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!!