Category Archives: cultural arts

music, art, theater, etc

Seeing the greatest art in the world through the eyes of kiddos

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After our Eiffel Tower escapades, we hopped a cab to the Musee d’Orsay. My favorite art museum in the world. Walls and walls of impressionist art that just blows you mind–Renoirs, Monets, Cezannes, Degas.

Lesson learned from previous visits–start at the top where the the good stuff is! We were so jet lagged and cold, this lump resting spot was hard to leave near one of the clocks.

We wanted to rest and have a good bite to eat before seeing the art. The cafe at the top of the Musee d’Orsay is gorgeous. A work of art in itself, and we had fun playing the game of which artisitic features we loved the most. And also which feature we might want in our own home–not the same question, actually!

Unfortunately, the menu was unbelievably NOT kid friendly. For a museum, I was really surprised. No pommes frites? No crepes? Carson’s “ham and cheese sandwhich” was covered on top with bitter, fancy cheese. The cheese plate for Kaden was only the very fancy stinky cheese. I love cheese, but even I couldn’t eat it. As Carson said, “It tastes old and spoiled.” I am a foodie, but I was surprised that they didn’t have something simple on the menu. Plus my  carrot soup was bland. But mom’s pasta with pesto and ham and fancy cheese was good. And I did enjoy Carson’s ham sandwich even though he didn’t. But for the price, it was a frustrating food experience.  After four months in India where I felt that waitstaff bended over backwards to accomondate the kiddos, I thought that Paris with all of its kid friendly talk would do the same. Not so! The view, though, was exceptional.

And the real reason to be there was the art. I was THRILLED that the kids got absorbed into the paintings, despite our fatigue. We played our art game again–“Guess which picture on the wall is my favorite.” It really helped the kids to study each wall of paintings carefully and to reflect on their own favorites plus others. When walking through some of the early impressionistic paintings that are much more realistic than the Monets, we played another game–“Where is the light shining in this painting? And why would the artist want to draw your eye to that spot in the painting? ” Again, this game was surprisingly a big hit!  And in the end the kids developed some definite opinions. Much to my surprise, Kaden is a huge Cezanne fan.  Below was one of her favorite paintings.

Carson liked Monet and Van Gogh. We talked a lot about how different it is to see a Van Gogh in person because of his thick brush strokes, swirls, and density of paint. They really appreciated this difference. This painting below had been on his wall in his room for many years. He really enjoyed seeing it in person.

After the museum, it was time to do some souvenier shopping. Kaden insisted on a beret. Here she is outside the Musse d’Orsay.

 In the museum shop, I also saw this sign about learning English on the door. I was fascinated, since I think in general the French are not such fans of using English. The times they are a changing I guess.

Then it was time to head home, which unfortunately for us, led us in a big circle trying to find our train back to the apartment. Note to travellers in Paris: the metro and the RER lines are viewed as very different to Parisians even though they are on the same map and tickets are the same for each. So if you ask for the nearest metro stop, even though the RER line is literally ten steps away, they just might send you four blocks away to get to a proper metro train. Lesson learned!

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Saying goodbye…

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On May 1 at 2 in the morning, our Lufthansa plane lifts off from Bangalore and we head towards home. We have a layover in Frankfurt where we are getting off the plane and heading to Paris for a few days before we return home at the end of the week. That little stopover seemed a lot more logical almost a year ago when we booked the tickets. We’re now realizing we’ll have to pay double baggage fees plus storage in Frankfurt for that choice. But, hopefully Paris will be worth it!

The blogs will continue throughout the week, as I still have more to share about our Bangalore experiences! And I will share our Paris adventures when I can find wi-fi in Europe. It HAS to be faster than what I have here :).

Our last days in Bangalore were spent at home, packing, packing, packing. And spending time with neighborhood friends. When putting together a list of what we will miss most about Bangalore, the kiddos and I unanimously agreed that we would miss our new friends the most.

