Tag Archives: living

Expat Blog Awards….

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…
http://www.expatsblog.com/blogs/466/a-reason-to-write

Thanks!

Force to Fly 2………

You may (not) remember that I told you one of my essays about living in India was going to be published in an anthology called Forced to Fly 2. Jo Parfitt is the editor and she asked for submissions.

I read through some of my blog posts and submitted one about the time I went to the Post Office in Delhi all.by.my.lonesome. (Which doesn’t really sound very brave, but it felt very brave.) Then I stood on my keyboard with my hands in the air and screamed, “Pick mine, pick mine. Oh. Oh. Oh. Please pick mine.” And then Jo did just that!

This is very exciting for me because this is the first time my writing will be published in an actual book – well, minus the literary magazine in high school. But that doesn’t seem to count as much as this does. This is very exciting.

The book contains humorous accounts of living abroad and will launch on Oct. 5th – don’t worry, you’ll hear (lots) more about it then. And it will be available on Amazon. Yahoo. Amazon will be selling something I wrote – seriously?

But Jo sent out the cover design. So, I thought I would share it with you!

The used-to-be me……

This whole blog started off as a way of journaling our move to India so we would capture – and never forget – the details of our adventure. I wanted to remember the monuments and the memories but had no real way of knowing that, while those were fun, they were insignificant in what we should remember from our experience. The memories came from traveling – but the lessons came from everyday life. The routine that never actually became routine.

We have been home for over a year now and I still have not written about everything. And I have (finally) accepted that I will never write about everything. You just cannot remember it all – and even if you could remember every detail – there is simply no way to explain it all. Partly because India hits everyone a little differently and partly because there are just not enough words.

Unfortunately, I drop little pieces of our India experiences like sand falling off my shoe.  Some of them are hard reminders and I eagerly (and unfortunately) toss them out like I would a rock cradled under my toe. Others just drift away all on their own. And this blog was supposed to be like a big broom and sweep up everything. It turns out there is not a blog or broom big enough for that task.

One by one, you barely miss a piece of sand – but together they can form a beach. It is not good to lose a beach of experience. It’s really not.

Alas.

But what is making me really frustrated and sad is that I changed in India and I am losing some of that. India taught me to be more patient and to have a bigger world perspective. To remember the reality of it all. And, damnit, I am letting myself get caught up in some of the nonsense again. My perspective is shrinking and re-framing.

In many ways, India brings non-Indians to their knees. It’s hard to live in an “all-about-me” bubble when you are constantly bombarded with people suffering and struggling and still surviving – and surviving happily. The people who have the most to legitimately complain about actually complain about nothing. I am not sure if they don’t complain because they don’t think it will do any good or if they just find it unnecessary. But complain they do not.

Please know that this is not an “India is so dirty, the people are so poor” story. If you are a big lover of India, please do not take this as insulting. But the reality is that there are people in India who survive on very little and it is hard to be selfish and self-absorbed when you are reminded of that every single time you step outside. Not everyone owns an ipod – or an outlet to plug it into.

Even when you are inside. It is inescapable.

When you have to give your cook and his wife water when they go home at night because they don’t have access to water, you suddenly remember to turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth. You realize that what you absolutely take for granted as ever-flowing and abundant and even safe is non-existent for someone else – really, most everyone else. It puts you in your place a little bit.

And you have a lot less energy to worry about what other people are doing and what other people aren’t doing. You are busy getting through a day that is just exhausting to get through. And you are often even more busy getting your children through a day in a world that doesn’t make a lot of sense to them. You try to let them experience the reality of it, while protecting them from the reality of it.

I remember one day in India that we got in the car to go to school. The kids were fighting about who was going to sit where. My head almost spun off my neck. My tirade went something like this………..

Holy Hell. You are really going to sit in an air conditioned car with a full belly which is covered by clean clothes and with a head that slept on a pillow on a bed in a room that you do not have to share and drive by all of “this” and complain about anything. Seriously. What are we doing here? Have you really not learned anything? You ate breakfast made by someone else, put the leftovers on a side plate for Ravi to eat at lunch (he would literally eat the crusts they left on their plates), and left your dishes in a sink for someone else to wash. In fact, I should have stopped with “you ate breakfast“. Turn to the left, look out the window and turn to the right, look out that window and shut the hell up.

