Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Worked Like a Charm

This is Alum, a FF social worker. We had a going away party for her last weekend and Ani will be the flower girl in her wedding in Delhi in February, before Alum joins the Pune office staff.

Anandhi, Office Administrator, and Rose Mary, Social Worker, giving Jovie just what she wanted.

Hi there. Sorry it’s been a bit silent here on the eastern front. Jayson was gone up to Pune last week and he is the brains behind the blog operation... I could learn, but sometimes I live by the motto: “If someone else can and wants do it, why should I?” Pathetic I know. But it works well. Example: My mom’s spring cleaning. My friends taking pictures of my kids at group events, because, well I forget the camera at home, there are no batteries or I simply do not have the patience for getting a good shot. My grandmother sewing super-duper-hold-for-a-lifetime patches on jeans. Alright, enough insight into my lazy bones.

We had a good week without the husband and daddy around. So much better than the first time he left. I was a mess last spring. New to India and Husband/Daddy gone is not a good mix for this scaredy cat. This time, I was fearless mommy. At least during the days. The night I work myself up in a bit of tizzy. So the way I medicated the problem was dragging our bed into the living room and falling asleep to the BBC version of Jane Austen’s Emma. Great movie, when you are wide awake. Calming, lullaby when you are at all sleepy. It worked like a charm.

Here’s Jayson on his week in review... Since my wife is Miss Chatty Kathy tonight, I’ll keep this short. I had a great week in Pune - a mix of vision casting, brainstorming, team building, and having fun as a staff. We had interruptions with trouble at a government home and a bummer trial, which are always a potential in Pune, so I also got to see the team in action. The Pune team is sold out in their desire to get girls out of prostitution and to a safe place with a future. I’m proud to be working alongside them.

The Pune office

Shyam, Senior Investigator, a.k.a. Head Chef, making us chicken biryani... on HIS birthday.

Garlic anyone?

Amazing meal. Well done Shyam.

Alrighty, Thanksgiving is in two days... Is Thanksgiving celebrated in India you ask? Well, not so much for India nationals. But for Americans living in India - a resounding yes is heard from the rooftops. In the States, I barely knew where our family was going the weekend before Thanksgiving. Surprisingly though, we got two invitations back in August. I think that planning ahead is our way sometimes of fighting homesickness here... So we are going to one celebration on Friday night and one on Saturday. The kids do not have school off. Why don’t they cancel school for the 12 Americans at school? C’mon guys, have a little compassion. I am bringing chickens (turkeys here cost 5 US dollars a pound... woah nellie!), potatoes, stuffing, veggies, pies and my grandmother’s buns. That last part sounded funny, not her buns... her rolls. Well, that doesn’t sound good either. I am bringing buns. Better? Kind of.

Good grief, moving on. So, the best thing happened yesterday. Well, let me back up a bit. So, I love Christmas cards. I beg for people to send me theirs. (Hint, hint.) Anyway, we had one particular gentleman from Rockford, IL, where Jayson grew up, that would always be our first Christmas card sender. Usually a day or two before Thanksgiving... Well, guess what showed up yesterday - HIS CARD! Do you love that or what? I nearly cried... Oh wait, I did. Other fun things, fun people rather. Jayson’s folks are coming in tomorrow. We are so grateful that they are able to come and see our world here and spend time with us. And they are right in time to help us move... every parents’ dream. :) So, next blog you can see pictures of them and our move to the new house.

Our first Christmas card. Who's gonna be our second... come on folks.

That’s it for now folks. I would love to hear what you are all doing for Thanksgiving. Please leave a post on the blog. It would really be so great. Also, because I know you are dying to send us a Christmas Card, here is our new address.... Well, I don’t think it would be wise to post it... "Would it Jayson?” - Jayson, “Umm, it already is.” - Tarrah, “Really, do we want everyone in the world to know where we live?” - Jayson, “Umm, I guess not.” So, the next best thing would be for us to send our address to you if you either email us or post on our blog that you want it and we will send it lickety split.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

There are a few of you who have asked how to leave a post on the blog. Here’s how. Click the link just below that says “# comments”. Type your comments in “Leave your comment”, then pick one option under “Choose an identity” (If you don’t have one, just choose “Anonymous”, and click “Publish Your Comment.” Done.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hindsight is 20/20

People have told me before that I am a great question asker. Yesterday I asked a great question of Sydney, “Why did you cut your hair Sydney?” Answer: “Mommy, my bangs are always in my face and I can’t see the pretty flowers.” It’s hard to argue with that. We then talked about the next time she gets the urge to cut her hair, to please consult mommy first. All my children have practiced haircutting on themselves - following in their grandma’s shoes, I suspect - it no longer moves me to horror, just to laughter.

What do you mean she can't see? (Note the location of the scissors...)

She's had it! Taking matters into her own hands. (Literally, her own hands.)

She can see all the pretty flowers now. (And she will be able to see them for the next 4 years, since it will take quite a while to grow those bad boys out...)

There is a real possibility that the rest of the blog is going to about weather. Some might find this boring, but I beg you, give it a chance. On Saturday night, we were heading to a school event called “From Hollywood to Bollywood.” Sweet. It started raining hard, and it did not let up until Tuesday morning. And this rain was like none that I have ever seen. If I were to speculate... if it had been snow and if it had accumulated, it probably would have been 52 feet high. And it wasn’t just rain, it was wind.

