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roaming the world and enjoying the scenery...

Supermoon

SupermoonA full moon on one of the closest approaches to Earth results in a “Supermoon,” and last night was one of them (apparently they biggest in 18 years, so there you go). We had educational consultant Erma Anderson over for dinner on the Kiara rooftop and enjoyed the evening under the Mumbai star (singular designation intentional).

While we didn’t feel any different about things with the moon, perhaps it is setting the stage for a spectacular Holi celebration. We can only hope!!

Quiz Night

The Fab Fours at Quiz NightSo Eddy put together another quiz night, and we threw another great party on the rooftop, and we ate way too much delicious barbecue, and drank way too many beverages, and stayed up way too late at night (or early in the morning), and took way too embarrassing pictures, and had basically way too good a time that we all spent Saturday recovering from.

Unfortunately, the Fab Fours – my team, who had been leading all the way through until the final 2 rounds – were not able to walk off with the winners’ t-shirts this year. We faltered badly in the “name the company whose logo you see” competition – guess we’re just not consumeristic enough.

There are some pictures up on Facebook – and many more which were judiciously left off! – but all in all it was another one for the record books. Maybe I’ll have to steal his supplies and get something going in Jakarta!

Bombay Oktoberfest 2010 teaser trailer

Monkey Mamma

Mother monkey protects baby kittens against the crowsStraight out of Wild Kingdom, another “never seen before” in India: a monkey with 2 kittens!

Our neighbors grabbed us this afternoon to take pictures of a mother monkey who has adopted two kittens and is taking care of them up in the trees! I would never believe it, had Alea and I not watched them today.

Protecting the babies (not more than a month or so old) against the vicious crows that would feed on unprotected babies, she swung down out of a tree onto a rooftop. She was trying to find a spot away from the birds, and we were helping her on by shooting the crows with water guns. We could see them clearly – and hear them meowing – and they certainly looked well cared for. This is apparently the second time she’s been spotted, so some sort of maternal instinct is obviously at work.

This event was doubly unusual in that we have never seen wild monkeys around our house. Watching her disappear back into the tree, we could tell why – the camouflage is amazing.  We don’t know what is going to become of the babies, but our neighbor remarked that they’ll be good climbers when they grow up!

I put together a series of pictures and descriptions on our webpage, so you can see a bit more of this pretty amazing occurrence…

Holi fun abounds

Holi ColorsYes, it is Holi again, and just like last last year and the year before, once more we threw ourselves head first into this celebration of water and rebirth. We rounded up all sorts of non-toxic powders, and had a huge water and paint fight at Kiara, squirting everything that moved.

Following the morning battle, Alea and Dave ventured out into the neighborhood and got even more appropriately colored. The excitement on young kids’ faces was evident when they realized we were going to let ourselves get all colored up!

We finished off the afternoon at a colleague’s get-together, where we ate, drank, and soaked in the bright sunlight. My favorite Indian holiday! You can check out all the exciting pictures from hour day, now posted on the webpage…

Thanksgiving post-game report

Oompah-loompah doopidty doo: that’s how we all felt last night as we tried to sleep on tummies stuffed with food. We had an outstanding meal, made all-the-better by the fact that we had good friends as guests, really making the holiday complete.

So let’s see – the menu was rotisserie chicken (which we cooked for the first time ever on the barbecue and which turned out great!), mashed potatoes with gravy, yams (Indian yams: not really yams and not really sweet potatoes and the only disappointment on the table), squash, green beans with almonds, stuffing, pumpkin muffins, jello, spice cupcakes, apple crisp, and ice cream.

We ate and drank to excess, and then finished off the evening with rousing games of Eye-to-Eye and The Game of Things, and the promise of an invite to Google Wave (which we’re still awaiting, BTW). All in all, a nearly 6 hour festival of gratitude. My “what are you thankful for” was that this year, unlike last, we were not celebrating the holiday under an umbrella of uncertainty and fear.

This weekend doesn’t just revolve around the giving of thanks and the consumption of copious amounts of fowl, however. It is also the Muslim holiday of Eid, so our basement is once again filled with goats.