I will miss my yoga mommies and Astha, our fierce but friendly yoga teacher!

      she’s doing the lion pose here!

   

After our last yoga class we had a delicious lunch at Jashn!

    

Kaden had her school friends over for one final fling.That’s Sophie from Signapore, Marian from NJ, Kaden, Monisa from Massachusetts, Caroline from Denmark, and Kaya from Virginia (Ester from Denmark came a little a late).

      

Dear Mr. Yadov, the head security guard of Almond Tree, stopped by and happily joined in the festivities. We will miss his cheerful greeting, said all in a jumble, “How are you fine thank you!!”

     

At one point, Yadov officiated the swimming races. “One! Two! Three!” He shouted and laughed out loud. Such a fun spirit!

We also bid farewell to the sweet teenagers who did our ironing every Sunday–for the equivalent of 16 cents per item. They both have completed school through 9th grade but their father said they must now work instead of going on for further schooling.

Even more than school friends, the kiddos will miss their neighborhood evening fun–especially their nightly Cops and Robbers games in the courtyard!  In this picture, below, all had  been invited to the clubhouse area for Diya and Ecta’s party.

I love the way this neighborhood is a community. The kids all spill out into the courtyard and play together. Whoever is out, that’s who plays. No cliques or “so and so can’t play right now because she has a friend over….”  Every one plays together. If you have company, they join in the mix. That’s the way it is here. The way it was when I was a kid. I wish it was this way  back home.

The whole neighborhood was also invited to the latest birthday party, which happened in the courtyard/swimming pool area. And all of the moms pitched in. One ran the games, the other manned the music. Everyone worked together.

I also found it fascinating how cultural traditions are the same/different. It seems fairly universal at the parties that we have attended for the birthday song to be sung in English but with clapping throughout the song. At this party, after the singing, the girls fed cake into the mouths of their friends, like Americans do for weddings. I checked with the other neighborhood kiddos and they confirmed that’s a normal custom. Kaden was so glad we don’t do that since she rarely likes the cakes at parties!

    

Below, who wouldn’t want sweet Angel to join in the fun! She is getting so big

Below–cops and robbers being played in earnest!

  

On the final night we had pizza for all the kiddos in the neighborhood (pizza in the background, intense trading of WWE wrestling cards in the foreground!

On our last day we had a final meal at the Movenpick Hotel’s yummy buffet, including a final round of fresh lime soda–sweet!

    


Record keeping

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The keeping of records is a fascinating issue in India.  Other than the national corporations, many hotels, apartment complexes and banks even still keep records in big old fashioned ledgers.  With power often iffy, no computer can go down and lose the records. And it’s how it has always been done.

I am astounded by the number of sign in books in our apartment complex and those of other complexes. Sign in the little books to go to the gym, to use the pool, to welcome visitors. And I am astounded by the paper trail at grocery stores. Get a tally of the bill from one person, pay another person, and then a third person at the door checks the receipt and stamps it.

Carson’s juice bottle from Cafe Coffee Day (the Starbucks of India). I have no idea what it is supposed to mean, but it sums up well my feelings in India some days!

While such record keeping seems ubiquitous in what seems like silly situations to me, we have been equally astounded by the lack of data bases and record keeping where it matters. For example, most book stores in India, even huge multi-level bookstores often do not have a method for keeping track of inventory. Books are not shelved based on title or author. Sometimes they are shelved by publisher. Sometimes by subject. Sometimes willy nilly.

Even at the big and fancy Mantri Mall this week, my mom went to a very large book store to find if they have books by Amit Chowdry, a famous intellectual in India. Big shot. Big deal. The book store pulled up Amazon.

My mother asked, “How do you know if you have the book if you look it up on Amazon?”

Clerk: “The book might be shelved by title.”

My mom goes to the section and notices that they aren’t shelved by title at all. She returns to the clerk and asks, “How are the books ordered if they aren’t ordered by title.”

