Category Archives: time

Time to Write………

We have been home for 2 months now and it has been great. But I have gotten some grief from my readers about not writing enough anymore – and no, they are not all related to me and no, money did not exchange hands. It’s just now that I am once again doing all the shopping, cleaning, cooking, laundry, driving, etc, I have not found/made the time to write.

Today is the perfect example of why I am short on time. My son had plans to head out to a sleep away camp this morning. He needed to meet the camp bus at 9:30am packed and ready to go – and apparently healthy. Oh. Yeah that would be good.

Healthy. I will have to remember that next time I am packing socks and snacks and bug spray.

Luckily, we were smart enough to pack last night. And don’t kid yourself into thinking that packing was super fun. Apparently, what a mom thinks a 13 year old boy needs on a 5-day trek into the wilderness and what that young man thinks he will need are two very different things – even if they both speak English and are reading from the same sheet. He thought it would all fit in a backpack because he didn’t want to be the only one with a suitcase. Really? I did not realize that teenagers have become suitcase phobic. I still have so much to learn. But okay, try it. Knock yourself out.

Famous last words: “Mom, this isn’t all going to fit – I need a bigger bag. Maybe even a suitcase.”

Really? That is simply shocking. I so did not see that coming. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So we transferred everything from the backpack with so much potential to the more realistically sized suitcase. And it even zipped up. But when we tried to put a second bathing suit in, we realized the zipper was actually broken on the suitcase. We were both tired so we decided to address the great zipper incident in the a.m. He wanted to wake up at 7:30am so we were going to have p.l.e.n.t.y. o’ t.i.m.e.

Or so I thought. He woke up this morning and says, “Mom, my ear really hurts. I am pretty sure I have an ear infection or swimmers ear.”

Me: That’s great honey. Are you sure? Because you have to be on a bus in an hour and a half. And if you miss the bus – well, that means I am spending the day in the car. The entire day. In the car.

And, by the by, I know good and damn well he is sure because he has never told me this and been wrong. Arrrgggh. However, I did have the clarity of gratitude to be very, very thankful that he is old enough to tell me where it hurts and maybe even why it hurts. I do not (for even one second) miss the days of trying to translate tears and screams in to one of six possible problem categories – hungry, my sister took my truck, tired, dirty diaper, sick, and/or absolutely undeterminable and therefore unsolvable. I was also very thankful that he actually told me about it, even though he might have understood that it could have totally meant that he might not get to go on this five-day, fun-in -the-sun, week-without-parents and/or siblings, eat-all-the-junk-food-you-want, stay-up-way-too-late, no-summer-homework extravaganza.

Well, at least I thought he understood that until I had a mommy realization moment. I thanked him for telling me and not just pretending to be okay even though it really could mean that he might not be able to go at all or that I might end up driving him the f.o.u.r. and a h.a.l.f. hours to camp and then back again (another four and a half hours) – and he looked at me with absolute disbelief that him not getting on that bus in merely an hour and half was at all a possibility. He clearly had complete confidence that I could make this all happen quickly and magically. That I am surely capable of diagnosing then healing an ear infection while finding the chapstick and simultaneously growing enough money on a tree so that he could buy unlimited snacks and milkshakes and possibly even an extra camp t-shirt. That is when I fully understood that it isn’t quite yet time to put my super hero mommy cape away. At least not yet. Even at 13, I am still a rock star. Yes, that pretty much made it all worth it.

The rest of the very long story short is that we have a fantabulous doctor who squeezed us in and diagnosed my little Bear with – guess what – an ear infection. Our wonderful, wonderful nurse faxed the prescription to the pharmacy and I diligently obeyed all traffic guidelines (which is important because my drivers license happens to be in my husband’s wallet that just happens to be in New York City – oh yes, that means I am single parenting at the moment – even better, right) and then we rolled in safely to the Giant Pharmacy. Where the pharmacist knew nothing of our prescription. Perfecto. But I had the hard copy – yeah me still earning that super hero cape – and begged for a quick fill of our prescription. We had just enough time to obey all traffic guidelines once again and rush drive carefully home and change out the problem suitcase for a new suitcase with a functioning zipper so that Bear’s underwear wouldn’t fall out all over the ground in front of the very cute 8th grade girls on the bus. (And by the by, parents of 8th grade girls – could you buy your daughters longer shorts? Not necessarily the girls on this bus but just in general. That would be great. Thanks.)

In the end, Bear even had time to take a quick and very hot last civilized shower before camp. Then it was right back to the pharmacy to get both of his prescriptions and a doughnut – any mom with a super hero cape certainly knows that antibiotics can upset an empty tummy and a doughnut has been scientifically proven to be a comfort food. And yes, I got myself one too – I earned it after all.