Eid goats in the basement

They don’t know it yet, but they are scheduled to be ritually slaughtered today – Breck has been asking whether or not he can watch. Raising your kids internationally lesson #274: instead of crass commercialism during the holiday season, we get a discussion on the differing religious traditions.

But I suppose it is not much different from that-which-gave-Alea-great-pleasure this weekend: Uncle Billy got a big buck hunting, which means there will be venison sausage for her this summer!

Free verse Friday – Rats on the Rooftop

Our first Christmas-themed poem of the season, relating to events from last weekend:

Up on the rooftop, barbecuers pause
Sounds like the clitter clat of little paws
Skitter cross the guard rail with lots of noise
Little ones shriek, both girls and boys

Ho ho ho, who wouldn’t go? Ho ho ho, who wouldn’t go?
Up on the rooftop, pit-ter pat
Down through the drainpipe with a great big rat

Dead rat in the road (not on the rooftop)We’d always thought that being ‘up’ in a building would protect us from rodential infestations, but apparently not. A group of us saw a rat running around up there while we were cooking dinner – hence the inspiration for this week’s rhyme!

And just for reference, here’s one that was outside our building the other day. Maybe this is what happens is a rat loses his grip and falls…

Wine shop man come, is go?

Translated from Hinglish – “The delivery person from Deepak liquor store is here at Kiara. Are you expecting him, and would you like him to come up to your apartment?”

Since many of our purchases are made via delivery (groceries, medicine, pizza, photo prints, etc), we get a phone call with this phrase every time a delivery peon comes to the door (and yes, they are really called peons here).

That’s just one example of the funny mix of Hindi and English (Hinglish) that takes place as we try to communicate with our building guards. When we need to turn on the filter in the pool about 20 minutes before the kids go swimming, we have to tell them to “Make pool on.” If I am not going to be on the school bus, “602 no go bus.” Or if looking for someone in the building, “Is 301 sir come?” I love being called sir.

Trick or Treat

Halloween Kids 2009We had our traditional Kiara Halloween fest last night, with a ton of kids from school visiting and a bunch of parents doing the same. The young ones roamed up and down the stairwell, going from room to room collecting goodies, while the old ones congregated in one apartment, enjoying adult beverages and even special jello!

Halloween 2009 dadAfter the tricks and treats were done, the kids came to our place to watch Charlie Brown and Monsters Inc. All reports indicate that they were well behaved, even with the sugar high they were sporting.

And the Stutz costumes? Susan wore her Boo!! T-shirt and kept the home fires burning, Breck was Billy the Kid from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Alea was an Emo (not Elmo, but Emo) and Dave played a suave Hugh Hefner.

Free verse Friday – Oktoberfest ’09

Photo by Martin Reinsmoen

Photo by Martin Reinsmoen

With apologies to Nat King Cole and other singers of “O Tannenbaum”

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
It’s fast approaching this way
Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
A time for all to come play

Good times do always there abound:
Beer, schnitzel, brats, and oompah sounds

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
Come eat and drink on Saturday

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
I’ll have my little hat on
Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
I’ll wear fake lederhosen

Though German pictures all will show,
Alas, few women here have dirndls

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
Despite our clothes we’ll have fun.

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
This year we’ve got kazoos
Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
We’ll have the hookah too

On Kiara’s vast rooftop expanse
We’ll drink and do the chicken dance

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
I hope we don’t get rained out

Lightning over Mumbai

Lightning over Mumbai 1Our TV is still on the fritz (and our building elevator and internet went out last night) from the continuing electrical storms in the area. We had some neighbors come up to watch the show in our apartment last night, and they talked me into trying to get some pictures.

Now, going up onto the roof of a building in the middle of an electrical storm is probably not a real smart idea, but we waited until things moved off a bit, and then jury-rigged a setup as we stood around in the water (smart) with the camera sitting on top of a metal table (smarter) elevated higher above an air duct (smartest). Setting the camera to take a 6 second picture, I pointed it out and tried my luck.

Lightning over Mumbai 2

Wow! Striking the Arabian Sea right outside our window...

