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[Comments] (1) fiddler on the roof: I instructed Sandeep my driver to pick me up at 4 pm today so I could get my hair cut this evening. He said ok. Then when he picked me up I asked him where the nearest barber was and he said "Oh sir you can't get your hair cut on Tuesday or Friday. Such shops are closed those days." Well. Even if I was unaware of this tradition, why did he not mention it this morning?

But he and I sat in the car and hashed a few things out today. Namely, protocol on car repairs and having him chauffer us to Pondicherry in Feb. I told him it's over Valentine's and I have to spoil my wife because hotels, food, massages, flowers, etc are so CHEAP in India compared to US. For example, I bought a beautiful arrangement for Sumana's mother Nagalakshmi and it only cost US$4. Something like that in the states would have been $30+ easy. He laughed with me, so apparently Valentine's Day translates across borders easier than does the barber's holiday.

Mysore was a fab trip. We stayed with Nagalakshmi in her beautiful house and had the upper wing to ourselves. We visited the zoo, which had an otter and some beautiful giraffes (my favorite). Everything else was just ok. We also went to Brindivan garden, which is next to the dam and aquadect that provides water to Bangalore. We got there at dusk, boated across the lake, and witnessed the nightly fountain show and otherwise enjoyed the grounds all lit up. It was beautiful.

Places like this are tourist traps but they are also quite entrepreneurial. We chanced upon some individuals that, for $1 extra, have already waited in line and pre-purchased tickets so we didn't have to wait in line. Yes, I'll pay an extra $1 to not wait in an hour-long line! The kids especially benefit because any time we have to queue they get thronged. Susie is normally opposed to this practice but I find their ingenuity to make a buck charming.

We also went to Chamundi Hill. People thronged us there, and I think they were also impressed by the hiking carrier Maggie rode in up the mountain. The view of Mysore from up there was grand, but unfortunately the air quality is quite poor. I'm unsure if it's smog or something else.

We also visited the Mysore Palace, which costs 20 rupees for Indians and 200 rupees for foreigners. I wonder if the US could EVER get away with something like that; methinks not. The palace was beautiful. I especially enjoyed the hand-carved doors. Upon exiting the palace, we chanced upon camel and elephant rides and who could resist? The camel ride was a bit scary at first. I was on the back of the hump, without a seatbelt, holding Maggie in place on the first hump with nothing to hold myself in place. The back hump does not leave much room for a man to sit comfortably. But it was rather smooth and a neat experience. The camel ride was $1.50 for the whole family and $7 for the elephant ride. Prices are cheap, we speculate, because these companies do not fear lawsuits and therefore do not carry liability insurance.

Mysore also has these quaint horse-drawn richshaws. We rode one completely around the palace, with buses, pedestrians, and autorickshaws sharing the road with us. That cost about $2.25 and was quite nice with the breeze it provided. In the evening they light up the palace and it was really pretty. I would imagine it gives the locals a certain sense of pride. The palace is quite famous, as we saw more white people here in one day than all month long in Bangalore. Susie and I have decided the palace was good enough for us and we will most likely skip the Taj Mahal.

We saw some toy autorickshaws and could not resist. The first guy charged us $3.50 but we talked him down to $2. We then asked Sandeep how much he would pay for one and he said 50 cents. So I gave him $1 and told him to go get us another one since the kids were already fighting over that one and he could keep the change. Apparently the rule of thumb that foreigners get charged double is a misnomer; they get charged four times as much!

The trip there and back was hard. It takes four hours to go 100 miles. Just getting out of Bangalore takes one hour. There is a four-lane highway but unfortunately it goes through each town rather than around the town like in the US. This means stop lights, speed bumps, etc. Every time you make good speed, some cow gets in the way and ruins everything. It's not that I was in a hurry, but Maggie gets motion sick here.

Today for lunch we discovered that, for US$3.50, we can get a big bowl of pasta that comes with the most delicious chocolate waffle topped with ice cream. We just added another option to the work lunch menu!

[Comments] (2) Murphy: I think Murphy of Murphy's law must have been in India when the law was first coined. Yesterday I got my haircut. What an ordeal. It comes complete with a very oily head massage, all for $2.25!

Susie's computer's hard drive died, and it's only 6 months old. Getting a new hard drive is proving to require days and days of work. The simplest little tasks can be so exhausting. I am normally ok paying whatever is required to fix things quickly rather than shop around, as shopping around is very difficult here. Yay for Staples! but it sure would be nice if they opened before 11 am.

the ropes: I think I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: the simplest tasks take a monumental effort here in India. For example, we have a light fixture out and I need to pay an electricity bill that requires my Citibank account to be finalized. These should be easy tasks but unfortunately they are sucking time and energy from my soul. I just hope they don't turn the power off on us in the meantime!

But today was very positive. Susie & I both needed eye exams, having gone over 3 years since the last one. We found some locations online in the hip Indira Nagar, near our home where we do most of our shopping since it carries things Americans enjoy, including beef, non-crumbly (edible) bread, etc. We also learned ahead of time we don't need an appointment and the one store opens at 9:30, the other 10. So off at 9:30. We couldn't find the place so we called them. They hung up on us. So we had Sandeep our driver call them; they hung up on him. Sandeep informed us they didn't want our business.

So we went to the second store, which was an older store in a government building. The doctor was kind and efficient, but he measured our eyes without our glasses using the oldest methods possible and had no decent glasses to buy. So we paid him $6 for our eye exams (can you believe that?) and went searching for another store. Somehow Maggie gashed her leg there and didn't even notice until Sandeep said something, and then of course she went pale. The doctor gave us a band-aid and some white goo Sandeep says stops the bleeding. They were a kind shop but unfortunately we needed something more robust.

We found a new store in Indira Nagar within minutes that was able to measure my current perscription and had a wider selection. My eyes have hardly changed (slightly better) and Susie's eyes are now monumentally better. She'll be 20/40 within a year! We also picked out glasses and had them high-level scan our eyes with their new-fangled machinery and, what do you know, the old fashioned way still works! The prescriptions came out about the same.

We both got new glasses for just over $300, without insurance, including the eye exams, which is way cheaper than what we pay back home. My glasses are way expensive because I need the lenses thinned from the coke-bottle look I would otherwise tout. Susie will got back for sunglasses later, and I don't have to since my sunglasses are in good shape still and my perscription is still the same. We both ended up with black glasses with a yellow highlight, mine more subtle that Susie's. We're excited to get them next week!

We also went back to Hyper City and bought a mixer for Susie to make whipped cream with and Maggie's BD present. We found the perfect gift and both realized we better get it now, since Indian karma may leave us unable to find it again in the future. She'll be so excited! We also bought more towels, bedsheets, rugs, etc and some American food as well. Surprisingly, we spent less there than the last time.

I looked in the meat locker there, and they had a skinned rabbit, still very much intact otherwise, in a ziplock for sale. I have never seen rabbit here. They had no meat. We asked Sandeep about meat here and he confirmed my suspicion that killing cows is illegal in Karnataka (our state) but legal in others so our meat is imported, which Susie couldn't believe since it seems so fresh to her. We learn new stuff every day here.

The kids always get a Cadbury chocolate at the store. For 13 rupees (27 cents) they get a chocolate with a Disney character and on plus a sticker. They like them and are the perfect snack size. Well, off to play Handy Manny with Maggie.

[Comments] (2) culture: Our ward has a healthy dose of Africans. I inquired of one today where he is from. Ivory Coast. Apparently Bangalore is a big education hub for people from this former French colony, as he is here studying computer science. The diversity is nice and we had a nice chat, until Dalton decided to dump his goldfish all over the floor.

Today was Maggie's first day in Primary. She seemed to do well and the Erickson girls were THRILLED to greet her.

[Comments] (1) teaching what i know: Oh I also forgot that I now teach piano lessons at church. This Sat night after Institute will be the first. We'll see how it goes. One piano, hoping to get a theory book and easy hymnal at the distribution center next to our house this week, and about 5+ students. Could get interesting!

charles shultz meets mahatma ghandi: After a busy day, Maggie & I unwound watching The Easter Beagle. In the show, although it's Easter, Christmas decorations are up. That sounds about right. Most stores here have yet to take down their Christmas trees. Also, Peppermint Patty and Marci can't seem to communicate about how to boil eggs. We can't seem to communicate with the water guy to come give us a new jug, nor can my work communicate with me about how to pay my bills here, nor can Citibank communicate with me about how to deliver my mail. Apparently the mail room guy didn't know I exist and has not been accepting my mail. Any of it. Who knows what letters have not made it to me?

But today was grand. We went to Cubbon Park, Bangalore's answer to Central Park. We spent the whole morning in the kids section with a busload of kids from another state. They were excited to see us! We rode the boat and the train and let the kids play in the playground. After we rode the boat with all the students, we lost track of them for a while. Then later at the playground the train made its circle and so we stopped to wave at the people on the train. Lo and behold it was the school class, which all bid hello to Maggie very loudly, by name, as they passed by. I wish I had caught it on video; it was epic!

We didn't make it to any of the museums, including the library, aquarium, or planetarium, because they were closed for some holiday, which appears to be a frequent occurance here. Oh well. We plan to go back in two weeks and see the actual park anyway, since we only saw the kids park anyhow.

Since the museums were closed, we went to a hipster mall called UB City. They had some international cuisine on the top floor of the building next to a water fountain and we dined in style at a really nice Chinese restaurant that had fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, satay, and FRIED ICE CREAM! This was our first time eating out at a nice place since we got here, and it only cost US$23. The fried rice crunchy outer coating appeared to be crushed nuts and something like chaat, rather than coconut and corn flakes. But it was still fried in honey and was good. I guess we shouldn't expect authentic Mexican fried ice cream at a chinese restaurant in Bangalore anyhow. It was still good.

The mall had a Lladro store, which we couldn't help but gawk and laugh at, and also had Versace, Louis Vitton, etc. It also has a hotel there filled with foreigners so we didn't get gawked at here, though the waiters loved playing with Dalton while Susie & I dined in peace. We were the only people there for lunch at 1; most people were still eating brunch across the way at the crepe store. So this mall carries really high end stuff for India; I would even call this stuff high end for the US. But the bathroom floor wasn't all wet like at work, which was a nice change! People here like to spray clean rather than wipe clean, which is fine, but it makes the floor wet.

It was a really fun day!

[Comments] (3) how low can you go?: The family jaunted up to Hampi over the weekend. We left Friday night around 7 pm and arrived at the train station just after 8. Our driver was amazed at the lack of traffic and our ability to arrive so quickly. The train station is quite the hullabaloo! So many trains, so many platforms, so many coaches, so many people, so many hagglers! Luckily Sandeep told us to stay in the car while he found our train, then he helped us with the luggage to our train. Finding the right car took time but we had time. At first Sandeep dumped us in first class, which was fine, but incorrect. We quickly found our second class sleeper. Maggie was slumped over asleep in the car, the carrier, and when we got there, unlike Dalton, who would not sleep.

The train actually departed on time! Maggie had fun looking out the window making up things she could see in the dark and dutifully went to sleep quickly thereafter. Dalton took his time going to sleep but still went to sleep before the people next to us, who kept their daughter up well past midnight while they partied on the train.

We took our own sheets and used their blankets to carpet the floor in case Dalton fell out in the night, which he did, only he fell out into the main aisle out of the curtain so all our planning went to waste. The first night on the train was horrid. The people across from us kept the light on forever, our curtain did not block it out, and it was too hot even though we had an A/C sleeper. This made for a first rough day in Hampi.

My coworker told me to book second class. First class isn't worth it, he said, because you pay a lot more for a door. He's delusional. First class has a door and more. Their beds are plush, not vinyl, and there is not two seats across from your two seats, meaning a bigger berth and MUCH more privacy. Oh well.

We got to Hampi at 7 am to find our driver holding a placard with our name! I felt so special. He took us to the hotel, which had a very nice room for us but otherwise was not so great. Once again, my coworker told us check in was flexible so we checked in at 8 am, freshened up, and went to Hampi. Unfortunately this left us to check out at 8 am the next day, even though our train back was not until 8 pm that night. Susie negotiated for our room for free until 10:30 and then they gave us the $15 room from 4-7 that night after our day was done to freshen up for the train. We put up the crib to keep Dalton from getting filthy in this room and all sat on the couch and watched Winnie the Pooh. Then we showered and left. The shower in that cheap-o room was still great but just looking at the beds left me cringing, thinking about bedbugs, etc.

Anyway, our two days in Hampi were great. The weather was very pleasant in the shade, of which there was plenty, and of course the kids made tons of new friends. We saw bats, Dalton was blessed by and elephant, and we saw monkeys and cows steal bananas out of people's hands. We also rode down the river in a Coracle boat, which was awesome but WAY overpriced, and had fun running around the elephant stables. This place is way cool, and the climate and atmosphere reminds me of Southern Utah, with red boulders everywhere.

We lunched both days at the Mango Tree, which was fab! We got to walk through a banana plantation to dine with all the foreigners, who all eat here, because it's the only safe place with good sanitation practices. The food was way cheap and awesome. We had coconut shakes, coconut pancakes, banana fritters, cashew curry, cashew fried rice, etc. And the restaraunt leaves you eating on the floor on mats that are steeped in a hill overlooking the river. The ambience was so peaceful and we never wanted to leave. But the place gets quite crowded so we eventually did.

The middle night at our hotel we all crashed at 8 pm and slept until 8 am the next day, being thoroughly exhausted. Also, the train home was much better. Both kids fell asleep at the station, since the train was 45 minutes late, but the Hospet station is fool-proof and it was super easy to find our berth and dump the two sleepy kids on the same bed. And this time our bunk mates all retired reasonably early so we all enjoyed a good night sleep, until 6 am when all the lights came on simultaneously and they ordered us off the train. Luckily, once again, Sandeep was there to help us back to the car. We thanked him but letting him go at 11 am today.

I came home and slept until 10:30 this morning I was so tired. But driving through Bangalore at 6 am only took 20 minutes to get home! That drive is normally 90 minutes so it's amazing what you can accomplish without traffic! It was an amazing trip, for which we will post many pictures soon. Incidentally, anyone that comes to visit will get a trip here with us; it's that amazing. But we'll stay at a better hotel and maybe opt for a first class train. I still need to check the price difference there.

We keep our expectations extremely low here and we therefore normally end up quite happy when things go well. We expected horrid food, a hot day, and mishaps on the train. None of these things happened. This was one of those times when our actual experience was much greater than our expectation.

[Comments] (1) : really hates it when I rush home from work to spend quality time with the kids before bed only to instead spend that time dealing with screaming kids in need of a time out.

[Comments] (3) man of the town: The title refers to Dalton, not me, who is loved and adored by all here. Wed was Republic Day, a holiday here, so we went to Chili's, which is not too far from our house. It's a bit pricier here, but I guess that should not be too surprising. We read horrible reviews online that all proved to be false. In essence, no rats in the restaurant, we were not the only ones eating there, they did have beef, and the food resembled what you would get back home. I had a burger, Susie had a quesadilla salad, and we shared a yummy dessert.

Then today we re-visited Cubbon Park, saw the aquarium, which was quite good for the quarter we spent getting in, wandered the park, found the library, and eventually found the museum we were looking for. The library was really neat in that it was like in those movies where there were wall to wall books, including those ladder rides to get the high ones off the shelf.

The museum cost $1 and had a life-size moving dinosaur that thrilled Maggie but made Dalton cry. We also had fun lighting up lights by pedaling on bikes, pushing buttons to watch pistons and engines rev to life, etc, typical children's museum stuff. We only saw half of it and left for Sunny's for lunch. Sunny's also serves beef and I had steak and Susie had stroganoff. For dessert I had a blueberry creme brulee. The problem with eating out fancy here is that the tax is double what we pay back home so there is always sticker shock when the bill arrives.

I also was up late all week working on the Kaiser provision. They are offering me a job when I get home, which is not something I'm ready to think about right now.

Tonight is piano lessons, tomorrow we speak in church, and then tomorrow night I'm supposed to give some lady in the ward US Taxation lessons. We'll see how that goes. Life is much busier here than I anticipated.

[Comments] (1) new man of the town: I have been pretty outgoing in the branch and have been known to all as Brother John. The first counsellor is known as Brother Sam, which I am pretty sure is in reference to his first name and not his last, since he's Indian. So I assumed everyone knew that John was my first name and not my last name. Every week the church program lists Brother John as the ward pianist and today listed Sister Suzie and Brother John as the speakers (they called us on the way to church to inquire Susie's name).

Anyway, when they introduced the speakers, they introduced the first speaker as Sister Suzie John, which made me laugh. I guess John is also a legitimate surname but I thought they knew we were the Chadwicks and only called me Brother John to keep it simple. Suzie insists they called her Sister Suzie Johnson, which also means they think my name is John Johnson. Needless to say, I spent the rest of church confirming that I am Brother John Chadwick.

After church I got a lot of compliments on my talk. You made us laugh, some people mentioned. I try my best! I must have done well because after the talk I was invited to a baby blessing on Saturday and a wedding on Friday, both of which sound fun to attend, assuming I can eat the food. My biggest worry is always the food, since I am still struggling with it here. I think Sumana's mom simply did not know what to do with me when we stayed with her. And I never considered myself a picky eater before.

[Comments] (1) nightly ritual: Every night, after Dalton is in bed and Maggie is close to bed, she wants to play Handy Manny with me. This usually consists of me being required to find some household article for the tools to fix, while Maggie takes turns giving the tools a ride on her back. Because, when we play Handy Manny, Maggie inevitably turns into a horsie named Bullseye.

[Comments] (3) got milk?: Sigh. I don't think I'll ever get the hang of pouring milk from a bag. And for someone who hates waste, this is extremely frustrating.

[Comments] (6) living large: What did I do today at work? Let's see. I went to lunch at Sunny's with Ross, Alan, & Brad. I judged a cheerleading competition (in which my subarea won but I was very impartial). And I passed out bonus awards. Quite a day.

Firstly, the cheerleading competition. What a spectacle. One of the teams wanted to spray streamers and silly string. But since Silly String is not found here, they instead sprayed around shaving cream. Then another team was covered in some sort of talc. By the end the place smelled like a barber shop.

Then the awards. People hang them in their cubes here, which at first I thought was nice, until I realized the award amount is printed right on the award. I guess Indians are pro-salary transparency. Which also seems true because twice in Hampi complete strangers asked me my salary, which I refused to disclose.

Tomorrow is the big cricket match amongst the subareas. I'll be wearing white in support of my team--the West Vipers. It's alliteration because, much like Germany, India also mixes the v & w sounds.

Welcome to India!: Where a shave and a haircut really are two bits!

[Comments] (2) the back door in: Well, if I can't go to France, I'll just have to go to Colonial France. Pondicherry here we come! Save some foie gras for Maggie and some es cargot for Dalton!

[Comments] (3) the end of an era: My dear, sweet Grandma June passed away on the 12th of February at the age of 93. I'm really going to miss her.

A few memories I have include:

1. Spending summers with her when my mom had to travel for work. One summer I remember in particular was that my cousin Natalie had the chicken pox so Jodi and I both got it as well. I think I was around 8 and Jodi was 6. We sure missed our mommy but Grandma took good care of us. I don't know why I remember this, but one of my aunts wanted to check out Jodi's tummy for chicken pox, pulled up her nightgown, and Jodi was going commando because the pox were so itchy! My kids will never have such a memory, since chicken pox is now vaccinated. The summer trips always coincided with Pioneer Days in Lehi so we would watch the parade, attend the rodeo, and have a yard sale at the farm shop.

2. I remember riding in the back of my grandpa's old truck late at night somewhere, I don't recall where to, with those itchy wool blankets on us. Grandma loved those blankets (they don't make them, or anything, like that anymore now, do they) because when we re-did the cabin, she insisted on on those being kept. Life was simpler then so riding in the back of a truck was ok. We sure loved that truck.

3. I remember lots of sleepovers at her house, most notably with cousins Casey and Cameron. Grandma would make us chocolate malts, and we could have seconds or thirds if we wanted them. She would also let us stay up as late as we wanted to. We would usually watch Night Court followed by the Late Show with Carson. We always wanted to watch it to act grown up but honestly we had no clue what was going on. I still look at that old brown convertible couch downstairs and wonder how we all used to fit to sleep on it. We always wanted to sleep on the trampoline outside but Grandma wouldn't let us.

4. I lived with Grandma for two weeks before I got married while I was otherwise homeless at BYU. That was when Grandma first introduced me to Lawrence Welk. At first I had no love for the show, until I finally realized that Mr. Welk was one cool cat. He had all the ladies smiling!

5. Food at Grandma's was always an adventure. Let's see, there were the peanut butter tomato sandwiches, peanut butter miracle whip sandwiches (which I loved more than life but now get queasy just thinking about it), the coffee cake sans coffee, the chocolate cake with milk on top (something we ALL still do with chocolate cake!), and of course, cinnamon sugar toast for breakfast each morning. Also, when Nacho was living there, he worked at Little Ceaser's so we also got free pizza a lot. This was back when it was still pushing the pizza pizza thing so there was always plenty of cold pizza.

6. The frugality. Oh the frugality! I still remember when Grandma bought the car Jordan has now. She made Ford take the tape deck out of the car to save $40 or something like that! This was circa 1989ish, the year Jamie got married and the year we went with Grandma to Zion's. I remember we stayed at Motel 6 (where else with Grandma!) We had two rooms and Jodi and I slept with Grandma. The next morning, she had us make the bed. She said if we made our own bed there would be no need to tip the chamber maid that night. She also told me I sleepwalked outside that night looking for my mom. I also remember we loved to put the sprinkler on under the tramp and Grandma would come out and turn the water down, we'd sneak and turn it higher, and this was a neverending cycle.

7. Disneyland! I'm a disney kid, thanks to Grandma. Every fifth winter (ie 80, 85, 90, and 95) she rented a whole bus for the Holbrook's and we went to Disneyland! Of course we stayed at Motel 6, but still. I remember the 90 trip because my dad got really sick there so Jodi and I hung out with Scott and Michelle and Natalie and Cameron the whole time. I think I secretly wished Scott and Michelle were my parents a lot, and that Natalie and Cameron were my siblings. I thought they were so lucky to have their grandparents live next door to each other, across the street from their house. Also, that trip, one of Michelle's suitcases didn't make it on the bus so I also remember my mom and Michelle sharing wardrobes. The 95 trip saw me as an awkward teen, but we ruled the school and got to play in the park sans parents. Susie and I have grandiose plans to do something like this with our family as well one day (ie caravan to Disneyland, not rule the park).

8. The cabin. I will never forget that old cabin. I loved it. I also love the new cabin. Every time I think about moving from UT, I think of missing the cabin and decide against it.

9. Grandma was the first to meet Maggie. We drove all night from Costa Mesa to UT when Maggie was two months old for Mother's Day. Since we were exhausted we stopped in Lehi. Grandma would not let us leave. She and Maggie had a very special bond. Maggie loves puzzles to pieces because of Grandma June.

10. Her house. Words cannot describe. Rachel and Leonard stayed there after my MIL Frances's funeral and I don't think they'll ever be the same. The wallpaper, the washer in the kitchen next to the stove, the carpet, etc. That house is so vintage and I cringe at the thought of anyone else living there, unless Jodi gets it. My grandparents built that house when they were newly wed and settled into the farming life in Lehi.

11. In my later years, each of my aunts and uncles were asked to take a day with Grandma June. My mom got Monday. Susie went to visit Grandma more than anybody else. I was so touched at the way Susie loved Grandma. We used to invite Grandma to live at our house all the time when she was lonely. Grandma was laugh and say how sweet it was that Susie would offer her home when they weren't even related. But we were totally serious.

12. Also in her later years, I saw how lonely Grandma was. She was so excited for any visitor at all. She would insist on a restaurant as long as it had Coke. We could do McD, IHOP, Winger's, but not Wendy's because the line is too long and not Arctic Circle because they serve Pepsi. She made up her own menu items everywhere we went. One time we insisted on Cafe Rio and she kept saying she felt uncomfortable because the restaurant seemed like Mexico to her!

13. Our weekly visits to Grandma became pretty routine. Maggie would make a mess of the toy box, and Grandma would ask us to play her songs on the piano. We learned a new primary song, Purple Pansies, from Grandma that is not sung much these days but is now a favorite of Maggie's. Often Grandma would tell us that she was going to lie down and die and she would get the phone and put it on the piano so we could call the paramedics when she was gone. That got harder to hear each time, and I'm certainly glad that's not how it went down. I was at Frances's house when she passed and I didn't want to go through that again.

14. Weather permitting, we also used to take Grandma to the cemetery to visit her husband and my Uncle David, who died about five years ago. One time my mom got a flat tire there so we had fun giving directions to the AAA guy! We were there quite a while, all got sunburned, but loved the experience nonetheless. I'm sad Grandma died in winter; I shudder at the thought of putting her in the cold earth.

Well I'm going to miss the funeral, but we knew that was possible when we came to India. And maybe it's for the best. Grandpa Holbrook died when I was six, Grandma Chadwick when I was eight, and Grandpa Chadwick when I was 23. Due to my young age, I didn't know my other grandparents well. I was by far closest to Grandma June and I think the funeral would be hard for me. I'm happier to be away from it all. Incidentally, I'd probably get stuck as a pall bearer or something and I'd just rather not.

On a very personal note, we spent Feb 12-14 in Pondicherry on a little vacation. We decided not to take the computer so that if Grandma passed we could enjoy our trip. Because traffic in Bangalore is insane, we left at 4 am on Saturday (FR night in UT). Our driver called us at 4 am to let us know he was here, which woke me from a dream. I dreamed I was in India but I flew home to see Grandma. She was telling me how she just couldn't die. I told her about Susie's mom's experience, wherein she related that she also had a hard time dieing. Susie's mom said she finally had to accept the fact that, despite her independence the past 14 years, she felt like she couldn't die until Susie's dad Roy was able to come and get her. She said she finally accepted that, and she passed the next day. I told that story to Grandma, she said she felt that was the answer she needed, and she died in my dream. Seconds later, my phone rang to wake me.

I didn't share this dream with Susie until we got to Pondicherry Sat afternoon, as I wanted to mull it over first. I'm not a visionary person, not at all. But when I turned on the computer today, the email from my mom said that she spoke about/with Grandpa a lot the past few days, and I had this dream the about 15 hours before she died. I don't know what it means, other than I was thinking about her that night when I went to bed, but it means something to me I suppose. Susie says Grandma used to ask her all the time about her mom's final days, since we were all there with Frances up until the end.

Grandma would have no problem with Grandpa getting her. Grandma was a widow for 25 years, and I never saw her date once after he died. They were madly in love.

I'll miss Grandma, and I really don't look forward to telling this to Maggie tomorrow. We mailed her a package from India last week but I'm sure she never got it. I had asked Susie to mail a package a few weeks ago but oh well, she didn't. I feel bad about that. But the older I get, the more comfortable death gets. It's hard to grow up and lose people but that's just life. I remember when Susie's Grandma Rosie died, Frances said she was officially an orphan. With both my parents still alive, I get the sentiment a little now that all of my grandparents are deceased. I love you Grandma and wish all happiness.

25 mph: We left for Pondicherry (Pondy) at 4 am on Saturday the 12th to beat the Bangalore traffic and also to ensure the children were asleep for most of the trip. Our driver was accommodating. We made it through Bangalore in record time, including taking the 5 km toll road above the city through to Tamil Nadu. The first 110 km were a breeze on a four lane freeway with natural flowers growing in the middle lane. It reminded me of the 99 in Bakersfield.

The next 110 km, however, left us reeling. It was on a two lane national highway through some of the most beautiful scenery known to man. Palm trees in rice paddies, sugar cane fields next to quaint little villages, large mango trees creating a natural canopy over the road, with monkeys swinging from the trees. But enough about the scenery. The road literally left us reeling. An endless mire of potholes, each one bigger than the last. If I didn't know better, and I don't, I would swear that either WWIII is already done and over with, or aliens really did land, though not in Area 51, and brought a slew of meteors with them. What a mess. But luckily we were not in a hurry and none of us got sick. We all wore our seatbelts. The last 70 km were once again on a good road all the way to Pondy! There is also a town along the way with a famous temple and meditation house. We must have seen over 100 white people in this small town finding themselves. I was shocked.

