Tuesday, November 10, 2009


It's been about four month since we moved here to India and although there is plenty of things that I can complain about the one thing that I cant complain about is the currency used here. Recently the Indian Rupee has varied anywhere from 47-50 rupee per American Dollar. It is usually pretty easy to do quick conversions in your head to see if you think you are paying too much for something. Such as the 8 dollar pack of Oreos or 12 dollar package of 6 slices of ham. (lunch meat)
What I like most about the currency here is that the paper money has the denominations are distinguished from each other by color and size. The 5 rupee bill is green and is the smallest. While the 1000 rupee bill is the largest I have seen and is red-ish. I have heard that some people occasionally mistake 1000 bills for 100 rupee bills. I though have never had this issue. This is probably because I rarely get 1000 rupee bills since they are difficult to use. If you want to use a 1000 rupee bill at most shops you better have about 900 rupees or more in merchandise. Otherwise the shop keepers give you dirty looks and ask if you have anything smaller.
The only complaint about using money here is that many places do not keep change in their shops. I have received small candies or chocolates instead of change. The norm is that one candy equals one rupee. While I do not get my change back I do get candy so I guess that makes it ok.
In other news a storm is sitting off of Bombay right now so it has rained all day long and will most likely continue to rain for the next day or so. Fun. Because of the storm, the temperature dropped a degree or two which means that every one is now wearing sweatshirts and coats. I however still roam the city in my shorts and t-shirts. Because I still think it is hot. Ok, that's all for now.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Trip to the zoo

A little while back I took the boys to the local zoo with a friend of ours and her children. We had a pretty good time. We arrived around 1030 am which is when the zoo opened. As our driver pulled the car into the drop off area in front of the gate, we were followed by a pack of 8 or so young children who immediately started to beg from us while we attempted to get the kids out of the car. Believe it or not, it is difficult to get 4 kids out of an SUV while being hounded for change. I attempted several times to stop the kids from bothering us while we walked to the ticket booth but I failed miserably. Surprisingly Nathan was the most successfully when he screamed "This is MY daddy!!" to the kids who were trying to tug at my shirt. Luckily when we entered the gate the children did not follow. Although I usually ignore beggars here on principal alone, (even acknowledging them will make it worse the next time they see you. And they will remember a white guy.) I really can't stand it when I have my kids with me because I am trying not to loose them while also fending off the beggars.
The zoo itself was really nothing to write home about. we saw approximately 9 exhibits while walking the 1/2 mile or so to the elephant area. (this is where the kids really wanted to go) out of the exhibits we saw, over half of them did not have any animals visible. Out of the exhibits that did have animals, 3 were different kinds of deer and one was a tiger which was hidden in the undergrowth of the pen and barely visible. The exhibits were so spread out that at one point the kids asked if there was any other animals while walking between two exhibits. When we finally got back to where the elephant area, we found out there was no elephant in site. I don't know if it was not there at all or just hidden from view. The elephant area was rather large with a wooded area and only a path for the elephant to follow around the exhibit.
After finding that there was no elephant, we then had to walk back to the front of the zoo and I had to carry Nathan after he refused to walk back. During this whole trip I slowly discovered that our group was as much as an exhibit there than the rest of the animals. We were stared at, pointed at, and laughed at while they were pointing. I really don't mind this at all. We were the only white people there. Actually, the kids were the real attraction. Little white kids turn heads everywhere we go. whats annoying is that people will grab your kids and try to take their picture. They will do this even if you don't know whats going on. I was walking while carrying Nathan and Alex and his friend Rowan were slightly behind me. I suddenly noticed that Rowan wasn't with me anymore. A family had grabbed her and was taking her picture. Immediately I went over to where she was and yelled at the family and walked off with Rowan. People here have no problem doing this. It is not only annoying but a little scary. You need to be aware of where all the kids are 110% of the time. Most of the people here are innocent but I don't trust any of them.
After we left we were again hounded by beggars while waiting for the car. I gave one little girl an Oatmeal Raisin cookie which I was sure she would have thrown away since they are usually only interested in money. But, she ate it, and I felt that I should have given her two. That's all for now.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Diwali in Pune

