Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Cultural Evening

This weekend we didn't have any real plans so we put together what we could of the things we had available to us.  It has shaped up to be quite a nice weekend.  Friday night there was a play at AES put on by the staff from the school, Fiddler On The Roof.  We also were given two tickets to the Accademia Teato alla Scalia di Milano performance of an Indian Cultural inspired ballet performed at the Siri Fort Auditorium.  With a bit of planning and creative scheduling we were able to meet the Dad of the family at the school after he finished work.  He took kids middle and three to the play while I took kid one to the ballet.  We met back at the flat when all was complete a little after nine in the evening.  The play was something many of the kids have talked about at school so it is nice to be able to contribute to the conversations with friends about school events like this.  The kids liked the story but because they know that a fiddle is a violin or viola it was a little sad that a REAL string instrument was not played for the performance.  For the most part it was a three thumbs up, one from each that attended.
The ballet was a different experience.  We were dropped off at the VIP entrance and told that our tickets were general admission and we were to go to gate two.  (It didn't say that on the ticket but the ticket was free so we didn't complain).  Kid one and I had no idea where gate two was but followed the others that were sent away from gate four, all the way around the block to the opposite side of the auditorium where a line was formed that was at least as long as the parking lot depth, another block back.  This alone was a sight to see.  We don't see that lines form in India.  People tend to cluster, but a true line really is a rare thing.  It was an eclectic crowd waiting in line to attend the ballet showcase of Italian culture with an India flair.  We visited with people in line as we waited to be shuffled through the single gate to enter the auditorium.  The gentlemen behind us in line shared that ballet culture is not something India has very often so when opportunities arise many are interested.  Once we were in the auditorium and seated for the show we learned that many are interested but unaware of the proper behavior for a ballet.  Seats were scarce by the time we entered and we quickly went to the balcony in hopes to find a seat.  We found two in the far left side of the balcony and watched the ballet from the viewpoint of looking onto the side of stage right.  It was a seat and we had free tickets, again remembering to be thankful.  The performance was interesting and music was unique and the ballet was more contemporary in nature.  This make up, I think was the biggest issue.  Because of the contemporary nature those that didn't know much about ballet had envisioned another type of performance with tutus and classical music.  When that was not happening on stage little kids became restless and adults whispered, everyone shifted seats to get closer or further and all in all a different crowd than we are accustomed to at a US performed ballet.  There is an etiquette to attending the ballet, not the dress, not the attitude but the act of being still and letting those perform do the movement undisturbed.  This was not part of the experience in this crowd.  Interesting ballet, interesting audience, enough said.
As we began to exit the auditorium we were glad to see the ballet class that kid one skipped to attend the performance also skipped class to attend the ballet.  We ran into the instructor and most of the class members when we exited the balcony.  We followed the crowd out to the streets that were packed with vehicles and people, like most of Delhi.  I had no idea where to get a taxi but I was pretty sure right at the corner was not going to get me one any time soon.  So kid one and I elected to walk with the crowd down a block to try to catch a cab further away from the busy intersection in front of the auditorium.  It seemed okay to do but some street dogs had a barking, running fit right down the sidewalk towards us at one point, we were offered to take an unmarked taxi if we would like to do that, my instincts said no.  A few tuk-tuks offered us a lift but I wasn't sure how far we had to travel so I declined.  We ended up just calling our trusted cab driver and some helpful gentlemen who were walking in the crowd helped us give directions to the cab driver for where to find us.  We made it home and so did the other three who also took a cab because they were unaware our driver was waiting at the school to drive them home.  We had to call the driver and ask him to drive himself back to our house because we all took cabs home.  All is well that ends well.  We slept fine and dreams of sugar plums danced in our heads, not really.  Saturday and Sunday bring weekend errands and time for outside enjoyment.  The weather is supposed to be highs in the high 60s-low 70s.  What are your plans for the weekend?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Picture This

Many of you want to know about how we are living and what it all looks like.  Ask and you shall receive, we aim to please.
First up, the American Embassy School (AES), the place the three kids in this family of five attend school.  Because the kids are American born citizens admission to the school pretty much meant filling out paperwork in triplicate (three kids).  There are many nationalities represented at the AES, in fact their website states "53 nationalities" of which 35 percent of the student body, nursery through 12 grade, are Americans.  Visit the AES web site here

(above) This garden is inside the security gate at the Gate 2 entrance.  A peaceful little campus entrance garden.
(above) This is a look at the inside of the security gates.  There are turn-style entrances for people with school IDs and a locked gate entrance for those without IDs. A sign in sheet and identification check is done for those without IDs.