It was not one of my stellar mommy moments. But that morning had an impact on all of us. The kids didn’t complain (that morning or the next and maybe not even the next). And I wondered how we could walk and live and breathe in India and not lose more of our selfishness.

How could we drive by children without clothes or a roof over their heads or even morsels of food on a plate – dear God, who am I kidding? A plate. No, you are right, they didn’t own need plates – and complain about which comfy cozy seat our bigger than necessary arses were going to snuggle into so that the air conditioning could hit our faces just right.

For Pete’s sake, our driver rode his motor scooter in traffic and dust for an hour to come and clean our car and wait for us to be ready to go somewhere, anywhere  – at any time. He held the door for us and swept up our messes and ran our errands. And at night he took our leftovers to a home with no air conditioning whenever we declared ourselves done for the day. He just waited for us to decide when we were finished so that he could see his family at some point before they laid on a threadborne mattress all in the same room together and went to sleep. Just to wake up early to do it all again.

And we did learn those lessons and we do embrace letting go of some very unnecessary involvement in things. But sometimes I slip and those slips are coming more often. I am getting caught up in minutiae and it is making me nuts. I have an opinion about too many things.

Anyway, this little rant is almost over. Pinky swear.

The bottom line is that I am going to start praying harder for (and working harder toward) patience and perspective. And, yes, a winning lottery ticket would certainly be nice – but if perspective kicks in properly, I won’t push my luck. 😎

Life in a Flying House…………

Is that not the coolest title ever? I wish I had thunk of it myself. Dang it. 

I received an email that those of you expats with children definitely want to keep in mind for next year. It’s a scholarship contest for children living abroad.

Unfortunately the deadline has passed for this year but the winners will be announced in early September and I cannot wait to read their entries.

But mark your calendars for next year. I am excited to even hear what the theme will be  – this year’s rocks.

Anyhouse, here’s the low down……..

Dear A Reason To Write:

I came across your blog online and really enjoyed your posts. As a member of the expat community, you have a unique voice among your peers. (I am really crossing my pencils that this is not simply a form letter because that was a nice compliment. 😉 )

I’m contacting you because I wanted to share some news with you about the Expat Youth Scholarship. I’m with Clements International, the scholarship sponsor, and the leading provider of insurance solutions for expatriates and international organizations. (Yes, that is what we call a plug – but please know that I do not know this company at all and am not recommending them or endorsing their products – they might be fantastic – I just do not know. But their contest sounds great so please read on.)  We’re awarding a total of $10,000 in scholarships to six students (remember I am not a numbers gal but if I do the math right that is a decent chunk o’change) and announcing the finalists on September 13.

Our company started this scholarship program in 2009 to give back to our clients and the expatriate community we serve. Now in its second year, the 2010 Expat Youth Scholarship offered participants a chance to use their experiences living in a foreign country to imagine where their journey might take them next. The scholarship’s theme, “Life in a Flying House,” is inspired by the idea that expat students who spend their childhoods moving between different countries and cultures develop rich life experiences. This year we received over 500 entries and will be awarding a total of $10,000 in scholarships to six, talented students from all over the world!

As an active representative of the expat community, I’m reaching out to solicit your help in promoting the scholarship to your readers. The winning entries are amazing and will be posted online for the world to see at www.expatyouthscholarship.com once the finalists are announced. We also plan to post details about the 2011 scholarship in the coming months, which may be of interest to your readers who wish to enter next year. (P.S. Kathy – if you are looking for judges next year, pick me pick me!)

You can sign up to receive e-mail updates at www.expatscholarship.com and visit our Facebook page (with over 500 fans!).

Thanks, Kathy

Good luck writers – get those pencils sharpened.

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.

It just depends………

A lot of people curious about just how much less expensive it is to live here. Well, it really just depends…..

