Thursday, August 31, 2006

Friends, Food, Books and Other Random Thoughts.

This is my random thought blog. Sorry if any of it repeats.

Friends - Jimmy told me today he has 6 friends and I confirmed it as I watched them all wave to each other from the bus. They are very very cute. I think he even has a crush on one girl. Kay has made great friends with our next door neighbor Louis although she could just be using him since he has playdoh, paints, crayons and markers-all of which are at her disposal. Billy has woe'ed our driver. Saravanan calls him Bill-lou and sneaks him treats, candy and cookies when the other kids arent looking. Tom and I are missing our friends. Our only social outlet is with the kids or with work. That part is a little harder than I thought. I hope we make some "other" friends soon. We have some prospects. Our neighbors are from China(her)/France(him) and I love their insights and sense of humor. I did get a "girls night out" with a 3 women (Canada, Ireland and Germany) I managed to steer them away from "kid" talk, so I hope that develops into something as well. Our other next door neighbors are from NJ and he stays home with the kids, so Tom and he are getting tight. Our neighbors across the street are from Seoul and they have hooked us up with 2 Korean restaurants in town. I love watching their kids (boy 9 girl 6). I keep projecting Jimmy, Hayden, Kay, Lesia, ShinBee, Jet, Charlie, and Billy onto them.... Tom attended the Overseas Women's Club meeting the last 2 weeks (think PTA in India). There are 800 members, 10 of which are men. The men can be members but cant hold office or vote. And you thought equal opportunity was a dead subject. He did manage to make some acquaintances and I think I'm going to have to keep my eyes on these expat women! I am sure he'd be a "popular" coffee guest. The nice thing is that the OWC has a monthly night out and 1-2 other adult events throughout the month. This month is a meet the chef at the hippest trendiest restaurant in town (where I happened to be for my girls night out). So, this suits us just fine...

Food ... our cook rocks! Its hard to believe you can eat Indian fro lunch and dinner and not get sick of it, but its true!! (or maybe the fact that you dont have to cook lunch or dinner is what's nice....) Our cook makes fresh juice, everything is from scratch (he wont even use the bottles of spices we brought, he brings in fresh!) We actually did a steak and baked potatoe on the grill last Sunday and all the other Sunday's we've made ourselves fajitas (go figure). When you think grill, think xylophone, that's about the size of it. What we really miss is good red wine. You pay $20 here for a $8 bottle at home. UGHHH!!!

Books - While this is an English speaking country its seems that the only reading material is bad murder mysteries or harlequin romances. We are so desparate that we have taken to fighting over each others books no matter how bad they are. There is a library at our clubhouse and I was SO excited to sign up until Tom informed me he has "already read" all those books. SO, all you potential visitors, buy good books for your long flight and then donate them to us! I would kill for an Oprah bookclub book about now (even People magazine would be a step up).

So... I just noticed that the last string of emails have been Jimmy based. I promise the next set(s) will focus on Billy and Kay. They deserve some limelight too:)

We miss you all !! Please send updates on yourselves and families, I cant tell you how much we love to here about what's going on at home!!!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

More Photos

Jimmys Big Day Photos

Jimmys Big Day

Today was Jimmys big neighborhood birthday party. Being that we live in Bangalore which is a city of 6.54 million people that the neighborhood party was hugh. We had 11 kids and their parents over for a superhero birthday party. There were kids for Canada, new Jersey, Korea( other than ours), France/China, Minnesota and from Bangalore.
The day started off with Dad going to the store to get supplies. The store is called Metro which is like a Costco/Sams club.They have just about everything you need only in large quantites. The difference is they do not tell you what those quantities are until you get to the cash registar, and it is really a cash registar because cash is all the take. So you may want 1 kilo of rice but the price is based on 20 kilos. You can buy a loaf of bread for 40 ruppees but you have to buy four differrent types of bread.It can be what we call " a real shopping experience".
While dad was doing that Mom had the carpenters from our maintenance shop over to hang our pictures. The reason the carpenters were over is not because Dad was outhopping, or doing whatever Dada do when they are"out", but because the walls here are cement and you need a special tool to drill a hole in the wall. The holes cost 20 rupees each( 50 cents) so the house is now looking a little more homey.
Back to the party we also had a spiderman cake, spiderman placemats,Superman plates and a candle when light started the house on fire, while the knife we had played Happy birthday each time you cut the cake or moved. This was all going on while each kid was armed with a squirt gun that would only work when aimed at an adult, you get the picture. Did I mention we had beer and wine!
Jimmy was in heaven as were all his friends and Kay and Billy.
We are truly blessed to have this mnany new people in our lives to help with this transition, especially for the kids. Everyone brought Jimmy a present sang Happy birthday to him and although our loved ones were not here, love was.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Jimmy Birthday Update

