Tag Archives: different

What’s it really like………..

This is the most common question I have been getting since we came back to the U.S.

Describing India in contrast to the U.S. is nearly impossible. It is an amazing place – full of culture, history, and fascinating people. It is also so very different from everything I am used to. Some of those differences weren’t even clear to me until I returned home.

Some of the things that are so very different really have nothing to do with India – but encompass more the differences between living in a house and an apartment. My husband has always wanted to live in a city – rather than the suburbs. That is what we are doing. I don’t care for it. It is hard to be in a 3-bedroom flat when you are very used to a 3-level home with a yard and a drive way and friends all over the place. There were times I frankly felt a little claustrophobic.

Doing homework is hard when you have 3 kids and no where to go. Having friends over is hard when you just don’t have the room to entertain. The kids in India don’t really seem to be outside playing a lot. I am not sure why – but we just don’t see it that often.

Having staff sounds like a great gig if you can get it. But again – if you aren’t used to it – well, it is also a big adjustment. I don’t like explaining everything to other people when I am used to doing it myself. But I like going into the closet and pulling out an ironed shirt that I had nothing to do with getting cleaned – if only they would wash it and iron it somewhere else. Cooking and cleaning might be a little difficult to accomplish somewhere else – but that would be nice too.

We have two people who work in our house. And after some trial and (some very big) error, we have people that are a really good fit for us. But it is still someone in your house – your little house.  I calculated that our staff works for us for almost 80 hours a week. They work hard and they work almost the entire time they are there – really only rarely stopping for tea. So that is 80 hours of work I do not have to do. Yes, I am very thankful for that!

One thing my husband always says is that there are nice people everywhere. That is true. I have met some kind and generous people who I hope I will be friends with for the rest of my life. I have met some people who are more interesting than I will ever be. The expats who live in India are adventurous and smart people. They soak in the world.

I am writing delicately on this one – but parenting is different in India. And on this issue, I am talking mostly about expat parenting because that is what I have been exposed to. Some of the parents I have met depend on their staff a lot. Drivers drive kids to and from parties. Not everyone is that concerned with meeting the parents on the other end. Ayahs (babysitters) supervise play dates. This is all about comfort level and, again, if you are used to it, surely this is easier. But I cannot let go of my parenting long enough to enjoy this benefit of India. I like being the one to take my kids places and I want to meet the parents any where I might be dropping them off. I know this is all about balance and I am a little heavy on the side of caution. But it is who I am and I do not want to let India change that part of me.

And this is not the friends that I have surrounded myself with. I gravitate toward people who think more like me. I roll like that.

The expat children I have met are confident and outgoing. They all seem to find their niche and thrive in their own circles. They are comfortable talking with adults and don’t seem too affected by moving around the world. They are impressive in that regard. They will surely accomplish great things. On the down side, some of them are a little entitled. I mean, really, if you have a driver, a cook, a house cleaner, a gardener, and an ayah – yeah, you might feel a little more than special. But a lot of parents I have met work hard to keep their kids on an even keel.

I have written a lot about shopping. Haggling is fun. Very fun. But I do miss Target and Costco and the grocery store. It is just so convenient in the U.S. But I have gotten some very fun Indian items that I probably would never have found in the U.S. – even at World Market – and I negotiated good prices for them.

The best way I can think to describe  living in India is that it is like living in the U.S. about 30 or 40 years ago.

People do not have answering machines – well, I guess technically they have human answering machines. Everyone has a cell phone but nobody leaves messages. It’s all about texting. I stink at texting so it takes me a really long time to do it. I am usually about half-way thru my message when the person I am calling calls me back. Augh.

I am not used to electricity and water being sporadically available. Although we are really fortunate that we will have not been inconvenienced by the outages.

And I know many Indians are not thrilled with the portrayal of India in Slumdog Millionaire – but honestly – it is a dirty place. Pollution is abundant and it is dusty and in many places, very dirty. You see people working hard to sweep the streets and move the garbage – but there is just so much of it. There are lovely places that are not dirty – in fact, they are meticulously maintained. But there is a hazy sky almost everyday. It’s just not what I am used to.

Delhi is less organized than my little corner of the U.S. And India is less predictable. Which makes everyday interesting. You really, truly never know what you might see.

In some ways I feel we are living in a little bubble of expats. We really spend most of our time on the school campus. Most of our activities are there. We have not met that many Indian families. The Indian people we have met thru number one hubby’s work are delightful and kind. They are generous with their support and thoughtfulness. They certainly have made me more comfortable about living in India.

So – what’s it really like – it’s very different. I miss all my routines and friends  and family and conveniences. I am enjoying my new friends and experiences. It’s a mix – it’s a great adventure that really makes me homesick.

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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Not weird, just different…………..

Before we left on this grand adventure, I had several fireside chats with my kids. One of them focused on different v. weird. I wanted them to not use the word weird – ever. Things are just going to be a little very different.

So, you what’s different, you ask. Besides everything, you mean?

Let’s see…………..

Queso is not here. Bummer. Big Bummer. I miss her scratchy cat kisses.

Milk has to be boiled and only lasts a few days. We used to go through about 6 gallons of milk a week – we are not doing that now. And, it does not taste weird – just different.

You absolutely cannot drink water out of the faucet – we brush our teeth with filtered or bottled water.

Fruits and vegetables have to be soaked in a cleaning solution for at least half an hour before you eat them. Even pineapples.

Electrical outlets have on/off switches. Yep, you have to turn on the outlet – then turn on whatever is plugged in.

My underwear got ironed yesterday. No I am not kidding. Yes, that is horrifying. It was especially funny to me because it was a pair with a hole in it. I am also laughing that my underwear is big enough to iron – okay, it’s not that funny.

The newspaper comes at 9pm at night.

Our doorbell rings like a bird chirping. They ring the doorbell when they drop off the paper. That is not weird – but a little unnecessary.

All of my friends and family are asleep when I am awake. That seems at least lonely and maybe a little weird.

I get a salad for lunch and dinner every day – and I do not have to make it! Raju puts corn in the salad sometimes. Bonus.

Yesterday we ordered McDonalds for lunch. It was delivered to our door. They do not sell hamburgers or nuggets but the chicken sandwich was quite yummy. They do sell a Mexican chicken wrap. That is not weird, but it is funny (at least to me).

Bear, Flower, and Angel have eaten something at every meal that they have never had before. They have (really) liked almost everything. The only thing they did not like was the refried beans. I can’t say I blame them – a little goes a long way.

Flower will take Spanish in school.

Bear has two elective classes – they are Odyssey of the Mind and Lego Robotics.

Angel will get to take an art class after school and a freestyle dance class. Flower is thinking about joining a rock climbing club and bollywood dance class.

Some men hold hands here. I don’t think they are gay – they are just holding hands.

You walk and drive on the opposite side of what we are used to. This is sometimes a problem when walking down the stairs. The school has arrows on the steps to help you remember. I think that is more for the adults than the kids.

There are men that ride around on bicycles selling things. They shout out what they are selling in a steady jumbled song. The first time I heard it, I thought someone was crying – now I just wish I knew what they were saying. They almost fall off their bike when they see my white-skinned self. It is pretty funny actually – I am quite sure they think I look weird. I don’t think their moms have had a chance to explain different yet.

The windows let in all the noise from outside. This is only a problem when fireworks go off in the middle of the night.

The toilet paper is not very soft. At all.

There is a lot more that is different – but I can’t use up all my material in one post. So, I’ll be back with more later. So life here is not weird, it’s just not what we are used to. See the difference?