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Orange you glad you’ve seen India?

One of our teachers here organized a photography exhibit, and asked students and staff to submit photos. He forgot to mention that there was any sort of limit, so I daydreamed up a theme centered around the color orange, and played with a bunch of pictures over the weekend. I messed around with a ton, edited 13, and submitted a set of 9 which all went along with the question at the top.

As it turns out, he only wanted us to send in 4, so together we culled things down and substituted one color picture in place of its black and white cousin. So here, for your viewing pleasure, are the 5 that went in.

Woman in Orange (Jodhpur) Temple candles (Dharamsala) Jain boy in temple (Jaisalmer) Chinese fishing nets (Kerala) Tea time! (Bikaner)

In case anyone is wondering, here are the others that were “culled” from the set:

Prowling tiger (Ranthambore) Woman and child (Bikaner) Evening at the Taj (Agra) Ganges morning (Varanasi)


Dhobi ghats (Mumbai) Ganesh (Mumbai) Spices (Kerala) Monk and Buddha (Ellora)


Is it just me, or is the idea of calling a big religious event “Jesusfest” sort of, well, sacrilegious? I suppose that this is, after all, India, where there are loud and colorful festivals for every conceivable religious reason, and nothing should surprise us any more. We have noticed the signs for this during our time in Mumbai, but have never actually taken a picture.

Well, this year is the year I finally snapped that shot. So here, in all its glory, is the poster for Jesusfest 2011 (with the subheading of “Celebrating the Beatification of Pope John Paul III”).

JesusFest 2011

If you are interested in the event, you can certainly visit their website (http://www.mtcarmelyouthmovement.com). I’ve also posted below the “official” posters from the past 3 years, for your viewing enjoyment!

JesusFest 2009 Official Poster JesusFest 2010 Official Poster JesusFest 2011 Official Poster

Breck’s excuse

Welcome to India.

Breck’s band teacher caught me in the hall today, laughing about Breck’s reason for not having his sheet music in class: “My maid threw it away.”

Have we been out of the USA too long or what !! 🙂

Incredible India Irony

Lathi charge against women - who dared protest atrocities against women!

Straight out of the Times of India newspaper – police lay the smack down on women who are protesting against – wait for it – atrocities directed against women.

The sad thing is, this isn’t the first time for this to happen…

You can’t make this stuff up.

(Thanks, Eddie)

Portable A/C coffin

That was the tagline on an “Undertaker/Ambulance/Hearse” van parked in front of a church. I’m not sure who needs air conditioning when they’re laying in a coffin, but I’m guessing it is because they’re headed to a really, really hot place…

Dahi Handi

Celebrating the zany youthhood of Krishna, teams travel the city today looking to make human pyramids and reach the ‘pot of curd’ hanging over major intersections. I caught a glimpse of some of the teams on the way home from volleyball practice – and got caught up in the traffic. I have become very zen-like in my acceptance of the road congestion. I just sigh (and smile if I have my camera:)).

When I got to the house, I got a call from Susan (who was at book club) telling me that a friend of ours wanted to take a look around but was not entirely comfortable going out alone. So with the spousal permission all taken care of, out I went and actually got to see a teal complete the human pyramid task.

Basically, groups of youths roam the city looking for these pots of smelly curds (usually dyed with food coloring) and try to stack each other up high enough to reach them. Every year there are plenty of accidents, as the pyramids tumble down, but every year the prizes (and the number of groups) increase. Take a look through the pictures and get a glimpse of yet another side of life in India…

Materials are daintiness

"Make a teaching fairyland"Breck got a cool model from a birthday party a few weeks ago – a cardboard stick-em-together military ship. We had a great father-son bonding afternoon, separating all the pieces and assembling them in the shape of the ship.

What made it even more exciting was the fact that there were no directions. We had to find 2 pieces that had matching numbers on them and then stick the pieces together. Of course, #1 was not the first bit to be assembled: oh no – the numbers had nothing at all to do with the order.

We did get things done, however, and it is now a part of his growing ‘modern military’ collection of toys. He has great battles between it, the Keralan backwater bamboo boat, the wooden tank from Bali, and the garage sale metal planes (ranging from WWII through modern jet fighters).

I suppose, however, that we really should feel happy not to have had any instructions. Judging from the text that appeared on the front of the box, I’m pretty sure written directions would have been more of a hindrance!


There has to be an explanation for this: Boutique Cum Snack BarUm, I think will pass on the that after-work drink. I wonder how this place ends up stocking ’boutique’ flavors – special diets? On second thought, I’m not quite that interested in finding out.

This wasn’t quite when I had in mind when people were talking about the new place in town to wet their whistle. I must’ve missed the memo that explained all this…

Oh – that explains it.

Here is the reason that road repairs take forever, explained in a sign at the Chennai (India) airportReally, I had a big long blog explanation all typed up, and just deliberately deleted it.

