Saturday, May 26, 2007

Julie's Here!

Julie has spent the last 5 weeks studying Thai massage in Chiang Mai Thailand. She is a 5th level Thai massage therapist and that bodes well for her 3 weeks with us:)

We decided that having Julie in Thailand, a mere 3 hour flight away, was just too tempting to pass up. So, we packed up the kids and headed off to Chiang Mai via Bangkok.

As you've read before traveling with the LoudAmericans is always an adventure. The ONLY flight to Bangkok from Bangalore is at 12:30am, that's right half past midnight. The flight is only a 3 hour affair, followed by a 2 hour layover and another 1 hour flight to Chiang Mai. Let's see, 3 kids under 6 and the opportunity for less than 2 hours of sleep at a shot over a 24 hour period. Can you see where this is headed?

We arrived in Chiang Mai weary but with all our limps and some of our sanity left. As a side note, the Bangkok airport is AMAZING! ALL the best shops, food and its about 5 km long. You just walk and walk and walk. I considered my 30 min walk with 3 kids between gates as my work out for the day. I think that counts, dont you?

The hotel was nice and let us check in early (9:30am) and we ALL crashed for a very cozy 3 hour nap. The beds were labeled "doubles" but were slightly bigger than twin, so Tom and Jimmy cuddled in one and Kay and I cuddled in the other. Thankfully Julie woke us at 1:30 and off we went. We saw her room, met her friends, got a quick survey of Chiang Mai and then were the ONLY guests at the graduation ceremony. She acheived her 5th level of Thai massage and we took photos of all the graduates for prosperity sake.

That night we celebrated with an early dinner of Thai food, fish and cold beer. Yumm... Then it was off to the night safari. This is amazing. Its a totally decked out park/attraction/theater/zoo. You ride on a trolley and see the animals up close. The very cool thing is that its at 8:30pm so the animals are all really active, wandering around and some even come right up to the trolley. Pretty cool.

The next day was a 1/2 city tour of temples. It was suppose to be 4 hours and somehow we magically were done in 2 1/2 hours ... Hmmm... was it the 110 degree heat, or the whiny kids, or the complete lack of interest in the kids part or the fact that we were all crammed into a tourist van... Hmm... Must just be that our guide was really good:)

We lunched on Korean food and as usual when we go out for Korean, the kids ate and ate and ate like we never feed them. This is a BIG treat for us since the only Korean restaraunt in Bangalore only serves Chinese food. The kids were ordering all their favorites and couldnt understand why they didnt have kim bop or chap chae. I was laughing as the Korean waiter looked at them in amazement.

Next stop, the pool. Can you guess whose vacation is now "made" ?

We decided to be truly adventurous and attend one of the girly/man shows. Thailand is famous for men that dress and look like women. There is a HUGE sex "change" industry and they put on these really really elaborate drag shows. We thought, "why not?!" 1st issue however, what to do with the kids. We managed to find a babysitter that was a friend of Julie's friend. Thinking it was a relatively save bet, we bought our tickets. It was only later as I was contemplating the poster "Stop child trafficing" that I began to doubt our choice. I could just imagine ... we go to dinner, this "friend' babysits, packs the kids off and out they go into the big scary world of child trafficing. How in the world would you ever find them? Its not like they carry id's or have been finger printed (at least I dont think they have....) I took a deep breath, ordered a drink and let go. If any child trafficer spent 5 min's with my kids, they'd return them just as fast.

The "show" was interesting. The ladies were thoroughly bored and could hardly bother to make it through their routines. The only people who seemed to have fun were the 2 "fat" dancers. They were really having a great time. We made up for this with a great Thai dinner overlooking the river. Really nice and relaxing.

The kids on the other hand, had a blast. Jimmy informed us that "May" was nice, but didnt speak English or Hindi either. Kay talked her into a bubble bath and the 3 of them proceeded to use ever drop of soap, flood the bathroom and lock the babysitter out of the bathroom. I am pretty sure she's never doing this again. The kids however, raved about the whole night the next morning. They sure had fun! (see previous comment about the child trafficers)

A few tidbits on Thailand, there is a 7Eleven on every corner, I saw very little litter, their tuk tuks are bigger than ours (for those of you non-Indians, their auto ricksaws are bigger than the ones in India), pollution is better but the humidity will kill you. I also saw a full size Tesco grocery store and "real" bars. Now, dont get me wrong, we do love India, but it is amazing how a 3 hour plane trip can land you in a TOTALLY different world.

