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Getting Ready!: I am finishing up laundry right now, then I'm going to vacuum so I can put all our stuff in piles on the floor and pack properly. Since we're not leaving until midnight tomorrow, we really have two days left, but it doesn't feel like it.

Yesterday I went to our house to put some stuff in storage. Thanks to Jodi for being a huge help. I am an awesome mom because I crawled in between our furniture to find a toy Maggie's been asking about (a little dog with accessories that Shannon sent her when Dalton was born). I wrapped it up and let her unwrap it last night. She loves me.

: We got four people, 16 pieces of luggage, and a stroller all the way across the world. Yay us! (Thanks also to Mom and Dad, Franco and Jodi, and Leonard.) Indian men love babies. Everyone told me this, and I discovered it for myself before we even left New York. It is nice and warm and I can EAT soon. Also, must call Rachel. More later!

Welcome to Bangalore.: I've posted some pictures of the serviced apartment we're staying at this week, and of our stop in New York on the way. Sadly, we only saw Leonard for less than an hour (not counting our nap) and I didn't get any pictures. But we'll see him next week at Nandini's wedding.

It was a looong trip over here. Besides our three flights and long layovers, it's also an hour car ride from the airport. We are all still feeling exhausted, except maybe Maggie. She's been sleeping regular hours. Dalton woke up at 4ish and we couldn't get him to go back to sleep.

The hotel is really fancy. They just delivered our laundry, wrapped in tissue paper. The pool has white stones around it, and a waterfall. Rachel is visiting, having planned her trip based on our original travel dates. Today we went swimming (the pool was cold) and shopping for gifts for Rachel to take home. Maggie whined and wanted to be carried the whole way. Dalton attracted the attention of everyone.

[Comments] (1) First Day: John is at work, and Rachel left for home early this morning. So today is my first day "alone" in Bangalore. The kids are playing in the curtains.

Last night, John had to attend a banquet, so Rachel and I ventured out with the kids to find her one last curry. Apparently, curry is hard to find at 17:30. We finally found a place - it was fancy and we were the only patrons. Dalton fell asleep on the walk there, so Maggie got all the attention. The waiter just grabbed her and ran off. John said, "did she scream?" and no, she did not. Our meal was served on banana leaves (they didn't give Maggie one at first, and she complained). We ordered a curry, a rice, a yogurt, and a bread. Fancy place, like I said, and it was Rs300 (about $6). Maggie ate it all (except her apple juice, which I think was unpasteurized) and fell asleep on the bench before the end.

We all slept much better last night. I woke up around 5, so got up to say goodbye to Rachel. John and Dalton got up not too much later. We had to wake Maggie up.

Our driver started yesterday. Now that I'm comfortable using the auto rickshaw, I'm trying to decide if it's worth figuring out how using the car works so we can go check out a different mall/grocery store/American fast food for something to do this afternoon.

In the meantime, Dalton is crashing (literally...) so Maggie and I will do preschool while he has a nap.

[Comments] (1) Dichotomy: Today I washed clothes by hand, then got chauffeured to the mall in our private car. Weird. I was washing clothes in the sink because I am frugal - the laundry prices here are outrageous (here at the hotel, not here in India. It'd be cheaper to employ a maid for the sole purpose of doing my laundry). I guess I was also using the car because I am frugal - the car and driver are paid for by the firm; an auto rickshaw ride would not be.

Our driver took me to a nearby mall. The mall consists of a department store, a grocery store (like Wal-mart), a food court, and a fun center (skee ball, play place, video games). There is also a giant toy store next door, so we also went there.

Across the street is Taco Bell and KFC. Taco Bell is new to the neighborhood (Koramangala) and is advertising everywhere: Tacomangala. I guess I don't know what the word parts mean, but I found that funny.

But not as funny as "ware helmet save head."

[Comments] (2) Mehndi Party: Sumana's sister, Nandini is getting married tomorrow. Today there was a woman's party with mehndi (henna tattoo) application. Maggie bawled when I had mine applied. She likes it now that it's washed off, but she was really upset when they were applying mine. She preferred being held by strangers to sitting on my lap while it was being done. Dalton cried in general, because he is still having a hard time adjusting to the time change.

It was a lot of fun - a ton of people I didn't know, and the kids made lots of friends, including a little girl and a dog. Also, Leonard and Sumana were there! Hurray! And they came back to the hotel with me, so we've been hanging out all night. Sumana's been giving me a few extra tips on Indian culture.

[Comments] (1) Nandini's Wedding: This morning was Nandini's wedding (Sumana's sister). We missed the actual wedding part, though I hear Leonard led the procession in. Various people were singing and reciting poetry when we arrived. It was held in a big, semi-outdoor pavilion and people just sat on chairs watching, walking in and out, or chatting as they saw fit.

