Welcome to India

This blog is intended to make a country that most Westerners find to be otherworldly not so much so. We enjoy sharing our experiences, noting our observations, highlighting our impressions and otherwise recounting our adventures in India while helping our blogwatchers to be vicariously closer to this grand country. Welcome to India.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Front Porches and Truly Global Technology

Front Porches and Truly Global Technology

Two completely disconnected tidbits of fun for you this week:

This weekend was all about front porches. We saw photos from loved ones regarding the beauty of nature as seen through attached pictures:

1. Hume Lake in Central California, a most beloved spot for us when living in the States, was inundated with an unexpected late spring snowstorm. Our friend Marci Gentzkow posted this pic on Facebook:

2. Sean’s Mom, Dianne, took in the beauty of a more seasonal springtime view on her front porch in Southern California:

3. Meanwhile, our front porch here in India did not have snow, nor flowers, but I guess you could call it “nature” if you wanted to:

Yep, while Marci could go sledding on her front porch and Mom could smell the May flowers, our Sunday was spent wrestling with a wasp colony. "All part of the adventure" – we keep telling ourselves. By the way, we beat the wasps in our little game of “first ones to die lose.”

Another fun tidbit we just can’t help but share is the story of Sean’s new iPod Touch, a belated birthday gift from Dad and brother in light of our quickly dying 2009 iPhone 3G. Long story short – Todd sent it to us here in India, but it was intercepted at customs and sent back due to import laws, then Todd sent it to a friend, Zach Tobin, who was on a long journey that would eventually land him with us here in Ongole to be hand-delivered. Mission was finally accomplished this week.

So the following is the “Great iPod Touch Journey of 2011 – Happy Birthday, Sean – Love, Dad and Todd” itinerary:

  • New York, New York
  • Paris, France (Fed Ex)
  • New Delhi, India
  • Hyderabad, India (sent back via Fed Ex)
  • Guang Zhou, China
  • Osaka, Japan
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • New York, New York (start over)
  • East Lansing, Michigan (Zach)
  • Detroit, Michigan
  • Washington, D.C. (Hi, Robo!)
  • Dakar, Senegal
  • Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Port Elizabeth, South Africa
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Doha, Qatar
  • Mumbai, India
  • Hyderabad, India
  • Ongole!

Around the world 1 ½ times already, and now we get to take it on some geographical adventures of our own!

Truly global technology.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Randomness of India

When living and working in another country, much less one as culturally eye-opening as India, one often comes across random sightings, bewildering experiences and just plain dumbfounding occurrences or truly foreign situations. When these happen, we make a note-to-self, specifically in anticipation of a blog entry like this.

Random Indian-ness, in no specific order:

You want organic? We have organic! When you want some chicken in rural India, you just go down to the local, road-side chicken shop, point out the desired live chicken walking around the coop, make sure the weight is accurate, then watch the process of throat-slitting, body-twitching, blood-losing, skin-stripping (literally like taking off a wet-suit head-to-toe), de-gutting, washing, bagging and carrying home (yes, often with a few remaining twitches inside the bag!). It’s a five-minute process. We also have a video of this, but we don’t think you can handle it.

Even in rural India, people know some English and want to practice it. Children in particular want to practice their English on the local white people. Somehow, in situations which would be normal to ask “How are you?”, Indians have been taught to ask “What is your name?” So, even with neighborhood children that we see often and are familiar with us, we are asked “What is your name?” over and over again. We have attempted to correct this, but it’s taking awhile…

If you have not yet seen the movie “Outsourced,” and you have any interest in our day-to-day experiences in India, please see it! Last we checked it’s free on Netflix and, while not all situations are accurate to all of India or our Indian interactions, many are very true-to-life. It’s low-budget, lots of fun and endearing to India. And we’d love to hear what you think!

An Indian colleague, who took a trip to the U.S. a few years back, commented on how smooth the roads were there, how fast one can drive there, and therefore how dangerous it is (because you can go so fast). He was glad the roads in India keep you driving at a lower speed, and are generally safer because of it… Interesting perspective.

I played cricket for one of the first times the other day with the neighborhood kids. Their astute critique afterward was “You swing like a baseball bat, not a cricket bat.” Can’t imagine why… To their credit, they knew what a baseball swing looked like.

