Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Aggressive Patience

Just over two weeks ago I wrote about this.

Two weeks later, I have this.
India's teaching me a lot about patience.  Things just take a long time.  I'm learning to embrace it a bit more each day.

 My dear friend Erin would tell me I've been  practicing aggressive patience.  A whole lotta it.  She'd be proud of me.

Now it's time to go and tear apart my adorable bed.  I'm going to lay on my brand-new mattress and use some aggressive patience while I count sheep.

Say Cheese!

And this is why I LOVE my parents.
Bernie and Maureen sent me a video from their tour of the Tillamook Cheese Factory in Oregon.  They're on a 2-week road trip along the Pacific Coast.  In case you're wondering, apparently over 1 million people visit the factory a year.

The video caused me to ask a few questions.

I wonder how many kinds of cheese they sampled.

I wonder if realize how lucky they are to be in a place where so many kinds of cheese is widely and cheaply available.

I wonder if those are boxes of cheese on the conveyor belt OR if they are giant blocks of cheese.

I wonder if while they were wearing their matching jackets if they bought me any cheese.

I wonder if you enjoyed their cheezy video was much as I did.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

P is for...

The white walls will soon disappear and in its place will be:

  • ocean turquoise and golden sand,
  • starlet gold and seductive mood and
  • coriander.

Thanks Amy for the inspirations, suggestions and helping me make some amazing choices that will make my place feel like home.  And most importantly, thanks for bringing the amazing chocolate cake.  It was delicious!  Very excited for the ideas to soon become a reality.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pied Piper of Bandra

Thursday night, Bandra had it's own Pied Piper.  Kabir; a Buddhist monk.

After a lovely all-you-can-eat delicious Chinese dinner, we were walking home.  Kabir noticed that he was leading five lovely lady expats down the street.

It's common here not to walk on the sidewalks.

It's also common for everyone to stare at each other.  It's especially common to stare at any expats.

So, as usual we were walking single file in the street.  He wondered what others were thinking seeing us, given the above norms.  

At one point he kicked his feet up, jig style, and said he looked like the Pied Piper.  Pretty funny image strolling down the suburbs of Mumbai.  A monk followed by five ladies.

He's been helping several of us to improve our meditation practices.  And with this help, he's definitely the kind of Pied Piper I would follow.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Good Word

I'm getting fully reimbursed for my damaged shipment.  Yay!  Yahoo!  

Word came this morning.  I squinched up my face as I opened the PDF thinking the worst.  As I scrolled down to page two and looked at the breakdown for reimbursement, everything was in full.  They came through.  

I feel like running around my apartment, very carefully (don't want to re-injure my healing ankle).  I feel like dancing.  I'm just so relieved.  

Short.  Sweet.  Simple.  Smiling.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Book of Threes

Today in a meeting, I was reminded that bad things come in threes.  Or so says mysticism, Christianity and hey, even an triangle has three sides.

Bad Thing #1 - My gastrointestinal awfulness
I am feeling SOOOO much better today.   I actually ate a sandwich for lunch.  And nobody told me I was pale.  As Ronnie Woo Woo would say, "Megan ate a sandwich!  Woooo!"  Chicago friends, I hope you know the voice to use.

Bad Thing #2 - My shipment
Booo!  Hiss!

Bad Thing #3 - Loosing my debit card
Yeah.  Add that to the list.  I just realized that last night while paying for my physical therapy.  Since I'd been sick  and pretty much housebound or at school, I knew it happened at a cash machine last Friday.  Not so good at all.

But the last thing, Bad Thing #3,  it helped me to turn a corner.  When I called today to cancel my debit card, I was informed that it had already been cancelled. I wondered if perhaps it was ASB (since I had them in the loop) who'd helped to do this for me.

"It's been cancelled since September 9th madam,"  said the help line rep.

"Really?"  I asked.

"Yes.  It was found at a cash station and the person called us to report it lost."

"Really?"  I asked again this time my voice went higher.