So this last weekend was Diwali. I can honestly say that I don't remember ever really hearing about the holiday before. I probably did, but I really don't remember it. Diwali is referred to as the Festival of lights and is a national holiday here in India. It is celebrated in Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, but it is celebrated for different reasons. Where we live, the population is mostly Hindu. In Hinduism the holiday is celebrated in recognition as the inner light that goes beyond the physical being. It also signifies the Return of Rama to Ayodhya. Rama was a King returning to the city of Ayodhya, which is in northern India, after a fourteen year exile after which he rules for thousands of years. It also signifies the killing of Narakasura who was an evil demon who created havoc by the Lord Krishna. The main theme is the triumph of good over evil. the holiday is celebrated over five days.
However, in my ignorant American view of the holiday, it seems to me to be like Christmas and fourth of July all rolled into one. People give gifts, eat a lot of sweets, and are business's have massive sales around the Diwali Holiday. Along with that, for the entire five days and a few extra, fireworks are constantly set off from before sunset until around 1-2 in the morning. To be honest, it gets a little annoying after a while. On the main night of Diwali, we went to our friends house to watch some of the ceremonies and light fireworks. It was generally fun. We lit mostly sparklers and a few flower pots which mainly just shoot sparks up into the air. The kids really didn't like anything else. To them it was too loud. Others though did not have such reservations. the entire city sounded like a war zone until well after midnight. There are very few illegal fireworks here and almost every shop sets up a stand outside to sell them. Explosions constantly rang out and smaller firecrackers that sounded like little machine guns went off in between. The close ones hurt your ears. Especially when I was trying to cover Nathan's ears for him. and the far off ones sounded like something out of a war movie. When we returned to our society (apartment), we were greeted by the entire parking lot covered with debris from the fireworks. These piles were at least a foot thick. There was only a solitary path so that cars could still drive in. but even that was covered in cardboard casings and other trash. Honestly I am not upset that the firework nights seem to be over.
The other really, really, really annoying thing about Diwali is that it seems like everybody thinks they deserve money from you for the holiday. What happens is that your doorbell will ring and when you answer, someone that works in you society is there holding out their hands and saying "happy Diwali". Basically implying that you need to give them a gift for the holiday. Mostly all they expect is 10-50 rupees (20 cents-1 dollar) but it gets really annoying after the 5th to 8th time. I feel like I had every employee of the society come to my door and ask for Diwali money. I did give to the general fund for all of the cleaning staff and guards but that is about it. Towards the end I just acted like I had no idea what they were saying and I just closed the door. I even had a guard stop our car as we were leaving one afternoon and ask for it. It seems like they all get really greedy when this holiday comes around. I remember being slightly annoyed when the Salvation Army people stand outside seemingly every store in the U.S. I feel like giving to one isn't enough. But at least they don't hound you.
The last interesting thing I saw last week was a group of "ladymen" or Hijras. Its a little confusing but they are basically transvestites or eunuchs. This group went around to all the shops and hit up the shopkeepers for money. I "think" it was protection money. Not really mobish but to keep these Hijras from causing trouble for the shopkeeper. Mainly they will taunt the person publicly and make sexual advances in public. I had the boys with me so I think they left me alone because of that. But they gave me a long look so I think they thought about it. Fun. Most of these men were not convincing at all as women. I was more than fifty feet away when I came around the corner and saw them. It took me about 1.347 seconds to figure it out. I saw a show about them and I think culturally there is more to it but at the moment I just wanted to avoid them. ok, that is it for now.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

It's Different!!

I have been seeing this commercial lately for a local ketchup brand from a company called Maggi. The also make several other products with the most popular one being Maggi noodles. These are basically ramen noodles in the U.S. but with masala flavor instead of the oriental, beef, chicken, and pork that ramen offers. They are so popular that just using the term "Maggi" means that you are talking about the noodles. And the worst thing about the Maggi noodles is that Nathan absolutely loves them. He would eat them for every meal if I let him. There has been more than one occasion where he demanded Maggi for breakfast. Now, I don't like to fight my son too much over what he eats for breakfast since I am usually trying in vain to keep them as quiet as possible so that Kathleen can sleep, but I draw the line at Maggi. I really don't think that those kinds of foods are appropriate for breakfast.
The ketchup commercial I see now is just a man and his son (I think) talking about something over some food. I have no idea what they are saying because I believe they are speaking Hindi. The tag line for the commercial is "it's different" referring to the ketchup. I don't know about anyone else, but referring to your product as being "different", doesn't really make me want to try it. What I usually think is, different compared to what?, and what does that even mean? You would think that they would want to say that the ketchup is great and how many people love it. But it does not really surprise me here in India that they would use that claim. I recently broke down and purchased a pack of the ketchup. Mainly, I did this to appease Nathan who strongly requested that I buy it every time we went to the store for a month. I haven't tried it yet but when I do I will try to remember to comment on how it tasted. Hopefully it is not that "different".

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Field Trip!

