Sunday, February 27, 2011


Thursday, February 24, 2011

misc. stuff I don't think i've mentioned before

We can get up to the twentieth floor to the roof. The view from up there is quite different from ours so far below and we can watch the sun set, sort of. (It mostly just disappears into the haze.)

We live in a complex of highrises. This is a first for us. I never thought about how, in buildings with this many floors (20) and several apartments on each floor (3), there will never be a time when all units in each of the (8) buildings will be fully repaired and renovated. (translation: hammering and banging and sawing, all day long)

When we walk in or out of our building, the security guard stands at attention. Often he salutes us. I just love that.

Just outside our walls, the foundation for the next new highrise-city is being prepared. Digging and pumping and drilling all day long.

They're also building a new elevated metro line on the main road. Yes, there is a metro in Kolkata; it was the first in India if I'm not mistaken. Progress is quick on this new line and we've been impressed at how much has been accomplished since our arrival. It adds to traffic congestion a bit, and I don't think I need to mention, to noise levels.

Yesterday marked three months since our arrival in India. We have just over a month left. Originally, we intended to stay longer, but the plans changed one too many times over the last eight months and I seem to have reached the limits of my flexibility. A total of four months sounded good to everyone involved and we're all happy with the new plan. Especially because it involves a quick trip over to Malaysia because what the heck, why not.
(I mean, there is a job we want to check out as a possible option for sometime down the road.)
They label packaged food here with a symbolf of either a little green circle in a box or a red one: Veg. or Non Veg. Very useful.
Oh, one final miscellaneous note: apparently A. just noticed that some people here speak English. After one recent conversational exchange, A. turned to us in surprise to say: "Hey, I understood what that man said!"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We had indoor and outdoor games, a pink cake, party hats, whistles-as-prizes (BIG mistake) and pin the tail on Tom & Jerry.

She felt special.

She loved it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

she's 5!

We had a party on Sunday to celebrate A.'s big day. It was, in her words, "Awesome." More photos to follow soon...
Happy Birthday, A.!

Monday, February 21, 2011

close call (not really)

The two balconies of our "flat" are strictly off-limits to the kids. We always keep the doors locked and closed and they have to get permission to stick so much as a toe outside. As a result, they are very afraid to go out there. (Good.)

Yesterday, after hanging the laundry, I neglected to lock up immediately and BR trotted onto the balcony. I saw him right away and called out to him to get back indoors and (for once) he rushed to obey.

"Whew," he said, "I almost died."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mother House

This alley takes you to the entrance of the "Mother Teresa House," as Kolkatans call it. It is the main convent for the Missionaries of Charity and not one of their homes for the poor (although plenty show up at their door asking for help).

There are visitors coming through the Mother House all year long. It is closed only one day of the week, but even on that day it is open to the public for the 6am daily mass which means that the nuns and novices who live there are rarely alone. It also means that each day several sisters are appointed to "door-duty" and their task is to sit at the entrance and be available for help, whether the requests come from tourists or those in need.
In all ways, the Mother House is a very busy place and, unlike the romantic vision I had in my mind, it is not tucked away in some neighborhood with lanes too narrow for cars nor at the edge of a slum as I had imagined.

There is not that much to see inside. Some come for the early morning (or special Friday afternoon) Mass, but Mother Teresa's tomb is the main attraction for visitors (a few photos of that here and here). In addition, there is a small (though impressive) exhibition on the life of Blessed Teresa and the history of the MC. Visitors can also take a peek into Mother Teresa's bedroom that holds her bed, a desk and chair and just a few books and a photo or two.
As you can see from the photos, the House is on a main thoroughfare and that means that it is noisy. Much noisier than I would have ever guessed when I saw photos of the chapel before coming here. Sometimes it is impossible to hear the priest (although the regulars know to pause the Mass when a streetcar goes by!). It is right smack in the middle of things, in the center of the city. It makes sense, then, that the Sisters keep a strict schedule and close their doors for several hours in the middle of the day. They guard their time and in general seem to spend plenty of it in quiet or communal prayer.
Until coming here, I had never really thought how Mother Teresa's notoriety during her lifetime had an effect on all the Sisters who came later. Along with all of the other challenges of religious life and service, the sisters enjoy very little privacy at home and have to endure the scrutiny and stares of the visiting public--even as novices!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Hey, Mommy? We haven't had a dancing day in a long time. Can tomorrow be a dancing day?"

lost her touch?

When there's a three year old in the house, it is important to keep valuables tucked away and out of sight. Just in case, you know, they get thrown out of a window or something... But the opposite principle is at work when it comes to fostering creativity. If there are no supplies on hand, no one will be inspired.

...or will they?
A conversation from earlier this week:
L.: "Mommy, I'm getting a little worried. In Denver, I used to be really creative, but here I hardly do any crafts at all!"
Me: "Well, honey, it's harder now. We didn't bring a lot of supplies with us this year so unless you find more ideas of things to do with just pencil and paper and scissors..."

