Category Archives: traffic

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas………

Singapore is a fascinating mix of several cultures – Chinese, Indian, Malays, Eurasians, and Arabs. English is the primary language – although each group uses their own language too – so there is also Chinese, Tamil, etc. English being the universal language makes getting around super easy. Singapore’s population is around 5 million and 80 percent of the people who reside there live in government flats. Our taxi driver told us that they are all the same – 3 bedrooms, kitchen, family room, balcony, and I think two bathrooms.

There is a slight “big brother” feel in Singapore – you are not allowed to bring gum into the country or to chew it (you can smoke however – I know, huh?).  Littering brings a $1,000 fine – your second offense is $2,000. Cameras line the roads and no one crosses the street until the pedestrian light says it is ok to do so. Getting a taxi is easy – you just get in a queue until it is your turn – single file, no cutting, and no bumping. All of that works together to make an organized, efficient, and very clean city.

If you come from Delhi, Singapore will seem like a little slice of very clean heaven. There is little pollution, the sun shines or dances behind a few clouds (don’t forget your sunscreen), and no one honks their horn. Cars even stay in their own lanes. And even though there is traffic, it is not bumper to bumper – it flows nicely.

Because Singapore has so many different cultures co-existing, they seem to celebrate everything. On Friday, a lot of stores were closed for the Muslim celebration of Hajj – the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. And Orchard Road (the famous shopping district) was decorated for Christmas –  Christmas music played in all the stores. It was all sorts of loverly to see all the trees and reindeer smiling along the way.

It was a little funny to be walking in shorts in the high temps and to see this snowman. He did make me smile though.

All in all, Orchard Road was a great place to visit. We found the prices to be pretty high but you could visit any store you might be missing. It’s all here.

A kick in the rear……..

Yesterday was a big fat homesick day and I wallowed in it. For a while – then I literally got a kick in the rear – or a bump in the bumper – and was reminded of why being here is such a good adventure for my family.

I was riding to school on a busy road when the driver behind us hit the back of our car. It was a jolt, but I knew right away it was nothing serious. I was on my way to a meeting with the elementary school principal and I did not want to be late. So, it wasn’t the best thing that could happen on the way to school. However, it was not – by a long shot – the worst thing either.

And in India, fender benders are handled so differently. Most of the time neither driver even stops. A car is just a car. Nothing to get too upset about. (It is interesting to note that there really aren’t many super nice cars on the road here – it is kind of a waste of money because it would be nearly impossible to keep them in mint condition.) The challenge for me will be to embrace this more patient, uneffected mode of living – while still teaching my children to value the blessings we have – not to take them for granted. A car is certainly not disposable so we do need to take care of it – but ultimately it is just a car. A little dent here and there gives it character and a history of the places we have been.

In the U.S., a car accident of any magnitude would involve a lot of time, a lot of paperwork, time in the repair shop – frustration. Here a bump is simply a bump. You can move quickly on from it.

Casting stones…………

While I have been trying to decide whether our cook is dishonest or whether our guard is dishonest or whether I really even care at all, I have been living in a glass house and tossing a few pebbles of my very own. It seems that I have become what I hate the most – T.H.A.T. parent. My imperfection came through loud and clear not too long ago and I sincerely offer my apologies to anyone who I have dubiously dubbed “that” parent in the past. I am now dining on my previously heartfelt declarations of “how could they” and “why would they” and am suffering the indignity of my own recent indiscretions.

A couple of weeks ago, we went to Mumbai for a swim meet. There wasn’t a lot of time left for sightseeing beyond the edges of the pool deck. So, when some friends of ours invited us to go on a bus tour of the city, we jumped right on. We don’t really have plans to return to Mumbai because there is so much we want to see outside of India. That meant that the tour sounded like a good way to take in a few sights quickly. We could at least say we had “seen” Mumbai. We landed in Mumbai in the early afternoon, went to the hotel, washed our faces, and started the tour.

It took a little bit longer than we thought it would. Traffic in Mumbai is crazy. So we got to dinner late. Very late. Bear and Flower were spending the day with host families so they were not with us. But Angel (our youngest) had no choice but to tag along. In her full glory, she fell asleep right in the middle of a battle of the bands competition at the Hard Rock Cafe Mumbai at ten o’clock at night. We even sat in the bar area – just to make it more ridiculous.