I got quite a few pictures with no lightning at all (of course), and most of the first shots were way out of focus, but I did get a couple of ‘keepers.’ It is pretty interesting how much lighter the first scene is, just because of the number of bolts that hit during the exposure.

The photos have been cropped to be the correct size for a desktop wallpaper, so enjoy if you want. In any case, now you know why we’ve been having all these electrical problems!

Billy

BillyNo – not uncle Billy, although the name sounds the same. Billy is our “apartment kitty” – a stray that has adopted us (since we feed him and all the kids in the building love to play with him).

He is a young kitty now and very playful, so he is a ton of fun to chase around when we’re outside playing. The guards seem to tolerate his presence well enough, so we’ll have to see if he is still around after our summer break. We’ve let money for our housekeeper to give him some food, so we’ll see.

Mom will not let us entertain any thoughts of letting him be an in-house cat, so of course Breck, Alea, and dad had to sneak him in the apartment one day just to take pictures of him inside!

And his name? Apparently, the common word for cat in Hindi is billi, so it was a very easy stretch for us to name him Billy!!

Free verse Friday – Falcon out my window

Falcon Out My Window(with apologies to John Denver)

Falcon out my window makes me happy
Falcon wakes me up with his shrill cry
Falcon eating dead rats looks so messy
Falcon almost always soars so high

If I had some food that I could give to you
I’d give to you a taste of fresh-killed prey
Maybe then you’d make a nest out here
And sing a song to keep those crows away

Yes, I know they are technically called “kites,” but I simply don’t associate that word with big, killer birds of prey.

We have a couple (whether they are male and female, we don’t know) who have taken up shop on our building and the one across the road (in the background of this photo). We hear their screeching cries to each other, but luckily they are pretty daytime-limited, so it isn’t like they wake us up at night or in the morning. This big guy (or gal) was sitting right outside our hallway window last Sunday, very patiently letting me take a few pictures before flying away.

We are still waiting for them to start a nest and hatch some babies over by us – that would be way cooler than pigeons!

March 14 – Pi(geon baby) day

Pigeon BabyMy note yesterday about no pigeon babies yet was quickly outdated, as Alea saw our first hatched chick just a few minutes after I’d posted the entry. We saw a furry yellow thing moving under the mom, and realized that there was another living creature in the ‘nest.’

We watched for quite a while from the couch as the little one twisted and turned under the mom, but we weren’t sure just what was going on until I pulled out the camera and the big bird got nervous. She hopped off and hid under the air conditioning unit, giving us a view of the chick and his/her sister/brother (although, as of this writing, the other egg is unhatched, so I’m not too convinced this one won’t be an only child).

Breck was pretty excited to notice the bird this morning, and we’ve had a steady stream of kids from the other apartments stopping by to look. We are spending a quiet Sunday at home today – recovering from the excesses of the school gala last night – so having the new neighbors right outside adds a bit of  action into our schedule. Between the pool this afternoon and a rooftop barbecue tonight (since the kids got pizza last night), we are pretty well set for the day!

(and the ncaa brackets get announced tonight, so tomorrow I’ll get to fill in my tournament picks. Sweet!)

Holi cow!

Holi Dave!We took full advantage of today’s colorful Holi festivities, setting up a water fight at home and traipsing around the neighborhood to catch a glimpse of India at its finest.

We missed a lot of the excitement last year, and so wanted to make sure we caught what all the fuss was about (and we did!).

All the pictures are over on our webpage, so pop on over and check them out!

Slumdog million neighbors

Obviously the movie Slumdog Millionaire has been creating quite a stir, with Oscar buzz and all sorts of awards already in the bag. It has been the center of some controversy here in India as well.

There have been protests centering around its name (people holding signs that cry “I Am Not A Dog”) and angry editorials about how it does nothing more than perpetuate the stereotype of India as a dirty, poor, perpetually-stuck-in-the-third-world country (sometimes called “Poverty Porn”).

Others have railed against the movie being termed an Indian film, as all of the people eligible for and winning awards are members of the British production crew rather than the Indian cast.