(above) This is a directional sign outside the elementary school building area.  It shows just a few of the areas within this small campus.

(above)Here is a walkway between the elementary school and administration area that houses the lunchroom, library, business office, school director's office etc. These neat little sculptures are all throughout the campus area. (shown both above & below)
(above) The high school building on the right with the breezway table area on the ground floor.  The left building houses mostly middle school.

(above) The performing arts auditorium is called the Hall of Peace.
The school is in the "heart of the diplomatic community" IE right across the street from the American Embassy in New Delhi.  We joined the ACSA organization within the Embassy and have enjoyed some of the benefits of the membership.
ACSA restaurants serve a variety of food choices, most of which are NOT gluten free.  Our family drink of choice, first tried at ACSA but served everywhere, is sweet lime soda.
Recipe for Sweet Lime Soda: serving 1
*Juice of 1 lime (key limes are not as sour)
*Sparkling water
*Sugar for sweet lime (salt for salt lime)
Directions:  Squeeze the juice of one lime into a tumbler glass.  For sweet lime add 1 tsp sugar (for salt lime add 1/2 tsp salt).  Fill up the glass with sparkling water.  Enjoy on ice only if it is "safe" ice.

(above) This is the more formal ACSA dining room.

(above) The pool side cafe area of ACSA.

(above) The counter inside the cafe area for ACSA.

And then there is a Baskin Robins which serves mostly gluten free real ice cream.  We have not frequented a Baskin Robins so regular as we have in the recent month, not since we left northern California and lived within walking distance of the BR 31 flavors, and that was pre kid middle and kid three. 

(above) Because he serves the ice cream, Sanjay has become the kid's favorite server in ACSA.

(above) The bowling alley at ACSA is a hopping, four lane alley that has the bumper bowl option and automatic scoring making it a "strike" for our family. 

(above) Costa Coffee is the UK version of Starbucks and located here in India.  Costa Coffee shops are everywhere, including in the ACSA area of the American Embassy.  During these cold winter months we have enjoyed an occasional coconut hot cocoa from Costa Coffee.  Yummy!  When the heat hits we will add our cool drink of choice from Costa Coffee.

Added side note.  To make "safe" ice in India we need to use distilled water in ice cube trays and make it at home to be sure.  We are told ACSA ice is also "safe" ice.  *An ice spike is an upward-facing icicle that forms as a body of water freezes. Ice spikes can form in natural environments or can be made artificially by freezing distilled water in plastic ice cube trays.  We didn't know this before we started making "safe" ice at home.  Enjoy one more picture of our "safe" ice.  Sharp but safe.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Are Things So Different?

We were still awake at 9:30pm when the drumming began.  The younger kids were in bed but not sleeping yet.  There was some very loud drumming coming from right outside our building, performance type of drumming, but it was 9:30pm on a school/work night.  We looked out from our upper story windows and could see there was a fire right across the street from our building.  Nothing to note, it was just a small camp fire.  One like every other small camp fire happening all over the city at this hour of night.  Simple fires set to warm the bodies of those around it.  The only reason this fire was any different was that there seemed to be some people circling the fire and the drumming that brought our attention to the window in the first place.  Despite the attention, the drumming continued, the circling continued and after a bit there was even some rhythmic clapping to accompany the drums and an occasional whoop or holler.
We laughed with each other and mister commented, "Just like back home.  Our neighbors would have a fire and drum and circle until all hours of the night."  Although we didn't seem to stand at the window and watch them.
I asked our housekeeper the next morning if she too heard the drumming.  She had and thought it was someone getting married or maybe an Indian festival.  June seems to be the time of year to get married in the states but November and December are big wedding months in India.  She tells me that many times when it gets dark then the celebrations begin.  Hummm, that too seems familiar.

