Category Archives: staff

Twisted Sister………

This morning when I was getting dressed, I was really missing India.

Yep, you read that right. I miss living in India this morning.

I have this bra that drives me nuts. The strap is twisted and I cannot get it straightened out.

Are you really confused now? Are you wondering why that would make me miss India?

Well, if I was still in India one of these things would happen….

The lady who did my laundry (yes, I miss that too) would notice the strap before I did and she would know a professional bra strap fixer who would fix it for about fifty cents.

My laundress would spend about 25 minutes explaining to me that she did not twist the strap. In fact, she has absolutely no idea how the strap got twisted. Maybe the housekeeper did it. But it’s okay because she knows somebody. A professional bra strap fixer.

If that professional could not fix it, she would know another professional bra strap replacer who specialized in just replacing straps. The old strap would be replaced with a new strap that is a little off color but it would be good enough. And that old strap would be turned into a shoelace by a professional “turning bra straps into shoe laces” specialist.

If those two tacts failed miserably, then I would simply abandon the perfectly-good-except-for-the-strap bra in the trash. And the lady who did my laundry would take it home and love it like no bra has been loved before. It would likely become a family heirloom and get passed down through generations.

There’d be no wasting and everyone would be happy and three people would have gotten paid something for their efforts.

Wrong Question…………

When I start talking about having staff in India, I know some of you are thinking – oh jeez, here she goes again. But please bear with me because today I figured out the number one reason that having staff was bad for my family – or any family who is not going to have staff working in its home forever. You get a little too used to it. Our reality does not include a driver, a cook, a guard, a housekeeper, a gardener, and a laundress. Well, it does – but funny enough, they are all the same person – me. And the pay ain’t quite the same.

So, for those children who actually read this blog – both of you – are you listening? Here are some of the wrong conversations/situations to find yourselves in….

Scenario 1
Mom has done the laundry (including your smelly gym clothes and soccer socks) and has washed the all the breakfast dishes (after making you breakfast) and now has brownies in the oven (because she knows you love them – she even went to two stores to find the exact ones that you like – because God forbid you have your second favorite kind of brownie warm from the oven right when you walk in the door from school). She has just finished wiping off the counter and sweeping the floor. She turned off the news when you walked in the door (even though it was the story she had been waiting all day to hear) so she could listen (with focus) to how your day went. After you chat and have a yummy chocolately treat, Mom goes to sweep the floor again because there are now mysteriously brownie crumbs all over it.

It is here that the real potential for danger exists. If she then asks you to take out the trash or vacuum the basement or even lick the litter box clean – the exact wrong question is……do I have to? I will help you here because I know most of you are treading on new ground. The right answer is …..O!M!G! Mom, I would so love to do all of those things for you. And, by the by, you actually then have to do them (because sometimes it is more than the thought that counts) and then say ….. and Mom, did you get your hair cut because it looks marvelous. Do you see the difference?

Scenario 2:
You have decided that it is in your best interest to join a practice group that practices very early on Saturday mornings. This causes your mother – who sleeps through tornadoes – to have to get out of bed at 5:15A.M. on a Saturday morning. The roosters have not even learned to crow at this point and your mother is up and driving you to practice. And, yes, she is very proud of you for getting up and getting out the door – that is not the problem. Read on.

When you get back home, your very tired mother makes (okay, warms up) waffles because that is what you asked for (and no it does not matter if they are frozen v. homemade). She also makes eggs and biscuits because that is what your brother asked for. And she also makes bacon because apparently your sister would like that. You are distracted by the goings on of SpongeBob so I can understand why you don’t realize that was a lot to accomplish before 8:30am. But you push it a tad too far when you ask …… Mom, can you pour syrup in to a small bowl and bring it over here? Really?

Here’s the problem – at some point you are going to want to drive a car. If you cannot handle pouring syrup into a bowl (even a small bowl) all by your lonesome, I am pretty sure that operating heavy machinery is off the can-do list. The right answer is…….Mom, these are the most delicious waffles I have ever had. They don’t even need syrup. And by the way, did you get your hair cut because it looks amazing. Or maybe you lost weight. See how that is different?

Scenario 3
You love to ride your scooter. You have ridden it and fallen off of it a million and one times. So, your mom knows that you are one tough cookie even if you scream like a banchee. Sooooo, if you fall off said scooter the exact moment that your mom calls a friend to vent over another mom who is making her c.r.a.z.y. and she sees you fall, she might not panic and hang up immediately because she knows you are okay. And she knows that you had a 14-minute delay in crying. So, she really might not hang up the phone right away. No matter how big those crocodile tears are – because if you can stop and have a snack on the way to tell her how hurt you are, the reality of it is – you are probably going to be just fine. Operating heavy machinery may also not be in your future but you most likely don’t need to be rushed to Children’s Hospital. You might need therapy later – but right now, it’s all good.

