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[Comments] (1) John Denver: All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go

I'm standing here outside your door

I hate to wake you up to say good-bye

But the dawn is breaking, it's early morn

The taxi's waiting, he's blowing his horn

Already I'm so lonesome I could die

So kiss me and smile for me

Tell me that you'll wait for me

Hold me like you'll never let me go

Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane

Don't know when I'll be back again

Oh baby, I hate to go

[Comments] (2) around the world in 47 hours: We made it! Our initial overnight flight TH night to NYC was just fine. The luggage all got checked with only one bag being overweight and incurring a $150 fee. All others were just fine. Checking the luggage obviously took a long time, but security had no line. Also, we were not subjected to pat downs or image scanning. Just the plain old metal detectors. Of course security took forever with two sleepy kids, 4 pairs of shoes, a laptop, tons of liquids, etc but we made it with about 20 minutes until our flight.

Maggie went right to sleep and Dalton did shortly after take off. I couldn't sleep a wink, but oh well.

NYC was manic. We followed rush hour into the city, and our cabbie was a dodger, so of course Maggie choked, ie threw up, en route to Leonard's house. We made it and slept about two hours on his couch bed, which was fabulous sleep indeed.

We then jaunted on the M line to Rockafeller Center to see the tree, ice skaters, and Susie's boss Kim Danger of We also went up Rockafeller Center for a view of the city. The view did not impress Maggie, but she and Dalton both loved the room up there that had these colored lights all over every surface that follow you when you walk. We then ate lunch with Leonard and headed back to the airport.

I think it's worth mentioning that Dalton charmed a few New Yorkers, a monumental feat.

We got back to JFK with about 3 hours until our flight, checked in, got our baggage transferred to Air India without a hitch, and got seated first, which was nice, as we got lots of good storage space. Air India was great! They gave Maggie a puzzle and story book to read. We had the back row of the first coach compartment, next to the bathroom. We also had an empty seat next to us so we had 5 seats to sleep in. Maggie slept the middle 10 of the 14 hours, a dream come true! Also, once I laid down on the extra seat, I caught some meaningful zzz's as well. Susie and Dalton didn't sleep as well, however.

We arrived in Delhi 24 hours after we left NY, about 4 pm on Friday December 5. Then the real fun began. We had 3 hours until our flight to Bangalore. We were given mixed stories about luggage transfer in Delhi, since we had to go through customs there. Only one bag came out there! And it was a bag we gate checked and were told would not be seen again until Bangalore. So then we went searching for the stroller, which also was not supposed to be seen until Bangalore, but there it was. All our checked luggage was missing. We assumed that meant it was checked through Bangalore, but decided to check. We think they may have unloaded it from the plane rather than just answer our inquiry, and this process ate half of our layover. We somehow managed to get 15 luggage pieces onto two trolleys, with Maggie pushing Dalton in the stroller (SUCH a big helper =)).

We made it through customs without a hitch. I wouldn't want to look through that much luggage either. We then headed to the Bangalore terminal, only to find out that Dalton's seat had been cancelled. Apparently they are not used to infants with seats; rather than inquire, they cancelled our ticket. Turkeys. But the re-issued it, got all our luggage checked, and allowed us the extra carry-ons for this leg of the flight, to keep us moving. We made it just in time! Kudos Air India!

When we checked into International at JFK, the security once again required to imaging or pat downs. And immigration was a breeze! But checking into our Banglore flight required a mild pat down. But we didn't have to take off our shoes. And do you know how they check liquids? They make you drink some of it! Novel idea!

This last 3-hour leg took all the energy out of me. Maggie slept with Susie, leaving me with Dalton, who FINALLY fell asleep about 20 minutes befor we landed. But he made good friends with the gentleman next to us, since he kept throwing his crocodile at him.

In Bangalore we were greeted with an entourage of service folks who helped load all our luggage into our van, with two pieces on the roof. I was sooo nervous we were going to lose those two pieces on the hour car ride in, but we didn't.

Our driver was intense! Apparently the lines in the road are more of a suggestion than anything else, as I think we spent more time between lanes than in one. Also, honking your horn is required in normal intervals, not to exceed 45 seconds. Lastly, well paved roads can change to dirt and back again in a matter of seconds. But Maggie didn't get sick so it was considered a huge success.

We made it to Mercure around 1 am, checked into our abode, and finally went to bed around 2 am. Since the kids slept the last flight and in the car, they were wide awake, so convincing them to sleep was not easy.

Breakfast is included here, and was pretty good. We also took a rickshaw into town yesterday to buy groceries and eat lunch with Rachel, who is now an expert on all things India! We discovered that pasta sauce is ridiculously expensive, and that milk comes in bags! We also saw dogs, pigs, and cows. We walked back to our apartment on the quasi-sidewalks.