There really is no need for anything other than this sign, as the picture says everything that needs to be said.

Now you know why road repairs – here in India, and probably everywhere else in the world – take forever to finish up.

You’re welcome.

No coconuts allowed

So we’re walking past a temple in Varanasi, and I guess security has everybody pretty uptight. In addition to barring non-Hindus from entering, there is a whole slew of banned items. Many of them make sense, but one doesn’t (at least to me).

Maybe coconuts are the antithesis of the holy cow: keep them out of the sacred precincts. I’m sure there is a (seemingly) logical explanation for banning them, but I find it strange that there is not a simple restriction on all hard-shelled fruit, instead of picking on the poor coconut.

How good is your school?

So I’m back from a long weekend in the extreme India city of Varanasi, and instead of concentrating on posting pictures and the travelogue from that fascinating city (and finishing up the still-undone pages from our Jodhpur trip), I’m posting a few funny pictures. I did put some shots up on Facebook, so if you are my friend you can see them here.

But the topic of today’s post is schooling in India. While visiting Varanasi, I noticed that there are several different ‘levels’ of schooling available. Let’s look at them, shall we (and please note that this entire post is firmly tongue in cheek).

At the top of the heap, the "persnolity" developing ApexAcademy

At the very top of the heap is the Apex school, of course. Notice the emphasis on “Persnolity” development; extremely handy to perfect.

At the second tier, the Bright school

The second tier of learning is for the Bright kids – they may not be at the very top of the heap, but they’ve got some things going for them.

Standard Public School

And if you set your sights just a little bit lower, you can attend the Standard Public School. The horizons might be closer, but, you know, it is…standard.

Make your child indifferent

And, down at the bottom, I love this particular school. They are so very proud of their slogan – it is repeated on many signs around town. So now you know where all the slouch-shouldered, sullen Indian kids get their education.

Indifferent children of the world, unite!!

Because it is your own fault if they are taken…

Make sure that your shoes are not stolen by someoneThere’s no law that says signs have to make sense. On a recent temple visit, I snapped a picture of this warning sign by the shoe storage area. (FYI, whenever you enter any kind of Hindu temple, Jain chapel, Islamic mosque – basically any house of worship that is not Christian – you take off your shoes and leave them outside. This is a sign of humility, as well as an effective way to keep some of the street filth from being tracked in – which is why we absolutely take our shoes off when entering our house. You don’t want to track ANY of that stuff in. Shudder.)

In any case, we do know that – while rare – shoe thievery from temples does happen. It happened to someone from our school (who shall remain nameless), who wore his brand new fancy dancy dress shoes (to a funeral, no less!) and ended up having to walk back to the car in his socks. He was especially ticked because he had just bought them recently, but had put off wearing them much so as not to scuff or mar them. I’ll bet the shoe thief was thankful for that!

In any case, we’ve never had such bad luck, but I do find the sign interestingly amusing. I wonder what sort of karma would apply to someone who stole a worshiper’s shoes – what would he be reincarnated as?

Mangroves, trash, and our fantastic daughter

Alea and Dave had another Community, Service, and Responsibility day at school today, and we again headed up to some local mangroves. We have sort of ‘adopted’ one stretch of lakeshore, and so we were curious what we would find after our cleanup in November.

Sadly, there was all sorts of new plastic strewn about, but most of the kids rolled up their sleeves and got right to work. We were joined by some guys from a group called Sprouts, a local NGO dedicated to attacking various environmental problems around Bombay while educating people about these issues. They were extraordinarily enthusiastic and a lot of fun to clean up garbage with!

The most incredible “teaching moment” came, however, at the tail end of all our efforts. We were wrapping up, discussing as a group the day’s events, in front of 35 dripping bags full of stinky plastic and garbage pulled from the lake, when a motorcycle roared up behind us. A man, woman, and little girl got off, walked around us, went to the lake, took out a plastic bag full of garbage, and dumped it in.

The kids were horrified and the adults were livid. The guys from Sprouts read the man the riot act, my cooperating teacher told him that apparently she loved his country more than he did, and the students simply looked on in shock. He mumbled something about ‘returning nature to nature,’ but when we pointed out that the plastic didn’t belong there at all, he sheepishly shrugged his shoulders and bobbled his head. But at least he did pick up his trash and put it in the nearby bin.

What a poignant reminder of just how big the job is here in India. People talk about ‘the white man’s burden,’ but in this case I really have a tough time understanding any other way to get the point across other than by throttling the population here and shouting, “Stopping throwing all this crap all over your own country!!”


But on a more positive note, I do have to say that I am so incredibly proud of Alea. She was the single most hardest working person out there, getting all muddy and sweaty, leading by example, and really just making my heart swell with love and pride. Her efforts were commented on by her peers as well as the adults, and it was just a joy to see her out there, working so hard for the sheer pleasure of doing good.