Please forgive the parenting rant – but seriously. I don’t know how single parents do it – God love you!

Why you don’t need a cook or a driver in America……..

When I first told people I was moving to India, they all wanted to know – “does that mean you will have people working for you?” And they said it with lust in their eyes. As if it was all rainbows and unicorn farts burps. If you don’t know why that could possible be NOT the most fantastic thing that has ever happened to you – please read here first and then maybe here and maybe even here. This blog post might actually be more interesting to my readers who have never been in the U.S. but, trust me, if you are all too familiar with the ways of the West, you might just be amazed at what we are all taking for granted. Trust me on this one – it’s not always the same, same every where.

I have always admitted that having staff made my life in India (much) easier – it was just a pain to have people always around you and sometimes stealing from you and blah blah blah. In fact, for the last five weeks of our lives in India, I did all the cooking and 90 percent of the shopping. People marveled at how I was going to manage it. Why would it be so tough to manage without a cook? Well, most of the shopping is done in markets and there are very few convenience foods. There is no “one-stop” shopping.

Today I went to a grocery store and Walmart and I marveled at just how many things we do not have to do in America.

First of all, some stores in the United States are open 24 hours a day. That is right – they never close. Can I get a hallelujah? In India, most markets don’t open until much later in the morning. And have I bored you to tears yet by telling you how many different places you have to go to get everything on your list? Shopping, cleaning the food, preparing the food, and cooking the food really can be an all-day event. And the foods don’t have a lot of preservatives – which is all sorts of loverly – but it also means you have to go to the market more often. See how tedious it all becomes? I know, I know, there are bigger problems in the world – but I am just sayin – shopping, cooking, and cleaning in India – harder than in the U.S.

So, I am in my car – driving myself – listening to the radio – windows down and I am reminded that the definition of traffic is not universal. Here is what I saw

Now this is not a side road – it is a well traveled thoroughfare and this is at 8:30am. Not necessarily the height of rush hour – but not in the middle of the night either. And, no, everyone is not simply running late today because no one was really behind me either. And I know I should not have been taking a picture – but give me a break – I used the rearview mirror – I had my eyes on the road the whole time! Pinky swear!

So, I pull into the road in front of the shopping plaza and see this sign.

Yes, you see that correctly – A) there is a sign telling you what’s here (what a marvel of modern technology) and B) all of these mega stores are within walking distance of each other.

There is a Target next to a Walmart (basically the same thing) and a BJs with everything that Walmart and Target sell, only in larger quantities. There is a shoe warehouse next to a Payless shoe store and a Toy Store right next to Target and Walmart (which both have enough toys in them for a large country). If you are from India and know about Spencers or Big Bazaar – think of that magnified 8,000 times. Bigger, bigger and better, better.

I know it reveals just how fancy I am not – but if I had to pick only one store to go to for the rest of my life – it would be Walmart – okay, a super Walmart – but a Walmart nonetheless. I heart this store! And, for my Indian readers – do you notice what is missing? Parking attendants and drivers waiting by the front? Oh yeah, and the occasional armed guard. That is because – everywhere in the U.S. there are parking lots. In India, mostly only the malls have parking lots. Hence the real benefit of having a driver. Here – no problemo – parking galore…

See all those empty spaces – you just pick the one you want and zip in – no one has to push a car out of the way for you or drive around the block while you shop. The down side of that is – guess what – you are carrying your own groceries. Just consider it exercise.

And inside these markets is a whole different shopping experience.

There are carrots that are already peeled and cleaned for you. Yummy.

Need a veggie tray? Done.

Need a fruit salad? Done.

Want lettuce? You can get it cleaned and shredded – ready to eat.

Oh, I am sorry – did you need dressing with that?

What’s that? You don’t like bottled dressings? Okay – make your own – here is a starter kit.

Would you like some cheese with that? Shredded perhaps? Remember how our parents used to tell us that they had to walk to school in the snow, uphill, both ways? I now lament with my children the olden days gone by when I had to shred my own cheese. And slice it too. And there sure as heck wasn’t any colby/cheddar on those grocery store racks. Oh, the hardships of childhood.

