Tuesday, December 23, 2008
We landed up at our hotel at 1am and the kids had a hard time settling down. Tracy finally had to get up at 2:30am to make Jimmy a bowl of oatmeal for fear that he'd starve to death before morning. Again, another sign of the days to come.
Tom got up early the next morning and headed over for "Campervan Training" which was nothing more than giving me the keys and pointing the directions out of town. I had visions of Randy Quaid in vacation when he pulled up to the Griswalds and announced " Shitter's full!"
The van is really nice and clean. It is what they call a 6 berth however we are a little cramped during meals. The kids have claimed the berth above the drivers area for the new " fort" and they have been sleeping up there and for the most part doing quite well. They have been riding great, it is when we get to the next campsite that all hell breaks loose.
We arrived in Auckland and checked into the campsite of Friday the 19Th. Jimmy was giving a running commentary to which Billy responded ' Jimmy can you just stop talking for one minute". The Wartime Museum was our first stop and we attended the Maori Culture show. The people are very talented singers and were fierce hunters and warriors. The city has a population of around 1.2 million, while New Zealand has a total population of 4.5 million and they get around 2 million people per year as tourists. Auckland is a harbour town and there are tons of people sailing and seeing all of the sites. The city boasts of culture, dining and as they say around here she is the true capital of the country. It reminded us of San Francisco, all hills and cool views and cool weather.
We loaded up the Campervan and headed of to the town of Waitomo to visit the glow worms and to go " caving". There are two types of caving done here, black water and the basic hiking. Jimmy decided that we could go black water caving "maybe next time because you have to be 16". Black water caving means you get a life jacket a helmet and a small torch ( flashlight) and them jump down this hole into the water and the dark caves and then let the river carry you into the cave, as an added bonus the waters are eel infested, we chose to walk.
The glow worm caves are really spectacular. The caves are limestone and have stalagmites and stalactites, I do not believe one can exists with out the other. The caves have been known to the local Maoris who introduced the caves to the rest of the world around 1887. The glowworms are actually a marketing plow by the locals, the worms it turns out are maggots, who would want to go see glow maggots? hence the name change. These "worms" live on the top parts of these damp caves and live for 12 months. The first 9 months the are in larvae form and then in the last three they grow these long nerves, "fishing lines" as they are referred to. The worms eat mosquitoes and other little insects that rise from the river. The insect gets tangled in these fishing lines, the worm eats once or twice a month.Then as the 12th month approaches they females lay their eggs and the males do their thing and then off to glowworm heaven after 3 days of regular life and the cycle starts all over. When we asked Jimmy what he thought, he said "not enjoyable".
The next day we went to Ruakuri Cave and did a two hour walking tour. The cave was rather large and 65 mitres below ground. The kids had a great time and we got to see a group of black water cavers go underneath the walkway. The sight of this reassured that we made the correct choice in the walking option. For some reason the kids loved this tour, they talked non stop the whole time. We had lunch and the headed off for a small drive to Wellington.
7 hours later we reached Wellington and promptly froze near to death. Wellington is the capital and has a population of 165,000 people and is a harbor town as well. This place is an island wouldn't you expect to see harbor towns? Wellington is referred to as "Welly-Wood" as we all know about the success of Lord of the Rings. We checked into the Holiday Park had a bite to eat and settled the kids down for sleep. I awoke in the middle of the night and was shaking so hard I could not stop. I have not been that cold in my life, freezing. The next morning we thawed out the kids and headed off to the Pichton Car Ferry. The destination is Nelson, on the north part of the South Island.
Kay and Tracy fought off sea sickness the whole 3 hr ride to the south island but the views were spectacular and we even saw dolphins playing in the surf. As you approach the south island it looks like what I would imagine the norwigian fjords or alaska would look like. Steep hills, green meadows, sheep everywhere, and the blue-est water I have ever seen (yes, even more blue than the caribbean).