Lunch was a plantain leaf lunch (eaten in shifts because there was so many people). This is a meal that is eaten with the hands (well, the right hand). Dalton thought that was pretty neat. It was the most delicious Indian food I've had so far. It was really fresh, and I had Leonard on my right, and an Indian on John's left telling me what stuff was. Also, there was really yummy ice cream. The kids are doing great with the food here.

The tables were set up facing each other in rows so the servers could walk down in between and ladle food onto your plantain leaf. It was very well coordinated. Afterward, everyone went to nearby sinks to wash their hands, while the next group sat down and waited for the places to be cleared.

After lunch, everyone lined up to shake hands with and give gifts to Nandini and Girish. We just hung out with Leonard and Sumana some more. Dalton ran wild and made tons of friends. Every time he ran off, some one (usually a man) would bring him back and he'd jump into my arms. Then he'd make me put him right back down again.

I also posted some pictures of my henna tattoo. In the previous picture I still had the dye on. Once it dried, I scraped it off and it left a light orange stain. The dye reacts with the keratin in the skin, so it darkens overnight, and as it oxidizes. That's also why it's darker in some areas - those with thicker skin. And the spot where Dalton smudged it. He's got a bit of orange on his elbow...

Registered Immigrant: Time for an update! John has been doing such a good job, I haven't had to say much lately. We moved into an apartment. Now that it's been scrubbed clean, I can recognize it for the nice place it is. The tile floors need to be dusted daily, dishes washed by hand, and the laundry hung to dry, but we'd have to do that anywhere.

The neighborhood is nice, too. I walked down into the neighborhood with the kids yesterday. They charmed just about everyone in our path. We found a nice little grocery store and fruit stand. Further on there are dozens of teeny shops lining the street, selling everything from hoses to crystal. We walked down that way because Maggie wanted to follow the cow. So we did. Then I took a picture of it (and a dog) eating trash.

This morning we went and registered and received our permits to stay. I think we were the only Americans there. At first I thought it was obvious we are American, though everyone kept asking me where I was from (the answer is not "America", it's "US"). Apparently not. India has lots of immigrants, though not many others were white. Dalton made particular friends with two different nice young men. (Have I mentioned that everyone adores him?) I saw on their passports as we waited that one was from Afghanistan and the other from Iran. The Iranian one reminded me of Edd. He said Dalton was beautiful. I agree - though this was before he spilled Cocoa Puffs everywhere.

Wear More Bangles: Updates on two previous posts.

Registering: EY paid someone to wait in line for us at the registration office. (As Sumana says, India is a place where labor is so cheap that labor is used instead of labor saving devices.) He also filled out our paperwork, and when we left, he was waiting there to make sure our resident permits were correct. Pretty awesome service.

At Nandini's wedding, a woman came up to Sumana and shoved money into her hand, insisting that she wasn't wearing enough bangles. Sumana could see there was no point in resisting and I saw her slip the money into the bag she was holding.
Me: Isn't that Nandini's purse?
Sumana: Yes.
Me: Good move.

[Comments] (3) Dalton Boy: Dalton deserves a post of his own. A post solely devoted to all the cute words he says. I think his first word was Cracker. He also says Ball, Cheese, Lights and Car - all things he loves. I love when he says, "Bah!" especially if he is toddling after one that's rolled under the table.

Also, he loves to dance. He dances to The Hotdog Dance on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and the Handy Manny songs. The other day he smacked the keyboard at Kerri's house and turned on "The Nightmare Before Christmas." Immediately, he got up and started dancing to "This is Halloween."

He's been really grumpy the past few days, but I wore him out shopping this morning, then lunch and a visit to John's work, so he got a late nap. Hopefully that will reset his schedule.

[Comments] (2) 9000 miles away and still home: We went to our branch for the first time on Sunday (last week was district conference). It was such a relief to walk into the church and be called Sister. Like coming home. It was different, but the same, and we were very happy to be there. Especially Maggie. She only has one week left in Nursery, and she's making the best of it.

We're all settled, pretty much. I've found some stores I am happy shopping at, we are in a home (and lunch with Daddy!) routine, and we have lots of fun events planned on the weekends. On Christmas Eve, we're having a party with some other American LDS families, and on Christmas we're headed to the zoo for Maggie's first elephant ride. The kids may or may not be getting an elephant-themed toy from Santa for Christmas as well...

[Comments] (1) Career Day: Today Dalton learned about driving in Bangalore and working at McDonald's. Those McDonald's ladies love him. Also, at the fruit stand, a man grabbed a banana off the shelf and gave it to Dalton. You don't see that happen at Walmart. They also got one for Maggie. Dalton ate them both. (They are about half as big as the bananas usually found in the US.)

