Sunday, November 26, 2006

The three loudest Americans - new photo!!

Tought we would post an updated photo of the kids. Jimmy 5, Kay 3 and Billy almost 2!

Fishing Photos

Greg and the rapids, the sunrise, the boat and finally the sunset.

Fishing in India

…So it came to pass that God created the Heavens and the earth. He sat back to ponder his creation. He thought deep and hard, opened a Kingfisher, because at this point in the creation process, he was in India, otherwise He would have opened a Bud because even God has cravings. He thought to Himself, Self, I have created great lands but do I realize that 2/3 of these lands are covered with water, I must since I created them. I my have started what is to become a heated debate, should man sail, should man swim, should man drink or should man FISH.
And Fish man did, at least these two mortals attempted too.
Meandering through the woody snake infested landscape amidst the forests of Karnataka
(The state in which we live, land, not mind) is the mighty Cauvery, the most majestic and sacred river of south India.
My friend Greg Schmidt and I set off against all odds to a place called Bheemeshwari Fishing and Nature Camp, about 2 hours south of Bangalore, in search of the elusive and world renowned Mansheer. It’s a fish, the finest and largest sporting fish known to man.
To us it is a really big and extremely ugly fish. Hugh scales sucker type mouth, as Lyle Lovett said, She’s Ugly From the Front.
The place has beautiful landscape, the river is very wide and has some “small” rapids and as we came to find out, crocodiles. The guide informed us we had nothing to worry about.
We fished for about 3 hours the first day and nothing not even a bite! We had a great campfire and shares stories with the other anglers and even had a great night sleep.
The next morning promptly at 5:30 the monkeys started fighting on our front porch over the empty beer cans that were left on the table and then at 6:00 our guide knocked on our door with our morning coffee.
We set out again at 6:30 in search of the elusive Mansheer. Several hours later after navigating the “small” rapids we still had not caught a fish.
We were on the shore waiting for the jeep to take us back to camp when wham I had a fish. I fought the fish for about 10 minutes and finally got it to the shore. It was a 10lb Mansheer! My guide got into the water for what I assumed would be a relatively easy retrieve of my fish. I watched in horror as he all of a sudden broke the line and the fish was gone…seriously we caught one, really we did!
We returned to camp a little downtrodden and realized we still had a couple of cold beers left from the previous night. So we resumed the discussion, do we fish, sail, swim or…
Regardless of where you stand in this debate should you be in the vicinity of the Bheemeshwari Fishing camp it is worth the visit. Just beware of the vicious whirlpools and the crocodiles.!

Thanksgiving in India

Well, we knew that Thanksgiving here would be interesting, for starters, its 75 degrees every day and we all had to work. Beyond that, things were very interesting!

On Thursday, we celebrating Thanksgiving at "The Only Place" a local establishment that serves continental food (aka burgers and fries). We had a table of 20 reserved for all our Palm Meadows friends. Yes, we celebrated with the Germans, the Irish, the Canadians, the folks from New Jersey and our friends from Seattle/Arizona. The other Target expat were there as well.So, basically everyone we knew in Bangalore was at this place for dinner. They had a whole spread ... turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, brocoli, beans, carrots, rolls, garlic butter and pumpkin pie. They also have a corking fee of of just 100R ($2). This is fast becoming our favorite place:) We all ate too much and the kids played "Power Rangers". Just like at home!!

On Saturday, we had busy plans for the day. The Christmas Bazaar and hosting the Target expats for a home cooked Thanksgiving dinner.

The Christmas Bazaar was amazing. There were tents set up all over St Marks Cathedral and there must have been 200 vendors selling sweets, food, soda, crafts and other gift items. There was a huge stage, Santa, kid activities and pony rides. Needless to say, we had a great time. The kids were so excited to see Santa. They talked about it non-stop on the way to St Marks. The only concern was that Kay did not want Santa to touch her. She was adament about that! Jimmy was going to ask for a pretend BB gun with a pumper thing and a trigger (no lie, we didnt even prep him on this "Christmas Story"-esce request - I was cracking up). Kay wants a kitchen with a stove and Billy wants a tricycle (we think). They were all set to ask Santa for their gifts when they actually spotted Stanta. Now, keep in mind, this is India and the "suit" was made here. Needless to say Santa was a little on the skinny side and his beard was scotch taped to his face. They just stood and stared at him for about 10 min's. Then Kay, on the verge of crying, looks at me with a quivering lower lip and says... "Why is Santa...Daddy"? Sure enough, Tom was playing Santa for the Overseas Womens Club and Kay was the 1st to catch on. So, we had to explain that Santa got stuck in traffic (as we all do in India) and that the Reindeers got sick because of the food/heat (again, as we all do in India) so Santa had called Daddy and asked him a big favor. He needed Daddy to pretend he was Santa so that he could find out what all the kids wanted and then call Santa on his mobile phone to tell him. This explanation apeased the kids. Until they realize they got gypped out of seeing the real Santa. We heard nothing else for the last 2 days except... "Now, when can we see the REAL Santa?"

