Friday, January 27, 2012

Bent Arm Throw?????????

Wills gets selected to represent his school at "The Head Start Friendship Games" and in true Indus style that is the only information we get and that only two days before the meet. Wills wants to go. It's a day out of the classroom but he is a little tentative so I volunteer to accompany him - it is a new experience after all!

The day starts out well. The school bus picks up at various locations around the city (on time and calling ahead to ensure kids are in place for pick up). Wills jumps on the bus, immediately seeing kids from all grades he appears to know, disappears to the back row. I am left with the other abandoned parents near the front. Breakfast boxes are even distributed - bananas, chips, juice box and jam sandwiches. Coach Sir (the kids call all their teachers Miss or Sir, so to differentiate between them Wills adds their subject - so we have Art Sir, Music Miss etc.) seems to have all under control!

We arrive at this huge stadium in central Bangalore where buses of kids in different school PE uniforms are disembarking and pouring into the stadium.

We then find out that Wills is not running (I had thought as he won both running golds in the school sports day that would be his event) - but apparently the age on the day of the competition is all important and as he just turned 7, he now goes in with most of second grade. As he hadn't raced against them to prove (or not) his speed he wasn't picked. He was chosen for the relay but as they had a no-show and the kids participating can't be changed once their names have been submitted they had to pull the team. So Wills was left with the "Bent Arm Throw" - I had no idea at this point what this was, neither did Wills! At Indus they throw a tennis ball over arm and ahead of them! It transpires that as the under 10's are too young to do the shot putt they do this instead. I have since googled "bent arm throw" and nothing came to light. I am now thinking this is going to be an extremely long day and a waste of time!!

The event opens with the traditional march past. Each school is lined up behind their flag and marches round the track. It actually looks quite impressive. In typical Indian style there is a strange mixture of the over and under organized. The umpires, starters and measurers are elderly looking gentlemen in blazers and caps with the insignia of the Karnataka Athletic Club adorning them and are very officious. And also true to style, there is a guy scuttling up and down the spectator area with a huge urn of chai - 4 rupees a cup, truly delicious and altho' I am the only white parent to partake I get warm and remain healthy!!,

Through the morning there are sprints for all ages - cheers of delight and also some tears. The kids are pretty fast - some with spikes and some barefoot. It's great the mixture of schools participating, the "wealth" of the kids being obvious from the quantity of co-ordinated uniform and the footwear. The kids are having a blast - the stadium is huge, the coaches are busy getting the kids competing at that moment to the right place, the parents chatting, so the remaining kids are free to roam!

At about mid-day the "Bent Arm Throw" is summoned to the registration desk, competitors walked in line to the designated area and Wills learns what to do. You stand backwards and hold a fairly heavy soccer sized ball, do a few warm moves, bending knees and lifting ball over your head and then on third rotation fling it backwards. Wills sits their unfazed and I'm sort of not really bothering with my camera as I'm not expecting much -just hoping he doesn't release the ball forwards by mistake and hit someone. Coach sir, thinking maybe I'm not looking too happy, tells me if Wills can throw forwards he can throw backwards!! The other boys are doing warm-up exercises and generally looking well rehearsed. On his first of three throws Wills ambles up, takes his position and casually throws the ball as demonstrated - amazingly, it's a huge throw. The guy with the measuring tape has to jump out of the way, even the other parents watching mutter in approval and Wills gets gold!

Once again in true Indian style, even tho' the event is behind schedule there has to be a formal lunch break. Coach sir brings out lunch boxes for the kids and we eat. Same contents of box as breakfast.

Then more and more events - relays which take for ever  - getting the kids to the right place round the track seemingly very complex. Lots more cheers amongst the dropped batons!

We have to wait to the end of the day so Wills can get his gold, which he gets to hold for a few seconds until Coach Sir requisitions it so Wills can be re - presented with it at a school assembly.

Having been out of the house for nearly 10 hours to witness Wills performing for all of 5 minutes, I have been to my one athletic meet in Bangalore - next one Wills goes solo!!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Seventh Birthday in India or the US?

