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roaming the world and enjoying the scenery...

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!!

Into the firestorm

Well, hopefully not, but we leave tomorrow for a week in Bali. We plan on visiting Tulamben, a place we stopped at during our trip a few years back, but this time we will go as certified divers!

Our week here has been a bit crazy, with course selections for next year’s classes, end-of-term exams and projects, volleyball tournaments, Family Fun Fairs, and all sorts of social events (including a Bollywood party!). Poor Breck also came down with a nasty cold that kept him home for 2 days, so hopefully he’ll be recovered enough to enjoy the water.

If all that isn’t enough, today we got an email from our administrative team, pointing out this little tidbit of news. Then when we opened up the news here at home, we saw that this had happened and hope the events aren’t related. Oh well, maybe it is a good thing that we are landing in time for Nyepi and won’t be able to do anything anyways!

In any case, this is our “farewell” for a bit, as we head off into internet-access-unknown locales. We’ll post stories and pictures when we get back (and I’ll find out how my NCAA brackets are holding up – KY, MSU, OSU, KS – MSU to win in one bracket and KY in the other). Until then, here are a few shots – mostly stolen from Susan’s Facebook page – to tide you over.

Christmas morning!

Presents under the tree!Breck decided, based on a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon he read, to let us sleep in “until quarter to six this year.” Actually, he was very responsible, getting up quietly, looking around, and getting into his stocking (Santa neglected to put up a sheet this year; obviously the beer ‘n cookies bribe worked). The rest of us – with the girls both fighting colds – rolled out of bed around 7:30.

We got the tunes going and the lights on, and busted into the goodies. By the time all was said and done, there were some definite trends in the gifts received. Breck had an “all flying” year, with Star Wars legos, 2 model airplanes, a dart set, and a Wii fighter pilot game. Many of Alea’s gifts were construction-based, with jewelry making, rock tumbling, and dollhouse furniture putting together all making an appearance in her pile. Dave had a heavy metal Christmas, with a set of steel plates and bowls for the cabin, a Ganesh bell set, and a pair of silver candle holders. Susan was picturing the perfect year, with a shot of her and Dave at the PTA gala and an Omani trip.

What a great Christmas morning – now I’ve got to go play Wii with Breck!!

Susan and Alea reading the instructionsBreck making LegosSusan and Dave at the gala

Sun, sand, surf, and food poisoning

Sunset over Benaulim beach in Goa, IndiaYum, yum, yum. Isn’t that an appealing blog post title? The simple truth is that we got a lot more of the first three than expected because of the presence of the fourth – a mixed blessing some might call it.

So here’s the deal: Alea, Breck, and Dave were gone the whole week before our Diwali holiday on school trips. We were planning on turning right around on Friday afternoon and leaving on a trip to Hampi (a historical world heritage site in southern India). We were going to follow up that visit with a jaunt to Goa for a few days of relaxation.

Well that didn’t happen. On the second day of his trip, Breck ate something that made him violently ill, and by the time 15 other students and 4 teachers on the same trip were hit by the bug, the entire class canceled the event and came back to Mumbai early. Alea and I didn’t know anything about this until we got back from our weeks in the wilderness, so we found that Susan had managed to nurse him back to almost-health, but he was still not strong enough to travel safely.

So everything to Hampi got canceled, we made backup plans to spend the whole time in Goa, and when he was back on his feet we were off to the beach. We had a super relaxing time despite the rocky start, and we’re starting to post pictures. Check out the travelogue from the first few days on our webpage, and we’ll try to get the rest posted soon!

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!

First Day of School = Cancelled!

Swine flu reared its ugly head in India, as the city government of Mumbai closes all schools for seven days.

We got back in town late last week after a super summer vacation: we’ll certainly write more about it here. How surprised were we to hit the airport and find all sorts of medical checks established at the border! We had to fill in forms, have our temperature taken by a ‘thermal scanner,’ and have a face-to-face meeting with a doctor (or at least some guy wearing a white lab coat) before being allowed to enter the country. But even this craziness was nothing compared to the panic that we’ve felt over the past few days.