Last night we had dinner with the Erickson's. Maggie and Dalton had fun playing on their slide and watching "Dumbo."

Dalton woke us up around 4 am, ready to begin his day. I finally got up with him at 6:30. I leave for work in an hour. I am ready for the jet lag to end, and hope Dalton will cooperate!

We're loving it so far! Our expectations on things are low, based on our visa troubles, so when things go right, we are totally happy. And we consider no lost luggage and fast internet access huge successes! Also, seeing Rachel and Leonard this week and moving to our new place next to the office this weekend are also great things.

The sights, sounds, and smells remind me greatly of Hong Kong, with one glaring difference: people are MUCH nicer here! Well, duty calls.

[Comments] (3) day one: Acclimating slowly.

Today I took in a picture of Susie & I back when we were engaged. I was told by Bhata that I look like "Harry Potter Hero" and I'm quite sure I don't. Daniel Radcliife may be the same age I am, but we are not doppelgangers. I guess he found resemblance in the glasses. I'm not sure why it's called Harry Potter Hero, but I later told him he was my hero when he helped me install a printer on my machine.

Today we took a group to lunch at National BBQ, I think. We ate on the roof and it pretends to be Brazilian BBQ but in my mind was much better. They had pineapple, bell peppers, shrimp, fish, chicken, and a buffet. I filled up on the grilled stuff and have been a little bit sick lately due to eating or touching something not quite clean, so I just sat and waited for them to eat. Now they think I don't eat anything, and I'm sure my physique only confirms this lie to them. I'll show them next time, once my iron stomach kicks in.

On the way back to the office, our rickshaw driver was carrying on a conversation with another rickshaw driver as we barrelled down the road at 40 kph. They were talking for a good 5 minutes. That takes skill!

Tonight we ate crepes at the Oasis mall. Since our driver was busy, we took a rickshaw and Dalton seems to enjoy it, though he does look mildly scared sometimes. I wonder what he thinks of this whole thing. Poor guy is still jet lagged (had me up at 5:30 this morning) and seems confused. Maggie, however, seems totally acclimated. She doesn't seem to get scared and takes it all in stride. She's still talking about the impending elephant ride, which we will do our best to produce once we get settled in our final destination.

[Comments] (1) daily download: Everything seems super expensive here! I guess when the conversion factor is 44:1 that's to be expected, but it's hard to divide by 44 in my head, so everything seems to cost a lot.

I think my need to be nice is going to be hard to overcome here, and will lead me to be taken advantage of rather frequently. I guess I'll either learn to toughen up or I'll learn to let Susie do everything!

I'm trying really hard not to compare everything to Hong Kong here, because I don't think I would like someone from India coming to the US and constantly comparing me to, say, Guatemala. But there are a lot of things that are similar to me.

As for comparing Bangalore to Hong Kong, one thing that is very different is ME. I am no longer a poor missionary. People still look at me, but not like they did as a missionary. And I'm not constantly on the street engaging the common man. I am uneasy having a driver, although it is necessary. I never felt rich in America. Comfortable, content, but not rich. But obviously I am now. And I need to remember that. But still not be a pushover.

hot and cold: So today we attended Sumana's sister's wedding. It was a large ordeal, and Dalton practically stole the show. Apparently at Indian weddings it is completely acceptable to come in and out and talk loudly during the 3-hour ceremony. As such, we only showed up for the final 30 minutes. It seemed lovely, everyone seemed blissfully happy, and the food was great!

We had the banana leaf meal, which is quite exotic. They come and put a little from column A, etc on your banana leaf and then you dig in with your fingers! There were only 3 items I didn't really eat; everything else was very tasty. I especially liked the sour yogurt with sugar crystals on top, the carrot concoction, the green bean concotion, and the fried rice concoction. Maggie enjoyed the tortilla-like items as well as the salt pile. She also liked the ice cream.

It was hard to eat with my fingers, especially with Maggie on my lap. Quite a bit of the food ended up on Maggie's dress and in her hair, poor thing. And I started to eat with my left hand, which is also a no-no. Earlier in the day we visited a temple and I knew to take off my shoes but was later told one must also cross the mantle with one's right foot. I don't recall if I did or not, but some of the people in the temple scowled at us the whole time so it's entirely possible I made another Indian faux pas. Oh well; I'm trying.

Today we got passport photos after the wedding. On the way back to pick them up I donned shorts and a T-shirt. I can tell they were sniggering at me. I don't care. My frame of reference for wintertime includes snow and below zero temperatures, not blazing heat (I was DYING at the wedding with all those people) and sunshine.