Yes it is hard to believe that our little boy is now 5 and not so little. Jimmy got up on the morning of his birthday and the first thing he said " Am I a school ager now?" and when we told him that indeed he was five and a school ager he responded with a loud "YES"
The school that he goes to has a uniform that each child must wear however on their birthday they can basically wear what ever they want. So of course Jimmy had to go as a superhero, but which one. He decided on s superman shirt and cape, batman shoes and of course spiderman underwear. The children here also bring treats to school to give the teachers! The teacher union here must rock!
Last Saturday night the 19th we took the kids to a Korean restaurant for dinner as is our tradition and yes according to the "guide book" and our neighbor who is Korean this restaurant we chose was good. Well we were all excited for BeBimBop, Bulgogi, KimBop, Tofu di Guy, and most importantly MONDU!!!
They had none of that so we had to settle for chicken,rice some Korean pancakes a type of seafood dish and a great big mess that we left. OH for Mrs. Choy and Taste of Korea!!
the food was actually pretty good it just was not Korean. We sang Happy birthday to Jimmy and he started to blush,it was so cute. In hindsight I am not sure if he was blushing on embarrassed by his fathers inability to carry a tune, no matter which he was very proud and very cute and I can't believe he is 5. Where does the time go?
Then on Jimmy's actual birthday we had our neighbors Katherine and Quint over for cake and ice cream. Mom and Dad had to go to a big celebration of the new target office ,so we are going to have a big celebration on Saturday for Jimmy.
We have been here for basically 30 days and had to trim down our gueat list. I mean these kids are like magnents with the people the meet. We will have 12-14 kids , twice that many parents as well as this singing duo/couple from Romania that Jimmy meet at the hotel. More details on the party later.
Jimmy thanks you all for the thoughts and prayers. His Mom and Dad would like you to pray for us as that Jimmy has decided today that since he is no longer 4 but is now 5 he does not need his night time diaper anymore.!

Inside Photos

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The House

Since many of you have asked what our house looks like we have attached some photos. Palm Meadows is a bedroom community of Bangalore located east of the city in a suburb called Whitefield. It is reminiscent of 1965 in the US. Many children wonder around , ride their bikes, without helmets!.
Their is a community center which boast a pool, children's pool with giant water slide, workout area and of course a restaurant and Bar.
The roads are all paved and there are even sidewalks. For those of you who many not know what a sidewalk is, it is a cement pathway that runs parrall to a road and allows you to walk , push a stroller and more importantly leads you by your neighbors house allowing you the opportunity to meet!
Quite a concept. In many of the communities in the States these "sidewalks" disappeared when cookie cutter neighbor hoods were born.
I digress, this is a truly greta place to have the kids because it is safe, has everything we need so we do not have to worry about groceries, woking out, play areas, ect.
The people are extremly friendly and very helpfull.

Picture Test

Thursday, August 17, 2006

school days School days good old fastion RULE days

Finally the kids are back in school. I mean school started again today. They have been out of school for the past three long, hot and ardent days. The school seems to enjoy working on Saturdays because being that Tuesday the 17th was Independence Day they decided to take Monday and Wednesday off and to work on Saturday. I have not yet been invited to a parent teacher conference but to me it seems these things need to be discussed not just implemented. What say do we have as parents, don’t these teachers know we rely on them for our sanity and what are we really paying them for but to shape and mold our next generation. Leaving them at home where all the seem to do is the opposite of what is asked hardly seems fair too the child, what with all the completion in the workforce these days the longer in school the brighter our future will be. Are these the ramblings of a stressed out father or the actual viewpoints of this bolg, hard to say?You can see by the attached photos that these three are of whom I speak but I speak for all those who rely on our institutions, I mean Schools to stay open as many hours of the week that they Human rights Act will allow!!

