Sunday, May 29, 2011

It's the end of the year as we know it

The 2010-11 school year ended here in Delhi and in the American Embassy School.  Summer break officially starts Monday, May 30 (memorial day in the USA).  There was a school assembly for all three schools (elementary, middle and high school) on Friday to say farewell to the parting staff, faculty and students.  Wow, people change out around here!  Lots of people moving on to other posts, some going back to their country of origin and even some just moving to other parts of India.  All kinds of moving, changing, crying, celebrating, hugging, sharing, packing, leaving, vacationing and even some staying.
We are approaching six months since our arrival here in Delhi and WOW, what a six months that has been.  I am amazed at our kids acceptance of the moving, changing, crying, celebrating, hugging, sharing, packing, leaving, vacationing and even staying.  Shoot, I am amazed at all of our acceptance of...the ings.
The assembly at the elementary school was in the gym where the graduation was held the night before.  Beautifully decorated with school colors draped on the ceiling and walls.  Flower garland hanging throughout making the place smell of garden.  It was beautiful to see and experience.  The farewell was tender and sincere.  I am still reeling in the disbelief of the number of changes.  I am amazed that this well oiled machine we call school can have so many changes from year to year and still churn out such a successful year again and again.  I am amazed at the number of people I met that are moving on.  I am amazed at the ability of the people to move with such poise, such confidence, such joy onto their next place to live.  Some of these people knew for some time they would be moving, some knew just last week of their plans.  Amazing, right.
I have heard it said and read it many different ways but the statement that whatever is said about India, the opposite is also true as well.  The two oppositions play a part of every day.  The last day of school was no exception.  It was happy and sad as most farewells tend to be.  So long our friends we have made and welcome to our new friends that are about to arrive.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rain Days and Saturday

     Out of character for this time of year in New Delhi we woke this Saturday morning to the sounds of thunder, lightening, pouring rain and plastic chairs being overturned on the rooftop terrace.  It was very windy and rained most of the day.  Around 10am there was a break in the rain that made way for a cool but dark Saturday morning.  Our family enjoyed a lazy Saturday.  As the rain continued on and off we did our own hobbies, studied for next week's finals and watched movies.  We also made lots of things in our gluten free kitchen.
Gluten free Corn Chips:
All corn tortilla cut in quarters and baked or fried to a crisp.  Salt to taste.

Gluten free Donuts:
4 1/4 cups Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix
1/4 cup melted butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs (or three small)
1 cup brown sugar
2 t vanilla
Mix all ingredients together.  Dust counter with additional Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix, scoop out about 1/3 of the dough and roll it with a dusted rolling pin to about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut out donut shapes and place into preheated fryer to 375 degrees, carefully lower donut into oil.  Fry approximately one minute on each side. Repeat until you have eaten all or some are left for after church tomorrow.

Gluten free Chicken Stew with dumplings
    We had this mix sent to us in a care package from a neighbor friend.  The rain had been on and off with the wind gusting throughout the day.  It was a perfect piece for a lazy Saturday, rainy day meal.  We added dumplings made from Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix.  Everyone ate until we were full and not one of the kids tried to pick out the vegetables.  Clean plate club all around the table.
    The temperature has been in the triple digits (Fahrenheit scale) for a few weeks now so we also made homemade ice cream.  Easily done gluten free.  I did a shout out on facebook for good homemade ice cream recipes and did not get even one real response.  If you are reading this and YOU have a good homemade ice cream recipe please share it.  We would love to try it this summer while the three of us "stayers" tough out the heat.
    It is supposed to rain again tomorrow.  Hope there is enough of a break in the rain so we can get from one place to the next during our plans without getting wet. But that is why we packed umbrellas.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cars, drivers and driving

   We managed to purchase a car from a family who will be leaving India in May.  We had wanted one far before this time but we looked high and low for a car that would fit our budget and requirements making a used car the only realistic option.  We had wanted to use the funds from our car sale in the US to purchase one here in India but with the bad winter in the states our car there did not sell until March, three months after we left.  We found a car to rent for a temporary ride but the size alone made it a joke to think about long term. 

