him "history" lessons  - finding u-tube videos of The Stones to show Ads the namesake of one of his favorites  - "Moves like Jagger."

How many Holidays????

Simon and I left the UK in 1997 with very few Holidays on our schedule. Valentine's was only for lovers or secret admirers, Easter - just REAL chocolate easter eggs,  Halloween not really established, and of course Christmas, celebrated in a typical British understated way.

We then arrived in the U.S. to amplify our existing holidays and add a few more! Valentines sent to all - a mandatory requirement to send to all the kids in the classroom complete with candy, St Patrick's Day - going green with a difference!, Easter - an introduction to the Easter Bunny and his hidden candy filled PLASTIC eggs, the red, white and blue of July 4th, Halloween - costumes and candy - parties for adults and kids, Thanksgiving, and the one we spend mega bucks on, affix lights inside and out, bake cookies and cakes, party big time, cut trees, take pics with the big red, bearded chap  - Christmas!

On moving to India - surprisingly we haven't dropped any but gained yet more. The British Embassy sees we keep up the British end  - even an invite to a party to celebrate this year's royal wedding - toasts to Kate and William! Halloween made it to Indus and appears with gusto in the confines of Vista. We will unfortunately miss it this year as we will be on the overnight bus from Goa - more on that later! Wills, needless to say is not too happy with my bad planning on this one!

At the bus stop no ties or hideous formal Indus shoes on Friday, just an array of costumes......

Wills, aka Ninja (from old Ninja hand down top, Prince Caspian pants and the neckerchief cut out of an old batman cape!).

Since we have been in B'lore we have celebrated - India's birth and Independence, paint hurling Holi, Ganesha, Navrati/Dussera and now we are mid Diwali - which will get it's own blog but suffice to say the first firework I heard this morning was before 7.30am - now was this a hangover from last night celebrations or the beginning of today's celebrations?

Can we stand the pace?

Dynamite Diwali!!

Diwali, the festival of lights, and seriously the loudest of the loud, firecrackers galore! Not a distant echo from a far off field reverberating from an organized display but on the street, out of the front door, to celebrate good prevailing over evil and light over dark. Dawn breaking at 5.20 am along with the first of many bangs, booms, bursts, whooshes, whizzes and fizzes into the now lightening sky.

The fun actually started a few days ago when many of the houses in the 'hood were decorated with lights:
Even some of the Vista streets were prepared for party time, I know I really need to go on that night time photography course! Over the last few days there have been street parties and house parties all bursting with exuberance and goodwill -not to mention noise and food, going on into the early hours. With the party resuming at dawn, well actually before, as there are rituals to be performed before the first fireworks head skyward to greet the dawn, I tell you Indians have stamina!!
Huge temporary firework stalls have been appearing along the city streets getting busier and busier with folks buying literaly carts of firecrackers. Even now at 10.00am there is a steady rumble of firecracker pops. Its all very simple here, merely grab your fireworks, matches, walk onto the street and let rip!!

Regardless of the mythological explanation one prefers and there are a few, what the festival of lights seems to stand for today is a reaffirmation of hope, a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill and a religiously sanctioned celebration of the simple - and not so simple joys of life.

At the more peaceful end, the little Diwalli lamps, Diyas, I saw being made at pottery town some months ago, are lit, placed both outside and around everyones houses, gifts are exchanged, new clothes bought and worn, friends and relatives visited.....
The festival goes on for at least another day but we are off on the overnight bus to Goa - now therein lies a blog!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Indus will rock you!!

Over the last week I have had a tempestuous relationship with the kid's school. Being told the day before that Wills has to wear a Halloween costume the following day - not helpful in a land where you can't nip out a buy one at the last moment - managed to cobble together a ninja costume out of 3 old costumes. Then Adam's holiday homework.......supposed to be 40 mins a subject  - as he has at least 8 subjects that's no quick sit down and dash it off ....but then as the English is to read a book and write a book report thereon....all in 40 mins, I feel its going to take a lot longer!!!!

However Saturday night we went to see the schools performance of "We all rock you" and it did!!

The evening started off with a tribute to the Indus community school. On the campus Indus has built a free school for the kids from the local villages which it sponsors - each kid even gets a laptop. Adam gets to visit to help the kids with their English.  Some of the community school girls put on a traditional Indian dance, which was beautiful. The girls were elegant and confident.

One of the girls then gave a speech talking about the advantages Indus had given to her and her peers. There then followed too many tributes and thanks to the VIPs present, including a speech by the founder of Indus which was actually a good speech  - about corporate greed and the values they are trying to instill in their students - but it was a case of wrong time wrong place - everyone wanted the show to begin.

The school did an excellent job and I guess it's one of the advantages of having a k thro' 12th school in that the little kids can be involved alongside the incredible skills, application and confidence of the higher grades. Some of the jokes probably were more time-relevant to the parents!
Apparently Wills is singing "We will rock you" in his music class at school and now we all have Bohemian Rhapsody on our i-pods or equivalent - a tribute to the late great Freddie Mercury!!

Caught the Cornrows!

After a not very successful attempt by yours truly, a futile attempt at a salon, I tracked down an African lady to give Wills a professional looking Didya Drogba, Karate Kid (Jaden Smith).....
 Like all in this land of adventure the whole process was not as easy as just driving up to the salon. We had a sort of address - get to a specific hotel near a bank about 30 mins from here, turn down 3rd cross and call. So we did and after driving down this single track road among the Indians going about their business appeared an African lady. She took Wills and I down a side alley into a tiny little house and sat Wills down in the middle of the front room. Shankar meanwhile drove off leaving Wills and I to find a rick home, given we could successfully impart where we needed to go!
Wills was very stoic as his hair having grown a few inches long with a variety of very tight and looser curls, was a tangled mess and she had to tug somewhat to get a comb through it. He also had to sit still for about an hour.......
Nearly there........
After the drive there, the whole process and the rick ride back, Wills has decided when the braids come out (up to 2 weeks) he's going to have his hair cut short! But I'm so glad he did decide to get it done as it looks so wonderful - if only once. Now we have to oil it and tie a scarf round it for the night to get maximum life out of the braids! The price of beauty!!