This is kind of exciting.
I’ve been nominated for the Expat Blog Awards for my writing about living in India.
If you have a second, please vote for me by leaving a comment here…
This is kind of exciting.
I’ve been nominated for the Expat Blog Awards for my writing about living in India.
If you have a second, please vote for me by leaving a comment here…
Clements International Announces 3rd Annual Expat Youth Scholarship
Clements International, the leading provider of insurance solutions for expatriates and international organizations, announces its 3rd annual scholarship program for expatriate students.
Clements International’s Expat Youth Scholarship is a unique contest exclusively for expat students who spend their childhoods moving between different countries and cultures. This year’s theme asks participants to create a video explaining their favorite thing about their host country and its culture. Clements will award a total of $10,000 to students ages 12-18 of any nationality who have resided in a foreign country for at least two consecutive years.
“We’re so excited to offer the Expat Youth Scholarship again this year with a new twist,” said President Chris Beck. “Incorporating online video and Facebook voting will really make this scholarship contest an interactive experience for everyone involved, including participants, expats, supporters and viewers around the world.”
This year, everyone gets a chance to help determine the winners. A Judges Panel consisting of individuals representing the expatriate community will determine the top 12 video entries, which will be posted on the Expat Youth Scholarship Facebook page under the “Links” tab. During the month of August, members of the Expat Youth Scholarship fan page will be able to vote for their favorites using the “Like” feature.
Voting (aka “Liking”) will end on August 31. The total number of fan “Likes” will determine the top three winners in each age category.
The scholarship entry deadline is Friday, May 13, 2011. For more information about the scholarship and to submit entries, visit www.expatyouthscholarship.com.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS – DEADLINE 15 OCTOBER 2010 – SHORT STORIES ABOUT EXPAT LIFE BY EXPAT WRITERS
Organised by Writers Abroad
National Short Story Week (www.nationalshortstoryweek.org.uk) will take place during the week 22nd – 28th November. In support of the event, Writers Abroad will be publishing an anthology of fictional short stories.
Title: ‘Writers Abroad’
Theme: Fictional Short Stories on any aspect of Expat Life, the pains and the pleasure. Submissions can be based on real life experiences but should be fictionalised.
Contributions: From Expat writers (either currently an Expat or previously an Expat)
Word Count: Anything up to 2,500 words. Submissions can be flash fiction i.e up to 500 words or short stories up to 2,500. Word count does not include the title.
Submission and Entry Rules:
Copyright will remain with the author and the stories will be published in an anthology in a number of formats
Today we went to see the new Karate Kid movie. If you have not seen the movie, you might not want to read this yet. It’s predictable – you already know what happens, so I promise I am not ruining the ending – but I am all full of opinions about this and I might taint your viewpoint. Better to see it first then tell me how wrong I am.
At one point in the movie, the 12 year old boy who was forced to move across the globe has a mini-tantrum and tells his mother that he hates it in China and that he just wants to go home. After the movie, Bear said that he could totally feel his pain. And then he laughed. And we marveled that we had already been gone a year and a half and that we are now back home. We all agreed that the experience was amazing but we could totally relate to the main character wanting to get the heck out of there – even if the ice cream is really good.
One of the beginning scenes was at the airport and they showed this statue.
We all simultaneously looked at each other and laughed. Several parts of the movie were filmed in places in Beijing we had been – the markets, Olympic Park, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and Tiananmen Square, etc. That was bizarro. I knew the movie was filmed in Asia but I didn’t realize it was filmed in Beijing where we had just visited not too many weeks ago. We went out for a little family bonding time in front of the big screen and behind bags of popcorn and we found some tremendous unexpected connections.
Right before we left for India, Slumdog Millionaire came out and that was really my first introduction to India. It’s wasn’t a warm and fuzzy “how ya doing” introduction – it was a “holy crap you want me to move where and take our children with us – yeah, that sounds like a great idea” kind of introduction.
And then, when we return, Karate Kid comes out. That is about as full circle as it gets. And as much as the Indian population was not that impressed with Slumdog, I don’t think the Chinese people and mothers in general are going feel the l.o.v.e. for Karate Kid.