The answer confirmed that yep, it had been found at the cash station where I'd used it.  Talk about karma!  I've been trying to send rainbows and little smiley face flowers out into the world amidst all the chaos that these past two weeks have offered and I got one back.

So, My Book of Threes is closed now.  If you look on the last page, you'll see The End (which I hate seeing in books) is actually there.  And right below it is a daisy with a smiley face too.  Take that!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rough Waves

It's been a rough one folks.  Anger poured in as I awoke in the middle of the night and had to climb out the foot of the bed onto books scattered across my floor to the bathroom.

The anger surged as I started going through things.  Many had dried.  That was good news.  I had notified school I was coming in late due to still being sick (although improvement again) and that I needed to assess the damage in daylight.

My housekeeper, Espe and I, began going through the books.  Sigh.  Gasp. We peeled each page apart in my lovely children's books apart.  Pages tore and wrinkled and fell apart in our hands.  27 are a loss.

Then as we finished putting things away. We were ready to make the bed.  I thought, this could be the redemption.  Eeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrr (imagine that game show buzzer again)!

The mattress was soaked.  One whole end of it complete with rust marks and a puncture.  After touching it, the water was visible on your hand. This is a brand-new mattress folks.  I laid on it for less than 15 minutes in the Back to Bed showroom.  Brand-new.  The anger continued to grow.

That's when I took some video of the damage.  Showing the chaos caused to my life and the damages. I played them back to make sure they were good quality and I could hear the anger in my voice.

I filled out my claims form and got ready for work.

Finding a rick was easy and as we began to drive down my street, I looked at my phone.  It was only 11 a.m.  Why did it feel like it was 5 p.m.?

As we entered into Bandra Kurla, lots of people began to notice me in the rick.  They were on motorcycles and in ricks and walking.  Not that it's unusual but maybe I started to notice them.  They smiled and waved. That's when I was reminded about my attitude.  I can feel crappy about this entire thing because frankly as my dear friend Erica reminded me, "It's sh*@#y!"  But I also can choose how I respond.

People at ASB are wonderful.  They listened.  They supported.  They shared their shipping woes.  They had a hard time understanding Aussie accents which lead to laughs.  One friend, dear Debbie, even shared some yummy Ferrero Rocher to eat when I do feel better.  So can't wait to eat it.  It's like torture!

But the goodness didn't end there.  I met with an amazing team of teachers who have set a goal to map their writing units.  And they're including me!

Books I'd ordered several weeks ago arrived.

The moving company and ASB checked in several times about filing the claim for the damages.  Things are moving forward and I'm optimistic.

At the end of the day, Jenn asked if I wanted to take a rick rather than the van.  That sounded delightful.  She encouraged me to go to PT.

I did go.  I now have my first Indian mehndi.
Well, it's really more like taping to help decrease the swelling but it's pretty and hot pink.

PT seems like it could be a good fit and will help me to get stronger which means things like yoga and other exercise is coming my way.

On my walk home from PT, I stopped at a shop to inquire about curtain rods and fabric.  People are coming tomorrow to give me estimates.  I bought shower curtain hangers and now have not only the towels from the U.S. but also my curtain as well.

Then I got to talk to my mom.  That helped the most of all.  It usually does.

So, all in all, it wasn't such a good day.  I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach.  In the big picture, things are okay.  It's just stuff but when you add other things to it, like illness and culture shock and settling in, it just all feels so much bigger.  Just gotta keep saying those things out-loud that are good so when the storm cloud comes again (because I'm sure it's on it's way now), I can remember the good too.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Good, The Bad and the Wet

The good news is I'm feeling a bit better today.  My stomach is feeling um, more settled.  I'm still exhausted though but progress is progress.  A 2nd grader today told me how tired and pale I looked.  Then his friend added that I also had lots of spots on my face that looked like zits.  I told them I was sick.  They shrugged their shoulders and walked away to check-out books.  Gotta love the honesty of 7-year-olds.

The other good news is my shipment arrived. It arrived early this evening.