We made it to the bus stop with exactly two minutes to spare. That is where Bear decided he did not exactly need me anymore and I got a shoulder bump and a quick hug goodbye. Oh yeah, and a “mom, I’m fine.” My cape dropped a little with that one. But I perked up when I saw the plethora of suitcases under the bus. Who knew that other teenagers might actually use real luggage to get their camp belongings from one place to another? All is truly right with the world.

And, yes, the bus was at least a half an hour late leaving. And no, I don’t think 10am is too early to start drinking. ๐Ÿ˜‰

P.S. My dear blog buddy Loco tagged me as one of his favorite women bloggers in Asia – that was awesome too. Thanks Loco!

The same 24 hours…………

We all meet people throughout our lives who seem to be able to stretch the clock. They make more happen in one day than it seems possible to accomplish in a full year. And yet they do it – over and over again. We are left to marvel and wonder – do they eat, do they sleep, do they have a magic vitamin, have they been invaded by aliens? Where do they get their energy from?

Let me introduce you to Anou. She created Project Why.

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In short, she created Project Why to help those who cannot help themselves. Of course, the story goes much deeper than that and it begins with her own daughter. Anou’s daughter struggled with the academic challenges of school. When I first met her, she laughed that she did what every good parent does and told her she did not have to go back. Then she resolved to help those children who struggled in this world.

This is Rani. She came to Project Why when she was 15 from not the best of circumstances. She exemplifies why Project Why is so important. She is now traveling the world to share Project Why’s story. She is a confident, beautiful, unassuming, and gracious young lady – her life is better because Anou carved out enough minutes in her day to help her. And now she is making her own difference in the world – carving out her own minutes.

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This is Meher. When Meher was a little bitty thing, she was burned terribly. I am not exactly clear what happened. But it doesn’t really matter – Meher needed some angels to lift her up and help her along her life’s journey. Guess who spread her wings once again? Anou and Project Why. They have raised enough money to help Meher with reconstructive and plastic surgeries. She is a vibrant girl who is full of joy and laughter and I believe a good dose of mischief. She lights up the room. And I am sure eventually she will light up the world.

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This school is one of the centers that Project Why uses to help children who live in slums. If I understood it correctly, they attend government schools as well, but Project Why teachers supplement their studies with much needed extra help. The boys go in the morning and the girls come in the afternoon.

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This is what the neighborhood looks like right outside the school.

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The American’s Womens Association had donated money for building materials for a roof for the school house – so these boys presented our Outreach Chair with a beautiful handmade card.

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We also went to visit the Women and Children’s Center. Here women learn to sew and how to become beauticians and children up to about age 14 take classes.

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I think this is their guard cow. He’s on it.

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This is another classroom. The children here were learning math.

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No, I did not offer to tutor. Remember, they are trying to improve their math skills. Ironically, this almost looks like something you would see in a shabby chic catalog.

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True to her original mission, Anou opened a center for mentally disabled children. Across the street from this center is also a residential center where a few of the children live.

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This girl could put any bollywood dancer to shame. She was magnificent.

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I had never heard of brittle bones disease until yesterday. This little girl has it. There is no cure. Her bones are deteriorating at a ridiculous rate and she will die from the complications from this disease – probably sooner than later. She is a bright, enthusiastic child who is eager to learn. She gets to do just that at Project Why.

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There is so much more to Project Why than just this blog post. Anou and Project Why help over 700 children in 7 locations throughout Delhi. They have made it possible for several children to receive open heart surgeries through their Hear Fix Hotel. They have given local women a safe place to fall when they need to escape from the toils of their daily lives. Project Why has taken in disabled children and given them a home. Five children from the slums are now attending a boarding school and are getting a proper education. The list goes on.

So I spent my day yesterday with some amazing people who stretch the bounds of compassion and generosity beyond all reasonable limits. Their clocks do not tick in real time – their clocks allow them to add minutes to each hour with spaces in between where kindness grows and humanity flourishes.

At the end of the day, I felt pretty much like an underachiever, realizing that I hold my minutes too tightly together and lose too many of them for no good reason. I realized how ungrateful I am at times for the complaints I have voiced in my life and I hope to spend my time, talents, and energy more wisely. I am sure to fall flat on the face of my watch with those ambitious goals – but I can dust myself off and start a new until I get it right.

There are a lot of different ways to support Project Why if you are so inclined. Here is a link if you are interested – Support Project Why.

Global Adjustments and At a Glance………

I mentioned the other day that I went to a presentation given by Ranjini Manian the CEO and founder of Global Adjustments.

It was very interesting on a number of levels. First of all, I won a prize! Yeah for me. It was this wash cloth. This washcloth was made by handicapped people and it is adorable. They may be handicapped but they sure are talented.