Street HomesPopular response in India itself has been rather tepid, with the common explanation running along the lines of “We live here and know what things are like. We go to movies to escape all of that for a few hours with some silly love, conflict, songs, and dances. Why would we spend our time revisiting that which we see every day? That’s not how we want to spend our hard-earned rupees.”

But all that hullabaloo is not what I’m writing about – nor is it the fact that here in Mumbai we are actually neighbors to millions of people like those portrayed in the movie: rich, destitute, and everywhere in between. No, this entry is about an actual cast member of the Slumdog Millionaire family: Opera Singer #2 in fact.

There is a scene where the stars of the film are running around during an opera in Agra, stealing from the audience members. What I’ve gleaned from the internet is that the opera itself is a recording from “Orphée et Eurydice” by Gluck called “J’ai perdu mon Eurydice” and sung by the Swedish tenor, Nicolai Gedda. The interesting part is that the person lip-syncing it in the movie is actually our across-the-hall neighbor: Tom Lehmkuhl!

Tom LehmkuhlHe and his wife lived in Delhi for 4 years and just moved to Mumbai this summer. They have the cutest little baby that Breck loves to entertain, and they often bring her with them to the Kiara rooftop to enjoy the sunset and a cold beverage or two. The parents are both employed at the school, where Tom is the choir teacher (of course).

Apparently he was approached to be in the film in Delhi, but the director wanted to use a specific recording of the music and just wanted someone – who really knew how to sing – to be a stand-in for the voice. The music department of an international school seemed a pretty obvious place to start, so Tom got the job, is in the film, and now has his own little place on IMDb.

Pretty cool, huh? I think now that I know he’s such a big movie star, I’m going to make sure to bum even more beers off of him!

(Credit has to be given where credit is due. Yesterday I noticed that our neighbor Elizabeth was writing an entry for her blog about Tom, so I told her right then and there that I was going to copy her idea. And I did).

Surprise! Happy Birthday and a half…

Huge weekend plans for Breck – his birthday is on Monday, which is also Chinese New Year this year as well as India’s Republic Day. Since that is one of only two national secular holidays, it is celebrated with parades and fireworks and a day off from school; he is pretty darn excited about having no school on his birthday.

Since this is a great opportunity to have a lot of fun with him, we had a ton of stuff planned. On Friday he took treats to school and then went to a friend’s house to play (while mom and dad both had separate TGIF parties to attend). On, Saturday we had a birthday party for him at home with some friends, after which Dave took them all to a nearby mall (nearby meaning a little less than an hour in traffic each way) for video games and Pizza Hut. Today he is enjoying all his friends’ gifts – righ now he is trying to figure out how to play a new Star Wars computer game. And on Monday, we’ll do a family thing with him. What a lucky guy!

Susan was really annoying me, however, all day on Saturday. Because of the vagaries of trying to ‘time’ how long it will take to get anywhere, we had told kids’ parents that we’d be done around 6 in the evening. For some reason, Susan kept calling the whole time we were at the mall and coming home: “What are you doing now?” “Are you eating yet?” “How come you haven’t left yet?” “What’s taking you so long to get home?” etc… I was tempted to just shut off the phone, and was getting tired of being nagged so much.

We finally rolled in at 6:20, which I thought was pretty darn good. As I walked in the door, Susan grabbed me and said, “I need you to help Alea on the roof. She’s gotten into a huge fight with one of her friends up there and I don’t know what to do about them.” So here I am, after a full day of babysitting a bunch of 4th graders at the mall, being dragged into some kind of middle school catfight. Sigh.

Dave's party

When we made it up to the roof, I turned the corner and a whole bunch of people started singing, “Happy Birthday.” My first thought was that I needed to get Breck up right away, since he was missing his song. Then I noticed that they were all looking at me and laughing (which, granted, isn’t that unusual an occurence), so I figured that something else was going on. When the voices stopped, Susan explained that it was my half birthday, and since I have never had a full on birthday party (because we and our peers are always dispersed across the globe by the time June rolls around), she had set up a surprise “Half Birthday” party. Seeings how my next age change brings up the big 4-0, that fit even more splendidly into her plans.