The bad news...
Does it look right to you?
Somethings didn't even come in a box because they had broken.
It got a bit soggy on the Mumbai port.

The agent's on his way to help me with filing the claim.  Damages include:  pillows, water stain on my box spring, lots of wet packaging and clothes.  Tomorrow morning in daylight will be when I can really see what's happened.

My biggest loss? My books. 27 in all were ruined and/or damaged.   I know in theory they can dry but they'll never close the same.  They'll have bent and twisted corners and water stains.  Several had been signed too by the author so that's my low blow.
My book's turned into soup!

I had been waiting a while in the apartment and when I heard there was damage, I didn't swear one bit. Just said, "Oh my god" about 15 times and wandered around assessing the damage.  I was either channeling some zen master, overly tired from being malnourished or it was the kindness of the delivery men who told me they'd never seen such a mess.

For tonight I've got a new decorating style...
Living room complete with clothes and toiletries laying out to dry.
Kitchens are also great places for drying clothes.
My guest room's all ready for your visit.
My brand new bed doesn't look quite so new anymore.
So, with the good, comes the bad and it'll get sorted out.  I'm proud of myself for keeping cool considering the awful surprise and also for doing it with being sick.  This is all making me stronger, right?

Note to those ever moving to a monsoon area.  Make sure your movers at your origin, line your lift/crate with plastic because most likely it'll sit in the rain someplace along the way.  

Monday, September 12, 2011

I'd like a Gin, Tonic and E.coli on the Rocks.

Maybe this is why I've been feeling so awful?

The school nurse sent this article link today along with the dos and don'ts of monsoon season in the city.  

A few of the Dos:
  • Wash your hands,
  • Drink filtered and branded water only,
  • Consume only cooked foods.
A few of the Don'ts:
  • Consume foods from roadside vendors (learned that a long time ago when I watched Outsourced),
  • Consume ice from unknown sources,
  • Eat salads in restaurants.

I thought I'd figured out when I had caught this bug (pesto sauce on some pasta) but perhaps it's also been sneaking into my water filtered water each day.  Gross!

Many American friends always think I'm strange to drink out of drinking fountains and to fill up my water bottle in bathroom sinks.  Really, the water for the most part in the U.S. is pretty great and clean. Bottled water's not necessary for the most part.

In Brazil I was careful.   In India I've been more so.  Guess sometimes though you can't battle what you can't see in kitchens and so on.

Here's to hoping this bug dies soon because I'm turning into a brat eating the B.R.A.T. diet.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Remember

In the past few weeks, conversations with friends and family have included the 10th anniversary of September 11th.  I don't have a t.v. in Mumbai (I know American readers - insert your gasps of shock and horror here) so I've had to do my own reading about what you all have been seeing daily on the news.  CNN, BBC, NY Times and other websites have given me glimpses and reminders of that tragic day.

My family shared I should be careful today.  There had been warnings on the news about possible attacks abroad.

American colleagues have asked whether or not we were teaching in Mumbai about September 11th.  I still don't have the answer to that one.

I'm in Mumbai.  Here, what's today about?  It's the 11th day in the Ganesh Chaturthi holiday. A special Hindu holiday.   That means the city of about 20 million people (mas or menos) will stop this evening, almost come to a standstill, due to all of the people going to the beach to celebrate.  Throughout the day there have been drums and bands and fireworks.  Ganesh Chathurti is about removing obstacles. I'm in India, not the U.S. so a mention here or there would be appropriate but more than that wouldn't be right for India either.

So, where does all of this thinking leave me?  It leaves me remembering the past.  It leaves me, just as it leaves many of my American readers, recalling where they were that day.  My sure Facebook statuses will be flooded with these memories.
My story is similar to many Midwestern suburban elementary teachers at the time.  That day I was teaching.  2nd grade.  A fushia or electric yellow note was placed on my desk while I was teaching a math lesson by my principal.  I read the note after I sent my students to specials.  There weren't any teaching colleagues free at that time so I couldn't talk to them about it.  I watched grainy t.v. with my colleagues in the KST lunchroom to catch glimpses of had happened.  We taught that day and made sure our students felt safe and cared for and protected while trying to manage our own emotions.