Once I'd regrouped from the great cupcake debacle Wills' seventh birthday activities seemed pretty similar to those he may have had in the US. Differences only in the details.
The cupcakes survived the bumpy ride to Indus and Wills got to stand next to them as his class sang "Happy Birthday." Wills got to wear civies for the day and his Lionel Messi strip was his first choice.
Above are most of the kids in Class 1C, I think there are less than 20 in total. As you can see a mixture of nationalities - from French, Italian, Finnish and British on the European side, Thailand and Singapore and of course India from Aisa and then obviously the US!
Wills then got to hand out his cakes and I have to boast here - my home made cupcakes got a huge vote of approval from the kids!
 Cupcakes at school, could have been back in sunny California and so it was for his party  a week or so later. He choose to have it at a local sports warehouse where they have an outdoor sports field and an 'event host'. It was ideal really, the kids do their stuff while the parents can shop. Wills got to choose the sports they played - football/soccer and cricket.

Twelve plus kids running around for an hour and a half and the pizza (Domino's - it really could have been the US) went down quickly.
Big bro had a good time but took time to chill away from the little guys!
And then of course there was cake, much more professional looking than my cup cakes!!
The candles were blown out and that essentially was that - Happy Birthday Wills!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sweetie's Sister is getting married!

This story started back in September, last year.

Wednesday September 7th
Her father has decided it is time. She is twenty-one and deemed ready to fly the nest.

Last weekend her parents met a potential suitor's parents (apparently he is a driver - that's all Sweetie knows), and the potential in-laws also met Sweetie's sister of whom they approved.

This weekend is the exciting one : potential groom gets to set eyes on potential bride. No photos have been exchanged so it really will be ???????? at first sight. Sweetie is visibly excited by the prospect. The potential groom has the right of veto but the potential bride has said she will trust her parents feelings on this one.

Sweetie married a boy she had messed about in the mud with since she was four - so there was no suspense and once the decision was made the wedding was quick as apparently there weren't a lot of financial complications - like a dowry! However, her husband has been awol for 3 days as he is celebrating the Ganesha festival (yes he is a christian but hey it's party time!!) with friends. He will apparently be back for tomorrow for St. Mary's feast. Apparently when Vidhya, Sweetie's daughter was sick as a baby they prayed to God, not Ganesh to protect her and hence her husband will be home......

As her sister's marriage is not with a family friend, there is the dowry to agree and then raise the necessary money for and also the wedding to finance, which has to be more of an elaborate affair than Sweetie's was and will take a few months to put together. And yes we will be invited!! She had already told her parents to put us on the guest list!!

Next installment, Monday when the verdict will be in - to be wed, or not be wed...that is the question!!

Monday September 12th

It appears the young man was not so young after all - 11 years older than Sweetie's sister. The jury is currently out - to determine whether the age difference is too much. Sweetie thinks the guy is not only too old for her sister but also as she said disparagingly "Ma'am, he is too fat." Sweetie is petite and skinny - her sister apparently more so. Her sister meanwhile is leaving the issue up to her parents to ponder and will abide by their decision.

Wednesday September 14th

Not so young, healthy (the India term for plump) suitor has been rejected.

Wednesday January 18th

All had been quiet on this subject for some months until today. Sweetie was all smiles and happy to inform me there is a match.

This husband in waiting is actually a distant relative on her father's side. Apparently the two parts of the family had not met for some years, until recently reconnected at some poor uncles demise. Here it was discovered that both parts of the family had something the other was looking for! The lucky guy is a driver, 28 (six years older than Sweetie's sister - older enough to be in a position to look after her but not too old to be considered past his sell by) and all importantly thin! The financial arrangements (i.e. dowry) have been negotiated and deemed appropriate from both sides. The happy couple have now met twice but can't meet again until after the engagement or some similar ceremony where they will become "half-married" in a couple of months time. After that they will be allowed to meet "to talk" - Sweetie emphasized the "talking" - no hanky panky allowed!

The wedding cannot take place until the end of this year or early next as the future groom has a sister who has to be married off first. So the chaste engagement will be a long one.

So there will be a wedding. These days "love" marriages are more and more permissible but it appears that the traditional arranged marriage is not only going strong but is still totally accepted amongst the potential brides and grooms as their path to their "to have and to hold, sickness and health, richer and poorer, until death do us part" or the Hindi equivalent!

What is so interesting is the different ways we talk about a forthcoming/ongoing match. In the western world a lot of the chat is about 'the relationship' or 'the chemistry' as if there is a third party involved, or we debate one party's effect on the other 'he makes me laugh'. 'he makes me happy'. In the Eastern world, especially in that of the arranged marriage, the chat is more pragmatic - he has a good background, is a good character, has a good job, is the right age etc.etc. I have no idea if one approach is better, has a higher chance of success, makes for a "better" marriage but it sure is interesting to see the differences at work!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Mirror, mirror on the wall.....