We found a cool mini yacht club to have lunch at and watch the sailboats being put in and pulled out. A very TDNS moment and gave us a minute to reflect on our boat friends.
We settled into Nelson after and easy drive and got to work on all the basics of camping - food, drink, showers, laundry, etc... We decided on a kayak tour the 1st day to be followed by horse back riding the 2nd. I have no words for how cool the kayak tour was. We went with Margarita (from Spain via about 12 prior places but originally Majagoria). She was nice enough to "take" JImmy in her kayak. We followed the coastline and saw the most unbelievable blue, green water, moved in and out and through caves, saw dolphins again and a pengiun even swam by us!! Proofing Tom can make friends anywhere, he made friends with a diver that swam up to show Kay the crab he had caught
Day 2 - the horse back ride place is full. We reconvien to our camper to replan our day and the stars/moon shine on us. If we have 25 min's they can give the kids a quick pony ride. While not the cowboy experience JImmy was expecting, still a great way to spend an hour. Off to the mini aquarium, lunch, a wine tasting that didnt include any wine but you could taste vodka (go figure) and finally a stop at our favorite local park (yes, just 2 days in town and we already have a favorite park).
Tonight holds a trip into town for Cmas carols in front of the local church, tomorrow Santa comes and we begin our LONG drive to Fox Glacier. Its a 8 hr drive without kids through the mountains and while will proof beautiful might go down as the longest Cmas day in history
We wish all the Merriest of Christmas and the most Prosperous New Year.
ALl our love! Watch for more updates!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Our Friends (see The People) – We have made truly once in a lifetime friends here. I have bonded faster and deeper with these fellow expats than I have with any group since “Week 1” Freshman year of college (and yes, they have seen me at my best and my worst and still love me for it)
The Food – all joking about weight loss aside, the food here is amazing. Carrots & tomatoes that ACTUALLY taste like carrots and tomatoes (not hot house synthetic versions of the vegetables). Fresh food, made from scratch, daily… the AMAZING variety of spices, the bountifulness & varieties of fruits & vegetables.
The Adventure – everyday is an adventure. Going to work or school or the grocery store can be a sensory overload of new smells, sites and adventures. We have seen donkey’s riding in ricksaws, the word chicken spelled 10 different ways, pot holes that look like small craters, blue blue skies and green green palm trees. We have also see one of the seven wonders of the world, some of the worst poverty imaginable, visited 2 other continents (not to mention 7 new countries), countless temples, ruins and ancient cultural locations. The diversity of experience here is so rich its unbelievable.
The Autonomy to be ourselves in our family – please don’t take this the wrong way BUT.. because we have so few friendships here we have much fewer commitments and our schedule is much more in our control. We can go on a long weekend at the drop of a hat. We can hole up and just spend 2 full days on our family. We can read to the kids, watch movies, play cricket, color, etc with having to worry about soccer practice or piano lessons or carpooling or the 9 thousand other things that seem to eat up your time in the U.S. We have some adjusting to do when we get back
The Designated Driver – yes, I admit it, I am going to miss saying “ok, I’ll have another glass of wine, I don’t need to drive” or “sure, let’s order a whole bottle of wine, we aren’t driving”. Besides being our sober cab on a few occasions, he’s also become part of the family. He plays with the kids, hugs them hello in the morning, gives them kisses at night and keeps an eye out for them as they cross the street, ride their bikes, etc… (he also makes amazing chai!!)
Raj & Florence (see The People) – we are the only people that I know that have had the same cook/housekeeper for 2 ½ years. As much as we had to get used to having 2 extra people in the house (and in our stuff) everyday, they had to learn to be around 5 loud Americans (I think was probably harder for them to adjust to us than us to them). They take care of us (and our visitors) when we are sick, are responsible for all the wonderful food we eat, love our children (bathing, feeding, playing with them), insure that any party we host is “properly grand” and are the people we rely on to have a smooth life experience in a foreign country & culture. They do this all without a dishwasher, oven, dryer, A/C, hot running water, electricity some days, etc.. AND, they do it with loving warm smiling faces.