The next day we all had conversations with our students.  Mine was dispelling a false notion, from student with Mexican heritage, who thought that "people from his country had killed all those people using planes."  At that time the diversity where I taught was almost non-existent, so for him, he worried that his peers would be mad him.  He thought he was bad.

It leaves me remembering my emotions from the days that followed.
The days that followed, I remember I always went straight home from school.  I talked to my family more.   I watched t.v. in the evenings with my roommate, Andrea and wanted to always have someone around.  There were feelings of grief and hopelessness and pain.  Many thought, like myself, that this attack would unite the U.S. and bring people together in a way it hadn't been in a long time.

It leaves me thinking, that life's gone on.  That's part of moving on, isn't it?  The larger events that shape us, sometimes if the impact isn't direct and even when it is, part of the cycle is moving forward.
People here are talking about where they are going to see the immersions or those they went to see.  People are talking about their weekend chores and shopping and games and dinners.  I didn't seek out conversations with my colleagues about this either.  I didn't ask where they'd been or how they felt.  

So, what's the point of this post?  I'm still not sure.  I guess I've been thinking about how much things changed on September 11th.  Living as an American overseas I actually feel like sometimes those changes are magnified.  Sometimes the negative images are the only things covered in the press and topics that we see overseas.  Those are the things talked about by colleagues and fellow travelers; Americans and those of other nationalities. Travel and visa restrictions, questioning by burly FBI agents at airports and the U.S.'s involvements in conflicts abroad.   The important things get lost or drown out.  Initial impressions left by my country but not by me.  That's part of being identified in a larger group though.

I guess I'm also just processing both both how much being American has changed since September 11th.  Whether we live in the U.S. or elsewhere, it just has.  

So today, I'm saying that I do remember.  And remembering far away from those who I was with that day:
  • my former second graders who are now 17 and 18 years old, 
  • my KST colleagues who are in Elburn and many other places, 
  • my family and 
  • my roommate Andrea, 
feels strange but at the same time the way that it should feel.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bombay Belly Strikes Again

No details about my symptoms this week, just sharing some things I've learned about being sick here.

This week I've learned...
  • in Mumbai when you're belly's a turning, people will ask you if you have "loose motions?"  Sounds so much nicer than diarrhea.
  • to stay hydrated people drink fresh lime soda (Fresh lime soda is a combo of seltzer water, mineral water, fresh lime juice and sugar or salt depending on your preference).
  • a popular bland food when you've got Bombay Belly is a mixing rice and yogurt together.
  • housekeepers are wonderful at making sure you have all of the right foods in your kitchen including  pomegranate, bananas and bread.
  • everyone has advice about what to eat (or not eat), where to eat (or not eat) and what to drink (or what not to drink).
  • co-workers are great at telling you how awful you look and that you need to leave work and go home.
  • housekeepers are amazingly quiet when you're home early to sleep.
  • when you go to the pharmacy to pick up some medicines to help with your loose motions, the pharmacist will smile at you when you leave and say, "Feel better soon madam."  
The good news is that besides all of this learning, I am starting to feel better.   Not quite so tired today and able to eat.  Every little step is an improvement

Ganesha, if you're reading this post, can you please remove this obstacle for me?  I know I didn't whisper this in your ear on Monday evening, but I'd really appreciate it.  Thanks!  Megan

Friday, September 9, 2011

Complete Immersion

Monday evening I was immersed tonight by a wonderful family in Maharashtra Hindu traditions.  I had the priviledge of returning to Sanjana's family's home for their Ganesh Chaturthi immersion.
Barbara, Andrea and I arrived to their apartment around 5 p.m. where their family had been caring for Ganesh during his visit as an honored guest in their home.  Ganesha received the same TLC you would give any friend or family visiting you.