Pondy was fun. A quaint seaside town, French-Indian style. Our hotel was awesome! There was a pool on the roof, 6 floors up, with beautiful views of the town below and in the distance the Bay of Bengal. While Dalton napped each day, Maggie and I played in the pool for hours. Susie couldn't believe how long we were gone. Maggie loved that she could walk in the very large kiddie pool and loved making the water splash over the edge. From the pictures, the edge looks scary but it wasn't. The only glitch here was that the pool attendant wouldn't let me wear my shirt in the pool, which I wear to save on sunscreen, which I didn't bring to the pool with me, which made me frustrated. But nonetheless, major daddy-daughter bonding time took place.

Food was included with our stay (though not drinks, boo to them) and it was high quality Indian food, the only kind I'll touch. They supposedly had international cuisine but all we saw were pasta with huge peppercorns. Italy would be so disappointed. But Italy wasn't there, since the hotel mostly catered to the French and snooty. They also played Yanni and muzak in the dining hall while wrestling played on the flat screen. Maybe that's the international cuisine. I knew once I saw our bathroom I picked the right hotel, as there was a shower door, no bucket in the bathroom, and an extra roll of toilet paper. A five star hotel with meals included for only $110/night. Only in India!

Our first night we let our driver sleep in the car park of the hotel (his choice, I offered him money for a room) and took an auto to the Promenade, the 2 km stretch of rocky beach in town, littered with the locals touting their wares, seaside cafes, and a mix of French and Indian memorials, including the biggest statute of Ghandi yet! He's everywhere, including every little town we passed through, but this one took the cake a la Marie Antoinette. We ate some pastries and visited a restaurant promising Italian ice cream. Who were they kidding? Since when does soft serve count as gelatto? But again since the place was packed with the Swiss and not Italian, it'll be our little secret. It was such a nice evening we walked home.

Sunday morning we headed 10 km south of town to a beach house on an estuary and took a $3 boat ride to a private beach. We saw flying fish in the water! The beach was fab. They had bungalows on the beach to get some shade. Apparently the tide is really bad all on the east side of India, and Pondy is the only resort town, and also the only place where you can actually get in the water. But still no swimming. And just to make sure, there was a gentleman on the beach brandishing a bamboo pole and a whistle for any non-law abiding citizens, of which there were many. The water was nice and cool to mix with the oh so hot sun and I was content to wade. We saw several crabs and posed for thousands of pictures. One man was kind enough to ask if he could post the pictures of us on Facebook. We don't mind.

I was concerned when we first got there since we were the only ones wearing swim suits. They don't exist here. Men either wear jeans and polos in the water or they strip and wear their underwear, which, when wet, leaves very little to the imagination if you catch my yucky drift. Women are more conservative and swim in their sarees.

Then it was back to the hotel pool and on to the promenade for another nightly stroll.

Monday morning we visited the handmade paper factory and bought the place out for less than $30. I guess when labor is cheap, the world is yours for the taking.

The drive home was ok. Maggie and Dalton both slept and so I was able to talk to Sandeep (I sat in the front to avoid car sickness) and also caught up on Anna Karenina on the Kindle. Sandeep was intrigued with my gadget. We got home at 9 pm last night. Then today was back to the grind.

Our pics are up at our picture blog. We leave for Hong Kong in two months!

[Comments] (2) Obituary: Link: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/deseretnews/obituary.aspx?n=june-holbrook&pid=148651113

June Walsworth Holbrook 1917 ~ 2011 LEHI, UTAH - Helen June Walsworth Holbrook, age 93, died at home of natural causes on Saturday, February 12, 2011. She was born December 16, 1917, in Salt Lake City, Utah to Ralph G. and Mable Earl Walsworth. She graduated from East High School and the University of Utah with a major in Business. She was in the Alpha Chi Omega sorority and maintained her membership for 60 years. She worked on and off throughout her life as a secretary taking shorthand and doing bookkeeping. She met Ray Garn Holbrook at the "U". They graduated together the same year and were married on November 1, 1939 in the Salt Lake Temple. They lived in Lehi, Utah owning and running Holbrook Farms. He died December 2, 1987. She was a member of the LDS Church and served in the Primary and Relief Society. She typed the ward paper and the announcement sheet. She did temple work in the Mt. Timpanogos Temple and also worked in the Employment Center. She taught arts and crafts for Lehi City for many years. She was also a member of the Daughter's of Utah Pioneers. Survivors include children: Susan (James) Chadwick, Midvale; Stephen (Gail); daughter-in-law, Birgitta; Bryce (Sherrie); Scott (Michelle), Lehi. Also survived by sister Dorothy Brown Wetzel and brother Richard G. Walsworth. She has 30 grandchildren and 63 great-grand children. She was preceded in death by a son, David, in 2006. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, February 19, at 11:00 a.m. in the Lehi 2nd Ward, 500 East 300 North. Viewings will be held on Friday from 6-7:30 p.m. at Wing Mortuary, 118 East Main, Lehi and Saturday from 9:30-10:30 a.m. at the ward. Interment, Lehi City Cemetery.

the seventh day: Church was great today. I really enjoyed Elder's Quorum. We also attended the baptism of an elderly lady and a family with two teenage boys. The missionaries were all smiles today; I remember feeling happy on those days as well.

I got to be a witness for the baptisms, and I felt bad that they had to re-do the very last son twice. On the third time, another person performed the ordinance. I went and told the brother not to worry, that my first baptism took three times to get it right, and practice makes the technique perfect.

In Hong Kong we had the luxury of hot water, if the ward actually did their job and got the heater turned on in time. This happened about half the time, which is why I usually tried to pawn the actual baptism off on someone else. I don't do well in cold water. Here it's just always cold, and I felt bad for all of them. If they didn't pollute the streams here, that would be a much better option I would think. But I'm not sure how many people are fortunate enough to have hot water here, so maybe it's a moot point anyway.

Maggie witnessed with me, and made lots of comments about Tyler and Hannah's baptisms and how she'll get baptized, but first she'll turn seven and next she'll turn eight and then and only then. She asked me why these people were all older than eight so I explained it to her as well. Maggie loves church and asks thoughtful questions.

little ralphie: Susie is constantly telling the kids to stop their couch acrobatics. Fine, she says, when you fall and crack your head open, go cry to Daddy, she tells them. I'm not sure I've ever seen a head actually crack open. It must be a motherly thing, in the same vein as shooting one's eyes out. Hopefully Maggie and Dalton never want a Red Ryder beebee gun!

[Comments] (1) doing it wrong: Today I had to play a solo piano performance in sacrament meeting. I also had to teach Elder's Quorum. I must have done well today, because I was asked to teach Sunday School next Sunday.

Every time someone makes a joke and everyone laughs at church, Dalton bursts into uproarious laughter. Dalton has also learned his alphabet thanks to some movie we borrowed from the Erickson's. Dalton gets us up every morning at 7 am, which is very annoying, especially because he's tired by 10, when it's time to go to work.

Maggie is happy because we bought a flashlight at the store. Her new favorite game is to play shadow puppets on the wall with her Handy Manny tools. We tried to buy batteries for the flashlight until we realized that the flashlight recharges by plugging into the wall. It wouldn't be useful on a camping trip, but the society here is very battery-averse we've discovered.

Work is very busy and, just like in the US, I find myself counting down the days until April 15. We also leave for Hong Kong on the 15th. I can't wait.

I've been watching Hey Dude re-runs on youtube in the evenings, which would excite Jodi and make Nathan cringe. I am also reading a travel booklet about places I'll never get to see in China. It's taught me lot about the formation of the states into India, why there are border disputes in the north, etc. I've learned a lot about this country and wish I could see more of it, but travel to many places is still tough, as the roads are not proper and the trains and buses are too slow with the kids. I would love to glance upon the Himalayas in Darjeeling or visit the caves on Elephant Island in Mumbai or possibly even safari in Rajastan with the camels, but oh well. We'll explore the South and enjoy the Kerala backwaters, the Goan beaches, and the hodge podges of Bangalore.

Maggie turns four in 10 days. I keep telling her she can't turn four, and will have to turn two, Mork style. She disagrees.

[Comments] (7) frantic soup: I was approved today to extend my international assignment! Until when, you may ask? Until I'm done, or so I'm told. How do I extend? However I want. It sounds quite open ended. But most likely we will extend until the first week of November, as that is when our visas expire, and I'm not going through THAT again. Now we can better advise our travel companions as well as more seriously look into spending our 8th anniversary in Thailand!

Visitors include Susie's cousins Kristin and Laura, who are coming in June, and my old mission companion Shaun, who is coming this summer so we can travel together to places I wouldn't take the family. Shaun's Christmas present from his parents is this trip to see us. Both will, of course, be expected to bring us a list of supplies.

Excited!

[Comments] (2) what would Ghandi do?: Hmm, to anniversary in Thailand, at a resort that lets you swim with a baby elephant and takes you scuba diving and has three pools, or to celebrate in Singapore with the world's tallest ferris wheel, a zoo, a rooftop pool 60 floors up, and pink dolphins? However will we decide?

[Comments] (2) richard simmons: I have used the gym here in the apartment complex, which consists of two treadmills, a bike, free weights, and some sort of weight machine apparatus. There are ceiling fans but no A/C. I am the only person who wears shorts; everyone else is in sweat pants. The gents tend to wear polo shirts while the females tend to wear Indian long-sleeved shirts. And yet if I have the joint to myself and in they trot, they invariably complain it's too cold and turn off the ceiling fans.

I am also the only one who runs on the treadmill. Everyone else walks. I don't understand why, if they want to walk, they don't simply go for a stroll. But that's just not the way. Last night as I was running the power went out, as it often does. Boy was that a scary incident. It went pitch black, being night and all, and I nearly tripped over myself. Maybe that's why they don't run on treadmills here.

[Comments] (1) validation: So today a big bru-ha-ha occurred at work. My driver Sandeep called me and wanted to chat at the food court. I feared the worst; he was gonna ask for a loan. No. He was no longer going to be our driver. Another lady at work complained about her driver so his company was going to switch us out. Sandeep was very upset about this. He called his manager and asked me to complain to them, which I was happy to do. If Sandeep wants to be my driver, then let him be my driver. He seriously was very upset about it. I really wondered if he liked us or was just being nice but apparently, he likes us! He is going to continue as our driver.

I was also informed this week that people are really digging my coaching skills. I know more than the past few coaches and I am more available than they were. That too was nice validation. They asked me to extend and I told them it was already a done deal.

It was crazy at work watching the Japan earthquake and tsunami unfold. I have always loved living coastal but I guess it's not without its problems. The craziest part was when CNN showed the footage of the whirlpool vortex the tsunami created, including the boat just sailing next to it! The people kept telling me how horrible the 2005 tsunami was in Chennai. After a few hours I guess India was tired of watching it, though, because they changed the channel back to Bollywood.

The missionaries are due here any minute for dinner of butter chicken, naan, and lemon bars. When they called me this morning they informed me we're actually attending the wrong branch and they had to get permission to come for dinner. We didn't know any better, though. We thought this was our branch. We're still deciding what to do about it.

[Comments] (3) venti-nation: It's getting hot here. Luckily our small abode has four ceiling fans, a desk fan, and two A/C units. Good ventilation.

Bad venting. No matter how hard I try to escape high school, I just can't. I remember doing whatever it took to get invited to the cool table in high school at lunch. It worked out then, I somehow managed to grab a good seat with the in-crowd, though I was never quite as in with them as I wished. It's no different here. The US coaches occupy floor one of tower C. That includes two bosses, Ross & Alan (they are overlapping as one is going home in 3 months and the other has been here 2 months), and about 7 coaches, two that sit at our other office, me, a coach from the Netherlands, and the rest US coaches. I sit alone on my side of the building. They constantly blame this on the reason why I never get to have lunch with the rest of them. They forget I exist.

Well, today the other two coaches sat on my side when they came from the other office. They somehow still managed a lunch invite. And yet there I was, alone again.

Well, the hell with them. This isn't high school, I don't need their validation, and I can eat lunch at my desk and research Singapore or better yet, go home and eat lunch with my family.

We had a meeting today with the big boss and boy what a horse and pony show. I said three words the whole time. I don't care what the big boss thinks of me. I already got my extension approved. But boy were they vying for attention.

It's a good thing I enjoy helping my peeps so much because, otherwise, the job is the pits politically.

[Comments] (1) Wonderful Wonder-La: Today we celebrated Maggie's birthday with a trip to Wonder-la. I asked for Maggie's actual birthday off, something I could never do at home given the time of year, but thought it might be ok here. I was denied only to find out a week later that the other two coaches got time off between the deadlines so then they were stuck and gave me the day off. It was the perfect day!

The weather was probably in the 80's but there was a nice breeze. And we were going to a water park. The park opens at 11 and is roughly 25 miles away but we had to go through the city to get there so it took two hours. Then we got in the park to find out the water park doesn't open until 12:30, only to get into the water park to find that only the splash pool was open until 1:30, etc. But we made do.

We hit the dry rides first. This place is like Lagoon in the types of rides they have. Think less roller coasters and more stationary spinning until you are sick rides. Since the car ride there made me motion sick enough, we opted out of the adult rides.

One thing Wonder-La could learn from, say, Disney, is that kids rides can be made for adults as well. But no worries. We found what I thought was the kiddie version of the Tidal Wave ride at Lagoon and Maggie and I got on. It was intense! Later we found out it was the adult version, so go figure. They also had the Cliffhanger and Samurai rides from Lagoon but we just watched.

We also hit a toy train, a toy frog ride, a bugs-life-type ride set in an anthill, which was nice because it was in the shade. Dalton cried on the first two rides so Maggie went solo after that and was just fine.

Maggie also went with me on the haunted house, and, well, words can't describe. It's NOT scary, but it is dark. It's technically a ride but the car stops in every room, the lights go out, and you wait for something scary to happen, when in reality all that happens is a skeleton jumps out of a gravesite or something silly like that. Maggie didn't want to go again.

Finally it was water park time! It was getting hot so we were excited to get wet. The locker room amazed me. So clean, with spacious changing rooms! We didn't know what to do with shoes and towels, as no one seemed to have them, so we left them in the locker to fit in. Bad mistake. The floor was so hot my feet felt like second degree burns were forming. I don't know how they all walk around barefoot like that. Most people walked the entire park barefoot! Anyway, we hit the kiddie pool, but Maggie hates splashy things, and actually so do I, so that was a bust. Who likes water squirted in their eyes, honestly? And both kids were too small for the slides because tandem isn't allowed. Lame. But the wave pool opened and the kids LOVED that. That was actually my first time in a wave pool. Apparently I had to come all the way to India to experience. I loved it. Then finally the lazy river opened and we ran (literally) over there. Dalton couldn't go on the lazy river! Sure, he could go in the HUGE wave pool, but not a lazy river. So we took turns with Maggie. It was really nice, except for the annoying school kids splashing me in paradise.

I really don't understand all the rules, especially when people are allowed to wear jeans and sarees in the water. But what do I know? I found it interesting that a sign at the entrance mentions that Wonder-La's rides are safe because they were made overseas and adhere to international standards.

After that we got dressed and ate lunch. The cashier offered to make us something other than fried rice and grilled cheese if it was too spicy, which was kind of him. He loved Dalton and gave him a free Kinder Egg!

Then we hit the bumper cars and got into our own bumper car to come home.

It's a bummer it's so far away, but we'll probably go again. The reason being that it was so clean! And well manicured! It felt so nice to get out of the dirt and grime that permeates India. It was seriously cleaner than Disneyland, which is hard to acheive in a dirty country with a water park to boot. Also, unlike Disney, the food, etc inside the park was reasonably priced!

Some of their kids rides are not in the shade, so if anyone wants to go, take a towel for the kids to sit on. That was suggested by the ride operater and was very clever.

Dalton made a lot of friends. A whole group of school boys called him Johnson (totally misheard me) but he is the son of John so I didn't correct them.

[Comments] (1) Holi cow: Today begins three days of government-sanctioned paint ball fights. Holi (more of a North India holiday but still celebrated here) gives the locals carte blanche to get drunk, throw paint on people, and not get arrested. I'm told by coworkers that in cities the likes of Mumbai people fill balloons with paint and throw them off the top of buildings at people. I'm also told that if you don't wash the paint off quickly, it sticks with you for weeks.

Our driver says we should stay indoors only, but most of my coworkers advise us to simply avoid downtown only. So tomorrow we are going to try and clothes shop. Maggie has like 3 shirts and pants only. I'm told on holi it's best to wear white with colorful accessories, including a turban. I don't have a turban, but would have loved the excuse to buy one. Unfortunately, the one day notice during busy season to go turban-shopping didn't materialize. This should be quite the festive romp!

[Comments] (1) glass is empty: We've been here long enough that we've used up all the Dalton diapers, a full tube of toothpaste, conditioner (but not the shampoo, go figure), and body wash.

I've been thinking a lot about how my grandpa spent time in New Zealand growing up and comparing that to our little excursion. I think the comparison is apt because I feel like, if my pictures were black and white and not color, they would look the same as my grandpa's pictures do. Sometimes, looking at India, I feel like I'm experiencing the 60's...and have a feeling the crazy drug highs are not much different than living here. The trash, the clothing, the people sleeping on the sidewalk with a rock under their heads and no shoes, the electric poles, all remind me of how things look like in older neighborhoods back home.

Case in point: changing our flights home. I have a feeling that flight changes in the US can be done online or over the phone very quickly. In India, it involved about 20 hour-long phone calls, an extremely frustrated John & Susie, and finally, a trip downtown to the Air India ticket office, to officially pay the penalty, get the tickets printed, and FINALLY get on with our lives. What a bru-ha-ha. Air India kept saying Expedia had to change the tickets, Expedia insisted Air India do it, many disconnections, finally got Air India to do it, then they wouldn't change the Delta leg, Delta insisted Air India had to do it because they owned the flight, finally got Air India to do it in person. What a ruckus.

Getting the flights changed in person still took about two hours, including watching the employees use those old fashioned printers with the removable sides. Oddly enough, they did have flat screens. I was just surprised they even had computers period.

When work slows down, I fully intend to write some very detailed, angry emails to Expedia, Air India, my congressmen, and the Dalai Lama.

summer nights: It's officially summer here, hot hot hot. Though to be fair it's really less hot than UT in the summer. The odd thing is that the day starts off dreadfully hot but seems to get cooler in the afternoon thanks to some cloud cover, and is very delightful in the evenings. We only have A/C in the bedrooms but they work much better than the A/C back home. The great thing about where we live is the place is packed with kids. Evening constitutionals are nice because there are always people on bikes, in the pool, playing cricket.

Speaking of cricket, it's the cricket world cup. It's been a lot of work keeping up between the NCAA and the cricket matches. It's also tough to get work out of people when a match is on, which is almost everyday, and the matches last ALL day. I personally find the game more boring than baseball; fishing too. Who knew that was possible?

I've worked every weekend for about two months now and I'm exhausted. I even worked an extra 90 minutes longer than I said I would last Saturday. But one of the big projects ends this week so I've decided I'm taking this weekend off to hit Commercial Street, the shopping street. We've been here four months now and I've still never been there. I need some Indian clothes to match my family. We had Dalton wear Indian clothes to church today and he was the belle of the ball (even more so than usual). I also want to buy some sort of Ganesh statue.

One of our members is from Ivory Coast and needs to practice his english. So I pulled him out of EQ and we had our own EQ and read some information about Joseph Smith and discussed it. He's a new member with lots of questions. I'm trying really hard to not speak Indian english at him so he'll learn proper. It's tough.

Saturday we tried a new restaurant at the request of a coworker. It's called Toit and it does brick-oven pizzas, which Susie had. I had a light olive oil pasta with cheese, basil, and roasted cashews. It was amazing! I normally avoid pasta because the white and red sauce is so heavy; I'm personally a fan of pasta that is merely cooked in olive oil with a nice vegetable to supplement the flavor. I'm already craving the place again, and it was only $20. My meal reminded me of Thanksgiving Point but only 1/3 the price.

I feel like we are finally hitting our real stride here, and am glad we will stay long enough to enjoy it.

Nineteen days until we rock the Kong!

Did I mention that I live in India?: It's been too long of a week. But it's over, and I survived. I believe the worst of busy season to be over, because some of the largest engagements are now done. It's a relief.

Today I finally hit Commercial Street, where the locals go to buy all things Indian. I bought some traditional clothing, which you can view on our picture blog. I also bought a matching turban, or crown, as Maggie calls it. It's a nice outfit, though more expensive than I thought it would be. I'm sure I could have gotten something cheaper somewhere else, but I like the color I got, and it will be a nice Halloween costume for years to come! It seems only women get to be colorful here and men are forced to wear either Western or drab browns. This Monday is India's new years festival, and I'm supposed to dress up. While I like the outfit, it's actually really hot and not near as comfortable as you would think since it looks the pajamas. The drawstring on the pants doesn't feel very secure either. As such, I probably don't want to work in the outfit.

After being here for 4 months, it was nice to finally be a tourist and tout the wares of Commercial Street. A lot of people have criticized the place to me (it's crowded, cars will hit you, sales people are pushy, etc) so I had low expectations but it's actually a nice market. It wasn't that crowded, we're used to the cars, and we have learned how to tell the sales people to pound sand when they get like that. I enjoyed it there, but since it's just shopping, I probably won't be going again until right before we leave to buy stuff.

After shopping we hit a French restaurant for lunch at UB City run by an actual Frenchmen! We split a salad and a caprese panini sandwich and it was only $10! My salad had ham, celery, cherry tomatoes, all things we have never found here, and it was still cheap! Just getting good lettuce is hard here. It was a great lunch. After lunch we hurried home so our driver could go home and watch the cricket final.

This week is also cricket week. India beat Pakistan last week and is currently playing Sri Lanka in the 4-yearly cricket cup for the ultimate winner. I guess India has not been a contender for quite some time so this is a big deal to everyone here. It's been fun, though distracting at work, to watch the games. I still find cricket to be dreadfully dull though, and way too long. Matches can last over 8 hours. We always know when India wins if we are awaken by fireworks sometime in the night.

This week on the Amazing Race the teams were in Calcutta, which is very far from Bangalore, but still India. The streets seemed cleaner than here, but that doesn't mean they are. The traffic seemed as bad though I saw only one auto rickshaw on the show and they are everywhere here. I think the tea scene with the last team shows why India can be such a great place. People are willing to connect and support other people. It was interesting to note how all the teams wanted to leave China when my experience is that India is probably worse for an American overall. But I think the biggest difference is that the people really are nicer here. Again, just my experience.

Sometimes I have time to pause and remind myself that "I LIVE IN INDIA!!!" as opposed to my normal "i live in india" attitude because, really it is pretty cool here.

week in review: 1. I'm sick of that sweet with the pista, fig, and silver in it. I want something new. Luckily, my coworkers love it so I pawned it off on them.

2. We still have church tomorrow and I guess we watch conference the following week.

3. I'm back into working out mode and loving it! I always cool down with two laps around the compound and try and think about India and how cool it is. With my commute being across the street only, I need to remind myself how cool it is I'm in India, even if I live in the burbs of India.

4. Having free cable here reminds me why I don't pay for it at home. It's just more channels with nothing on.

5. I constantly defend India to my expat coworkers. They were criticizing child brides and I gently reminded them this happens in the US too, Warren Jeffs anyone? Also they were criticizing the seedy underbelly of India and I reminded them the US has a seedy underbelly. I should know; I've spent significant time at the EY office in downtown LA across the street from skid row. They told me dancing is illegal here because when someone tried to open a strip club in India they simply outlawed dancing rather than the strip club. I wonder if this is true. Good and bad happen everywhere.

6. One criticism deserved is the gender gap. My Indian coworker had to work from home last week to take care of her FIL. I asked her why her husband didn't take care of him since it's busy season and it's his own father anyway but she just sighed at me. She's lived in the US but gently reminded me it's different here.

7. We hit the body shop today to buy cologne (way cheap here) and some quality lotion. My feet are happy now.

8. I left work 3 days this week 90 minutes after I said I would leave. I feel bad leaving when everyone is still working hard. Friday night I finally told somebody no that I was leaving and then saw her helping someone else so I stayed and helped her out. It felt good to do so, mostly because I knew I wasn't working today so that was it until Monday. It's hard managing 140 people.

9. I bought a Nike shirt with the India flag on it. India's colors are the same as my high school, orange, white, and green.

10. I've been a lot more patient with Dalton lately and feel like the difference is noticeable. He's more calm and loves to snuggle and watch Mickey Mouse with me. He also loves to color and go for walks in the stroller. He's definitely not a baby anymore and is outgrowing the crib we brought with us.

[Comments] (1) make believe: Today is the Indian New Year, which meant only six people showed up to work in my area. So I went for a nice lunch to Toit with the other coaches, Ross my boss, and Mickey and his wife, Ross's boss. We were sharing war stories from India. As Mickey says, you just can't make this stuff up.

In honor of India playing in the Cricket Cup final on Saturday, I bought a shirt at the Reebok Store on Commercial Street with the India flag on it. I got lots of compliments on it. I'll have to have Susie post a picture, but it's very Reebok looking.

Today at lunch another coach couldn't believe my shirt. She said she tried to buy one at a different Reebok store and they wouldn't sell it to her because it has the Indian flag on it and she's not Indian. Having bought mine at Commercial Street, the tourist shopping area, of course they sold me one. She was bitter and we were all bewildered. Why not sell her a shirt? It seems too odd to make this up.

Another topic at lunch was how little the US knows Asia. Stories include someone from TX thinking that Asia is a country, a NJ partner mistaking Bangladesh for Bangalore, and people from AL calling Bangalore Bangadore or some such word I'm not familiar with. Many people at lunch were poking fun at these supposed morons but I gently inserted that I only know Asia so well from my mission. After all, the public school system in the US mandates a World Civ course that focuses on Europe with a rather bland glance at Asia culture for maybe two weeks. So let's forgive our US counterparts and blame the system instead. I also mentioned to my coworkers that my wife's cousin is in Okinawa and I had no idea it was closer to Taiwan than the rest of Japan until I looked it up on a map after the earthquake last month.

In honor of the holiday today I worked 10-2:30 only doing hardly anything, then came home, worked out, watched "The Emperor's New Groove" with Maggie, and avoided the maid while she asked Susie for a loan.

[Comments] (1) oh zion: We didn't get to watch General Conference this week. But we do get to watch it next week. Sat they are doing the sessions back to back 2-8 pm including priesthood. We will most likely go to priesthood only. That is way too much to ask of my kids. Besides, I've already started watching the Sat morning sessions online today anyway. We will attend on Sunday from 9:30 - 11:30 and noon to 2, and hope the kids behave.

Technology has come a long way. I remember in Hong Kong, but 10 years ago, we had to wait over a month for the VHS tapes to be translated to Cantonese and sent to us. I don't know if it's faster now merely because the branches in India are english, or if the system is faster. One thing that irks me right now is I can only watch and not read the sessions. I do better reading than listening and don't understand why they can't upload the speeches more quickly.

I'm excited for Sunday. We'll pack a lunch during the 30-minute break. It reminds me of choir tour senior year of high school. We were in Cincinnati the Saturday of conf. On Sunday we bussed from OH to Orlando and made stops in TN & Atlanta to do LDS firesides inbetween conference sessions for local wards. It was a neat experience. After the TN fireside, the ward made us box lunches to eat en route to Atlanta. After the Atlanta fireside, we were allowed to use the showers in the stake center as we rode the bus all night to Orlando from there. That was 1998.

Listening to conf is getting me excited to go to Hong Kong, especially to the temple.

mixed emoticons: So today started off horribly. Despite Dalton's teething keeping him up last night, he still got me up before 7, which is too early on a weekend. Then I decided I deserved a pedicure for surviving busy season and to pamper my feet before our trip to China. Bad mistake.

It was hot today and I was already sweating when I got there. I guess I don't know what a pedicure is, because I thought it was a foot massage, but apparently it starts by clipping your toe nails so short you can't even see them anymore, continues by pushing your cuticles down so far you bleed and scream in pain, and ends with yellow goop being placed on your feet for 10+ minutes when you are so ready to go home and move on with your life.

The nice part is that the aroma therapy they used smelled like Froot Loops, and I got to read the Indian paper, which was quite entertaining. But seriously. Fifteen dollars and my feet still hurt! I sure hope my toenails grow back before our trip. I'm going to continue giving myself pedicures from now on.