Clerk: “It is what it is madam.”

Even more surprisingly than the book store, my parents went to the Museum of Modern art.

None of the personnel knew what paintings were located in the museum. When asking to speak to a more senior person, the man admitted that the museum does not have a database or catalog. Even more surprisingly, though, was that they could not find anyone who knew where the painting by Tagore was located. Tagore is one of the most famous authors/poets in India history.  My parents finally found the painting tucked away on the sixth floor.

We took the kids to the Art Museum in our last days in Bangalore. The kids were not very enthused about the visit until I lucked out with a game that kept them happy. In each room of art, we all had to choose our favorite and then we had to guess the favorite’s of everyone else.  It slowed them down, caused them to consider the pieces carefully, and they had a blast. I will definitely remember that trick for Paris.

Wandering about the sculpture garden, Carson shows off his new gap. The tooth fairy came last night and left both Rs 100 and $1!

The one place where records are watched very closely is in the cricket league which has caught India by storm. My dad watches a match every night. Carson is obsessed as well. He wears his red Bangalore Royal Challengers cap all around town. Below are some of the team logos at the hotel bar in Hospet.  Carson insisted on watching the matches on the big screen in the bar, much to the concern of the wait staff at the hotel!

Final shopping marathon on Commercial Street and beyond.

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Mom and I set out to finish our shopping in what turned out to be a marathon day. We were out there so long that driving into town I texted good night to Todd. By the time we returned home, he had slept through the night, gotten showered, and had gone into work.

First stop: Safina Plaza for some fabrics and pillow covers.

Second stop: Dispensary Road, to our tried and trusted cranky lady to get some  ultra soft linens with elephants!

Time then for me to hit Commercial Street and stock up on some bangles.

While I am still not a professional bargainer like some of my friends, I did succeed with a new technique. I talked one guy down to his lowest price, then walked across the street and said to the next guy, “That guy will give me xxx rupees, what will you give?  (but I really said less than what the first said).” Was the most effortless bargaining of the day.

         

After a brief respite at KFC in the air conditioning and stop in Fab India, we discovered this lovely gem of a store called Kasmir House. Actually it is three shops–two brothers and a son. Each shop is more like a closet. But great prices and amazing treasures. We were bad. Very bad in this store. So many things to buy.

Then down the road to my favorite fixed price man. His prices are so reasonable and he is so cute. And he puts bubble wrap on everything. And I mean everything.

He even sent us down the alleyway to find even more bubble wrap to bring home for packing up!  That was a lot of bubble wrap mom was viewing!

On the way home, we stopped at Bamburi’s to get the best beef in town and some darned good looking eggs. Plus Swensen’s for ice cream, Reliance for veggies, and then to a tailors. For $4, I got three shirts altered.

Two days later, Kaden and I had our own final celebration–getting a little India bling on our toes!

And on a commercial note, I finally figured out why my cell phone plays this Kannada song. For four months, it has been playing the same song. I have no idea what song because I never call myself. But at this point my mom can sing it by heart even though none of us know what it says. Turns out the messages I have been getting for my HT service weren’t related to texting as I thought. Instead it was the monthly renewal of my Happy Tunes service! Rs 30 a month!

And on a second random note on commercialization in India, I am completely amused by the Disney channel in India. They have turned all of the popular Disney Tween shows into Hindi shows here in India. The other night Kaden was watching “Best of Luck, Nikki” in Hindi with no subtitles, and she was able not only to tell me exactly what had happened so far, but started eerily predicting what would happen next on the screen. Turns out the show is an exact knockoff of the show “Good Luck, Charlie.” Kaden knows the show so well that she was able to share with me that the exact storyline was repeated on this Indian show. So exact that Kaden would say things like, “Now a girl is going to come around the  corner. Next a stuffed dinosaur will fall out of the air.” It’s not the only show that has been adapted to a Hindi format. “Suite Life with Zack and Cody” is “Suite Life of Karan and Kabir.”  Of course, the sociologist in me is fascinated to learn what they changed on these shows. With the attempt to make such a parallel formula–what was perceived as not funny or not appropriate for Indian audiences?

