Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Goa...The Beach

Goa is small section of India that is full or palm tree lined beaches and is known as the "party" place. The character of this place is full of Portuguese influences and is still very Roman Catholic to this day. St. Francis Xavier arrived here in 1542 and is entombed in one of the oldest churches, Basilica of Bom Jesus.

Goa itself is separated in to three distinctive districts, north, south and central. In the north there is Panjim which is the newly formed Capital, 1843 it is located at the mouth of the Mandovi River and has the largest influence of Portuguese. In the south it is more layed back with more family oriented beaches and dinning establishments. Central Goa is made up of lush vegetation and is the home to wildlife sanctuary's and the beautiful Dudhsanger Falls...enough of the history.

The Loudamericans arrived on Friday evening and without to much fanfare made it to our Villa on the Ocean in North Goa. The place was very similar to our Villa in Palm Meadows however the amenities were a lot nicer and newer..we had a dishwasher, and not one we had to feed! It was awesome to put all our sippy cups and plates in there and turn on the machine go to bed and they were clean...miracle.
There were 3 bedrooms, bathrooms, 2 TV's and a DVD. The perfect family get a way. The pool was shaped like a guitar and we had our our guard and dog named Jack. The kids were in heaven.

The only downside to this place was that we had to drive to get to the beach. The sacrifices we put up with:) Actually, this turned out to be a blessing as we saw MUCH more of Goa than we would have if we had been at a 5 star hotel with private beach.

We spent time at 3 different beaches and Goa beaches are a cross between Jamaica, Costa Rica and Mexico. You have the beach vendors from Mexico, the lush rain forest of Costa Rica and the unfortunate poverty and litter of Jamaica. The kids were minor celebrities. The minute they hit the beach, they were swarmed with people watching them, pointing, huddling around, taking pictures and basically being bothersome paparazzi. I can totally understand why celebrities attack photographers. We were asked no less than 15 times if people could take photos of our kids. AND that was the minority of people that were polite about it. Seeing a Caucasian couple on the beach with 3 Korean kids must be a better attraction than the zoo or the beach itself. I have no idea what these people are going to do with these pictures when they get home... Show their friends, "look at what I saw at the beach!" Rather irritating.

The highlight of the weekend was the awesome food, cheap wine and BUDWEISER!! The food is an awesome mix of Portuguese and seafood, the wine imported from Portugal and the bartender had Tom lined up with his 2nd Bud before he had even finished his 1st. NICE!

We spent the better part of three days at the beach and on our final day we took tour a of the Goa area.

We ventured around Old Goa and saw the splendid churches and even spent time in The Basilica of Bom Jesus. This Church was built over a 10 year period between 1594 -1605 and the focus of the Church is the three -tiered marble tomb of st. Francis Xavier and you can still see parts of his body in the windows of the tomb. A perfect kid outing. They couldnt stop talking about death "why did he die" "how old was he" "how old is he now" etc...

Our next stop was Fort Aguada which sits on the mouth of the Mandovi River and was built by the Portuguese in 1612. There is a jail that to this day still holds many inmates even quite a few westerners who succumbed to the use of illegal substances such as cocaine and charas, hashish, and did not heed the warnings that carry even a small amount was/is fraught with danger. Needless to say the jail is not much of a tourist attraction so it was back into the car and off to Panjim.

Panjim is a city somewhat like Bangalore in that there is nothing but traffic. These small roads sometimes big enough for one car were actually quite interesting as we drove through the markets and saw quite an eclectic collection of vendors, buyers and tourists. we played at a park and even purchased a bottle of the local brew called Feni. Feni is some kind of cashew/apple concoction that they say is very potent and must be mixed with soda or limeca...we will see?

Finally we were back at the airport and off back home. We were all tired after four days of sun surf and sand. Saravanna had to try the Feni and was grateful we thought of him enough to bring him a gift. He promptly gave it to someone else stating.."to toxic Tom to toxic".

We new we were back in Bangalore for on our way home this motorcyclist next to us was honking furiously at the truck next to us. The problem was the truck was stopped and had it'd flashers going obliviously to us indicating a problem. The motorcyclist however must have been under a different belief because he was still honking at the truck when he ran directly into it.