We were greeted at the door with hugs and smiles.  They were sitting around chatting with a couple of other visitors.  It was nice to relax and share about ASB and eat more delicious food.

Then just before 6 p.m., the priest arrived for final prayers at their home.  The prayers are called pujas.  Prayers were sang, incense was burned, tilaks were applied to foreheads for blessings.  Blades of grass, flowers and coins were all offered to Ganesha.
The pujas begin.

During the prayers, not only did her 5-year-old nephew help with the pujas but Sanjana was able to watch in NYC using Skype.  We also received blessings, tilaks, (red paste on our foreheads) and we gave further blessings by turning a flame round in circles several times in front of Ganesha.

After the priest and family finished their prayers, the celebration began.
Setting up Skype for the celebration
The family moved their statue to the floor so we were able to dance around it and celebrate Ganesha's removal of obstacles.  The family played cds that taught us how to wish good tidings to Lord Ganesha by saying "Ganpati Bappa Morya!"

We sang and danced for a while.  Before we'd sung and danced, Sanjana's grandmother, who speaks a bit of English, asked me if I was married.  I told her no I wasn't and neither was Andrea.  She kept repeating the word husband to me.  After we sang and danced a while, I realized why.

You are able to wish for Ganesha to remove an obstacle for you.  When Sanjana's mother told me we could whisper into Ganesha's ear and ask for what we needed, I suddenly put two and two together. Grandmother had told me to wish for a husband! I did whisper into his ear but I'm not sharing my wishes with you all. Sorry!
Ganesha's ears are large so he's able to hear your hopes.
Then we went downstairs to load Ganesha into a car for his journey to the sea.  By going to the ocean, his physical form, which the family had prayed to, would leave its energy behind but since physically, we're all in a state of change, would revert back to nothingness.

We drove in two cars to Juhu beach playing music along the way.  As we drove, we carefully followed Ganesha who was in the back of the car in front of us.  The trunk had been left open. 

Along the way we passed processions with bands and cars carrying their family's or community's or political group's Ganesha.  When we arrived, we quickly unloaded both cars and Ganesh was carried to the beach.
Carrying Ganesha to Juhu beach.

When we arrived to the beach, I saw we weren't the only ones there.

Sanjana's family prepared for their final pujas.  Incense was placed into the sand. 

The flame was lit on their silvter tray.  Several prayers were sung using a book and flowers were offered as well.  During the pujas we also each were given a modak (an indian sweet) to eat. 

We whispered final wishes to Ganesha, offered our blessings using fire once again and then ended by silently standing and showing him our respect.

After the pujas ended, Sanjana's brother and cousin took Ganesha to the sea for his immersion. 

Carrying Ganesha into the sea.

Family watching the immersion.
This wonderful evening came to a quiet close.  We walked back up the beach and toward the crowds again.  We crossed the street and said our goodbyes.  Thanks so much to Sanjana for the special invitation.   Also thank you to her family for a very special celebration.  They would tell me that I should thank Ganesha for bringing us together.  A final thanks to Ganesha for sharing your special days with me, welcoming me into Sanjana's family's home and for removing my obstacles.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mom Knows Best...Episode #1 Snail Mail Race

Yesterday Minnesota mail arrived to ASB.  My wonderful mom sent...
a cute card with a special note AND
an Oprah magazine subscription.  I turn each page like it's a treasure.  I even read the entire advertisements!  This might stem from my days of living in Brazil and Korea without English magazines readily or cost-wise available for me.

But my mom knowing best doesn't end there.  She decided a few weeks ago to conduct a bit of a science experiment.  Maybe more like a challenge.  She sent two notes and then a week later two envelopes on the same day to me. One note went via Minnesota to Mumbai.  The other came directly from DeKalb, Illinois to Mumbai.  

Any guesses which way's faster?
This arrived today in my mailbox.  Mom really does know best.  Sending it straight to India's faster than via Minnesota.  So far reliability on the U.S. and Indian end are both great but the most direct route wins the snail mail race.  Time from Chicago to Mumbai is between 7-10 days.  Not too shabby!