ROUS, Geckos and Big News

The big news 1st! Jimmy learned to ride a two wheeler yesterday and boy is he excited! He needs help starting but can stop all on his own. He gets a little freaked out by cars, but I am ok with that for now. I suppose learning to turn will help him conquer that fear:) We havent been able to get him off his bike and I am sure that the training wheels are ancient history. It is a major kid milestone. Very fun.

On our not so fun note, we have house guests and not the welcome kind. We have mice (I am choosing to think of them as mice and not as r_ts or for those of you fellow Princess Bride fans, Rodents of Unusual Size). Tom actually saw one in the middle of the night and I had one run over my foot while I was brushing my teeth. That episode led to a tramatic night sleep. I woke up screaming about 2:00am because I dreamed that the "mice" were crawling up our bed (think the movie Ben). I think I just about gave Tom a heart attack. Needless to say, we now have 3 steel traps set in our house. We had a choice between rat poison or steel traps. Neither are a great choice when you think of having 3 small curious kids, but I ventured toward the painful but not lethal option (for the kids not the rats). I am sure the India people are wondering why these silly Americans didnt just buy the poison. I am sure they are thining "damn tree huggers". We havent caught anything yet... Wish us happy hunting!

We also have a visiting Gecko. Considering the alternative, he is almost welcome. (almost) To be honest, I would like it to go back to being just Tom and myself and the kids...

That's all for now, just the latest update in our adventure...

Monday, August 14, 2006


Ok Ok Ok... I have been hearing from all your Targeteers that you want to hear about work/the office...Here goes... (The rest of you can just skip down and read Tom's latest blog:) )

Breakfast, Coffee/Tea and Lunch are free, but you cannot take it outside the cafeteria. That's ok, because the cups are the size of dixie cups, so you finish them before you get to the door anyway. Plus, both coffee and tea come with boiled milk and sugar unless you specify not to. So, its a little caffine/sugar jolt in a cup. The breakfast and lunch are traditional vegetartian Indian food. I happen to love it! They have been playing around with a new caterer each week. Its causing quite the hallway gossip as you can imagine. As anywhere, you cant please everyone and water cooler talk abounds.

We lose people if we dont give them a raise or promotion after about 6 months. The pay hike is about 10-30% each year industry wide. Yikes!

Phones do not have a voicemail. You just keep calling and if its important you leave a text message. Most offices dont even have phones, so we all call each others cell phones. Since we all sit on one floor and its about a quarter of the size of a TPN floor, its rather comical to call your counterpart on their cell.

International calls need to go through the security/front desk. Rather frustrating.

Office hours - 9:30AM to 6:30PM, officially. Unofficially, dont schedule any meetings before 10:30. Lunch is around 2:00 and most folks are here until well after 7:30. The 1st few hours of the day are really really quiet, everyone working at their desk. Then after lunch, people get more social and by 5:30 (when MPLS starts to get moving) things are positively buzzing around here (or maybe its just the 3-4 dixie cup shots of coffee/tea we've all had by then...)

Parking is provided. Provided you have a car or motorbike...which no one does.

Conference rooms are named not numbered (FFF, Speed is Life, Innovation). They are reserved by putting a sitcky note on the outside of the door.

Speaking of, its seems that Outlook calendaring is optional. They use it when dealing with us Targeteers from the U.S., but dont use it otherwise. This is very strange. Given how technologically advanced the city is, they dont use a basic tenent of business. Think back to TMail or Message Exchange for those of you who hard been around as long as I....

The 2 pyramids are Technology Services and Business Services. Within Tech Services, the division used to be based on technology like Java, ETL etc. Now the division is changing to align to TTS pyramids. Similar on Business Services (my side). I have Merchandising, Distribution, HR, Marketing, and TSS/AMC. I currently have 26 people on the team reporting to me with 17 openings... Send references if you have them!!