...who is the fairest of them all"

Its funny how the grass is always greener....Along the shelf in Hypercity, my nearest and closet approximation to my dear Mr Safeway, where the anti-aging products would be found in the US or UK grocery store.....

Oil of Olay is promoting "All in one fairness" and "Natural white"
Garnier is selling it's "Power light" and "Light" ranges.
Vaseline Intensive care is highlighting "Triple Whitening Skin care" and for men "Whitening Body Lotion" and "Healthy White" face cream
India does have it's own brand "Fair and Light" which sells products such as "Fair and Handsome", "Soft and Fair" and "Clear and Fair"

The underlying message here is as in Snow White, fair is beautiful. When we got back from the US and I thought Wills was looking a bit pale and peaky, both Shankar and Sweetie congratulated me as to how pale and handsome he was looking.

In the western world, although, as we can no longer lie on the beaches covered in oil, turning gently like a kebab burning our selves to a nice 'healthy' golden brown, for fear of skin cancer and premature wrinkles, we still like to find that 'healthy' glow whether thro' some exposure to the sun, which we'll later shrug off as "there was no shade" or "forgot the factor 50" or out of a bottle - that bronze tinted foundation.

Are we never happy with how we look - curly hair is ironed straight and lank locks are persuaded to wave and weave with a variety of products offering curls galore?

Apparently the Indian desire for pale skin goes back to the times of the gods. I had thought it may be some hang over from the British Empire but that's far too recent! Apparently when the goddess Parvati was trying to woo the god Shiva she was concerned that he wouldn't fall for her as her skin was so dark. She prayed to Brahma for lighter skin.

The matrimonial ads, which appear daily in the newspaper (and contain plenty of material for another blog!) follow these lines, "looking for a slim, homely, fair girl for our son"....

The strange thing is I am sure I am way fairer than I was in sunny California, and even living in a nation where fair is tops, I still don't like it.  As my legs are usually covered up here, even on the tennis court, they are distinctly pale and pasty looking. They definitely need a tan, even that tennis players sock tan line would be preferable - anybody coming over from the US want to bring me some tanning lotion - joking. But it just goes to show....

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Disempowered and overwhelmed by a cupcake!

Well not any old cupcake but a specifically requested Star Wars cupcake!!

Wills turns seven tomorrow and we have a similar problem to the one we had at Christmas, there is nothing he wants for a gift - but he does want Star Wars cupcakes to take to school on Wednesday. As this is all my baby wants, I really don't want to disappoint him, especially as last year as we had recently arrived here he didn't really get either a party or a cake.

In the US, no problem - either go and ask Mr Safeway/Micheals/Party City etc. for the completed article or at least the frosting/decorations. Throw a batch of cup cakes together in my "recently remodelled beautiful kitchen", color some frosting, clag on the decorations and voila. No stress, easy peasy!

Having just returned from the US, where I had once again bid farewell to my "recently remodeled beautiful kitchen" and have now renewed my acquaintance with my toaster oven, I was feeling particularly pathetic and incapable when faced with this seemingly daunting task. However, with 48 hours to go this was not the time for feeble self pity, but time for action!

So I "googled". The results were incredibly scary. I found marzipan Yoda's, upside down cupcake Clones, realistic R2D2's, oreo/marshmallow tie-fighters, chocolate Chew Bacca's..... Some of which I could have managed if I had some idea where to find the ingredients......marshmallows, marzipan, unusual food colorings...... I had visions of me (and poor Shankar) spending the next few days on numerous wild goose chases through the street of Bangalore searching for elusive ingredients..... Not a happy sight.

However, then I remembered Lisa, Joan and Dawn - these brave fellow ex-pats, who have not been thwarted from producing their delicious home baked goods by indifferent culinary equipment or the difficulties to be overcome in finding key ingredients. I frequently drool over Dawn's blog "Moving for Mangoes" with pictures of her Bangalore baked delights and even managed to visit Lisa the morning after a Christmas cookie cook-out and reaped the benefits!! So I emailed and texted for help, in a rather un-Helen like panic - I'm blaming that at least on the jet lag!

I soon had a plan - the sort of simple plan that suits me best and having borrowed, been directed to the relevant store etc. put the following together, which I'm hoping is obviously a couple of light sabers! If anyone asks me what it is supposed to be - one of those cupcakes may end up somewhere it shouldn't!

 I thought the lego clones etc. may aid in the identification of the light sabers
 These little decorative light sabers were entirely my idea - I'm actually quite proud of them - sticks are from "Yan Yan" chocolate dip snacks (Hypercity) and then black and green colored frosting.