After our close experience with Santa, we were off to find another turkey. Tom had managed to find one early in the week, but once it was plucked and butchered, it only weighed 2.5kgs (5.5 lbs). That wasnt going to be enough for our feast. So, we were off again looking for a turkey. It turns out, that while you can buy a chicken from almost anyone on the street, turkeys are a rare commodity. We managed to find one at the local market. The shop was called "Wet Pets". Yep, it was a pet store and the had 2 live turkeys. Upon hearing we wanted to buy one, the guy started chasing them in an attempt to catch one. Imagine being in a very Indian open air market, with traffic, street vendors, etc... and this guy is chasing 2 turkeys down the block. We were laughing so hard we couldnt even take a picture. Needless to say, he was successful and we had VERY fresh turkey for dinner.

Even later that afternoon, ur friends the Chinese/French family next door, lent us their oven. Very overy nice of them considering they are vegetarian and they were going to have a recently deceased turkey in their oven for 4 hours. We did mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing (thanks to a visitor from the US that brought us 2 boxes of Stove Top - YUM!!), salad, apple and pumpkin pie. We also had great wine and even better company. We invited the neighbors to join us and they seemed to enjoy their 1st Thanksgiving meal (granted it was pretty much just carbs for them, but still good). The kids LOVED having company and were busy painting and giving tours of the house and their rooms.

We all fell into bed exhausted.

It was a good holiday weekend, all in all.

We did miss all of you (our friends and family at home). But, we know that we are so blessed to be loved and to love so many people all around the world.

Love and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The end of the world as we know it

This is an appropriate theme song for the day...

Last night, our world ended as we know it.

Yes, after not quite 24 months, Billy has learned to crawl out of his crib. I was getting ready for bed last night, heard a commotion, turned around and there was Billy, giggling uncontrollably. I didnt know if I should laugh or cry. Now, instead of having 2 little people in and out of our room all night, we'll have 3. I suspect we wont be getting a full night sleep for a while. All the kids were so excited and proud of his feat that they made him do it over and over again. Finally, we gave up. They were all in Jimmy's bed cuddling and we were hoping they'ed fall asleep. (yeah right) Instead, Jimmy comes out crying ... We asked him what was wrong...

"There are too many kids in my bed".

'nough said.

photos below

The photos below are of our day with Jessie, we saw ..
Shiv monument
Ganesh monument
Bangalore Palace

As you can see Billy is being carried around by his personal assistant, Saravanan, our driver:)

More Phots with Jessie

Photos of Bangalore with Jessies

Outside of Bull Temple, Inside of Bull Temple and Shiv Temple.

Sorry these are a little out of from our weekend with Jessie.... Forgot to publish them!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

India-isms & English-isms

As it is commonly known, India was ruled by the British for quite a while. Long enough, in fact, that many of the common phrases seem to be straight from the U.K. I thought I'd list out the more popular ones so that when you visit you dont need a translator:)

Needful - To do what's required of one... "I will do the needful" You are never quite sure what the needful is, but as long as its done, I guess it doesnt matter.

Come - A command asking someone to come closer ... "Come, Come"

Tell me - A common greeting on the phone instead of Hello ... Ring, Ring... "Tell me" - these last 2 give a glimpse into how "bossy" folks can be here...

Look after - To be responsible for something. .... "I look after Merchandising in Business Services at TSI" I particularly like this one as it has a nuturing ring to it.

Revert - To respond with an answer ... "Please revert by tomorrow" So formal:)

Paining - To hurt... "I have paining in my ear" Not sure what to say to this one...

