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roaming the world and enjoying the scenery...

Susan’s 50th birthday!

Had our Puncak cabin crew over to help break in the new Groovy Gecko bar, say goodbyes for the four of us leaving, and not-really-celebrate Susan’s birthday.

Thanks to Alea for all the help with organization and taking great pictures – we have such great friends and such super kids!


Aunt Nancy’s birthday party

Since Susan is in the USA for a month, she got to crash Aunt Nancy’s 50th birthday party. Looks like a crazy time!

"I mustache you a question..."

End of year/Susan’s birthday

Awesome Threesomes party tonight at the The Stutz Family’s Groovy Gecko Grill – good times despite the crazy times!

The Groovy Gecko is rockin' - don't bother knockin'!

Happy birthday, Breck!

Birthday flames!

Birthday bash

Well, after a crazy day, Alea finally got to celebrate her birthday. She came down with a rash yesterday, which we quickly self-diagnosed as rubella (no aches, pains, fever, coughing or itching – just red dots all over her body). She’s in the midst of finals, though, so there was some concern on our part about her going to school. I figured that I’d be able to teach my first class, and then with a prep period, lunch, and a “silent reading” time, 2 1/2 hours should be more than enough to get her from home, go to the clinic that is less than 3 miles from the house, and get her looked at.

But no – Jakarta traffic reared its ugly head. Something – we still haven’t figured out what – totally jammed up all the roads in all out little neighborhood. It took us over 90 minutes to get to the hospital, and we were pretty darn frustrated by the time we got there.

Once we got in, though, things went quite quickly. We saw 2 doctors, had blood drawn, and were told it could be any number of things (including measles or rubella), and that we’d know more in 3 days. But they also figured that she was not (probably) infectious, and could go take her last test – in isolation!

So we rushed back through traffic (which had gratefully thinned) to the school, and got her set up outside the main room where the test had already started. Once she was done, she and I hopped back into the van to get it home so Susan and Breck could turn around and go back to the hospital, this time for a checkup on his braces. Crazy!

But at last she got to celebrate her birthday! She made herself a cake, and used the new frosting decoration kit that she got to make it pretty, and then we ate it. I’ll bet she uses some of her new aromatherapy oils to relax tomorrow, as the rest of us still have to go to school – but she’s done!! I guess that’s about the best birthday present around. Her freshman year is over, and she’s now staring down the barrel of summer!!

Breck’s a teenager!!

Breck with the Tundra comic book he got from his uncle and auntBreck shares his birthday with India’s Republic Day (so he always had a school holiday when we lived in Mumbai) and (as I learned yesterday) Australia Day. So happy birthday to all of them.

He’s having a Guy Party this weekend – he made up invitations that invited friends to “explore their inner guyness” as they play video games and watch PG-13 movies – so that’s pretty exciting. Bookended between baseball games on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, he’s got a full schedule.

For his birthday evening, we ordered in McDonald’s, ate the birthday cake his sister made, opened presents, studied for his math test, and watched War of the Worlds. Not too shabby for a Thursday afternoon!

Pizza and Paintball

That’s what Breck wanted to have for his birthday. Since we missed his real birthday (travel plans for a job recruiting fair – that we ended up not needing to attend – precluded celebrations on his actual date), we’d promised to make it up this weekend.

Gathering 8 buddies from school in a rented van to traipse them all around town, we headed up to the suburb of Powai (which is built around a lake that is home to man-eating crocodiles. For real.) While we had no plans to swim in the lake, we did chow down on pizza and then head over to an outdoor paintball arena. For those of you who have never experienced paintball (in 90 degree weather) with a bunch of 12 year old boys, let me tell you that you have missed out on living! I thought testosterone was the source of all the machismo, but these guys – who are not anywhere close to shaving – would give any tall taler a run for his money!

After about an hour and a half of play – and the requisite rehashing of all the kills and strategies and all – we jumped in the bumper cars for a spin and then finished the afternoon at the video arcade.

I think I wore them all out – and me tool. If India can just finish off Ireland in this silly cricket game, then I’m hitting the hay as well!

Happy Birthday, Breck!

Even though today was a day off from school (due to India’s biggest holiday – Republic Day), we were all awakened early in the morning. He claimed that he “wasn’t really trying to make too much noise,” but Breck was pretty impatient to get his birthday started!

We’d brought out some presents the night before, so he knew that there was (probably) some good stuff waiting..
He was totally excited about the new Star Wars Lego set that he got!
But the thing that got his (stomach) juices really flowing? Good old American junk food – that bag of chips costs 6 bucks, so it is a real once-a-year treat.

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.

Holy Holi, Batman!

Holi in MumbaiWhat a rookie mistake. You’d think that after 38 years of life and more than 6 months in Mumbai I would have learned my lesson.

I made the number one error that expats living in India simply cannot afford to make: I left the house without a camera. Inexcusable, especially given that I knew it was a holiday, and a holiday that would be colorful and peopleful and photographableful.

Let me explain, if not excuse.

