New Delhi, Weather from Weather Underground

Monday, February 28, 2011

Anxiety not least so far

I had multiple anxieties before moving to India. Dirt, germs, health care, food, finding a church, friends, and so on and so on. One of my biggest anxieties was about hiring, dealing with, and acclimating to staff. I know that having staff in your home seems like such a luxury. Many times it is just that.....a luxury and a help. At the same time, it is one more new thing to deal with in a whole new world. When we lived in China, we had a woman who came in three days a week for four hours. She did laundry, cleaned bathrooms, and floors. It was a huge help, but we rarely ever saw each other. We requested she was totally hands off with the children as we had just adopted our little one. We wanted to ensure that she bonded 100% with us and not with a nanny or ayi as they say in China. Life in India is a totally different ballgame. Multiple people told me before moving that we would need full-time help when settling in India. Also, every apartment we looked at had "staff quarters" attached. It all seemed so strange.

Fast forward a couple months. We are living in a beautiful hotel waiting for our home to be finished. Again, everyone keeps asking, "Have you interviewed or found staff yet?" No, I hadn't. The idea of hiring someone to work in my home and potentially live in that same home was paralyzing me. (Side note: That is how I deal with things that aren't easy or comfortable. I just avoid, avoid, avoid) Finally, I met a couple women but just didn't feel that "fit" with them. At the same time, I was learning how to navigate shopping and day to day in India. I was learning that we would definitely need help. I started visiting with expat families who had been in Delhi for some time. I was able to see them interact with staff and see "how it is done." Then at the perfect time, I met a wonderful woman who has since become a dear friend. She has a nanny/maid who had a friend and so on. I met the friend and liked her instantly. Bla, bla, etc. She started the same day the movers arrived with 40 plus boxes of our stuff from the US. Seven months later she is still with us. Her name is Tshering. The girls and I adore her. Dan likes her but rarely ever sees her. She is a self-starter and doesn't need the constant overseeing that I had feared. The biggest plus is that we are finding out she is an incredible cook. Wish you could see the huge smile on my face as I typed that :) as I really don't enjoy cooking.

Tshering did not live in the staff quarters for the first few months but has since moved in. I have had to teach the girls some boundaries. They love to "walk her home" every evening. This is hilarious since her room is literally five steps outside our kitchen door. Often they want to stay and hang out at Tshering's house. They are learning that once she leaves they cannot go out and knock on her door anytime. She is too sweet and would let them in anytime. So, it's up to me to make sure that she gets her time off away from them.

So far, my all my anxieties have been unnecessary. Below are some photos of how much the girls really love Tshering.
Rachel doing Tshering's hair.

When Rachel saw this photo she said, "Hey she could be my sister." It's true. They are the perfect pair.
Cooking momos (or dumplings, jiaozi, dim sum depending on where you live). She is so patient with the girls at all times. Maybe I won't end up learning how to cook Indian food, but Rachel will.
Fun times in the park with Tshering.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Golden Temples and Police Escorts

I recently posted about our visit to the Wagah border between India and Pakistan. Every so often there is a moment or event that surpasses all expectations. It feels so far away from the ordinary that I keep pinching myself to make sure it is real. Our entire day in Amritsar felt like this. We were met at the airport by the Colonel and a police escort. (See photo below) Yes, an official police escort jeep with four men in it. Wonder how much they got paid for riding around following us all day?? I never got a complete answer to why we needed a police escort, but they were with us from 900 am until we left the city limits at 700 in the evening.

Our first stop was at the Golden Temple where we had to stop to take off our shoes so as not to bring outside dirt, germs, and whatever else into the temple. From this "de-shoeing" area we had to walk through a small pool of clean water to purify the feet.
Then we purchased and donned the required head covering before entering.

Finally we were entered the Golden Temple. Below is from Wikipedia newest favorite blog assistant.
Its name literally means Temple of God. The fourth guru of Sikhism, Guru Ram Das, excavated a tank in 1577 AD which subsequently became known as Amritsar(meaning "Pool of the Nectar of Immortality"), giving its name to the city that grew around it. In due course, a splendid Sikh edifice, Harmandir Sahib (meaning "the abode of God"), rose in the middle of this tank and became the supreme centre of Sikhism. Its sanctum came to house the Adi Granth comprising compositions of Sikh gurus and other saints considered to have Sikh values and philosophies, e.g., Baba Farid, and Kabir. The compilation of the Adi Granth was started by the fifth guru of Sikhism, Guru Arjan Dev.
There in the middle of the lake sits the Golden Temple.
Our family dressed "appropriately" for the temple.
Thousands of people from all over the world enter the temple daily. They wash in the water to rid themselves of sin and diseases. They drink the water. They take water home to bless their homes and share with those who cannot make the trip to the temple.

You must walk in a counter clockwise motion around the lake to reach the temple.

The Darshani Deorhi Arch stands at the beginning of the causeway to the Harmandir Sahib; it is 202 feet (62 m) high and 21 feet (6 m) in width. The gold plating on the Harmandir Sahib was begun by Emperor Ranjit Singh and was finished in 1830. The Sher-e-Punjab (Lion of the Punjab) was a major donor of wealth and materials for the shrine and is remembered with much affection by thePunjabi people in general and the Sikh community in particular. As seen below the visitors line the causeway as they wait to see the inner temple, leave their offering, make prayers, and receive a blessing.
There are musicians who sit inside the temple and can be heard throughout the complex via loudspeakers. They sing Sikh prayers and chants. As we waited on the causeway, there were certain chants that must be known by all Sikhs. The crowd would begin to chant and hum all around us.