Today we went to the Leela Palace Hotel for lunch and to let the kids play on actual grass that doesn't have a sign telling you to keep off! That was just ok.

But I finished the night at church watching Priesthood Session of conference. We were small in numbers, I think 13 in total, but it was nice. I think they were shocked I came since none of the other expat families showed up. I really liked the talk by President Monson. I'm glad that he chose to not talk about the evils of gay marriage and instead focused on the evils of temple sealing cancellations, because, hey, that's something the Mormons can actually do something about. That's all I'm going to say about that.

Tomorrow we'll be watching 4 hours of conference with our fellow saints. We could just watch at home, it would be easier, but I've never lived somewhere that people congregate to watch conference, and I want to be there for my peeps.

We leave for Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong in 6 days!

an american in asia: In the next 24 hours I will leave India, peruse Malaysia, and reach my goal of finally revisiting the mish. I'm very excited to rock the Kong.

Today many coworkers seemed disappointed that I am leaving India. They prefer me to vacation in their country. Well. If the entire country feels that way, then perhaps they should put some sort of infrastructure in place to do so. It is oftentimes cheaper and easier to travel outside of India than inside. Most of India's international and domestic airports are miles apart, the roads are not proper for driving on, and the fees for foreigners to enjoy the country are outrageous. We looked into a Himalayan tour and it takes days to get there, even though I can make it all the way to China in 8 hours. Also, visiting other parts of India isn't that exciting, unless you go somewhere diverse. It's the same in the US. Travelling from SLC to Denver would not be a fun journey; there is nothing completely unique between the two. But going from LA to NYC would provide differences that would be worth it. But as mentioned above, the long journeys require a mix of plane, train, and automobile to get there, which is hard to do with luggage and kids. The food is difficult anywhere here.

Things I'm glad to leave behind for a few days include power outages, waiting forever for the elevators because people push the wrong buttons here (if the elevator is on floor one and they are on the ground floor, they push the down button to call the elevator down to them rather than the up button to ultimately go up, and it's starting to chap my hide), constantly getting pushed around because no one can queue properly here (been chapping my hide for weeks now), and the constant food indigestion. Hopefully when I come back to these things I'll be happier about the challenges and see them as an adventure.

One thing I won't leave behind in Hong Kong is dickering on the price of everything, and getting ripped off.

I found out this week another coach is coming in July to help me out. I'm glad for the help, especially since I can go to Thailand and Dubai in peace and we can share the weekend/late night work.

Our driver is very curious about the Kong. I promised to get him something, and he wants to see pictures. We are really really really blessed to have the opportunity not only to see India, but also to see these other Asia cities also. I hope I can always feel the gratitude.

[Comments] (1) which one a you pick?: The title is a favorite saying of Maggie's. There are signs on the back of all the autos here that say Lose/Gain weight followed by a phone number. I'm not sure how a gymnasium of sorts sells itself on doing both of these things. But I think I may have the solution.

I gained a lot of weight from December to February here. I was always too tired to work out and ate a lot of comfort food to cope with the constant burning tongue and indigestion. But my pants were paining me, in layman's terms, and I refused to buy new pants here because nothing from here is going home with me anyway since my clothes are all getting ruined. So in March, despite, busy season, I put myself on a diet of sorts and a workout regiment. Said regiment included working out in our apartment gym, which has no A/C. So the sweat flows rather freely. I'm feeling good in my pants again, better than ever, even. I guess it is possible to lose/gain weight.

break on through to the other side: I should also note that we are blessed here as well. We have each other, and we have Chili's. We also have a driver. Some of our rotators in the US are struggling because of the food there if they are vegetarian, and also since they all go to different offices, some of them are lonely.

I also have a lot of coworkers that don't go on rotation. Even though they are college graduates, they live at home and their parents won't let them go. Having moved out of the house at 17, the concept of a 24 year-old intellectual being dictated to like that, when it really is an excellent career opportunity, is hard for me to understand. I'm also blessed to be able to make my own decisions.

Last blessing was last Sunday. I have the church here. We watched four hours of conference at church. It was fab. A/C was cranked up, the lights were off, we listened to the prophet, while the single men played with the kids. It sure beat watching conference at home, in the heat, huddled around the computer, without free babysitting!

[Comments] (1) better than ok: Just to let the world know, we made it safely to Hong Kong last night, on schedule.

Friday night we left Bangalore for the airport at 9 pm. The kids went to bed at 7, slept two hours, and also slept an hour in the car on the way to the airport. Maggie was totally willing to go to bed early because she knew the sooner she went to sleep, the sooner the trip would start. Cutie bug. Our driver's company makes him work all week even though we aren't around, so I gave him two-days pay out of my pocket so he can also enjoy some time off. He was very shocked and pleased. I was humbled. After all, I only gave him $10.

We finished checking in by 10:45, in only 45 minutes time, giving us 2 hours to do nothing at the airport. When you plan for the worst, you get free time. My company informed me there is a planned strike on the 17th at the airport due to the supposedly-illegal toll booths. In anticipation of this event, we left early to give time around the boycott if necessary. It wasn't. I wonder what happened there today. Maggie played quietly and Dalton and I pushed around in the stroller together for 2 hours while sharing a Mango Lassi. The Bangalore airport is so nice. I honestly couldn't recall what it looked like the last time I was there. I wish Bangalore were as nice as it's airport.

We boarded our Air Malaysia flight, procured the second row, and settled in. Being an evening flight, we assumed sleeping was an option. It is on the Red Eye's from SLC to NYC. Not so. First they served drinks. Then they served full on meals. Then they forced us all to watch Gulliver's Travels, then finally, two hours into the flight, they turned off the lights. Needless to say, it made for four unhappy campers the next day. I'm seriously considering writing a letter. Who eats dinner at 3 am Malay time anyway? To boot, the food made me sick all morning. Chicken in green sauce will now be avoided at all costs.

Though the nice thing about Malaysian Air over Air India is no one hassled us about having 3 carry-ons for 3 seats.

Also, when you fly international here, there was no requirement to take off my shoes, belt, or dispose of liquids in my bag. Same was true when we checked in at Malaysia. I guess the US only requires this, and of outbound flights only.

We got to KL at 7 am. That airport too is extremely nice. The place was packed with white people, though no white babies. We changed clothes, shaved, shook off the sleepiness, and headed into town. The airport is about 50 km south of Kuala Lumpur, but we prepaid for a cab and it was only $25US, and $10US to store luggage. The drive was nice. It was raining but we got to see the countryside. It was absolutely amazing to drive normal freeway speeds again, with no potholes, speed bumps, or the like. The drive reminded me of the toll roads in FL, and the vegetation in KL is much more than India. After Kipling's Jungle Book, I really expected India to look more, well, jungle-like. But it's actually quite dry with a lot of red dirt, reminds me of southern CA, actually. KL is a true jungle. And it had small mountains! Oh how I miss mountains! It was beautiful. And clean. Amazingly clean. I couldn't believe it. So clean, I highly recommend people to visit there. But be warned, the penalty for drug trafficking is death, according to my declaration card.

We arrived at the Patronus Towers around 9:30, 30 minutes after the booth for tickets to the observation deck opened. They were already gone. I was so bummed. Oh well, it was raining so hard I bet the cloud cover removed any decent view anyway. The foundation of these huge monstrosities (the second tallest building in the world and tallest twin towers in the world) is a 6-floor mall. We spent two hours in Toys R Us alone, letting the kids play. We also found a PretzelMaker, smoothies, etc. This mall had it all; including a lot of white people, and tons of families in strollers. Finally we weren't the sole stroller family in the country. People in India have no idea what a stroller is. The country appears to be quite Muslim. Everyone was so kind. People held elevators for us, let us cut in line at immigration with the kids, and honored the queue system. When a store clerk didn't know who was next, the gentlemen informed him it was our turn. It's amazing how kind they all were, though part of them stems from recent Indian experiences I am sure. The only downside was that smoking is allowed two inches from any store, unlike most US states that require a safe distance from buildings, etc.

With the rain, we were stuck in the mall most of the day, but did venture out to see the park next door.

Both kids fell asleep in the car on the way home on Susie, allowing me to take pictures of this amazing country. Our cab back out of town was twice what we paid to go in town, but he used the meter so I'm not sure how exactly he was scamming us. I didn't have enough money actually but he was happy to take the balance in USD, which is a 1:3 exchange on the ringgit. The ringget is a beautiful currency and I stashed some to take home.

Back at the airport we got in security in what felt like 5 minutes, once again leaving us 2 hours in the airport. We didn't mind this time, as they had COUCHES and CARPET here. Maggie never woke up; I think she slept through security even. So Susie slept on a couch with her while Dalton and I went postcard hunting. We also bought dinner, and I had a salmon creme cheese sandwich with tomatoes and real lettuce and it tasted like heaven. I fully intend to get it again on the way home. Susie even took a bite and said it was good! She later claimed she thought I said it was a grilled cheese sandwich but she still didn't spit out the bite. We may have a fish lover on our hands yet!

Our second flight leg was great! The plane was only 1/3 full so we got the bulkhead row of four seats all to ourselves. Maggie slept the entire flight. That means she slept from 3 pm to 10 pm straight! Dalton struggled but eventually fell asleep also. As did Susie. I was too excited to sleep and thus read my scriptures on the Kindle and struggled to understand that Tron movie. The plane chairs were all a different color; how festive! The food was fish and I didn't get sick this time.

Made it to the Kong around 10:30 pm, all exhausted except for Maggie. We once again got to cut in the VERY long immigration line, thanks to the kids, and our bag came minutes later. So we exchanged some currency and were off. I was so excited for the ride into town but the bridge lights were off and so were some of the buildings. It was too late I guess. We finally all went to bed around 12:30. Susie was afraid Maggie would wake up and not go back to sleep, but the three of us slept until 11:00 am. The Holiday Inn here is great. They had the kids couch bed made up for us, had extra towels in our room, and had mail for us for our WED trip! Also, when Dalton somehow managed to change the passcode to the safe today, then came and reset it in a New York minute.

Up at 11, I ran out to grab breakfast with Maggie. Oh how I miss bakeries! The bread tasted so good, even Susie ate some (which she wouldn't do in ChinaTown in SF). We eventually woke Dalton up, who was still tired, so we could go explore Causeway Bay. I never served here so the area was foreign to me. We also went to church at 1:30. I'll have Susie post pictures, because words cannot describe. This chapel looks like a Disney castle, and would give Hogwarts a run for its money. It's 11 storeys high! It is the nicest chapel I have ever seen. During sacrament I couldn't help thinking of all the alternatives the money for this chapel could fund. No doubt ever temple-worthy member in India could come here for a week on the electric bill alone! As I expected, I didn't recognize a single member, which is as it should be. The life of a Filipino maid in Hong Kong should be short term so they can return back to their homes after a decent amount of money has been made. It was so so so nice to sit in a pew again, with carpet floors, and not worry what germs Dalton is getting on the floor. It was also nice to hear an organ and not play a fake one. I know the spirit can be anywhere, but this building makes it quite easy. In India, we have to fight for it. The members here are very blessed.

I wore sneakers to church. They were extremely comfy and no one noticed, I'd wager. I'll be doing the same to the temple on Tuesday. I'm sure it looked silly but I don't care. Does that make me a sinner?

After church we ate beef at McD (could not resist) and watched it pour buckets of rain. Then we took the ding ding to Central. The nice thing about this part of the island is that, despite the rain, we hardly got wet. So many covered pedestrian walkways. We visited the Black Man at Statue Square (he's taller than I remembered) and hit the Mid-levels travelator. On the way there, Susie spotted H&M and we spent an hour and money in there as well. But Maggie now has a Hello Kitty shirt from the city that worships the feline.

We saw my last mission apartment and the old church, the Kam Tong Hall, which is now the Sun-Yay Sen museum. To my surprise and delight, the tour starts in the basement and the baptismal font is still there!!!!!!!!!! We asked Maggie what it was and she knew immediately. A very special place to me has been preserved.

By this point it was time to go home. Maggie & Dalton had fun taking a shower together, made easy by the detachable shower head. And heck, I love it too! I look forward to any shower not at our apartment in India.

Tomorrow we do it all over again! Without the rain; we think; we hope.

[Comments] (1) sans Winnie the Pooh: Today we hit Ocean Park. It's only 10 minutes from our hotel, once you pass through the tunnel from the harbour side of the island to the back side of the island. We also passed by a really cool cemetery on the way, just carved out of the mountain.

Ocean Park has it all: a gondola ride over the mountain to the ocean, a carousel that Dalton made us ride 4 times, panda bears, both regular and red, two aquariums, a jellyfish mad house with flourescent lighting and mirrors, roller coasters, a ferris wheel, McDonald's, a singing fountain, a parade, and a rotating view tower. We had so much fun!

As we waited in line for the gondola for around 30 or so minutes, a family from Kansas was in front of us. My first impression, to be honest, was that this father, mother, and five daughters were from Colorado City, or possibly refugees from Warren Jeff's clan. The girls were all in polygamist dresses, but the mother was wearing what appeared to be a nun's cap. They weren't wearing sneakers with the dresses, however, so they couldn't be polygamists. They have been living in China for 3 years as humanitarian aid providers of some sort and, like us, were in dire need of a vacation somewhere that feels like home. We had a nice chat with them.

Ocean Park also had seals and for $25HK, or $3.50US, Maggie got to feed them! It's amazing how I saw the sign for $25 and thought that was a decent price in USD but that was HKD, so it was a steal! I thought Maggie would chicken out and not go through with touching a dead fish, but she did it!

Dalton, of course, made tons of friends, and currently has had more pictures taken with him and middle-aged women than Justin Bieber now has. He's so popular, especially with the mainland China visitors, which is rough, because I can't speak with them.

Before we left the park, Maggie informed me we had not gone on Winnie the Pooh ride yet. I tried to tell her Disney is not until Friday and this is a different park. Spoiled girl; two parks in the same week.

Because we have thoroughly exhausted the kids that last two days, tomorrow they can sleep in while I head to the morning session at the temple. Then in the afternoon we'll hit the peak.

The weather today was awesome; overcast, light breeze, with just a touch too much humidity.

Just being here for 3 days makes me already dread going back to India. I don't know how my coworker could go home last summer for 3 months; I don't think I'd have the willpower to get back on that plane! And it's not that India is bad; it's just the smallest tasks leave me exhausted and frustrated, and I still don't like the food. My job there is great and we've been able to save money and spend more time as a family. I guess we all need reality breaks now and again.

[Comments] (2) techno-creep: India is horrible tech wise, especially when you consider it is the IT outsourcing place to be. The internet is not widely used; computers aren't widely used. So finding things to do or places to shop must be done in person. It's a pain. Hong Kong is very advanced in this realm. Yet it is still a cash-based society. Everywhere we go, cash is king. That is a pain as well.

I am so tired and tomorrow is a long day. But I know if I miss even one day, this whole saga will never be told. I got up at 7:30 this morning to get to the 9 am session at the temple. I only got lost in the Kowloon Tong MTR once, and made it to the temple in plenty of time. Kowloon Tong sure is warmer than the island. I got dressed and attended my session. I was worried my recommend wouldn't scan, since I may be lost to the church these days with all my jauntings and gallavantings, but they let me in. The temple was just as I remembered. The session was half full, including some Mandarin speakers, a Filipino, and another white woman. The session was Cantonese and, during the intro, they came and offered me headphones, which I refused. I was worried I couldn't do it in Cantonese, but it all came rushing back and I did fine. And this way I didn't have to deal with headphones. The Celestial room was just as I remembered it and I didn't want to leave. But I did, as we had a full day planned. On the way out, I ran into Sister Chan in the lift! Finally a kindred spirit. Shaun Morris and I used to visit her frequently. She is/was the chapel cleaning lady for Sha Tin. She's Indonesian and her Cantonese is not proper, and I always heard her husband was a creep, but her daughter came to church with her every Sunday. I introduced myself, she said she vaguely remembered me, but I don't buy it. At any rate, it was nice to see her.

The Distribution Center across the street was missing. In its place is yet another shiny new LDS chapel. I'm not sure of the purpose of this chapel, as there is a chapel in the temple. I tried to visit said Distribution Center but when I buzzed they informed me it was closed. I tried to give them some sort of information that would make them explain that it was a horse of a different color, but to no avail. Fort Knox remained closed and I'll have to try again another time.

I also noticed on the buzzer box that the mission home is there now and no longer in the temple. I wonder what's going on. I fully intend to find out when I take Susie to the temple on Friday. We promised our maid Kannagi a CTR ring so they better open up next time. Once again, the rudest people I meet in the Kong are members of my own church. Some things never change.

Back home we boarded the ding ding to Central where we alighted the Peak Tram, which, incidentally, does not accept credit cards. The tram is rather intense but we survived the long ride up to the top. We took some nice pictures, even though the air quality into Kowloon was poor. Maggie commented on how many Scrapes there were, being short for Skyscrapers. I asked her to count them and she said there were two. We also went for a nice walk on a 1-mile loop around the top through some lush jungle. They had those aerobic pit stops along the way and Maggie insisted on playing with them. We als found the waterfall where they dedicated the China mission. Maggie kept saying the waterfall looks like a mission--not sure what she thinks a mission is. We enjoyed the walk. After that, we ate at New York fries. I don't know what makes the fries New York, but they had hot dogs. Amazing how I would never crave a hot dog if I came here straight from the states. But no one eats pork in India. The vegetarians don't, and our maid won't either. She says pigs are dirty animals, and something about it not being proper/tradition. So here we are devouring pork as often as possible!

They had a very large princess castle on display for HK Disney's 5th anniversary this year. They also have a four foot ceramic wizard Mickey. Dalton LOVED that thing! And everyone else LOVED Dalton loving that thing. I'm glad he wasn't scared of it.

I've been hit up by eager school children for surveys. This was common as a missionary. One gave me a free postcard for the survey! I was also stared at by Indians all day long as well. It finally dawned on me that I was wearing my India cricket cup shirt. A man from Mumbai was so happy to see me wearing the shirt, though he gave me an incredulous look when I told him I live in Bangalore. Maybe I'm saying the city name wrong.

In the late afternoon we hit the ferry pier, as Maggie has been dieing to ride a boat all week. We took it to Kowloon for photo ops with the city background. The pictures all look like the backdrop is staged, but I promise, it's real. The place was packed with mainland Chinese, with whom I cannot communicate. In fact, they are taking over the place. I fear my Cantonese-language skills may be antiquated one day.

We watched the sun kiss the sky and the lights come up on the buildings over some chocolate-orange and sour cherry gelato. Then we ferried and subwayed our way back home.

We bribed Maggie to behave in all the pictures today with Disneyland. Since we plan to hit the Magic Kingdom on Thursday, I'm not sure what we'll use as bribes come Friday and Saturday. The girl is grumpy about pictures.

still not Disneyland: Yesterday we shelled out money for an organized tour. I didn't want to, since I know the Kong like anything, but they offered an efficient package to see Lantau. So we started the morning with pick up at our hotel, a very nice perk that saved us a subway trip, and met up in Wan Chai with our group. Other groups got off the bus at this point. Some of them had stickers for a tour of Ocean Park. The funny thing is, they organized a tour for a theme park that is only 10 minutes from the hotel! They really didn't need to do that. I should consult. Maybe I should quit my day job and organize tours here.

Our tour consisted of us, an older couple from Australia, another older couple from Paris, and a family with a tween son from UK. The UK family was en route to Australia with a layover here and a layover in Bali on the way home. Talk about a vacation! I told Susie we were pretending to be rich for a day, thanks to our travel money and already being close to here. These were serious people with serious money.

Then we hopped a ferry to Lantau. Maggie was pleased with this ferry ride, since it was 30 minutes instead of the usual 15 across the harbor. No one got sick, so we were off to a good start. It was very windy and actually cold at the pier. But the sun came out as we travelled.

At Mui Wo I looked for the chapel but didn't see it. I saw on the LDS chapelfinder that it wasn't there, but had moved to Tung Chung, which is actually very far away. I wonder if the members in Mui Wo, Lok O, and Peng Chau go to the monstrosity church in Wan Chai or go to Tung Chung. I also assume the missionaries don't live there anymore. That apartment was the nicest I ever had! I wanted to visit it but it's 10 minutes from the pier so out of the question. The old baptism spot was still there at least. It's hard to move the ocean. One of the members works in an office at the pier but I didn't remember which one otherwise I would have popped in quickly. Oh well. The McD's was also still on the corner there, as were the thousands of bikes at the pier. I'm kind of sad. I baptized four people there and, though one moved to the New T's and one moved to Australia and married my old companion, they expanded the church building. And now it looked as though the whole building was gone, given way to a gas station. Cue Amy Grant here.

We boarded the bus for Cheung Sha beach. I LOVE the ride from Mui Wo to Tai O, though I remembered it being bumpier. Maybe it seemed less bumpy because there were no Indian speed bumps or pot holes on the road. We only got to be at the beach for 20 minutes, which disappointed Maggie, but it was high tide so I actually was fine with that. We did take a quick dip in the South China Sea.

On to Tai O. I can't remember if I took mom and Jodi here. I'm sure I wanted to. It's my favorite place in the whole city. A little fishing village with houses built on stilts over the water. We actually rode a boat on the river! I never did that before. Since there is no food allowed on the buses here, the kids used this opportunity to scarf down a bag of goldfish. Now here's a city that is little changed. I loved tracting here, and we even had a baptism from there, but he now lives in Sha Tin. No other members live there that I know of. It's a tourist trap without acting like one. I still remember meeting a tour group there as a missionary that included a member from Hawaii. She gave us each $100HK, which was grocery money for a week! I looked for the missionaries but saw none.

Next it was up to the Big Buddha. Boy that place has changed more than any other! They now have a secret car passage that let us escape the 256 stairs up to Buddha, which, with the kids, was both disappointing and appreciated at the same time. We dined on a veg Buddhist lunch there of veg fried rice, corn and mushroom soup, condensed milk sticky buns, tofu stir fry, etc. It was all really good. During lunch I got to talk to the couple from Australia. They knew how to use chopsticks and eat Chinese food proper, due to the large Chinese population in the land down under. He told me I'm brave for bringing the kids. I explained my situation and my bravery levels increased. He's been everywhere but still has no desire to see India. I'm sure my stirring description of the country did no decent inspiring either. I did tell him that an auto rickshaw ride is a once in a lifetime experience.

He also told me in Bali everyone gets sick like India with Bali Belly. It turns out his wife didn't have Bali belly but was pregnant and had morning sickness. I think Bangalore belly has hit us all.

After this we hit the mall. Big Buddha has sold out to Starbucks. The mall itself is structured authentic and looks nice, but a 7-11 and really high end merchandise do not seem fung shei to me. I wonder how the monks view this. I guess it generates revenue. I thought it cheapend the trip; it was more Epcot less China. Next was the 25-minute cable car ride. Boy were we up high; higher than the airplanes! Considering how breezy it was, I am surprised we didn't sway all over the place. It must be a fancy cable car. The wind does come up through the vents though, and it was chilly. Maggie kept commenting on how long the ride was, over and over. Dalton of course used the opportunity to make four new girlfriends.

Then we bussed home, while Dalton finally got his first nap of the week! For dinner that night, we hit CPK, and it was divine. We also went grocery shopping and found pretzel goldfish and sour gummy worms, not too unreasonably priced. The kids scarfed them down after their shower. We all crashed around 8 pm, except for Dalton, who I think was still awake when I went to bed.

Other happenings include seeing various non-doctors wearing surgical masks about town. I don't think it's a fashion statement. My guess is, post-SARS, sick people wear them out of consideration of others? It's a nice gesture. We also had a teenager approach us to practice English. His opening line was how easy Korean is to learn. I don't know why I care, but I remember being sought out as a missionary to practice english so I indulged the young lad. But just in case anyone does care, Korean is easy to learn!

Today we visit the big Mouse!

[Comments] (1) feels like home: We finally hit Disney yesterday, with some absolutely fabulous weather. The sun was out but so was the breeze. This is a mini-Disney, which includes a full Tomorrowland, a half-Fantasyland, and a half Adventure land only. It was enough for a full day; we saw all the shows and only missed two rides, because we just don't like Autopia enough to wait 60 minutes and Stitch's Encounter seemed too scary for the kids and was in Mandarin when we were there. The pictures will stand for themselves, once Susie posts them, so I'll stick to a few points of interest:

1. I was finally homesick. Being in Disneyland almost made me think I was in Anaheim sometimes. Sharing the park with Asians certainly didn't make a difference.

2. Everyone was super nice there. Susie always had a seat on the subway with the kids. The little things like this were not things I saw as a missionary. I was an annoyance to people then so I saw the less kind and considerate side of people. Being here as a father and non-preacher, I've seen another side of people here that is very nice.

3. We had to take 3 subways to get here. The third one is a dedicated Disney subway with plush seats, statues of the characters, and Mickey-shaped windows. I felt like I was on a Disney cruise!

4. Maggie was not scared of any rides! Every ride was a do-over for her. She and Dalton didn't cry! She later told me "I think this Disneyland has no scary rides, dad."

5. They built this newer park with the mistakes of past parks in mind. For example, a lot more queues are in the shade or indoors with A/C, the pathways are all wheelchair accessible, etc.

6. The only problem we had with queueing came in the form of the Mainland Chinese people. I'm going to assume that the British browbeat queueing into the Hong Kong natives. This means that there are over 3 billion people in India and China that have no idea what a line is for. That scares me. One lady I seriously wanted to hit, she was being so rude and I was by myself in line with the kids while Susie rode Space Mountain. I finally had to let some elbow fly to get the point across that she was being absolutely rude for no good reason whatsoever.

7. Many of the rides have subtle changes to them here. Winnie the Pooh, the Jungle Cruise, Small World, all had nice Chinese or otherwise changes that were fun.

8. I was surprised that the shows are all in English. They have 3 separate queues for the Jungle Cruise, for English, Cantonese, and Mandarin, and have different windows of time for the Stitch ride. I really expected for Cantonese. I guess English always wins because it would be improper to pick Cantonese or Mandarin so they default to English. India is the same way. Too many states will fight a national Hindi language as unfair to the Tamils, Keralans, etc so we end up with English most often.

9. We saw the missionaries on the way home last night. I got about half of my questions answered before they had to head home. I wish I had seen more of them.

10. Today we're letting the kids sleep in. Dalton just woke about about 9 am so just waiting for Maggie now before we have another exciting day!

stupendous saturday: Today we hit the temple. Or tried to. We found it. Does that count? It was closed for Good Friday, as was the mission home, as was the distribution center, which is hardly ever open to begin with. So frustrating. What better day to do temple work than on Good Friday? On the plus side, it saved me from watching two kids alone in the Kowloon Tong mall for two plus hours.

I never remember Good Friday is a holiday because my own self-proclaimed Christian nation doesn't mandate my corporation give me the day off. But it is a holiday here, as it also is in India. Go figure.

We did catch some missionaries and they let us in to see the new mission offices. We looked at the mission president wall of fame and Susie read all about the Ong's, who were president after my reign and who are friends and possibly enemies of Roy and Frances. I chatted with the missionaries for a while until the kids were screaming too loudly so we excused ourselves. There is a park next door to the Mission Home and the kids were begging so we obliged. Since parks in India contain little more than dirt and dangerous metal equipment, it seemed like we couldn't leave without letting the kids play in an actual park with actual playground equipment.

Apparently the temple is closed tomorrow as well. What holiday is tomorrow?

We hit Sha Tin today, one of my areas. Attractions included Snoopy World (which, 10 years later, actually includes rides and stuff!) and the Hong Kong History Museum, which is also running a "25 years of Pixar" exhibit. The place was packed. Once again, even without trying, we hit Disneyland again, since they had life-sized Sully and Mike dolls, and larger than life sized Woody, Buzz, and Pizza Planet alien creatures.

[Comments] (2) around the world in 12 years: When I first set sail (air) for the Kong in 1999, I flew from SLC west to China. When I flew to India in 2010, I flew East. My flight in 2011 brought me East from India to the Kong. I have now circled the globe!

