They’re super to me

There are many writers that I read who make use of writing prompts for their posts. For the most part they do this very well. The posts are thoughtful and heartfelt and always seem to match the theme perfectly. I am not one of those people. My few attempts to write according to a prompt have never felt natural, so they end up forever in the draft pile, wallowing in their contrivedness (yes I just made up a word).

This week, I was tagged by Nicki of The Perils of a Working Mom to come up with “7 SuperShots”, each of which had to match a category, I was intrigued. I post many pictures, and take many more, but I seldom take the time to talk about why a photo is meaningful to me. It’s something that I have been wanting to do more of, so this is a good place to start. My 7 SuperShots:

A photo that . . . takes my breath away.
Taj Mahal at dawn
I was fortunate enough to go to the Taj Mahal twice this past March. Once to experience it with Willy and the Lils, and once more to have the time to pay more attention and maybe take a few more photographs. This was taken just after sunrise on the second trip. I was the thir person to reach this spot, right after my friend Chris. We planned to be there at that magical moment when there was no one else there, and were lucky enough that the fellow that was there first let us get our shots too. It’s the entire experience of the Taj Mahal that takes my breath away. This photo is one key part of those experiences.

A photo that . . . makes me laugh or smile.
I've got you
I have numerous photographs of the lils having fun, playing, growing and learning, but this is one that never fails to brighten my day. It was Goose’s first ever time on the merry-go-round, and there were only child sized seats on this ride. She was nervous, so Woo was quick to jump up with her and throw his arm around her shoulders. It was a gesture that said “I’ve got you, sis”. She was fine after this.

A photo that . . . makes me dream.
Big tree
I remember when I was a child, and play was just play. We were fearless and focussed on having fun. All to often I see that is missing from the lives of young people. I want to make sure that my lils play for the sake of play, and and do silly things like wrapping themselves around a tree like a rope. This picture shows them doing that with some new friends. It makes me dream of my childhood, and for what they can make of theirs.

A photo that . . . makes me think.
One of the things that has troubled us all since arriving in India is the garbage that is everywhere. It’s on the street, in the parks, in the water. This is a little lake in one of out favourite gardens. It is actually one of few public spaces that we visit where rubbish bins are obvious and plentiful, but still we see this on the shores of the lake. I think about how this came to be such a colossal problem, how it can change, and what I can do to help change it, but mostly I think about how sad it is.

A photo that . . . makes my mouth water.
Garlic aplenty
It’s fresh and plentiful, and the a good chunk of the basis for some of my favourite gravies here. I love going to the local markets in Bangalore. The sights, the smells, the sounds… They are packed and chaotic and full of great things, like these chilies, tomatoes and the garlic. And so much more.

A photo that . . . tells a story.
In this together!
It tells the story to me. They are little, nervous, anxious and excited. It’s the first day that either of them has ever gone to school, and they are in it together. When every one of them isn’t sure, they grab each other’s hand and forge ahead together. I love that they support each other, and that they find comfort in one another.

A photo that . . . I am am most proud of (aka my National Geographic Worth Shot)
I don’t in any way feel that this is worthy of National Geographic, but I am really, really pleased with the shot. It was taken in the main city market, amid all the noise and frenzy. This woman was sitting on the ground stringing together one of the long garlands of flowers when a beam of sunlight fell upon her through one of the cracks in the roof. She just sat there, drinking it in, lost in the serenity of the moment, oblivious to everything. When it passed, she just resumed her work. I walked away, but I still think of her, and how peaceful she was.

I think that I am supposed to tag people now to carry this on. I’ll get on that ASAP.




India requires that you fill out an immigration form and be processed by an immigration officer prior to leaving in the country. I recently travelled alone to Singapore, so I had to fill out the form and do this by myself. Although I have done solo cross border travel a number of times, I was a little nervous. This was my first time leaving India on my own, and I don’t know the system, or what the “right” answers are. Filling out the form just might have included a text or two to Willy.

Little did I know that it was one of the questions that I was confident in the answer that would trip me up. The question asked my occupation. I left it blank, as that is the most appropriate answer. The two immigration officers we incredulous, asking “what do you mean you don’t have a job? You must work!” Had the form asked what my profession or title was, I would have gladly responded with Victim Advocate, but it asked what my current occupation was. After explaining several times that I was not currently employed, and having them finally agree that leaving the response blank was the appropriate action, I was let through. I was a little surprised that they were not prepared for the fact that I was not employed, but I was through. The rest of my weekend was fabulous, I had so much fun in Singapore.