It's been really warm. Yesterday I was able to start a load of laundry in the morning, hang it up to dry, and get most of it folded and put away before John came home. Don't worry: I am baking dozens of sugar cookies (6 at a time in my toaster oven) to make it feel like Christmas.

Also, I used the stroller for the first time yesterday. Our neighborhood has decent enough sidewalk that I can walk down to the nearest little store (a few US blocks).

[Comments] (2) Merry Christmas!: We just got home from a Christmas party with some new friends. We had a great time, and the kids did too. We had a delicious dinner and fun games. We made out great in the White Elephant.

We started getting Christmas all set up for the kids (shhh!) and realized Maggie's Santa gift requires batteries. C batteries. Seriously? John ran out to the store.

[Comments] (1) Merry Christmas!: Yesterday felt like Maggie's birthday. She got lots of presents (she's already had several talks about taking Dalton's toys away) and we finally did the thing she's been begging to do for months - ride an elephant!

I was very impressed with the Bangalore Zoo (aka Bhannerghatta Biological Park). The reviews we read online made me worried I wasn't going to like it because of the animals' situations. But there were only a few things I didn't like to see. Also, the zoo was a lot bigger than I expected.

The zoo had bears (being fed popcorn), a zebra (being petted through the fence), a lot of different crocodiles, various monkeys and birds, and a leopard. They had two hippopotami. They looked pretty dry and miserable, but I think they were in a different pen while their regular one was being cleaned and filled with nice fresh water. At least that's what I'm telling myself. There were some ducks in a small pen with fencing over the top and a puddle of water to swim in. And they had 10 Asian elephants.

Four of the elephants were hanging out eating hay. Both of the kids were so excited to see them! Dalton just loved it. The elephant rides were on the other side of the zoo. There were 6 elephants over there. There were two babies taking tips and being petted (and tapped with sticks to behave), two just hanging out, and two giving rides. We paid less than $3 for all four of us to ride the elephant, since the kids were free. The drivers had their bare feet behind the elephants' ears to steer them. Ours was also spitting tobacco and listening to a radio.

The Grand Safari was great. We got in a crowded bus with grates covering the windows (minus holes for cameras). The bus entered the enclosures via double gates (Jurassic Park-style). We didn't have to wait in line and got nice seats up front, since we're white (but really because they assume we have money to tip well - if an Indian waved some rupees around, he'd get the same treatment).

We got up close and personal with sloth bears, white tigers, and lion cubs. So close - one of the white tigers we saw walked up to the road and the bus driver cut him off, so he just stood there looking at us. It was pretty cool! They had a lot of animals, many of them were in cages. I guess they can't let them all run free at the same time.

Dalton was one of the more popular exhibits at the zoo. He made friends with lots of people and the kids also had people ask to take pictures with them. When we left, the lines for the safari and the ticket booth were huge! We arrived a couple hours after they opened, but apparently that was plenty early. Our entire zoo trip was under $20 - a very great Christmas activity.

[Comments] (2) Spending Time: I spent time alone with Dalton today for the first time in I don't know how long. Maggie was up half the night throwing up and the other half asking for a "tsink of cold water" and fell asleep on me this afternoon while watching Dumbo. She slept for three hours, so when Dalton woke up, I got to play with and snuggle him, read books with him, and watch Baby Einstein Neighborhood Animals, his favorite show. He actually requested it - he went to the TV and signed Dog.

We booked our Hong Kong trip for April 16th. John is so giddy, it's adorable. For Family Night we made a countdown chain for Mysore-Hampi-Valentine's Day-Maggie's Birthday-St. Patrick's Day. By then it was ridiculously long, so we'll hold off on the last 31 days until Hong Kong. But we are really excited.

[Comments] (3) Dislike: India's great. Here's what I don't like about living here.

The kitchen.
I have to boil water to wash dishes.
There are bugs.
The counters are lower in the US. My back hurts washing dishes, and Dalton can reach things more easily.
The cupboards are SO not baby proof. Dalton pulls out all the dishes, and slams the doors really loudly.
There's no door (hence the previously mentioned Dalton problems.
The cupboard under the sink smells like mildew and is gross. I tied it shut to keep Dalton from opening it.
I have to use a lighter to light the stove.

Laundry. I don't mind doing laundry every day, or hanging the clothes to dry. But the washer takes forever to fill and, again, there's no hot water. Ours clothes don't always smell clean, either.

Opening the door and smelling India.
The floors are really hard.
Can't get some food (cheaply, or at all) like peanut butter, brown sugar,
Grocery shopping is annoying sometimes. I have to take an elevator.
Dirt.
No sidewalks.
European store timings.
Power outages.
Can't get the wireless to work.
Hmm. Maybe that's it! Small annoyances. Seriously, though, sometimes when I go out into the washroom and someone else is cooking dinner, I'm really glad I'm not pregnant. Bleh.

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