As with the Wagah Border, this was one of those locations about which I have read and seen television specials. Again, I had to pinch myself to make sure we were really there. It was a day full of reminding myself to live in the moment and appreciate the wonderful opportunities we have been given.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wagah Border Ceremony

From Wikipedia
"Wagah ( Urdu: واہگہ, Punjabi: ਵਾਘਾ) is the only road border crossing between Pakistan and India, and lies on the Grand Trunk Road between the cities of Lahore, Pakistan and Amritsar, India.

The Wagah border, often called the "Berlin Wall of Asia", is a ceremonial border on the India-Pakistan border where each evening there is a ceremony called 'lowering of the flags', which has been held since 1959. At that time there is an energetic parade by the Border Security Force (B.S.F) of India and the Pakistan Rangers soldiers. It may appear slightly aggressive and even hostile to foreigners but in fact the paraders are imitating the pride and anger of a Cockerel. Troops of each country put on a show in their uniforms with their colorful turbans. Border officials from the two countries sometimes walk over to the offices on the other side for day to day affairs. The happenings at this border post have been a barometer of the India-Pakistan relations over the years.

This ceremony takes place every evening before sunset at the Wagah border. The ceremony starts with a perfectly coordinated parade by the soldiers from both the sides and ends up in the lowering of the flags. One Jawan stands attention at the gate on each side. As the sun sets, the iron gate at the border is opened and the flags are lowered. The flag is folded and the ceremony ends with a retreat that involves a handshake between the soldiers. The grandeur of the ceremony attracts many visitors from both sides of the border and tourists from all over the world to this 40–45 minutes of choreographed and routine display.

We traveled to Amritsar where we were met by "The Colonel," the head of security for Dan's company in Punjab. (See he and Dan above) He was in the Indian army for many years and lived in 12 locations throughout India. The Colonel is one of the most interesting people I have met in ages. Through his connections, he was able to get us tickets to view the lowering of the flags at the Wagah Border.

Some of the many check points that we had to go through on the way to the border ceremony.

Every evening at sunset the stands fill up with people from all over the world. The crowds spill into the streets dancing, singing, and cheering. "Long Live India" can be heard from the India side while chants and "Forever Pakistan" come from the across the border.

The Indian Border Security Force and their elaborate uniforms.

The lowering of the India and Pakistan flags is a carefully orchestrated and practiced event. The flags must be kept at the same level the entire time. If one were to dip lower than the other it would be a huge affront to the people of that country.
It was an incredible event to witness and still seems a little surreal that we were sitting on the India/Pakistan border. Five years ago, I would have never imagined this would be my/our life. Wouldn't trade it though.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sarajkund Arts, Crafts, and Culture Mela

The below description is taken from Wikipedia

In the backdrop of the lake, during the spring season, every year from February 1–15, a colorful traditional craft festival of India is held in the precincts of Surajkund. This fair was first started in 1987. Traditional craftsman (artists, painters, weavers and sculptors) from all parts of the country participate in this annual celebration named as the “Surajkund Crafts Mela” or "Surajkund designer’s Village”. Designer items created by 50 best designers and craftsmen in wood, metal, bamboo, iron, glass, textiles and stone can be seen here. This Mela (fair) is visited by lovers of arts and crafts from all over the world. The fair is held with a different theme every year on Indian culture and crafts.

The theme, specific to a state of India, is depicted at the entrance to the Mela grounds and provides an ambiance of that particular state with characteristic colors, materials, architecture, furniture and decorations. The crafts on display in the stalls (400) is of particular crafts of that state. The Mela also includes a food festival covering some of the popular cuisines from different parts of the country. Entertainment in the form of famous rhythms and dance of folk theatre are also held here during the festival.

My camera does not do the colors justice.
One of the best mornings in a long time. The color, joy, life, energy, vibrancy, and happiness at Sarajkund was contagious.
Separate tickets booths for "Ladies" and "Gents"?? Not sure why this was necessary. The ticket sellers were all men?? Just something else I will never quite understand in India.

The tiger dancers were fabulous!!
I bought a beautiful wall hanging and some bags from this woman. We were her first sale of the day. The blessings she put on the rupees as I paid were incredible to watch. She said that if the first sale is not blessed correctly then the rest of day's sales will not go well.

Batik pictures from Goa.
Fresh coconut water from "Mr Friendly." I wouldn't want to meet this man and his large cleaver in a dark alley.
And finally, for those of you who don't like Indian food.....

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Speed Boats + Sea Kayaks = fun, fun, fun

Favorite, favorite part of our Christmas trip to Thailand was the last full day. We took a speed boat trip on the Andaman Sea. The guys at Andaman Leisure were fabulous. They loaded up the boat with drinks and snacks, and we headed out to "see what we could see."
We stopped at two different spots where we crawled into inflatable sea kayaks to explore some of the small islands. The guides took us through a bat cave. (Sidenote: I really, really dislike bats and the idea of them hanging over my head was extremely uncomfortable. Thankfully, they didn't fly around at all. The girls thought they were very cool which helped my fear some.) After traveling through the bat cave we came out into a lagoon in the center of the island. Incredible!! There were monkeys climbing the rocks, walking fish, and amazing foliage to be seen.
We stopped at James Bond Island and had a short hike around.
Rebekah loved being buckled up in her life jacket and going "faster, faster" on the big boat.

One of the caves Dan and Rachel ventured through was so small that air had to be released from the kayaks. They had to lay down flat to get through the opening.

The last stop of the day was a beautiful island with calm, shallow beaches. The guide said that this island is inhabited by about five people. They make money by allowing the tour companies to stop for a swim and sell drinks, ice cream, and corn on the cob cooked right on the beach.