Today was a drizzly rainy gloomy day. So we hit the streets (one street, Stanley) for some shopping. Stanley Market is on the backside of the island and is a nice drive. I envision Portabello Road to be like Stanley Market. The streets are narrow and covered so it was a nice escape from the rain.

We bought T-shirts for me, Dalton, Sandeep our driver, and James for his upcoming birthday. We also bought Chinese clothes for Susie and the kids, and also for Kyli for her birthday. Also, chopsticks, a parasol umbrella that Maggie is obsessed with, a Lantau taxi and a New Territories mini-bus that Dalton is obsessed with, some scroll paintings, a surprise graduation present for Chad, postcards, jade, jewelry for Kannagi the maid, and probably a bunch of other stuff I've since forgotten about. Everyone had fun and we left before the kids could get bored.

Boy has Stanley changed in the last ten years. Not the market itself, it looks exactly the same. But everything is fixed price now; no more haggling! Which is exciting, but also makes the experience seem less quintessential Asia I suppose. My nephew Logan would probably find a way to blame this change in tradition on the LDS missionaries, because some people are jerks like that. Zing!

We hit Times Square one last time to let the kids play on the trampoline. I won a free camera! Well, it wasn't free, I had to tell a story about my favorite place in Hong Kong, and only because Susie begged me to. And the camera takes 35 mm film, which seems like a step backwards to me. But Dalton really stole the show there. That kid is now on cameras, computers, and facebook posts all over the Orient. I bet his picture was snapped about 200 times today alone, that I noticed. We'll take the camera home for the kids to play with.

We hit CPK again for dinner. Then packed. Tomorrow takes us back to home, er, to India. And I'm ok with that. I've had a rest and it's time to move on. Back to a washing machine; back to home cooked meals; back to a gym; back to Dalton's crib so we don't have to lay with him until he goes to sleep; back to routine. I just hope our driver Sandeep remembers to pick us up at 11:45 pm tomorrow night!

[Comments] (2) survey says: We made it home safe, sound, with all our luggage, and on time. Thanks Malaysia Air! We were lucky enough that Easter Sunday was a beautiful Hong Kong day and we were able to play at Victoria Park before we left. Also, next to our terminal and gate was a children's play place. An added bonus was that both of our planes gave us personal TVs, so Dalton and I watched The Simpsons, and I watched my first Glee episode. I didn't like it; too smutty. But a lot of it was accurate. I still don't recall why I liked high school, but for some reason I parted on good terms. I also re-watched HP 7 Part I. It really helped pass the time. Now it's back to life as usual.

I've allowed myself to get into a rather heated debate on facebook with my nephew. I'm mad for allowing myself to get sucked in; I'm normally able to abstain when no one else can. But this time he ruffled my feathers and I responded in a very strong tone.

I've thought about some things I wrote (basically told the young lad to grow up and realize that most 16 year-old debate stars do not, in fact, know everything). He bases a lot of what he believes on what other people tell him. We all do. But I still think the superior way to experience life is first hand. Unfortunately that's not always possible.

But think about it. Is there any way to really comprehend what a pineapple tastes like second hand? How about the feel of an ocean breeze? The experience of an airplane ride? Marriage? Parenthood? You can read about these things, ask thoughtful questions, but you'll never really "get" it until you can try it for yourself. And isn't that the point of life? I think we would be all well-served to rely less on wikipedia and our favorite blogs of complete strangers and more on actual life outside the computer screen. And being in India does not automatically make life experiences happen. I still have to choose to leave the comfort of my home to roam about. As such, I'm signing off.

I AM MICHAEL SCOTT: Given the time lag here, I was caught up on The Office last night when I went to bed, but am now one episode behind. But watching the Dundie awards, I've decided that the real inspiration for The Office comes from writers that have spent time in India. Here's why:

1. April Fool's Day. I had no idea they were aware of that here. They are. We had shaving cream in phone receivers, people's desks had been completely cleared of their belongings, etc. It was an office full of Jim Halpert's that day.

2. We have lots of Ryan's & Andy's here. You know, the ones that keep showing up, don't do anything, and don't even seem like they need to work, so I guess they come for the free ping pong? I'm told these people normally come from very wealthy backgrounds so the job is more social than a meaningful career.

3. Our secretary is a lot like Erin. Very sweet, but we very frequently wonder why we even bother giving her tasks to do.

4. We have a few Jim & Pam's, I think two, though I'm unsure if they actually met at work.

5. We have A LOT of Dwight's. Title is very important to people here. In the US, what we call a Senior 3, the level before Manager, is here called an Assistant Manager. Or Assistant to the Manager. Does it make a difference? They do the same thing a senior 3 does in the US for the same base pay (in terms of earning power). But they want that title. One colleague's email tag mentions he is a Senior Associate & Back-up technology coordinating assistant or something like that. What a mouthful and what a clearly self-imposed, secondary calling in life. But it's important to him.

6. We have one Phyllis, the mother of the office. She's a manager and wears a very traditional saree every day. But I think she scares some people.

7. We don't really have an Indian Oscar that I'm aware of, as being gay is still taboo here. But men here do hold hands and touch each other more freely than men in the US. We do have an Oscar counterpart in the form of a US person over here.

8. I can't think of any Stanley's or Angela's.

9. We have a new activity every week. Every week. I've always ignored the input into the festivities. But today is a post-busy season outing. We were put into different groups for a dance contest. It's overly complicated in that we have to do four ethnic dances. I told them I would do two of the four with my group. Big mistake. I spent close to 5 hours TU-TH learning to dance on the roof of the building. So five hours of work lost x 1,000 tax professionals coming to the outing is 5,000 hours of productivity lost. I had no idea they invested so much time, every week, in these endeavors. I'm not sure why we allow that, but it's not my place to fight it so I let it be. So we have our own party planning committee and endless onslaught of ridiculous activities, including Twin Day.

10. So I guess I am Michael Scott? I help people but don't actually generate revenue. I'm also told my people do like me. But I am also probably considered slightly quirky to everybody due to cultural differences. I'm sure my dancing will be on YouTube before the day is over.

Yes, the inspiration from The Office came from India.

[Comments] (1) 1:11 of fame: So yesterday was the West team outing. I opted to have my driver take me and my family rather than take the 6:30 shuttle bus from the office. I still got a wake-up call at 7:30 asking where I was. I think they were nervous I would ditch.

The resort was very nice and very clean. I played Table Tennis for a while. Even though I stink, none of them were very good either. I still stunk, but was only marginally worse than them. My strong point is I serve better than they do. I learned to play in the Kong, where the kids play much better than here. Susie had no idea where I learned.

They had four swimming pools. The family pool, ladies pool, toddler's pool, and children's pool. I'm not sure why the woman always get their own pool; it's not private, as in the men can still view the women's pool. But it's the same at immigration and security here; different lines for men and women. Also, the toddler pool had a waterfall named Niagara Falls. Why a waterfall in a kid's pool I don't know.

Actually a lot of stuff is named after the US. They had a suite called the white house that was much smaller than the original. They had these fun bungalows. They also had an A/C room that I had to hide out in for a while. It was hot yesterday.

I danced. I went whole hog because I figured, I might as well have fun looking stupid. I was video taped by about 20 different people, including my own wife, who was a judge. My team won, and Maggie was pleased that, during my "crowd time" I came by to high 5 her.

I also won a Dundie! For best coach in the West (I'm the only coach in the west). My Dundie didn't come with a 1,000 rupee prize like the others, but that's ok. The $20 goes farther for the others anyway.

A lot of people had a huge bad attitude about dancing, faked sick at the last minute, etc. It was pathetic, and I saw right through all of it. I guess they are still young and care about impressions. I'm old and this isn't my culture, so no one expected me to dance Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, or Kannada well. But still. Sometimes life is about doing stuff we don't want to. Suck it up, guys.

Lastly was the fishy discoteque. Words can't describe. It was inside a fish, was dark, noisy, and apparently consisted of two dance floors. Seriously. The guys dance together and the girls dance together. Maggie came on the guy side with me for our obligatory 5-minute cameo, and then we left. Susie wouldn't let Dalton experience the loud music.

It was hot yesterday and the dancing was hard in the heat. And people here don't like chilled water so that never helps matters. But it was a nice day. Since our maid called in sick with a paining head, we hit Pizza Hut on the way home.

[Comments] (2) i will always love you: Saturday we hit Brigade Road. I'm trying to find a white short-sleeved shirt I can wear to church like I did on my mission. There is no A/C anywhere near the piano in Sacrament and the windows are right on me. Plus Dalton is now attending Nursery and they never turn the A/C on in there either.

I didn't find a shirt, but I found some killer pants I've been looking for since we got here. I guess they are male capris? But they are cotton, not khaki, totally light weight, and were $5. Also, they say they are from Old Navy, but I think some chop shop sewed an illegal label on them. There is no other identifying tag on the inside of the pants.

I also bought a Ganesh stone statue. Supposedly we will have good luck in our home now. I just bought a little one out of Tiger Eye stone. It was a chore to haggle for. Brigade Road also has people selling maps of India. I wanted one to hang on our wall. The guy wanted 800 rupees, or $20, for it. For a map printed on paper! I told hime I'd pay 250 rupees, or $6. He waited outside a store we went into to buy pineapple juice. He was persistent but wouldn't go lower than 450 rupees. I really didn't want the map that badly. But he followed us to our car, so I asked Sandeep our driver how much. He agreed that 250 rupees was a good price and yelled at the guy until we agreed to 300 rupees. Sandeep still refused the map until we finally got it for 250 rupees. By this point we were all in the car and it was raining on the poor kid. But we got the map.

I'm ok to pay a small premium for things, I understand life is hard for people here. But $20 for a map? I was touched that Sandeep would go to bat and side with us over his fellow countryman like that. It was a total Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner moment. I think. I've never actually seen that movie. Sandeep knows we can pay whatever here, but I know he feels bad when we get ripped off too.

He wanted today off to attend the spreading of ashes in a river in Mysore of a friend who was crossing the street and killed by a two-wheeler. It's semi-common here. So once again it was haggling to get to church. There is an auto guy here every Sunday that charges us a set fee of 100 rupees to go to church. Coming home is harder. But today we found someone for 60 rupees. I had no change so I game him 100. I'm used to paying it and I appreciated his honesty.

Today was also a member's last day before he goes to the MTC in Manilla. I gave him 1,000 rupees. He seemed shocked. I told him in the US it is quite customary to give gifts to missionaries to help defray the costs of all those white shirts and ties. Not sure if that is a custom here, or maybe my denomination was too large. But the only other bill I had was the 100 rupee note to get us home. Change is a precious commodity in India. Only McDonald's ever seems to have it. The future missionary attended my music lessons and will probably be the only missionary the branch has while we are here. Maybe I should have asked him where to get a white short-sleeved shirt.

Back to the map. It's not like I'll hang it in our home in UT. But I thought the kids may find utility in it one day. Normally all my souvenir shopping needs and picture-taking needs revolve around impending 6th grade geography assignments. I'm always thinking of things Maggie and Dalton can take to school to show off. I always chose Sweden for such projects since my aunt is from there. How neat will it be for Maggie and Dalton to have a deeper connection for such projects? Of course it will be just my luck they will cancel such assignments by the time they get to 6th grade. I guess there is always show and tell. I guess I'm more of a parent than a tourist.

was it worth it?: I've heard tell a certain terrorist is dead. I'm sure the GOP will find some way to blame this on Obama.

In other news, the US Consulate in Chennai sent me the following lovely greeting: "The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence following recent counter- terrorism activity in Pakistan. Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations. U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. This Travel Alert expires August 1, 2011."

So I'm supposed to stay in my home/hotel room until this message self-destructs on August 1? Why take down a major terrorist if the act brings on three full months of enhanced terror activity and fearmongering? Phooey.

never saw blue like that: This weekend has been great. The weather has turned extremely nice; bright blue skies, pretty hot, but a really great breeze that persists all day long.

Saturday we attended a birthday party for Ethan, my coworker Alan's son. Said party had a bounce house, a magician, face painting, and a camel ride. Now we've all done the camel thing in Mysore, and, truth be told, it's not the most comfortable ride. But we needed to get photo ops of this camel ride in particular, because this time, we rode a camel in Orlando, FL! Seriously.

I haven't been to my boss's house since Christmas Eve, and at that point, India was still a big old mess in my head. But now I've been here long enough to sort the mess (something the locals can't do) and was really able to appreciate where they live. It seriously is a closed community that screams Wisteria Lane. Every house has a palm tree, and it's really quite nice. India awaits literally outside the front gate. But for all intents and purposes, our camel ride was in Orlando, FL. Susie will post pics.

I've heard a lot of people tease the Erickson's for choosing to live there, but most of them eat their words after India takes its toll. Now I can understand why Alan is less patient when we complain about India. It's easy to leave your troubles at the barricaded gate. No stray dogs. Reduced chance of being run over. Very quiet. Smells decent on the whole. No trash piles. It's a very nice place.

I'm trying to get Ross to move there when Alan leaves, as I think it would be a good place for his pet dog, Doug.

The party was a lot of fun and Alan's wife Kerri had special party favors for Maggie and Dalton: dinosaurs and farm animals. Very thoughtful.

We also had a successful day at Big Bazaar yesterday as well. I finally found a decently priced short sleeved short that felt wonderful at the piano that does not get any A/C exposure. And we also found a great BD present for James! We liked it so much, we got the same present for Ethan. It's a red shirt showcasing both India and cricket.

We also hit Chili's for lunch. My burger came with fries and onion rings, and the kids loved dipping them in ranch dressing, something not found here. We also had our ice cream choc chip cookie dessert we love. My burger was supposed to be sliders but I guess they were out (everything is always out in India) so they cut my burger into four pieces and stuck it with toothpicks!

Our driver used to get a weekday off but he prefers weekends so now he gets Sunday off. So every Sunday is an auto drive to church, which is also fun. I enjoy a good auto ride when I'm not getting ripped off.

A lof of people here complain about corruption. I used to feel so bad for the people here that all their leaders are so corrupt. Yesterday at the BD party the camel-driver wanted double the agreed-upon price when he found out the party was for foreigners. They also tried to take down the bounce house an hour early. I guess the reason corruption exists here is because it exists at all levels, and corrupt leaders can be seen as representative of the whole. Which also says a lot about my own country I suppose.

you probably think this blog is about you, don't you? don't you?: The other day at work I had lunch with the ladies. The conversation turned to Botox, microderm abrasion, liposuction and the newfangled freezing of fat and lasering of fat alternatives, etc, in that vein.

I always considered myself to be mainstream. And part of being mainstream did not include such vanities. But my coworkers seem mainstream, and yet they are into such vanities. I guess more people are down with injecting poison into their skin that I ever realized.

The real beauty of Allergan is that the injections wear off overtime. So the company has a clear annuity stream for the uber-vain, and even for the mainstream vain.

Today I took a sick day, as Dalton and I were both sick. Maggie and Susie went off to some par-tay at Hard Rock Cafe, so I layed in a vegetable state on the couch while Dalton watched Toy Story in his new Buzz Lightyear pj's. Then I put him in his crib while I worked on reviewing the 110 people I work with here. He wouldn't go to sleep but I was done tuckered out so I went to bed and decided he could burn the house down. Luckily Susie came home about that time so it didn't resort to that. I slept for another 4 hours.

The illness isn't horrible, mostly just a sore throat and some head pressure congestion. And it's the first time I've been sick in India, other than the constant plague of Bangalore Belly. But it reminded me that I really don't take that good care of my body. I eat way too much junk at work (fast food), I don't get enough rest (thanks to Dalton's 6 am wake-up calls), and I don't relax on the weekends properly. Today was a nice change of pace to rest and relax. And it was the perfect day for it since work isn't busy and doing that many reviews in the office would have been way more inefficient.

I also got a bonus today for being a Top EY instructor for 2011. It's for a gift card which is pretty useless here in India so it'll be a nice surprise when we get home. I think I'll cash it in at Kohl's so that I can buy new work clothes. The ones here are certainly not coming home with me.

Being sick made me homesick. Usually at home I have a bubble bath and read a book when I'm sick. Not an option here. We are going to Goa in two weeks though, and our hotel has a bath there. Our first bathtub since we came here. I fully intend to utilize. Unlike our other trips, the purpose of Goa is to hole up in the Park Hyatt for four days, and only leave to eat, hit the waterslides and pool, and the beach. This is our resort holiday.

Every time I ask Maggie about Goa she goes into some long soliloquy about a beach called Gondola, where they have swings, a bathtub, rides, animals, etc. I think she's combining the best parts of Pondicherry, Hong Kong, and what she thinks of Goa, into one amazing locale. She has the imagination of twenty kids and it's so much fun to sit back and observe. But she gets embarrassed if you catch her, so the observing must be done stealthily.

Shaun comes in 3 weeks, and we gave him a list of wants. We also ordered some new DVD's off Amazon for him to bring us. It'll be nice to have a broader selection for the kids.

[Comments] (2) three cheers for bollywood: We are all still sick, and have no idea what it is. Sometimes it seems like allergies; other times it seems like a cold; other times it feels like a gremlin is poking around in my body. But today (fingers double crossed) I feel at least like a human being again. All that remains of the sore throat, watery eyes, dry cough, stuffy nose, plugged ears, and headache is the latter. I'd rather have any other symptom linger than the pounding in my head, but at least we're down to one. My apatite has been huge during this drama; I guess it takes a lot to kill a bug. Maggie told me her nose isn't sick anymore but now her eyes are sick. It's going through all of us and will hopefully be over soon. Yesterday I thought I would never feel well again.

But it's Saturday and I was stir-crazy so I took Maggie to a movie, since we are the least sick. I noticed in my vegetative state on the sofa this morning watching Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone 2, and Ice Age that a movie apparently takes my mind off all the sickness in ways books and naps won't. Thanks random India movie channel!

So off we went to Rio. This was our first Bangalore movie. Another expat Mormon here warned us to take sheets to the theater to put on our chairs to avoid the lice. But since the theater we were going to had online booking, I think it caters to a different crowd and did not worry about lice. Of course it took us 30 minutes to get there and another 10 to find the theater in the zoo they call a mall. By that time we had about 20 minutes to showtime, which the queue for tickets and popcorn took up. The queue was a joke, cuz people here are notorious for cutting in line, and the snack bar was hard to navigate. They have two popcorn sizes, including large, which appears to be a cup filled with popcorn for 75 rupees, or a bucket size, which is four times the size of the so-called large and costs 125 rupees. We went for the bucket. They also sell masala popcorn, caramel, and one other scary kind but we stuck with salty. I was hoping against hope to see some Red Vines or Jujifruits but instead they had samosas and egg chutney sandwiches in their place.

After this queue we entered another queue to get our 100-rupee deposit 3D glasses. More on this later. Then AFTER that queue we found a donut and ice cream sandwich stand! Gimme a break. Had I known those options existed, we would not have eaten popcorn for lunch. Next time.

I don't understand 3D movies. The movie is hardly 3D and is not worth the effort of wearing two sets of glasses to watch it with. I prefer non-3D but this was the only choice.

The movie was fun, but they cut it off half-way through. Apparently it was intermission, as I guess the birds needed potty breaks and make-up reapplied. But they didn't SAY it was intermission so I was wondering if perhaps the power went out. People were leaving and Maggie did have to use the bathroom so it all worked out I guess. The bathroom was a reformed club bathroom, complete with fluorescent blue and red lighting that hurt my eyes worse than the 3D movie. Back in the theater, the intermission show was put on by the Bangalore traffic commission. It showed some rather gruesome footage of two-wheelers and autos being torn apart by buses, etc. I guess we all need to be safer, especially since helmets and seat belts don't exist on these vehicles. Ten minutes later the show was back on.

All the commercials and previews have to be approved by some government body, just like in the US. But instead of a green screen notifying me the preview is rated G, they flash some scanned document that makes you think you are scanning police reports or something.

After the movie we found a little candy store that sold M&M's and Skittles! What a find, though quite expensive. I used my 3D glasses deposit monies to buy some for Dalton, since he was deemed too sick to come to the movie.

It was a nice Daddy-daughter afternoon.

hump day: We've spent much of the past week still being sick. We just can't seem to quit this thing.

Today we are half way through our Indian stint. In the mission, this is known as hump day. I suppose it's all downhill from here.

[Comments] (1) take 5: The organ was broken yesterday so I got a break and we got to sing a capella at church. Some of the better informed members have been begging the youth to leave it alone, since they don't know how to play. But the parents don't enforce it, so horseplay they do. I'm not surprised it's broken.

They don't enforce a lot of things here. I spent the day with Dalton in Nursery and a few of the kids there were supposed to be in Primary. They won't go, I'm told. They like Nursery. Well. Perhaps if the parents were in charge and not the kids, they would go where they are supposed to without any alternative made available to them. Just sayin'. An inch today becomes a mile when they are a teenager.

It was a nice weekend. We took the kids to MonkeyMaze on Saturday and had the joint to ourselves. Then we went for lunch at Toit. Yesterday was church and then we went swimming. It was a lazy weekend before our lazy trip to Goa this weekend.

Now that we are all finally recovered from our illness, I like living in India again. Sometimes I like it more than home, mainly because I live close to the office, the work I do is rewarding and less stressful than in the US, and I get more time with my family, what with no commute, a less stressful job, and no yardwork. I never get road rage because I don't drive. I think I would stay even longer if they let me.

[Comments] (3) the office: I can learn a lot at the office. Today we had someone cancel a team meeting because of a death in the family. The email said something about how she could not attend the meeting in an hour because her uncle had expired, she just found out, and needed to rush to the funeral. This had me all sorts of confused.

After I calmed down a bit (this person caused me other busy season trauma) I asked a fellow Indian manager what to think of this. Apparently same day funerals do occur, if the family is all nearby, because they do not normally preserve the body. If you miss the funeral of a family member, you may be ostracized thereafter.

My driver attended the funeral of a friend who was cremated, I told him. And the ashes were put in the river 3 days later. So what was that about? Apparently when someone dies unnaturally, it is a bad omen, so the body is normally cremated and the ashes scattered in an attempt to quell some of that bad luck. My driver's friend was hit by a motorcycle. I guess this impedes this person's ability to have a good afterlife. You'd think Indians would be less cavalier with their driving, given this information, but alas they are not. A cremation also requires a government official to sign off, which normally requires a bribe.

So apparently same-day funerals are a go (not sure how you prepare a plot so quickly), cremations are for the otherwise doomed, and employees are given a lot of leave to accommodate the local culture. I remember when Frances died I think they gave me two days; never mind that I actually had to very actively participate in the funeral arrangements (including spending the night at Kinko's re-doing funeral programs because Anne thought Alan was a Richardson). Some of the perks the people are allotted here make me crazy, because the same perks are not afforded us in the US, and we do the same hard work they do here. I'm glad they get the nice perks, I just wish we could have them in the US as well (ie casual Friday, more generous leave policy, more team outings). Indeed the cost of doing business here is more than just a cheaper salary.

Given all the above, it appears that the outlook on death is more grim here than it is for my culture (ie LDS culture, not necessarily US culture) and I suppose for that I am grateful. The manner of death, for example, has very little to do with your actual pie in the sky.

updated wishlist: I've thought about my list of the good and bad in India I posted in December. I have a few updates to make at this point:

I really miss a bathtub when I'm sick but otherwise the shower is fine. We finally have water pressure in our shower. The food is still hard on all of us. And the hard-tiled floors are hard on Dalton, who got out of the tub on his own the other day, slipped, and bonked his head so hard he blacked out (like he used to a lot at home). I would add to the list that no one lines up here and stores constantly ask for change, which is annoying. Also the bugs in the kitchen. All the other stuff (the traffic, the soi dogs, the power outages, the no camera policy) is tolerable now that I'm used to it.

The list of good things is still good, mostly. It's nice being close to work, the weather is great in Bangalore, and there are still no Jonses to keep up with.

it starts: Dalton woke up as normal, too early, but wasn't screaming. So Susie and I left him in his crib while we rested/leisurely woke up. He appeared to be playing and Maggie was still asleep. Next thing we know, Dalton toddles into our room to say good morning. Now what?

those who can't do, write: I read a lot of articles before I came to India about how India and/or China are the next superpowers and the US will become number two in terms of GDP, etc. After living here for six months, I think the people posturing such positions have never been to India/China.

When it takes 30 minutes to drive 5 miles, when the power is out so long the generator cuts out, two days in a row, all because of a thunderstorm, when grown adults aren't allowed to make grown adult decisions, I think it's fair to say the infrastructure is not yet laid for total world domination. Is the potential there? Sure. But the reality of it all is still 50 years away.

I asked our driver Sandeep if there is anything interesting in Goa besides the beach to visit. He told me about all these temples. I am so templed out. I tried to inquire about other things, but the conversation inevitably turned back to temples. I guess now I know to tread softly when pushing temple square to visitors of my hood. When you can't go inside, when they all look the same, when you feel like you are intruding on someone's communion with the Gods, when you wonder if it's ok to take a picture, it loses some of its charm. Lesson learned.

the other side of heaven: The Goan highlights:

1. Flying during the day for a change.

2. Discovering the Australian store Cookie Man at the airport, which had amazing chocolate chip cookies. We bought a gross and enjoyed them the whole trip. Worth buying airplane tickets just for that!

3. Kingfisher flight. The flight was so Byzantine and anti-India. They served the entire plane a drink before take off and an entire meal in the 45 minutes we were in the air. Amazing! Now if the rest of India can follow suit.

4. The day consisted of private beach every morning. I normally opted to stay back and lounge on the most comfortable chairs ever with umbrellas while one kid played next to me in the sand. I did finally go out to the water with Maggie and we went really far out. The water was warm, the beach was long and shallow, and the waves were not rough.

5. The afternoon was the pool. It is India's largest pool. It is really like five different pools connected by water slides. The water slides were pretty lame but oh well. The pool was heated, not necessary in May, but still nice.

6. Late afternoon Dalton took a nap, Maggie went to kid's club, I hit the gym and wandered the grounds. I seriously felt like I was in Tonga and not India. A clean, beautiful patch of heaven. It was a nice change.

7. At night we would fill the step down tub, which took about 25 minutes, but was fun for the kids. And for us. It reminded me of the SLC Hilton, where Jodi and I would swim in the huge tub during FBLA competitions. But this tub was even bigger.

8. Meal time was normally Italian, because it came with free bread sticks, and was not laced with peppercorns like the fake Italian in Bangalore. The food was pretty good and the service was really good.

A very relaxing four days, but Maggie was the biggest fan of Goa. She says next time we are going for 14 days.

[Comments] (1) when it rains, she snores: The monsoon has arrived! We are loving it. The rain on the plain (or the Deccan plateau) isn't that bad, but man this place cooled down like 15 degrees overnight!

Shaun arrived on TH night, packing extremely light. He didn't take my advice to avoid Air India, avoid all airports other than Bangalore, and to ignore anything an Indian travel agent says. As such, his luggage is stuck in Delhi. This coulda happended to us. We, like Shaun, were assured our luggage was checked through to Bangalore, even though we had to clear customs and immigration in Dehli. We didn't believe them, on the advice of a coworker, and had to uncheck and recheck our luggage. It made it with us to Bangalore. Shaun relied on the kindness of strangers and lost. Rather than putting the luggage on the next available plane, the luggage is spending the weekend in Delhi, for reasons not known. So, faithful readers (ie Susie, who already knows about this), you've been warned.

Yesterday we visited City Market. It was the most disgusting experience I've had in India. They have a car garage, go figure, but there were cows urinating down there and it smelled like a latrine. I wouldn't let Maggie walk. We stayed just long enough to buy some kum kum powder as a wedding gift for Susie's cousin and left for UB City, where I had Spaghetti and Meatballs. UB City has Louis Vitton, Lladro, and Apple Store, Bang & Olufsen, etc. Stuff even I can't afford. We went from rags to riches in 2.3 km.

Maggie accompanied Shaun & I yesterday and seemed to have a good time, probably because she had a green apple shake for lunch and a chocolate dipped ice cream cone from McD's as an afternoon snack.

Speaking of raining and pouring, it's happening at work too. It's been years since I've had a performance bonus but, within the last month, I've had two with the promise of another one on it's way! It's nice to feel appreciated more than anything, but also nice to add to the travel stash!

[Comments] (1) on a sunday: What a day! Shaun didn't get up until 8:30 and was still in the shower at 9. So we left him with a note on how to get to church and left, as I needed to play prelude and we still only got there 5 minutes early. All through Sacrament, no Shaun.

