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[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!


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