My return to Bangalore left me in a funk that has lasted all week. I first thought it was just the shock of the going from neat and orderly Singapore to life in Bangalore that is nowhere near neat or orderly. I’ve slowly come to realize that it’s not that at all. It’s that damn blank.

I have been on an unpaid leave for the duration of my stay in India. The understanding when I left was that my job would be mine if I wanted it upon my return. I agreed to this, with the caveat that I would not force my agency to let my replacement go if she was as great a fit for the position as I thought she would be. Sadly, changes to the way that the agency is funded* meant that my replacement was laid off a couple of weeks ago. If there is no job for her, there is no job for me. I knew this and was upset by it, but it really hit me this week.  That blank just made it real.


*Thanks Harper government.



Wordless Wednesday – Seen in Singapore

On top

Riverside point

From the Balcony


In the Muslim Graveyard

Bird of Paradise



Smiling Buddha...




Neither Willy nor I are great artists, so it never surprised us that Woo showed very little inclination to draw anything at all. Although he produced coherent stuff at daycare with the fabulous N, most of the artwork that we received from him for the first four and a half years of his life was pretty much scribbling on paper, with little effort to create forms or tell a story. Goose followed much in his footsteps, but we never really put too much emphasis on it for either lil. They were happy with their art, so we were happy.

We started to see significant change when they started school here. There was obviously some emphasis on colouring and drawing at school, and they seemed to produce colouring pages where the lines were mostly identified, and free art where there were some forms with eyes and mouths that generally fell into the categories of family members or dinosaurs. Something has changed in the last few weeks, however, and both lils are (mass) producing art that has clearly identified subjects and covers pretty much anything imaginable. We were stumped as to why both lils all of a sudden figured out how to draw things. People, buildings, mountains, dragons, a variety of scenes were all of a sudden popping up in their drawings.

The mystery was solved last week when I asked the lils what they were doing at the art table. “Playing Draw Something”, was the response I got. Draw Something is a game that is similar to pictionary, available on Android and iOS devices. You play against friends (or strangers), and draw pictures that your opponent has to guess. It’s addictive and a time waster, and I completely underestimated the impact it would have on the lils, that their fascination with watching me play would teach them both how to draw so quickly. This clearly isn’t the only thing that they are learning from, but the influence is very apparent to both Willy and I. Maybe there is something to this technology thing… although this really makes me want to start playing pictionary with them.



Wordless Wednesday – stray cat

Classic pose

Catching bugs

Nap interupted

Yes, it is comfortable to sleep this way :)

New pillow



When it comes to hockey, sleep is overrated


One of the hardest things for me personally, was giving up my Senators tickets for the year that we planned to live in India.  I LOVE hockey.  Always have, always will.  When Willy and I started dating, he barely had hockey on the radar, so I made him start watching with me. I wasn’t sure if I could be with someone who didn’t like hockey.  Happily, he took a shine to it, cheers for the same teams that I do and even started playing.  We have passed our love of hockey on to the lils, who are very happy to play hockey all day long if given the chance.  Though they get to play road hockey here every day, just yesterday they were talking about skating and playing hockey on ice next winter.  We all miss it.

There were two things that made me think that I could survive this drought. The first is that I made Willy PROMISE that I would be able to watch the games while we were here*.  Thankfully NHL’s Centre Ice package is now available in Asia, so this took a mere three months to set up. The lils and I have really loved having the hockey in the morning, when we can catch most of the third period. They actually get to see the conclusion of the games, and I start my day with hockey.  The second thing was that this was a rebuilding year for the Sens, so the hockey wasn’t going to be all that great…

Fast forward six months and Senators hockey is still going, when all but Woo (who predicted a Sens Stanley Cup in October) thought that we would be finished.  We’re pretty excited to still have hockey, and I have taken to getting up at 4:30AM to catch the start of the games.  Woo has been joining me for the third period, and we are loving it.  The problem with getting up at 4:30 to watch hockey games is that you are pretty tired most of the time between games.  My driver caught me in a particularly yawn-y moment and asked why I was so tired.  He knows all about our love of hockey, so I explained about it being the PLAYOFFS, and how this was my favourite part of the hockey season. He thought for a moment and asked “have you considered watching cricket?”