It missed the boat on a number of fronts. The bottom line is that a father has apparently died and a mother moves her son from Detroit to China for a job. But knowing how tough this decision really is, I was disappointed that they just started the movie with the move. A move that they made too simple and too uncomplicated. There weren’t really any tears – the family just picked up and left with a few hugs in the rain as Dre’s (the Karate Kid) best friend gives him his skateboard and they knock knuckles. That just is not reality. When you move around the world, you are tearing yourself away from just about every little level of comfort you know – especially if it is your first international move – and even if you don’t love everything about where you are leaving – you at least mostly know what to expect. Anytime you move, you are leave people you care about and routines and just a life that is familiar. Surely, there is a thrill in the new adventure but it just doesn’t begin with a hug in the rain.
Those of you who know me will probably laugh when I say this – but I also simply cannot believe that a widow can take her 12-year old boy to Beijing and let him just run about town. He spent a good deal of his time unattended. Let me say this about Beijing. We wanted to take a cab from our hotel to the Hard Rock Cafe and back to get my brother a hat. The hotel “strongly” discouraged us from doing that because most people in China don’t speak English. It’s not easy to navigate a big city even as an adult and even when you can speak the language and can read the signs. It is totally unrealistic to think that a 12 year old could find his way around that town alone and that a mother would be comfortable with that happening. I know you are supposed to suspend reality when you watch a movie. But I think that when people put together a movie that they want you to believe in – they should make attempts to make it believable. A woman alone with a child in a completely foreign environment just would not give her son so much freedom. I could not get past that. Every time Dre was walking somewhere alone, I could not help but think that he should not be doing that.
After the movie, I asked Bear what he thought the chances of me letting him roam around Beijing by himself would be. He laughed that I would probably let him do that before I would let him delete a text message from me and then not respond. Oh yeah, that happened too. Dre’s mom was looking for him and he just hit “delete” after receiving the message. Excuse me? But she was on his arse about not hanging up his jacket. Huh?
At one point, the boy and his instructor take a train ride to train at the Great Wall. Seriously? She’s going to let this total stranger take her son on a train? So, the mom might win an academy award for this movie (but don’t bet on that) but she certainly will not be getting mother of the year honors.
Anyneglect, then there was the whole issue of Dre making friends. On the day he arrived, the Karate Kid met a boy about his age and played some basketball with him. Then he saw a cute girl and went over to meet her. Enter the bullies who were unimpressed. He got the crap beaten out of him. Frankly, it was a little much. I certainly do not claim to be an expert on the Chinese teenager – but this seemed so out of character for what I have experienced. Five or six boys ganged up on the new kid and pummeled him. Exit the new friend. This blond boy is never seen again in the movie. Again, really? Not even at school, not even once? Really, Chinese teenagers would pummel a foreigner within hours of his arrival in the country. It just didn’t all add up.
When Dre’s mom saw his black eye – and not until the next morning by the way – she accepted his “I ran into a pole” excuse to avoid having a discussion in front of the school administrator. Again – not gonna happen. You realize your son has been beaten up, you did a little deeper. You don’t leave him at the door with a “I love you, honey” and send him into the wolves den. Guess who some of the first kids he saw at school were? Bingo!
It was never clear what type of school the boy was going to. But it seemed to at least be an international school. They have this new student thing down pat – they usually assign a “buddy” to kids to help them navigate through their first few days. Didn’t happen. Dre did run into his “crush” at the cafeteria but the bullies didn’t like him talking to her and turned his tray upside down on his shirt – right in front of the school administrator. She just sent them on their way in opposite directions and did not address the conflict at all. Huh?
The boy got bullied a few more times and then finally saved by the maintenance man (Jackie Chan – lucky to have him as the maintenance man). Jackie Chan agrees to train Dre and they become fast friends.
I also had a really tough time accepting the bullying nature of the group of boys in the story. Everyone I know who has their kids in some sort of martial arts touts the discipline the art teaches. It is not about the fighting but about strengthening the mind and the body and learning focus. You become strong so you do not have to fight. But the motto of the teacher of the bullies was basically if you have any mercy, you are weak. Fight until someone cannot get up. Yes, you remember that correctly. These boys are 12.
I guess, it was possible to believe that the fights on the street got nasty. But even in competition these boys were giving blows to the face and trying to maim their competition. They were more like MMA fighters than 12 year olds learning martial arts and competing in a respectful manner. It did not give a great impression of martial arts training in China. Dre’s teacher did say that there were no bad students only bad teachers. But still. The whole premise of the fighting was that these boys were out for blood and trained to be so.
