Friday, April 30, 2010

Technology Meltdown

We forgot to show you this one a few weeks ago. Hebron School had a "60's Night" and, well, you guessed it, this is the Palm kids in their 60's garb. (Yes, James has a fake mustache painted on his face.)

I am trying to find the right words to appropriately describe our week. Okay, how about one noun and one adjective? Or is this one noun and one verb? I honestly don’t know. But here they are: Technology meltdown. Let’s start a list. Shall we? I like lists. I actually love writing them, but never get around to using them. Anyway, a list.

1) The land line in our house hasn’t worked for three weeks.

2) In turn, we do not have internet. I do love staying in touch with family and friends, but I also do quite a bit of work at home as FF’s volunteer coordinator. So, I get behind when the internet at home is not working.

3) Our power has been off at some point every day this week. It does come on the evenings, minus tonight, but still the lowering and rising of temperature in the freezer makes me a bit nervous. I am just cooking that meat up real well.

4) Our mobile phone service did not work Tuesday or Wednesday. And with the whole no land line situation going on, makes it difficult to, I don’t know, communicate.

5) The internet was down in FF’s office for most of the week. Coming on, randomly, throughout the day for an hour or two. Today, however, absolutely no internet at the office.

6) The electricity in FF’s office was literally unplugged last Friday, because the city said that the owner of the office had not built the office legally. News to Freedom Firm. So, Jayson has strung an extension cord from the flat below theirs, so they could at least have power for the computers.

7) The water for the office was also turned off. They can pump water from a big tank at the bottom floor of the building, but I guess you need a good amount of electricity to work a pump. So, no water.

How we're getting electricity in the Freedom Firm office now that they pulled our electricity plug!

An extension cord coming out our landlady's home (out her window) and running up to our office (into our window)

Extension cord coming in our window, plugging into a second extension cord on the Administrator's desk

And yes, this is the technology and electricity hub of the office (1) The cord in the lower right is the power coming from our landlady (2) The two huge, heavy batteries and the white box is a power backup system, giving the office four hours of backup when the electricity goes out...daily (3) The top shelf is our server, modem, and wireless router

And this is how we're getting power to multiple outlets in the office...looks dangerous if you ask me!

I think that is a good little list. I also think that list reflects why there are times when other parts of the world wonder why it takes so long to get things done around here. My attitude this week has been okay about it all. I did get frustrated tonight (by the way I am grateful that Jayson’s computer has a four hour battery, so I can say hi to you all) when the clock turned, 5:30, then 6, then 7… still no power. I called Sarah to cheer me, and her son, Sammy, who is eight, was home sick from school, and without any prompting, told me that he is excited to see us this summer. That definitely cheered me.

Once Jayson found out that the office they are currently in is not going to function properly for a long time, or might even get condemned, he started looking for a new office. Quick as wink, he found one which we are entirely grateful for. Finding something that quick just doesn’t happen around here. Offices and flats are interchangeable around here. Are there office buildings in Ooty? I don’t know. But places are built with such simplicity that any space can easily be turned into from a home into an office. Which is pretty handy, if you ask me. Hopefully we can move into that office this month before we go back to the States, so the staff can be back to as fully functioning as India can be. That was a wee sarcastic slam to India, but I am still a bit crabby, sorry.

In other FF news... Today, there was a conviction of a brothel keeper, named Kanchi Tamang, who was arrested last July 31 during a FF raid. The brothel keeper was sentenced to seven years. We are so glad about the conviction and the grateful that it only took nine months, which is like warp speed here.
We don't have a photo of Kanchi Tamang. But to give you some form of a visual, this is Sonam Roy, the second Freedom Firm brothel keeper conviction, last summer.

I am going to tell you a secret: I am kind of prideful about reverse culture shock. For some odd reason, I want to float back into normal American culture with finesse and confidence. So, sometimes when I can’t sleep at night, I pretend that I am going to Super Target, and going through all the aisles. I am not going to be overwhelmed when I can buy sliced deli meat or cheese that taste good. I am not going to cry when I see Mac n’ Cheese for the kids or Grape Nuts for me. I will not dance through the aisles with a cart because it is the first time that my almost two year old has ever been in a cart (I guess as an infant she probably was in a cart while in her car seat, but that doesn’t count). My children will not be alarmed when the doors open automatically when you get close to them. I will not buy 20 frozen pizzas just because I can. My kids won’t faint when they see the rows of toys. Oh, people, do you want to be a little birdie on my shoulder when I get back to the States? I do.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Most Spectacular Use of Florescent Bulbs

A photo of - quite possibly - the most unique and amazing flower we've ever seen.

Contractors and home improvement enthusiasts - behold the scaffolding of your dreams.

