Wordless wednesday – in my garden

Mystery #2

Mystery #1



Surprise rose




This is my dance space

This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine

It’s one of my favourite lines from the movie Dirty Dancing. Johnny uses it when he is trying to teach Baby to dance, and she keeps “invading” his personal space. It is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as the two are already lovers, and he seems to be enjoying the fact that Baby can’t respect his dance space. It’s a cute scene and the expression has stuck with me. I have used it a lot, both in seriousness and in jest, when people get a little bit to close to my dance space. Since moving to India, I feel that I now need to come up with a tactful and appropriate variation for the lils.

The first few weeks that we lived here were pretty much all business. We arrived, moved, set up house, and started school and work. We didn’t pay much attention to people around us, and we didn’t do much exploring. As we have become more settled that has changed, and we are starting to go out more and to play in our community. One of our very first outings was on Diwali, and we were somewhat mobbed by a large group of people at one point. They were very happy and celebratory, and just wanted to take pictures, but also touch the lils faces and hair, and hug and kiss them. We were all taken aback, but mostly OK with this. Then it started happening a little bit more on a smaller scale. We were walking at the Nandi Hills, and Goose was scooped up for a picture. We were at the Zoo, and school children kept coming up to Woo and squeezing his cheeks. Every time we walk anywhere, I get asked to stop and pose with the lils, or have them pose with random strangers. It even happens when we are riding our bikes in our neighbourhood.

Last weekend we were at the zoo again for Goose’s birthday. We were having a great day, and the lils were happily roaming the paths from animal to animal. At one point Goose ran from me to Willy and Woo, a distance of about 100m. When she was about halfway there, she went passed a group of women, one of whom grabbed her arm. Goose tried to keep running, but the woman would not let go. I ran up, yelling at her to please let go and to be gentle. When I got to Goose, she was shaken and a little hurt. I picked her up, told the woman that she shouldn’t do that and caught up to the boys. I was a little shaken myself.

That event strikes me as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Since that time, I have noticed that both lils are newly painfully shy with strangers. Neither will speak to anyone they don’t know and Goose has taken to wearing a hat a lot more in public. It is a hat that she can hid under. They grab our legs and turn away when people talk to them now. Drop-off at school became much more of a struggle, in part because the teachers wait at the gate to get the children safely in the school grounds and off the busy road. This is well meaning, but to the lils, it is just another large group of people they barely know reaching out for them.

Some of these we can work on with the lils. We spoke to the school, came up with a solution that works for both of us, and have no more tears at drop off. We have spent some time letting the lils know that in public, people do this because they are curious, but that that doesn’t mean that the lils have to engage them. I ask that Woo and Goose remain polite, and simply say “no thank you” if they are bothered, or that they tell us so that we can say it. We also tell the people that they have to ask the lils, and if they don’t reply or say no, it has to be respected. The problem is that it isn’t respected. It’s hard enough to get them to pose for MY camera, so I am not going to force the lils to pose for a stranger’s picture. They should just be able to enjoy their India experience without worrying about being pinched, prodded, grabbed, and hugged and kissed. I just have to come up with a catchy way to tell people.



Happy Day

Finally. I had a great day. Possibly the best day since we have moved to India. It’s a relief, a pleasure, and a promise of more to come.

Goose`s class went on a field trip today, and I accompanied. I was mostly going to try and help with her morning transition to school issues, but they have mostly resolved themselves in the last two days. Resolved to the point where she kept telling me to leave this AM before the group left for the trip! A little part of me was also going to check out other peoples houses. This was the point of the trip, the culmination of their learning unit on house styles. Who doesn’t love peeking in other peoples houses?

There were a number of parents on the trip, so I met a number of new people. The buses were full, so I car pooled with two lovely moms, and had plenty of opportunity to talk with and get to know them a bit. I really enjoyed talking with them and connecting. One of the moms has children in both Woo and Goose’s classes, lils that my lils play very nicely with, and consider friends. We have a full family play date planned with them for tomorrow. I think that Willy and I are more excited about this than the lils.

Our trip went long, so we arrived a school with little time left it the day. On a whim, I snatched the lils and played a bit of afternoon hookie (with cookies). We played, danced, napped and just hung out. The highlight was our daily street hockey game, much to the entertainment of all who wandered by.

The day ended with many giggles, cuddles and a surprise call to one of my best friends. This is normal, and I could get used to it.

I even took a picture that I really like.
The long way out



Wordless wednesday – Elephants

Family portrait

Snack time!

I touched an elephant

Birthday thrill



This is why I am not a boss

Once I had made peace with the fact that we would be hiring a cook, I very much looked forward to it. I envisioned delicious local cuisine, learning this tips and tricks of authentic cooking, and being able to spend the time between school and dinner with the lils, attention focused completely on them. The woman that we hired seemed to be a decent fit for our life. Her references were good, promising a mix of western and local food and she could come at the same time that our maid does, which minimizes the disruption in my life.