So she did:

What do you say, folks? Creativity intact?
How about showing some love and leaving L. a comment with a note about which one is your favorite!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

countdown to the Party

A. will turn 5 in just under a week. We've started to talk party plans. She has requested a "Princess Bride" themed birthday party and thought maybe everyone should dress up as a character for fun. She chose to be the princess (of course). BR wants to be Wesley...or Inigo...or Prince Humperdink... Daddy wants to be the Giant. I am going to pick any of the characters with wild hair (the Albino, or Miracle Max's wife, maybe?). And that brings us to L. Who does she want to be?

An R.O.U.S., of course.

inching our way through traffic

(subtitle: Why It Takes 45 Minutes to go 3 miles. )

btw, in case you are wondering: no, this was not rushhour. This was filmed late morning on a Saturday.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

hey, look, new friends!

Not all of our loyal fans know this, so it deserves its own post: one of my childhood friends (from Morocco days) lives here in Kolkata!

Stephanie has two small children of her own and just this evening, BR told me that her three year-old son is one of his "bestest friends" (along with Geneva, P-roc, eloiseandmargot and Wyatt, in case you wanted the list).

Stephanie and her husband Paul have been here for almost a year and they have shown us the ropes a bit and introduced us to other folks, too. Some of them also have kids (yay, playmates!).

Paul and Jeremy have hit it off, with a common love of outdoor activities, the Northwest (oops, redundant), and pretending they're old men--I mean, smoking their pipes.

Science City

From our place, we can walk to "Science City." There are all sorts of fun structures and stations and things that teach kids about various laws of physics and motion. Off-center see-saws and weights and tricky optical illusion stuff. That sort of thing. They even have cable cars and an Imax and a few rides and an entire building full of almost-life-sized extinct creatures. The kids LOVE it.

align="center"> (very cool image of Rabindranath Tagore)

We took an afternoon to visit Science City a few weeks ago, and took our housekeeper-childminder along. It was her first visit and boy was it memorable. Without intending to, we introduced her to many new (and terrifying experiences). First up: the monocycle. I asked her ahead of time if she was game, since it is so high off the ground and all, but it had not occurred to me that she would not know how to pedal! Oops.
Here is the video I made while trying to propel both her cycle and my own, in flip flop sandals, while filming (yes, yes, I am just that amazing):

And that was only the beginning. After the cycle, we took her through an unlit and very claustrophobic maze of mirrors, an Imax show about whitewater rafting, an exhibit of roaring dinosaur models (in the dark, again), and a rollercoaster simulator.
She hasn't quit on us yet, but I'll bet she was glad we went away on that Goa trip and gave her a little time off...

Friday, February 11, 2011

guest post by daddy

The kids recently watched one of their parents' favorites - the Princess Bride. This is their version of the conclusion to the Iocaine powder 'battle of wits' between Vizzini and the Dread Pirate Roberts (Wesley), overheard at the lunch table today:

"You fell for one of the plastic blenders!
The first is a fat pig born in Asia!
Ha! Ha! Ha!
Ha! Ha! Ha!
Ha! Ha! Ha!"

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

leaving our stuffed animal friends unprotected might have been a very big mistake.

Some of them appear to be on the verge of meeting a very bitter end...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

she lost the other front tooth!

North Kolkata

It is unlikely that I will have gotten over my [fairly severe] case of culture shock by the time we leave the country. From other Westerners who have been here much longer, I hear that it takes us a full year to get past the initial phase of shock. It lasts a lo-o-ong time.
I have had to accept the fact that India will no doubt continue to feel very foreign to me until the day we fly back to the US.

Today, while the kids and Jeremy stayed home and out of the heat, I joined in a walking tour of North Kolkata, where the lanes are too narrow for cars and there is little that is new there. That means it is quieter there, less congested and the air is cooler because the buildings are so close together and don't absorb so much of the sun's heat. Best of all, the air is noticeably cleaner without all of the exhaust fumes from passing cars to clog it up.

(an original water pump from the Victorian era)

The architecture there is old, too. We visited the house of the Maharaja at the time of the founding of the East India Company. It is still standing and, even more surprisingly, it is still occupied by his descendants. Other buildings from that era are still around, and although not all are in very good condition, I was loving seeing this part of the city. (And maybe I went a little camera crazy).

It just so happened that today was Saraswati Puja and many folks had the day off. It is traditional to dress to the nines and there are shrines to the goddess all over the city. In general, I avoid taking photos of people without their consent, so you'll just have to believe me that it was more colorful out there today, and that the ladies, especially, were more lovely than ever in their finest saris.

There was a moment today after I came around a corner. I don't know what it was, but standing there in the middle of that little street I found myself thinking, for the first time, "This is India. I am finally here." Obviously, something there seemed to fit with some idea I must have about India, although I can't say what it was.

The moment didn't last and tomorrow or the next day I will go back to my regular feeling of being out of place in this strange place. But it was nice anyway to have a good day in Kolkata.