Tomorrow we move to our place next to the office, and next to a grocery store! I feel bad making our driver stick around so I send him home a lot only to later need milk or apple juice, staples at our house. Now we can just walk!

[Comments] (1) driving in circles: So yesterday we moved into our new place. I don't think words can describe. I really expected it to be much much nicer or at least much more American. But I'm not sure why I thought that would be the case. I guess perhaps because the last set of Americans to live here didn't complain much, I assumed it must be different.

Anyway, the bathrooms leave MUCH to be desired from an American's point of view. But we have the kiddie tub for the kids, and Maggie doesn't seem to mind at all. So we'll just deal. Last night was a cold shower but I called the landlady and learned how to turn on the hot water. I wonder how long it lasts.

Anyway, after dropping off our things, we went to Hyper City, a sort of IKEA meets Target. It was fab. We decided to buy our own bath towels, our own bed sheets (in teal, to spruce the place up), Piglet sheets for Maggie, 3 floor rugs, and a ton of cleaning supplies, which have occupied the last two days. We've also hung some pictures from home. The end result is that the floors no longer leave our feet black (slightly grey only) and the place feels like home. The living area lets in great light in the afternoon. We still need to deep clean the bathrooms, but I think we're procrastinating because neither of us wants to do it. We spent 8,700 rupees or US$190 to spruce the place up. Check Susie's picture blog for details.

The nice things here are that we have more space, a washing machine, and I am much closer to work. And I guess it now feels more like we live here rather than we are visitors. The downsides are the bathrooms, smallish bugs (very small so not scary but just an annoyance really), less comfortable beds, and an uninviting lobby. But Mercure charged US$15/day for Susie to be there and charges about US$20 for a load of laundry, which is unacceptable for how many of us there are. We'd spend $100/week easily on that! So we're better off here. We'll post pictures in the future.

Today was District Conference so had to go downtown to church. We left an hour before and we were 10 minutes late because we got horribly lost. Partially lost because our driver assumed the first Christian church on the street was ours, which was not, as it was Catholic, and partially because our church building was hiding from us. Note to President Monson: if you put up a sign advertising yourself, you might produce more walk-ins.

Dalton had two dirty diapers so I missed most of church taking care of that since there is no changing station in the building. Note to President Monson: a worldwide church should cater to diapered children as well as not. But we own our own building there with lots of parking and even a BBall court. I was surprised there are only 4 white families in the district, other than missionaries. We are a minority here.

Last night we finally hit McDonald's for the chicken nuggets and the Maharaja Mac, which was really good. We fed the whole family for about $5!

Tomorrow is back to the grind!

a job is a job: I've decided that overall life in Bangalore is not that much different that life was in LA. I live in a small apartment that appears to be rather expensive and requires a lot of maintenance. Traffic is absolutely horrid, as it took me 25 minutes to go the 2 km home from the office this evening. Work still requires some long, odd hours. And shows like iRobot and A Beautiful Mind can be seen on the telly while the distant din of Old Madras Road/the 55 freeway can be heard in the distance. The weather is also comparable.

Some differences include that there are really no partners or clients to deal with here, I sang "His Cheeseburger" for about 60 people today over samosas and chocolate cake, the internet is slower, cows don't wander the roadway, and people don't urinate on freeway walls during their normal commute

I really think Rickshaws could revolutionize the LA freeway gridlock.

Compared to UT, the climate is a big difference, and the people are much nicer here. I couldn't get the treadmill to work this morning at the gym and the lady next to me paused hers to help me out!

Overall Bangalore vs other places isn't all that different when 9-5 is spent in the employ of others. What you do with your evenings is your own, and often is similar from place to place. I think it will mostly feel like Bangalore on the weekends.

[Comments] (3) other jobs: I have a personal driver, Sandeep. He drives me to and from work, and drives Susie around as desired. We also have him on the weekends. I can't help but think this is a very boring job.

Our building also employs people who push the button on the elevator for you. Another dismal job.

Another job entails checking under every car that comes into our work for bombs. Again, not a very thrilling job.

This definitely makes me grateful for my job.

My job tends to run later here, ie 10 am to 6:30. I guess I don't mind, but in the states I prefer to hit work before the kids wake up. Waiting until 10 am for work means I have to listen to Dalton cry when I leave, which I don't like at all. But going in earlier would be wasteful because no one would be there to coach!