Pre-Pone - To have a meeting earlier than scheduled "Since I am in the office now, could we pre-pone the meeting". Seems like a bit of a double negative to me, but I cant figure out why this isnt proper terminology....

Fix it - To do something, cross it off your to do list ... "Tracy, I have fixed it." "Dont worry, I'll fix it". Used in many situations...making a dinner reservation, calling the handiman, booking airline tickets, etc. I like the finality of this. I appeals to my strong need for closure:) (Anyone who has read my PE will get this point...)

Erstwhile - In the meantime, meanwhile - back at the ranch "Tracy was at work, erstwhile, Tom was napping with the kids". This one cracks us up. It seems so proper!!

There are also many people here who dont speak English as their 1st language, this is a great conversation trap for those of us that are native speakers but utterly clueless as to the rules/history of the language. My neighbor speaks at least 3 languages and tutors in English. She has asked me the following.... Maybe you can help me out on some of these as I didnt have the answer...

Shin dig - Why do we call parties shin digs and do we really use this term? What's the origin of the word? (she heard it on Desparate Housewives of all places).

Tend - Do you tend your garden or do you tend to your garden? Which is proper English and why?

Fish vs Fishes - Fish is the plural of fish, right? Unless you are talking about many different kinds of fish that are all in the same place, then would you call them fishes?

Foursome - Why do they call it a foursome and not - group of four or golfing partners. The whole concept of "tee-ing off" and a "tee box" was hard to explain too. She saw all of this on a Nokia commercial. Its good to know people are learning their English from TV.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Jessie Stoll and the sites of Bangalore

Well, we had our 1st official guest this weekend. Jessie Stoll came down from Moosorie (northerm India in the hills) for a long weekend in Bangalore. It was great to have her here. It gave us an excuse to see parts of Bangalore we hadnt seen before and the kids LOVED having an extended "sleep over":). I think she had fun. She commented that Bangalore was so clean. Holy cow, if Bangalore is clean, I am scared to see the rest of India!!

Jessie is my long time friend, boss, mentor, Paul Stoll's daughter. She is also an Ole and just graduated. She's doing her student teaching at Woodstock, an international boarding school in Moosorie. She will be teaching there through the spring and then home for a Minnesota summer before she commits herself to 2 years in the Peace Corp in Central Asia.

She's incredibly brave and adventurous and has been traveling around India for 2 weeks all on her own (she has another 2 weeks to go). She is especially brave to visit the LoudAmericans for 3 whole days.

The highlight of the weekend was our "tour" of Bangalore. Tom and Saravanan had it all planned out... Bull Temple, Krishna Center for Higher Thought, the Palace and finally Shiv Temple. This was all carefully planned around a stop at KFC for lunch. We go all out for our guests:) Actually this was the drivers request.... KFC for lunch. Since he was driving us around for 9 hours to go 30 kilometers, I figured he deserved this...

Little did we know that included in our tour of the day was 1 public bathroom, 1 random restaruant bathroom, a side of the road "pit stop", the KFC bathroom, the Palace bathroom and finally our own home bathroom. Needless to say, this is what you get with 3 kids in 1 car. I think we had stopped to go potty 3 times before we saw anything of historical interest. Please refer to the prior "10 things I learned on vacation" blog. My newly learned bodily function tricks came in handy again.

We rented "Oliver!" mainly because I had the song "Consider yourself at home" stuck in my brain. Rent it. Is surreal. The bull terriers name in the movie is Bullseye. Coincidence? I think not!

Then, Sunday was a lazy day of playing with kids, the gym, naps and a pedicure (for Jessie). She was a doll and watched the kids Sunday night so that we could go for dinner with a new coworker. It was great for us, but I'm afraid Jessie is scared off of having kids and thinks that all we eat is KFC, Pizza Hut, Fruit Loops and Pop Tarts . Can you tell who went shopping last?!

I'll have Tom post some pictures. It was a really great weekend. I hope you had fun Jessie, I am sure we'll be talking about you for weeks to come! Good luck with your travels, maybe you'll have 5 loud visitors this spring...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

#4 Cherry Tree Lane

On a fabulous November evening the inhabitants of #4 in Palm Meadows got together for a Grand Party.
The evening was great.
There are 14 homes on our block and there are 16 children aging from newborn to 12.
Each of the family’s brought food and since we have family’s from Korea, India, Germany, Sigapore, France, Italy, and the US the spread was delicious. We had BBQ lamb and fish, Indian BBQ, Chap Che, Pu Chim Gay, and Korean Chicken. Lasagna, many salads, fruits and of course Chocolate cake!!
Our neighbor and new friend Arun arranged the entire party. He had a friend come out and put a spot light on every Palm Tree on the block as well as hired a three-person band to entertain us. He did as great job and we found out the night of the party that it was actually his wife’s Birthday!!
The family’s all finally got to meet each other exchange stories and everyone had a great time.
A big thanks to Arun for all his work!!