I have cast many a stone at parents who “find it necessary” to keep their young children out late at night. I can only imagine what I would have said about myself had I seen me drinking a glass of wine with Angel asleep next to me. Tsk. Tsk. I managed to successfully navigate my 7 year old through a bar at 10p at night in the midst of music playing so loudly that she surely lost some of her ability to hear – and yes, people were smoking and drinking and gyrating. Gasp. It was not my finest hour. I will be casting those stones no more.

The other adults with us ate super fast so that we could scoot out as quickly as possible. But I did manage to finish my glass of wine first. And yes, I bribed her to be good with a teddy bear from the gift shop. He can keep her company while I leave her completely unattended to accept my mother of the year award. Brittany Spears nominated me so I have no choice but to accept. 😉

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Murphy’s Law………

I know, I know. I have been M.I.A.  Please forgive me.

Number One Hubby went out of town last week – so you know what that means, right? Right.

Kids got sick and I had the busiest week I have had in India since I have been here.

So, M.I.A. means Mother in Action.

While I was wallowing in the abyss of runny noses, doctors visits, and sleepless nights, number one hubby went to the U.S. and had slurpees and homemade breakfast. He ate authentic Mexican food with most of our family and drove his own car. It is fall in Virginia, so he also saw leaves changing and went outside without dripping sweat. He won’t admit it – but I think he actually had a cheeseburger, too. Bastard.

Do I sound a wee bit bitter?

I don’t mean to. Really, I don’t. I am not bitter. Because number one hubby is a smart hubby too. He brought back my favorite brand of microwave popcorn and gummy bears and teddy grahams and real American marshmallows. Plus he flew on 3 red-eye flights in 6 days. All the while, making sure our son’s hershey kisses didn’t melt. He had big tasks at hand and he skillfully maneuvered thru all of them.

But it was an insane week. I have so much to tell you I hardly know where to begin. But this week is crazy too. Now, I am sick – see – Murphy’s Law in full force- and have w.a.y. t.o.o. m.u.c.h. going on. This week might be sparse too. But I will be back with some amazing stories! I promise! But before I go (again), here is a quick story.

Just so you can appreciate the chaos of last week – here is a sampling of how the week went. We have a fabulous doctor – if you live in Delhi and need a good family doctor – email me. She is GREAT. Bear started off the week with a double ear infection. So our great doctor prescribed antibiotics. I am very careful here where I get my medicine. So, I sent my driver with the prescription to the Apollo hospital pharmacy to get the antibiotic and ear drops. It is not exactly around the corner. It took him (quite) a while.

He came back with the medicine. Perfect. I was very thankful I did not have to sit in traffic. Bear could come home and relax and rest. However, there was exactly enough medicine for one and a half days. Bear just happened to need 10 days worth. Remember, I am no math major – but that does not a.d.d. u.p. – not even with a calculator.

So the next day, I sent the driver back with the same prescription to get more. Yes, you read that right. I got to keep the prescription. They do not take it at the pharmacy. Again, thankful I do not have to sit in traffic. Again, not enough medicine comes home. I know, I know – if it happens once, shame on them – if it happens twice – shame on me. Shame on me.

Poor Kahn, back again – in traffic – to the pharmacy. This time with very specific instructions to get enough medicine.

As I am sure you can tell, this didn’t really mess up my week at all. It was poor Kahn who went back and forth in traffic. But it is an example of how difficult it can be to accomplish small tasks here. I am also amazed by how the pharmacies work in India. I had the same prescription filled three different times. And, truth be told, I probably didn’t even need a prescription. You can get almost any medication you want here – with or without doctors orders.

No Touch………..

One of the hardest things about being back in Delhi is the poverty. The dirt ain’t so great – but the poverty. Seriously, there is no way to describe it – you have to see it for yourself. And you don’t really see it, you feel it. It is like the dirty air on your skin – smothering – it falls on your heart and constricts it. It hurts to see it and you cannot brush it off. I cannot even imagine what it does to a person to live it.