Home sweet home.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Jimmy Turns 6

There are only a few days in the year Parents know that a kid will without being prompted will pop out of bed and claim the day.Chief among those days is the child's Birthday.

The evening before the big day we Parents will sometimes use the power of the following day as a tool to get the child to go to bed early and more importantly, properly. In Jimmy's case the tactic was used and he responded by stating " I am too excited to sleep". 5 minutes later he was sound asleep as his siblings, Kay and Billy proceeded to become banned from their "favorite things" for the rest of eternity, but that is a different story.

Jimmy sprang out of bed promptly at 7:00 am came down stairs and announced "I am 6 today look how big I am" and proceeded to launch into the following monologue...

Why does God make people mad, I wish that I could have special powers and when a bad guy came at me I could use my special powers to defeat them, how come God made my birthday August 22, when is the 1st month of the year, why didn't God make my birthday in January, how come I am older than Billy/Kay, am I bigger than Cody now, how old will I be on my next birthday, why is the sky blue, why do we live in India, do you miss Minnesota, when will I see my friends in Minnesota, who's birthday is tomorrow (SUES's!!!) who's birthday is the day after that, and then who's next .... on and on and on for 4 min's straight.

Not to be outdone, Kay and Billy decided to join in the "fun" only their monologues were more like ... its not fair that its Jimmy's birthday and not my birthday, can I come to his party, will there be presents for me, Jimmy's going to give me chocolate -he's my friend, I don't want to eat, I want cereal, I don't want cereal, I want rice/dahl, I don't want rice/dahl....

Finally they were securely in the car and on the way to school!

Jimmy had a great day at school and as tradition here goes past outed candy to all his friends at school and being Mr. Popular of course he did not have enough!

Then the party began. Mom and Dad had secured the local game room/ shooting range for the afternoon and Jimmy along with his friends and our drivers all spent about 2 hours playing video games, shooting bad guys and having a great time. Then off to the local Pizza kitchen for dinner. The kids basically devoured the pizza, garlic bread and fanta.

We all headed back to the house for the grand finally of cake, ice cream and PRESENTS!

Jimmy had a fabulous birthday enjoyed all his presents and was very thankful that the Hickey and Murphy Grandparents gave him a tent because " when it stops raining we will have a sleep over" YIKES!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Way Way Way too sad....

Below is the obituary of our friend Cynthia (see 2 blogs down). Please send all your love, thoughts, prayers and peace to Matt and Cynthia's family & friends in this time. She was an incredible person: independent, thoughtful, kind, and spunky. This is truly a loss.

"Cynthia Gamboa Burns
Burns, Cynthia Gamboa Beloved wife and devoted loving mother, daughter, friend and sister, age 30 of Orono, MN, born September 6, 1976 and passed away on August 8, 2007. She was a delightful, compassionate and spontaneous individual who inspired all who knew her with her graciousness, charm, and sense of humor. She will truly be missed and will leave a lasting impression on all of us who were fortunate enough to have known her. Survived by her husband, Matthew McCoy Burns; children, Matteito and Andreita; parents, Maria de Lourdes Ayaquica and Carlos Gamboa of Merida, Mexico; ......."

Hug your family and friends, tell them you love them and give them all a big kiss from us!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Korea or BUST

"We're too EXCITED to sleep" - from the famous Disney commercial

Seoul Korea may not sound like the ideal holiday get a way, but for the LoudAmericans, we couldn't be more excited to "take our show on the road"!

As an expat, we get an allowance to visit our home to see family and friends. This last year, we decided to use this "free" money to bring our folks to India and to see our great friends Duane, Leanne and Cooper in Australia. When we renewed our India contract and it started a BIG debate and how to use the money ... Where to go???!!

Tom: home
Tracy: Spain?
Tom: home
Tracy: Africa?
Tom: home
Tracy: Germany?

Lest you think that I am not excited to come home, rather, traveling 20+ hours with 3 kids under 6 for a short 10 day visit sounded more stressful than enjoyable. The above places were suggested with the thought that our families might be willing to meet us 1/2 way and spend some quality time together where we are ALL jet lagged:)

A few weeks later....
Tracy: We need to decide, what do you want to do?
Tom: Korea
Tracy: YES!!!!