So on the way home, I bought her a Baskin Robbins Oreo shake!!

Free Verse Friday – Ode to the varieties of Indian stomach ailments

I have been neglectful in Free Verse Friday lately, so in honor of this week’s Caf-ASB, here is my ode to various regional stomach ailments:

Here in Mumbai, we sometimes get food sick
From restaurant, kitchen, or picnic.
The belly distends
Kicks out waste from both ends
Accompanied by internal music.

This year’s not been really all too rough
We’ve only had one round of that stuff
But with watery stomachs
And quivery buttocks
I swear once is more than enough.

The first hint is often quite bitter
A bubbling that shouts out “Don’t fritter!
You’ve no time to wait
You’d better go straight
And plop yourself down on the… toilet!”

But one thing we’ve noticed in three years
Is a pattern that constantly reappears:
The BMs reflect
The vacations they’ve wrecked
Like a matched set of runny brown souvenirs.

Our first trip, in a hotel so smelly
Alea’s tummy got sick from some jelly
In India’s heart
Ruined trip from the start:
An authentic case of real Delhi Belly.

The second time, as you will soon see-a
Was based on the self same idea
Poor Breck took the throne
In our very own home:
Struck down by Mubaiarrhea.

Dave’s ill was not like his daughter’s
But still was a set of the trotters.
Eating Cochinese shrimp
On his trip, put a crimp:
He sailed down the Kerala Backwaters.

Our last trip involved the ole poop pots
When we went to see Indian hot spots
In the desert a-cruisin’
The ailment caught Susan
And she got the Jodhpur Camel Trots

We’ve suffered on hikes, boats, and car rides
Strange stuff coming out of our backsides:
From Goan Groanin’ sick
To Jaipur Diaper ick
To colossal Himalayan Mudslides.

Pondicherry Derri-airy, Bangalore Blasts
Hyderabad Hot Squirts, Taj Mahal Gas
The Rajasthan Runs
Of course, Mysore Bum
The Calcutta Quick Step and Amritsar Ass.

Now, don’t think our stories pure unkind
We’ve usually had a real good time.
We remember our trips
Not by what we take with
Butt rather, what we’ve left behind!

No Showers Allowed

See, I always remember being told that the best way to save water was to take showers instead of baths. Apparently that is just not good enough any more.

Water rationing is starting to hit Mumbai hard these days (the newspapers have talked about cuts of 35% or so) for a variety of reasons – exploding population, localized drought, leaky infrastructure, etc. On our way to school, we saw a stark reminder of how serious an issue this is.

On an overpass, the grim visage of Sachin Tendulkar – who is lionized around the country as the greatest cricket player (in a nation of great cricket players) to have ever graced the pitch – advises people to avoid the ‘temptation of using shower.’ Apparently the new thing in saving water is taking a bucket bath.

It is pretty ironic on a couple of levels. First of all is the obvious juxtaposition with our idea of the shower as a water saver – now it is the water wasting way to do things. Secondly is the fact that many (if not most) of Indians have no access to running water of any kind, making this exhortation a moot point. It reminded me of this great article I’d found a few years ago for World Water Day.

But as we get ready for spring break and our trip to Jodhpur (which is, incidentally, where we are heading this year in case you were wondering), we’ll keep in mind the need for care in our water use. Bucket baths are not that bad: we’ve had them before in hotels, and I foresee us having them again on this trip!

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…


Didn’t think getting a haircut was a big deal? It is when you walk through an Indian neighborhood to get there. I’ve wanted to document the walk down to my hair cutting “saloon” for quite some time, and I finally got around to it last weekend.

I go to a local place – a step up from the sidewalk emporiums since it is actually housed in an old cargo container with electricity and everything!

Check out the pictures from the walk, just another glimpse at the sights from our life in Mumbai!

CD Release party tonight

One interesting aspect of this life we lead overseas is getting to see and do things that many people don’t have the chance to. Besides all the cool places we’ve been and fantastic sights we’ve seen, we also get to take part in some pretty funky stuff.

Breck’s modeled clothes, we’ve eaten dinner with a billionaire, and tonight we are going to a CD release party. The thing that makes this even more interesting is the fact that it is for an album being put out by a student of mine. Alea is invited (as is much of the 7th grade, and middle school for that matter), and so we are going to traipse downtown to check things out.

It is a little bit ‘strange’ to see a 12 year old that you meet every day and eat lunch with quite often involved in something like this (not to mention the crazy outfits and all in the music video!), but just as teachers have lives outside of school, so do students.

In any case, you can check out Raveena’s official website and blog, watch the music videos, and vicariously enjoy the Indian jet-set life!

Whoo hoo!

Gotta love the Indian sense of karma on the road. Don’t worry about things like helmets and seatbelts and carseats and rules, because nothing’s going to stop your number coming up when it is due on the big wheel of destiny, baby!

