Monthly Archives: December 2011

Is it really just day two? Errands!

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We had an ambitious day of appointments and errands today. After breakfast in the hotel, a car arrived from a local realtor to take us to see a possible rental unit. It is 45 minutes north of the city center and very close to where the kids will be attending school. The property has just been built, so there are only a handful of families who live in the facility so far. We saw both three and four bedroom bungalows—huge by Indian standards and at a very reasonable price of Rs 30000-40000 ($500-$750). The place has a gym, a swimming pool and a playground. The four bedroom home even has a beautiful terrace, and we can see the school from a distance on the property. It definitely set a gold standard for house hunting. They will furnish the apartment with rented furniture for our four month stay.

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second story terrace on the four bedroom condo

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external view of the condos

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main living area of the condo

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Kaden checking out her school from a distance

After touring the property, the owner took us to visit the kids’ school. The entrance to the school is off of the main artery that leads to the airport. After winding down a dirt road lined with coconut and then banana trees, you come upon a beautiful white school with tiled blue roofs. The facility was closed for the holidays, but it had a very good karma about it and the kids seemed pleased. The buses were also lined up inside the gate so we could see the kids’ future transportation as well.

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Canadian International School of Bangalore

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Carson checks out the banana and coconut trees on the road heading to his school

We then rode back to the hotel, took a brief rest and then set out to buy cell phones.  It is New Years Eve and many streets in the city are blocked from traffic to prevent revelers from leaving their cars three rows deep in the streets. Over 16,000 police officers have entered the city center to prepare for the crowds. But in the afternoon, it was just mainly a crowded Saturday of shoppers. We travelled to my mom’s favorite mall in town due to its big book store and Pizza Hut.

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At the mega mall

The Pizza Hut had table service and very delicious pizzas with interesting curry flavors and unexpected combinations.  By ordering off the menu we were able to get a plain cheese pizza for the kids plus a vegetarian pizza for the grown-ups. I ordered Thai chicken skewers which looked and tasted more like meatballs from wedding soup. Kaden ate potato wedges but was disappointed that “lemonade” was actually a carbonated drink. We had to be sure to request no ice for our drinks as you never know where the ice was coming from.

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Kids reading books in the mall's bookstore. (Note Kaden jabbing Carson in the ribs. It never ends).

By 3:00 Carson was exhausted and terrorizing his sister. Having been awake since 10 pm the night before, his body was shutting down. And we all were wiped out really. But we needed to finish the cell phone task. Buying a cell phone in India requires showing your passport, visa, and providing a passport size photo for each phone. Foolishly, we should have brought our old phones from the U.S. and then just bought SIM cards (you can’t do that with an I-phone unfortunately, but with any other phone). We had to go to three separate counters for choosing the phone (no, we don’t need a camera, blue tooth or MP#–we just want to make calls please), then buying the SIM card and then buying the calling plan. The kids were DONE by the end of this one hour task I took them to an arcade to play air hockey, skee ball and Pole Station before we made the long drive home, totally exhausted. Kaden said, “I am done with India for today.” We all are. Time to get some R and R and recover for tomorrow.

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Jet Lag and Good Friends

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We arrived in India at 1:30 in the morning. After gathering our luggage in five trolleys and making a pit stop at duty free for some wine, we left the airport in hopes of finding our driver. The driver didn’t show, so we found another driver. Four men strapped our many suitcases to the roof and jammed them in the trunk, muttering “Americans, Americans.”

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We finally arrived at the hotel at 4 in the morning. We passed through the gated entrance and then had to pass all of our luggage through hotel security. At 5:30 we were settled. I was ready for bed, but Kaden and Amma decided that they were up for the day. Carson decided to join them. Carson was exhausted and missing his Daddy terribly. Although  Kaden is giddy and excited about India, her patience was tried at this point as well. A horrible flight from Frankfurt, no sleep, arriving at India in the middle of the night and driving through deserted streets is not a great way to be introduced to a city! kfast finally opened at 7:00.  We all had breakfast and then I fell asleep until 11. Carson joined me in sleeping at some point, and that was it for him. He slept from 11 until 10 that night. And we didn’t stay in the room. He slept in cars, he slept at our friend’s house. He would have slept in elevators if I could carry him but he is too heavy. We asked Kaden what she wanted to do on her first day in Bangalore, and fitting with her social style she said, “I want to meet people.” So we made a plan to visit our “family” in Bangalore–my dad’s nephew’s family (not by blood, but even more valued relations, really). We hired a driver and made our way south. By mileage it is not a far drive, but the traffic crawls along at a snail’s pace.