So, for the last 3 weeks we have been planning, scheming and basically looking up every flight from the U.S./Costa Rica/India to Korea. Then, we crafted a VERY heartfelt email to our families and invited them to meet us in Seoul during the New Year holiday. We are going to subsidize their trip with our money so that we can all be together.

The details:
We'll be staying at the adoption agency guest house, where we stayed when the kids were brought home. We'll get to show our families around Seoul, take them to palaces, shopping, Lotte World (aka Korean Disney World), the mountains, and out for fantastic food everyday. The great thing about Seoul is that they have a subway system that is equal to the Underground in London and its clean and inexpensive. We'll also be able to meet the kids foster families and maybe even Jimmy's birth mommy. A once in a lifetime opportunity:)

We are so blessed! So far 20 of our family members will be meeting us in Seoul from 12/27-1/4 for this incredible experience. If you are in the neighborhood, let us know, the more the merrier!!

Now you can see why we are too excited to sleep!!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Prayers are Needed

Our friend Matt and his family have gone through a tragedy that needs all our prayers and God's help to get them through.
Matt and his wife Cynthia were riding home on their new Vespa when a young driver came upon them and hit them. Matt was thrown form the Vespa and Cynthia was run over by the car.
I can not imagine what the last moments and the horror that they have gone through. My heart is sad and I ask for your help praying from them.
Matt and Cynthia have two children 4 and 2.
Tracy and I will hold them in the light and in our hearts, please take a moment and reflect on those you love and hold dear, life is short.
Our love to you all.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Nandi Hills

There is this outcropping of rocks about 65 kilometers from Bangalore called Nandi Hills. It is a nice day trip out of Bangalore and it has some rather cool views.

We set off with the Millers and two other coworkers of Tracy and Angela, Michelle and Stacy. We left Palm Meadows around 8:30 on Saturday morning with a picnic lunch,back packs, coolers and adventure all packed up and ready to go.

For the most part the drive there was somewhat uneventful, the occasional Temple, traffic jam and several wrong turns before we reached.

Nandi Hills has a couple of Chola Temples which we visited and Saravana and Lokesh made Pooja. Making Pooja involves removing of shoes, entering the 'Temple area" and saying a prayer and handing over the cash offering. Then you would tie a ribbon around the closest tree and your prayer has been delivered and some believe answered, at some point.

Well since we did not come equipped with ribbon we found a discarded plastic bag, which are not hard to find, ripped a piece off and tied it around the closet tree which more resembled a bush that had so many pieces of plastic bag tied around it , it is a wonder it is still alive!

Further down the trail, which if you go here with kids you MUST have adult an kid coverage. There are no hand rails or safety barriers and it is a long way down, we climbed rocks and hike up stone faced inclines to get to the historical point of Nandi Hills, Tumkur Drop.

Tumkur was a King a few centuries back who for all practical purposes was nuts. If you so much as looked at him he would have you hauled up to this place and sent down a shoot to free fall about 1000 feet to your death, like I said nuts. It was very windy up there and looking down the shoot or slide if you will gave us the heebie geebies, you know hair on the back of your neck stands up.
We then headed back to our vans to find a place for lunch. We were detained for awhile as the monkeys were using our vans for well a bathroom. These animals will not be missed for one moment by yours truly , then one of theses creatures grabs a cucumber right out of Kay's hand. We had to physically retrain her from going after the monkey, Kay is very fond of cucumbers.

We left and found a nice spot for lunch complete with several thousand flies and a dog who ate anything that we dropped. Even the warm beer and fruit wine we had to purchase to use the "tables" could not take away from the ambiance of the place.

We returned to Palm Meadows to an awesome spaghetti and meatball dinner complete with garlic bread and martini's!!

Then we gorged our selves on fruit and hot melted chocolate sitting by the roaring fire thinking fondly of the first meal we were all going to share back in the states.
Great Fun!

Kay's food fetish

We havent done a kid specific blog lately and Kay seems "ripe" for material.

As many of you will remember.... To Kay, life is a buffet. She brings new meaning to the term "several small meals a day". She is still REALLY tiny (4yr old and not quite 30 lbs) but she's as strong as a horse. Pound for pound, she could take us all.

Meals to Kay are entertainment, conversation pieces. Rarely does she ever eat. Then... 1 hr later proclaims she's hungry at which point she takes one more bite. This goes on all day.