Oh, your child has tactile issues and prefers sliced cheese? No worries, we’ve got that…

Your mother-in-law prefers cubes – it doesn’t matter if she says that just to make you crazy – it’s all good, we’ve got that too…

And just in case no one is happy with the above choices, let’s throw in some cheese sticks.

And yes, you saw the labels correctly – those are all some form of cheddar cheese – but some like it shredded some like it not.

The cereal aisle can quickly earn you a seasons pass straight to the looney bin. Frosted or not. Fiber or not. Crunchberries or not. Sugar free or high octane. It’s amazing we ever get out of the store.

And even when our carts are full of things we can cook, we still have the option of not preparing our own food. Close your eyes on this first one if you are vegetarian.

We don’t even have to put cheese and crackers together ourselves. They even add a drink.

And if opening a box just seems too daunting at the end of the day – there’s this – we don’t even have to make a sandwich. It’s been done.

Those were frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The first time I saw them, I was outraged that we have become so lazy that we can’t even make our own sandwiches. Now, I own stock in the company. They are frozen so you do have to plan ahead and let them thaw out for a whole 15 minutes. Patience Grasshopper. Either that or tell your kids they are a popsicle  and cross dessert off the list as well.

Need a drink? Which one? Beer?

Wine?

I included this picture just to show you that Gallo wine really does not cost almost $30 a bottle. Remember that?

And to top it all off, you can even buy your apples already sliced.

You would think with us doing all of our own cooking, shopping, and driving that we would run out of time to do anything else. Not true. This woman still had time to decorate her car with silk flowers. Who says Americans don’t have their priorities in order?

To be very fair to this person, though, this car is a Honda and finding a Honda – your Honda – in the midst of a Walmart parking lot without the aid of a driver is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. She probably did this to make it easier to find her car and to ensure that other moms (or anyone else for that matter) wouldn’t go anywhere near it. She clearly does not have teenagers yet. They would never stand for this degree of lunacy.

So, that is why we don’t need drivers and cooks – we have parking lots and shredded cheese.

Housekeepers, on the other hand, are another story altogether. I cannot imagine a land or a time or a dream where they don’t make perfect sense. 😉

So hard to explain………

I have been really grappling with how to share my transition back to America. It’s hard to explain. Sometimes I am truly paralyzed at the thought of doing it all justice which means that I have not been putting fingers to keyboard very much and I am afraid that some of it is going to slip away from my memory.

At least ten times a day, I look around and think (sometimes to myself and sometimes to any poor soul standing near me) that America is exactly the opposite of India. And I really, really mean that. It is exactly the opposite! And that does not mean bad or good – just so extremely different that I know my words would have a hard time describing it accurately.

This morning at Walmart was no exception. Just walking into Walmart is a little bit overwhelming. Heck, just getting to Walmart is different. I grab my car keys and I hop in the drivers seat and I drive myself there. No waiting for Rajinder to fill his water bottle. No giving a list to Francis and Rani for what I want. No asking Ravi if he needs anything. No trying to translate what he actually asks for. No waiting for the guard to unlock/open the gate. And certainly no wondering if I will be able to find what I need. Just me, myself, and I hop in the car.

I control the radio – hey, I listen to the radio. I decide which route to take. This way or that way is up to me once more.  On the way to the store, I pass tons of green trees along roads where (nearly) everyone stays in their own lane (everyone except those dingbats who are texting and driving – seriously that needs to stop). No one honks their horn. People stop at red lights and use their blinkers. There are no wild cows or dogs on the road. In fact, people are walking dogs on leashes and they are fatter than they need to be – the dogs and many of the people. There are no children begging or doing tricks on the side of the road. There are no bicycles with 3 or even 4 people on them. There are no women on the backs of motorcycles with their dupattas (scarves) flowing dangerously close to the back tire. There are street signs (in English) absolutely everywhere. There are no people running to literally catch a bus that is so full of people that it already looks like it might explode.

I pull into Walmart’s abundant parking lot and I pick where I want to park. I don’t have to tip anyone to push another car out of the way to make room for me. I don’t have to ask Rajinder where I should meet him when I am done or explain how long I think it might take. A man greets me as I enter the store and I get a cart. Oh sweet shopping cart heaven. No one follows me through the store. No one asks me 25 times if I need help. Two people and two carts can easily pass each other on each aisle. And while I am shopping I can get a Subway sandwich (with meatballs and s.a.f.e. lettuce), order eyeglasses, fill a prescription, develop photos, and just about anything else I want to do.

I do have to push my own cart and pull my own items from the shelves. And it takes me so much longer because there is so much more to look at and so many more choices. But I only have to go to one store.