This is a "lookout tower" built for the horse races, to be held in Ooty in the coming weeks.

It has been said, profoundly of course, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it!” Well people, I am about to flaunt the most spectacular use of florescent bulbs, metal, and electricity. Here goes nothing. Be prepared to be green with envy...

The flies at the bottom of the zapper represent one morning's work for our new favorite appliance.

Yes, my friends. We bit the bullet and bought an official bug zapper. I had enough of feeling like I was on the brink of insanity. Enough I tell you. Some might say it is a poor waste of money, I say it helped four children have a mother that wasn’t curled up in the fetal position. Everyone that has come into our house has been shown the bug zapper like it’s a new baby. I make them turn it off and on and then I shoo a fly into it, so they can watch it fry. Okay, I hope this is my last entry about flies, one can only hope.

As we prepare to go back to the States for a visit, Jayson and I are having many conversations about logistics. I thought moving to India had many details to keep track of... Oh no my friends, a trip back to the States has me wishing for my own magic wand to say “Presto, chango, organize this trip to full satisfaction for everyone, ka-blam!” If you all want to mock me right now, go right ahead, I deserve it.

Moving along. So in our conversations, we had one this week that needs to repeated. Let me give you some context. Jayson’s sister, Melissa, and her boyfriend, Mike, are going to join us for the 4th of July at my family’s cabin up in Canada and we were discussing some different options for how to get them up there.

Jayson, “They can ride with us from Minneapolis to Bemidji.”

Tarrah, “We will have a minivan, there is only one seat left for the two of them.”

Jayson, “We can just squeeze them in.”

Tarrah, “We can’t squeeze them in. We will need to have either car seats or boosters for all the kids, there won’t be room.”

Jayson, “Well, there are two bench seat, there is totally room for them.”

Tarrah, “It’s a seven hour drive Jayson.”

Jayson, “We’ll rotate. We’ll make it work”

Tarrah, “Jayson, we won’t be in India this summer, I think it’s against to law to have more people in the car then there are seat belts.”

Jayson, “Oh. Right.”

The law is on your side Mike and Mel, whew! I only wonder how many times we will try to just “make it work” this summer, as we do every day in India.

Let’s talk about our internet. A very interesting topic, give it a chance. Last week, I told you that our modem, or our “internet box”, as I lovingly called it, got fried from a storm. So, Jayson finally tracked another one down last Saturday. (Which, side note, took him four trips to the same store to get.) An hour after he got home with the new modem, a massive truck went by the front of the house and clipped our telephone wire - which is strung between two trees. Alas, no internet yet. No phono line. No interneto. No connectiono with the outsido worldo. I am lame-o.

I am going to turn the page of ridiculous to the page of meaningful. This is Sayid and his wife. They lost their mud walled house in the cyclone-like storm last fall. Jayson and I had the privilege of helping them rebuild their house. This week, we went to the ribbon cutting ceremony to help welcome them into their new home. We were able to pray with them and tell them that we were so grateful that God provided this home for them.

Sayid and his wife in their new home

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Stupid Fly Buzzing Around Me

Sydney (and Jovie) during a presentation her preschool class gave all the parents. How proper and ladylike she is!

Good Evening. It’s a lovely evening. The boarding school kids are screaming, the flies are buzzing, the rats are squealing, and my tummy is a bit rumbly tonight. Oh, the sweetness of my life. I try to be as positive as I can while I write, nobody really cares to listen to me whine, but just for a brief moment I wanted to at least give you a sound bite of my reality, regardless if it comes off sounding utterly positive or a bit pitiful.

Pictures from Easter day

We kicked off last week celebrating Easter. And what a celebration it was. Everyone who came to our house purred over the Honey Baked Ham. I continue to be astounded how having tastes of home quenches homesickness to a degree.

Pictures from "Sports Day"... Yes, Tarrah and Jayson ran races as well...

James got second place in the tennis ball throw

Look at that form! Ani got first in the long jump.

Sydney's race. She go two chocolate gold medals just for running...what a deal!

James and Ani are on the "gold" team together

We had a great week experiencing parent’s week at Hebron School. I walked around last week with complete gratefulness for where my kids are attending school. Cheering on Ani, James, and Sydney at Sports Day; going to the musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”; meeting parents from N. India, Korea, Mongolia, Sweden, etc.; going to open houses at all the kid’s classrooms; “interviews” (parent/teacher conferences) with the kids teachers; and having a thanksgiving service to end the week. No school is perfect, but I am grateful for the atmosphere that my kids can learn in. Love the fact that my kids interact with students from all over the world and from ages 3 to 19.

Jayson's "ladder". He uses it for many things, like hanging this fly strip.