The hidden surprise of Chokhi Dhani

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On our last night in Jaipur, I decided to take the kids on an adventure. Very little was written about Chokhi Dhani. Some guidebooks called it a resort, some a simulated village, and Lonely Planet even called it a theme park. One thing was certain–the website did not provide enough information. It didn’t even say when it opened!

Luckily, we were delighted with what we found. If Disney were to design an India section for Epcot, this is what it would look like–a lovely Rajisthani simulated village, lighted by lamps, with sand under foot. (The place is only open after dusk due to the heat during the day being too much!). Below is the view from the ferris wheel.

Our biggest thrill was riding a camel! But we could have also ridden elephants, horses, camel carts, bullock carts and more.

Let me emphasize just how very tall camels are. And to get up from a seated position, they must first lift their back legs, which causes you to lurch forward. Then up go the front legs and you feel like you are way high in the sky. I was thinking it would be like riding a horse, but I felt twice as high. Carson was happily snug between mom and sis, but I had to hold tight to Kaden so that she was not afraid of falling off. They don’t strap you in or anything! The ride lasted about five minutes. That was enough! Glad we did it, but we didn’t go looking for another ride the next morning like we had planned.

Thatched huts dotting the park with music everywhere housed all kinds of performers. We saw everything from fire dancing to puppetry to magic.

  

     

We visited a  lovely artisan village with absolutely no pressure to buy. Artisans sat outside each of the displays demonstrating the crafts that were for sale. It was late though by the time we got over there, so things were starting to shut down.

We all wanted to get mehndi tattoos, but the woman doing the art had a limited repetoire.

Carson said, “Do you do monkeys?

“No, peacocks!”

Carson: “How about dragons?”

“PEACOCKS!”

Kaden: “I just want a peacock feather.”

“PEACOCKS!!!”

So, Kaden got a design on her leg. I got one on my arm. As you can tell from her face, she was not happy that it was the full peacock bird rather than just the feathers. And Carson opted for nothing. But I was happy with mine.

Mehndi is henna and is often used to decorate the palms and feet–especially for weddings and religious celebrations (and not just the bride). As you can see on my hand a day later, the henna is darkest on the palm  rather than the arm because the keratin is greatest in this part of the body. This design was very simply–lots of scribbling actually. True mehndi artists do some very intricate and beautiful things!

We  also explored the petting zoo, played carnival games, rode a ferris wheel (okay, the ferris wheel is a bit sketchy). The kids slid down slides. We wandered through a maze. With signs posted saying “please do not encourage tipping” it was so nice to engage with people and wander from activity activity without the stress of figuring out how much to pay. And if we didn’t want to do something, absolutely no pressure at all. It was so weird to not be hassled!

   

My favorite part was the food. While they pushed a traditional vegetarian thali sit down dinner, I knew the kids wouldn’t like that. Plus I have eaten plenty of traditional vegetarian thali dinners for as little as the equivalent of 50 cents. I did not need to pay $10 dollars for one! Instead, we could order from street vendors without worries about getting sick. Such fun! Kaden couldn’t believe that I was allowing her to get cotton candy and popcorn after so many months of refusal. We drank coconut water straight from the coconut. We watched them make “fresh lime soda, sweet!” right in front of us. I got all kinds of chats, including bhel puri and other things I didn’t even know I was eating! So much fun to eat my way across the village!

   Bhel puri!

On the car drive back to the hotel, the kids actually said, “Thank you mommy for taking us there. That was some of the best fun that we had in India!” I agree!

    

Encountering the Taj–a tale of two kiddos

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Our trip to the Taj Mahal was a tale of two kiddos. If only I could have cloned myself into two parents!

Both initially posed for obligatory shots with mom.

