Saturday, August 16, 2014

Home Sweet Home

For two months we've been living at the hotel's extended stay apartments in a cozy two-bedroom waiting out one delay after another that's prevented us from moving into the apartment we found back in May.

Some people choose to live at the hotel permanently but it's very isolated, expensive, and lacks a washer/dryer. Plus it feels like a hotel. With two weeks left before leaving to take Danielle home to college, our relocation guru showed us a few new apartments that were cheaper and available immediately. A week later we have a lovely new home with an actual kitchen, neighbors, and shops within walking distance. Oh, and several scary showers that we scrubbed for hours before being able to photograph them. Some things you just don't want to remember...

The apartment came furnished with the basics which helps because the plan was to bring as little as possible with us in our 7 suitcases and rely on India to supply the rest. We discovered that we tend to live very differently - the things we use daily just aren't a part of Indian life. Here they cook on a single portable burner and don't use ovens. Some are starting to use microwaves but if they have a refrigerator, it's a very small half-sized one. Things like saran wrap and ziplock bags just don't exist. Frying pans are everywhere but baking pans, cookie sheets, or muffin tins are not available. Even bathing and sleeping habits are very different so the towels are small and thin (for fast drying) and most use a single flat sheet to cover the family as they sleep together on the floor in the un-airconditioned multipurpose room. Mattresses, blankets, and good pillows are just not must-haves for them.

Basically, the items that millions of Indians use are very cheap and plentiful, while the items foreigners use are imported, expensive, and difficult (or impossible) to find. A few emails later, our angel daughter boxed up some fitted sheets, good-sized bath towels, ziplock bags, baking tins, food processor, kitchen-aid mixer, crock pot, and dishwasher tablets. These unspeakably precious items have been sitting at the airport customs department waiting for us to move into the apartment before delivering them. Oh happy day!!! 

That made the mold and the cat and the pigeons that we inherited seem like small things (at least for a day).

With the pigeon problem being tackled, the cat being rounded up (he is very elusive), and deep cleaning underway, Danielle packed her bags and said good-bye to her Iron Man sheets and our new home.

She has been a huge blessing - bringing laughter, friendship, and elbow grease to all sorts of crazy situations. It doesn't seem real she won't be there when we get back, but I will always think of her sitting in her new "spot" - the one she claimed on the day she said, "Now THIS place feels like home!" - and right between the fantastic American-sized refrigerator and an actual oven :) 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tomorrow Land

People want to know, “How is India?” Crazy doesn’t begin to describe it, but these two examples might.

We bought cell phones upon arrival which, incidentally, do not come with cell phone service. That requires a completely separate store that you should never approach without a complete set of “must haves.”  You must have your cell phone, your passport,  your visa, your proof of living address (registered and stamped by the police), your proof of ability to pay, and your proof of employment.

With those in hand, have your driver take you on a 20-25 minute drive to a very small cell phone service store and hope someone speaks understandable English. Once you’ve waited in line for about an hour, the paperwork takes another 30 minutes and a passport photo to complete. Lucky you must leave the service store with a partially working cell phone – out-going calls only – until an employee visits you at your residence to verify that you actually live where you just said (and proved) that you live. If that person fails to type in a verification code within 24 hours, your service is cutoff and you have to go back to the service store. The one hour line should have given us a heads up….


Living at a hotel’s extended-stay apartments, someone is ALWAYS at the front desk to verify that you live there. Always. We were rejected 5 times for non-verification before we gave up waiting in the same line 20 minutes away and tried a completely different cell phone with new phone numbers but the same results. After one month of unspeakable frustration, our Indian friends called and used their Hindi on them. It involved a lot of yelling. We have now been mostly connected for one month. I really must learn Hindi.

Over a month ago, Ty went chair shopping. He needed a comfortable chair for his temporary home office.