Having a huge group of people waiting around explains her ‘nagginess’ during the day, as she wanted to make sure that I would be home at a reasonable hour, so I guess I can forgive her! It was a perfect evening for a party, and there was a ton of barbecued meat, catered snacks, and cold drinks. People kept saying “Halfy Birthday” which I thought was cute, and brought all sorts of fun gifts for an old man. One of the most original was “Four Teas for Forty” – a selection of herbal teas, each of which is supposed to help shore up different bodily functions for the elderly: mental agility, iron absorption, bowel regularity, and, ahem, “physical fitness for matrimonial relationship building.”

As things turned out however, that last tea wasn’t needed after the party. Nope, not needed at all:

It turned out that Breck’s teacher brought cigars, and Breck was so distraught at seeing his teacher smoking (having seen very graphic pictures of the effects of smoking during our trip to Thailand) that, after the party, he had to cuddle with mom all night.

So I ended up just kind of cleaning up on the roof after my own party. And then crashing, alone. Thanks alot, Mr. Jordan.

Goats in the basement

With the “Big Eid” celebrations taking place tomorrow, Muslims all over the country (and throughout the Islamic world) are getting ready for the day.

Remember the story of Abraham, and how he was told by God to sacrifice his son? He was all set to obey the Word of the Lord, only to have an angel appear just as he was ready to strike. Regardless of one’s personal opinion of the wisdom of obeying such an command from a supposedly loving deity, this holiday commemorates that event. Traditionally, then, animals are ritually slaughtered and shared out with the less fortunate.

Our guards, drivers (that is Iqbal sitting behind Breck, the driver who worked for us last year), and the Muslim family that lives in our building are keeping up with the spirit of the holiday, and procured 6 goats to serve as the sacrifices. The animals have been living in the basement for the last week or so, and Breck and dad went down tonight to wish them farewell on their last earthly night.

We won’t be able to join in the festivities, as they take place in the morning after we’ve already left for school, and I’m guessing that things will be all cleaned up by the time we get back. Oh well – maybe next year!

Thanksgiving under siege

Today is the day that we are celebrating Thanksgiving in Mumbai. Before the events of the last two days, our schedule was such that the kids had a half day on Thursday and we were all off on Friday. Obviously many plans for the holiday have been scrapped (such as the full-blown Thanksgiving dinner – at $70 a plate – that was to take place at the Taj hotel). Teachers had several smaller events set up, including an all-apartment potluck here in Kiara that still took place, but pretty much anything that involves leaving one’s home has been called off.

Today’s news has been such a combination of pronouncements that are at odds with each other that there is no real way to know what is going on. We’ve heard alternately that first one, then the other hotel is cleared, and then see reports of new gunfights and explosions. As I write this in the early evening, we really don’t know the status of events, except that things are not cleared up.

One of the more ‘in your face’ reminders of what is going on are intermittent security warnings we receive via email from the US consulate. As the terrorist situation is still ongoing, what sometimes seem to be over-the-top paranoid pronouncements appear a little more grounded in reality. Excerpts from the alerts:

TERROR ATTACKS IN MUMBAI

Terrorists attacked two hotels, a railway station, restaurant, hospital, and other locations in Mumbai frequented by Westerners on November 26.  Over 100 persons are believed to have been killed, and hundreds injured.  Gunfire continues between terrorists and police at several locations in Mumbai.  Some of the casualties are foreigners, and Americans appear to have been among those specifically targeted.

Due to the fluid situation in Mumbai, Americans are urged to defer travel to Mumbai for at least the next 48-72 hours.  Those currently in Mumbai are asked to take shelter at their current location and contact family and friends. 

U.S. citizens should exercise caution and take prudent security measures, including maintaining a high level of vigilance, avoiding crowds and demonstrations, keeping a low profile, varying times and routes for all travel, and ensuring travel documents are current.

Americans are advised to monitor local news reports and consider the level of security present when visiting public places, including religious sites, or hotels, restaurants, entertainment and recreation venues.  If unattended packages are spotted, American citizens should immediately exit the area and report the packages to authorities.