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I am refusing to let the kiddos play with electronics during drives because there is so much to see outside the windows–people, scooters, motorcycles, buses, cows, oxen, dogs. Shopkeepers running traditional hut-style shops and Papa Johns pizza joints.

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View from the car: a gallery festooned in fresh garlands

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View from the car: State Parliament

When we arrived at our friends apartment complex in the J P Nagar (seventh phase) area of Bangalore. We were greeted by hugs and it was great to see familiar faces.  Skipper was there to greet us. He is 15 now and like another grandson to my parents. They brought Skipper a new warm-up jacket which he put on and didn’t take off for the entire visit. Indians always get nicknames, and my parents Sarono by the name of “Skipper” because he used to skip along instead of walk as a young child.  He is looking forward to taking trips with us as we travel about the region. Skipper is in Class 10 (the 10th grade), and he has his pre-exams at the end of January. He then has his exams in April. The pre-exams are even more important that the national exams in April because they more directly determine which colleges he can enter. He then has the choice of finishing secondary school at his current school or taking his last two years of secondary school at a college.

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Mamoni, Skippers mom, arrived shortly after we did with bags of food for the kids. She had taken the “auto” (the auto rickshaw) to both KFC and McDonalds and arrived with a bucket of chicken and chicken patty sandwiches, filet of fish sandwiches and Big Macs (which are chicken in India, not beef). She wanted Kaden and Carson to have some food that was familiar to them. She also had tandori chicken delivered for the adults. It was the best tandori chicken that I ever had–very lemony! And delicious puris as well. Carson was sound asleep and ate nothing. Kaden did not have an appetite, so the adults relished both sets of food.

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KFC and McDonalds extravaganza!

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Kaden and Dada chatting during our visit at Skipper’s house

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Mamoni heats up the yummy tandori chicken

When we returned to the car for the long drive home, twice as long (an hour and a half) dueto the traffic, everyone fell asleep in the car except me. By 5 when the car arrived back at the Lemon Tree Hotel, everyone climbed in bed. I rearranged the suitcases and visited the hotel’s gym. Carson finally woke up for the day at 10. My mom woke up at midnight and then I went to sleep. My dad and Kaden woke up at four and I slept until 6:30. My parents rented Home Alone 3 for the kids on the hotel TV while they waited for breakfast to open at 7. By the next morning, Kaden said, “I think we have been here a week”. It sure did feel like it!

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typical view from a Bangalore car: lots of traffic, always with motorcycles and autorickshaws in view

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McDonalds in Frankfurt

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After little sleep, we arrived in Frankfurt at 9:30 Frankfurt time (3:30 a.m. State College time). Kaden’s stomach was feeling queasy so we found a McDonalds. In addition to chicken nuggets and fries (for $12 plus ketchups for 60 cents) I ordered fried Brie with cranberry sauce. I also could have gotten a chicken sandwich with camembert cheese.

Prep and Landing

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Our playroom turned into packing room in the final few days--yes all of that stuff was to be packed into suitcases

Packing for a four month stay with two kiddos, two senior citizens and a mom is not a small task. Preparing to leave two days after Christmas is a bit insane. I finished Christmas prep last Friday and I’ve been in full blown India prep since (when I’m not grading papers and finishing up a few articles). Tasks in the past few days of tasks have included:
-Buying and organizing two tubs of food
-Having the kiddos try on all of the clothes in their closets to see what fits and what they are willing to wear
-Printing out every important document I might need since I will not have Internet while traveling and when we first get there
-Getting a notarized letter that declares that Todd knows that the kids are traveling internationally without him.
-Purchasing $450 in malaria and typhoid meds
-Making final doctor and haircut appointments for all
– Canceling papers, magazines, gym memberships, parking passes, etc.
-Configuring VPN on all i-touches, laptops and iPads to be able to access Netflix and hulu plus while we are abroad.
-Selecting paint colors for four rooms (to be completed while we are gone).
-Arranging meetings with teachers to discuss missed schoolwork.
-Shipping books to India via diplomatic pouch
-Helping my parents get their house ready to rent while we are away.
-Organizing going away parties for both kiddos–laser tag for the seven year old boy and an “almost” sleep over for the 10 year old girl
And so on, and so on, and so on. Count down…Two weeks!

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Food prep!
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Staging area for suitcase planning