The reason I went to Walmart was to get clear trash bags for the recycling container. Once again, we are responsible for our own recycling. And we have two trash cans in the kitchen. One for regular trash and another for anything that can be recycled – paper, plastic, glass, and metal items. So I like clear bags for the recycling. That way we can tell which is which and the trash men know which bags have recycling in them. I also wanted small bags for cleaning out the cat litter.

Here again I am assaulted by choices. Upteen size and color options. I really just want trash bags but now I have to decide if I want white, flexwhite, green, black, clear, or slightly opaque. Do I want handles or ties or looped handles. Do I need 8 gallon, 15 gallon, 33 gallon, or yard bags. It takes me just a second to focus. But then I found the recycling bags I wanted.

Now onto the small trash bags. Holy trashbag batman – they come in colors – vanilla and mint green. Then, I realize – not just colors but scents. Huh? I fully understand that perfume was invented to cover up body odor – but we have moved away from that because it can really be a toxic combination. And as such, deodorant was invented. Perfume is much better on a bathed person and scents are much better for candles. And I know the makers of these cute little mint green 8 gallon bags with handles did not know that they would be used for litter – but the potential certainly existed that they would be used for something smelly. And not for nothing, who decided that 76 bags was the right number of bags. That must have been a fun meeting. And who lost out – the person who thought that 88 was just the right number?

So India is the land where not much of the trash finds its way into a bag and America is the land where trash bags are supposed to smell like a cupcake or a bowl of ice cream. I really don’t know if this makes sense to anyone who has not lived in both places – but honestly, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Everything is different, different.

And the the final irony is that I searched and searched for these small bags for our kitties poop only to be given about 15 bags of almighty plastic to hold all of the c-r-a-p that I bought at checkout. And they are the same, same size and they do not smell like cotton candy and they would work perfectly fine for holding cat litter. And I would be recycling if I just used those.

On to checking out. Even that is different. The woman in front of me was using coupons. Dang, I forgot about that. Note to self – get Sunday paper, cut out coupons, and remember to bring them to the store – then remember to use them at checkout.

Most transactions in India are in cash – so the debit card machine temporarily stunned me. Do I want cash back? It’s a simple question – but I forgot that it prompts you for that. I stand there waiting to be done – and the people behind me think I have dropped in from another planet – how can I possibly not know what to do here. Okay, okay. No, I don’t want cash – well, unless it is a door prize – but I am guessing that is not the case, so no, I don’t need cash back. But that is not the end of it. Do I want to contribute to a fundraiser for a children’s hospital? I can buy a paper balloon and write my name on it. I should not have to think about it – but wait a minute – what did you ask me? Oh, a charitable donation? Sure. How much? A dollar? Fine. And no thanks, I don’t need to write my name on the balloon. Besides, my hands are full because I am going to have to carry my own bags to the car and remember where I parked it.

Pick a card, any card………..

There are so many “different ways of doing business” that you must navigate when you move somewhere new. One of the things that I did not realize I would miss about the United States was the ease of getting phone numbers or addresses or just information in general.

There is no directory assistance here. (Well there might be – but it is a well kept secret.) If you want a phone number, you have to know someone who knows the phone number. It is really crazy. I am yet to see a telephone book (except for the school’s directory – God love them). But what we all do have is a flippin’ stack of business cards. Literally hundreds of them. Everywhere you go, you get a business card. And you are hesitant to get rid of them – because you just might want to call that vendor one day. And when you do want to call a vendor, good luck figuring out which card is who.

And the internet is not always that helpful. Many of us have shared our frustrations of trying to find a business or address on the internet – you can literally get lost for hours in the land of nothingness.

Heck, most stores still calculate the bill by handwriting it and then doing the math manually – then rechecking the math with a calculator. So the fact that they don’t have a web presence really is not surprising.

Just the other day, I asked our cook to order some groceries to be delivered (yes, that is back when I had a cook). I knew that he was rewriting receipts so I did not want him to go himself. But the market delivers and then I pay the bill. Fabulous.

Now, just so you fully understand – this is the same market that we have been shopping at ever since Francis started working for us – 7 months ago. And they have delivered groceries many, many times to our house.

So a whole day goes by and no groceries come.

The next morning, we have this conversation…

Francis: Ma’am, I could not order groceries.
Me: Okay, why?
Francis:  I don’t have the number.
Me: Of the shop we have been ordering groceries from for months?
Francis: Yes Ma’am. But I have the number of his brother’s shop.
Me: Can you call his brother and get the number?
Francis: I tried. No one is answering.
Me: So, you really don’t know the number? That you have been calling for 7 months?
Francis: No Ma’am.
Me:
Really?
Francis: Yes, Ma’am
Me: I’ll get it for you.