It is a slightly different corporate culture and a very different overall (ethnic) culture. The team is super high energy, smart and engaged. But, they dont want to say "no" to you (culturally its very rude to say no). So... you hear "yes" a lot and then nothing happens. Also, they are used to getting permission to do everything. So, even small emails are sent to us for "approval" to send out. It seems to pay to be very positive and encouraging. That's when people will work the hardest (as in anywhere I suppose:) )

They are WAY FFF. Once a week we have a whole team event. Everyone participates and has fun. (No really, its not required fun here, they are really having fun!)

We are sitting 1-2 people in cubes and 3-4 in offices/conference rooms. Nothing is private and its not unusual to have 2 separate status's going on in the same office.

Speaking of no privacy. Everyone compares salaries and everyone knows your age, martial status, where you were born, where your family is from and how many kids you have. Again, they feel that things are very telling things about a person.

Office supplies are non existent. Finding copy paper or staples is impossible.

Having a big team report to you is also a status symbol so its highly coveted.

Great Team cards and notes of appreciation are worshipped. People post them on their cubes, they are posted in hallways, team members stop by to congratulate you, etc. And, if you happen to get a Great Team card from MPLS, its a big big deal...........

That's all I can think of for now.

More after my next shot of coffee...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A day in Bangalore

It is hard to say what a day in Bangalore is because each day changes due to a variety of circumstances, however I will attempt to describe what we hope our typical day will be.
Tracy and I wake everyday at 6:15. It is rather interesting in that we do not as of yet own an alarm clock. The reason we are awoken is because Kay has taken it upon her self to get up at 6:15 and wake us up, isn’t she just a doll.
Tray than goes up to the health club to work out and Kay and I have coffee.
Kay than has her first of her three breakfasts of the day. Billy wakes up around 7:00 and joins Kay and I. Tracy returns home around and starts to get ready for work. I than have more coffee and fire up the mechanical winch we installed at the end of Jimmy’s bed to help me get him out.
At this point we are all downstairs having breakfast Kay on her second, which consist of what ever is the most inconvenient thing to make.
Tracy and I than have to determine if this is a black shoe or a white shoe day for Jimmy. The school that Jimmy goes to has a uniform, which consist of khaki shorts, white polo type shirt and black or white shoes. The white shoes are canvas and the black ones are, well, black patent leather. Booth are of the lace up variety however the school playground is mostly red clay and sand making me wonder how many pairs of shoes we are going to go through, I digress back to home.
Our driver Saravnan shows up around 8:00 and Tracy is off to work and Jimmy is off to school.
Kay than begins her third breakfasts of the day, which is what ever I have decided to have. Kay, Billy and I than get dressed and watch a video and wait for Saravnan to return and our cook and maid to arrive. In the meantime Chinnapa our gardener arrives. Now we never actually hired a gardener and for the first week did not know whom this old guy who rode is bike to our house wearing is flip-flops was. After consulting with Saravan we found out he was indeed our gardener. It appears that the people who lived here before us told him to just keep showing up and who ever moves ion will pay you!!!
Saravana returns around 10:00 and Kay, Bill and I leave to take Kay to school.
Raj and Florence our cook and maid are usually here just when we are leaving and I have to talk with Raj as to the meals schedule. That conversation is usually one sided with him telling me what we are going to have and me just nodding yes. I give him however much money Saravanna tells me to for fresh groceries and it is off to school. I never know what is for lunch but you have to love surprises her in Bangalore
Kay basically enjoys school however she cries as soon as we pull up to the school and I have to pry her off my shoulder and hand her to Gladis, her teacher and leave feeling awful.
We then head back home and Billy and Saravnan watch Shriek2, while I head up to the club and workout.
At 12:00 we are off again to pick up the e kids from school. Jimmy is usually waiting at the gate for me while Kay is always the last kid out off the school. Gladis basically pries her off her shoulder and hands her to me and leaves wishing it were Friday>!
Kay tells me that today she did not even cry!!
We head home for lunch and then around 2:00 Kay and Bill go down for naps. Raj and Florence head next store to clean our neighbor’s house. Jimmy gets on line and plays games, surfs the web and g-mails Tracy at work to check in.!
The kids get up from their naps around 4-4:30 we have snack and head up to the playground, game room, park or where we can get them some exercise.
Raj has dinner done around 5:00 and he and Florence leave. We return around 6:00 and have dinner.
Tracy usually is home by 7:30 and plays with the kids, ect. We get them to bed around 8:30-9:00.
Then we get to have whatever surprise Raj has cooked up. Being that he has worked as a chief before we are eating like Kings, that being said I did have to talk with him in regards to portion control.
Than it is off to bed because we know that we have a very reliable alarm and the whole process will start over again at 6:30.