  

But Kaden was the kid who really embraced the spirit of the Taj Mahal.

She took at least as many photos as I did, and she was captivated by the designs of the structure and its beauty.

Although we kept swapping cameras, so I’m not entirely sure which shots are hers, these pictures really captured her eye for design and her interest in the details of the monument.

    

   

  

  

When in the Taj Majal itself, we had to either go barefoot or wear these shoe covers. Kaden chose shoe covers, Carson chose barefoot.

   

While Kaden enthusiastically embraced the Taj Mahal, Carson fell apart. The day before, we got up early, took a flight, then drove for 9 hours with many stops. Then the next morning we got up before dawn to see the Taj Mahal. It took just one silly comment from his sister for Carson to have an absolute melt down temper tantrum just as the Taj Mahal came into sight.

He whined, he complained, he cried through our entire visit at the Taj Mahal. And solo parenting, I was in charge of all of it.

    

The only way I could figure out how to deal with his horrible moods was to strategically sit him in various locations and let him sulk and sob while we took in the sites. In this picture up to the right, he was carry on so dramatically that a security guard came up to him to see what was the matter. I told the security guard that perhaps he could talk some sense into him.

   

Then, miraculously, as suddenly as it started, it was over. On our way out of the Taj Mahal, we spotted some green parrots in the trees. After looking at the parrots, we left the Taj gates and suddenly he was fine. Go figure.

With the histrionics, the kiddos differences in the kiddo’s interest continued to vary. After breakfast and a quick swim at the hotel, we visited this shop that demonstrated how the inlaid marble in the Taj Mahal is constructed. Kaden had such  a fascination that she took many photos and asked many questions about the artisan process.

  

 

The above flowers, for example ,are actually up to 40 different pieces of precious stones inlaid into the marble. One person can make only 2 flowers in a day.

While Kaden was learning these facts, Carson was showing his WWE wrestling cards to the store clerks!

Saying farewell to the Canadian International School

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The kiddos had their last day of school at CIS on the day before Spring Break (Easter week). School resumes for two more weeks before we leaved, but it seemed like a good natural break in the schedule. Our April is filled with relaxation and travel. We headed to Jaipur and Agra and have another plan to visit the ancient site of Hampi. Otherwise the kids are enjoying relaxing with their neighborhood friends. Most Indian schools are done at the end of March or beginning of April so all of the neighborhood kids are off of school right now. Most are unavailable to play though untinl about 5 in the afternoon unless they are inside due to heat. But also because some parents don’t want their children to get any darker. So their friends aren’t allowed to swim during the hottest part of the day.

Both classes had lovely going away parties for the kiddos, complete with snacks and a movie. Carson’s class posed for a photo. Every was present except his friend Gabriel who had already left for England for the Easter holiday.

Carson’s last day was particularly fun, since it included the Easter Egg hunt and the final day of Arts Festival week which had special ceramic, chalk, and puppet making classes and special musical performances as well.

   

Kaden’s class had an especially sweet goodbye for her complete with gifts including a photo of the class.

Kaden is going to miss her dear friends from her class. I love this photo of all of them!

After the parties, we stayed for the closing concert of the Arts Festival

    

This is a photo of the entire school, grades k through 12. The middle and upper school students wear white shirts and the elementary kiddos wear red.

The kids also had some final fun this week. Kaden went to unicycling club (with all of her BFFs).

  

Carson had his final basketball class. Kaden missed many of her Bollywood classes because she played on the house basketball team, which one the tournament for the Red House! I don’t have any photos of this match because the school never told the parents that it was happening!

Carson will be very sad to leave his cricket coach. In the final weeks, Dada helped out with the trainings.

    

On the way home, the kids enjoyed reading the letters and cards that their classmates had made for them. They will treasure these for a long time. We need to have more times when kids write personal messages to each other about why they are special. What a difference that would make in the world.

    

     

No special day is complete without a trip to the Swensen ice cream shop!!