Housing
Our rent here is a good bit more expensive than our mortgage in the states. We lived in a fairly expensive area in the States. Not in a fancy pants, outrageously expensive area – but a fairly expensive area.

Utilities
Cable, internet, and mobile phones are much cheaper than in the U.S. My mobile phone bill last month was $8. Cable and internet are about $14 per month – that’s combined, not each.

Domestic Help
We do not pay our driver and cook directly so I am not exactly sure what their salaries are. But I know it is a lot cheaper to have help in Indian than in the U.S. Our cook works from 11am – 8:30p – that’s Monday thru Saturday. He also does the laundry and some of the grocery shopping. Our house cleaner works 4 hours a day – that’s also Monday thru Saturday. They both also get money for transportation. Sometimes domestic help will live in quarters near the family they are working for. Ours do not do that.

Produce
As long as you are buying fruits and vegetables that are in season and are not imported, produce is very inexpensive. Very inexpensive.

Recognizable snacks
Not such a great deal. A bag of goldfish crackers is about $4. But worth every penny. You cannot get Pizza Goldfish here and that is a bummer. You can find many brand names for prepackaged foods that you would recognize. They are about double what you would pay in the U.S. You cannot find everything you want, but there is certainly enough to get by on – especially when friends and family will send you a box of surprises every now and then. (Thank you friends and family!)

Soda is about  the same price as in the U.S.

Chocolate chips and canned frosting are two things that we have not been able to find. It’s interesting because you can get cake mixes – but no icing. We also cannot find tortilla chips. Enter very sad face here. We love tortilla chips.

Activities for the kids
There are simply not as many options for the kids here to do sports – so yes, we are saving money there.

The middle school offers free activities like ultimate frisbee and rock climbing and ping pong after school. Something is available every day for Bear.

The elementary school offers activities like knitting, fun with aquatics, jump rope, recycled art, and many others. Each class is once a week and they are $30 for an 8-week session.

Flower and Bear are running track thru the school. So far, that has been free. We did have to agree to host visiting athletes for the track meet in April. We are looking forward to that.

Clothing
There are lots of markets where you can buy inexpensive clothing but clothes for preteens seem to be hard to find. We have had an impossible time finding shorts for our daughters.

There are very nice malls – they are equivalent to the prices in the U.S. We had to buy our daughter a pair of shoes for track – they were $70. No that is not a great deal. But I have gotten some lovely light weight kurtas (Indian style shirts) for $4. Yes, that is a great deal.

I will say the quality of the less expensive items is – well, you get what you pay for. Those items are not going to last a lifetime. But they will be very fun to wear while they last.

Doctors
When we went to the dermatologist for our son, our visit was $16. That is about what you would pay for an insurance co-pay in the U.S. However, that was the entire cost without any insurance.

His follow-up visit was $10.

Medicines
We got Bear antibiotics for 5 days, antibiotic ointment, an antihistamine, and soaps for $24. Again, that was the total cost. No insurance co-pays. All of it was only $24.

Cat food/litter
Outrageous. But what are you going to do?

Eating Out
That is just like anywhere. It can be expensive or not so bad.

Two large pan pizzas at Pizza Hut are $16. Our whole family can eat at McDonalds for $12 – and, have I mentioned that McDonalds delivers? But the nicer the restaurant, the more expensive it is. We went to lunch at a restaurant at the mall and the bill was $80 for lunch. Yes, we are going to Pizza Hut next time.

Gas
I fortunately do not have to drive – so I do not fill up the car with gas. But I will not be complaining about the prices of gas in the U.S. anymore.

Fresh Flowers
Lillies are expensive here too –  probably not as much as in the U.S., but relatively speaking they are more expensive than the other flowers – carnations and a lot of other flowers are very inexpensive. There are a lot of flower stands rich with beautiful blooms.

Yoga Lessons
The instructor comes to our house and it costs 3000 rupees a month for 2 lessons a week. That’s about $60 for the month.

Hindi Lessons
The instructor comes to our house and it is 500 rupees per lesson – about $10 per hour. I have a friend who joins me sometimes – when she comes, it is 800 rupees.

I am sure they are things I have forgotten – if you are curious about something – just let me know!