Traffic for 2011 June

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[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.

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