I went with Dalton to get Nursery set up. Alan was in there getting the mats on the ground. The Nursery leaders here are lazy. They start with a lesson, which is a huge mistake we don't make in the states. The kids don't want to go to Nursery when the toys are not out to distract them. So I usually stay through the last minute lesson and the coloring session until the toys come. Then I sneak out.

Well today they kicked me and Alan out. Alan's daughter hates Nursery, so after Alan had been gone 30 seconds, they brought Annie out to him. So why can't we be in there if they aren't going to actually watch our kids? The whole system is messed up and I intend to talk to the Branch President about it.

Well I got my chance. After I played the opening song for EQ, I had a meeting with the Branch President. I am now a YM Advisor. And I am terrified. I can't relate to today's teenagers because I can't text, tweet, or claim entitlement to anything. But my glimpse into the YM here is different from home so it may be a much easier experience for me here in Bangalore. I had to work with the youth SS class back home and I was horribe because I thought they were all brats and I couldn't ever figure out how to make them like church. Everything I tried failed. But I'm willing to try.

During my meeting with the Branch President, I had a call from someone. I called them back after the meeting, only to discover Shaun had just been there trying to find the church. Oops! It was like playing Where's Waldo? or Where in the World is Carmen San Diego. And we were losing.

Came home with still no sign of Shaun. He showed up on our doorstep about ten minutes after we got home. I guess I should have woken him up earlier, but I didn't know I was supposed to wake him up at all. We're going to put a protocol in place so as not to leave him in Goa when the morning train comes to take us to Hampi.

update: We found Shaun. He apparently spent the entire 3-hour block trying to find the church. In other news, he is some good luck. The power has hardly gone out since he got here....

[Comments] (1) best kept secret: The monsoon is India's best kept secret. We were in Goa last week to miss the monsoon and had to sweat it out in the sun. Now I'm here with Shaun in the monsoon and it's a lot cooler and only rained for an hour on our way flying in. Totally worth a little rain for cooler temps. I guess you aren't supposed to go in the water during monsoon though.

We flew in, checked into the Taj in Panaji (hello 5-star hotel at 3-star prices due to low season). We enjoyed the room with some room service. Then this evening we walked about an hour to the Mandovi river boats and went on a sunset cruise out to sea and back. It was nice and the weater was great. Then we walked home and ignored the shouts of "Friend! Taxi!" from the locals.

Dinner was Risotto for me and steak for Shaun. The risotto was amazing and came with real garlic bread (as opposed to India garlic bread where the garlic is huge clove chunks)! And the meal was only 1,000 rupees for two great meals.

The only wierd thing is there is a window from the bathroom into the bedroom. It has a blind and it will forever stay closed. I can't imagine having it open for any reason with anybody. So far the trip is off to a fun start.

[Comments] (2) where in the world is me?: I'm at an internet cafe in Hampi. For 50 cents, or 20 rupees, I get 30 minutes of e-time. It's drizzled rain on and off during our stay here, which has kept the temps cool and dampened our spirits just slightly. Today we saw one too many temples and have now called it quits. In an hour we'll go to dinner, then hit the train station to go back to Bangalore.

The train ride from Goa to Bangalore had EVERYTHING. Rainy jungles, tunnels and waterslides up to the Deccan Plateau, hot, barren wastelands, and the sugar-field oasis of Hampi. The family we sat by was pleasant and I practiced English with them. The aunty was a dentist and the daughter wants to be a cardiologist. Shaun took an Ambien and a nap the whole time, missing the conversation and his chicken biryani. I opted to eat granola and fruit bars from my bag.

The Royal Orchid, our hotel here, here was a good pick. It was only $15 more than the Mallagi we stayed at last time with the family, but is way better. The beds were soooo soft last night I could not get out of it this morning, but sat in it watching Father of the Bride 2 all morning. And it was enclosed without dead bees everywhere like the other hotel. Lastly, it had carpeted hallways and a clean swimming pool. If I ever come back to Hampi, I've found my hotel.

It's been nice not to have a tour guide and move at our own pace. But being slow season, all the tour guides have hit us up for employment. Tonight we take the first class train home, first time, and we'll see if it's worth the extra $20 it costs.

back at the ranch: Made it home safely yesterday morning. First class night train back to Bangalore was great. The berths are bigger so my feet didn't dangle off the edges. And we only had one other bunkmate that arrived right before we went to bed.

We ate every meal at Mango Tree in Hampi and it was divine. Shaun really enjoyed Hampi and had to buy a new memory card he took so many pictures.

Yesterday we hit the Shiva Temple and Papa John's. Today is off to District Conference, and Shaun leaves this evening. Then tomorrow it's back to the grind for me. Actually, I've already been back to the grind. I had 114 new emails to go through and I spent 6 hours at work last night getting caught up so I'm ready for Monday.

At the train station our tickets only said confirmed with no seat number or berth/seat number. While waiting for the train in the A/C room we met a man with an iphone and another with an ipod and they looked our reservations up on their respective gadgets and gave us our berth numbers. This is something the jokers working there were unable to do. The Hampi station has electronic signs telling you where your car will stop. Of course it was about 10 cars off, leading to bedlam. A nice boy selling mags helped us find our car and seats, so we bought his Newsweek for 250 rupees. Later on I noticed the price on the mag said 100 rupees. It never ends.

The magazine was interesting. There was a whole article on the misconception that everyone is poor in India. I know that's not true. The Indian gentlemen in our waiting room had fancier gadgets than I do. But we foreigners still seem to be the first go-to for alms. I took all the change from home and used it all up giving it to people. Now it's time to accumulate more.

Hampi was so much better in June. The hotel was swank and the rain made the weather quite pleasant. My second experience was so nice I would go again. The ambien Shaun gave me to sleep on the train may have something to do with it. Being a first time user, I only took a half-pill. I think I'll avoid the sauce going forward; don't need any sort of addiction problem.

Back to watching our new Mickey Mouse show with the kids. They sure are happy to have new shows to watch!

paternal instincts: I am teaching the training to our people who have completed roughly one year of service with the firm. Yesterday they were assigned a case study to work on for one hour. I asked and asked and asked who needed help with the case study but no one was biting. Later I walked around to see how things were going, only to see people emailing and IM'ing the case study to each other. Sure enough, when I started getting memos from people, many of them had the exact same wrong answers, in the exact same font, with the exact same words misspelled. I was really disappointed in them.

Being new to the training program, I was bewildered by this. I have no idea if this takes place in the US; it probably does to some degree. But I've also been told that the University education system here is quite corrupt so they learned these bad skills there. It's really sad. It becomes very clear in training who cares about their career and who doesn't.

The rains have led to interesting weather. Tonight Susie and I took a constitutional, and it was windy and cold! It felt like a crisp, October evening back home, and we both wanted a jacket. I would never have expected such weather, in June, in the tropics! I think my body is thoroughly confused about the seasons living in India.

Tonight Maggie wouldn't stop talking about camping. She has decided that tomorrow we are going camping for a long day. Too bad I'll be at work. I wonder how Susie will make a pup tent here in the apartment. People live in them outside but I don't think that is the kind of camping Maggie has in mind. Thanks to Shaun, we at least have a bag of marshmellow that can be roasted over the stove!

[Comments] (1) the view: My personal observations of Facebook and contradictions in my own life. I have been so tired lately. Nothing seems to help. So last night I forced myself to work out. You know what? I feel less tired today and got up with the kids at 7. I don't understand it, but I guess I'll keep forcing myself to hit the gym.

A lot of pregnant women are UPSET because their babies came on time instead of early. I don't get this either. Firstly, isn't it better for the baby to keep cooking? What else in life do we get upset about if it comes on time? Do we get mad at planes that leave on time instead of early? What about TV shows? Monday Mornings? It seems ludicrous to me to wish for such things.

A lot of blogs I follow lately have been talking about money. The universal conversation point. One friend says she just has to get a job because they can't live off her husband's lawyer salary, even though they have no kids and live in her parent's basement. Many other in this vein. I'm having a really hard time understanding how my parent's raised 5 kids on a school teacher's salary. And we had a home, food on the table, the occasional trip to Disneyland, etc. Has the world changed that much? I normally want for nothing so I really don't know what to think.

My brother just got a new jeep. I need a new car when I go home. Maybe I should get a jeep.

A lot of conservatives are complaining about their health insurance. I'm pleased to see people from both political spectrums see a broken system in place. Name one other service in the world where you would use that service without getting a price quote in advance?

There seems to be a disproportionate number of deaths in India over at home. This last week both our maid and driver needed time off for a funeral. It must be difficult.

Summer is starting in the US. Here, it's ending. School is back in session, and the days are growing colder. My coworker told me I would not need jeans or long sleeves here, but I brought some anyway. I'm glad I did. It's long-sleeve weather today. I never expected this kind of weather in the Tropics!

I can't remember the last time someone in my family emailed me or called us. I suppose I'm not surprised that we are not missed; we are the lame ones in the family. I also haven't reached out to anyone myself, other than constantly posting pictures on our picture blog. But I thought my cute kids would keep em coming. I guess cabin season explains why mom and dad have not contacted us in weeks.

[Comments] (4) anything you can do....: Susie's newest hobby (or new to me at least) is complaining about me to other people. One of her biggest complaints is that I don't take both kids anywhere, because I'm afraid or something. So today when Susie toddled off to Guilt & Lies meeting at church, I took it upon myself to play superdad for the afternoon.

We went to Leela Palace and bowled. Maggie and Dalton were both so excited and were good at taking turns. We got an 82 & 80 the two times we bowled, which was higher than the Indians next to us, except one of them got a 90. The bowling cost us $8 for two frames, which I think is really cheap compared to the US. The kids didn't have to wear shoes (they don't have their size) but I did. They seemed as clean as shoes in the US at least.

The cashier would only sell me two games rather than one game with two players because he insisted the kids couldn't play. I proved him wrong. Why he cares what I want to buy I don't know, but TII (this is India).

We also bought 10 tokens for $2 and played a race car game, a crappy game of air hockey (because the air was mostly missing) and let the kids ride on a toy. That is, let Maggie ride on a toy. Dalton only likes them when they are stationary. Then we had lunch of BBQ chicken pizza, french fries, green apple milkshake, and chocolate coconut brownie milkshake.

Then I let the kids run wild on the patch of grass the hotel has, because it's the only one in the whole city. Then we came home.

I wonder what she'll complain about next....

[Comments] (1) the missing link: Today was my first day in YM. Either they are very respectful young men or they are just shy. My memories of young men's include leaning the chairs back against the wall, not paying attention, and being rowdy and obnoxious. This class was nothing but crickets. I intend to try and fix such quietness without going all the way to full-blown rowdiness when I teach next week.

I'm not sure what makes them quiet. Culture? Actually being humble human beings, unlike my American cohorts? A combination of both most likely. They all seem like very nice young men, but I wonder what challenges they encounter being Christian, and LDS, in a non-Christian society.

There are Mormonads hanging from the ceiling. I remember Mormonads from my day. They were garish and brightly colored because, well, they were a product, mostly, of the early 90's. Some of them were extremely clever but most were horrid. And now they hang from the ceiling. I haven't noticed them hanging in US chapels for years now, so I guess we shipped them all over here. Hence the missing link.

The teacher today is actually from Ivory Coast. He just finished University here and goes back home in September. I tried not to think of him as a poor thing; after all, he tells me they have a temple in Ghana which is more than I can say for the members here. I think the African saints may have it better in a lot of ways from the Indian Saints, actually.

I got myself in a pickle talking to him after class. My friend who grew up across the street served his mission in Ivory Coast. His name is Adam Whalquist. His last name is Dutch but he's actually Indian. I mean, Native American. Over here, the distinction is more critical than in UT, where we really only have the latter and can get away with not being PC and everyone knows what we mean.

[Comments] (2) a true expat: Today I had a truly expat experience. I spent the afternoon at Manipal Hospital. For over a month now, I've been having chest pain. I assumed it was from some Indian bug or other and quietly waited for it to pass. Rather than pass, the chest pain grew more constant and added a few friends: numbness in my upper arms, tingling in my fingers, stabbing pain in my shoulders, and fatigue. Today I'd had enough.

The hospital scared me at first. There were so many people there! I found the ER, because I didn't have any sort of doctor appointment, and waited in line where it said to register. The registration desk pushed me in the ER, where everyone asked who I wanted to visit. I convinced them I was there for me only, and they shooed me upstairs to the general physicians office, since I wasn't bleeding.

Still bewildered, I found the place, stood in line again, to be told I needed to register with the hospital. I went back to the front desk, filled out some papers, paid 500 rupees, and was now official. They gave me a frequent customer rewards card of some sort, with my name on it even, and sent me back upstairs. I also had to promise to bring my passport next time.

Back upstairs, all official, I waited about 10 minutes and passed the time with Sudoku. I went in to a rather dire doctor's office; the poor guy has nothing but dim flourescent lighting and windowless concrete walls. I told him my story, showed him my tongue, my chest (no legions; I think I would have told you otherwise), and he gave me a paper with instructions for an ECG. Back downstairs to cardiology. I paid 180 rupees for an ECG, again went down another hallway, took off my shirt and received my heart beat on paper.

Back upstairs to see the doctor. The good news is my heart seems fine. But he's concerned my heartbeat is too low, as my resting beat is only 63 bpm. He potentially suspects a hypothyroid, which would explain away most of the symptoms. But we won't know until tomorrow. In the morning, back to the lab, pay some more rupees, get my blood drawn (on an empty stomach), come back that afternoon for the results, and then back to visit the good doctor.

It's an interesting process, to say the least, especially if the situation were more dire, but honestly I saw the doctor pretty quickly considering I had no appointment. And the whole experience only cost $14. My driver Sandeep hasn't been to this hospital because it's too expensive. And he's right; my $14 is almost 3 days pay for him.

I'm nervous but also anxious to figure this out. Though I don't want a thyroid problem, I'd love an answer that modern medicine can fix so I can get back to my semi-normal life. I survived the Indian hospital, and now hope to survive whatever is affecting me. It's really interfering with my life; I hope we don't have to come home early over this, only to get no answers in the US. Being sick is the pits.

[Comments] (1) this old body: Went and got poked and prodded at the hospital bright and early Saturday morning. Unlike Friday night, the lab was packed! We had a commitment an hour later and it wasn't looking good. I took a number, 84, but they were only on 56 and were taking their sweet time. Ten minutes later, they hit 65, and I realized this was NOT how I planned to spend my day. I saw a sign saying people with infants could cut in line so I grabbed Dalton and went to pay. They still made me wait another 5 minutes but saw me ahead of time. It was about $30 for the B12, thyroid, and glucose tests. After the payment line, I walked right in, got stuck with a needle with Dalton between my knees, and left. Apparently the payment line is the bottleneck.

The lady seemed upset when I paid with a credit card that had my name, the same as the patient's name. Maybe the infant sign is only if your infant is getting poked, but the sign didn't say that.

We left to see Cars 2. I liked it fine. Susie did not, however. It was a Pixar James Bond. Maggie watched the whole thing but Dalton lost interest fast. This is his first movie since he was 3 months old so I thought he would be more intrigued. But he was not.

During intermission at this theater, they take your food order. But I was too distraught to eat. At the end of the movie, Dalton made friends with the other white family in the theater, a couple with two small boys. They are from AR and are here doing something, humanitarian whatnot. I don't know how humanitarian work pays for anything, but they've been here 3.5 years and had both boys here. Now they can't be President. They didn't say how much longer they are staying in India.

I came home and took a nap to take my mind off things. Then went back for my blood tests, and they were ready at 4 when I got there rather than at 6 like they told me. I thought so. Then back to the doctor. Thyroid, et al is normal. So I'm taking the GERT medicine he gave me, even though I don't think that's it. But who knows. I was both relieved and frustrated, and am planning my next move.

On the way home I endured the scariest rain storm of my life. The rain was so loud Sandeep and I couldn't talk in the car to each other. So I watched him drive. Some parts of 80 foot road were totally flooded and I fully expected water to come in the car. The good news about heavy rain is only the brave (and/or stupid) were out on the road so we had it all to ourselves. The water was spraying everywhere, often into auto ricks taking shelter from the rain. We thoroughly drenched these people. I invited Sandeep to wait out the rain in our house but he declined. Of course it stopped raining 2 minutes after I ran from the car to the house in the rain.

Today I felt a little better in some ways, but had a headache most of the day. But I made myself go to church to play the piano and to teach YM. I taught one deacon and four teachers, all with Christian names (of a sort) so I actually remember them all: Alvin, Kevin, Romario, Timothy, and StephenRaj (no clue if it's one word or two).

I started class by talking to them about life for a teenager in the US versus their life. None of them go to the same school so they are the sole LDS students. Most didn't care. But Timothy is from the state next to Myanmar and his family was converted in Bangalore. We have no church up there and his family doesn't understand our church at all, especially when it comes to tea and coffee. I told them I experience the same thing at work when I say I don't drink because I'm Christian but all the other Christians do in fact drink. It's hard to explain it all, but none of them felt persecuted for their beliefs.

Only one of them has a Facebook (or even internet, or a computer, for that matter, in their home). Also, all of them come from families that are members. It's a different world in India than most of the world, I'd imagine. Even the Hong Kongers had those things, but probably over half of the HK YM were the only members in their families. I gave them each a Skittle to try, since Maggie and Dalton didn't eat them all in Sacrament Meeting, and taught them some Chinese.

I played Come Come Ye Saints today and it made me wax nostalgic so I came home and watched a Joseph Smith movie on YouTube. I was looking for Legacy but couldn't find it. This movie made me cry.

[Comments] (1) 14322 Mayfield Dr: I miss my house. I miss walking in a nice neighborhood in the evenings to clear my head and relieve my chest pain. I miss walking down the street, not worrying about whether or not I'll step on a street dog, or a cow pie, or a hole into the sewer, or get hit by an auto, or have to watch people go to the bathroom. I miss sidewalks. Real sidewalks. I miss houses with flowers in their front yard instead of trash. I miss suburbia.

We've been out of our house for a year now but in India for only seven months. So I wonder if the seven month mark is the difficult part, or if it is normally longer if you aren't homeless for 5 months.

I am teaching training this week and today I finished teaching my part at 4 so my Indian co-instructor excused me to come home and rest. It was a very nice gesture and I appreciate it.

Thursday after training I'm going to endure an hour car ride to visit a nice hospital this time for a second opinion. I'm told people from all over the world come to this hospital because it's new, meaning good equipment, younger doctors, clean waiting rooms, and cheap surgeries. I'm curious to see that. I'm just going for an ECG, chest x-ray, and maybe a blood test or a pH test. Hopefully I'll get a better prognosis and better bedside assistance this time.

The kids have been so adorable lately. They love to snuggle. I'm just glad they are still healthy and seem to enjoy it here. Dalton is doing great in Nursery.

[Comments] (6) my side of the story: My nephew plays the part of a troll on FB a lot. We'll call him Jean Valjean, because that's not his name. His latest rant is that it should be illegal for parents to force their kids to go to church.

Right. Firstly, I doubt anyone holds a gun to their kids' head to go to church. Secondly, they probably tell their kid it's fine to skip church, but they are denying them a cell phone if they choose that path. Maybe that's the equivalent to holding a gun to their head. Who knows. Thirdly, parents are often required force their kids to do stuff. I forced Maggie to take all her Malaria pills after our Goa trip, even though she didn't want to. Should that be illegal? After all, I place just as much importance on Maggie learning about Jesus Christ as I do about her not contracting malaria.

Yet again, the parents with all the answers are the ones that don't have kids. Or in this case, are kids.

India's out. for. the sum-mer.: India's out. For. Ever.

The entire country is devoid of expats! Except for us of course. Apparently Bangalore is akin to NYC and the greater US is akin to the East Hamptons, because everyone's gone home for the summer. Had we known originally this is how things are here, I may have kept our original airplane bookings and come home for some time in July. Or at least let Susie come home. It's lonely here otherwise.

At church Brother Van is still there but his family is home for the summer. He was really surprised that we are still here. But we didn't know any better so here we are. All the Mormon families are back home. I asked Brother Van if he's lonely but he works six days a week so he keeps busy.

In honor of the summertime void in Bangalore, we are currently offering huge incentives for visitors, including deep discounting of plane tickets (I guess it's more of a subsidy), free room and board at the famous Salurpuria Silverwoods Residence (otherwise known as our apartment), free airport transfers and in-town limo service (ok it's a crappy Tata Indigo but our driver speaks English), all in exchange for a quick visit and a bag full of Pop-Tarts, marshmellows, diapers, tortillas, and cheese. Even Travelocity can't compare!

It's been a beautiful weekened of lunch at Tuscano's with all the remaining expats in India, play place with the kids (wannabe Chuck E Cheese but some of the rides say Chuck E Cheese on them), church via auto (we actually caught one home today in less than two minutes!), exercising, and watching movies on teevee.

Three new coaches got here this weekend and my new assistant gets here in two weeks. I'm excited for the energy they will bring, as the rest of us coaches are really jaded right now. But most of the blame for my bad attitude is with this unkown disease that refuses to die. I think if it cleared up I could be a happy camper again.

[Comments] (2) the burning fire of patriotism: I didn't do anything overly-patriotic today. But I did cut out of work early for a massage. It's so nice to have $30 massage parlors here. It felt great and, after the stress of my unknown ailments, really calmed me down.

On the way home Sandeep asked about what a massage is. He also asked me if it is performed by a machine. I heard him say mission at first and was very confused until he defined machine for me. I told him it's a person performing the massage. He says he would like to try a massage some time. I think I should more fully disclose the details of a masssage because I'm not exactly sure he would like it. I would think a very traditional man like Sandeep might be uncomfortable wearing a towel and getting rubbed by a strange woman. In fact, this was the 3rd massage of my life (2nd only in India) and it was the first time I wasn't uncomfortable getting naked to get rubbed down.

My last massage was in March. I think I'll need another one sooner than that. It really did wonders for my Indian troubles.

[Comments] (2) at the gym: Indian's seem to have an interesting way of working out. For starters, I have yet to see an Indian run on the treadmill for more than 5 minutes. Some people only walk on the treadmill for 5 minutes and call it a day. The others will walk for 3 minutes, run for 2, repeat twice, and call it a day. They can't seem to commit to really working out. They never break a sweat.

Indians also don't appear to know to use weight machines. They CONSTANTLY drop the weights and let the machine go KA-BOOM on itself. A big no-no in the US. Most gyms have signs about this. For starters, it's hard on the weights and usually breaks the machines. For seconds, it's extremely disturbing and rude to the other gymnasts in the vicinity to be disrupted with an atomic noise when they are in the zone. For thirders, I don't think they realize that half of the weight resistance workout that is good for you comes in the timed release of the weights back to a resting position. That is, muscle mass is not made simply by lifting the weight, but also by properly dropping the weights. What a joke.

Most of them do not have proper workout clothes (jeans, collared polyester shirts, pajamas) and they always come in and turn off the ceiling fans. Which is actually rude. I had them on for a reason. At least leave the fan ABOVE me on. I guess when you don't actually work out you don't need any sort of cool-down mechanism.

The pool regimen is my favorite. They get all gussied up, do like 4 laps, and retreat to the shower. Seems like a lot of work for 4 laps only. Most people in India don't even know how to swim. I wonder what PE is like in school here.

I guess the distance running problem relates to the fact that there is nowhere in India to run. No nice tracks, no parks with proper trails, and running alongside the road is utterly out of the question.

[Comments] (2) all alone in my memories: Last night Maggie called me into the bathroom, where she was having a bubble bath. Daddy, she says, remember when I was a baby and you were just a kid and you tickled me and I laughed?

[Comments] (5) this is only a test: I've heard, either directly or through the grapevine, that people say things like "I would come and visit you anywhere except India. I don't want to go to India."

Well let's test this theory, shall we? If I were in Siberia, would you come visit me? How about Pakistan? The Middle East? China (not civilized China like Hong Kong, mind you)? Ghana? Cuba? Croatia? Would you honestly come visit me in these places?

Let's further test this theory. EY is starting another Global Talent Hub in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They are giving priority for coaching opportunities to those who have extensive knowledge and first hand experience with our Indian Global Talent Hub. Namely, me, among other people. I've shown some interest but am ultimately still deciding on this.

Part of me thinks it's a great opportunity. Part of me thinks BA would be eaiser than India. But part of me becomes weary at yet another stint in a 3rd world country.

It would be easier because: the food would be more suitable, the time difference from home is much less, the LDS church is huge there, including a temple, making for a more friendly environment for me, the new office will be downtown instead of this horrible location we have here on the edge of town, meaning getting around without a car would be easier instead of impossible like it is here, and I've got to believe it's less dirty than India in terms of littering and viewing the country as a toilet.

Things that would make it harder include switching seasons on myself, it gets much colder in BA, the English population is probably much less than in India, and I would think the expat community is less established, though I have no true understanding of this last point.

So. BA, Argentina. Anyone willing to come visit there? Or when you meant anywhere but India, did you have images of the Eiffel Tower, the Sistine Chapel, and/or Big Ben in your mind? If so, it's ok. I understand. Don't cry for me.

[Comments] (5) table for four: The kids sure have been a lot of fun lately! We discovered some game on our computer called Furble Place or something like that that, I assume, came with the computer. One of the games is making cakes on a conveyor belt to match the pictured cake provided for delivery. Maggie LOVES watching me do this over and over. It's actually a challenge, on the harder level, juggling multiple cakes all in different stages of assembly simultaneously. But on the easy setting, I discovered that Maggie can play the game all by herself. She waited until we were all ready to watch her in action today and was quite proud of herself.

Dalton appears to be getting all the rest of his teeth in one fell swoop right now and is suffering through the whole process. The poor guy whines all day so his mouth must be severely paining right now.

This weekend we plan to go get pictures taken in our Indian garb and attempt to eat at an Italian place that, rumor has it, makes Mexican food on the side that is much better than their Italian food. Then the following weekend, for my birthday, we will go see Harry Potter and eat sushi. Other than that, we are counting down the days until our jaunt across the Bay of Bengal to Bangkok (17 days!)

[Comments] (3) which is worse?: I'm sick again. So is Dalton. I've missed two days of work and today Dalton and I stayed home from church. We took a nice warm bath in our swimming pool that fits in our shower, I pushed him in the stroller around the complex a few times, we watched Toy Story 3, and then he went down for a nap while I did the dishes and read my scriptures. Then when Susie and Maggie came home I took a nap.

I'm tired of being sick, but it's the new norm for me. The chest pain is still hanging around, and it's now been over two months of fun. So I have pretty much forgotten what it's like to actually feel good. I guess now I know how my dad feels, and how my mother-in-law felt before she passed away. It really is the pits, to not feel well.

This evening the YM President, EQ President, Branch Second Counsellor, and Executive Secretary all came to give me a blessing. I didn't expect such an entourage. The Branch Second Counsellor has been in Colombia since February-ish and this is the first time I've seen him. He was supposed to stay there until December but his wife is expecting so she couldn't join him so they finally sent him home.

I asked him how is Colombia. He said the people and climate were nice, that the Amazon scenery outside the city is great, but no one speaks English and the food is too bland. He brought his own spices.

I wonder which is worse. Bland food, when you like spice, or spicy food, when you like bland. Spicy food is hard because if it's too spicy you can't taste it anyway, so it's similar to bland food in that respect. I think it's too hard to say which is worse.

He said people there make something similar to a tortilla and put cheese on it and eat it. Too bland? Sounds like heaven to me! How can cheese be too bland?

[Comments] (2) typical indian experience: So I've gotten a smoothie to complement my cabbage salad the last two days for lunch here at work. Yesterday's was free, thanks to my punch card. And today I used my EY-provided meal vouchers. Both days they have been out of lids.

Today the drink was overflowing my cup and there was still a whole other serving left in the blender. Meaning my smoothie was runny but otherwise tasted fine to me. I went for a stroll this afternoon as a break from work and the jus booster guy came up to me, apologized for the horrible drink, and gave me a free one sans lid. I should have told him I wanted the free one next time, not now, as I'm actually full. And I can't take it home because of the whole out of lids extravaganza. So today I got two smoothies. I should have at least asked for a different flavor. What a day.