There were just too many missing pieces in the plot. Not enough of a front story. Not enough of what we loved about the first movie – the training sessions and the growth of the character. And a very predictable ending – which had to be predictable because it is after all a remake of the Karate Kid. I can forgive it the ending – and, no, I was not crying at the end. The theater was extremely humid.
This week I was asked to write guest posts for two blogs…
Ever The Nomad – you can find that post about Old Delhi here.
and Back To Bo – you can find that post about being a Reluctant Expat here.
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!
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!
During the past two weeks, I have nearly used up my 15 minutes of fame. First, auditioning for a movie and then meeting with a lady who films documentaries.
Chances are very good that I will not appear in either film. But both opportunities have really been “life experiences” that I will not forget. In fact, I will probably bore you to tears by telling you these two stories over and over again.
The woman who is producing the documentary is Yasmin Kidwai. She found my blog and sent me an email. She is filming a documentary called “Indian by Choice.”
Here is what she wrote:
Yes, I heard that collective gasp – no, I don’t really “fit” the theme of the film because we absolutely plan to return home. Yasmin is really looking for people who have chosen to make India their home and not just people who have come here for work. (If that is you, please let me know – I can put you in contact with Yasmin.)
When I called Yasmin back, she realized that I might not be the right person and she ended our conversation by telling me if I could find a compelling reason to include us in the film, I should email her. Honestly, what she said offended me a little – what did she mean, compelling reasons? So, I wrote back to her – then I edited it and sent this:
This is me from A Reason To Write – India (a blog about our life in India). I called you this morning in response to your email about my blog.
You asked me to write to you if I could find compelling reasons to include us in your documentary. Please forgive me for saying so, but that comment took me by surprise. It almost came across as though we could not be sincere global citizens if we came here merely for employment.
It sounds like you are looking for people who have chosen to live here for reasons other than work. My husband found a job that afforded him the opportunity to bring our family to India. He has worked with Indian people in the U.S. for many years and has tremendous respect for the Indian culture and ways of life. He wanted us to be able to experience life in India first hand for so many reasons. He could have simply brought us to visit – but he knew that was not the same as living here. Immersing ourselves in a life so foreign to what we had been used to.
Mainly, it is good to see the world outside the bubble you are used to – wherever that bubble is. And India could not be more different from the U.S. in tremendous ways – some good, some not so great. It is important to understand that the world is not the same everywhere for everyone. I think by living in India our family has found more gratitude and more grace and has become more willing to reach out to those around us. We are coming to appreciate the world in new ways and embrace the differences. And where we do not have the understanding to embrace the differences, we are working to at least accept them.
My husband also came for the experience of working in the outsourcing industry – to understand how it is changing the world economy. India is changing the way America operates and the best way to understand that is to be here living it everyday.
You also asked about my writing. India has opened that door for me. It was our decision to move here that inspired me to follow my passion of writing. Moving to India has given me “A Reason To Write.” It has been amazing to chronicle our experiences here. To journal memories I do not want to escape me when we leave here. To relight my joy of the written word.
And, yes, we do plan to leave here. Our home is in the U.S. because our life long friends and our family are there. But India will never leave us. It is shaping who were are and how we want to interact with the world. You cannot live here and remain unchanged. And that is why my husband wanted us to come.
Best wishes on a very successful documentary. Please do not discount those of us who have come to live in India thru a job opportunity. Our appreciation of India should not be dampened by the means we used to get here. Thanks again.
Yasmin wrote back and invited me for an interview. I still don’t really fit the theme of her film but it was a real treat to meet her. She is a mother and a woman and a person trying to understand how foreigners come to love India and never leave it. I can appreciate all of that.
If you have been following this blog for a while you might already appreciate the irony in this post. Just in case you are new – here it is. When my husband asked me if I wanted to move our family to India, I asked him if that was a new street in our neighborhood. I could barely fathom it. Although I knew from the very moment he asked me that we would be moving, I just had a hard time accepting it. And now, well now, I am defending my right to be here, embracing all that India has given us, and absorbing the changes we are seeing in ourselves and in our kids. I guess that is just about as full circle as it gets.
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.