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[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.

Traffic for 2011 May

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