We have a spare room so please come and remember, expect surprise in Bangalore!!
The Loud Americans

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Drivers, Help, House and Contrasts

Ok... random thoughts on our driver, our household and the constand contrasts you see everyday here.....

Our driver rocks! He set us up with everything... shopping, school, a cook & housekeeper... he fixed our DVD and makes sure the maintenance people are showing up to do what they are suppose to do. He brings the kids treats and buys us wine. He is our superhero and we love him! He is even getting married this fall, so we'll get to experience a traditional 3 day Indian wedding. I cant wait. Its an arranged marriage, so that has been interesting to learn about. He worked in Saudi Arabia for 5 years too, so he's great company on the way home from work. Good stories.

Our housekeeper and cook started this week and its been interesting. Florence and Raj are married. He used to work in a restaurant, so he's the cook. He only makes India, so he and Tom have an agreement. He'll teach Tom India if Tom teaches him American. We came home yesterday and he was reading our "Joy of Cooking". It was really cute. The food he has made has been fabulous so far. I cant believe it! We are so lucky. We do need to do a little coaching with our housekeeper. She does things like ... change the sheets each day, but then doesnt clean the bathroom.... I think we just need to tell her what we'd like her to do. She has always worked for Indian families so I think its just a cultural adjustment. Our driver said she was a little "scared" of us. I dont blame her .... I am scared of us too!

Our house is a single family home in a gated community. Its about 1700 sq ft, but that's deceptive since each bedroom has a bathroom. (Its a 3 bedroom 4 bathroom house). Each bedroom has a TV too. There is very little storage space, but the windows and garden are amazingly beautiful. The whole house is tile floors and stucco walls. So, with 3 kids it is really really noisy all the time. The complex has tennis courts, a huge pool with water slide, a pub, 2 restaurants, a grocery store, a squash and badmitton court, a full spa and health club and sidewalks! We really do feel lucky. Come Visit!!

I'll try to take some photos of Bangalore. Its interesting. Shacks selling everything (cigarrettes and pants) next to the best high end retailers (Nike and Swarkoski). People on bikes in rags next to SUV's. Red dirt,clay and dust everywhere and the most bright/beautiful silk sari's on each woman. The contrasts here are amazing. I was contemplating the poverty last night too. We live in such a rich neighborhood and literally next door there are tar paper shacks. Maybe I am in denial, but.... its not affecting me the way I thought it would. As I was wondering why its not pulling at my heart more, I think I realize that ... there is not a sense of desperation here that you feel when you drive through poor areas in the states. Everyone is out on the streets each night and its more like a celebration. The atmosphere is fast, festive and energetic. I dont get the feeling that people are concerned about their situation or feel that they are lacking. There just seems to be an easy acceptance. I imagine that it is similar to the feeling in port cities 1000 years ago or market days in South America or Africa. Everyone is just glad to be together, socializing, sharing what they have, coming together and watching out for each other.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Holy Sh_T !!!

We have had an incredibly busy 3 days.

Saturday - We moved into our house on Saturday which meant we had to move OUT of the Taj West. Believe me, packing to move out of a hotel that you have been in for 2 weeks is no easy task. We had stuff(sh_t) everywhere. The staff literally stood at the exit of the hotel and waved us off. I dont know if they'll miss us or if they were just happy to see us go. (They are probably enjoying the peace and quiet) .BUT... They were wonderfully nice. They gave us an extra car (complimentary) to get to our new house (we dont fit in 1 car with 5 people and all our luggage). They also sent a FREE dinner out to our house that night! We had shrimp rissotto, caeser salad and chicken supreme the 1st night in our house. That was a godsend since we didnt even own a pot (see previous blog...). Then came the task of actually unpacking all our boxes that were airshipped. Needless to say the movers just put things in boxes, no rhyme or reason. I was quite overwhelmed to unpack all our boxes with the 3 kids under foot. It was chaos. I am shocked that we got it all unpacked and put away on Saturday. Obviously we didnt bring much!
The kids didnt sleep well at all and we had one of them in our bed at any given time. Not much sleep for us.