[Comments] (3) just kidding: Today has been quite the day; I haven't felt like this since I was 10! It started with Maggie hiding from me this morning, continued with siblings fighting over who loves me more on Facebook, went on to a video chat with mom and dad, and culminated at work.

Firstly a decision was made to call a tax meeting at noon. It wasn't really a tax meeting but was a birthday party for me. Then an email went out this morning asking everyone to pretend it was not my birthday and pretend they forgot until the party. Unfortunately I was copied on the email...lol...but played along.

In India the custom for a BD is to treat your friends, the opposite of my preferred homeland style. But to fit in, Susie and Kannagi baked 130 cookies for me to bring to work. So around 11 I started passing them out. I guess that ruined the "pretend it's not John's BD" so they decided right then and there to move the tax meeting to immediately.

In the meeting they said I was to do the training, ie were teasing me. I tried to play along and act like I didn't know I was conducting training today, etc until they started singing Happy Birthday to me. I have no idea how good my acting is.

I was given a gift of a beautiful Indian outfit that is much much nicer than the one I picked out for myself, flowers, and a crown. There I was, dressed to the nines, wearing a tiara, holding a bouquet of flowers, people clapping, I felt like Miss America. Then it was my turn to perform, so I sang Lady Gaga's Poker Face and threw in a few actions to appease the masses. They literally ate it up. I wonder how many of them know of our Lady Gaga.

I leave for home in 10 minutes, then it's off to see Harry Potter. And tomorrow we will go to UB City for my favorite, sushi. It's stacking up to be a great weekend!

[Comments] (5) i write the songs: Last night Susie and I watched Slumdog Millionaire. We ordered it from Amazon with a bunch of kids shows and a series to help keep boredom from creeping into our lives. When it arrived, I noticed it is rated R. Oops.

I decided to watch it anyway, and vowed to turn it off if it disagreed with me. I didn't tell Susie, who wasn't really watching anyway. I really enjoyed it and can relate to basically all parts of that show. It's a pretty good flik and I can see why it won Best Picture a few years back.

Afterwards I informed Susie of the rating and at first she didn't believe me. But the violence was no overly gory, there was hardly any swearing at all, the nudity was nil, and none of it was different from anything I can see at any given moment out on the streets of Bangalore. How can they possibly rate it R? We both agree we've seen way worse PG-13 movies, including Titanic, Jurassic Park, X-Men, that are more gory than that. Shame on the rating system.

This mostly upsets me because it open a whole new can of worms regarding rated R films for me. What other ones should I ignore the rating on? Which PG-13 movies should I more carefully study before I watch them? And the only way to REALLY determine if it's ok is to watch it, as one person's smut is another person's de-sensification.

Yesterday we also had all you can eat sushi and dim sum for lunch. It was Susie's first time having dim sum and she survived it ok, but refused to eat any fish. Maggie had a shrimp dumpling and gobbled it down, and also ate a cucumber sushi roll. The restaurant is insane....they never stopped bringing us food! For $55 we thoroughly stuffed ourselves and enjoyed a great view not only of Bangalore, but also of the biggest Buddha head I've ever seen! We took pictures but Susie hasn't posted them yet. Thanks for the BD money mom and dad, it was well spent on a good meal.

I also watched Follow that Bird yesterday with the kids and they both liked it and it got a song stuck in Susie's head the rest of the day, even though she wasn't watching it. Susie's a lot like my mom in the whole not watching shows with the kids thing. But Dalton really enjoys having a watching companion and sat on my lap the whole movie. To be fair to the movie raters, Follow that Bird deserved its G rating.

Checkmate!: I suppose it's time somebody finds out what one night in Bangkok really does to a person. I'm volunteering to be said person. Thailand here we come!

one night in Bangkok: We flew all day to get to Bangkok. First we had to get up around 6 am to get to the airport and fly domestic to Mumbai. Our first glitch came at check in, when they informed us our carry on luggage was too heavy. We had two small suitcases and two backpacks for 3 seats. That seems fine to me. So we put all the heavy stuff in our backpacks, since they don't weigh those, threw a small fit, and then they allowed us not to check anything. Flight was late so we only had a two-hour layover in Mumbai. Once there, we were shuttled from the domestic terminal to the international terminal. That took about an hour. Then immigration, security again, and made it to our flight just in time for boarding.

The second plane to Bangkok was weird. No first class. We were on the second row, which was nice. The plane was overloaded with white people; I haven't seen so many in months, eight to be exact. This flight seemed to last forever, even if it was only 4.5 hours. I tried to watch teevee, but I couldn't get the gist of the channels. I did manage to watch an old school season 1 Simpsons episode and also struggled through an episode of some show called "How I met your mother." Susie watched some Bollywood flik.

Finally in Bangkok at dusk. They have these odd escalators that take you halfway down a level, level out for about 20 paces, then continue on down again. The airport is huge and we got lost, but managed to find a Dunkin Donuts for some much needed sustenance before our trek into town.

Susie and I have been trying to decide what aspects of Bangkok are similar to the Kong, India, Malaysia, and distinct to Thailand itself. On first blush the city seemed like India: the taxis are green and yellow like an auto in India, and they also paint the curbs black and white here. But the comparison quickly ended. Unlike India, Bangkok has FREEWAYS! Without potholes! Without speedbumps! And people have lane discipline. And people don't honk their horns. Amazing!

We got to our hotel around 8:30 and checked in and couldn't have been happier. The hotel is in the middle of the shopping district, next to the Skytrain, had carpet, a couch for Maggie to sleep on, a cot for Dalton, lots of space, and a bathtub! Which I used every night! The bed was hard as a rock but that's Asia. We were on the 9th floor and enjoyed a decent view.

Other observations of the first night include the fact that Thai people love our kids, just like Indians, but they also have a sense of decorum and personal space and normally admired from a small distance. Which the kids seemed to appreciate. Also, the autos here are more open air than in India, are bigger, and MUCH more colorful. It seems the auto (or tuk tuk) driver can color his auto however he wishes. Which is normally in bright, fluorescent colors, pink being the primary one used. That is a distinct Thai feature.

One night in Bangkok leaves you wondering what took you so long to come.

two nights in Bangkok: That first day we slept until about 9 am then ventured out to hit the malls surrounding us. Literally a ring of malls connected by covered elevated walkways all the way around our hotel. The Paragon wants for nothing. Though the actual shopping stores were not to our tastes, the food court is divine. Burger King, McD's, Krispy Kreme, Dunkin Donuts, Famous Amos, Mexican food!, Asian food, gelato gelato gelato, Italian, Tony Roma's, Japanese, and a huge Supermarket with everything. Problem with the supermarket is all the imported stuff was so expensive. That first day we ate Mexican food (fish tacos for me!) and I had gelato while Susie had a Cinnabon.

The bottom two floors of the mall are an aquarium so we went there with the kids. Our ticket included a fish spa experience that was so much fun. I went with Maggie and it those little fish sure do tickle as they nibble on your skin. I enjoyed that. We also fed shrimp to fish and sharks on a glass bottom boat. That night we went swimming and then Susie went exploring the night life while I put the kids to bed.

We were shivering in the pool at night. I did not expect to be COLD in Bangkok in July. Once again, the people were all so polite and kind to the kids. And there were more white people in the mall alone than in all of India. At the Mexican restaurant, for example, the group next to us was from Huntington Beach. They were here modelling and were deciding if they were willing to be topless in some of the shots later that day. That side of Bangkok seems particularly Thai; India is much more conservative in that respect.

Two nights in Bangkok make you want to move there!

three nights in Bangkok: Today we had a tour up to Siam, the ancient capital of Thailand. The drive was a nice chance to see the city and the countryside both, but it was awfully early in the morning. We had to wake the kids up and paid the price for that all day. The chocolate milk for 7-11helped; we can't get that here. 7-11 is also huge in the Kong, but I haven't seen one in India. Apparently 7-11 is huger in Bangkok than even back in the states.

What a beautiful country. No trash anywhere. And lots of stand alone houses. I think the people here (and country as a whole) has more money than India to support infrastructure. Having a better tourist policy than India probably helps, as that brings in more money.

The summer palace was wonderful! Topiaries, grass, water monitors, peace and quiet. The Chinese influence here was huge. Another Chinese influence is that almost all signs are in Chinese and Thai, with some also in English.

Onto some ruins, then a lunch boat ride back into Bangkok. The river into Bangkok was very relaxing. When we passed under bridges, you could reach up and touch the bridges. Not a lot of clearance space indeed. The food on the boat was absolutely amazing. I'm told it's not real Thai food as that would be too spicy anyhow. The kids rode a regal elephant all dressed to the nines also. Once again, the Thais know how to cater to the foreigners better. The elephants are bigger than in India here.

Dinner this night was pretzel dogs and cinnamon sugar pretzels. I was doing my very best to not overindulge at all the choices I don't have here in India.

Three nights in Bangkok leaves you dizzy and exhausted. It's a lot to take in.

four nights in Bangkok: Today we hit the Safari and Ocean Park. It rained all day but we wore hats, bought an umbrella, and survived. It really turns the humidity up a notch when it rains, and our rain coats were useless as they were too uncomfortable in that kind of humidity.

The kids LOVED the safari. Camels coming to our car window even. We got to feed giraffes, which was totally awesome, and also fed some parakeets. They also have baby tiger cubs you can feed but they were napping when we were there. Since the cubs were asleep in their unlocked cages, Maggie and I reached in and petted them. A little scary, I must admit, but also totally awesome. This zoo really let us get up close to the animals.

Today's cuisine was Mos Hamburgers (a Japanese chain but I just waned a non-McD's hamburger) and it was good. We hit Dunkin Donuts because it's half the price as Krispy Kreme without a 10 minute line. People here sure love Krispy Kreme. It's always packed. We also bought some food items to bring home, mostly some Campbell's soup and saltine crackers, things we can't get here that weren't insane price wise. They had raspberries and I was so tempted but it was $10 for a small box.

We found another mall that had touristy stuff and bought some paintings and Thai t-shirts here.

I think the country is most like Malaysia, which makes sense as they are border countries. Lush, green, wet, humid.

Four nights in Bangkok makes you seriously consider an office transfer, but only when you are safe out of the humidity.

[Comments] (1) all good things coming to an end: Before our flight last night we hit Lumphini Park in the rain, then did some shopping, had one last fix of good food (guacamole and chips!) then it was back to the airport. We rode the SkyTrain to the park and everyone is so polite and lets people get off the train before getting on, and people also helped us buy our tickets correctly. Friendly people; you don't see that on the subway in the Kong. Thailand confiscated our sunscreen and toothpaste, even though India let us bring it into the country. I'm not sure how all these different types of security procedures work. To leave America I have to take off my shoes and belt but to get back in I don't have to, for example. So what's the point? For whose benefit do I do all this?

We flew to Calcutta in clouds that thinned just as we hit the Mouth of the Ganges. It was beautiful. Calcutta required us to deplane, ride a shuttle 20 paces to the international terminal, get reinstated in India, go outside and walk 5 minutes in horrid humidity to the domestic terminal, check back in (they tried to take my Chicken Noodle soup but I held firm) only to take a shuttle back to the same plane I just got off of! Seriously! Our seats were the same row but opposite side of the plane. What an experience.

Calcutta wasn't as horrid an airport as I'd heard tell. It's nicer than Goa, but the fire alarm was going off the whole time we were there. Being on the same plane and all, the service changed as we were now on a "cheap" Kinfisher leg. So even though the first leg had blankets, pillows, wet wipes, and teevees, and it was the same plane, they discontinued all these for the cheap flight. What a joke.

We flew to Hyderabad for a 30-minute layover but stayed on the plane while the kids slept. Then home to Bangalore and went to bed around midnight.

It was night and day difference being back in India. Everyone on the plane was grabbing the kids and so they were screaming. And people on the airplane were pushing and shoving in line to get off the plane, not waiting for the seatbelt light to go off, pushing and shoving through immigration, etc. I've been told we value least what we have most, and since what India has most is people, there is no value in being polite on an airplane. It's an interesting culture.

Now it's busy season but we head to Kerala, the southern tip of India, for Susie's BD in Sept and then onto Dubai for Dalton's BD in October, then we'll be heading home. Time flies when you fly.

[Comments] (2) wishful drinking: I was just reminiscing about Bangkok and telling a coworker about the fabulous pumpkin pie you can get there! It reminded me of the Mexican restaurant with the bakery next door. That bakery made the must beautiful, albeit disgusting, cakes. Most were pure frosting/fudge and one was a scene of dinosaurs. Maggie LOVED it! The whole time we ate she just sat there and stared at it. But never once did she demand a dinosaur cake. Just to look at it only.

I'm hopeful that Maggie is growing up without a sense of entitlement. She has never really begged for anything. She even wanted a scooter last Christmas and didn't get one, because a scooter on India's sorry excuse for sidewalks would have been disastrous. She didn't care. There could be many reasons for this I suppose.

1. It's possible that she realizes how spoiled she already is. After all, we were in the Siam Paragon, only the most fabulous place in all of Bangkok. In Thailand. Though I doubt many people think this way. After all, how many kids cry at Disneyland because they didn't get a balloon to hold on the teacups?

2. Maggie's personality is to want for nothing. Looking was good enough. That cake wouldn't taste good anyway, we couldn't take it home with us, and it would go straight to her thighs. This is possible.

3. We've raised her well to understand not to demand everything she sees. I've heard of kids crying over bed sheets, of all things, and she's just not like that because we've taught her not to be like that.

4. It's possible she's still too young to realize we can buy anything we want at the store; all we have to do it put it in our cart and it's ours. Same with Christmas. We decided the kids each get two gifts only; one from Santa, and one from mom and dad. I wonder how old she'll be before she realize most kids get many more gifts and whether or not she'll expect some many ala Dudley Dursley.

I wonder which is true. And I wonder how Dalton will be in this respect. That may help us rule out point 3.

Jodi gets here in two days! Yay for Susie to have a travelling companion!

UPDATE: The new-fangled Delta flight shows her plane is currently over Nebraska! Woot for real time information!

[Comments] (1) happiness is: This last week has been amazing. Not only is my sister here visiting us for ten days, but she brought an entire suitcase full of pop-tarts, wheat thins, colby jack cheese, candy bars, fruit snacks, dental floss, Instant Breakfast, and toys for the kids! It appears that TSA went through all the candy to make sure it wasn't a front for a bomb, and two bags of candy went missing. But otherwise it's all here!

I spent TH morning catching up on the haps back home (mostly same old it seems) then they all took off for Mysore, wherein I am told they procured the much-anticipated elephant and camel ride. Today they are at Wonder-la. I've been playing the role of bachelor #2 the past few days and am loving it. The peace and quiet and freedom have been nice, but I'll be excited for everyone to return home this evening.

Work has been great too. I've been super busy but having another coach has at least kept things at a tolerable level of insanity. And I've been bringing my own lunches to work and eating in the break room with my Indian co-workers, which has also been way better than the usual trying to find the US co-workers that never invite me to lunch. The conversations have been fun and they are always interested in what I'm eating, since I take western food to lunch. They mostly think I eat salad but yesterday I took in meat pies and Colby cheese and wheat thins to shake it up a bit. I also took in all the extra muffins we have here for them to try.

I also got my raise this week, even though raises don't go into effect until October. It's higher than I had hoped so that's always nice. And I got yet another bonus, quite substantial this time. It always feels nice to be appreciated for what you do and to have people tell you they think you have a bright future.

This morning I am going to get a massage, then may or may not go into work, depending how many people show up. It's a long 3-day weekend, as Monday is Indian Independence day. Yesterday they played the anthem in Bengali at work and I sparked a whole controversy because I asked what it was about and a lot of people didn't know. I asked what they learn in school if not their own anthem. I'm still curious as to what they learn in schools here, actually.

It's been a good week, and next week should be nice too, considering it's a short week and Jodi will still be here exploring.

middle management: What a riotous 24 hours it's been.

My work computer died on Saturday and, due to the long weekend for India Independence Day, no one was in to fix it. So I held onto it until yesterday. They made me try logging in again and again and again for an hour before they believed me I needed a new hard drive. Then the reconfigured it with the wrong user name so, after sitting around all day waiting, I finally was turned away empty handed. Hopefully today I can finally get back to what they pay me to do, but it's out of my hands.

Then I had to spend the day making difficult decisions about performance issues. Not a fun part of the job. It's the same reason I don't like recruiting. I feel unworthy to make life-changing choices for other people, like who gets a job and who doesn't.

I also had to walk to work yesterday because my driver can't manage to get here on time very often. It was hot, humid, dodging traffic was like playing frogger with my life, and the streets were rivers from the rain. I arrived at work hot and bothered and extremely annoyed.

Last night I became a single dad while the gals headed to Hampi. Maggie seems to finally be feeling better but, just as I lay my head on my pillow, I heard a noise in the crib. Dalton vomited all over his pajamas, his face, his elephant, his crib, and in his hair. I hosed him off, started a load of laundry, got rid of the smell, and put him in bed with me since the crib was no longer usable. I spent the night wedged between two kids taking up more space than they needed and constantly had to rescue Dalton, who kept wedging himself between the crib and the bed. I got no sleep at all.

Since Maggie has been asleep for three straight days, she woke up at 6 am, woke up Dalton, and the day began before it should have.

I may not survive the next 48 hours until they return.

BOGO: On Independence Day I took Jodi to Big Bazaar, the Wal-Mart of India, where everything was on sale. Jodi tried on about 30 outfits, which was unique for me, since normally Susie doesn't try on anything. We ended up buying on thing she tried on! Due to the holiday, we were able to find a bunch of T-shirts advertising India and bought a bunch of them. I also helped her find clothes for Franco and Kyli. We were there about 3 hours and it felt like Black Friday. I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

We also bought some Indian flags and attended our complex flag-raising ceremony. I also took Jodi to lunch at Sunny's, which was out of blueberry creme brulee. But we all had burgers, which are amazing here. They marinade them in Italian Dressing or something akin. I haven't had beef since Bangkok so I was craving it.

Indians love fireworks but not on Independence Day, just on the other holidays. I suppose that is because their independence was won peacefully so there is no need to replicate a rocket's red glare.

[Comments] (2) nanny wars: Today Kannagi showed up at quarter to 11 to relieve me of fatherhood. Dalton was so thrilled to see her he didn't care that I was going to work. Maggie, however, begged me not to go. This from the girl that also told me yesterday I should go to Hampi and mommy should stay home with her. I guess I'm her second favorite only.

Kannagi called me an hour later because she couldn't understand Maggie. When Maggie is not understandable, she hyperventilates, cries, and becomes even more difficult to understand. But after Maggie trying three different times to talk to me over the phone, I finally realized she simply wanted a hot dog.

Jus Booster was out of large cups (and refused to make me a large anyway out of a two small cups) and was out of acai, so I told them to pound sand and unfortunately was left eating lunch at the golden arches. Tomorrow I'll hopefully have more time to bring a lunch. Why even bother opening if you are out of everything?

To do list includes buying fuzzy drinks (ie 7 Up) on the way home for two sick kiddos and to hopefully squeeze in an episode of Glee as well.

Maggie first informed me she will feel better when Jesus comes, but updated it today to when we go back to UT. She also told me Heavenly Father doesn't let us drink tea today when Minnie was organizing a tea, biscuit, and dog biscuit party on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

[Comments] (2) little rascals: It's been a rough few days for the kids. Since Susie and Jodi took off Tuesday night, Maggie had a hard time being with the nanny during the day when I went to work. Thursday in particular was a hard day. I took leftovers to work for lunch and around 3 pm I could tell my tummy was not happy. Something was wrong, and that something was the Indian food inside me.

I got home around 5:30, just as the maid was calling. Maggie refused to come out of her room. She has been sick lately and still has the runs, and went in her pants, and would not let Kannagi clean it up, so I got the honors the moment I walked in the door. I put a towel under Maggie, took off her clothes, and decided the hell with the mess and threw all soiled articles in the outisde dumpster. The maid left and Maggie fell asleep on me. Then it was my turn.

With Maggie asleep, I quickly put a diaper on her for the night to avoid future trauma, threw away the leftovers before anyone else became an unfortunate victim, and waited to throw up. I knew it was coming. I could tell the food in my tummy was not sitting well. I even tried to induce it myself. I lost all energy and collasped on the bed. There was a show on the teevee so I assumed Dalton would be fine for a few hours. He eventually came looking for me. The sheer act of sitting up finally set off the vomitting. Each hurl made Dalton shriek; it really scared him. He finally fell asleep on the bed with me, and I dutifully got up every two hours to either vomit or have the runs. And all this as a single parent! This is the final straw and I am now officially done with the food here. Nothing but pop-tarts and cereal for me for the next two months.

The next morning I felt much better, having finally purged my body of the poisoned food. I went to work for a few hours and also worked today while the family went to the zoo. It was pretty nice at work, only about five of us there, but still plenty noisy as people here have no issue blasting Bollywood. But I only had to answer four questions in six hours so that left me with plenty of time to review a tax return today.

Another Indian quirk is only ticketed passengers are allowed in the airport. So I had to take Jodi to an internet cafe to print her receipt to get in the airport tonight. Dalton wanted to come. While we were gone, a monkey came in our house and stole our muffins and goldfish, all in tupperware, and wiped his grubby little handses all over the place. I'm told it was quite the bru-hah-ha. Maggie seemed most upset that he ate our food. Our kitchen door doesn't lock so I invented my own lock and we'll see how monkey proof it is. See. Even the monkey wants to eat only pop-tarts and cereal.

I feel like Alfalfa when he exclaims that God must hate him. But I guess if God lives inside of me, like Jack Handy thinks, then he also got food poisoning.

One day we'll laugh at all of this. But it's not gonna be today, and it's not gonna be tomorrow, and it's probably not going to be this year.

but the cat came back, the very next day: I went running this evening and apparently the monkey came back, ripped up our trash, got no love from us, and left. Dalton missed the action yesterday but was terrified today. I once again missed it as I was at the gym. But I went looking for the monkey and found him in the wing adjacent to ours, going up each level, trying to get in people's houses. He stopped for a really long time at one window and was successful at pushing it open so I went over to the apartment and told them there was a monkey about to jump into their kitchen. Hopefully the buzz is getting around and someone will figure out how to get rid of the thing. Susie wants to move.

We are becoming popular at church. The First Counselor would like piano lessons for his daughter (has keyboard, willing to travel) and I was asked to teach YM & EQ both next week. I told the powers that be to fight it out and let me know. I'd rather teach YM honestly. That is my calling after all. I taught today which usually entitles me to a bye week but I guess not this time. As far as piano goes, I think they know as long as they make it easy on us we will accommodate. I quit teaching at the church because I went all the way there and no one was showing up. Now at least they come to us so if they don't show, it's no skin off our backs.

Work is really picking up, but the good news is we have less than a month until the Big Day. The busy seasons are more compacted here and I actually like it more and will miss that when I go home. Sometimes at home it can be hard to tell when busy season ends and begins but here it's more distinct which I think leads to more personal flexibility. And really it's not as busy here either. The weekend shift was extremely calm for me.

[Comments] (2) trousers: The men here wear form-fitting trousers. Sometimes so form fitting I can see an underwear line. I don't think I could pull off the look quite as well as they do. I certainly don't have a curvaceous behind like most of them do. But it works for them. A lot of my coworkers are quite thin and it's also not uncommon to see their belt wrap around their pants 1.5 times over. Either that or they really just make belts one size fits all here. I also don't think I'd like dealing with such a large belt all of the time.

Maggie says we are going to Gond tomorrow on a Toucan airplane, which I guess is her version of Bangkok on a Kingfisher airplane. I tried to tell her we can't go because I didn't buy tickets but she insists we can buy them at the airport. I hope she's not too disappointed tomorrow when I trot off to work, just like any other day, and she stays home and plays toys, just like any other day. But we are going on a trip in just 3 weeks. After our tax filing deadline. Assuming I survive until then.

[Comments] (3) there and back again: Maggie has been counting down the days until we visit Gond, a make believe world combining the best of India (slim pickings I know, but mainly Goa), Hong Kong, Bangkok, and pictures she has seen of our upcoming trip to Dubai. Today we hit zero and she wanted to pack a bag full of dinosaurs.

We filled a suitcase with stuffed animals and I took the kids up to floor 10 of our building while Susie frantically decorated the house. I contributed by drawing a picture of a Toucan for the plane, since apparently we've worn out our welcome on Kingfisher.

So we ate a treat upstairs, looked out the window like we were on a plane, and headed back downstairs to find a note on the door welcoming us to Gond.

Apparently in Gond you can go on a dino hunt. Gond also has Cheetos (imported from Bangkok) and strawberry marshmellows (also imported from Bangkok). It's hard to know the exact location and origin of Gond. It's been rumored Gond derives from Gondola, which is a combination of a fun ride we went on in the Kong to see the Big Buddha and also is the full version of the now-shortened Goa, a Portuguese beach enclave on the sands of the Arabian Sea. When traders first discovered the area is still in dispute, and the current location is rumored to be somewhere between the Bermuda Triangle, the ancient city of Atlantis, and Springfield a la the Simpsons (not to be confused with any actually-known Springfield that can be viewed on a map).

We leave for Dubai in less than six weeks now, and I think Maggie will be pleased with the place. It appears to have EVERYTHING Gond has and more. And Kerala will be a nice jaunt on a houseboat, which is now less than a month away. But in the meantime, we do what we can.

I wonder what Maggie would have thought had we actually gotten in the car with a suitcase, driven to the airport, and gone somewhere. I have to think she knew all along this was all in her head, but kids sure do have a way of hoping against hope sometimes.

This reminds me of the time Susie's family all packed up and went to Mars, which appears to be somewhere between LaMont and the Grapevine, and included a rocket ship ride in a 90's van covered with orbs and star stickers. The jury is still undecided on how successful that trip was, if I recall correctly. But we only get one shot at childhood so it's important to me my kids get to live it up!

[Comments] (1) taking it to the mattresses: Susie and I watched the final episode of the Golden Girls the other day and Susie wondered about the ending. I told her it's because Dorothy wanted off the show but the rest wanted to keep going so that's why they married her off and ended it that way. This led to a discussion of spin offs and sequels.

We couldn't really think of any successful spin offs other than Frasier, spun off from Cheers. But it's entirely possible there are other successful ones we aren't aware are spin offs. Then we got to talking about sequels, like the Godfather, which every man alive loves to quote and which I actually haven't seen. Any of them. Shame on me, I know.

So. Taking it to the mattresses. Our mattress here is the pits. It's horrible. I'm tempted to start sleeping on the hard tiled floors. I think in my life I have only slept on one bed that was worse. It was in Mysore. So I wake up grumpy every day because of this. And because of Dalton's lovely pre-7 am wake up calls.

So today my driver was late. Again. He doesn't tell me he'll be late until he's supposed to be here. Normally he sends another EY driver sitting across the street at work doing nothing to come and get me, but the last two times I've had to wait 15+ minutes downstairs in the heat for him to come. So today I walked. Then I called Sandeep and told him the next time I walk to work is the last day of his employment with me. I probably should have had this conversation with him long ago. But better late than never.

He kept saying sorry sir on the phone to me and I didn't know how to respond. He should be sorry. It's not ok, so that obligatory phrase was of no use to me. I really just wanted to tell him to show me he's sorry rather than tell me by being on time going forward. But TII.

This happened to Susie on Sunday as well. The First Counsellor in the Branch Presidency wants his daughter to learn piano. Have keyboard, will travel, he said. We arranged for 5 pm Friday's at our house. At least then it's the least amount of work for us since not one person has yet to offer to PAY us for our time here giving lessons. I'm sure you can guess the ending. Never showed. Never called. Sunday he apologized. Again, we didn't know what to say. We didn't want to say "It's ok" because it's not. It's rude actually. But we also really don't care about his daughter's piano career since we're leaving in nine weeks. So what is the appropriate phrase here?

In all fairness, some success stories from the last few days include: I taught EQ on Sunday. It went GREAT! The class participated a lot and so I didn't have to do much.

Our internet died last TH night. TII. Friday morning we called Airtel, who told us in very plain English someone would come to the house by 2:30 pm. And they did! And they fixed it! Amazing, considering we are still missing a light fixture the grinch took to fix since it wouldn't light on one side. That was months ago yet we still stare at a hole in the wall. Kudos Airtel! US customer service for the first time in nine months!