She is a lovely woman, and is very patient with my lils. When they are home, she indulges them, letting them help in the kitchen and generally buzz all around. They clearly like her, which is very important to me. She is also very neat and efficient in the kitchen, which being the opposite of this, impresses me to no end. While I was disappointed that the first meal she made for us was quesadillas, they were pretty much the best ques I have ever eaten. These, and the fact that she was willing to take over the grocery shopping made for a very promising start.

There were, however, a few things that made me raise my eyebrow about her. She arrived on the first day and demanded a salary that was higher than what we agreed upon, saying simply that it was what she made. I let her know that she could work on a (paid) trial for two weeks, and if we liked her enough, we would pay her the salary. She then asked for bus pass money, money to get her bus ID, money for a gate pass photo… all of these were presented in a way that made the requests seem normal and necessary. I agreed, in part because they seemed normal and necessary, and in part because I feel that domestic help is underpaid by MY standards. Then the Friday of her second week here, she came to me with a request for a loan of fifteen months salary. I was caught completely off guard, but managed to tell her that I would have to talk to Willy.

We never really considered the request. While we did learn that such loans are not uncommon, they generally take place when someone has been working for a family for a long period of time and has built a trusting, almost familial, relationship. We barely know this woman. The money requested didn’t amount to a fortune, but it was significant enough that we would be impacted, and exceeded the amount that we intended to pay her for her tenure with us. We said no.

Her request did have what was likely an unintended consequence, it opened a dialogue between Willy and I about her performance. It turned out that neither of us was actually happy with her cooking, we were more indifferent. There was already a lot of repetition in her menu selection, the flavours were all pretty similar, and her Indian food was pretty pedestrian. We were getting much better food at the restaurant around the corner and were “cheating” on her once or twice a week. We were also saddened by the lack of depth in her spicing, and the fact that ketchup and soy sauce were regular and consistent staples in the food.

The clincher for us was that the lils were not eating her food. We felt that it went beyond just taste (though this was a big part of it), and spoke to their need to have some normalcy in their lives. They knew that mama hadn’t made the food, and were not interested as a result. I experimented with cooking for them each night, and they loved the food. They started sleeping better, started behaving better, and were much happier. Despite the fact that we could have worked with her to overcome some of the things that were making us unhappy, we decided that we had to let her go. The immediate change in the lils was convincing enough.

I asked the lils to stay in the playroom on Monday morning and waited for her arrival. When she arrived, I stepped outside with her and told her we were letting her go. I gave her our reasons and answered her questions about whether we were hiring another cook or if she could change her cooking to stay with us. She seemed to accept the answers and then reached into her bag to get a beautiful traditional Indian dress that she had sewn for Goose’s birthday, complete with hair clips, necklace, and bangles. She insisted that Goose keep it, and only asked that I send a photo to her.

I still feel awful.



Like I don’t have enough to worry about…

A couple of posts on our community message board caught my eye today:

#1 : On 21/11/11 neighbour one wrote:

Hi all,

My brother who lives in PM (a neighbouring community) saw a huge snake in his living room y’day. Apparently, there are snake catchers in the area who come and take the snakes away without killing them. Am forwarding the phone nos. below, just fyi. Hope we never have to use them :-)
Here are the numbers:

Closest one:
Mahesh in Varthur:
09916 968 959
09845 714 598

Poorthi: (Old Airport Road)

Sanjeev (Bannerghatta)
097 42084335

Mohan (Bhanasvadi)
098 45 080903

The attached video shows how a professional Bangalore snake catcher does his job. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Du3CHIi6QFY

Ciao, neighbour one

Then the second, which followed pretty quickly and made my eyes bug out a little lot .

#2 : On 21/11/11 neighbour two wrote:

Thanks for sharing the info.

In Ozone (our community), you can also call Prestige help desk. Ozone has one gardener who catches snakes. He caught a cobra from our side yard few months back, with a stick, did not kill it. Also, in the help desk office, the snake catchers numbers are printed and put up, so if we can’t find the numbers handy, they can tell us the numbers :)

-Neighbour two

I am good with the geckos, spiders, frogs, bees, and other small mostly harmless creatures. No one warned me about the frigging COBRAS in the yard and possibly house!!




Dear Goose:

Today you are three. As I listen to you happily singing yourself to sleep in the next room, I am thinking of the year that has passed. You have continued to grow and amaze me, every day. This year brought tremendous change in your life, change you have handled so well. I am so proud of you in many ways.

