Thursday, October 29, 2009

Another Day, Another Rat

Another day, another rat...

We think a newspaper on the doorstep is overrated.

Let’s experiment. I am going to write a stream of consciousness right now for a whole paragraph, not screening anything. Let’s see what comes out... Ready, Steady, Go - Oh man, nothing’s coming, geez. This was a lame experiment, today I almost hit a goat, I hear if you hit an animal with your car around here you get shot. That would be a bummer. My cuticles need to be pushed up, I shouldn’t have had french fries at dinner. Nothing’s coming, what’s next... Why is that the only thing I can think of right now is Hot Tamales. I love Hot Tamales. They make my heart soar. BBC movies also make my heart soar right now. I am watching one called Cranford. It’s great. It’s about these little ole’ ladies in the mid 1800’s... Okay enough. That wasn’t as fun was I thought it would be. Oh well, you never know what it’ll to be like if you don’t try - that’s what I told James last night as he stared at his chicken for nearly 20 minutes at dinner.

So, Ani and I went Explooting last weekend. It’s been a while. I took her to the tea factory in town. Tea is a huge commodity here. I am sure many a tea that you drink comes from south India. Tea fields grace the hills around here and I never tire of looking at them. So, we have a tea factory in town and I have seen the smoke come out of its stack since we have been here, but I haven’t visited it. I was quite impressed by the operation of it all. I took a few shots and will lead you through the process, consider it your own personal virtual tour... Enjoy.

Fresh tea leaves.

The lady is stuffing the leaves down a big "laundry chute" of sorts.

Down it goes, onto a conveyor belt.

Up and down, up and down it goes, through a... whatever that is.

Onto a really big cookie sheet.

Lots of really big cookie sheets.

Down another conveyor belt, through the, whatever those are.

And there you have it. Tea.

Lots of tea.

Foreground, Ani. Background, rows of tea fields.

Let’s chat about Freedom Firm. It’s been a while. Bittersweet. That’s the word that comes to my mind. First, the sweet. Yesterday we rescued six majors (all over 18) from a brothel in Pune. Great news, right? I mean, they wanted to be rescued, and we were able to get them out - that is truly great news. Now the bitter. After the raid, the operative in charge saw a bunch of minor girls, all huddled together, just outside the red-light area. The police appear to be working with the brothel keepers, making raids involving minor girls difficult lately. So to find those minors outside the red-light area at the same time of a raid tells us that, likely, the police tipped-off the brothel keepers, who then emptied their brothels of minor girls.

Thanks Jayson-Bo-Bason. Ani came home yesterday telling of the great news that she has a boyfriend. He will remain anonymous per Ani’s request. I asked her why he was her boyfriend and she said, “Well so and so told the class that boyfriends give girlfriends flowers and then (the said boyfriend) told me to meet him at the playground after school so he could give me some flowers. So that’s when I knew he was my boyfriend, he wants to give me flowers Mom... I think I am in love with him...” That story comes from the girl who told me a few months ago that she didn’t want to be married because she didn’t want to have to compromise with someone for the rest of her life. We’ll see if that later theory holds out...

So, hey, we are moving. Across town near the lake. Long story short, we will not be able to stay in this house for much longer, and another already-furnished house opened up and we snatched it. There are not many rental houses in Ooty that would feel like home to me and this does, so I feel entirely grateful. We move in December 1. Funny fact about this house is that it is the same house that we went and had tea at a few months back (remember the short Indian man, Shankar?) and the present renters were away on holiday and I feared they would come home while we relaxing in their dining room... Yeah, that’s the one. Funny. More later on the new house and some of the idiosyncrasies that come with the house.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Bit Bumpy Getting to Monday

During the course of my week, I usually have a filter on if what I am either doing or thinking about would be good to throw in the blog. Last week, when Sarah and Ellie were here, that filter was a bit blocked - out of pure determination and distraction to be fully present and enjoy every moment that they were here. So, we’ll see what happens here tonight... It may just be the best blog ever.

It started with two.

Then three.

And of course quickly grew to four.

But wasn't complete until it reached five.