We had a quiet morning, chatting a bit online and reading all the notes that family and friends have sent us. The outpouring of concern has been humbling, and on this day of thanks we are again reminded of just how blessed we are. While we are nervous about what’s going on, about the best that can be said is that we’re not scared. The kids are handling things well – happy to have an extra day off from school.

Our Thanksgiving celebration was doubly special, in that we were able to celebrate old and new friends with joy as well as somberly look at how recent events will continue to impact us for some time to come. We certainly ate well with flavors from all over the world: treats ranging from roasted chicken to candied yams to hot ‘n spicy burritos to fried bananas and cheese to ice cream on fig biscuits. Even though the ongoing situation did come up quite often, it was also fun to simply sit around and chat about things as silly as the multicolored poops that are currently descending from our fish (truly, that was a topic of conversation. Think I could just make something like that up?).

I just hope that news from the community is all pleasant when this is wrapped up: there are so many kids and families at our school who work at or are affiliated with the hotels affected, and word still is not back on everyone’s safety. In fact, the parents of one of the students I teach went out to dinner at the Oberoi hotel on Wednesday night and have not been heard from since.

Hug your families and count your blessings. Happy Thanksgiving from India.

A (safe and quiet) day at home

We’ve holed up today – among the residents of the apartments, there have been kid play sessions, board game marathons, movie screenings, bread baking-and-tasting exchanges, and swimming in the little pool outside. The news has been depressingly non-ending: over a hundred dead, with twice that number injured and an unknown number still being held.

Map of the event locations in Mumbai created by Uncle Rob

As I write this there are still hostages in two of the main hotels and a Jewish center. It looks like things will heat up after dark, and we can only hope that further bloodshed will be avoided. We’ve had several communications from the school, and there is apparently at least one school family that still is missing somebody in one of the hotels (the Taj, which we just visited at the start of this year).

I did make a quick trip out this morning to get some cash (it is payday for our maid, and I thought it prudent to get some extra money as well), and I was getting some ‘interesting’ looks from people. Maybe I was just being overly paranoid, but I felt like folks on the street were paying a little more attention to me than usual. Susan went out to get Diet Coke (her way of coping) this afternoon, and reported that lots of shops are closed and that she got looks as well. We are not under lockdown like the downtown area is, but you certainly know that things are not normal…

In any case, we are planning on staying home tonight, and all plans for the weekend – which included Breck and I walking a new skywalk that is in our neighborhood as well as a mini Formula 1 race along the seashore – are off. We’ll have a barbecue on the roof tonight, and swap stories with people, but things are looking pretty mellow. Oh well – I got all the grading done today that I had successfully procrastinated yesterday. Now I suppose I should do some more work on the webpage.

Thanks so much to all who sent us updates, prayers, thoughts, and wishes today. We have ‘felt the love’ and appreciate all the notes. We will continue to post info here – of course, the best adage in our situation is ‘no news is good news.’ We are safe, we are out of the strike zone (see the map above that Uncle Rob created for the family), and if boredom is our greatest threat this weekend then more power to us.

Happy Thanksgiving to all – and you can bet we’ll be mulling over our “What are you thankful for this year” choices this year.

Happy Halloween from Mumbai

We are, indeed, a week or so late – but that’s ok! Because of the week without walls trip and Diwali break, our Halloween celebrations didn’t take place until yesterday, but we sure jumped into them whole heartedly!

We had bought some Indian pumpkins – green, not orange – before our break, and kept them in the refrigerator to keep. Unfortunately, some froze and were no good, so we ended up with only one to carve.

But, the kids were sure excited about designing and cutting the face. Alea drew out the eyes, Breck liked a square nose, and Dad tried some fancy teeth. Breck took a turn cutting for the first time, and did a super job pushing the knife through the thick skin.

The seeds and scum inside were really cold (having just come out of the fridge), so Alea and Breck took turns scooping everything out. We got quite the assembly line going, where they would pull out a handful and hand it to dad, who separated the seeds from the other stuff and set them aside to bake (of course!). Mom sat at the other end, giving advice and taking pictures. A true family effort!

