Thursday, January 28, 2010

It May Never Happen Again

Thanks Great Grandma for sending over my new dress with Grandma!

Get ready, hold on tight, gird your loins, for you are about to see the largest pot that has ever come into my kitchen.

Tarrah left, Rose Mary right, big pot front and center

Yeah right!, you say. Honestly, in my kitchen tonight. It may never happen again. The occasion for this large pot (which held Chicken Biryani) was a farewell party for one of Freedom Firm’s Social Workers, Rose Mary. Rose has been with FF for two years and has been a consistent, loving voice of truth for the girls in the Aftercare program. Rose is getting married to a gentleman that lived in her same town growing up, but now lives in the country of Oman. I have never known anybody to live there. I mean, I know people live there, but I have never known someone personally. Hurray for me, hurray for her, she is getting married to someone who lives in Oman.

Rose Mary's farewell party

James left, chocolate cake center, Gajar Ka Halwa right

A little insight into her marriage. Her upcoming marriage was arranged. I have read about arranged marriages before, sat by someone on a plane once that was going to go meet her husband for the first time, but again, never knew anyone personally that’s had an arranged marriage. And now I do. Big night for me. First it was the gigantic pot, then knowing someone from Oman, and then to top it off a good friend who has had an arranged marriage. It’s like I have won the lottery or something.

When I first moved here, I was walking home one day with someone I had just met at Jazzercise, Vidya. Vidya is from here and she asked me if I had a “love” marriage or an “arranged” marriage. What a funny question to ask. But come to find out, that most of the marriages here are arranged, from all sorts of religious backgrounds. The way that the parents decide do differ. Some use a matchmaker of sort, some use family connections, others use astrologers, etc... So, Rose, for example - her parents knew this other guy’s family, the families talked, they said if Rose and Robin meet and like each other, shwabam (sound effect), they’re engaged. So, Rose went down, about six months ago, to her home, Robin flew over, they met, talked - shwabam - engaged. Another friend (different story), who is actually a mom playing matchmaker, has her son’s astrology signs and matches it against the girl’s to see if they would be a match. She has gone through hundreds, and is becoming quite stressed about it. She asks me to pray for her, and I do.

I could go on and on about the subject, I find it fascinating. But I think I’ll turn the corner now. So, my mom is here. Hip, hip, hurray! Do you know what she brought in her suitcase, that got flagged by customs? Marijuana... Just kidding. A Honey Baked Ham... Not kidding. Yeah right!, you say (yet again), a Honey Baked Ham? I’ve known it for nearly 33 years - my mom (and dad) rocks! So, I am saving the Ham for Easter. My mom is up to her elbows in grandkids and cleaning/organizing my house - it’s her favorite place to be. And I am oh so grateful that she is here.

No Honey Baked Ham for James. Instead, the best present ever for a boy...a Nerf gun

Thanks, Dad, for holding down the fort while Mom's in India

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Feeling Very, Very Spoiled

Lovin' on Auntie Mel

To celebrate our one-year anniversary in India, we made something we haven't tasted in a year...donuts.

Jovie versus the lemon. Before.

Jovie versus the lemon. After.

Big brother, little sister

We had arrived 1/2 an hour early, which is pretty remarkable for us Palms. Standing in the Coimbatore train station at 10:50 p.m., waiting for our 11 p.m. train to go to the beach, we thought to ourselves that we have done this twice before, we are so on top of this travel by train in India business. And this man came up to us to chat about where we were going, yada yada yada, and mentioned to us that we were on the wrong end of the platform and oh, by the way, the train only stops for five minutes. Just as we heard that, our train started coming. And we started going about as fast as the Palm Six plus one (Auntie Mel) could go. Just as we started, a Korean tour group came in, and Sydney thought she saw her preschool teacher (not her, just similar looking) and she wanted us to stop and we couldn’t because we had to catch the train. And she started to scream bloody murder. I scooped her up, with Jovie on my back in a carrier and we started to run. Both were screaming the whole time. And this wasn’t a 50 foot run, this was (literally) a 200 yard sprint, at 11 p.m., 85 degrees out, a four and six year old with backpacks on, two adult backpacks, two pieces of luggage and a portable crib kind of run. And the train started up and people were yelling at us, “just get on, just get on” in Indian-broken-English… So, we did, we just got on. My lungs were 10 seconds away from explosion and all of us were drenched in sweat. We then had to find our compartment, which took us a few cars to find, trying to be as quiet as church mice, since most people were sleeping, you can only imagine how our brood did with that… Anyway, we found our compartment and promptly gave ourselves a wet wipe shower. Always refreshing.

The Palm Six plus one travels
That was the start to our trip to the beach. Even though train travel in India is the least relaxing way to travel, it is the cheapest. An overnight, round-trip train to the beach was $60 for all seven of us. Cheap wins. The four days at the beach were great - warm, sand, ocean, yummy seafood, pool, boogie boarding, absolutely perfect “people watching”, sand castles, and great memories. The most interesting part to me was seeing so many people that had the same color skin as me. It is peak season and there a lot of travelers from the West. I kept on being so surprised that our family did not stick out like a sore thumb. We kind of just fit in.

Sweet taxi to the beach. Almost there.

And we made it.

Grateful for an overcast day, since we're about two miles from the equator (or maybe just a bit more) and already have plenty of sun by day three.