Today is Holi, an Indian holiday that is pretty much right in line with Easter (which is tomorrow). It is not like Easter in terms of Jesus being crucified and then coming back to life, but rather in the sense that it is built on the idea of an agricultural theme: death and rebirth and all that. Holi celebrates the coming of the spring season and the ‘recoloring’ of the countryside as plants sprout and grow. To celebrate the occasion, Indians spend the morning spraying each other with colored water, throwing water balloons filled with paint, and generally turning friends, acquaintances, and strangers into walking tie-dyes.

We – being a bit worried about some of the stories we’d heard about unsafe dyes and dangerous chemicals – decided to forgo the celebrations (and actually spent the morning engaging in our own, Western, take on the idea of paint celebrating the spring – we colored Easter eggs!). But this afternoon, Breck had been invited to a birthday party, so he and I had to head out in a rickshaw to “The Club” located in a suburb north of us.

Now Breck (and Alea) have been really funny lately about Susan and me taking pictures, and that is the only possible rationalization for what I did. I had everything all set up – battery charged, card cleared, bag packed – and then, like a total fool, decided not to bring the camera along. I didn’t forget it, I just didn’t bring it.

Holi in MumbaiWe went out, and before we even got into a rick, I realized that I had made a mistake of colossal proportions. People were all over the place, simply covered head to foot in pink, blue, purple, yellow, green, silver: every color imaginable. As we made our way north, we passed motorcycles full of painted families, rickshaws jammed with smiling kids, the streets teeming with colorful Indians. They would smile and wave at Breck and me, just happy to be out and about with the fresh paint dripping everywhere. And I had gone out without a camera.

By the time we got to the club, I was literally sick to my stomach. Not only had we passed incredible sights along the way, but I knew that I was stuck at the birthday party all afternoon: everything would be over by the time we got home. Talk about a wasted opportunity – unbelievable. I called Susan and managed to convince her to go out and take some pictures. She wasn’t too excited about doing so and so only went out around the block near our house (which is not a hotbed of activity by any means). But she did get a few shots, and those are what you see here.

I am glad that she did go out, and of course she tries to soothe my self-anger with, “Oh well, you can always take pictures next year.” Unfortunately, next year Holi is on Wednesday, a work day, not Saturday. I am simply disgusted with myself for going so far against my better judgment and letting such an almost once in a lifetime opportunity slip away. If you are in India on Holi, do not under any circumstances go out without your camera. You will hate yourself in the morning.

Loose ends for the weekend

I’ve added a few pages to the website, but never got around to listing them here, so if you are among our readership (which I think is now somewhere between 3 and 5 people per week), here are some of the random new pictures and all you can visit this weekend:

Anyways, hope that is enough to keep you busy over the weekend. I know it has been a chore from this end (labor of love, yeah, yeah, yeah).

Happy Birthday, India (aka Breck’s Day of Star Wars)

breck.JPGToday is Republic Day, the biggest (secular) holiday of the year. Everything is shut down, and the country sits back to watch a huge parade held in Delhi. We had been in the city when preparations were under way in January, but we had to content ourselves with seeing bits and pieces of it on TV today.

It was like something straight out of the old school Soviet Union displays of military prowess: naval marching bands, goose-stepping army formations, and the latest/greatest tanks and missiles rumbling past bleachers full of (bored) leaders. The snap salutes and all-too-serious facial expressions on the paraders were straight out of the Cold War playbook, as were the newspaper editorials about how it is even more important to show the world how powerful the Indian State has become.

The only real difference was that the USSR – to the best of my knowledge – didn’t have parade participants riding on decorated camels, unlike the Rajasthan border control corps were (followed by people picking up the camel poop scattered across the street).

Ultimately, however, we all know the true reason for the hoopla: India was really out celebrating Breck’s birthday! (This year he was unfortunate enough to have it on a Saturday, but next year it is on Monday and we will even have a day off from school for him!!)

While people were dancing in the streets of Delhi, we were putting the final touches on our house done up in a scheme we call the Force Finest. We had a Star Wars table cloth (courtesy of YiaYia), a crossed lightsaber cake, a “pin the lightsaber on Darth Vader” game, the computer showing pictures from all both trilogies, and music from the movies playing all day long.

Things got off to a great start when Breck opened his first present – a huge Lego AT-AT (that is a Star Wars vehicle, in case there was any doubt). Much of the morning was spent starting to assemble it. Dad and Breck took a time out in the middle of the day to go to the school for a weekend soccer league, and we got to play speeder chase in our rickshaws (dad had planned on driving, but since our driver quit over Christmas, and we don’t really use our car at all, the battery has gone dead) to and from the school.

When we finally got around to actually having the boys over that Breck invited (2 from our same building), they played the Vader game, tested Dad’s force power by blindfolding him and attacking him with lightsabers, stuffed themselves with pizza and cake, opened up Lego sets and minifigure Star Wars dioramas, and closed out the evening to “The Return of the Jedi,” the favorite of the younger set because of those (infernal) Ewoks.

What a day, and what an evening. And tonight, there are going to be fireworks. It sure doesn’t get much better than that! Happy Birthday, Breck (and happy republic day, India)!

UPDATE – Check out all the action at Breck’s Birthday Party!!