By the end of all the work, we had a great looking pumpkin all ready to fire up and scare the trick or treaters!


The kids got into the spirit of things with their costumes. Breck decided to bypass the Yoda look he had worn to school and went as a “Mysterious Jedi,” complete with mask, hood, and two lightsabers! Alea and some friends all got together to be “Plastic Bag Princesses,” a take off the book “The Paper Bag Princess.” (obviously the ogre at the end went with a different theme for her costume!

We played scary music that echoed through the hallways, and the floodgates opened at 7. By my count, there were 22 kids running around and knocking on doors, looking for goodies. By 7:15, every apartment had been visited (sometimes even more than once by enterprising trick or treaters!), and people slowing began migrating down to the designated gathering place for candy swaps and treats for the adults (ahem). It actually turned into quite a good party, with conversation about politics and sports, kids trading huge piles of candy, pillow fights, and even the Thriller video!

With a surprise visit by the Great Pumpkin (disguised as a dog), the evening was complete. Dad had to drag Alea home at 11 (mom and Breck had left a bit earlier, as he is still getting over being sick), but the kids were already plotting what they were going to be next year. A super special scary evening, and a ton of fun for the start of the month.

And now – it is time to pull out the Christmas stuff!!!!!

Weekend before the hiatus

The next two weeks will be quiet ones on the blog front. Alea and Dave will both be gone for Week Without Walls trips, and then the entire family heads out to Udaipur for a week. We spent a lot of Saturday getting our packing and shopping done for the trips, and are looking forward to a quiet Sunday.

It is an interesting deal, though, dealing with the time changes. I am sitting here watching the ALCS baseball game (Boston just beat Tampa Bay 4-2), lounging in my pajamas sipping a cup of coffee. The presidential debates were fun to watch at 7 in the morning too, just as we were getting ready to go to school! Too bad the Cubbies didn’t make the playoffs – watching them play would be fun on a weekend morning (or then again, because it is the Cubs, maybe it won’t be too fun!).

There was a little get-together on Friday night -called Caf-ASB (like a cafe, get it?) – that was an artsy fartsy deal. People sang songs and read poetry, that sort of things. I wrote a quick song that I performed about life in Bombay. Hum in your mind to the tune of Home on the Range:

 

Cows and garbage (and even some crows behind her). Everything the song is about!

Cows and garbage (and even some crows behind her). Everything the song is about!

Oh give me a home 

Where the wild rickshaws roam

And the cows and the alley dogs play

Where seldom is heard

But for crows, not a bird

And the skies are not visible all day

(chorus)

Home, home in Bombay

Where the cows and the alley dogs play

Where seldom is heard

But for crows, not a bird

And there’s fireworks blasting each day

—————-

Travel through all the crowds

In a rickshaw so loud

With walls that are flimsy and thin

Bounce over the ruts

Drivers take the shortcuts

While betel juice drips down their chin

 

Home, home in Bombay

Where the cows and the alley dogs play

Where seldom is heard

But for crows, not a bird

And the roads are not empty all day

—————-

Here out near the shore

You can always find more

Proud and famous Bollywood rich

But hand in hand

With the superstars’ fans

Comes the oceanside smell of dried fish

 

Home, home in Bombay

Where the cows and the alley dogs play

Where seldom is heard

But for crows, not a bird

(Since they clean up the place, that’s ok)

—————-

When daylight grows frail

And folks hit the trail

To heat up their evening curry

There’s no other place

In this vast urban space

That can beat here: at Caf-ASB

 

Home, home in Bombay

Where the cows and the alley dogs play

Where seldom is heard

But for crows, not a bird

And our rooftop’s the best place to stay!

Ganesh street parade

Since this is the time of year when the drums, firecrackers, pyrotechnics, and music all combine to give us a sleep-depriving evening cacophony, it is only fair to acknowledge that the visual feast rivals that of the aural treat.

For many of the 11 days between last Wednesday and next Sunday, worshippers of the Hindu god Ganesh march behind brightly lit and colorfully festooned idols, taking them to the seashore to immerse the statue and bid farewell to him after his yearly visit.