Sunday came and we were off to Bangkok and our journey home. The kids were pretty good until BIlly decided to throw a collosel tantrum during the last 1 1/2 hours of the flight. Of course, the minute we landed and he was in his car seat, he feel asleep.

Since our adventure to Thailand, some other quick highlights ...

Julies courses paid off ! Both TOm and I have volunteered to let her practice on us. I think shes pretty good, but she probably needs even more practice. Good thing we are here to help!

We have showed her the ins and outs of Palm Meadows and she's gotten to experience our supper club group and Bangalore traffic.

We are taking her to Mysore tomorrow (palace and elephant rides) and Ooty next week (hill station, tea plantations). She is studying with my Auverydic DR and has been a big help with the kids. Angela has found her to be a great yoga partner too:)

We still have 2 weeks with her here and a lot to do and see.

We'll keep you updated!!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Happy Mothers Day

Mothers Day is celebrated throughout the world on several different days. For us Americans it was May 13th, and we had a great deal to celebrate this year because of our Mom, Tracy.

Did you know that our Mom works very hard here in India and just last month was honored by her work for achieving 100 team members. How hard would it be to handle 100 different kids, I mean there are three of us at the house and by God it is hard to follow all the rules I can not imagine what it is like with 100, Way to go Mom!!

Our Mom also spends much of her free time playing with us. Did you know that she takes Billy and Kay for a walk almost everyday and she teaches them songs and tells them stories. Then when she comes home she gets Jimmy breakfast makes sure he gets his eye drops and we all brush our teeth. Then she even reads stories to us and sings songs while we play band and she does all this before she goes to work, We love You Mom!!

Our Mom is really special because she is very aware of tons of stuff. One of the things she is aware of is something called MS, Muscular Sclerosis. Her Uncle Alan died of this disease several years ago and Mom decided that she was going to do something about It. So she has been riding in this bike ride which is 15o miles विथ her friend Wendy। Over the past thirteen years or so they have rode over 1,950 miles to raise money for this cause. Now being that we are in India this year has not stopped her determination. Her and Wendy have formed this virtual team and are riding the race together or at the same time at least, sort of. There are a bunch of time zone difference and other things but the point is our Mom is raising money and riding a stationary bike her in India to raise money to help people back home, Mom you humble us!!

There is many more great things our Mom does for us however the best thing is that she loves us.

Happy Mothers Day Mom,we are proud of you and, WE LOVE YOU, TOO!!
Jimmy Kay and Billy.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Not so imaginary conversation - What language are we speaking?!

Below is a reenacted phone conversation based on real life events between our travel agent and Tom...

(As background, the screwed up our airline tickets and we are working to get them changed.)

Ring Ring...

Travel Agent: Tell me

Tom: How are the changes coming on the tickets?

Travel Agent: Can you pre-pone coming to pick up the same? Please revert.

Tom: I am not able to come pick up the tickets today. Where are you? Can you bring them out to us tomorrow?

Travel Agent: I am here only. We will do the needful.

Does ANYONE have a clue as to what's going on?

Later - we suspect they are on the way to our house with the tickets. Tom calls again to check..

Ring Ring

Travel Agent: Tell Me

Tom: Hi this is Tom Murphy, are you on the way to deliver our tickets?

Travel Agent: I am here exclusively.

Tom: When will you be to our house?

Travel Agent: 10 minutes

When do you think we'll get our tickets???

Now... in English:)

Ring Ring ...

Travel Agent: Hello, how may I help you?

Tom: How are the changes coming on the tickets?

Travel Agent: They are ready, can you pick up the tickets earlier than planned? Let me know.

Tom: I am not able to come pick up the tickets today. Where are you? Can you bring them out to us tomorrow?

Travel Agent: I am in the office, we will insure that you get your tickets as we do deliver.

Ring Ring

Travel Agent: Hello, how may I help you?

Tom: Hi this is Tom Murphy, are you on the way to deliver our tickets?

Travel Agent: Yes, we are, in fact, I am on the way.

Tom: When will you be at our house?

Travel Agent: Sometime in the next 1-2 hours, pending traffic.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Taxes, funerals and work....

We've had an interesting week. Let me see if I can give you some "highlights" ...