People (many, many people) here are truly starving – not just for food, but it would seem they must be starving for some sort of self worth. Starving for some way to care for themselves and their families. They cannot all be resigned to this – they cannot all believe that there is no higher purpose for their lives. There must be some spark inside of them that has not died out yet. Some survival instinct that is ready and waiting and literally begging to kick in.

Many people have said that human life isn’t that valuable in India – I had to admit it – but I think it might be true. At least, very poor human life. Otherwise, how could this continue?

In India, there is begging pretty much everywhere you go. It’s hard to accept as simply ” just the way it is” when you didn’t grow up with it constantly in your face. It’s hard to turn your head and close your wallet when you see it. Very hard to believe that a quick fix of a little money really does not make it better – but just perpetuates it.

The problem quickly becomes that if you share with one person – you better be ready to share with many. This is a horrible analogy – but it is like roaches – if you see one, you can be sure that there are many more watching, waiting for the crumbs to drop. There is also the reality that a great deal of the begging is really equivalent to organized crime. The beggars do not to keep the money.

Most beggars are not aggressive. Anyone begging is not allowed to physically touch anyone they are begging from. My understanding is that it is actually illegal for beggars to touch while begging. Most of them follow this rule – no touch – I think naturally, they just don’t touch people they do not know. But like everything in India, there are levels and some beggars push the limits. They will touch you and follow you. It can become quite uncomfortable and sometimes even a little scary. I have given myself permission to say “no touch!” firmly. But you do not walk away untouched whether they physically reach out for you or not.

It is hard to instantly become unsympathetic to those in need – even if it is a situation of neediness they choose. It is impossible to come to grips with the idea that they truly see this as their best option. That this is the best, most economical use of their time. The best way to feed their children and themselves.

It is hard to understand that giving a little money or a lot of food is not helpful. It is nightmarish to see children maimed and living in filth and selling ridiculous trinkets while standing in between cars on a busy street full of unsympathetic drivers. It is hard to keep the window of my air conditioned car closed.

In some respects America is not that different, there are poor people everywhere. Sure, America has people dripping with diamonds while others are simply dripping. It is not all even Steven. But in America, there is more of a real chance to rise out of a situation, if you are willing to work hard for it.

This is not to say that there are not a number of people fighting the good fight in India. There are. I have written about two women in previous posts. One is Karin Bedi and the other is Anou with Project Why. Can Support is another great organization – I will be joining their fight next week and working on the Walk for Life. There are quite a few wonderful people working hard to make life better. But clearly more are needed.

The problem is so vast that it must be hard to know where to begin.

That was true for me. I was overwhelmed by how to be helpful. So, frankly, I did not do much. A little here and there – but is was like a dropping a lit match in a volcano. Yeah, any impact was surely very quickly melted away. This time I hope to do better. You can scold me if I don’t.

I hope to leave India very much touched…….

Google Me………….

As a relatively new blogger, I realize there is a lot left for me to learn about this whole “blogging” thang. I signed up to get stats via sitemeter and they just look like alphabet soup to me. If someone knows what I should do with all that info, please feel free to speak up. I still don’t know how to post a you-tube video in my actual blog, so you are left clicking on a measely link. I am about to use up all my “free” wordpress space for pictures and am about to have to upgrade and *gasp* pay for blog space. And I still have not figured out how to get paid millions of dollars for my insights and wicked sense of humor – or even $5 for that matter. Talk may be cheap, but apparently writing is free – that is unless you use up all of your free space – but I digress.

Some people blog to ultimately get published – and sure – that’d be great – but sometimes people just blog to blog. I guess I honestly fall somewhere in the middle. I want to capture all of our memories of our great Indian adventure so that I don’t forget the details – but it is also (really, really) nice to know that other people are following along. It amazes me really. I have had people tell me they grab a cup of coffee (I am sure for some of them it is doctored coffee) and sit down to read my blog every day. Wow.

One of the things “real” bloggers talk about is google page rank. So, just for giggles, I thought I would see where I rank. When I entered the key words – a reason to write – into google, I almost fell over. I did not use quotation marks. Does that matter? I do not know. But I did not use them.

Some biotch with a handmade card business called, of all things, “A Reason To Write” ranked number one – oh yeah, that’s me. And then some blogging goddess with a blog called, of all things, “A Reason To Write – India” ranked number two.