Practice makes perfect! We're now experts at eating curry and rice, among other Indian dishes, with our fingers! And there's something about it that just makes it all the more tasty without the inconvenience of the knife and fork. Can't wait to come home and show all our friends!!

More of these blogs to come.

Pictures above:

1. I'm too sexy for your Bollywood...

2. One of our children’s homes is pink. REALLY pink!

3. How many children can you fit in an auto-rickshaw? Actually a few more than this!

4. Corn Flakes in India come in all flavors colors - Sean will take whatever cereal he can get!

5. Not sure on the exact flower type, but these (River Jasmine? Some type of lily?) flowers are found throughout this part of the world and, along with banana leafs, mean you’re in the tropics…

6. Some Indian interior lighting options for your home or office?

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Uncle and Auntie are coming!"


I wake up and today’s a special day!

During the month of May, we’ve gotten so bored, my nine brothers and I, because we’re off of school and there’s not much to do in the village during our summertime. I love playing with my brothers, well, most of them, anyways. We try to stay cool and play and learn English, but we wish there was more to do.

But today is when Uncle and Auntie come to our village to lead Vacation Bible School, which is when we get to play water games!

When Uncle and Auntie come, they always bring fun stuff and lots of new people and the whole village comes around to see what’s happening. All the other village kids get jealous.

Mom says they will be here at 11am.

(11am, or actually, probably closer to 11:30am)

One of my brothers just screamed that he heard the van coming down the dirt street! They’re here! All of us line-up on our mats on the ground inside our house on the first floor of the church building so we can welcome them.

First we see Chinna who is like us Indians and helps with everything around the children’s homes, then we see Sandhya who translates because Uncle and Auntie speak English and don’t know our language. Then Auntie comes in and she is always smiling and laughing and gives us hugs. At first, we didn’t like to be hugged by her, but now it’s okay. She’s really pretty! Then comes Uncle and he always likes to give us high-fives and he also makes a fist and smacks our fist really hard.

The first thing we do is learn a new English song called “River of Life.” English is hard to learn, but we get lots of practice at school and I know most of the words and can even count to 100. The song is a fun and new English song with actions that make us stand up and sit down a lot. I have a hard time saying the word “abundantly.”

Next we learn a story from the Bible where Jesus walked on the water and Peter tried, but couldn’t do it. I would love to walk on the water. The rest of the village would REALLY think I was cool!

Now it’s time for the games! We run outside and we play
catch with balloons that are filled with water! It’s scary because eventually the balloon pops and it might pop water all over you. I have to make sure to get a partner who won’t throw it at me. My brother and I end up doing pretty well, with five tosses, but then it slipped through my hands and exploded on the ground. Then Uncle throws the last remaining balloons up in the air, one-by-one, so we can try to catch them as a group, but it always explodes all over us. This is my favorite part of the day.

Then we play another water game outside where we squeeze the sponges from one tub of water into another one. We run back and forth and try to beat the other team. It’s hot outside, but the water is so much fun.

Then we go inside and get water and clean our hands and have a special lunch with chicken that Mom has prepared for our special guests. We love it when Uncle and Auntie come to the village, though Uncle sweats so much. He looks kinda funny at the end of the day.

We’re really tired now, but it was a fun day of Vacation Bible School. I can’t wait to do it next year!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Summer Beach Days

Growing up in Southern California, summer beach days were a given! My family would pack up our big blue van with coolers of food, boogie boards, sunscreen, beach chairs, umbrellas, towels, and friends and head to the beach!

When we moved to Ongole, India, Sean and I didn't think we would be spending the summer days of 100 degrees at the beach. Within a week of being here (that is 3 months ago now...wow), people kept telling us about the beach in Ongole. Having just moved from Santa Barbara our expectations of what this beach would look like were low! Thinking about what we could do with our children for summer activities, the beach came to mind.

So, having never checked out the beach of Ongole before, we packed up our white 18 passenger van with metal tins of rice and curry, water bottles, beach balls, buckets and shovels, and 10 - 12 children with 5 adults and headed to the beach.

As you look at these pictures keep in mind that most of these children have NEVER seen the beach before! We are so lucky to introduce them to the beauty of the beach!

We have been three times now and seen goats and buffalo running on the beach! We have 6 more trips in the next 3 weeks! Who knows what else we will see! Stay tuned!

As for beach attire? Modesty is the best policy - no swimsuits allowed here - sari tan here I come!