There is a stupid fly buzzing around me right now. Dive bombing. Being completely irrational. What is his/her deal? Don’t my relentless swings at it give a great non-verbal cue to leave me alone? I know I have blogged about the flies before, but they are at an all time high in our house right now and I cannot express to you the degree to which they drive me crazy. Give me nails on a chalkboard, give me a poopy diaper in public with not a clean diaper in sight, give me spilled milk for the fourth time at the dinner table, give me drivers that cut you off in traffic, you name it... I cannot think of any other thing in my life that drives me more crazy.

Is anyone reading any good books lately? I am in a bit of a slump. Not that I can get a many good books here, but at least I can start making my list for the summer.

(A Freedom Firm update from Jayson) A typical case takes between 24 and 30 months to come to trial and then to closing arguments. But several girls rescued last July 31 testified three months ago and closing arguments are scheduled to happen very soon. Freedom Firm’s reputation in Pune is getting stronger and we’ve recently developed an exciting new relationship with a “lady judge” (yes, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to call a female judge in India). She presided over this case and we’re very hopeful for a conviction in this case. We’re hoping that many cases will come to her in the coming years and that she will truly uphold the rights of these abused girls.

So, when I said that I was coming home next month, it is for real and not an April Fool’s joke. I am, in fact, coming home on May 31 for two months. I’ll be traveling with Sydney and Jovie. Jayson, Ani, and James will be following two weeks later. More to come on visiting home, I am sure to hit all-time peaks of emotions and through it all I will try to amuse you with many honest portrayals of my ridiculous thoughts.

Most of this blog was written a few nights ago, but the power went off before we could send it. And then last night we had an uncommon thunder and lightning storm and lightning hit our house. No fires were started, but when it hit all the outlets in the house snapped green/blue sparks out of them. The kids eyes were as big as saucers when the crack hit the house. I am grateful that nothing major happened. The only electronic item that was scorched was our internet box. Everything else has surge protectors. So, I am finishing it today and Jayson will take the blog on the jump drive to the office... couple days old, but hey, we’re getting there.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Something to Scream About

Currently our children are dressing up like rock stars. It is my oldest child’s desire to become a rock star. The other day she asked me what the steps are to become a rock star. I do remember dressing up like Tina Turner one Halloween, so I can relate to her on a certain level, although I don’t remember seeking vocational counseling on the subject. Most of her rock star songs, that she makes up, have to do with love reaching some sort of mountain top experience. I say go for it Ani, Rock On.

Did you know that at 7:00 a.m. every morning, we get serenaded by a marching band? Sweet deal, eh? Our bedroom is about 30 feet from the sports field of a boarding school. At 7:00 a.m. every morning, they have some sort of assembly at the sports field, 30 feet from our bedroom with a marching band. Not hearing a marching band, at 7:00 a.m. every morning, is highly underrated. I think some people could give up coffee. It’s really not a wake up call, because the Palm Kids are early risers, to say the least. At least James and Jovie are, so we are awake, but still, come on people... marching band, 7:00 a.m., 30 feet from our bedroom.

We had a graduate from the aftercare program this week. Esther, who has been with Freedom Firm for two years now, moved out of Roja, the Aftercare house, today. She will be staying at a hostel in town - to save money - and working at a shop in town. During her stay with Freedom Firm, Esther learned English, Math skills, took two computer training courses - passing with flying colors - and made loads of jewelry for FF’s jewelry business. We are so proud of her.

Esther with Jovie (Note: We do not need to blur Esther's eyes in this photo because she is over 18 and has given her consent.)

Esther's graduation ceremony. Note James.

Previous picture, close up. This boy is up to no good.

I was having this thought the last few days, that, being here, we are a bit protected from the employment and financial hardships at home. India is not in any better shape, but we are protected from India’s hardships as well, because it’s not our home either. I feel like we are missing this huge, increasingly hard season that many of our friends and family are going through. And we don't understand fully what our Indian friends feel here. I don't know what to do with it, maybe just acknowledge it. But I at least want to float the thoughts around, to see if there is anything I need to “do” about it.

So, we celebrated Passover with matzah that a friend from the States sent over. And the Honey Baked Ham, that my mom brought over, was taken out of the freezer tonight to thaw for Easter. Love the import business that we have created here. Passover and Easter are the first holidays where we have memories in India made from last year’s celebration. It doesn’t feel as unsettling walking into them this year.

Passover dinner.

By the way, thank you to everyone who submitted ideas for naming the motorcycle last week. We got some good names, but if there are others, let us know this week!

I have something to scream about. Now that April has been flipped to on the calender, I can officially say, “I’M FLYING BACK TO THE STATES NEXT MONTH!”