As one of our coworkers noted, “I wish people had a grasp of basic statistics.” In a city of 25 million people, there have been 2 confirmed deaths from swine flu! 5 times as many people die every day falling off trains here! In all of India, there have been 18 fatalities – how many are there from starvation, polluted water, car wrecks, etc I wonder? In other words, the realistic threat of swine flu is really, really low.

But, as tends to be the case, hysteria often overrides reality, and so all Mumbai schools have to close. Which brings us to the current curious situation. Instead of meeting friends and jumping back into the swing of a school year, our students will be spending Monday through Wednesday of next week staring at computer screens. All teachers are preparing on-line lessons, so that the missed days are not really ‘missed’ in terms of learning lessons.

Of course, some classes adapt easier to this new format than others. My math lessons, for example, are probably easier to do electronically than Susan’s first grade “welcome to school” activities. Our drama teacher was lamenting his lot in life, but at the same time not unhappy at all that he was not the PE instructor who has to help kids learn to swim via the internet!

Alea and Breck have adapted to the change in plans with amazing resilience. They are looking forward to seeing their friends, of course, but understand that there is not much we can do (since they experienced the medical check at the airport and have seen the new “thermal scanner” in place at school). They get to take their on-line courses at the school itself (lucky them!) starting Monday: much faster internet, the fact that they get to hang out with other kids and have care provided, and their teachers get to keep an eye on how effective those lessons are! We’ll keep you posted as to how things go…

India’s reaction to Obama

As mentioned earlier, the mood around the school as the election returns came in was ecstatic, to say the least. Apparently this was not a localized feeling; because Breck is home sick this morning and I am staying with him (and he is still sleeping and I’m reading the paper) and I have a few quiet moments to do this, I present to you some quotes from the front page of the Times of India:

Headline: Dark Knight in White House

Subheadline: Rosa Parks had to sit for Martin Luther King to march. King had to march for Barack Obama to run. Obama had to run for our children to fly.

First paragraph: Millions of Americans woke up on Wednesday in joyous disbelief. Barack Obama won, but the real victor was America. The planet’s loved but often reviled nation upheld the noble ideals of its founding fathers on Tuesday by electing a mixed-race African-American as its 44th President, redeeming itself in the eyes of the world and its own people.

Last paragraphs (of another piece): Barack Obama’s victory is our victory, the triumph of the human race. This, we can tell ourselves rightly, is what we are capable of: a moment of unprejudiced perfection. All of us can share it, all of us can exult in it.

But only Americans own it; only Americans can actually understand it. They have lifted the son of slaves to the most powerful position on Earth.

Do you think this is possible in India?

Really? When were you last nice to your servant?

The winds of change

Well there you go. We woke up this morning all ready to watch the election results come in. Unfortunately they were just the earliest returns from the east coast, so the electoral vote total was only in the low 40s by the time we left for school. Throughout the hallways before classes, however, the electricity was tangible. The kids and teachers were all very excited about the day and all the historic events taking place. (It is only fair to pass along that on Tuesday – which was the day before the election here – the high school had an ‘election’ that Obama won 190 to 13; apparently bipartisanship does not run strong through the student body!)

As the day went on and the news became official by 10am, emotions ran high. Kids were chanting, adults crying, and I heard (several times) refrains along the lines of “Thank God the last 8 years are over.” There was even a cautionary email that went out, reminding people that students who supported or were from families that supported McCain might be feeling a bit uncomfortable in the present climate and to keep a lid on things. Nonetheless, it was definitely one of those goosebumpy-feeling days: to witness history being made as well as to be surrounded by such a positive feeling of spirit/jubilation/community/relief.

Maybe one of the things that made the day so ‘happy’ was the fact that our home life is tempered with a little ‘sad’ and ‘worried’ right now. Breck has been sick since Sunday, first with stomach cramps, then with general malaise, and now with a very high temperature. We have been in and out of the doctor’s office and had a battery of tests run, but with no real conclusive diagnosis yet. We’ve had indicators of giardia, amoebas, appendicitis, and malaria, but none of these seem to be what’s going on. All we know is our boy is miserable, hurting, and not his usual self. Susan stayed home with him today, and tomorrow it is my turn. Hopefully some of this medicine we’re pumping into him will help him turn the corner. We sure hope so – that’s the sort of change we can believe in right now!