Happy Ramzan: What a full day! Said day began with me going to Big Bazaar at the appointed opening time, 10 am, for my prepaid pedicure, only to leave 10:30 grumpy and empty-handed. I got a call at 11 asking where I went. I said I have to be at work at 11:30 so I had to leave. THEY had the audacity to be upset with ME. If you don't want to open at 10, then don't. The sales guy tried to tell me that the pedicurist was caught in traffic but that's a total lie. Today is a holiday here, Ramzan, the last day of Ramadan, and traffic was nil. I went back after work and finally got served.

Work was a hoot today, with the US scratching their heads saying "What holiday?" It's not MY fault the firm doesn't publicize the Indian holidays. They really should though, since we work so closely with each other. The US firm also doesn't understand that here a holiday means business. Yes, I know I've had to work Easter, of all things, but don't expect that here. It just won't happen. And I for one am glad of that. Otherwise work was a half day and it was fine.

Tomorrow we do it all over again as it is Ganesh's birthday, so everyone celebrates by polluting local lakes and rivers. No, really. They all buy fake painted statues and bathe them in the river. And when they are done, they leave the statues in the lakes slash rivers. I'm very curious.

Tonight while I post we are bonding as a family watching the Roadrunner foil Wiley Coyote's plans. It's the first time the kids have seen Looney Tunes and they are LOVING it! Especially Dalton, who keeps squealing. Other recent kids shows we have found here include Rich E Rich, Baby Looney Tunes, Thomas the Train, and some show called Dragon Tails where two little kids can transport between our world and a Dragon world. Maggie loves that one.

As much as I am a huge Disney fan, I actually much prefer these old shows to the horror that is Fish Hooks, Fineas and Ferb, etc. I may sound old, but I don't care. They just don't make cartoons like they used to.

Lastly, a coworker gave me a book for my BD and I finally got around to reading it today waiting for my pedicures. It is called Five point someone and is a fun read and the author keeps it real. I may have to read more Indian books before I go home.

Happy Birthday Elephant Man: Yesterday was Ganesh's birthday, which involves street marching bands and giving Ganesh a bath!

I celebrated by getting up super early with the kids, going to the gym once Susie was awake, worked for three hours, then went to Papa John's without the kids. Susie and I only ordered bread sticks. Four orders of them, actually. We ate two yesterday, brought one home to have with our pear-walnut salad for dinner, and I brought a box of them to work for lunch today. The total price of all of this was cheaper than one pepperoni pizza, which seemed to upset the staff there, who really wanted us to order pizza.

I haven't been to Papa John's since mid-June. I've probably been there three times while we have lived here. Yet one of the coworkers came over and asked about Dalton. Not Maggie; just Dalton. It pays to be friendly!

Today I am leaving work early to play the piano for an LDS wedding. I've been warned the wedding may not start on time. TII and all that. Well. They get a 60 minute window and if it starts later than that, they lose their piano player. Someone told Susie a wedding was delayed once for four hours. Barring the bride or the groom being missing, I cannot imagine any good reason for this. All it does is reinforce the bad behavior that being late is ok. So today I'm potentially taking a stand. Here's hoping it won't come to that.

Here comes the bride: Today was the big wedding. It only started 40 minutes late. We're told Indian weddings must start on time because not only is the wedding date chosen by an astrologer, but the time must also be auspicious. But on Mormon Standard Time, anytime will do.

Of course they changed the closing hymn on me at the last minute and asked me to play here comes the bride, which I don't have memorized, at the last minute as well. I instead played one of those instrumental numbers out of the back of the Primary Songbook, because those I know. It never ceases to amaze me how last minute things can be here, and how surprised everyone is when things go ka-boom.

I knew the wedding would be delayed when we got there at 2:30 and no one else was there, not even the bride and groom.

Sandeep wanted to watch me play but I also think he was uncomfortable at the wedding because he only stayed for about 5 minutes, which was long enough for me to play the opening song.

After the branch president wed the couple, I later realized he didn't instruct the groom to kiss the bride. It felt like something was indeed missing, but such an ending would not have been appropriate in India anyhow.

Dinner was at UB City, as we knew they would be open at 5 pm (most Indian restaurants close from 3-7). The French restaurant had the biggest croisants I'd ever seen so we got a bunch to go for breakfast tomorrow.

Tomorrow is my last working Saturday in India, followed by a Priesthood meeting in the evening. Not the most exciting Saturday but at least it's something to do.

Staples Easy button, Mormon style: I just read the most interesting article: Link to LDS Newsroom

This is very exciting to me! I really want to serve a mission with Susie one day. And for those not in the know, missions are expensive. The younger version of the missionary set pays a fixed $400 a month into the pot, regardless of where they serve, and, voila, they are good to go. $400 for living expenses is pretty reasonable these days (and the church will also help pick up the tab if necessary), so serving a missionary for a 20 year-old is, from a cost perspective, a slam dunk.

For the couple missionaries, however, the historical stance was that all costs are borne by the couple. This makes saving for a mission rather cumbersome, especially since retirement savings alone is a daunting task in a day of lower rates of return on investments and ballooning healthcare costs.

I'm elated to know that my housing will now be fixed! I'm elated to know that there is more flexibility on length of service (though I don't understand 23 months versus 24 months). I'm elated to see the Church doing something about all of this because it recognizes that, firstly, they WANT more couple missionaries and, secondly, they NEED more couple missionaries.

With a fixed cost set, I now can better get a handle on what a mission would cost and how to save for it! Yay!

[Comments] (1) kel surprise: So. Today I got an email from Expedia. Kingfisher cancelled our flights to Kerala next week. I called Expedia and asked my options. Apparently the new flight they want me on leaves a mere 20 minutes earlier than the previous one, which is fine. The return flight leaves some 11 hours later, which is the next day. I asked if Kingfisher was going to pay for another night's stay for me. They are not. The new flight is at 7 am, which is too early for kids.

So I asked about other flights. We can leave the same day as previously, about 3 hours earlier. That sounds great. Let's do it. Waits patiently while Expedia calls Kingfisher. Expedia informs me Kingfisher needs four hours to complete the change. Forget it then. TII and all that means it will NEVER happen so I might as well move on with my life.

I came to work and re-booked the hotel for an extra day, which was also an ordeal, but not terribly, since it's a Ramada property.

Then I get an email from Expedia saying my new return flight is cancelled. WTH? So I call them, and wait patiently while they call Kingfisher. Apparently Kingfisher approved me to leave on the 4:30 pm flight the day before, in record time of an hour only instead of 4 (or 40, or 400) hours as instructed.

So went back to the Ramada site, re-booked to the original reservation and voila, we're set to go. Net-net this is actually better, as getting back to Bangalore at 6 pm beats getting back at 10 pm. For short flights, I like day flying so I can look out the window anyway.

Crisis diverted, and I was calm throughout. If anything, India has taught me how NOT to sweat the small stuff. I suppose for that I am grateful.

[Comments] (1) the art of miscommunication: I've been pondering the whole concept of children being required to take care of their parents, since the ways and methods here are quite different from back home. For starters, it is more of a patriarchal society here in elderly care than back home. An example that comes to mind is that Susie and I, upon finishing up at BYU, moved to CA to help take care of Susie's mother before she passed away. That was fine by me, and we were happy to do it, even though CA was not our ideal place to live, given our long-term lifestyle choices. But I was happy to do it, as my role mostly was working so Susie could go home on weekends and visit her mother.

Here it appears to work in the opposite frame, wherein newly-married daughters-in-law often move in and take care of their parents-in-law, while the husband trots off to work. I'd imagine that is a lot tougher than my scenario described above, since it leaves you caring for people that aren't your parents. Kudos to the wonderful women of this country.

But the other difference I note is harder to discuss. I was telling my driver Sandeep how my parents live on their own. I live roughly 11 miles from them, can rush to their side (or to a nearby hospital) lickety-split, as neeeded (have done so, actually), but otherwise I leave them to live their life while I live mine. We often tried to visit my dad with the kids once for a few hours on the weekend as time permitted. Otherwise, we were on our own.

Here, caring for them means moving in with them. I tried to ask Sandeep why this is necessary (Sandeep's brother cares for his parents, back in the village, while he is here working). I mean, my parents can still do things for themselves. And Sandeep's parents are younger than mine and can still apparently do things for themselves as well. Our conversation was thus:

Me: But why do they need your brother? Do they need him to cook for them?

Sandeep: No, sir. My mother only can cook. My brother cannot cook.

Me: So do they need him to help them get dressed/go to the bathroom/go shopping?

Sandeep: No, sir. They only can do these things.

Me: Then what does your brother do for them?

Sandeep: He takes care of them, sir.

Me: Takes care of them means....

Sandeep: He looks after them.

Me: How does he look after them?

Sandeep: He makes sure their needs are met.

Me: What needs? Does he cook for them? Clean for them?

Sandeep: No, sir. The maid will clean.

Me: But if they do all these things, what does your brother do for them.

Sandeep: He looks after them, sir.

I guess Sandeep is Abbott to my Costello but I'm still very unclear who's on first.

If my parents required, I would move them into my home in a heartbeat. Heck, I even moved into their home for five months last year for reasons that now escape me. But in the meantime, until I understand how exactly my living with them is caring for them, I'm content with my 11-mile space.

What could I possibly be missing, I wonder?

[Comments] (1) epic win?: I had Jodi bring a whole box of Instant Breakfast with her to India. The kids previously would not drink India milk, especially Maggie. I was very worried about her calcium intake. Well, now the kids think Instant Breakfast is chocolate milk and ask for it every day. Finally some calcium back in their diets. Yay for strong bones! And since it's not really chocolate milk, double yay for those other 42 vitamins and minerals probably not found in Indian food.

I seriously cannot handle shopping here. Last night I had to work late, given the busy season and a late call I had. So I decided I better grab a bag of banana chips at FoodWorld to tide me over until I could eat real dinner at 9 pm when I got home.

How educated people can simply ignore the fact that I was waiting to check out before they were and shove their way in front of me, shoving their food vouchers and purchases in the cashier's face, is not only insulting, but revolting. Who the hell do they think they are? I know I've blogged about this before, and I'll probably blog about it again. But being a CPA and all, I like order, and not chaos. The rudeness of some people here is surprising, given the extreme courtesy of others. I personally blame the caste system, which is even more revolting. Talk about your ultimate entitlement generation.

[Comments] (5) of mixed review: So. Weekend in Kerala for Susie's 30th BD. The day started out fine. Dalton woke up at 7:30 am on Friday, which was our time of departure. But we did have to wake Maggie up. Flight was not until 10:40 but Sandeep was convinced we'd have a horrible to do in traffic. So long story short we got to the airport at 8:30, in normal fashion and sat around for two hours. The door attendant wanted to make sure I was confident about checking in two hours early, as I would not be allowed back out of the airport to smoke, as this airport is no smoking (a first in India to be sure, but more on this later, so stay tuned). We managed to pass the time by eating milkshakes for breakfast, bought Hannah a Christmas present, bought Susie a BD present, and let the kids play in the fab toy store there (the best in India, or just about).

Flight was uneventful. Landed in Kochi to blue skies and sunshine, and in monsoon season to boot! We rented a taxi for 800 rupees to take us the hour-long drive to the resort. The road was Highway 47 and was absolutely amazing! No potholes, no community-made speed bumps a la tourist traps, hardly any animals in the road, and a very smooth ride. Nothing interesting to see on the way, as we took the internal highway to save time and skipped going through town. We did see a very brand new, shiny, 16-storey Holiday Inn that tempted us. Susie actually thought we were staying there. Turns out, she was right. More on this to come.

We finally made it to the Ramada! It is breathtaking! It sits on a lake in the backwaters, and all the bungalows are raised above ground so that you have a grand view. The pool is beneath the bungalows, all 24 of them, as it is the longest pool in Kerala or something like that, according to the brochure. We checked in and hit the pool.

We had Shaun bring us a tub of 100 spf suntan lotion that is spray on and something is wrong with it. It feels like I am putting I can't believe it's not butter spray on me. But none of us got burned. Maggie still somehow managed to tan through all that spf, which is a miracle considering her parent's vampire-pale complexion. The pool was great! We came prepared this time after our Goa trip, with our own set of flotation devices and blow up balls to play with. One would think these resorts would sell this kind of stuff. One really would. But one would be wrong. Instead, they sell man-skirts (popular in Kerala, called a Lungee), and pashmina scarves.

The hotel receives mixed reviews from this patron. The room was awesome, the shower superb, the bed the most comfortable I've slept on in nine months time, the view and peace and quiet of the place, including the piped muzak in public places, was so soothing it was hard to believe I was in a country crammed full of over a billion people. On the downside, however, the rooms are all smoking rooms (the room itself was fine but the towels reeked of cigarettes, just what you want to smell like after a shower), the front desk is completely incompetent and needs to better master the english language, and the inclusive meal plan was deceiving.

Firstly, the meal plan. Friday was a smorgasbord fit for a king. We got to order off a menu a salad, a soup, two appetizers, a fish dish, a main course, bread, rice, and dessert. We felt bad wasting so much absolutely delicious food (calimari, coconut beef, tomato-mozzerella tarts) that at dinner we skimped the menu because we were so full and we didn't want to be so wasteful. But then Saturday it was Indian buffet. No fancy menu, no fancy food, forget anything continental being offered. I hardly ate a thing that day. Which was fine. But after the amazingness of the first day, don't skimp the second day, man.

Our package also included a boat ride on the famous Kerala house boats. Or so it said. It was cancelled. Instead we got a free half-day city tour. Which was fine. But again, only informed upon when I asked. The city tour was ok; I can at least say I saw Kochi. Not too much exciting happening, but we saw Portuguese churches, Chinese fishing nets, British Museums, Dutch cemetaries, and Jew Street, with nary a Jew. Our driver cum tour guide said the Jews only come out to conduct business so they are rarely seen. Whatever that means. What does that mean?

The Chinese fishing nets are a fun system. We helped pull one in for a small donation and it's a lot of work, especially considering we caught no fish. It would have been a lot heavier had we caught something. Kochi is a lot cleaner than Bangalore, but some Indian dude still threw a bag of trash in the ocean right in front of me. I wanted to deck him but refrained because it would have upset Maggie. More on this to come.

Back to the hotel on day two we hit the pool again and Susie and I enjoyed our free chair massages as part of our package. Our package also included 15% discount on spa treatments so I went for a steam/sauna. I used to get a steam at BYU after a good work out all the time. Well. Here it was different. They put me in a box with only my head sticking out, then covered me in grease and turned up the heat. Not what I was expecting but still a lot of fun! The whole time I was thinking of that Mr. Bill episode where Mr. Hands put him in a steamer and he came out quite svelt. Does anyone even remember Mr. Bill anymore? Susie didn't know of him.

Day 3 we played in the pool, checked out of the hotel, and went on a boat ride in the Kerala backwaters. The highlight of the trip! An awesome experience. What I wouldn't give to live that life. Dalton fell asleep and missed the whole thing.

The muzak was interesting. Some sort of mixed CD including all the Kenny G classics, including what we call the Kingfisher song (they play it non-stop on the airplanes, we learned the hard way on our layover in Hyderabad en route to Bangkok where we were stuck on the plane for 30 minutes), the song that puts Mack to sleep on the movie "Cars", and "The X-files" theme song. I mean, what other repertroire could be more copacetic? The truth is out there.

Checking out of the hotel was a nightmare. We were charged for the city tour, even though it was free, we were charged for our complimentary laundry as well, or at least half of it. The summer package says one set complimentary laundry per person. Not per room. They apparently don't know the difference and had the audacity to try and give me the english lesson. I mentioned that, had this all-inclusive package been explained to us properly at check in, this whole thing could have been avoided. But you only have to pay this much, sir, they kept insisting. So Susie chimed in and mentioned that, to flip the argument on it's head, they only have to write off that much. Which they finally did. The turkeys. Shame on you, Ramada, for not proofreading your own work.

On the way back to the airport. We saw a sign for a restaurant called Garden that looked awfully familiar. The reason it is familiar is because someone removed the word Olive from the sign but otherwise kept the same image. I'm pretty sure that's not legal, but I doubt anyone in Kerala is otherwise confused by this.

Time for more turkeys. We got to the airport only to be told our flight was not leaving until 7:30 the next morning. I inquired how I could possibly have a printed itinerary otherwise then. They say Expedia did it. We tried to get Expedia on the phone but to no avail. So I have a very very nasty phone call to make tomorrow that I am not looking forward to. In the meantime, we needed a place to sleep and fast!

All the hotels near the airport are Indian hotels and, considering the horrible mood we were in, we needed a good night's sleep to remedy that. I asked where the nearst chain hotel was (ie Taj, Royal Orchid, Oberoi) but they are all on the peninsula in Kochi. There was no way I was going back to the Ramada, over an hour away. Then I remembered that fancy, shiny, new Holiday Inn Susie insisted we were staying at, about 30 minutes away. So we hopped in a cab and off we went, hoping for something decent.

Before this ensued a rather horrible altercation between me and Kingfisher. Someone screwed up and I will find out who, and I have a feeling the blame is equal to both Kingfisher and Expedia, first to Kingfisher for cancelling our original flight that made us have to switch the flight anyway, and second to Expedia who probably switched it to the wrong thing. But I'm the one who had to pay the price. But poor Maggie, the sensitive thing. She did not like watching me being forceful with the Kingfisher manager. I had to apologize to her over and over. She kept projecting that I was mad at her. She was crying and just kept saying she just wants to get on a plane and go home, which I tried to get the Kingfisher attendent to overhear and have some sympathy, but oh well. The flight is a prop plane, which is quite small, and was full, so we were out of luck.

Back to the Holiday Inn. Again, a mixed review. Awesome, awesome room! Big shower, carpet in the hallways and room (first time in India, and nice carpet to boot), a huge bed, and about 2/3 the price of the Ramada. We ordered room service (hello ham and cheese panini and shrimp ceasar's salad). But the lobby staff again is run by turkeys.

We had to call three times to get our luggage. By that point swimming was out of the question, as we had to get up at 5 am anyway to catch our new flight. And we had to ask for a baby cot twice. And they were out of naan (hello, how can you be out of naan in India? This country is lousy with naan!) But the room, food, and shower, was just what we needed to make the kids not think anything was wrong.

Later that night as we were packing for our early morning departure, I noticed our passports were missing. They were supposed to be returned to us with our luggage (India requires every hotel to photocopy your passport apparently). So I called the front desk. They'll look into it, they assured me. Ten minutes later I was beyond frazzled at the thought of a lost passport that I went down to the lobby where the bellmen opened the cash drawer and said, "Here you go, we put them in here for safe keeping." Hello, if you want to keep my passport safe, put it in my hand, not in your crummy cash drawer.

The whole ordeal was a waste of 12 hours of my life and around $200, give or take, for food, hotel, and taxis. But at least we got another night in a very nice hotel with an amazing shower, the softest towels I've ever encountered in my life (that did NOT smell like cigarette smoke, even though this too is a smoking hotel, gimmeabreak), and the best bed I've slept in my whole life (sorry Ramada, but you got beat out just one day later).

We leave for Dubai in two weeks and I'm excited our next trip is out of country. Here's hoping for a few less events like the above.

But I will say this: Kerala is beautiful. We lucked out because it's still monsoon season but didn't get rained on once. And you would think such a beautiful area would be mosquito heaven at night but the whole family escaped without a single bite. This included us playing Racko (Susie's BD present) on our balcony all night enjoying the evening sounds of Kerala. And Kerala is less intrusive than the rest of India. Yes, people were still peeing on the side of the road; yes there was trash in the backwaters; yes the people can be abrasive at times; but all of this is done about ten times less than you find in Bangalore. So the reprieve was enough. We take what we can get.

buy a pape?: We're famous! (We excluding me)

Deccan Herald Article

Never mind they didn't have permission to use this picture. Nor did they actually interview us for the article. But the complaints of those interviewed make me feel validated in my thoughts on the once Garden City turned city of trash and dirt piles.

But imagine my surprise to have my coworker inform me my family was in the newspaper this morning!

[Comments] (3) sigh: We are out of made in the US of A cheese. Same with goldfish. Good thing we can replenish a few items in Dubai next week. In the meantime, absence will make the heart grow fonder.

I get the worst allergies here every time the seasons change. And the seasons they are a changing. From rainy to hot. I'm ready to experience not hot weather. Bring on the snow this winter; I'll be home for Christmas.

[Comments] (1) : I love my kids!

how we roll: This weekend we retreated to Whitefield with the rest of the expat community to buy $7.50 boxes of cereal like AlphaBits and Triple Chocolate Crunch. The kids are over the moon about the AlpaBits and eat them/snack on them for ever meal and at church. We also hit Tuscano's for lunch. The overseas cereal run was completely necessary what with the slow demise of our little oven here.

We're packed and ready for Dubai! Good-bye power outages, good-bye trash-filled streets, good-bye (hopefully, time will tell) corrupt auto drivers. When we come back, our days are really numbered.

Still trying to figure out what I'll be doing at work when I go home. But in the meantime, this is a carefree holiday (at least, it better be)!

Viva Las Wegas: Dubai is quite akin to Sin City. It's hot, it's the desert, it's opulent, it has fancy hotels, it has malls, malls, malls, and it has it's own fountain show. Even though the correct pronunciation for Las Vegas is with a V, Indians for some reason switch V & W interchangably, at random, at will. So they call it Las Wegas. But a popular name in India is Vishwas, and it is pronounced phonetically correctly. Go figure.

I'm sick sick sick. I started feeling really ill Sunday night before we left. I considered cancelling the trip. Hot and cold flashes, frequent bathroom runs. You name it. But surprisingly on Monday I handled the flight well but crashed when we got to the hotel. Which is amazing! We got a suite and the kids have their own bathroom and partitioned bedroom, there is a main area with a couch and a table and cupboards for our stuff, then a third master area with our own bed and our own bathroom. With a tub! So all in all, I think I would rather be sick in Dubai in this nice hotel room than in Bangalore. Especially when I consider the time spent in the lew and how nice it is compared to ours in India. But I still wish I were better.

Yesterday I felt ok in the morning so we took the free shuttle to Jumeriah Beach. Perfect, perfect, perfect! The water was just right temp-wise and the water was also really clear. It is very salty, I found out the hard way when Dalton splashed a moutful of sea spray into my poor unsuspecting mouth. But that just meant we could float easily! The beach rents umbrellas and chairs and towels for a reasonable price. The water was just what my ailing body needed. It felt wonderful. And considering how hot it is here, being in the shade next to the water felt great! We plan to go back tomorrow.

After the beach I came home and crashed and Susie went to the Mall of the Emirates next door to grab lunch for everybody. I had a Red Mango smoothie only. Then when I felt decent we headed back to the mall so I could take Maggie to Ski Dubai. Dalton is too young, you must be 3 for some odd reason to play in the snow, but he didn't seem to mind. Maggie LOVED it! She loved loved loved it. I finally had to leave because I was freezing and the hot chocolate did little to remedy that. But we rode on toboggans, went tubing, and rode the gondola up to the skiers then back down just for kicks. Just like in UT, dada, Maggie told me. Just like in UT.

For a little girl that always wants to be held, Maggie climbed up the hill on her own without complaint every time we went tubing. She would tell me "I think so it was kinda fast, dada" but still wanted to keep going. I know she's happy when she calls me dada.

Dinner was CPK for the kids (jealous!) but another smoothie for me. Eventually there will be nothing left in my stomach to cause cramps and irregular bathroom runs, but we don't appear to be there quite yet. Then maybe I can eat real food, since they actually have it here. Until then, I'm drinking lots of water and fruit juice so as not to dehydrate.

Today we are attempting a water park, assuming I can hold up ok.

Dubai is mostly amazing. Things are quite expensive here (though our hotel is the cheapest yet among our trips, and for a suite to boot) but food and clothing has been rough. And Carter's had nothing in 18 months, which Dalton needs. Never mind he turns two on Sunday (Happy Dubai Birthday Dalt!) And there are too many Indians here, meaning a lot of frustration over the queueing process at Ski Dubai, etc. If they are that way at the water park, I will whip out a can on them. It's so rude. But otherwise this place is amazing! It's so clean. And they drive on the American side of the road (USA, USA). Which actually is a little confusing when we try and cross the street, but the practice is good since we'll be going home soon.

OK, time to go live it up!

On a palm tree shaped island, in the ocean: That's where we spent the day yesterday. At a water park called Atlantis. They have a lazy river that takes about 30 minutes to get around it's so big. It includes three white water rapid sections and a long torrential wave pool section that Maggie loved but scared Dalton every time. We bribed him with rewards of ice cream. They have these group double decker inner tubes where the front one has a seat in it for the kids so they don't fall through...genius!

Spending the entire day in a wave pool had me rocking in bed last night as a I went to sleep.

Susie and I also got to take turns going on water slides that plunged us in a tube in the middle of a shark and ray pool. The kids could see us in there.

Being on a man-made island, of course, made me think of Rita, aka Mr F, from Arrested Development. She told Michael istead of building more houses he should build more land. The joke is, of course, we can't build land. Except that, in Dubai, they do it all the time!

I think these last three weeks back in India are going to be extremely painful. Well, time to go have more fun today!

Later that same day: In the lobby watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with Dalton while Mommy and Maggie go skiing. Dalton and I passed the time playing in the toystore, buying expensive candy and also buying postcards to send to Grandma and Aunt Jamie, and yelling at the hotel to come and clean our room.

which came first?: Dubai is like India in that people here never seem to have enough change. I wonder where the true origin of that one is? It's hard to say because Dubai has quite a large Indian population.

But I haven't seen a single person urinate in the street, throw trash out the window, or pinch my kid's cheeks. So I guess it's fine.

The true annoyingness of Dubai is the cost of food. A kid's meal is $9! That's more than I pay for adult meals back home fercryinoutloud! But transportation costs are reasonable (American prices so it feels expensive after the rest of Asia), hotel costs are extremely reasonable, and the cost of water is also fair. But food is crazy expensive. Except at the grocery store. We're so used to paying $7 for imported American cereal in India that paying $4 is now a steal! We found Cheerios, Cookie Crisp, and Golden Grahams. Huzzah!

call to prayer: Dubai is a Muslim country, and therefore the call to prayer can be heard throughout the city. Including in the mall, but not at Ski Dubai or in the water park we went to on a man-made island. People told me I would be able to hear the call to prayer very distinctly, unlike in India, where I seldom hear the call to prayer from the mosque down the street because they appear to mute the call to keep a low profile in this Hindu state. But it was never intrusive. And unlike what I pictured in my mind, there were no mad dashes to the prayer rooms, nor did stores close during this time. I think a Dubai Muslim is akin to a general Catholic.

Anyway. I like the call to prayer. Sometimes in my life I could use a call to prayer. I do pray. I mean to pray more. The call to prayer is a nice reminder of important things that are easily forgotten by the urgent things of the day.

Today at church we got to watch some of General Conference. It was nice to watch. But nicer still was imagining myself actually back at that place in three weeks. My poor body can no longer handle the diseases it's had to endure that come from living in a society that views its landscape as little more than a toilet.

[Comments] (1) trick or lettuce: Work is really slowing down, now that the deadline has passed. Most people will be off for vacation my final two weeks, especially since Diwali is coming up. So Friday I had a party at work and let Maggie and Dalton come and trick or treat. We have a huge bag of skittles we don't eat, except for Dalton. So we took it and I had the kids give each of my coworkers handsful of candy. The Skittles are gone! Huzzah!

A lot of my coworkers "get" Halloween, even though it's not celebrated here, and had chocolate on hand for the kids. So now we have more candy than we need. But at least it's not Skittles.

Maggie was of course being her shy, silly self. She would say things like Trick or Lettuce or Thank blahblahblah made up word because it's apparently too hard to just ssy Trick or Treat and Thank you. What with people here speaking English as a second language, most of her silliness was lost on them.

It was very kind of them to give treats in exchange, as that was not required at all.

A lot of coworkers asked me to explain Halloween to them. I tried. I think I got it right, but I guess I should confirm on Wikipedia. In turn, I asked them the purpose of Diwali, other than firecracker lighting. No one knew. Another job for Wikipedia I suppose.