So, I went into the pantry where we have about 15 canvas bags (all of which Francis put away) from this market shop. Each bag has the address, phone number, and name of the store printed in l.a.r.g.e. type right on the bag.

Francis: Oh, thank you ma’am. (awkward laughing)
Me: Make sure you get their card.

Another one bites the dust…………….

Plain and simple – I stink at having staff in my house. We just fired our cook and his wife. And by “we” I totally mean “me”.

Just so you know I don’t get rid of staff willy nilly – please remember that we have had Ravi (our house keeper) since the day we got here a year and a half ago. And I am only on our second driver – and the first driver was simply reassigned within hubby’s company so he was not “fired”. We don’t have loyalty issues. But dang it. Another one bites the dust. And this was a two-fer.

If you haven’t been taking notes along the way while reading this blog, this is the 4th cook we have fired. Hubby fired the first 3 because I was just a big fat chicken and simply did not want to deal with it. So Francis and Rani were my first “fire”. I really, truly could have lived my entire life without firing someone. It’s not pretty. There were no cameras, no lights, no dramatic “cue music” like when Donald Trump does it – and certainly no applause. And they did not get to ride home in a limousine.

Francis and Rani have been working with us since October, when cook number 3 (Laxmi) got canned. My first warning sign should have been the day we hired them. They stood in our driveway and called Laxmi’s mother to find out if this was the house that Laxmi worked at and did she know they were interviewing new people. Thick as thieves these guys – literally.

I have been grappling with what to do about Francis and Rani for a few months. When we first hired them, we really liked them. They worked hard and Francis made excellent breads – which forever endeared him in the heart of number one hubby. But then I realized they weren’t honest. Francis was doing the shopping and on the way home from the store, he would rewrite the receipts to his benefit. They were not nice to the guards or the other people working in our home and they were making decisions that were not theirs to make. And they were stealing. They were smart enough about it – my earrings are all still in place but they would take little things that I probably wouldn’t notice.

Just one of the many examples of the things they did that was less than impressive was this – our guard stands outside of our gate in 110 degree heat. He does not get the benefit of the air conditioning like some of the other people who work here. Our guard asked Francis for water. Now, mind you, Francis and Rani used to fill up about 6 large soda bottles a day and take water home with them. But Francis said the guard could not have a glass of water. He never even asked me my opinion. Just decided all on his own that the man guarding my house and my family did not need to be hydrated, while he sat fat and happy in the kitchen with air conditioning. Let me just say this is probably what sealed Francis’ fate because it told me that his heart is black. How can you look at a person standing outside in the heat all day long and deny them a drink of water, especially when your cup literally runneth over? Especially when it frankly is not even your water.

Of course, there were many other things along the way that caused me concern. But the plum that broke the boss’ back was actually just that – a plum. Now, I know this will sound absolutely ridiculous to most of you and as I think about how to write the story so that it makes sense, I am not sure I will be able to find a way.

Most people who have staff here just accept that they will be dishonest sometimes, that they will take a few things here and there, that they just don’t look at life the same way we do. After all, we have so much and they don’t. And most people will argue that it doesn’t really matter if they take things from you as long as they don’t take anything important. A year and a half ago, I would have been incensed by that and argued the morality of it all. Now, I understand that it can make you crazy and if you just don’t think about it – then it is not a problem.

But even after having a long heart-to-heart with Francis and Rani about being honest and playing nice with the other staff, they still thought the rules did not apply to them. These heart-to-hearts are supposed to snap staff back in line faster than a rubber band and buy you a few weeks if not months of no conflict. But it was clear that Francis and Rani did not take me seriously and that they thought I am not the brightest bulb in the pack. Even after I explained to them that I know exactly what is going on in this house and, just because I don’t address something immediately, does not mean I am not aware of it.

Oh “yes, ma’am” they said with heads bowed. “Yes ma’am, yes ma’am, yes ma’am.” Augh.

If you are a parent and you have had this type of discussion with a child, you know just how I felt. It was pretty much “yeah, yeah, yeah” and they went right back to their antics. Immediately right back.