Our house, while not in any way on a main throroughfare for these trips – especially since we are far from downtown (where the really crazy action is) – does get a fair amout of noise from these processions during the course of the holiday. A small side street apparently acts as a shortcut of sorts, and the Ganesh devotees make their way through the very narrow walls at a snail’s pace.

The other evening, after an extended round of fireworks went off (just as we were putting the kids to bed, of course), I decided to grab the camera and head down. When I got to the street, the place was crazy crowded, with the masses swaying back and forth and chanting. I ran into one of my fellow Kiara residents there, and we were soon tapped on the shoulder by another couple who had come out.

The worshippers were very tolerant of us running around taking pictures (as many of them were also), but at the same time they had a very specific purpose for being out that evening and were not going to be distracted from it. We observed and followed the procession for several blocks, and then let it head off down the road, eventually to reach the beach.

More pictures and descriptions of all this activity are on our webpage. It also links over to other pages showing some of the street decorations as well as the Ganesh activities and rituals (including the immersion). Enjoy!

Kiara Krawl

The whole crew at the start of the evening

The whole crew at the start of the evening

A tradition that we were introduced to last year is the opening of all returning teachers’ homes in our apartment building. Everyone puts little snacks and drinks out, and all the residents move from home to home as the evening progresses.

More than a social event, however, it gives those who are new to Mumbai (and us ‘old hands’ as well) a chance to check out the different decorating styles and room arrangements. The floorplans are all very similar (3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, open living/dining room, kitchen) with the very same square footage, but slight differences in the placement of one decorative wall and the kitchen door give each home a slightly unique signature.

It is fascinating to see how different families have addressed decorating and laying out their spaces. There are places that are jam-packed with exotic furniture, pottery, carpets, and statuary collected from all over India (and the rest of the world). Others set up in a sleek “New York” look with chic, modern furniture and artwork. Many homes have young kids, so some living rooms reflect the Romper Room school of interior design – plastic toys and tables compete with the adult sitting spaces.

And then there is our home, which was the starting point of the night. We have the Jedi training center in our living room: a wide open area where those honing their Force skills can safely have lightsaber duels!

In any case, it is a terrifically fun evening, with people poking into all the rooms, looking at design details, asking about where stuff was purchased, and even taking pictures. Of course, things gradually devolve as the group makes it through the 5th or 6th house, partaking of the ‘beverages’ supplied at each stop! We actually ended things with a hookah on the rooftop, introducing our new neighbors to that aspect of life at Kiara. All in all, a very pleasant time to enjoy each others’ company and catch our breath after the first full week of school.

Slip sliding away

Things you never consider before living in a place that has monsoons: after 8 months or so with no precipitation, the rains have a curious – though utterly predictable – effect on the roads here. That first little bit of moisture ‘brings up’ all the accumulated engine oil, axle grease, tire bits, and other assorted petroleum-based product debris that has accumulated on the asphalt. This creates a super slick skating rink on the surface over which all vehicles must pass.

There was the tiniest trace of a mist in the air this morning, and it made coming in to school a mess. Luckily our van driver is great and knew what was coming (and paid attention to the people on the side of the road waving at him to slow down), but coming over a hill we saw a dump truck that had slid completely around, a bus that skidded and shuddered from side to side as it was breaking, and several people walking motorcycles with freshly-broken side mirrors on them. Another teacher actually saw a motorcycle take a digger while going around a corner, but we just witnessed the aftermath.

There had hardly been enough precipitation to even qualify as ‘moisture,’ but the effects were certainly noticeable. I wonder what else will be in store as the weather patterns start to change. The news headlines this weekend were that the monsoon has hit Kerala (news story here), and Goa is starting to shut down as the rains approach. It won’t be too long now; the big question is whether it will start to pour here before we leave or not…

Breck meditating on the Kiara roof

Regardless of the rain’s plans, Breck intends on using every ounce of sunlight before we take off. He spent the afternoon soaking in the rays (while soaking in a tub) on the Kiara rooftop. What a fun way to enjoy the weather!