Belated Halloween

Halloween was quite the affair here in Palm Meadows. We had a parade with around 150 "haunters" which what we call "trick or treaters" are referred to here. We had an awards ceremony for the best costume which I think was rigged I mean look at these three they are poster kids for great costumes. They interesting part was that the kids were clad in the Halloween costumes from Minnesota, polar fleece, matching hats and gloves, and it was around 80 degrees...Hey there the costumes we brought.
The rules here in Palm Meadows for those participating in handing out the candy were very few
1.Place an orange streamer or haunted sign in your yard.
2. Leave your front light on.
3. When the haunters ring your bell hand over the candy.
I swear those were the posted rules.
Hope you all had a great Halloween.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Random thoughts and kids updates

Ok... I had to get a quick blog in on the family before Tom posts his "fishing weekend" blog and you all get sick to death of this turning into a travel site....

Song of the Day: Everybody wants to rule the world - Tears for Fears. I had this overwhelming urge to tuck my socks into my jeans and curl my bangs...

Jimmy: Mr Big Shot has his 1st sleep over ever last weekend. He was so excited! He packed his own bag and was ready to go 10 hours before he was expected. He included his red footy pj's because "they are comfy". He slept over at his friends house, Gathum and Sridhar. They go to school together, live in Palm Meadows and also happen to by my bosses kids. So, needless to say, we had a long talk about being polite, listening to grown ups and what to do about the nighttime diaper. (Needless to say, I was probably more worried about this aspect than he was. Not a good impression to have your 5 yr old wet the bed at your bosses house....). In any case, he had a great time, was very very good and wore his nighttime diaper, saving us all from "constructive" feedback:)

Kay: She is getting braver and braver by the day. She now lets the "aunties" walk her into school instead of screaming bloody murder every morning. She did have quite a hard time with Jimmy being gone overnight. She kept asking where he was, did he miss us, she missed him, who was going to sleep with her if Jimmy wasnt there (what's Billy chopped liver?!), when was he going to be back, etc. I think she was mostly concerned because she had one less person to terrorize at bed time. But, she managed to survive. You would have thought his homecoming was that of a rock star. Both Kay and Billy went running down the street to welcome him home after his long and audruous journey yelling "Immy's home...Immy's home...Immy's home".

Billy: He has charmed the pants off of everyone on the block and currently has all the drivers catering to his every need. In fact, just this morning, he convinced the carpenter to push him up and down the street in his Little Tikes car for 30 mins. Keep in mind, we just met the guy this morning and he's suppose to be building us a book shelf. He (Billy) repeats everything everyone says and if he feels that he need attention, he'll just announce that he has a poopy diaper. A sure fire way to get us to come running.

Work: Really good but really busy. We continue to have "guests" in town and its fun to get the latest gossip magazines (are Jen and Vince really together or apart? How skinny is Nicole? What does Katies dress look like .. you know all the most current affairs). Here's the sad state of my life.... I had been working so hard and reading so many trashy magazines that I dreamed we recruited Brittany Spears to be a TSI team member. Nice. I think I need a life.

Tom: Doing really well. He was really homesick for deer opener (1st time in 18 yrs he's missed it as he told me over his 3rd beer). BUT, he had a great time fishing (see next blog) and is getting really involved with the Charity Committee of the Overseas Womens Club. He's even going to be "Santa" for them in 2 weeks at their Cmas Bazaar. I wonder if the kids will catch on... Dont tell them... If we are lucky, they'll all scream like banshees when they see "Santa" just as they did last year....