Seriously, I am not sure how that happened and it may not last. Maybe my computer remembers it’s me and is empathetic – like a well-intention parent, it doesn’t want to let me down. Hey Data on Star Trek learned to show emotions – it could happen.

How do I know that it might not last, you ask? Well, I don’t want to use up all of my 15 minutes of fame in one place – but also, my blog was linked to a CNN article on prisons for about 20 hours. I (very) excitedly wrote to my family and dear friends to tell them the amazing news – only to find that they removed the link and replaced it with more current blogs on the same topic. Bastards. So, the time difference coupled with the dreaded in-box wait time, it looked like I was a liar, liar pants on fire. And, no, I did not screen print. That would have been the “smart” thing to do – so you can clearly see why I chose NOT to do just that. I had no evidence whatsoever. DAMN, is right.

So, if by the time you read this and google search me, I am no longer ranked as number one and two, rest assured that I have a mental picture in my mind of my success. And I believe me even if no one else does.

The bottom line in all of this is thank you for following along and catapulting me to rock star google status – even if it only exists in my own mind. 😉

Bicycling 101……..

Since moving to Delhi, I have seen a lot of very interesting things. But one thing that surprises me everyday is the number of different ways bikes are used here. I bet you thought a bike was just for riding. Well, not necessarily. Sometimes I feel like I am living in a Dr. Suess book when I see all the bikes.

One bike, two bikes, three bikes, four
Six bikes, seven bikes, look there’s more.

They’re in the street right by the car
Oh, how many bikes there are

This one needs a little push
His legs are going to feel like mush

This one carries tanks of gas
How much longer can he last

Some are big and some are small
There’s just no way to count them all

Some of them are even blurry
Their driver must be in a hurry

Tires, sticks, and so much stuff
The ice cream bike means we’re in luck

A little snack for a journey far
It would be easier in a car

One bike, two bikes, three bikes, four
Every where you look, there’s more…..

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But how are you………..

This is how a lot of emails from my friends end – your blog is great – but how are you, really?

That is a tricky question. Most of you know, I would not have picked to move to India. The decision came about quickly and it was a big surprise. I knew from the first moment of hearing the possibility that it would be a great adventure for our family and that we would never regret coming to Delhi. I realized that was true. And then I threw up.

This has been a wonderful career move for number one hubby. He loves his job and he loves having our family close together. I love that too. I am very proud of him and it is amazing to watch him thrive.

There are certainly challenges that I did not expect. India is considered a hardship post by the U.S. government and most private companies. I can agree with that. A big challenge for me – being a terrible creature of habit – is that nothing is really predictable. Just because you found kick arse goldfish crackers and nacho cheese Doritos at the market this week, does not mean anything for next week. Living in India is like investing in the stock market. Past performance is not a measure of future success.

I miss my family and dear friends terribly. I hate being away from them. H.a.t.e. it. Period. This is the biggest challenge for me. And I so miss my little cat Queso.

We have celebrated 4 birthdays here and it was difficult at best not to have my family here with us. Easter and Thanksgiving will not be easy either.

I miss my shower with never-ending hot water and double shower heads. I miss my kick-arse washer and dryer. I miss my double oven. I miss my office filled with paper and embellishments with a window that looks out at trees. I miss Taco Bell and Cheesecake Factory and Chick-Fil-A. I miss soft towels that smell like a spring rain.

But I realize that you can survive without the things that make life more comfortable. It’s the whole niceties v. necessities argument. And you can find new adventures without a dryer and a double oven that make those things seem not as important.

Although the basement where the kids can go when they you need a break is hard to live without.

And I do miss shopping at Target and Costco. I can live without shopping at those stores – I actually like the markets here – they are interesting and fun. But I miss the one stop shopping. And I really miss stores that open at 8am. Nothing here seems to open before 11am.

I miss driving myself. Although, I do not want to drive here – traffic is crazy! But there is freedom in a set of car keys and a drivers license.

I miss living on a cul-de-sac with a yard and trees and flowers. I miss kick ball in the court and a glass of wine on the front porch. I miss the crazy sleepovers we used to host with tacos for dinner and waffles for breakfast.