On a Wednesday we sat in all the chairs at Hometown and found one that Danielle said was “sic!” The sales person wanted us to take the floor model but it was wobbly. We opted to have one delivered. Ty said, “I need it this week.”  The guys said, “we can deliver in 10 days.” But that wasn’t this week… so the guy had a pow-wow with another guy in Hindi and then said, “We deliver Saturday. If no come, then come next day.” Got it. If the chair doesn’t show up Saturday, it will show up Sunday.  Perfect – the front desk guys will be there all day. Ty tells all of them that he’s bought a chair and to please let him know when it arrives.

Every day Ty stops and asks the front desk guys, “Has my chair come?” They say, without fail, “No, sir. There is no chair come for you.” A week and a half later, still no chair. The front desk guy takes pity and offers to call the store. He discovers that the chair has always been scheduled to be delivered after 10 days.  The beaming front desk guy informs us, “It will be delivered tomorrow, sir!”

One week, and seven daily queries later, the chair still has not appeared. We get another Indian friend to call. She is told, “No one answered the phone when we came to deliver.” Dang that cell phone verification failure! Now the chair is due to arrive on the day we move into our new apartment - almost exactly one month later then the original delivery date. We take the gamble and change the delivery address. We arrive at the apartment to find a note on the door, “Hometown was unable to deliver. Please call.” They actually showed up but on the wrong day. Still no chair but a little hope because it actually almost happened. These ads all over the city are starting to make sense...

Our Hindi speaking friend calls and reschedules for the next day. I cannot believe our luck when I open the door and see two guys from Hometown with a big box. The chair has arrived! They come in and open the box and I leave them carefully setting out the bevy of pieces on the floor. A few minutes later they want me to sign for each and every piece of the chair and then they put on their shoes and head for the door. “Wait!!! You need to put it together!” “Sorry. We warehouse. Installer come. You must call.”  Never in a million years will I make that call. The chair is here – 23 pieces feels like a miracle that we can assemble.

Ty tackles the chair the following morning. He has most of it done when the doorbell rings. Of all the crazy things in this crazy place that often makes no sense to me, the installers (who we never called) have voluntarily showed up to assemble the nearly completed chair.

With the move into the new apartment we have inherited  a host of situations where someone will come “tomorrow” – the installation of internet, dryer installation, glass shower partition, electrician for the air conditioner, microwave repair man, water purifier serviceman, pigeon net installer, new cell phone verification (we have to do the phone thing all over again with a different carrier who has signal in our area). All these people were supposed to be here Tuesday - Monday’s Tomorrow. Today is Friday and the list of unseen tomorrow-ites is piling up despite our team of 4 Hindi friends calling and yelling several times a day.

How is India, you ask. Let me tell you, INDIA IS A BEAST!!!!  It will toy with you, frustrate you, confound you, make you want to do unspeakable things and then.... it will surprise and delight you in ways you never imagined. That's how India is.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Two Amazing People

There are some people you should meet. They are a few of the members of our little branch who have quietly been an inspiration to me.


Marisha is the one in red helping someone's little girl eat some food  from our branch president's farewell potluck several weeks ago. She comes to church with her aunt and uncle who care for her and her younger sister despite the fact that money and food are scarce. Her mother is there but the situation is not good.

The entire extended family live in a tiny one-room shanty where Marisha works hard doing all sorts of chores. She is low man on the totem pole and bears the brunt of the daily tasks. She melts my heart with her quiet smile and unassuming ways. While most of the branch was eating and enjoying each other's company, I happened to go by the kitchen. There, from the doorway, I saw Marisha working while a few other adults chatted. She had a twig broom and with some difficulty was sweeping up the mess of scattered rice and food from under the tables and all over the floor. When I asked what she was doing, she said in a near whisper, "This is God's house." 

I love Marisha and the lesson she taught me.

Syam is the first counselor in our branch. His wife Radica struggles to come regularly with their son Rithvik. 


Radica and Rithvik showed up at church after an absence and with Syam's help we managed to get Rithvik to come to nursery. Primary and nursery are just becoming structured and organized according to the handbook. Our departing branch president (in the middle) would run a nursery himself when he could because the other members are new converts and need to be in class learning the gospel. The next week Rithvik came with Syam to nursery again. When I came in for singing time, he had many questions for me.