Cricket is something that I have wanted to learn about, but haven’t really gotten caught up in. I explained this to him, and he just smiled and said “well, it starts at 7:00… PM!”  I almost think he might be on to something. Almost.


*this was actually a deal breaker for me.  This and the no cockroaches rule – and we all know how that ended up – http://lilbunnyrabbitz.com/2012/03/26/my-defenses-are-down/



It was bound to happen

There are numerous establishments in India that ask men and women to enter (and generally be scanned or wanded) through separate entrances. Our local shopping mall is one, women to the left, men to the right.  Many of these places have separate, curtained off booth that women enter if they require a more intense scanning, which is generally just a quick scan with the wand. I assume that the practice is to protect the modesty of the women, but I am not really all that modest, so I find it a little inconvenient, mostly because the women’s line is always much slower than the men’s.

All of the airports that I have been through in India follow this practice when it comes to security screening.  You can enter the airport with a companion (or stranger, really) of the opposite gender, but you must segregate for screening purposes. This has bothered me each time that I travel, as it means that my belongings are left on the scanning belt and processed quite quickly, where I step away from it to wait in line to be waved through to the curtained booth to be scanned and have my boarding card examined, then step the pickup location and gather my belongings.  This process takes at least three minutes, and has been longer than ten minutes (especially if I have a lil with me, they tend to charm the scanners).  My belongings, which frequently include my camera and all my lenses, and the various iThings that I carry, would be both difficult and expensive to replace while I am hear.  I would hate to have someone accidentally or maliciously walk away with my gear.

Willy travels more often than I do (Mumbai this week), and I know that this bothers him too.  There seems to be little effort made to reunite travellers with their belongings, as he found out this morning.  He took a flight that left Mumbai at dawn, so he was being processed through security really, really early.  He was held up after depositing his belongings because his web check-in boarding card was missing a stamp from the airport.  When he got though, his bag and his laptop were the only items left at the end of the conveyor belt.  He grabbed them and got on his flight.

When he landed he hopped in a cab and headed to the office.  As he got close, he pulled out his laptop to get things started on his day and realized that it wasn’t his laptop at all.  Apparently a person that made it through the line up faster grabbed the wrong laptop and flew off to who knows where. Willy started to get stressed, trying to figure out how he was going to either get his laptop back, or rebuild all the data onto a new laptop. As luck would have it, the owner’s name, company name and employee ID were accessible from the login information, and his company was quickly contacted. Unfortunately, he and Willy’s laptop were in Hyderabad.

Willy is now on his way home from the airport, having flown to Hyderabad and back today. A waste of a day, but he is lucky to have gotten it back relatively painlessly. As a result, I know that I will be watching and checking my belongings just a little closer when I travel in the future.



Six months

Today marks the six month anniversary of our arrival as a family in India.  We are halfway through the year that we committed to, and a big part of me says I can’t believe that we have been here this long, and a much smaller part says that it can’t possibly have been just six months, it must have been so much longer! India, so far, has been a wonderful but chaotic experience, filled with many great experiences, learning many new things, meeting fabulous people and making truly great friends, but also a great deal of stress, many tears, and some pretty lonely times, especially for me.  That being said, I would not change a minute of it.  It has really been a great six months.

A little while after we arrived, a lady that Willy met told him that she would never recommend Bangalore as a first ex-pat posting, it’s too remote, too isolating, and too hard to settle in. He nodded and smiled and then relayed the comment to me later. I initially agreed, but then later came to realize that it’s not true in our case.  If we hadn’t come here first, we might never have come.  This might be our only posting abroad, and I would not have wanted to miss the last six months that we have enjoyed in India.

The people here are truly the nicest people that I have ever met.  We have learned so much about the mesh of cultures that make up this vast nation, yet we have only barely touched the surface.  We have travelled, together and apart, to places that most Indians never get to see, yet there are so many more places I want to get to.  The food here is enough of a draw, and I haven’t yet perfected the dishes that we knew we love, and have learned to love.  I have taken many photographs, yet I don’t feel that I have done the people and this beautiful country justice.