You have continued to show your love for all of those near to you. You love to love, and give it so freely. A hug from you makes me feel like there is no one else as special to you in the world. My heart swells every time. You do the same for your father and brother too. This is but one way that it is wonderful to see that you and your brother are becoming such great friends, even if it means that you get into oodles of trouble together. I secretly admire the fact that you are now often the ringleader, convincing him to try your crazy ideas. You keep forging your own path and standing up for your self, but do it with kindness and care, and a little bit of your minx-like humour too.

I love to watch you learn and explore. You tackle any task with gusto, and work until you succeed. We can no longer measure the things that you can say or do, because we can’t keep up. Most days bring new skills and accomplishments, or renewed efforts to master tasks that have stumped you. I love to just watch it happen. This year you started skating, riding a bike, swimming with very little help, started school, become a world traveller, and continued to develop into a wonderful little person, running every step of the way.

I love you my amazing little girl!

One pours!
Helping with the baking

At the Iguana Pool
Testing the boundaries (she stayed within them)

Falling Down
Learning to skate

Easter12, noon (5/12)

She comes from a big family of readers

One last day
Hanging with her bud

Big Girl!
First day of school

Mastering it!
Bike rider!

Every time
Monkey faces. Guess whose idea?



Adventures in language

Today was a PD day, so we set off bright and early to finally complete our “foreign resident registration”. We were supposed to have completed it within two weeks of arrival, but were clearly behind. It is very much a process, one that involves many steps and much waiting. The keys, as far as I can tell are to arrive before the office opens and line up to be in the very first batch of people processed, and to pay a third party to do all the paperwork and walk you through the steps. We were finished within three hours, which is pretty good.

The lils had to accompany us, and were great through the morning. As a treat, I planned to bring them to the aquarium. They love fish, I love fish, and we don’t have one at home. We have been meaning to go for a few weeks, but this was the first time it all fell together. Sadly, I forgot to grab the address so asked Subbu, our driver, if he knew where it was. He did, and we started driving. About 35 minutes later we pulled up to a small pet store. I am pretty sure that something was lost in the translation.

Subbu is a great driver and this is the first time he has led us down the wrong path in the five weeks that we have been here. He’s a quiet fellow, one who we have quickly become attached too. Both lils love him, and the feeling is mutual. He spoils them, much to our delight. When we are all in the car together, one of us sits in the front, and the other between the lils. We were travelling like this yesterday, when I realized that Willy and I had switched into French, as we often do when we want to talk about something without involving the lils. I explained this to Subbu, as I didn’t want him to think that we were talking about him. He seemed to appreciate the beauty of having a secret language with small children, as he has two of his own. Willy then asked how many languages he spoke, as many people in India are multi-lingual. He let us know that it was just the local languages, only five or six! Somehow the fact that I can barely speak two pales in comparison.

The lils are learning two new languages in school, Spanish and Hindi. They seem to be picking up a little bit, and are intrigued by the idea that they will have a secret language of their own soon. Clearly they don’t realize that I can never seem to figure out what all their made up words mean. We have noticed that the lils have started to incorporate the local dialect into their speech. Some common examples include dust bin for garbage can, bathing costume for swim suit, atta for flour, dahi for yogurt, speed hump instead of speed bump, and flyover for overpass. My absolute favourite is snarl, which is used to describe a traffic jam. They spend much of their time in the car hunting for snarls and delighting when they find themselves in one!



Wordless wednesday – at the pool

Painting the pool deck


Happy Together...

painting the pool deck

Painting the pool deck

This is my pool.

pool art

Swimming in the big pool.

Every time

Post Swim Cuddles




Woo knows how to write his letters, but he prefers not to. If he is in the mood, he will write his name, and maybe the initials of everyone else in the house, but it generally takes some coaching. He would much rather read letters in his books than write them. Now that he is in school, one of the things he is expected to work on are his letters, upper and lowercase. When school started, we told his teachers of his preferences, but trusted that they would encourage him in their own way. It seems that letters ARE much more interesting at school, and he appears to be doing well in writing.

We weren’t quite sure how well he was doing until Sunday morning, when he was left to his own devices while we slept. The lils have been waking really early each morning. Some days they drag one of us to their beds, some days they crawl into our bed, but most days they just play with each other. On this particular Sunday, Goose was snuggled between us, and I thought that Woo was in his room, reading a book.

I thought I stayed awake, but woke to the sound of excited and happy chatter about their new bean bag chairs, which had been purchased the day before. They chose their own, and both seemed to be in love with them. The first snippet of their conversation that I clearly remember hearing  was Woo saying “So now we won’t get them confused, because our names are on them!” Sure enough, they were.  The letters were perfectly formed, and the printing was very neat.  Guess all that practice is paying off.


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