Today Alex and Nathan's school went on a field trip of sorts to another school. I think the idea here was to let the kids have class in a different location for a day. I was asked to join the group at the last second since another child became ill and the mother could not go. Also this let me bring my camera along to visually record the days events. Fortunately the day began quite easy compared to other days. Kathleen agreed to get up at 7am with me to help get the boys ready while I got ready myself. This was a feat in itself since she gets home between 3 and 4 in the morning and at that point only slept for around 3 hours. My good fortune ended though when the boys went to school because as soon as we arrived at the school they decided that they did not want to go on the field trip and Nathan, in particular, wanted to go home. After about fifteen minutes of "convincing" they decided to go. The bus we took was not to awful compared to standard U.S. buses. It was however smaller and could not accommodate the 25-30 kids and teachers so we took two vehicles. It took a little while to actually go the 1o miles or so the other school since the drivers of the buses had to stop and ask for directions 3 times. The last time we stopped, we were traveling on a dirt road directly underneath the landing pattern of the local airport that services both commercial and military traffic. I will say that traveling in a bus on a bumpy dirt road is not the most comfortable ride available. We bounced up and down for quite a bit and constantly had to get to kids to sit back down so they would not go flying. As I said before the field trip was basically a normal class in a different setting. The kids played first and then had there snack. After that, they painted and were able to see a few of the animals at the school. ( This school had several different animals. They had rabbits, fish, chickens, cows, and water buffalo. The school was located adjacent to a farm and I think that they had some kind of co-op running.) The kids loved looking at the animals. Each one lined up to be able to hold the rabbit. Nathan did not do any painting as usual. He hasn't been participating in school activities lately. But Alex had a lot of fun painting his bag. First they painted a sheet of paper and then attached it to the side of a bag provided by the school. They also enjoyed the snack which was basically a tomato sandwich. I find this especially funny since if attempted to give them this kind of snack at home they would most definitely not eat it.
We arrived at the other school around 930am and we left at 1130am so the entire trip was only three hours from start to finish. The boys had a blast though. I hope that in the future we can do more of these outdoor activities especially since the rainy season is almost over. I can be assured that they had a great time since they were very sleepy the rest of the day. Tomorrow we are actually planning on visiting the Aga Khan Palace so we will see how that goes. That's all for now. More to come later.

Monday, August 24, 2009

back to school at last

Today after two weeks of no school, the boys finally had there first day back. Of course they were "very" excited to be going back to the classroom. At least they were until we woke up this morning and they refused to cooperate in any way. They did not want to eat or get dressed. When I did get them dressed, it took me ten minutes to convince Nathan to put his shoes on. On the way down from our flat, we did not take the elevator that Nathan wanted or the gate out of our society. This meant that I had to carry him crying to school. And, in our super humid environment, I was sweating like crazy by the time we got to school. At school, neither boy wanted to get their temperature taken. And, neither boy would willingly go into there classroom. I finally had to use the "ripping the band aid" method to leave Nathan in his classroom. (Don't worry, I stuck around downstairs for a few minutes just to make sure he was ok.) Leaving the school after class today was no picnic as well. Again we did not go to the correct gate for Nathan and Alex started up also. Only after a good nap did they seem loose some of today's crankiness. I can only hope that tomorrow is better getting them to school.
In other news I had been intendingto write a bit about the reverse attitude on skin color here. Where in the United States, people use products to become more "tan", here, the goal is just the opposite. There are numerous advertisements on TV that show products claiming to make your skin fairer. This is both for men and women. I cannot believe any of these products can be healthy for you. Exactly how do you de-tan your skin as one local store advertises as a service? I think it is unlikely that de-tanning is good for your skin or any other part of your body. Luckily for me I barely can become tan in the first place so I do not believe I would benefit from de-tanning services. If I find commercials to use as examples I will put them up here. But for the moment, I haven't seen any online. That's all for now, I will try to write more if we can ever get out of the house and do something interesting.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Shut down

This week the city of Pune is practically shut down do to fears over the spreading H1N1 swine flu. All of the schools have been shut down since Tuesday due to the scare. Its not so bad except that the kids are starting to want to do more than play in the apartment. Luckily we had a play date with one of the other Ex-Pats today so we did get out for a little bit but this will be interesting keeping them busy for at least the next week. Schools are not the only thing closed down. All the movie theaters in the city are closed and at least half of the malls. In general, if it is a public place that a lot of people might go to, it is closed. This is going to be true for the next week or so. I am currently most concerned about getting to the market to get groceries for the next few days. The place we normally go to is closed and suppose we could go to Shivaji Market but that wont get us any milk or cereal and such. I am sure we will figure this out in the next day or two but it should be fun. We finally have the opportunity to do some sight seeing this weekend but are going to be stuck in the house waiting for this whole thing to blow over. I know that seems petty but I haven't seen much of the area and I would like to see something besides the 3 mile area around our neighborhood. But the most annoying thing is we also have Alex's birthday next week. We've had problems trying to figure out what to do for his birthday since he is turning five. But, now it looks like that problem is solved since we have no where to go for his birthday and no stores are open to get any present for him. Luckily he is still young and we can probably push celebrating his birthday back a day or two and hopefully by then the stores will be open again. Well, that is all for now. More to come later.