Connections are harder to make when everyone knows they will be moving at some point. So I guess I miss the sense of permanence.  There is comfort in believing that you will be friends with someone for a long time. I am not pointing fingers at others here at all – this is my issue – I find myself pulling back and being more hesitant to get involved because I know that people will be leaving – including me.

Old habits die hard and I just miss my routines.

However, there are a lot a things that balance out the things I miss.

The school is amazing. I have talked about it before so I won’t bore you with repeating myself. But my children are growing as learners in ways they might not have in the U.S. They are thinking in ways they have never thought before. There is a big emphasis here on creative thinking. I love that! The school also addresses my children as people and as students. In Flower’s conference, the teacher had as one of her goals to participate in the swimming program at the school. He has already gotten to know her very well and is fostering her growth inside the classroom and out. The teachers in the U.S. knew my kids very, very well – but the curriculum is just very different here. And by the way, I miss those U.S. teachers for a lot of reasons – they are fabulous in their own right.

Bear’s Humanities class is a mix of English and Social Studies. They have couches in his classroom and the kids “hang out” to learn. Bear actually asked me to go to the library with him the other day to help him pick out a book to read. After I got up off the floor from falling over – off to the library we went. He checked out two books.  I don’t think he has actually started reading either one of them yet – but, hey, baby steps.

Angel has been given differentiated instruction in math. It appears she has quite the creative problem solving little brain. It is not a surprise really because she plays a little game with herself where she creates an invention and then she talks about it for 45 minutes straight. The ideas truly pour out of her. It is nice to see that embraced at school.

Seeing that the world is not the bubble we knew has been good for all of us. There is so much here that is different and interesting. We are fortunate to be exposed to it.

Although Bear did ask when we could go back to not having anyone cook and clean and just “be” in our house. I had to explain to him that someone was cooking and cleaning and “being” in our house before. She just wasn’t get paid to do it. To which he replied “oh yeah”. I reminded him that “that would be me”.

I miss a quiet house with no one milling about. But I do not miss cooking, cleaning, or the laundry. See how complicated this all becomes?

Poverty has been hard on the eyes and much harder on the heart. I am working on a blog post to further explain and explore that. It should be coming soon. But it has made us all more appreciative of shoes and food and family. I am looking for a place to volunteer so that I can share my time with these children who have so little. But I want to be clear that many of these children have the biggest, most beautiful smiles. They are not miserable just not advantaged.

Number One Hubby has made some changes at his company that will help out some of the poorer people in Delhi. I feel really good about that.

It is dirty here and the pollution is unreal. We spent 5 hours at the pool the other day and got no suntan whatsoever. That might be good in the prevention of skin cancer – but I am worried about the lung cancer. But we got to spend 5 hours at the pool in the middle of March. That rocks.

I am not a super adventurous eater – so this has not been so much a culinary experience for me. But there are opportunities. And they serve beets here. I might be the only one in Virginia who actually eats beets – but I am in good company here! Yummy. And yesterday I tried red potatoes that had been skinned and rolled in sesame seeds. Holy potato, batman, they were fabulous!

We have seen Jaipur and we have seen the Taj Mahal. Both were amazing. And it makes me resolve to show my children more of the United States. They have not seen the Grand Canyon or Yosemite or Mount Rushmore and a lot of other things. I hope to correct that.

We are also hoping to visit Thailand and Egypt and China. I never imagined in my wildest dreams we would even talk about doing any of that.

We are spending more time as a family. We eat dinner together every night. The practices at the school are all over by 6pm and they are all at the school. So there is no hustling from field to field. There are no drive-thru dinners. Yeah, that is a blessing and a curse.  We are certainly eating healthier meals. But remember, I miss me some Taco Bell.

I am loving this blog adventure and am thrilled to be writing again. It has been so long since I put my thoughts down and it is a treat to write almost every day. I continue to be absolutely amazed that so many people are following along. And I am confident that we will not lose the details that are making this journey so enjoyable.

As you might recall, we also started yoga. We used to tease my dear sweet neighbor who loves yoga – but now we are eating our yoga mats. We enjoy it – especially now that we know our instructor has a sense of humor. He doesn’t mind us teasing each other during our sessions. Sometimes he even chuckles along.