So, I waited until I knew that they had taken something and I asked the guard to check their bags. There it was – a plum. Along with half the contents of the fridge that I had actually given them. I cannot stand for food to go bad – so we give a lot of leftovers to our staff. (Which by they by, means that they are forever making too much food so that there are leftovers – see how this all works.) That day I had asked them to make sure to clean out the fridge and take home the leftovers. And when I walked in to the kitchen, I saw Rani’s bag with a plum in it. Completely separate from the other food. And no, I did not look through her bag – it was sitting on the counter and the plum was right on top.

Right about now, you are probably thinking, well you gave them food – how did they know the plum wasn’t on the menu. Trust me. They did.

Or you might be thinking – seriously a plum? Yes, because enough already.

As I said, there was a lot that lead up to the great plum incident of 2010. And I am writing this – not to get your sympathy or not to earn Francis and Rani your sympathy – but so that I can remember this. This blog is a great big “note to self” for me to remember my experiences here. Already, just a few days later, I am questioning my sanity. How did I let myself get so wrapped up in this? Why can’t I just let some things go?

And now I am left with a plum that is rotting and that cannot do laundry or cook dinner or wash dishes.

But, how can I stand in my own kitchen everyday and look at people who are dishonest and whose hearts are black and pull money out of my wallet to pay them to steal from me?

I will surely never reconcile this whole having staff thing.

Guess who’s coming to dinner…………..

Sometimes it is so hard to put words to this Indian adventure. Yesterday was one of those days.

Flower’s birthday was last week and so, of course, she got chicken pox. We had to postpone the party and she was so sad because she had a really fun time planned for her friends. I joked that we had a whole week to make it better and make it unforgettable. Well, unforgettable it was. We hired a camel and an elephant and a guy to fill up 1,300 water balloons. Unforgettable indeed.

Just in case you are wondering – 1,300 water balloons last for about 2 and a half minutes in a full-on water balloon fight. But those knuckleheads didn’t miss a beat – they started a mud fight when the water balloons ran out. Yes, there are some parents who probably aren’t exactly happy, happy with me.


What made me smile the most was seeing our guard and our driver on the camel. Let’s just hope they don’t ask for hazardous duty pay.

Just another chapter in this crazy, crazy adventure.

It happens…………..

Yesterday was a very fun day – I hosted a luncheon and invited the people I just don’t get to see enough of over for lunch. I really miss having friends over and it was a nice trip down normal lane – well at least it was supposed to be.

I dumbed it way down and used my grandmother’s very best china Walmart plastic plates. Even the flowers were in exquisite crystal vases plastic cups. We had good old fashioned tacos and seven-layer dip and cornbread and all sorts of toppings. My poor cook was beside himself that we weren’t going to have any Indian food, so he threw in some delicious Indian appetizers. Apparently he has been holding out on me – I had no idea that breaded and fried broccoli was Indian food or in his repertoire. Yummy. Especially when dipped in Hidden Valley Ranch dressing – yep, I brought that from home. Along with the taco seasoning mix and the pecans for pecan pie.

Most expats have a running joke/understanding that nothing is simple here and sometimes (often) it is harder to accomplish things here than it is back home. Some of that might be a little bit of the “grass is greener” (or right now, the snow is whiter) but some of it is simply r.e.a.l.i.t.y. And the hardest part is that you just cannot anticipate where the stumbling blocks are going to be.

Bring on the luncheon. Most things went so smoothly that I should have known there would have been other problems. First of all, the people who work for me were fantastic. They worked their arses right off. Several people asked me who my caterer was – that was a huge compliment to them. Yeah for them and me! The second thing was the flowers. The flower walla opens early – I did not anticipate that and it was a welcome treat. Normally businesses do not open here until around 11am and with everyone coming at 12:30ish, I was worried we’d be cutting that close. Plus the flowers were so inexpensive, extremely fragrant, and absolutely fabulous. Bonus. Bonus.

But then, as I was riding home from school, our driver informed me that we were out of water. Completely out. Yes, that presents an interesting wrinkle when you have 25 people coming over for lunch and lots of wine. He had several theories as to what might have happened. Either there was a leak. Or our cook doesn’t like the guard and was setting him up for being fired because it was odd that of all the days this could happen yesterday would be the day. Or our guard didn’t like our cook and the reverse was happening.  Or the guard just forgot to fill the tank and it was simply an accident. I personally think Mr. Hatfield saw the tables being delivered, realized we were having a party which probably meant more noise, and so he snuck over the fence and turned the spicket on and drained the tank dry overnight. Or. Or. Or. There are more conspiracy theories about this than there are about the shooting of JFK.

Just a side note. Every night at 5pm and every morning at 5am the guard must turn on the water to fill the tank. We have a pretty large tank so for it to completely empty means that it was not filled several times. Or that there is a very big leak. Neither is a great scenario when you are hosting a lunch.