At least, it did. It seems she's decided to eat. Now, if you also remember, Kay is the kid who invented pickle "juice" (pickle brine in a sippy cup). Her favorite foods include:
raw garlic
raw onions
raw peppers

So, we were surprised when, she sat down one morning, asked for a cheese omelet and proceeded to EAT the WHOLE thing! Zoinks! We were in shock. This has been continuing for 3weeks now. Not only is she eating breakfast, but 2 lunches (1 at school and 1 when she comes home) and 2 dinners (1 with the other kids and 1 with us). To date, there has been no noticable growth spurt or weight gain, but we continue to be optimistic.

Her latest habit is a night time snack. For most kids this would mean, cookies, ice cream, etc... Not our Kay. Her night time request? Lettuce in a bowl that she can take to bed. Last night, she specifically asked for some of the shrimp we had for dinner to go with her bed time bowl of lettuce. Strange Strange child.

In other news, yes, she still wants to be a face painter when she grows up. She is showing interest in learning to swim, in fact, she asked the life guard to teach her. She also got a hairstyling kit for her birthday so we are all getting our hair "done" about once a day. When you call her name ( Kay... Kay...) her typical response? "Huh? Huh?" When she's mad or doesnt get her way? "G_d Damn it! oh, I mean sh_t!" (We are trying to break this one....)

She can be so sweet and so terrible all in the same day.

You gotta love her.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Do not try this in India

The dentist I mean.
I have made it a goal of mine while I am here to experience as much of India as I can. That means the good and the bad, the happy and the sad and leading by example The dentist.

I made an appointment which was changed several times by the dentist herself to find a time more convenient, to whom?

I should have taken this as a sign but kept at it until finally on Monday I went.
Having cleaned and flossed my teeth using the same thought process as ,cleaning the house before the cleaning lady comes, I arrived ready for a "routine cleaning" my appointment was scheduled for 10:00 and when I reached they informed me it was changed to 11:00 which is more convenient again for whom?

I busied myself with thoughts of dental decay and what was I going to do if the actually wanted to drill and fill? I was taken back to the days of the late sixties when my great Uncle was the family dentist. His office was a small two room affair above the grocery store and hardware store, they did not call them strip malls back then. Anyway I remember going into the barely light office with this huge chair and a light coming from the ceiling shinning in my eyes whilst I stared into the eyes of a madman behind a mask saying open wide this will not hurt, Kay hold em down for me will you? Where was Saravana I had to get out of there!

Mr. Murphy its your turn said the diminutive dentist helper as I followed her into the office. It was clean and tidy and in typical dentist fashion she tried to sell me on teeth whitening, silver cavity removal along with white silicon replacement, no thanks just the " routine cleaning please"

I sat down in a fairly space age chair all electronically operated. The "dental hygienist" pressed a couple of buttons and filled a small glass with water and meekly asked, have you had your teeth cleaned by a professional before, why of course, shall we get started? OK.

Open wide this will not hurt, where have I heard that before I was thinking when all of a sudden my mouth had this bitter taste and my tongue went instantly numb. Yut yas yat for I mumbled? To block the pain from the procedure. YELP!

The next thing I knew she fired up the electronic monster and attached to it was the demonic tiny sander and she proceeded to attempt and perhaps succeed in removing all the plaque along with all the enamel from my teeth. I gathered the courage to open my eyes and to my horror I saw pieces of solid matter rising through the watery mist and felt certain my teeth were now nubs.
I finally had to raise my hand and say Yop! Yut yare you yoing?Why cleaning your teeth, sir.
Yenough please I begged just brush them . So she took this paste that tasted exactly like the small red pills we used in my youth to let dissolve in your mouth to see how effective your brushing had been, and tasted just as awful!
She then started the demonic machine again and proceeded to polish my teeth which I will have to admit was the least painless part of the process. Then out of now where she stated your done.

WHAT no floss ? What kind of a dental office is this. No lecture on dental hygiene threats of no teeth without flossing, no tooth fairy what is this place?

I was shown a movie on "proper brushing procedure" which after about 10 minutes of fiddling with the laptop the dentist finally got to run, and let me tell it is physically impossible for me at least to bend my arm the way the video showed.
It is now three days later, I still have a head ache and my teeth still hurt, but only when I floss!
I can not recommend the "routine cleaning" proceedure.