Although I don't have a lot to do every day to keep busy, the days go by fast. This is mainly because I take teams to lunch because they can't run through expenses here. Lunch normally runs from about 12-3. No kidding. Today's lunch was quite the lengthy ordeal. And my computer here is very tempermental. And I answer a handful of questions a day. The rest is spent in chit chat with my counsellees. So between these activities, the whole day is occupied. It's a far cry from the long client-serving days of yore. I could get used to this!

just a nibble: I've decided a few things that will make my stay in India much easier:

1. I will only eat veg dishes when I eat Indian food. I stand much less of a chance getting sick.

2. I will take one of everything that is Indian, take one bite, and only eat the good stuff. Life's too short to spend in the bathroom or with a scorching hot mouth.

3. I will eat American food for dinner every night (yay comfort food!) and will spend what it takes to keep our house clean and liveable.

I've had traveller's curse since we got here, and Maggie and Dalton also had a bout with it. Now it's finally Susie's turn. I think it's because she ate the chicken at Big Bazaar. Like I said, when eating Indian, it's best to stick with the veg dishes.

We have our weekends booked for the next two months with activities, including a trip to ride an elephant on Christmas day, a trip to the Mysore Palace to see Sumana's mother, an overnight train ride to see the ancient Hampi civilization, and then local activities such as parks, museums, and the like in Bangalore. I'm excited for the weekends to come!

[Comments] (3) mormon standard time: Friday was bring your family to work day. Many people brought their parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, roommates, etc. It was quite the ordeal. Susie and the kids came over and stole the show. We were showered with pretty cake that tastes like nothing (just like they serve in the Kong), tomato potato chips, curried potato chips, and mango juice. When Maggie is shy, she pretends to be a horsie and neighs at people. They don't quite get it. When Dalton is shy, he screams. And because the people here are VERY adverse to children screaming, they quickly give him right back to us.

Saturday we went Christmas shopping and they were actually playing Christmas music in the store! Though the Christmas music was slightly off the norm. We bought Santa presents for the kids and for our driver's son. That night was a Christmas party at the church at 4:30. We arrived on time only to sit around until 6:30 and finally leave before anything had actually happened. We were able to eat some cotton candy and popcorn, and many people borrowed our kids for pictures in front of the Christmas tree, but that was it! No dinner (still in the works), no program (still in the works also) when we left two hours after the advertised start time. I should have known.

Today was church. No one played the piano so I volunteered and certainly did not play my best. But I don't care; if no one else can play, my plunking is better than nothing. Although I must admit, the members all sang with much gusto and stayed relatively in key and sang the more-or-less correct melody to the songs. That was a nice change from most wards that feebly mumble the words, allowing the organist to mostly play a solo.

We have mostly located the 10 or so stores that carry all the essential US foodstuffs now. We had egg mcmuffins for breakfast yesterday and chocolate chip pancakes for dinner today. Hopefully our bowels and diets will now return to normal! It's mostly the kids now that need the re-adjustment.

I've noticed that when people tell me where in India they are from, I normally reply with "oh that's north." This normally gets me chastised. Even though there are only two territories south of Karnataka, and Bangalore is in the extreme south corner of this state, and I know the names of the two provinces south of here (Tamil and Kerala), I get chastised for assuming they are from the north. When I say North, I mean north of Bangalore. But they all think I mean north India, a different country to itself. I guess we look at the globe differently.

[Comments] (1) all things elephant: For Christmas Eve last night all the outsourced couples gathered at Alan and Kerri Erickson's house for a Bangalore Christmas party. We decorated sugar cookies for Santa (and ourselves!), played some gift exchange games (wherein Susie & I totally cleaned up) and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus. Each family brought a different tradition and ours was the cookies.

During the gift exchange, we won bacon (imported!), ribs (also imported!), a watch, Crisco (also imported!), and a gingerbread kit. Like I said, we cleaned up. With 10 gifts total in the adult pile, we went home with 5!

Christmas night we set out the gifts. Maggie got legos and Dalton got a Handy Manny tool kit, which is kinda noisy, but a big hit with the kids. Santa brought Dalton a box of 25 balls and Maggie an Elefun! Unfortunately, Elefun does not come with batteries, and Big Bazaar was completely out last night at 9 pm. So Christmas was slightly tainted. However, we found an Office Depot on the way home from our Christmas activity today that actually carries C batteries. Apparently batteries are not common here because most people at the store didn't know what I was looking for.

Today we went to the zoo! The zoo costs $4/person and includes a safari ride. Because we are white, and therefore rich, we got to ride in the front of the bus, have someone snap all of our pictures for us, and didn't have to wait in line. In exchange for all of this, we were coerced into a tip. I gave about $2.50, which is a lot, but it was worth it not to wait in line. I feel like I flew first class today! The safari was totally awesome! We literally saw lions, tigers, and bears, all extremely up close.