It has been since June, when my dad was here, that we have had visitors from the States. And oh my, was I excited to see Sarah and Ellie step out of the their car. It was a bit bumpy getting to Monday, the day that they arrived. On Saturday evening, we discovered lice in Sydney’s hair and James had a rash all over this body. I guess some people may see lice and a rash as a pretty sweet way to welcome people that have been traveling for two days to see you... but I would rather offer a glass of iced tea and a shower. And then at midnight on Monday morning, 2 hours before Sarah and Ellie were to arrive in the Bangalore Airport, we got a phone call from the driver that was scheduled to pick them up saying he got into an accident, and he would not be able to pick them up. Sweet. I love finding a taxi, in Bangalore, India, at 12:30 a.m., to bring them 7 hours to our house. I was picturing Sarah and Ellie, roaming around the Bangalore Airport in the middle of the night, without a cell phone, with who-knows-what lurking in the shadows, wondering why I had failed them in the ONE detail that I needed to line up for them. Alas, the world wide web saved our tail and offered two phone numbers to call to find a taxi. And they arrived promptly at our house just before noon. Yeah.

Having Sarah and Ellie visit... the week couldn't have been better.

We had a great week. You can only imagine how much fun my kids, especially Ani, had at being an “expert” on India. They dived right into playing together and Sarah and I dived right in to an endless chatter that did not stop until the moment they left. Of course, there was time for seeing the places we visit on any given weekday, meals at our favorite restaurants, swimming, movies at night, naps, reading and yes, even Wax World (per Ani’s request).

Ani and Ellie jumped in to "life together" as if no time at all had passed

I had been feeling a bit droopy a few weeks prior to their coming. I’m not sure why. Probably a combination of missing my folks, tired of living in a third world country, being homesick for the good ol’ U. S. of A. and accidentally burning off all my eyebrows. Kidding. Just wondering if you had zoned out on me there. Anyway, their being here brought so many wonderful things - here they are in no particular order. First, a big shout out to my folks for cramming many a necessity - with treats to boot - in 1 1/2 suitcases for Sarah to bring. Second, Sarah knows me really well, sometimes better than I know myself. And being in her presence is like coming home. Third, stories and updates of our mutual friends and church, whom I sorely miss. Fourth, she offered encouragement and strength to help me make it nine more months until we are able to visit home. I must say this in closing, if any of you have any family or friends that are far away from home, or even just a short distance, please visit them. You have no idea how much of both a need and a want it does meet.

Alrighty, lets talk about Diwali. It’s the celebration of lights for Hindu’s. It’s a huge celebration for them. And it was last weekend, but it has really carried on all week. And did they celebrate! In years past they celebrated with candles. But now with the invention of fireworks - here called “Crackers” - they use them as there main celebration tool. Ooty is at 7,000 meters. But it is also nestled in a little valley between the hills. Have you have been in a valley while there were fireworks? WooEee! I couldn’t quite figure out if I was in a U.S. Civil War Re-Enactment or caught between two pirate ships blowing cannon balls at each other... And it wasn’t like the fireworks lasted from, hmm, 8:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. I literally woke up to them and fell asleep to them. We were watching a movie one night and we had to turn up the volume.... Awesome. Ohh, another just went off.

Ooty fireworks during Diwali

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pirate's First Rat

Clearing debris from the driveway after a major rainfall is messy business.

Good evening to you. I totally acknowledge that this blog will reach everybody at varying parts of their day, but the greeting of “good morning” or “good afternoon”, is really comforting. Like I am out on a twilight walk, on a tree covered boulevard and I meet my neighbor Henry, who is 88 years old and takes his Scottie dog for walk in the evenings, and he tips his hat to me, and says Good Evening and I say Good Evening back. Its cozy, comforting, friendly and makes me feel like I am not a Ka-Gillion miles away. Thank you for enduring that possibly painful journey in my head.

Side note: Bolouvard, bolourvard, bolovard - these are the first attempts at spelling boulevard... don’t make fun of me, I seriously cannot remember the last time I spelled boulevard - do you?

I do have the most exciting news to share with you. My dear friend Sarah and her daughter, Ellie (who is Ani’s dear friend), are on their very long plane ride right now to come and visit us. I am absolutely over the moon. When I told Ani that they were coming she started laughing and crying at the same time. I am not quite sure how to put it, but I will try my best. I am feeling like I need some grounding. I need someone from home to give me some perspective on my life here. Someone to tell me, “No, Tarrah you are not crazy to think that, or to say, I can totally see how that would be gross to you.” I am not sure what she is to say, but this friend of mine is a girl who was a “daily” friend of mine in Minnesota. We did life together. And so, it feels awkward for me to have her not know what my life is like here - so now, she will...

Ani and Ellie about 6 years ago.

I felt like a proud, but very grossed-out parent on Wednesday morning. I went in the laundry room to throw in a load of wash and, to my surprise, Pirate had dragged in his first rat. He had dragged in a mouse before, but this was his first rat. The big daddy. He demonstrated the reason why I’m okay itching my eyes now and again and blowing incredible amounts of snot out my... oh, that’s probably enough information. We threw a party, had balloons and cake, invited the neighbors. You could not find prouder cat parents in the greater Ooty area.