Added on Sunday, January 16, 2011
Just found this article reporting on the festival of Lorhi

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cold Snap

We heard that on Sunday, January 8th 2011 it was the coldest in Delhi than it has been in over forty years.  Temperatures were all the way down to 37.5 degrees Fahrenheit. To us from the mid-west, we walked to and from church without making a big deal of the cold.  Yes, it was cold, but we had jackets.  Not the winter coats we wear in the snowy mid-west, but a jacket.  I went a little native and wore my pashmina that mister had purchased for me on one of his many overseas trips.  We were fine.  We also had the luxury of going into our home and having heat in each room.  Not the forced air heating we are accustomed to, but heat.  I went to a meeting with many women who have spent from a year or more here in Delhi today.  They compared the cold from the snowy areas we are from by saying this was bone chilling cold.  Typically here there are not wall heaters in many rooms and most bathrooms.  There are fans for releasing steam but no heaters in the bathrooms.  Many kitchens also do not have heat in them.  Fortunately our kitchen has heat in it.  Which means it also has cooling/air conditioning in it when the cold takes a break and the heat outside kicks up.  But there are many homes in Delhi and in India that are without heat all together.  There are also homeless who naturally are without heat as well.  Here is a link to a yahoo article I read regarding the cold snap we are experiencing here on my side of the world.

I am beginning to meet with groups that are throughout the Delhi area.  The PSA organization is the Parent School Organization at AES, the kid's school.  One group I met with today is called the American Welcome Association (AWA). They seem to have many opportunities to do some outreach in the area.  It's a non for profit organization of American expats in the Delhi area.  They run a thrift store and use the proceeds to do outreach work.  I will be attending a Seven Cities group tomorrow that will give me another option for another kind of playgroup for me while the kids are in school and mister is at work.  Soon enough I will have so many play dates I will have no time to get things done for others.  I will let you know if that happens and how it goes for all of us.
By the way Christmas five (gluten free order from Amazon), six (package from a hometown family support)and seven (books from the cousin book exchange for the other two kids) happened. We are still counting those twelve days of Christmas.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Analyze This

We are a family of vivid dreamers.  Some more detailed than others but we remember dreams at different times and often we discuss our dreams with each other.  We sometimes see clear connections to the dream and other times after discussing the dream we can better understand how we came to that dream.  Every once in a while we have a dream that is just odd, unexplainable, way out there.
This particular Saturday morning we decided to have a big breakfast of gluten-free, plate sized pancakes and sausage.  We all sat around the large dining room table and chatted.  This dream was shared complements of kid one.

The whole family of five was attending the US local amusement park for Thanksgiving break.  We were crowding into an area trying to be seated for the birthday celebration for BeyoncĂ©.  We noticed the people seating for the event were the student council president and the staff advisor for student council so we talked with them in an attempt to get seated for the birthday party.  We managed to get a seat and waited for the celebration to begin.    The entertainment portion of the celebration was none other than Sandra Bullock dressed in boxing gear complete with gloves, and she was going in for a boxing match.  There was a scary roller coaster ride and many people and lots of fun but it was one of those dreams that when you wake you wonder, "Why the heck were BeyoncĂ© and Sandra Bullock on my mind?"

So all you dream interpreters out there, analyze this.  We welcome your comments in the comment section.