We also got to ride an elephant! The kids were free and the elephant ride cost $1.50 per person. Again, we had to tip to have our pictures taken, but that only cost $0.50. Then I held out a coin in my hand and the elephant tried to take it from me. But his aim is poor and his trunk kept getting Maggie, which didn't make her too happy.

The kids were as popular as the animals. One man gave the kids cookies and wanted a picture with Maggie. Maggie was a good sport. Eventually I realized he wanted ME to take a picture with MY camera. What am I supposed to do with this picture? Most people that ask take a picture with their own cameras.

Also, the animals are very accessible here. The zebra was right against the fence and people were petting it, then turning around and pinching Dalton's cheeks. Thanks for the germs people! We only petted the elephants, however, as they are the only animals with zookeepers monitoring the petting process.

The zoo takes 90 minutes each way, which is a bummer. But we had a lot of fun for under US$20. One odd charge, however, is $0.50 to take your camera inside. In comparison, dinner at Domino's cost about the same, although we bought enough pizza for leftovers tomorrow. And those batteries for the elefun cost about half of the trip. In the US, for the whole family, a safari and elephant ride would probably cost hundreds of dollars. Next time I'm going to ask for tips to take pictures with my kids. I could have easily payed for the trip this way!

This is hands down the best Christmas ever!

smallish world: I also forgot to write about the car trip to the zoo. Apart from Maggie throwing up sugar cookies in the car, our driver was also listening to a station that played a mix of traditional Christmas songs, disco Christmas songs, last year's Top 40, and this really wierd song that was instrumental except for every once in a while it would state "Barbara Stresiand." I wonder if they like Barbara Streisand or not. I didn't find the song to be flattering at all.

Another thing I forgot to comment on is how nice it is to have Facebook, Youtube, email, etc for this international jaunt. Back in 1999, the internet was still new-ish, and my extremely non-early-adopting church did not approve. As such, I lived for mail, even if it meant potentially reading stacks of letters out of order. It's nice to have real-time updates this go-round.

This week is my second week of teaching training. It sure makes the day go by fast, but is also very exhausting.

the good and the bad: Here's my list of ten things to love and to hate about India. First, the hate:

1. Everyone is always late. Our driver is always late, my coworkers are always late, church functions start hours late, even something simple like booking a hotel takes time because the response time for them to call you back about how much an extra bed costs can literally take DAYS. I guess that explains the visa delay.

2. If you are nice to people, they will take advantage of it.

3. There are no tubs to be found; just a shower spigot and a shower curtain to accompany it. And the hot water is difficult to get in the zone.

4. The stray dogs. The one in our village should be dead any day now; he's losing hair in clumps all over his body and his nose looks pink and rotted.

5. The no-picture policy at a lot of stores, etc. Who cares? Some stores won't even let you take a camera inside. Like I'm really gonna check my camera at the door.

6. The traffic, which is a cultural interest at first, loses all cache when your kids are constantly motion sick.

7. The elevators in our complex are slow and usually don't work. We're talking 5-minute wait to go up four flights of stairs. And at work I'm not allowed to push the button because they pay someone else to do that for you.

8. The food. It's just hard on my American stomach and honestly doesn't taste great.

9. The floors. I don't miss carpet but some hardwood or linoleum would be a nice change to very hard tile and marble that Dalton constnatly bangs his head on.

10. The power outages.

Now the good list =):

1. Travel is cheap. We are going to Mysore tomorrow, Hampi in three weeks, Pondicherry 3 weeks after that, and Goa in May! We are staying at all-inclusive places and have tour guides, etc and each trip is like US$500 for several days. The transportation or the hotel alone is often more than that back home.

2. My coworkers are very good people, albeit habitually 30 minutes delayed to everything. I enjoy working with them.

3. We are close to Hong Kong! We booked a 9-day excursion there (with a day stopover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia beginning April 16)!

4. It's been fun to experience a new way of life, even if it is sometimes frustrating. It makes life fun to try new things.

5. The weather here is great!

6. Though our driver is late and communicates his days off with zero notice, it's nice to have a driver. I get to stop and enjoy travelling more and don't get upset on traffic delays.

7. I live 10 minutes from work, which means more time with the family here. They join me for lunch every day.

8. It's fun to be the minority, at least for me. UT is so blah in that respect and I only live there because of family. I enjoy being in more diverse places, and Bangalore (at least within EY) draws people from all over India. And my kids are the hit of every party!

9. People are much kinder here than anywhere else I've ever lived.

10. There is no concept of keeping up with the Joneses here. I feel blessed every day for what I have here, because there are many reminders of those blessings. I like that.

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