This guy came zooming up behind us today on the way home, and I just happened to have my camera (because of the Mathcounts tournament). Check out his kid’s hair whipping in the wind!

But don’t worry, dad’s got a good grip around his leg in case he has to stop real quickly – that’ll prevent the head from whipping forward, right?

I’m alaughing

Hot stuff, man.

Saw this at the Aquathon last week. And I know, I know, this probably is technically correct English, but it just isn’t something that, really, would ever be written this way.

Thanks, Eddy, for noting the issues I had with the original post for today (which has now disappeared into the bologsphere!)

Free verse Friday – Shaving in the Street

Just a look at a roadside barber shop today:

Men all have beards that grow each day
so they should shave them off, you see.
Since no water’s where most Indians stay
This barber looks out for you and me.

He sets up shop in the local streets
next to the tea and rickshaw stands
and using what he can find for seats
He goes to work with his two hands.

A bucket of water, lathered suds,
a brand new straight-edge blade
are all he needs to serve his buds
and ensure his income’s made.

A shave, hair cut, and head massage too
Check look in mirror hanging down.
Amazing what the locals can do
In this topsy-turvy town!

This isn’t the place that I go – I just took the picture from our school bus one day. Next time I go to get a haircut, though, I will bring that camera and document that adventure. Have a great weekend!

Tis the season

Alea on the sax - winter 2009We have a slow moving family this morning, as we all nurse the excesses from this ‘start of the holiday season’ weekend. The events began on Wednesday, with Alea’s band concert, and things will just get ever more crazy from that point on.

This weekend is chock a block with doings: Friday night was an impromptu rooftop gathering in celebration of a colleague’s new job in Bucharest, Saturday night was the school’s Christmas party at Aurus, a swanky beachside club (open bar and all, thus the quiet music and dim lights this morning), today is an art show followed by holiday sing-a-long, and Monday is the Grand Hyatt’s tree-lighting ceremony showcasing the ASB elementary schoolers and also including copious amounts of first-class food and drink (unfortunately on a school night!).

Alea’s play practices – the show is called “Online – An Internet Fantasy” – are revving up in intensity, as her performances are Friday afternoon and evening, Susan has a chick-flick movie night organized on Saturday, our White Elephant party is Thursday evening, and then we are outta here for Bali. Whew. I’m glad we got our tree up as early as we did, ’cause there’s no time to do it now!

Which is worse?

Cleanliness in MumbaiWashing your car or urinating in public?

Yeah, that’s what I thought too, but apparently the city of Mumbai doesn’t agree with my assessment of the situation. We went downtown the other week and I was able to snap this picture of a ‘civic awareness’ sign.

While it is certainly interesting that a car wash sets you back about $20, and that feeding animals will ding you $10, the far more fascinating bit is that it is apparently worse to let a dog “go” in public than for a person to drop trou! Again, the priorities and heirarchy of concerns are fantastic.

I’ll jump on the bandwagon that an acquaintance of mine here in Bombay started. Actually, he’s not really an acquaintance yet, since we haven’t met in person, just electronically. He’s the dad of a student I teach, and we seem to share a lot of the same amusement at Indian quirks. In any case, he set up a Facebook album of Indian Street Signs that I hope you can see. I’ll post a few more of those that we’ve come across as well – although to be honest, I’m afraid we’ve gotten so used to them that it is hard to ‘notice’ how funny they are any more…

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!

Not quite clear on the concept (plus a few other things)

Actual quote from a story in today’s Bombay Times:

Jai Ho choreographer Longinus Fernandes…has been invited to Miami to perform at the 2010 Orange Bowl Games of America. “This is a convention of various colleges playing football where they have a half-time in between the games which is taken over by entertainment performances….This is the first time an Indian’s performing at this convention so it is a proud moment for me.”

Enjoy that convention there at the Games of America, with various colleges in attendance!

And speaking of football – oh hey, my fantasy football team has now won 6 straight games, thank you very much!

Alea in the mangrovesAnd speaking of cleaning up, Alea and dad had a very productive day in the mangroves. We had a bit of an informative tour and then proceeded to get all dirty and muddy cleaning up some trash! Alea was going gangbusters in finding all sorts of living creatures (snails, bugs, slimy things), picking up garbage, and then thoughtfully reflecting on the day’s activities.

And speaking of living and dead creatures, out Thanksgiving festivities will be pretty low-key. Breck and Alea have playdates Thursday after school, Friday is a day off, so we are going to the dentist (!), and at some point during the weekend we’ll break out that box of Stove Top Stuffing that we brought back with us this summer just for this occasion! As I told my dear Aunt Susan over on Facebook the other day, tandoori chicken and minced goat meat is how the sub-continent Pilgrims roll, baby!