Otherwise I spent yesterday looking at cars. I need a new car when we get home and have no idea what I want, but think I'm settled on a Mazda 3. It's been an extremely interesting week trying to figure out firstly how to get back home the EY-approved way and second what I'll work on when I get back. I'm sure going home will be a not fun experience, but as long as we make it in one piece, then we'll be home, so who cares?

Oh I guess I should mention that Maggie was a bumblebee and Dalton was a Chinese ninja. Most people thought Maggie was a butterfly and Dalton was not dressed up.

[Comments] (1) leaf peeping: I'm really sad I'll be missing the leaves changing, the pumpkin patches, the corn mazes, etc this year. Oh well. At least I'll be home in time for the holidays where you get a paid day off.

To make up for missing all of this, we are heading to Innovative Film City this weekend, one last jaunt, to Bangalore's own version of Universal Studios.

Innovative Film City

[Comments] (2) the haps: Things Dalton is afraid of: the monkey on Toy Story 3, the Spinosaurus at the Bangalore Natural History Museum, the monkey that tried to visit us in August, and most amusement park rides. Things Maggie is afraid of: Indians in general, attention of any kind, good or bad, directed to her, and mad guys (what she calls bad guys).

Maggie in particular pretty much refuses to give her talk in the Primary program, coming up on Sunday. I'm trying to bribe her and we'll see how successful I am.

I've discovered The Simpsons are on in the mornings here. They are playing all the Halloween specials right now, most of which I've never seen. The Simpsons has got to be the longest running cartoon ever. Maggie is quick to point out to me that it is NOT a kid's show.

Today we took Sandeep and Kannagi for a nice farewell lunch at Heritage Elements. Kannagi wore a saree for the ocassion, so it must be auspicious. We all got the biryani, except for Susie who got dahl (bleah). This place is the only place I've found that does chicken right in an Indian dish here in India (the Mango Tree is veg). It is so succulent and doesn't get me sick because it hasn't been sitting out all day for the flies to infest. They both seemed to enjoy the lunch.

Today as we started packing again I came across my BD card from my mom. It has a picture of the old cabin on it. Kannagi asked Susie if that was our house in the US. I still laugh when I think of it! I guess by Bangalore standards it's a nice house. After all, there are no cockroaches or cows in the cabin, it actually had some carpeted areas, a fireplace, a heater, an oven, and the power normally stays on (for those fortunate enough to have power; I'm not sure if Kannagi does). But the toilet doesn't have a sprayer.

[Comments] (1) three cheers for bollywood: Yesterday we made the two hour trek each way to visit Innovative Film City (IFC). It's Bangalore's version of Universal Studios, both of which are rather lame. When you first walk into IFC, it seems like it's closed. All the stores on the front promenade are empty, with the exception of this archery range. I actually came close to a bulls-eye on my turn!

The first half of the day was noisy and crowded thanks to school field trips but they all left in the afternoon. And everyone was actually very polite to ask before taking pictures or posing with the two cutest white kids in the world.

On down to the rest of the park, it does get better. There's a water park but we didn't take our swimsuits. There are also a handful of rides of various stability. The main roller coaster, which Maggie got to ride since we said she was five, and the double-decker carousel, are both nice. The rest are rather reminiscint of carnival/fair rides and were making lots of questionable noises denoting strain on the various apparatus. Oddly enough, Maggie had no qualms about the roller coaster but threw a fit about the carousel.

They also had a mini golf but it was so hot outside we didn't do that for very long. And we opted out of the optional haunted house.

There is also a dinosaur world with some nice skeletons and some rather laughable animatronic dinosaurs. But they all had signs with correct spelling and names. Most of the signs said "Utah" on them for location of dinosaur bones and it too was spelled right. Made me proud to be from a state with SOMETHING to it's credit.

They also had a huge bounce house for the kids and they were in there until they kicked us out. Susie and I just enjoyed sitting in the shade for a while. Attractions also included a McDonald's (yay McFlurry and non-Indian food, even if it is just chicken nuggets), a fun house of just mirrors which was actually really fun, a Madame Tousod's wax house, and a Ripley's Believe it or Not.

I've never done Ripley's or Madame Tousod's before. The latter was just ok. Most of the wax figures looked extremely fake and NOTHING like there more human counterparts, but they did have the Governator, the Harry Potter trio, and some Disney figures for the kids. Ripley's was actually a lot of fun, even if a few of the things scared Dalton. And I learned where the terms "graveyard shift" and "saved by the bell" came from.

The trip would have been epic fail (as the kids say) were it not for the goldfish and the candy corn to make the horrible car ride bearable. Thanks Aunt Jamie and Uncle Dave and family!

[Comments] (2) thanks for the memories: I forgot to mention that Friday was my farewell party, since this week is Diwali and so everyone is on holiday. I was given a farewell book with some very interesting things to ponder.

One comment, from anonymous (most are signed but this one is not) says: "Hi John, I would write on all the bricks 'I miss you' and hope that i[t] falls on your head so you know how it hurts to miss someone special like you. 'love you John'

Another is not a message to me but a quote as follows: "Happiness is not something you postpone for the future, it is something you design for the present" -- Jim Rohn. I don't know a Jim in our group, but there are a few people I still don't know, like the new guys. Susie thinks it's a properly cited quote. They had nothing else personal to share with me I suppose, but they love quotes like that around these parts.

Many things are also in quotes that leave me quite confused. For example, "Thanks" for all your support, or We sure are going to "miss" you. If I didn't know better, I'd think the quotes are sarcastic. But I do know better and it's not like that at all, though I'm not sure what it is like.

This book is very akin to my Filipino farewell book from the Kong not ten years ago, full of stickers, advice, quotes, stories, and the like. And I love it!

exit stage left: So yesterday was the primary program, which is actually something I've come to dislike. Between the Saturday practice (we skipped it) and practicing during General Conference (to which I take extreme umbrage) it just seems like more of a chore than a valuable presentation.

Maggie knew her line. James 1:5. She really did. But of course she refused to say it, and refused to sit on the stand with her class. I finally got her to sit on the stand by giving her her own chair separate from the other kids. She didn't want to sit by India kids; they are mean to her. She says. Then when it was time for her scripture I took her up to the podium. Silence. She refused to say it other than in my ear, for only me to hear. Not for India people to hear. So I told her to say it with me, which basically left me saying it. She also kept refusing to sing the songs and kept asking if she could come sit with me, which I didn't let her get away with.

In the end she did NOT get a box of Nerds bought in Dubai as a present. I get them because I said the scripture. But at least she sat up there. I guess next year we'll find out if this is really just a shy thing or if it's like she says--just not for Indian people thing. Obviously she's shy but I also think she doesn't like Indians much.

Afterwards they were rewarded with a Domino's pizza party. On a Sunday. Again, seems to defeat the purpose of a primary program when it's polished off with breaking one of the ten commandments. I often feel like kids are made for Primary and not the other way around. Hopefully it'll be a better program back home.

[Comments] (4) ka-boom: Happy Diwali! To celebrate the holiday, we were awoken by fireworks at 6 am! Three things are really wrong with this.

1. It's just plain rude. Nuff said.

2. I like fireworks as much (probably more than) the next guy. I remember sending on July 4th in Bakersfield and Susie's family had NO plans to see or light fireworks. None. Truly disappointing. But still. I don't see the point to the fireworks that simply make noise. The ones you light at night that are visually appealing, sure. But the ones that you pay $5 that just make noise, I just don't see the point. I guess the point is to be rude and wake your community up before they want to be up.

3. There are apparently no rules in India about being quiet at certain times, or worrying about fire hazards (here anyone can light off the type of fireworks that back home you would only see at a show, for example). All this seems very dangerous to me, but since I'm refraining from fireworks, no one can sing "John started the fire" at least.

[Comments] (1) the time has come: Less than 24 hours until we leave for the airport. Here's hoping for a smooth flight, no delays, a fun day in NYC, no lost luggage, and the ability for all of us to sleep on the plane. But if not, oh well. Just getting out of the country is all I can honestly ask for at this point.

[Comments] (1) first impressions: Getting settled. We arrived on time in SLC with all our luggage, a huge success, and made it safely back to our home around 10 pm on the first. The second we battled jet lag, unpacked the house, made a huge mess, went to Cafe Rio, Target, Old Navy, and Wal-Mart and spent money, and had visits and Zupa's dinner with mom and Brook and family.

Tuesday I went to work and got everything on my list fixed except my Blackberry, which still isn't working. Otherwise everything works! Today I also started drinking Naked Juice again and am in heaven.

Friday we hit Kohl's and Franco helped me move the heavy duty stuff. The house is in decent shape now; about 85% there.

Saturday I drove to work in a snowstorm to use the internet we are still lacking at home, in a snow storm. We also bought Dalton a big boy bed, coming Tuesday. We also had a nice family gathering. Today I'm in Chicago for the week teaching.

It already feels like we never left. It already feels like India is a million miles and a million years away. The body health for me is slowly returning, but the poor kids are battling the dry, cold weather with coughs and chapped lips.

Tomorrow Maggie starts Pre-school. We still need to get the car registered again and buy me a new car next week when I get home. I'm already getting solicited for new clients from the Irvine office to work on this busy season. I forsee a lot of travel in my future.

It's just good to be home. Even if home is cold.

electric slide: I bought a new car yesterday. Well, new to me. It's a Mazda 3 hatchback, electric blue, with a GPS, keyless entry and keyless engine start, heated leather seats, sunroof, and more buttons and gadgets than I am normally used to. I would never order such gadgets in a car but it worked out here in the perfect used car. It's a 2011 and has only 13K miles on it.

We bought it at CU Auto Center and it was such a refreshing change from Karl Malone Toyota. No pressure, no sales pitch, no bargaining the price, just test drove two cars, asked some questions, and went home with a new car.

We had them peel the window tint off the car as it seriously made the car look too gangster and was hard for me to look out the rear view mirror without a halo effect on the other car's lights. We like it much better without the tint.

It's hard to believe we survived on one car for 18 months! But it was nice to do so, even though it is now just not feasible.

I survived the week in Chicago. I still have to go to Orlando in December and back to Chicago in January. There's a lot of travel in my future that I'm not looking forward to. I missed the kids a lot and they missed me. Especially Dalton. He won't let me out of his sight now. I even slept in his bed with him last night. He's my cuddlebug.

[Comments] (1) survey says: Common questions people ask me about India:

Did you like the food? Easily answered with a resounding NO.

Did you learn the language? Easily answered with a "which one?"

Are you happy to be home? Easily answered in the affirmative.

The questions rarely go deeper than this.

I spent Friday in Irvine eating pizza, playing UNO and pictionary, and meeting up with a really old friend, Kris Rickard, who grew up in my hood. We sat next to each other on the plane (serendipity), and are both CPA's. It's a small accounting world. The drive home from the airport was treacherous in the snow and had me missing Irvine already.

Today we hit IHOP for yummy eggnog pancakes, delish gingerbread hot chocolate, and the balloon lady, who made Dalton a snowman and Maggie a T-Rex (what else indeed). Then we hit Old Navy for the sale of a century. At noon sharp all adult winter clothes were 75% off. And since our winter clothes are all missing, we were in dire need. I bought a fleece jacket for $12, a down coat for $17, Susie a coat for $14, Maggie a coat for $17, new gray work pants for $25, and we got an additional $10 off the entire purchase. We got there at 11 and grabbed all the good stuff and got in line for the bewitching hour. It was a good plan. We are now prepared for Jack Frost and his worst.

Then we went and saw Jodi and Franco's new pad and took Grandma June a Christmas tree. It was wierd to see the same old tombstone, now 24 years old, with a brand new death date sketched in under Grandma's name. Maggie wanted to see her bones, I guess like a dinosaur fossil.

Now we're home decorating for the holidays, making up for missed time from last year. Also making a list of food for Thanksgiving and baking Andes mint chocolate chip cookies. It's going to be a great holiday season!

the in crowd: Our ward here is nice, overall. I have some good friends, most of which are still around, and it was nice to catch up with these people today. Next Sunday we get to speak about our India rotation.

But. This ward can also be funny at times. For example, one Mother's Day, the Bishop went around the congregation singling out mothers he knew that were good mothers. Which inevitably left the rest of the mothers, Susie included, feeling like NOT good mothers. I was really unhappy that day. Like Mother's Day doesn't carry enough emotional baggage as it is for most women who don't live up the ideals people lie about that day.

Then today it was the Sunday School teacher, going around the room saying things like "I like Sister so-and-so; she's so great." Well. What about all the brothers and sisters so-and-so who didn't receive a verbal accolade? By default, I suppose we are NOT great, not liked by the teacher, and really didn't need to come at all today.

I know, well HOPE, their intentions are good. But it sure does come off rude.

My kids often give me access to clubs I'm otherwise shut out of. Someone, in UT no less, today at church told me Dalton is the cutest little boy she's ever met!

[Comments] (1) turkey bowl: Monday I worked a full day and today I worked half of the day. We strung Christmas lights on the house, then we went Thanksgiving shopping, grabbed some donuts and Subway, and are now at the cabin for the night. Maggie's been begging to go since we got back to the states three weeks ago and we finally made it.

We've been here 2.5 hours and the cabin is still only 60 degrees now. We've got a long ways to go! Maggie and I also went on an adventure walkabout to the stick house. She remembers going to Timp Cave two summers ago, before Dalton was even born. She's got a great memory.

Tonight we'll cuddle up next to the fire over hot chocolate and Cheetos and watch teevee, read the Kindle, and master some Sudoku. It looks to be a very peaceful evening. Baby it's cold outside.

[Comments] (1) sky high: We spent last night at the cabin. It only took about 4 hours to get the temp up from 40 to 68 degrees. Dalton had a hard night up there until we finally pulled a Yankee swap, with Susie in Dalton's bed and Maggie in mine. Then it was fine. Go figure.

We took Subway for dinner, ate donuts for breakfast (the kids wouldn't stop begging for them but we somehow held out until breakfast) and then stopped at Wendy's on the way home for lunch. The goal of the trip was to relax.

Maggie took my hiking in the 6 inches of snow up to the stick house. We also went and saw my Uncle Scott's new cabin up there. It's huge and nice but I'm glad I don't have to worry about my kids on those stairs.

This afternoon I took the kids on a walk on the Porter Rockwell trail and to the playground. They used to whine on a walk that long but this time around they loved it. I guess a year of uneven sidewalks without the double stroller has made them appreciate these little things. We had fun, but it was a workout for me.

Let Turkey Day begin!

[Comments] (1) day of food: Susie does the shopping in our household. Period. But sometimes I get to interject food into our kids lives that Susie won't eat. This week brought about egg nog! Maggie and Susie both have an aversion to milk that, frankly, I don't understand. They both like cold water with their cookies, for example. Yuck.

But Maggie LOVES egg nog! She first thought it was milk but I made her take a drink. Next thing I knew, the entire carton was empty and Maggie was asking for more. The more of us that like it, the more likely we are to get Susie to buy it.

weekend and Maggie's: TU & WED we spent at the cabin in the cold. It took four hours to get the temp up where we needed it. There was more snow than we expected but we still went out and had fun sans snow gear. I love going up there in the winter and playing some Christmas songs on the player piano while sipping egg nog.

TH was turkey day. Mostly ate, but also hit the park with the kids, and watched "BC Thanksgiving" with my brother and sister on YouTube, a favorite of ours as kids. They just don't make them like that anymore. I wonder why comic strips no longer make holiday teevee specials.

FR morning Susie went to the temple and I worked until the kids woke up. Then we went to see the Muppet Movie with our free movie tickets we procured from the dentist thanks to his refer a patient program. By keeping a low profile that day, we avoided mace, pepper spray, taserings, and other such festive Black Friday events

SAT we hit the mall, but to do the Angel Tree program. We picked a two year old boy and a seven year old girl and had fun buying Barbies, cars, and clothing. We also managed to buy Dalton's present that day. Then we went to lunch at Su Casa with my mom for the best Mexican food in town.

Today was church, wherein Susie and I were asked to speak about our experiences in India. Then onto tithing settlement (we passed) and home teaching. My 16-month stint of no home teaching came to an end. But unfortunately our 16-month stint of not being home taught will live to see another day.

Tomorrow I leave UT behind to work on-site at a client's in Anaheim for a week. Travelling is never as much fun alone. And when it's for work.

[Comments] (1) forgettable week: What a disaster. Flew to CA (Anaheim) for the week on Monday. Monday was ok. A lot of work going on. Tuesday got worse. By Wed I realized that I had no support above me or beneath me to complete this project. I was a manager being asked to play all roles, which meant forgoing sleep, food, and a good attitude in the process.

The nearest hotel EY would approve was 10 miles away, which is a big deal in LA. I also got pulled over for wreckless driving but the cop took one look at my UT license and let me off with a warning. He also asked me if I knew where I was going and instructed me to be more careful getting back on the freeway, because freeways are a new-fangled CA concept I couldn't possibly navigate. Still, no ticket was nice.

Thursday the team finally started showing support, but also required me to change my Friday flight to Saturday, due to said work overload. Meanwhile, as the team trotted off Friday night to a work party, the lone SLC-based professional burned the midnight oil. Friday night I was given more work, and Saturday saw my flight delayed. I finally got home around 2 pm. I was supposed to fly to Orlando at 8 am Sunday morning for training but I said hell no to that and am staying home. No one knows I'm playing hooky but I have a feeling I'll still have plenty of work show up in my Inbox come Monday to keep me busy. At least now I won't have to work all night after training and fighting more jet lag. And I'll actually get to see my family for a change, since it's back to LA the week after. It's the pits.

I think I'm ready to go back to India now.

[Comments] (5) a funny thing happened on the way to the house: The auspicious Ernst & Young Salt Lake City office is located conveniently across the street from the homeless shelter. Today someone followed me to my car, began crying about how he fell asleep at the bus station waiting for a ride home to Dallas and how his bag got stolen. The police wouldn't give him money; Temple Square wouldn't give him money, and he just wanted to go home and needed $13.87 plus would like some food. I gave him a $20 (which I try to keep in my car for emergencies) and he was floored. He thanked me, asked if he could give me a hug, then did so before I could object, told me I'm generous and good looking (I had a hunch he might be playing for the other team) and went on his way.

I'm going to start keeping that $20 in smaller bills going forward. Did I do the wrong thing?

I'm not interested in what Jesus would do. The older I get, and the more I study his life, the LESS I pretend to know about what Jesus would do. So while the Democrats and the Republicans fight about whether or not Jesus was occupy Wall St (I vote yay but what do I know), I don't pretend to know if Jesus would give a potential loser means to further perpetuate his loser-ness.

I do feel good about it. I can't possibly judge the intentions of everyone, and I really was not in the mood to let him in my car, driver him to Wendy's and then the train station to purchase him the required meal and ticket to Dallas, and, while time is money, it was easier to give him $20. But next time, I'm going to be more firm about the hug thing.

[Comments] (2) sorting piles: After surviving India for a whole year with a lot less stuff, I'm just amazed at all the junk in my house. So I'm decluttering, filling the trash and recycle bins, and making numerous DI trips.

My latest binge is going through my mission stuff. I saved ALL of my weekly blue missionary reports. Yeah, like I care to look at all the blue oceans. So I kept one from each companionship and threw the rest in the recycle bin. I also kept all my letters. And my parents kept all the letters that came to me. I've re-read all the letters from friends and then thrown them away. They were fun to read again, but also awkward, because some were a little personal for me now that I'm married. So into the recycle bin they went.

Some of these letters were post-mission from girls. Susie and I made fun of most of those then threw them away. Some good memories, some good laughs, but mostly forgettable times.

I would love to keep all the letters from my dear Filipino sisters, but I honestly cannot read them. The handwriting is too difficult and if I can't read it now, then when? So into the trash bin.

I'm trying to keep the family letters but not the ones from my dad. They are too preachy with nothing about what life was like while I was gone, you know, something a historian would like to read. But I did keep a few gems. One is a letter he wrote me from my dog. It says thinks like "Woof woof Today your dad went to the temple bow wow it was a crowded session wags my tail I missed him while he was gone." Another is a letter where my mom tells me about how my dad watched some Dateline in 2000 about identity theft and so they bought a shredder but it jammed while my mom was at work so my dad started flushing paper down the toilet to dispose of it until, lo and behold, the bathroom flooded! Susie and I are still ROFL about that one!

I am also keeping my White Bible and all of the Midvale East 3rd ward newsletters.

I also threw away all but my senior year yearbook. Susie threw away all of hers but refuses to throw away her mom's, dad's, or grandparent's.

I feel like there is more stuff somewhere to throw away or give away somewhere.

[Comments] (1) economy stimulation: So one of my clients is big on white shirts, ties, and suits. I don't own a suit. I don't enjoy wearing suits. My last suit was purchased during wedding planning at the tuxedo shop and served me well for seven years before my wallet finally wore a hole in the pants. Lesson learned.

So today I braved the stores suit shopping. Suits are expensive! They make it seem like a steal of a deal when it's BOGO free but now I have two suits when one would suffice. Hopefully I can remember not to wear my wallet in it, not to let the kids' sticky hands near it, and not to gain any weight so it'll last sevenplus years. I've now officially done my part to help GDP grow by spending money on stuff I don't really want.

We are also in the process of refinancing our house. Our bank representative never called or emailed us back after multiple attempts to refi. Finally Susie went into the bank, met someone else, and voila, we are in escrow! We are taking some of our India savings to pay down the loan balance, and we are going from a 6.375% interest rate to a 4.25% interest rate. Net savings will be just shy of $500 per month! No wonder the bank doesn't want us to refi! Then today we get a letter in the mail from said original bank rep. Sure it's a form letter, but he tells us to call him NOW to discuss our long-term mortgage needs. What a crock.

As part of the refi, the bank verified our credit scores. Mine is in the 800's and Susie is in the 700's. Not sure why we are different. But we are clearly credit worthy.

We also stimulated the economy by purchasing some festive holiday bundt cakes and gingerbread egg nog, which we took to Grandma's house to share. The entire meal was delicious! But won't help me in the keeping my suit dilemma if my waist outgrows the pants too fast.

[Comments] (2) the christmas box: Our little baby, 14 weeks in the womb, no longer has a heartbeat. We are very sad. Maggie keeps asking why the baby died and I tell her that I don't know why. Everyone is reassuring me I'll see this baby again and in the meantime is being watched over by the likes of Grandma June, Grandma Frances, and so on. Note to self: whether or not this may be true, and whether or not I am telling this to someone with a shared belief system, DON'T. I'm not ready to hear about that right now. Right now I just want condolences and a shoulder to cry on, which for some reason is harder to come by than one would think. I think it was especially hard because Susie found out alone while I was working in Irvine all week. And since no one there knew we were even expecting, I kept it to myself. Being home with my family has helped some.

The Christmas season is coming, which is normally a celebration of the Birth of someone special, but writers like Dickens would remind me that the Marleys were dead to begin with, and it's the end of that story that is more important than the beginning anyway, so I'm at least in the right season for contemplation.

I'm sad this has happened but will be ok. I'm blessed to already have two beautiful children and an even more beautiful wife, and we'll get through it together somehow. And there is always the hope of future children. I've had a small glimpse into the full-time reality of many infertile friends and neighbors, and perhaps that increased understanding is important somehow. I'm sure in the coming days, months, and years I'll wonder about the child that would have been. The miracle of life really is a miracle.

time warp: We visited Provo today to attend the dinosaur museum, eat lunch at the amazing Magleby's, and visit Frances and Roy at the cemetery. There is a new section by their gravesite with an angel statue and lots of kid's graves. Some are decorated quite elaborately, with Christmas trees, etc. One even had a sign saying "Santa stop here!"

I think if I ever had a baby die I would bury them in the family plot rather than in the baby section. I've wondered if the baby section plots are paid for by the city, which is a nice thought. A much nicer thought than "Santa stop here" in the cemetery at the very least.

another Christmas in the trenches: The Christmas Eve party had all the great food this year with half of the sing-along time, given that it was Saturday night and church comes early. We got home and put kids to bed around 8:30 and played Santa and watched a show and went to bed at 10:30. I set an alarm for 7:30 this morning and boy did we need it. We were all sleepyheads.

I should mention that during this trip I introduced Leonard to Rankin Bass "Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer" due to a retired Macy's Santa turned comedian's suggestion, and also to "A Christmas Story" and "A Muppet Christmas Carol." The latter two are my favorite Christmas shows and Leonard seemed to enjoy them. He and Susie have been discussing if their childhood was lacking not growing up with these shows. Perhaps.

Back to Christmas. Santa was kind enough to leave a coloring book, some treats, and a new tie out for us on the kitchen table while we hurried to get to church by 9 am for the festivities. It was a packed house which I think surprised most people. But if you don't go to church on Christmas, what's the point really? So we went. Maggie sang with the Primary which really upset Dalton. He just sat there on my lap whining like a puppy dog left out in the cold. I guess he later decided he'd had enough with being left out because, before Susie or I could do anything, he marched right up on the stage and stood there while a teenage girl sang "O Holy Night." I didn't know what to do. He doesn't do stuff like this; he's not one of those kids.

I decided going up to get him would just disrupt the musical number so I let Dalton be. I decided if he started jumping off chairs I would go get him. Halfway through the song he decided he was done singing and he came down on his own and went to the wrong pew after pew until he found us. At first I thought he went to the wrong pew on purpose to play with the Bartons.

We already know Dalton hates being left out of pre-school and I guess this was his defiant move.

I told Maggie she would get an extra present from Santa if she would wear the blue Chinese dress we bought her in Hong Kong and she finally agreed to wear the dress I love but she hates. The people in front as well as behind our pew complimented her as did Jodi at the family party. She looks so beautiful in it but that girl also has her own defiance.

Back at home we changed clothes and went to see what Santa brought us. Dalton got some cars and a racetrack for them and Maggie got dinosaurs and a dinosaur play mat for them to live on, complete with a volcano and waterfall for the pleiosaurs. They both got a DVD and some candy and socks in their stockings as well as a soccer ball for Maggie.

We let the kids play for an hour then moved upstairs to open the gifts under the tree, though truth be told I think the kids were content to play with their Santa gifts all day long. The tree brought a football and basketball for Dalton and a stuffed Stegosaurus for Maggie. The kids also got a really awesome log cabin lego set that we spent hours putting together.

We hit Grandma and Grandpa's for dinner and more presents. We played a White Elephant gift and, Maggie, unhappy with hers declared '"I got a rock" which of course set the cute-o-meter off the charts and had us all ROFL at her proper reference to the Charlie Brown Halloween episode.

Christmas is now over, and it was the best ever. I'm excited to have some new toys in the house and to settle down and enjoy a hopefully lazy rest of the year.

easy come, easy go: So. I don't think I've had such a pile from Santa since I was a kid. This year I got two new suits and ties (old one, 8 years old, died right before India and I didn't want a new one to get ruined in India), an iPhone (Blackberry died on Dec 23 and the Verizon guy told me not to bother with a new one since Blackberry is fighting a losing battle), a new camera (the old one also got put on life support in India), and new clothes and things for the house, because they either got ruined in India, got left in India, or just needed updating after our 18-month Asian trek. I guess it was all just building up for the perfect Black Friday extravaganza.

Couple all this with the new car purchase in November and I am ready to not spend any more money for a very very very long time. We saw a Buddha filled with billions of dollars of shredded US money at Ripley's in Bangalore. I could use that pot right about now.

hot and cold: Today got up to 59 degrees! Unfortunately there was a cold breeze and no sun but it was warm enough to don gloves, scarves, hats, and hit the park. I drove us to Draper Park but parked about 1/3 mile away and we walked along the trail to the park. Incidentally, the house we parked next to houses ostriches, a zebra, sheep, and horses. Now the two latter are quite common in Draper, but the former not so much. Heck, the zoo doesn't even have a zebra! No clue if it's an illegal zebra or not, but I'm willing to argue for amnesty, as it doesn't appear to be collecting Social Security.

The park was fun. A lot of slides, and we tried out Dalton's new basketball on the court there. I've definitely played worse ball in my days. The kids didn't want to leave.

The park was packed so we weren't the only ones trying to shake off cabin fever, but I was amazed how many parents think a coat is sufficient when really gloves and a hat are necessary still. 59 degrees or not, it is winter still. One girl told me she wished she had her scarf but I still didn't give her mine. Tomorrow is supposed to start acting like winter again but the last two days have been nice.

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