A job well done Pirate

I had my first parenting class this week with Sita* and Sajni* (the two rescued girls who are moms in our Ooty aftercare program). I was really encouraged. I started out by asking what their three favorite parts of being a mom were and what the hardest parts were. I was struck that some of the favorites were similar to what any of my friends in the States would say - just stated more simply. And the hardest parts were things that my friends and I will never encounter. It was really good to hear them talk about it - and with such emotion. Our primary topic this week was nutrition. I was amazed at how I take things as simple as the food pyramid for granted. I need to figure out how to boil things down to the most basic concepts and then try to communicate them. I mean Sita has such little education that when I asked her to write the word “fruit” in her first language, she didn't know how. The social worker was telling her how to spell it and she didn't even know how to write some of the letters. I am struck by how little framework they have in the physical aspect of learning. God created us with wonder and a desire to learn, but at the same time learning is also taught at such an early age at home and at school that I didn't realize how much the "learning" muscle needs to be worked, stretched and grown to be able to even be taught as an adult... does any of that makes sense? I am very much in process about this and there are many people out there who have more experience about this. But this is my observation as I have worked with these girls over the past few months.

Well friends, I do hope this email greets you all well. I need to give a shout out for the first snowfall in MN last night. Whew!

* Not their real names

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Total Willy-Wonkers

James doing some sweet bed jumping - "Please don't jump on Jovie, James..."

Yo - Yo. It’s good to be sitting here with you tonight. Jayson has three of the kids at a drama at school right now and Pirate and Obi are having a staring contest. They are really bothering me - the animals, that is. Obi is whining, Pirate is looking very stubborn. I thought animals were supposed to reduce stress, but in our home, they don’t. Let’s blame the people, not the animals. Alright, done with that subject. On to de-worming.

De-worming, it’s what everybody wants to talk about. Now, most of you with animals (here we are again, talking about animals...), have probably given your animals de-worming medication. But this past week, our family played a game of “who-can-drink-their-de-worming-medication-the-fastest”. Sweet family game, let me tell you. Sydney won, she has a special affinity towards medicine in any form. We have been told that it is best to de-worm every six months here. Totally gross I know. The thought of the potential gives me the total willy-wonkers. I can’t talk about it anymore, my stomach is ready to chuck up the roasted chicken from tonight’s dinner.

De-worm medicine, mmmm... bottoms up!

Oh, Pirate just jumped onto my lap. This is not fun, he actually smells a bit skunky or like one of Jovie’s cloth diapers after a use. He’s staring at the computer screen, I think he knows that I am talking bad about him.

I will talk briefly about another attempt at growing basil. This is my third time - something is up. It may be weeds, it may be the first leaves of a truly sensational pesto or basil and tomato salad. That’s all - I told you I would be brief.

Not so much basil, so much weeds. Any green thumbs out there wanna weigh in on this?

Pirate is still staring at the screen.

Well, it’s Gandhi Day tomorrow. A national holiday, even school’s off. Last year, I did not celebrate Gandhi day, school was not off for it in the States. I think Columbus Day is coming soon, and I am pretty sure the Post Office is closed for that. Anyway, I am interested to see how the town celebrates. We will keep you posted.

Pirate is now sleeping on one of my legs, as I sit crossed legged. Even if I moved just a half an inch he would totally fall off. It’s almost too much temptation for me to handle.

My children’s spelling is doomed. Not really, but they are going to be corrected by teachers in the States someday. First off, instead of saying “h” when reciting the ABC’s they say “heytch” and “Z” is “zed”. Funny. Who knew this about the Brits? Also some of the random spelling words that Ani and James come home with are Colour, Mum, Aeroplane and Yoghurt. And all the kids use words like brilliant, instead of awesome; smart, not like intelligence but like nice-looking; and pardon me, instead of excuse me. Ani also says maths instead of just math. “Maths was just brilliant today, Mum.” What was that Ani?

Note the spelling.

Thank you to everybody that has been sending me some new recipes to play with. I appreciate the thoughtfulness. I have been using Chickpeas a lot in the last two weeks. In some form I used them every day last week. And by the end of the week, my kids looked at their plates with complete befuddlement. I promptly made pizza the next night. Hey, can someone give me props for my use of the word befuddlement...

It's official I have barely said anything deep or meaningful for this blog entry - love me and my ability to ramble on... Cheers friends.