Syam: "Sister, what can I do to help the nursery."

Me: "What do you mean, brother - Do you mean toys?" (We had a broken car, one wooden spoon, and 3 crayons)

Syam: "No, sister. I found the nursery book and read it last week - the one from the Church website. It talks about lessons. I want my son to know these lessons. Could I work in the nursery? I have read 3 of the lessons and taught them to my son this week."

Me: "Wow. You did? That's amazing! Are you really offering to work in the nursery? That would be wonderful!"

Syam: "Yes, sister. I had no idea that you could teach small children the gospel like this. I want to teach my son the gospel. And, sister, I need to know where I can find that cleaning song you sang last week. I have been trying to sing it every night so my son will know to help clean when you sing it at church, but I don't know all the words. Tell me, sister, where can I find this cleaning song."

I could have kissed his feet - my jaw was low enough. Today Syam and Rithvik sang the cleaning song without any help :) 

These are just two people whose faith and Christlike service have inspired me in this faraway place where I thought I would be the example.

I Know Nothing

When I first moved to India, someone gave me the best advice - assume you don't know anything. My American sensibilities dominated how I perceived things and I've discovered, for the most part, that I've assumed the wrong things. More and more I learn how little I know about India and the people here.Take, for example, the traffic. Driving is a crazy experience!

The first thing that greets you morning or night is the sound of horns. They honestly never stop honking. They do a little tap when they drive along side someone. They do a double tap when someone starts drifting into them (there are no "lanes" per say). They send off a stream of taps when someone makes a move to turn in front of them. They start their impatient honking when they think the red light should be turning green and they want the cars in front of them to go anyway. They lay on the horn when you're in front of them driving slow and you don't move aside with their polite honking. It's definitely a loud language that they like to "speak" often.

One of my first resolutions was to find a driver that did NOT honk, because as bad as it is when other cars are honking, it's far worse when your horn never stops blaring. To top it off, all the trucks have "Horn OK Please" on the back, as if drivers needed any encouragement!


In all seriousness, I told Sabby, "Someone should start painting 'Horn NOT OK Please' on trucks." He laughed and laughed. He thought I was so funny and said, "Good one, ma'am!" 

It was several weeks later when we were sitting at the front of a red light and an impatient autorickshaw driver way in the back honks a sad little horn trying to get people to run the red light. 

 Me: "Sabby, you need to get a really crazy sounding horn that lets people know you mean business - nothing wimpy like that guy's."

Sabby laughing: "That would be fantastic, ma'am!"

Me: "Let's do it, Sabby! Let's get you a really original horn."

Sabby: "Ma'am, that is not allowed."

Me: "What do you mean, not allowed?"

Sabby: "The government, ma'am. People tried to have different horns and it became very loud. Nobody liked it. The government had to make sure the horns stayed inside the bounds otherwise people would have very large and very loud horns."

Me, realizing things could actually be a lot worse: "Oh. Then while they were at it, the government should have made a law where they couldn't honk so much."

Sabby: "Well, ma'am, it's the problem of the trucks. They cause big problems. They don't care about cars. They stop where they want and they drive where they want very slowly. They cause big traffic problems. No one can move around them. The government had to make a law so they would move."

Me: "You mean the government made a law that you have to honk your horn at them?

Sabby: "Yes, ma'am"

Me: "Are you serious?!? Is that why the trucks all have 'Horn OK Please' on them?"

Sabby: "Correct, ma'am. There is a very big fine they are paying if they don't have that painted. Now everyone paints it. They don't want to give cops an excuse for a fine. There is also a big fine if you honk and the truck does not move. Now everybody honks."

Oh. Once again, I thought I understood but found out I really knew nothing. So I started looking at all the trucks who had to tell people to honk at them or pay a large fine. I looked at them as if I knew nothing. 



And I decided the honking didn't bother me anymore. In fact I told Sabby he could honk anytime he wanted, within reason, of course.