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Cochin Photos

Jimmy at the fish market , paddling the backwaters and making a roof from coconut tree branches

More Cochin Photos

The harbor cruise, the Jew Town Boutique and of course the Monkey


So after we had breakfast we got back into the car and left the mountains of Munnar and began the 4-hour decent down to the town of Kochi.
Kochi or Cochin is the central part of Kerala. With its wealth of historical associations and its setting on a cluster of islands and narrow peninsulas, Kochi perfectly reflects the eclecticism of Kerala.
The oldest church in India is there, winding streets with mosques blending with some 500 years of Portuguese, Chinese fishing nets, a Jewish community with a Synagogue that dates back to the 16th century and a grand Palace built by the Portuguese and then given to the raja of Cochin, the place reeks of diversity.
The older parts of Fort Cochin and Mattancherrry are a combinatio0n of medieval Potruguese, Holland and an English village all situated the scenic and tropical Malabar Coast. (Guidebook pages 910-911).
The drive down the mountain was beautiful we saw many different plants, trees and flowers. The kids were wiped out and unfortunately slept most of the way. Jimmy was too tired to wake up and see Monkeys! Kay was not feeling well and Billy was sleeping.
We made a stop for snacks and then we were there!
We went straight to the hotel checked in and had a late lunch which was wasy good but very overpriced. Then we went on the “ harbor” cruise.
It was should we say interesting, swimming back at the pool would have gone over better. But we were here to see the area and see it we did. There were oil tankers Naval vessels all surrounded by flotsam and jetsam not to mention that particular smell.
We did have several great photo opps and the cruise boat had only us on it and what we hoped were not Gilligan and the Skipper too!
That night we had pasta in the room for the kids, hired a sitter and Mom and Dad went out for a nice quite dinner.
The following day was very busy. We set out to see Fort Cochin, Manttancherry, the Jewish Village, and St.Francis Church a fish market and a spice market, WOW.

The kids had a great time at the fish market playing with fresh caught fish and prawns. The Jewish Village was very old and well kept. We being tourists were wearing shorts so Tracy and I had to rent “ pants” from a local vendor who it appears makes a living renting pants to the Foreigners.
We purchased a wall hanging/blanket from one of the Vendors it was gorgeous however upon returning home it was covered in mold and fell apart when we cleaned it. We are still in the negotiation period and we will see what happens. They have promised to send us a new one? Kay loved all the colors and art stating “ I can do that”
That night we went to a Kalaripayattu show, which is a very disciplined type of Martial arts. You can only imagine what happened when Jimmy being big into the Power Rangers saw what was happening stood up and right on the spot morphed into the red Power Ranger and shouted out “Power Rangers Emergency” into his concealed power rangers communication device! The martial artists were awesome and we all had a great time. Really.
That night there were no baby sitters available so Mom and Dad had a candle light dinner complete with white linen tablecloth red wine, steak and shrimp, in the bathroom. Romance is not dead!!
The following morning we checked out and headed to the fishing village of Kumblaghy… It is a working tourist village and in no way similar to City Slickers.
We took a canoe type boat throught the backwaters propelled by one man and a stick. We drank fresh cut coconut and ate the meat. Kay and Dad were the only ones who like it. Billy kept trying to get out of the canoe and swim after the “pish”. We hunted crabs, made rope out of coconut hair and watch as the “village” people made thatched roofs out of the coconut leaves. Then we had an authentic Kerala lunch complete with prawns, butterfish, special Kerala rice and Kingfisher beer. What a feast. The Kerala rice is different than other areas because it is thicker and is double cooked. It has a slight brown hew to it and if you drink the water is cooked in it will give you strength, just like Guinness!
Then we had something called natural toddy. It is fermented coconut juice. The juice is made the night before, you cannot put it and a sealed container (I think because it is explosive). I t has a smell that will gag you but if you can get past that it’s not bad. As the dearly departed Darin MacGaveen said in Christmas Story,” This stuff’s not bad but it’s not good either” may he rest in peace.
The whole village was awesome and is a definite stop if you are in Kerala.
We left and experienced something that in all our travels is unique to India. We went to a Hotel the caters to people with long layovers. That’s right you rent your room by the 4,8,12 or 24-hour period. It was great we got to work out take showers and then get ready for our flight. The whole idea was to have the kid’s nap but that never happened.
The trip was great and when we arrived back in Bangalore Jimmy stated,” its nice to be home”.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

More Munnar Photos

The Munnar countryside, a bunch of carrots and the Loudamericans travel through India in style.

Munnar Photos

The purple flower called Neelkurinji flower which blooms once every twelve years. the Tea Plantations and the sun setting at 6000 feet in Munnar.