Friday, January 7, 2011

First Day of AES school

The kids all started school on Tuesday, January 4.  We have a car and driver rented for the week so we all rode together to the school.  I walked the elementary kids to the school and into their classrooms.  High school kid one ditched us at the gate after entering the campus.  She made arrangements with a friend the weekend before to meet up before school on the first day.  After the kids were all tucked into their classrooms I then went to a parent orientation and went around the school trying to get a few more business matters set up before I left campus.  Tried to arrange some after school activities, talked with the manager of lunch services about gluten-free options for the girls, filled out emergency contact forms for both the elementary and high school, just busy work, then left campus.
During parent orientation it was emphasized that as a parent we all need to take a deep breath, our kids had all made it into their classrooms and everything is going to be great for them.  I left campus knowing I was ordered to relax.  We had a longer than average drive home but I was ordered to relax so I didn't concern myself with the roads.
In the afternoon the driver and I went back to the school to gather the kids for our ride home.  When I met the kids I asked them to think of their answer and at dinner we discussed the best and worst of the day.  The answers are telling of how the day went for all three of them.
Kid one answered:  Worst was math class because the teacher gave an evaluation to the class on the first day back.
Best was Spanish class with a great teacher and awesome people.
Kid middle: Worst was lunch period was too short (mostly because she was talking so much she didn't have time to eat her whole lunch)
Best was she made a lot of new friends.
Kid three: Worst was he had forgotten to take a jacket with him to PE and the class was held outside in the cold 52 degree F.
Best was everything else.
And this type of attitude was how the week continued.  We just finished our first week of school at AES and the kids all LOVE their new school and all are making lots of new friends.  They have started taking the bus sometimes to school but often home after school and that too is not as bad as all had thought.  Although kid one is hoping we change our mind soon and just let the car and driver take them both ways.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Taj Mahal for Christmas

Our third day of Christmas the Mister and I gave our three turtle doves a trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort .  From four years back when Mister took a long term work assignment here in Delhi for six long weeks and visited the Taj Mahal, he loved the experience and shared his memories with the kids.  Each of the kids expressed a desire to see the Taj Mahal when we knew we would move here.  The first thing the kids and I can cross off our "India bucket list" is *See The Taj Mahal
We had arranged for a car to pick us up at home at 7am Monday, December 27 and drive to Agra.  We met with our tour guide in Agra a little before 12noon and he told us to eat lunch later and we would go immediately to the Taj Mahal because the weather was beautiful and it was winter break from school and the crowds were sure to be huge.  We took his advice, lined up the family of five led by the tour guide and charged the Taj.
It felt surreal to actually be there in its presence.  To actually see the architecture first hand and take the pictures ourselves.  It was fun to see the kids look at the Taj Mahal and take in the fact that we are really here, looking at the structure ourselves, not just listening to a story from Dad told while looking at pictures of one of his trips.  It is truly an amazing place.  I like symmetry and balance so the architectural aspects and thought that went into the balancing of all elements really felt joyous to me.  I reveled in the symmetry throughout the entire tour.
We went from the real Taj Mahal to a restaurant called the Taj Mahal for lunch.  We had a wonderful meal of traditional south Indian foods, (south India has mostly gluten free cooking style) and enjoyed each other's company and visited with our tour guide.
Afterwards we went to a marble textile shop and toured how inlay was used at the Taj Mahal.  It was definitely a shop and I would have loved to buy up lots of marble table tops and stands but we really just arrived in India and our full shipment has not yet been placed into our home.  So I resisted the temptation to buy the beautiful work of art on a black marble table top with mother of pearl flower inlays.  A candle lit on top the the table dances light all around the room.  It was gorgeous, but it can wait for another trip.
From the Marble Inlay shop we went to the Agra Fort.  This is where we learned the story of the Taj Mahal family.  The Taj was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is widely considered as one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and stands as a symbol of eternal love. 
Shah Jahan tended to have buildings made from white marble, often inlaid with gold or semi-precious gems. He destroyed some of the earlier buildings inside the fort in order to make his own.  At the end of his life, Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his son, Aurangzeb, in the fort. It is rumored that Shah Jahan died in Musamman Burj, a tower with a marble balcony with a view of the Taj Mahal.  The fort was the site of a battle during the Indian rebellion of 1857, which caused the end of the British East India Company's rule in India, and led to a century of direct rule of India by Britain.
Just inside the fort's gates we saw monkeys, lots of them.  A big treat for the kids, we are always looking for monkeys, not to touch, but to see.

The fort was beautiful and the love story was heart warming.  Agra is the city of love, when you come to India, we hope you can feel the love.  Enjoy an array of pictures from our Agra tour.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a Happy New Year!