1) Visa/Residency Renewal - We are in the process of renewing our visa which means renewing our residency permit. To do so, you need to fill out a kazillion forms and visit your local police station. Keep in mind.... You need to do this 45 days before it expires. Our's expires 6/13. 45 days out was 4/30. Despite my constant questions about this Feb through March, we found out a couple things this week (note that we are now PAST 4/30)

Taxes - We have to have a copy of our Indian Tax Return in order to renew said visa/residency permit. Taxes arent due until 6/15. Our visa expires 6/13. We found this out on 4/30. We spent a frantic week trying to "quick" get our taxes in before Friday so that we'll have time to get them processed before our visa runs out.

Police Station - ALL of us are required to appear at the police station to get a stamp that says we live in Whitefield. The commissioner needs to be there to issue the stamp. We packed up the kids in the car, took them out of school and appeared at the police station twice this week, only to find out the commissoner WASNT there. We went today, paid a "fee" of 1500 ruppees, spent 2 seconds in the station and magically we were approved. Not sure if this is because of the "fee" we paid (read .... bribe) or the fact that Jimmy had on one of the policemans hats and was running around yelling (in an Indian accent)"you are under arrest". Not sure the 3 guys shakled to the desk thought that was funny.

2) Christian funeral in India - One of Tom's friends and local charity directors died unexpectedly this week. It is really sad as she was an incredible lady and advocate for the disabled. We felt we need to go say our condolences and that's how we ended up at a Christian funeral in India. I polled all my coworkers... "have you ever been to one, what can we bring, what do they do, etc? " None of them had been to a Christian funeral before. Interesting...So, off we go, dressed up, 110 degree heat, outside service at 11:00am. There are, besides 200 people in attendance, 4 cows and various street kids that "stop by" to watch the proceedings. The service is kicked off by the pall bearers bringing her out in a glass coffin. Really. Glass on all sides. Did I mention it as 110 degrees? The hymns, bible readings and words from the family were all very similar to our services. That was nice. They even sang, "Blessed Surrender" our FAVORITE Tonia Hughes hymn. Very very touching... Then, after the service ended there were 2 moments of interest ... 1) the pall bearers lifted her body out of the glass coffin and into the waiting wooden coffin. 2) the minister announced that the hearst was leaving for the cemetary, that cars should follow with lights on and that the hearst "would be going fast, would NOT wait, so please keep up..."

3) Prep for the BIG Visit next week - At work we are in the throws of getting ready for our ENTIRE executive committee and 40 of their closest friends/team members to visit us next week (May 11-12). This includes our CEO, President, CFO and CIO. It also includes about 5 EVP's. Think of it as a wedding that is planned in under 4 weeks. This has included trying to plan dinners, lunches, speeches, presentations, transportation, and a remodel of our building. Needless to say, it has been an interesting process. We are editing, tweaking, modifying and adjusting the same presentations so many times that I am beginning to dream about them. We have all been out shopping for just the right Indian attire so as to make us look professional and yet ethnically appropriate. We have all had new haircuts and are all getting at least one spa treatment before the BIG day. Each day we learn something "new" about the visit. Much of which isnt really new, but just hadnt been shared before. I am trying to stay very zen on the whole process/topic/thing. Many many people are putting their heart and souls into making this a success. It will all work out. Even if there are a few issues, I doubt anyone but us will notice.... Right?.... Right?!... Right !?!?!?!

So... for those of you that thought all we did was galavant around India siteseeing and entertaining family members, there is the same stuff her that gets you bogged down at home ... taxes, funerals, work....

Its not all fun and games :)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Great marketing in India

These pictures are worth a thousand words...

Yes ... Jimmy is only 5 ....

As you know, Jimmy is a big kid. He has a healthy appetite and we are saving money, not for college but for our grocery bills when he hits the teenage years.

This is non fiction account of actual events, all resemblance to characters living/dead is intentional ....

Background - Jimmy is 5 yrs old, weighs 63lbs and stands 4'2" tall, he'll eat almost anything

Yesterday at Lunch (all direct quotes):

Jimmy: Dad I'm hungry.
Dad: What do you want for lunch
Jimmy: Chicken

10 minutes later ...
Dad: Jimmy would anything else
Jimmy: more chicken

10 minutes later...
Dad: Jimmy are you done?
Jimmy: can I have more chicken please.
Dad: OK

10 minutes later....
Jimmy: Dad I am done that was delicious, can I have some chocolate milk?
Dad: Sure any more chicken?
Jimmy: Save the rest and I will eat it for dinner

God help us, there WASNT any left for dinner, he ate an entire chicken by himself for lunch.