There are things that bother me about this city, life in India. The traffic, the pollution, the waste, the garbage everywhere, the poverty, and the fact that there seems to be little value placed on such a large segment of the population.   There are also annoyances that affect me personally, like the fact that is takes weeks to have a simple thing fixed, that nothing ever happens as it should, where it should or when it should, and little things that become symbolic and big, like the fact that I can’t get a bank account or credit card here.  We’ve tried several times, and failed at each turn, so we’ve given up.  It’s their loss really, given that I am the spender in the family.  I am also somewhat frustrated by what I have failed to accomplish in my time here.  I had big goals, and I have barely progressed on any of them.  This is partially a result of some of the struggles that we have had to face, but mostly because of the struggles that I have had with settling in.

I frequently get asked about what I miss the most from home.  For me, the answer is simple.  I miss the people that mean so much to us, our family and friends. We are very connected to them, yet we are almost as far away from home as we can get.  If there was just one thing that I could somehow bring with me, it would be them.  We have been so fortunate to have friends and family come to visit, and this has eased this ache quite a bit, but we now face six months with no planned visits, nothing concrete or booked. I know that is in all likelihood going to change, that we will have some visitors, but I can’t get my hopes up.  Sure, I also miss wine, cheese, Greek food, great breads and baked goods, stable electricity, clean water, diversity in climate and a few other things, but those I really can live without.

We are at a crossroads, and now is the time when we start to think seriously about what we do in October.  We can either ask to stay in Bangalore, or we can go home.  We’re both on the fence, but one of us is leaning towards Bangalore, and one is learning towards Ottawa.  I am feeling like home is where I want to go, and Willy can see us living here for a while longer.  We don’t have to make a decision today, but we really do have to make one soon.  Regardless of what that decision is, we have six more months to fill with learning and exploring.  We want to see more of Bangalore, more of India, and more of the south Pacific.  This is our focus for the next six months.



Wordless wednesday – Every day





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The value of a life

We got a call late at night last Wednesday. It was from our driver, who was distraught, and let Willy know that his neighbour had died, that he may need some time off. Willy told him to take the time that he needed, and hung up, concerned. We were surprised when Subbu arrived the following morning to take Willy to work. He explained it simply by saying that it helped to stay with routine. He was clearly shaken, and on the way to Willy’s office explained that it was his neighbour’s seventeen year old son who had died, and that he had committed suicide because his grades were poor. We were both shocked and saddened to hear this. Almost a week later I am still troubled. How could this happen, how could he think that this was his only choice?

My first instinct was to blame the parents. I’ve never met them, nor do I know anything about them or their family; I made some big assumptions. I do know that there is tremendous pressure in India for a child to improve their standing, to do better than their parents. I have read several articles that allude to parental pressure for success, including one that told not of a suicide, but of a twelve year old girl whose father forced her to beg on the streets when her grades were not to his expectation. I have also observed parental expectation first hand throughout our community. Success is not enough; the children are expected to excel, to surpass their peers too. That being said, I am wrong to solely blame the parents. While they may have had some expectation that their son do well, I am certain that they did not want to see him take his life.

It is widely reported that suicide rates in India, especially among youth and female youth in particular are extremely high. There are numerous media reports of children as young as eleven taking their own lives, often because they feel they have done poorly in school, they have actually failed or received a low grade, or that they worry that their parents cannot afford to send them to the post-secondary schooling that they will need to complete to better themselves. It saddens me to think that so much emphasis can be placed on schooling and marks for these children.

In the recent past, the Indian government has put into place measures that help families send their children to schools, and to help those in the lowest class improve their standing. What they haven’t done is help to teach those who hold positions of power the value of a human life. We frequently see labourers performing their tasks in very unsafe conditions. It happens in the community we live in, for example the man who sprays to protect us from the mosquitoes. We know that he is using a toxic chemical, and close up the house the minute that we hear his fogging machine start up in the distance. He rides by, and is not wearing any sort of protection from the harmful chemicals that he is breathing and coming into contact with. There is no way that he cannot be harmed by the chemicals, yet he has nothing to offer any protection. He may have chosen not to, but in all likelihood he either doesn’t know the risks, or hasn’t ever been given anything to wear. His employers need to ensure that he is protected, that his health has value, and they haven’t.

I am fortunate in that I am not poor, and I live in a country with ample opportunity for both of my children to follow their dreams and be successful, on their own terms. This has been a sobering reminder to me that I need to not only teach the lils to want to do well and succeed in life, but that success must also be defined in terms of their happiness; and that a life has value that cannot be diminished by a failure to achieve a milestone, or a belief that they may not meet anyone’s expectations.


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