Jammies on the beach is seriously underrated

Our first go at boogie boarding

Bringin' in the fish

Our trip back was not as eventful as the getting there, except Jayson was wretchedly sick. I have very little empathy in my bones, but I actually felt bad for how sick he was and that he spent his night in the disgusting train bathroom. Poor, poor Jayson.

Train toilet. You're jealous, I know.

Speaking of Jayson, it’s his birthday tomorrow (the 22nd). Happy Birthday Jayson.

Mel, Jayson’s sister, left yesterday. We had such a sweet visit with her. Thanks Mel for seeing our world - for encouraging us, making us laugh, validating some of the difficulties that come with living here, being a great auntie and making me coffee in the morning.

We got a kitty two weeks ago. Why you ask? I ask myself that same question most days. Anyway, his name is Tommy (Ani named him). Tommy makes me sneeze and poops in my shower, but he’s cute and my daughter is happy…

Meet Tommy

On the Freedom Firm front, FF operatives, along with the police, rescued ten girls and arrested four brothel keepers last week. Exciting! I hope to never get “used to” girls being rescued. I hope to always be filled with joy when we get a phone call that the operatives found more girls that are desperate for another kind of life. In other FF news, not as glamorous but still really important to furthering the goals of FF, Jayson finished the both first ever Annual Report and first ever budget last week. He is really please with the work. And I am proud of him. Here is a link to the Annual Report if you are interesting in more of the nitty gritty of Freedom Firm.

My mom is coming early next week. So great! I am feeling very, very spoiled from all of our visitors the last three months - but like most only children, I kind of live for being spoiled… did I just say that? I did, I am just going to go with it. Anyway, we are so excited to see her! And if you live in Bemidji, invite my dad out for dinner.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Put On Your Dancing Heels

Taking Obi to the vet to get fixed

Obi continually howled and tried to climb out of the back of the car/van/can.

Obi did calm down... for about 5 minutes of the 90 minute journey.

Jovie liked the donkeys at the vet.

Donkeys are funny animals, hey?

Watching the ball drop while celebrating New Years at the Parks

Just cause we're in India doesn't mean we can't watch the ball drop!

3, 2, 1... Happy New Year!

I am watching Jayson right now clean off one of my cookbooks that got plagued by mold. Thank you India. I mean, it’s really my fault because I didn’t realize it got damp by the "monsoon season" and was getting moldier by the day, but sometimes it’s easier to blame India. Anyway, back to the cookbook, it’s yuck - all the way through. Every page. I discovered it on Christmas Eve, when we made ravioli. I’m not sure if it will be saved. And now, I will start the turmoil… Do I have to throw the whole cookbook away… or do I clip and save the non-moldy pages? Oh my, I can already hear you falling asleep. Quick, subject change.

So, I kind of had a huge sigh of relief today as I was putting all the Christmas decorations away. The holidays took a lot of energy. Not the party throwing, the food making or the present wrapping… but the tension of being so far away from home on our first Christmas in India. It was emotionally draining. Depending on what hour of the day it was, I was either a completely stable human being or I would be sucking my thumb and rocking in a corner - all internally of course. I thought a lot about Christmas as it led up to the day, probably too much. I was just so curious to see how I would feel. And basically I did not want to revisit those early days of us being here, so lonely and sad. And I don’t know, I still have a bit to process, but basically we have hurdled all the “firsts” of being here, holiday-wise. Next week is our one year anniversary and I am kind of glad that the hurdles are done. I am sure there will new ones, but as for all the very first holidays, I am glad they are behind me.

We did have a funny moment on Christmas that I hope to remember forever. So, we were acting out the nativity on Christmas Day and James was the innkeeper. (Side note to this story, James has a good friend at school who is from Australia.) So, Mary and Joseph came to the inn and James the Innkeeper said, “There’s no room at the inn, Mate.” Love it. I didn’t realize James would be learning “Australian” in India.

Retelling the story of baby Jesus.

Sound the trumpets. Put on your dancing heels. Call a babysitter because you will be out late! The party has come to town. Melissa, Jayson’s sister, came in last week. And it is so great to have her here. She’s like a breath of fresh air around here. And we all know that India’s air needs some freshening. I love laughing, chatting, resting, cooking, running and crafting with her. The kids love their Auntie Mel and are overjoyed that she is staying until January 21. What a gift.

Welcome Auntie Mel!

Last week, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, which is like a governor of a state, came to town. And oh my goodness, they can roll out the red carpet pretty well here. It kind of puts any sort of American political campaigning to shame. Kind of. Maybe it was just pretty impressive, sorta impressive, because well, there was hardly any build up. I didn’t have any time to prepare. I just drove into town one day… and bam! There it was. These monument type structures were all over town. Not quite sure what to make of it.

The red carpet...

Serious red carpet! (That thing isn't normally there. It was built in a day for the Chief Minister.)

I need to give a shout out to all of you who sent Christmas cards over. So great. We all loved opening and reading all the cards. They were treasured. Thank you.

Great news, we couldn’t get internet at our house during the month of December. Okay, that’s not great news… the great news is to come. And, I think it was New Years Eve Day, the phone rang, which was odd, because the phone lines being down was the problem. Anyway, the phone rang, which again was surprising, and I picked it up and at the other end a man said, “Are you speaking to me on your telephone?” It’s hard not to be a bit of a smart alek about that question, but I calmly said, “Yes”, and then he promptly hung up. And now, walah!, our internet is now up. Even the silliest of questions sometimes bring great results.