Sunday - We declared it a vacation day. Amanda (cousin Matt's wife) is here doing an 8 week residency at St John's Hospital. After much determination (and false starts) on her part, she made it to our house! We spent the day at the pool and eating lunch. It was pretty relaxing. (ok as relaxing as you can get with 2 kids that cant swim and open water everywhere you look). But... the pool is beautiful and the kids loved it. We bought a pot, some groceries and made our 1st home cooked dinner! Spagetti and crusty bread. It was as fancy as we could get. Plastic utensils and plates and all.

Monday - The 1st day of school!! Jimmy went to Kindergarten today and Kay went to pre-school. He was hysterical (see next blog for photos). They all wear uniforms and its amazing to see so many dark haired kids in clean white shirts and khaki shorts. He stands a full head taller than anyone else in his class. At least you can spot him from a distance. We were a little late (of course) and the class had already left for assembly. Jimmy was wisked away by another teacher. We peered in the school and watched as 300 kids all stood in straight lines, sang and said a prayer. Then they stood at attention and at ease. Finally they all filed out. Jimmy spotted us and said, "what are you doing here?". So much for missing us, I suspect he'll be fine even though I was little misty eyed. Kay on the other hand, wasnt so sure about having us leave. She told us tonight that she cried "just a little" but then was ok because "we came back". After school, Tom played host to 3 kids, the furniture (kitchen table) delivery guy, the internet guy, the cable guy and the gas cylinder guy. I went to Metro with our driver - Saravanon. Metro is like a Costco with really bad taste. You have to be a business owner to get in and everything is about 2/3 the cost. BUT... you also have to buy more than 1 of everything. It was quite overwhelming and confusing. After 3 hours and $ XXXX later, I am the proud owner of ugly corningware, cheap pots/pans, brown and pink towels and sheets that look like shower curtains. The bright side? They have a whole wine section (Indian, Australian and "Overseas") and Dt Coke/Beer by the case. Nirvana for Tom. Now, after 3 house of washing dishes/etc. We are ready to sit down for dinner and go to bed.

I cant wait for us to get into a routine. It is starting to feel like our house though... A bad post college furniture, dorm style (aka all concrete) house, but our house none the same.....

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

India, the land of constant surprise

OK .... We are experiencing typical India and I have to admit, its a little tiring. Every time you turn around there is another "surprise" ... 2 examples...

We are renting a fully furnished townhouse. What do you think that means? MOve in ready, right?! Well, we we were surprised to find out that it means literally, just furniture. Nothing else. No pillows, blankets, dishes, pots, pans, utensils, towels, etc....So, now we have to figure out how to get a hold of all of that stuff. AND < there isn't even a Target here to shop at:) It'll all work out, but I'll be glad when we are moved in and settled. I suspect that it'll be weeks before we have figured out everything we need to buy. Most likely we'll get pretty adapt at "making do". I guess it'll be a little like camping.

School. It turns out that we had a meeting yesterday with the school. We didnt know about it (no one told us we had a meeting) so we didnt show. They were surprised we werent there. So, we had to drop everything and go there today. We had turned in the application and it required copies of the kids immunizations/doctors notes. They then asked for copies of the kids birth certificates, passports and blood type. We didnt have them with us since the application didnt list that we need to provide copies. So now we have to run those back to the school (at our convenience... the school is 1 hour from the hotel).

In other (good) news..
Jimmy and Kay start school on Monday. Jimmy is in kindergarten (nursery) 8:30-12:00 and Kay is in preschool (PG1) 10:30-12:00. Jimmy has to wear a uniform, but Kay doesn't. That should be interesting fight every morning! He got fitted for his uniform today and they said he's a big kid .. no kidding:) They are very excited about school. It should be good to get them into a routine. Jimmy has to take a second language so he'll be starting Hindi. That should be a treat. Now he can start gabbing at us nonstop in a language we dont understand. I wonder if Hindi will be the "new" Spanish....