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I also won a cd that has the Indian National Anthem on it. Yeah for me again. ๐Ÿ˜Ž Here is a link to it if you want to hear it – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZi3fwP09zw. This one is by AR Rahman – that’s right movie buffs – THE AR Rahman of Slumdog Million. Jai Ho indeed. It is a beautiful song.

And just because I am bi-partisan like that, here is a link to the U.S. National Anthem by Whitney Houston. And yes, I LOVE this song.

Now, back to the meeting. Global Adjustments is a group that helps expats get more comfortable in their new surroundings. As such, the presentation was focused on helping us survive our transitions. Now, this is a monumental task because there were probably 125 people at the meeting – about 10 were Americans, one was an Indian who left and has returned to live in India, and then there were people from everywhere else. So forget about a level playing field – there isn’t a lot of common ground – except for the fact that we were all willing to take on the adventure of moving far from home in hopes of growing as global citizens.

So there are some universal truths. You do not have to agree/like with them – but just knowing that they exist will help with your transition.

Here goes……..

Language

English by any other name is not necessarily the English you know. Communicating can be frustrating here. Many people hire staff who claim to speak English then get extremely frustrated when they have a hard time talking with them in English. As you know, this has NEVER happened to ME personally, but some poor other frustrated souls. ๐Ÿ˜‰ So, what Ranjini recommended is to use fewer words. My hubby actually recommends this too. He is wicked smart like that.

The ever polite English woman might ask her cook for a cup of tea in this way …

It would be so lovely if you could possibly make me a little cup of tea, if you wouldn’t mind, please. Thank you so much.

Apparently, “a cup of tea, please” is much less muddled and easier to understand. Translation – less frustrating and it means you get that bloody cup of tea much faster.

Namaste

This is the word you use to greet someone in India. It means much more than just hello or nice to meet/see you. It literally means “I bow to the divine in you”. Now that is some kick arse kind of lovely – don’t you think? It is accompanied by holding your palms together at your chest and bending a little towards the person you are greeting.

Time

Time does not exactly stand still here – but it is a relative term. I have learned an important word – lugbug (I am not sure how to spell it – but that is how you I say it.) Lugbug means “about”. That is how time is measured here – about. It is not precise.

Ranjini gave the example of ASAP. To A-type Americans this means yesterday or at least right now. As SOON as possible. To Indians this means as soon as “p.a.u.s.i.b.l.e.” – whenever you get it done – pauses are possible.ย  See there is a big difference.

Dress

Indians dress much more conservatively than most Westerners. Knees and shoulders covered. Yes, even when it is 110+ degrees outside. Not everyone visiting/living here follows those guidelines – but really it is respectful to do so. It will save you stares and maybe even some jeers.

Ranjini also mentioned that if possible take an Indian woman with you shopping for clothes. Apparently, Indians can be critical of each others dress (women being critical must be universal hee hee) and there are some fabric/styles that are more acceptable than others. I don’t really follow this one too closely. I have never been too overly aware of what other people think about the way I dress – I am a pretty boring dresser – solids with solids – so I wear what I like. If I get laughed at, it won’t be the first time. But this good to know if you are at all self -conscious or if you are going to a business meeting or traditional Indian event. There I would seek out some guidance.

Yes/No/Silence

Apparently, most Indians consider it rude to say no to a request. So, many times, they will agree to do something that is simply not possible. Enter frustrated expat full of expectations that yes actually means yes. There’s that damn language barrier again. So, if you get silence or a not exactly a resounding yes response – it is important to ask follow-up questions. How are you going to do this? When are you going to do this? Are you absolutely sure you can do this?

Ranjini also suggested that it might be helpful to give people an “out” when you ask them something. Tell them that you want an honest answer and it is okay to say that it might be hard to accomplish or even that it cannot be done. Explain that it is better to be upfront with expectations than to disappoint you later.

This is not just in an office my friends, remember this for electricians, carpenters, cooks, drivers, EVERYBODY!

Heirarchy

It is important to remember that this is a hierarchical society – whether you agree with it or not. Bigger cities are getting away from this somewhat – but not entirely. Your driver will likely outrank your cook – who will outrank your housekeeper. You outrank them all. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Family

Indians are hugely attached and involved with their families. It is important to remember how significant their families and extended families are to them. Respect those bonds.

Domestic Help

I had several questions about this and sadly there was not enough time to open up a real discussion on this issue. But Ranjini said that most expats need to let go of the guilt of having staff. It is part of life here and in many ways it is (almost) a necessity. I still cannot bring myself to say it is required – but believe me it is extremely helpful and my life would stink without any help. So, I count my blessings on this one.