Now I just have to hope and pray they survive an hour long bumpity bump on the drive to Indus!

I have tried to conduct life here on an "if we can't find it easily forget it" basis. We are living in India, not the US/UK so be it, deal with it. But having just returned from 3 weeks in the US, and become re-accustomed to the conveniences of everyday life, or maybe it was just that beautiful little face asking for this one thing for his Birthday, I've had a temporary change of policy! Wills is also having a Birthday party - but that's a weeks or so off but please, please Wills just a bog standard cake with candles!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

You know you are back in India when......

- the airport is bustling at 4.00am, people are chatting, shooting the breeze and generally having a good time - it's the middle of the night for heavens sake!!

- there is plenty to see out of the car window on the way back from the airport, life is out there, the city never sleeps!

- car horns fill the night air.

- there is that smell, that is not good or bad, but is hard to describe and distinctly Indian.

- you are banished to passenger status after driving quite happily in the orderly traffic flows of the US.

- someone calls you "ma'am"

- arriving home, you lie in bed and hear that wailing, whining buzz which foretells that no matter how much you shroud yourself mummy style in your bed sheets you will awaken with several red wheals - my eternal enemy here in India...... the mosquito,

- I put my boots back in the attic before leaving the US and have now put my ankle chain back on - its sandal time, the window are open all night and it is WARM!!

- At 6.30pm as it starts to get dark I am texting the likely moms in the 'hood who may have seen Wills in the not too distant as its time to send him home. In the US I hardly saw Ads, here I hardly see Wills!

- I can hear Sweetie and Shankar talking as they make tea, the gardeners outside chatting, kids yelling as the cycle by (last day of the hols), drivers shooting the breeze as they eat lunch in the shade across the street, neighbors laughing as they take their daily constitutionals around the hood. The general hum of life is an integral part of existence here - windows open and the sounds of India permeate, a definite feeling of connection to the outside world.

- you are greeted on your return to the gym by "Ma'am, you have put on a little weight"

- power cuts and the click, click as the generator tries to connect in and then out again

- my morning cup of chai and my blog!

Huge Thanks to.........................

- those who welcomed us to stay - in their homes, whether they were home or not, or as guests in our home (which was not as weird as it sounds!!), - the hospitality was wonderful, to have an additional 4 bodies to share your homes and lives over Christmas is not easy I know, so thanks and more thanks.
- those who shared their Christmas Day with us - for us, whilst it was an unusual Christmas Day, you guys made it also a great one!
- everyone whom we visited, some planned, some drop in, some to eat, some to drink, some just to chat, we loved spending time with all of you,
-  Santa Claus who found my kids,
-  the first Almaden family we dropped in on and whose welcome set the stage for the rest of our trip,
- everyone who made us feel so welcome, we began to forget we had even been gone!
- for including us in our neighborhood party,
- those who cooked us our first red meat in quite some time, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding - we will be back!!
- those who had us co-star in their church's Christmas pagaent,
-  the "can I be in the photo too" surprise visitor who took a massive detour to see us in Auburn
-  those who shared their family Holiday traditions - the trip to the Nutcracker, to church, Christmas Eve baked ham....
-  the Brits who shared their long labored over real Christmas cakes and mince pies,
-  those who had Ads to stay on mainly unplanned sleepovers and cooked him sumptuous breakfasts the likes of which he hadn't seen for a year and is still talking about,
-  those (you know who you are) who once again managed to produce a noisy, obnoxious Christmas gifts for the kids - Wills and his buds are laughing hysterically as they sing falsetto into the elf voice changer
-  Brit friends, radio 1, champagne and the early New Year,
-  she who got me back on the tennis court, now itching to play more,
-  Starbucks - for still making tall skinny vanilla's!
- the immigration guy who enthusiastically welcomed me back onto US soil - this being the first time I had entered the US as an American citizen,
- the ride to the airport,
- letting me hold the new addition to the Almaden ladies gang,
- for bearing with us if we didn't get to see you or not for long enough (tho' that's true for everyone!!)

We are so blessed to have such friends, will miss you all until we meet again.

So was it hard to return to India - as Ads said "I have unfinished business there", and that is how it feels, as wonderful as it was to back home, I am not ready to say goodbye to my adopted home. There is more to see, experience, learn in this crazy, curious, chaotic, colorful country. NPR had a thing on Facebook where you could put your one word to sum up 2011, ours was indeed "colorful".