    We called it a clown car, because when all five of us (yes the family rode in this plus the driver) piled out of our seats at our destination we looked like clowns unfolding from the corners of a small box.  One nice thing about the clown car was that the many street vendors who bang on your window to sell their wares would not persist at the windows of the clown car for long.  We physically looked like good targets with our clothes that look like a foreigner and out of place coloring but often they surveyed the car and bobbled their head from side to side then strolled onto their next best target.     
    The new car screams “sell to me”.  Clearly a foreigner’s car, the mini-van with window decals makes it an easy target for all street vendors at any stop light.  We have yet to purchase anything from a street seller except for a map early after our arrival here.  We keep the windows up at all times for safety, or that is what I say.  I don’t want the junk that is being sold and I have a sensitive sense of smell that often detects the scent of oil or tar or toxic from dollar store items and I would prefer not close these items inside my ‘windows up tight’ car.
     Hiring a driver has proven to be a challenge for me.  Our first driver came with the car we were renting and although he did not attend meetings for the directionally challenged, clearly he could have been accepted into that club.  He was the cause of my one weak moment when I purchased from a street vendor.  One day after making a few U-turns in an attempt to get to my husband’s office we were stuck at a traffic light and a man selling maps came to my window.  I believe in God and I felt he was a sign.  We were in the clown car and it was child proofed in the back seat so I could not put my window down.  I asked the driver to get a map.  The good thing there was he negotiated the price.  I bought a map for 50 rupees (equal to approximately one US dollar) and tried to make heads or tails of where we were.  I also get nauseous when I read in the car so I quickly gave up.  After we were safely home I offered the map to the directionally challenged driver but he was oddly not interested in knowing where we came from.  Possibly he did not have his reading glasses so looking at a map could have been a challenge.  We happened to negotiate our way out of accepting a driver with the rental car and tried to hire a driver for ourselves.  American Welcome Association  had a staff registry service that a person could use when we first arrived.  It is currently being combined with another service here in Delhi called Domstique  both services charge a fee, either one time or membership of sorts.
     Our first attempt at hiring a driver brought us a man who had some listening problems.  Not hearing problems that I am accustomed to dealing with in the deaf population but listening problems, slightly different.  Those with hearing problems can sometimes use an alternative communication such as sign language and still communicate with others.  Those with listening problems don’t listen, no matter the language spoke or written and for these individuals sign language is very limited.  He stayed with us for three months.  Our second attempt at hiring for ourselves we interviewed and did some test driving and even showed him a clear idea of what we expect, in writing.  Unfortunately what he told us during the interview and what his most recent previous employers stated were two different stories and it is really his past that is haunting him.  With the muddy references we have heeded their advice and we do not have this driver drive at night which is a strain on our lifestyle, especially the teenager who is constantly in need of asking for a ride from another friend.  We will keep this guy until June and then interview some of the many drivers who will be left behind as the mass exodus begins from the private schools in the Delhi area for the move to another country where their driver is not welcome to join the family.   From this new glut of drivers we are hoping that one family will gush about the driver and his skills and attitude and respect and everything that is nice to have in a driver and we will find a match for us and our new car.  Although it is hot and sometimes very dusty here in Delhi we are not holding our breath.
     Our new car has automatic transition and the mister and I went through the long and painful process of getting a driver’s license here in India.    If need be we could (by we I mean the mister) drive ourselves but driving is much different here in India.  Lines in general mean nothing to anyone, anywhere except to possibly guess someone’s age.  Unless one is making a 90 degree turn left or right blinkers are not necessary and even when turning left or right they are only an option.  If there is a gap and your car might fit in it that is where you belong.  The lines on the road mean nothing.  The line of cars at a light or congestion means nothing, but if your car might fit in the gap, that is where you belong.  On Sundays because of the limited number of cars on the road we have ventured out for a bit of family exploring, but only to locations we are familiar with.  Many stores are closed on Sundays and it is generally just a slower day all around, so it is a nice day to try our sea legs at driving (by our I mean the mister).  I might just try driving for a short bit, just to see if I still remember how to do it.  Although for me it is all backwards.  India cars have right side drive and traffic flows on the left side of the road, again this is optional.  It is all opposite from what I am familiar with.  But I am obviously not familiar with hiring a good driver either so what do I have to loose except for my perfect driving record (perfect by India standards that is).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

No Pictures Necessary

Before moving to India, the mister and I discussed the physical distance we would be placing between ourselves and our family we grew up with.  Our parents, both sets, are still married to each other, all still living in the same general area we each grew up in.  Our siblings have moved away from those areas for the most part and even us, we didn’t live in the area we grew up in, although much closer to that area than India would ever be.  We discussed the general health of our parents and the health of our one remaining grandparent.  In the end we decided the decision was worth the risk and knew we had phone set ups and Skype possibilities that would aid in bridging the gap.
We now know that the phone set up is only as good as its setter and Skype is not helpful if one is in the hospital.  We had a family emergency over the last week and it is not all in the clear yet.

Mister’s father was admitted to the hospital due to illness and is still rebounding.  While the father in-law was being watched closely Mister was sent to the hospital because of an infection.  The mister’s health plan, thankfully, requires that he go to Singapore for any major medical issues.  Infections in India can promptly be termed “major” just because of the location of the patient, in India.  I stayed in India with the three kids; mister flew to Singapore and Mom in-law called with hospital updates from the bedside of Father In-law.  Mom in-law was not told of said son, my mister, being sent to Singapore.  I love my mother in-law and something told me, “We all have our limits”.  So we said our prayers and I slept near the US phone so that this setter would not miss another call.

We still have that new comers feeling of belonging here in the community but we all had a calm  feeling about what was/still is going on.  We feel if we need the support, it is here for the asking, but right now the prayers are holding us together.  Mister should return to India (land of infection) soon and Father In-law will have one more procedure before being sent home for recovery.  Prayers are still needed but my pictures are not necessary here.