So anyway, the long story short is that I am enjoying much of our adventure. There are pockets of time when I am a little down. But most of the time, I have my seat belt on and I am ready to go. And yes, seat belts are a very good idea in India.

Not Exactly Driving Miss Daisy………

You might remember the 1989 film in which Morgan Freeman plays a driver for an old stubborn Jewish woman in Atlanta. It takes a long time for the woman to be convinced that having a driver is a good thing and there are several scenes where they are shown slowly driving down unattended roads with few distractions. Ha. My riding in the car experience is not exactly “Driving Miss Daisy”.

Driving (or in my case “riding”) in Delhi is a unique experience. There is always a lot to see. It is never, ever boring. The first thing I noticed was the noise. It is VERY noisy. People honk their horns constantly. It means “move over, I am behind you and want to pass” or “hey, I was here first” or “it’s been too quiet for the last 5 seconds, I think I will honk my horn.” Some of the trucks even have signs on the back that say “honk, please”. This lets them know you are there. Even though it is a pretty good bet that someone is there – apparently, it’s good for them to know it’s you. There are some billboard signs that say “if you love Peace, don’t honk.”

The one thing I have not seen yet is road rage. People just seem to accept that it is crowded. Right of way is earned by the car that inches the furthest ahead. There are lines in the road – but I am not sure why. We have counted up to 7 vehicles across on a two-lane road. No, that is not really a great idea. Bikes, scooters, motorcycles, carts, tractors, pedestrians, cars, trucks, and buses all share the same roads. Sometimes there are beggars and animals in the middle of the road too – just to keep it interesting.

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This is an auto rickshaw. It has a motor and three wheels. They have horns and certainly are not afraid to use them. They are smaller than a car but slightly more substantial than a motorcycle – so they are more nimble than the cars. They weave and bob through traffic with the best of them. I have counted up to 10 people in one of these – it’s not uncommon and no, I am not kidding.

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More than one person can ride on a bike.

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This is a rickshaw powered the old-fashioned way – with hard work. My Dad would say that it builds character. But, I do not hope to grow up to be a rickshaw driver. Many of them are barefoot.

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Usually more than one person is riding in them. And it’s not necessarily that I am a horrible photographer – but it is often very hazy here. Okay, maybe the slightly blurry part was operator error.

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Delhi is expanding its metro transportation system – so there is a lot of construction.

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Your car will be side-swiped at some point. At least once. So far, we have had three traffic incidents. I consider it preparation for having teenaged drivers.

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There are animals everywhere. Some of them are working – some are just wandering. This guy needs a hug.

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This guy is delivering eggs somewhere. Did you know that eggs do not have to be refrigerated? Don’t worry – we still keep ours in the fridge. But they don’t have to be. I am just not willing to risk it. Hmmm.

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Motorcycles can transport entire families.

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Just maybe a scarf should not be worn on a motorcycle. But that is the way it is done here. Yes, this always makes me nervous.

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Besides the poverty – this is one of the things that is the hardest for Western women to understand. Yes, you are seeing that right – she does not have a helmet on, her scarf is draping, and she is sitting side-saddled. And no, she is not holding on to him.

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Indians seem to make the most of everything. A lot of people can fit in one car. I am always surprised when I see these cars so full of people and I always have to peek in. I never see children fighting over who is touching whom or parents drawing imaginary lines in the seat. I would love to know how they make that work.

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Sometimes  people will drive the wrong way down the road.

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Sometimes trucks are overloaded. Would you like to buy a sweater?

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Sometimes people just hitch a ride. Going my way?

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Sometimes people walk down the side of the road with bundles of sticks on their heads.

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Sometimes it’s baskets.

This is just a little teaser of all the things you can see while driving in India. I will share more later – but right now, I think your boss, wife, and/or kids might be calling. 😎 I know mine are!

I wonder if this would work in the U.S…….

I had seen this sign once before – but I did not have my camera – dang it. I was so hoping that I would see it again and that I would have camera in hand. Wah Lah!

I have to wonder if the threat of embarrassing yourself is really a deterrent against traffic crimes. If so, how lovely! In the U.S., I am afraid this sign might actually serve as encouragement…..

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