At any rate, my husband’s office was on it. A water tank was ordered to come at 11am.

I also rented tables and chairs so that everyone would have a place to sit down. That all went super smoothly this time too. Which was great because it did not go so smoothly this time. They delivered the tables the night before and came back to set them up at 10am. Smooth. Smooth. The tables were even level – not a given. The tables don’t look so great when they deliver them, but they do clean up nice.

However, there were clouds looming in the sky. Dark, heavy clouds.

One thing I have noticed here is that a lot of events are planned for outside and there is never any mention of a rain date. (In the U.S., there is almost always a rain date for an outside event.) But in India, unless it is monsoon season, it n.e.v.e.r. rains here. Unless I am hosting a party outside. 😉 Then rain it must.

As the guests start to arrive the clouds get darker. And then it starts to rain – sprinkle really – so we quickly move two tables inside and three tables under the carport.

And you guessed it, the water tanker had not arrived.

So, I have too much water outside where I very much did not want it and not any water inside where I very much do want it.

I had to announce to the guests that there was no water inside and that they could use the bathroom but please just throw the toilet paper in the trash can. And the toilets don’t work the same here as in the U.S.  My toilets back home can still function without running water – you just replace the water in the tank on the back and wallah. Here – not so much. I thought I was going to go all Tim the Toolman Taylor on everyone and show them just how this was not going to be a problem. Ha. I put water in the tank and it immediately drained out. Hmpf. But by the way, there were plenty of hand wipes for hand washing. Thank God Martha Stewart was not invited. Or Katie Couric. They would have been very unimpressed.

The water tanker it seemed was stuck in traffic. Now this is exactly what makes living here hard. There were about 4 different versions of why the water tanker was late. One – it was stuck in traffic. Two – it was actually not stuck in traffic but was not allowed to enter the neighborhood between 11am and 2pm. Three – no one actually remembered to order it so they made up the traffic story to cover up their mistake. Four – the driver was abducted by aliens. So when you don’t really know why something is not happening, it is very difficult to fix it. Short of renting a space ship to Mars, we just had to deal with the reality of no water. And my guests were so gracious – they just rolled with it and filled their glasses a little less full.

The sun ended up making a star studded appearance and we were able to actually eat outside. That was fantastic!

I was not able to get the mister in the picture to sign a waiver so plese do not use his picture. 😎 Yes he is a funny guy.

All in all it was a fantastic day. The food was yummy, the flowers were beautiful, and the company was divine. And the water tanker came just as everyone was leaving. Perfecto!

The Hatfields and McCoys……….

There are so many things about our neighborhood here in India that are different from what we are used to. The houses are (much) closer together. Staff live behind the houses and are not exactly always quiet. I often wake up in the middle of the night to the tune of someone blowing his nose. (Nope, not kidding.) Firecrackers frequently go off in the middle of the night. Cars honk their horns. Dogs bark all. the. flippin. time. Every house has a gate. Guards stand at nearly every gate. Electricity comes and goes. And many (of the luckier) houses have generators.

According to our neighbor, our generator is extremely loud when the “garage” door is open. According to the company who maintains our generator, we must leave the “garage” door open so that the generator does not overheat (and then break). You might remember a couple sentences ago when I said that electricity comes and goes. It goes out pretty much at least once a day. The generator kicks in and we hardly miss a beat.

this is the "garage" - it took me a while to even know what he was talking about

Well, Mr. Hatfield next door is not happy about the noise pollution we are creating.

Okay.

A. Reread paragraph number 1 – dogs bark, cars honk, firecrakers crack, noses blow, and blah blah blah. It is already v.e.r.y. noisy here.

B. I never realized you could hear our generator until Mr. Hatfield pointed that out to me. And yes, it is louder with the door open than closed but that is how it continues to work. And it is really a steady hum – after about 5 minutes it really just becomes white noise. It has never bothered us. I did not wake up yesterday with a sinister plot to noise him out of the neighborhood.

C. Mr. Hatfield plays his tv v.e.r.y. l.o.u.d.l.y. every. night. I go to bed around 10ish. Guess what time he decides to start watching tv. yep- that would be 10:01ish.

Yes, I did feel it was my McCoyly neighborly duty to point that out to him. Because he delays my bedtime by at least 45 minutes every night.