Ani and Ashley went to "Hollywood to Bollywood" as the twins from Parent Trap
Sydney went as a potpourri of costume ideas

Jovie went as Vincent Van Gogh

Cowboy James

We got up Sunday morning, and of course it was still raining, but we really did not think anything of it at that point. We just went ahead with our day. We had a pretty quiet day ahead of us, so we thought we would jump in the car/van/can and head over to Coonoor, the next town over, about 45 minutes down the mountain. Let’s step back in time for a bit. When we lived in MN, during snowstorms we would see people driving around at mach speeds and think, they are either super-stupid or not from around here. Present day, I am sure that Ootians or Coonoorites thought both of those things about us when we were driving. Seriously (mom and dad, close your eyes for this part, it does not highlight our sound judgement) it kind of dawned on us when we were driving to Coonoor that this rain was not a normal rain. Every few minutes there was a tree laying down in the road or a landslide or a waterfall where there was not waterfall before. All these things causing us to drive around whatever was blocking our way.

The “live and learn” or “hindsight is 20/20” really does apply in our situation, because after the storm passed and damages were and are being assessed, this is what is being reported... The roads leading out of Ooty are still blocked by landslides. Petrol is being rationed. Homes slid right down the hills. Some homes, businesses and schools still have standing water. Most homes are still very damp. Power is still out in a few areas. They named this storm Cyclone Phyan. I am not a meteorologist, so I don’t know if what hit us was technically Cyclone Phyan. Maybe it was “Tropical Storm Phyan.” But regardless, the Arabian Sea is watching the tail end of this storm as I write this.

Cyclone Phyan

Almost every road in and around Ooty looks like these photos, if not much, much more

Weather devastates all parts of the world. But the difference that I am observing here is that devastation just looks different in a third world country. There is no home insurance on the 10 x 10 tin houses that many, many people live in here. Just because there is no insurance, doesn’t mean that it’s less of a home. Jayson went to go help put roof back together on Tuesday and it simply meant putting a tarp over it until another house is found for them.

Thank you for walking this journey with us. We feel completely humbled living here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Surely It Has Been Outlawed

A girl on the streets in Mumbai

I love the fall.  I would say it is my favorite season, but when spring and summer comes, they also make me want to wet myself with excitement.  Oops, did that I just write that?  I am pretty sure that I did, what do you do... just keep on writing I guess.  I still operate under my Minnesota seasons here.  I am not sure if that will always be the case, but I just can’t help myself.  We are still in the same hemisphere here as the States, so technically it would be fall, but it sure doesn’t look like what I am used to. 

Fall means to me… crisp apples, shuffling my feet through leaves, watching the leaves turn, pumpkins, candy corn, apple orchards and pumpkin patches, wearing long-sleeve shirts and a fleece vest, to name a few.  Here its umm, a bit misty, very green, the flowers are in full bloom for some reason and there are these funny fruits in the market right now that taste like a cross between an apple and a mango.  So this weekend we re-created fall (Minnesota style) at our house.  We had a few families over and carved pumpkins, bobbed for apples (more on that later), tossed bean bags, made wassail, ate pumpkin pie and apple cake, had candy corn on frosted cookies and did a scavenger hunt.  So fun.  Now let’s talk about apple bobbing.  There is a reason why I have not seen apple bobbing for at least a decade - because it’s absolutely GROSS!  Surely it has been outlawed in any sort of public event for years.  As I was watching each of the kids bob up and down in cold water, with snot dripping down their faces, chomping into apples, it nearly made my chuck.  And you know me, I am not a huge germ-a-phobe.  I think if I was a bit more conscious of germs, I would have thought a bit about the process and ruled it out as a game before I nearly chucked.  The kids loved it, which I think made it worth all the grossness, I think...

Bobbing for apples

Tarrah wiping the snot off Andrew while bobbing

All the kiddos smearing loads of frosting and candy on sugar cookies

Every family had one pumpkin to carve

The Palm family pumpkin

Today I was at the Parenting Class that I teach with the women with children in FF’s aftercare program.  They told me a sweet and simple story of the best part of their week and I want to share it with you.  Last week at the class we talked about bathing.  Before I launch into any subject with them, I try to get a feel on what their current situation is.  A bit of background first.  For a few different reasons, the women with children do not stay at FF’s aftercare house.  So we, as FF staff, have little control over what goes on at their hostel.  So, their current bathing, as of last week, was one - maybe two - cold baths per week with no soap...  Ugh.  So, I try - working with what they have - to make the most of their situation.  But, and here’s the fun part, after the class last week, they were assigned new responsibilities in the hostel and their new chore is to heat the water in the morning for the whole hostel, so now they have (as well as their kids) taken a warm bath every day with soap (one of the FF social workers got some soap for them after we found out they had none) and they were so grateful and excited.  I thank God for that bit of comfort for them.

So hey, we are going to throw some pictures up this week that a friend of FF’s took up in Mumbai in the red-light district and of some brothels.  We hope they give you a better picture of where FF does their work as well as where our aftercare girls come from.

A brothel in Mumbai

Girls outside a brothel in Mumbai