Happy Halloween!

Stutz family at Halloween 2007So here it is, one day after our Diwali shindig, and we had the big Halloween get together. (You can bet the kids are just going nuts at school with all the parties, candy, days off, and break coming up.) We had a trick or treating night at our apartment building, and all staff kids were invited to go up and down the stairs, knocking on all the doors and getting tons of candy. There were even ‘adult treats’ being cracked open in one of the apartments.

A few more pictures of the evening are posted here.

Breck and Alea did pretty well, and held their own in the trading sessions that followed. I was pretty excited to see that someone had even gotten ahold of Reese’s somehow, and so I made sure to ‘encourage’ them to trade for those!!

Susan the pirate picked up the same cold that Breck and Alea had, and so she stayed for a bit as the pirate greeting the kids, but then she did make her way around to give holiday greetings to all. She was not feeling any better this morning, but still decided to come in to school, but was not sure if she would make it all day. (I find it amusing that our driver has the day off on Thursdays, and that is the day of the week that everyone in our family has been the sickest!) Hopefully she’ll be feeling better by this weekend!

Week’s end

Breck's Crazy Hair!!Whew. This week went out like a lion. It has been crazy, crazy, crazy around school as everyone in the middle and high school prepares for the “Week Without Walls” that kicks off next Monday. I’ll be traveling with the 6th graders to Matheran for 5 days of team- and class-building activities. They are super excited about going, and I’m getting more so by the day.

Unfortunately on the home front, Alea has had to stay home the past 2 days with the same yucky cough thing that Breck had last week. She’s really bummed, because today was Crazy Hair day at the Elementary School and she was part of the group that organized and designed the day. Luckily, Breck was there to pick up the Stutz family participatory slack!

But at least we all have Oktoberfest to look forward to. My list of things to do after school is pretty super long…

One of my colleagues told a little story about an occurrence in class, and it seems like a great way to end the week. Because kids read this, we’ll replace bad language with little stars!!

It is quite an experience to be teaching with a bunch of kids for whom the English language, in all its beauty and nuance, is not their mother tongue. (Keep in mind this event happened in a class full of innocent elementary school kids – not the high schoolers!) Apparently the teacher made a mistake and said, “Shoot!” in class. One little girl gasped and said, “That’s a bad word!” To which another boy replied, “No, Shoot is ok to say, but S**T is a bad word.” Some other kid perked up and goes, “My dad says that G**D****T is much worse than that.” And the sweet little angel across the room pipes up, “But my brother said that F**K was the worst word of all.” Poor teacher had to wait a few moments, hand over giggling mouth, before retaking control of the situation.

Just a little flavor of the week, from all of us to all of you.

Got pollo?

Breck stayed home sick yesterday. He had a snotty nose and hacking cough. It is the kind of sick that has him coughing up phlegm every so often and having to spit it out. Of course, he has to let us know about it each time it happens. The colloquial term for this stuff in Honduras was pollo, which means chicken. Maybe because its chewy texture is that of nice, tenderly-cooked chicken? In any case, we liked the term and that’s what we use around the house, so we had a day full of Breck moping around and then suddenly yelling out, “Mom! I’ve got pollo!!”

Because we have a housekeeper (Stella), we felt ok leaving him at home with the TV ready to go. We figured that he’d sleep in, eat something, maybe watch a movie in the late morning. He called me at about 8:30 to let me know that he’d finished watching tv and was still waiting for Stella to arrive. Looked like it was going to be a loooong day in front of him! It all turned out ok though, as Susan left around noon (no afternoon classes today) and went home to be with him. I had soccer practice for the kids I’m helping coach after school, and report cards are due, so I had to stick around a bit to get all that done. By the time I got home, it sure seemed like Breck was feeling fine. There was still a bit of a drippy nose, but he had the lightsabers out and was pretty much flipping cartwheels in the living room. Gee, I guess that “work long hours” advice really is the way to go!

A new page to enjoy went up, too – see some pictures from our first visit downtown.