Thought you all might be just as interested in these results.  Hint, hint.  
Also, thanks mom for the goodies which were lovingly packed and taped so they stayed securely in place. Opening up my goodies required scissors due to all of the Scotch tape.  Your strategy worked Mom because everything arrived intact and in the place you wanted it to be. The hankies and coffee here are definitely not wants but needs. Both will be put to good use tomorrow.   Love you!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ganesh Chaturthi Day 1

Many Mumbaikers are in the midst of celebrating Ganesha Chaturthi also called Ganpati.  As you already know, last Thursday I was lucky to be invited over to Sanjana's family's home to celebrate with them.   I'm going to do my best to share a little bit about what I've learned about it.

I've learned from Heeru, my other friends here and then I've read more on my own.  If I make any mistakes in my writing, please know it's unintentional.  Just like families who celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, everyone does it a little differently than others so that's a factor in my experiences too.  If I've written something you disagree about or I've made an error, let me know.  Or if you like what you see, that's nice to hear about as well.

So, a little more about my first Ganpati...
Sanjana's family was so wonderful and welcoming to us.  Before we entered their beautifully garlanded and decorated doorway, we slipped off our shoes.  We needed to be barefoot to enter.

At the end of their living room was a large table where we saw their Ganesha. Thursday morning, the celebration began.  Families brought home their carefully selected Ganesha.  There are many sizes and designs just like families have different nativity scenes.
He's surrounded by lights and incense and flowers which pay tribute to him.  During his journey to Sanjana's family's home, his head was covered.  Only when the priest came to invoke Lord Ganesh's spirit was his head revealed.  Priests visit families' homes to help the family help the family pray throughout Ganesha's visit.
You'll notice that at Ganesha's feet there are several items.  There are leaves with fruits on them to represent the planets.  There's coconuts and more flowers.  All of these offerings help to pay tribute to him.
Heeru taught us about the traditions and symbolism of Ganesha Chaturthi.
Also, there are bags of fruits and other items that visitors brought with them as gifts to Ganesha.
We each took a turn anointing Ganesha with a special red paste.
Debbie anointing one of the family's smaller Ganeshas in honor of their children.
The red paste, called unguenet, is on a silver tray along with some rice that we sprinkled over this feet.
Barbara's turn.
After we paid our tributes, we were treated to delicious foods.  We tasted delicious samosas and lovely mint sandwiches.  We had wonderful paneer treats and Indian tea.  During our visit we chatted with Sanjana's family about how they celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, about Sanjana who's living in New York City now and we even saw her wedding photos.

We really enjoyed getting to know them.  They are kind and gentle.  So considerate and caring.  During our visit, they actually asked if we wanted to join them on Monday for their family's immersion.  During the immersion, they'll make final tributes and prayers and then go as a family to the sea.  Can't wait for it!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

One Small Step for Shoes, One Giant Step for Megan

Friday's pair.

Today's pair.

Baby steps toward strong ankles again.  So happy to be:
  • healing well and 
  • wearing some of my cute summer purchases made over six weeks ago and 
  • not having a fourth grade student on Monday ask, "Miss Looney, why are you wearing white tennis shoes with your black dress?" while working in small groups during a lesson I'm teaching.
Big celebrations!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Monks + Elephants = Double Blessings

I was blessed by two Buddhist monks at school after they spoke with all of ASB's articulate and inquisitive seventh graders.

Thanks Oahn for being a wonderful hostess and organizing their visit.  Thanks seventh grade team for facilitating an amazing learning opportunity for your students and faculty.

I went to receive blessings from Ganesha at Sanjana's, a former ASB technology teacher, family's home.  Ganpati began today.

Monks and Elephants have blessed me on many different levels.

Thanks Heeru for organizing our invite and being our personal Ganpati guru.  Thanks Barbara for the ride and company.  And thanks Debbie just for being your lovely, positive dancing self.

More Ganpati and blessings to come...