Neighbor: Oh, I didn’t know.
Me: No, you wouldn’t – you couldn’t hear me complaining because your tv is loud enough for the astronauts to hear. Besides, I haven’t said anything because it’s a noisy neighborhood anyway and our houses are not even 10 feet from each other. You have to expect to hear some noises when our houses are this close.
Neighbor: Well we will change that, we just didn’t know  – but you have to understand that no one has lived in your house for two years and it’s been very quiet until now.
Me: (completely dumbfounded and starring at him with my best WTH look) and are you suggesting that we not use electricity?
Neighbor: to himself – as a matter of fact that is not what I am suggesting – I am actually suggesting you all move out so the house can be empty and quiet again – But what I am willing to say out loud is: Yes, when we want to sit outside, you should not have the generator on – it’s too noisy
Me: Hmmmmmmmmmmmm – yeah – what????????

So Mr. Hatfield and his wife decide to sit outside in the driveway because yesterday was quite a lovely day. They have a beautiful terrace in the front of their house (away from the “garage”) but they did not want to sit there. He decides we should turn off our generator because it is too loud. Actually, to be fair, he decided we should shut the door. But when the guard explained that was not possible, he decided the only other solution was to turn off the generator (aka our electricity). Well, also to be fair, he did go on to offer another solution – we could simply replace our current generator with a quieter one. Yes, that was very kind of him to offer solutions not just complaints.

However.

He came over to ask the guard to ring my doorbell. This is new to me too. The guard must have sensed that this was not going to be pleasant and told him I was asleep. Excuse me? Okay then. Now I am not even deciding who comes in my gate and who doesn’t. I don’t fault the guard on this one – he was right on. It was not pleasant.

Mr. Hatfield then proceeds to yell at the top of his lungs (what was that about noise pollution Mr. Hatfield?) for about 10 minutes. Hubby was not home – my gate is wide open – there are about 5 men standing in front of the gate – someone is screaming in Hindi – and I don’t know what the heck is going on. I called hubby, he called the security company, they called his office, they called him back, he called me back. Holy indirect communication batman. It is insane. And yes, I could have simply walked outside and asked “what is going on” but really it did not feel safe and I had my three kids at home. So I put my head in the sand and peeked out the curtain.

He wants me to turn off the generator because he and his bride want to sit outside. Again, me turning off the generator means turning off the electricity in the whole house. That means no blog writing – see how this affects you. Ahhhhh. Now you get it. 😉 This is further complicated by the fact that his power had actually already come back on. So now he thinks I am just being obnoxious. Possibly. But not this time. Just because his power is on does not mean squat for our power. It doesn’t work like that here – we have lost power in half the house before.

Long story short. Mr. Hatfield informs me that 75% of the time he and his wife are not even home. So it is a simple request really. I should be able to anticipate when he and his wife will actually be home and then take it a step further to know when they will want to go outside. If I am really concerned about his well being, I will just ensure that the electricity is always working and we never have to use the generator. But if I choose to only use my powers for evil, then the least I can do is be ready to sacrifice our electrical needs for his quiet time outside – because apparently our generator is more annoying then the dogs barking and horns honking and him yelling at the top of his lungs with his tv blaring in the background.

He also informed me that the Indian Government has greatly improved its noise pollution regulations and if I do not comply by getting a new generator, he will have to take further action. Let the games begin. I am sure I am not done with this issue and that I will bore you to tears with an update in the very near future.

the irony in all of this is that we are apparently the very loud owners of a "silent generator"

Is it May yet? 😎

Where nobody knows your name……….

You would not think I was talking about my own home when you read this title, would you? But I am. I am very fortunate to be an ex-pat in India with staff. But I don’t think a single one of them knows my name. They call me ma’am because god forbid they get more personal than that – it simply is not allowed. And no matter how persistent you are here about changing the status quo, there are just some many things about India that are simply not going to change – at least not in the immediate future. At least not in the time that we will be here.

And, yes….snicker……snicker…… I am quite sure there are names that they call me – but I am talking about the name my mama gave me. 😉

Seriously, there are at least 6 people who come to my house every single day – they do my laundry (including washing and ironing my underwear), they buy my food, they water my plants, they cook, they clean, they guard the gate, they drive me all over town (ok, the driver probably knows my name – they are a little more tuned in shall we say – but he will never, ever call me by it), they meet my friends, and it is very likely that none of them knows my name.

They know my children’s names, they know hubby’s name (although they will only ever call him Sahib or Sir) – because if the crazy white lady yells them often enough, you are going to pick up on a name or two. They even know my cats’ names. But not mine. Hmpf.

I plan to correct that today. And I can guarantee they will still call me ma’am – but at least when they leave here they can put a name to the face.