The Weather – it’s the San Diego of India, enough said
Monday, December 15, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Our Friends/Family – See aboveJ YOU are the reason we are excited to come home and are worth mentioning twice!!!
The Food – Let’s see – Beef, triscuts, sour cream, cottage cheese, pepper jelly, REAL Mexican food, Good wine, ready to eat food, CHEESE, skim milk, Super America hot dog buns, fountain Dt Coke, nachos, walleye, Caesar salad, ANY kind of salad, center cut pork chops, … ok, now I am getting hungry!!
The security of life – The sense of security that comes with birthdays and anniversaries and weddings and all the life long milestones that mark our lifes. People that wear helmets and don’t put their babies on motorbikes, seat belts that work, cars that stop for stop signs, policemen that don’t need bribes to enforce the laws…
The predictability of life – hot running water on demand, a dryer (and warm cuddly dry towels), an oven to bake in, an oven to cook cataplana and lasagna in (see food), central air, central A/C, the gas stations actually HAVING gas when you drive up, a commute that is on the short side 7 mins’ and on the long side 12 min’s, TARGET, instocks, TV that’s in English, newspaper articles that are written at a 6th grade level (and that I can actually understand), having a whole square acre ONLY to yourself, driving from MPLS to Milwaukee and never having to turn…..
The weather – Believe it or not, we are looking forward to snow and sledding and ice skating and skiing and snow shoeing and driving to work in the dark and coming home in the dark and the small green buds popping up through the snow and the rain washing away the dirt and muck from March and the tulips and the robins in spring and the colors of fall and the crunch of leaves and warm days and cool nights and finally….not having to wear the same damn clothes for 2 ½ yrs straight!
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Well, its official, we are coming home:)
I have been offered a position in Target Financial Services (our credit card business) as Director of Business Systems. Not sure what this means in totality, but from what I understand this team helps develop the IT systems we need to support our credit card business. I am really excited to be learning a new part of Target and being a part of the fabulous team at TFS (I have heard great great things on their leadership and people). I'll also be a bit closer to home in our office on 394:) (ok, that's relative, anything in the US would be closer to home, however, this office is actually 2 miles closer to our house in MPLS than the downtown headquarters. SO, I'll be 3 miles from our house instead of 9000 miles, I'd say that's "a bit").
We have 1 week to start getting ready, 2 weeks of vacation in New Zealand and then 2 weeks back in Bangalore getting packed up and saying goodbye. (Stay tuned for cool NZ blogs)
We are aiming to arrive in MPLS 1/19 and I'll be starting my new job 1/26.
What will we be doing 1/20-1/25??? Doctors appointments, getting kids set up in school, painting the house, moving in, buying a car, getting over jet lag, a couple mother Target runs, reinstating our health/car insurance, blogging, etc... You know, the usual major life change event stuff.
With that being said, while we want to see all of you as soon as we can when we are back, we might need a minute or two in getting settle in:) AND...we also might need your help.
Once we have further details/info, we'll let you know.
So, start the count down, we'll be home in time to enjoy winter and in no time flat will be giving each of you a BIG hug.
Tom, Tracy, Jimmy, Kay and Billy
PS - This info is being officially communicated to my team here and in MPLS today
PSS - Hold March 14th as the re-instated Annual Murphy St Patricks Day Party - and probably our 1st big bash upon our return:)
Monday, December 08, 2008
Friday, December 05, 2008
The school system here is fabulous for education and for preparing the youngsters for the cruel world however it is absolutely horrible at communicating. The school that the kids attend is an Indian school in Brookfield. The school uses a diary to communicate the child's needs, the schools needs and sends it home each day with the instructions to the parents. This year it has become young Jim's task to write in the diary what the day's homework assignments are and then to be responsible for bringing the proper books home to do said homework. Needless to say there are several nights where the diary says's in Jimmy's writing, No homework today and there are no books in the back pack.
Here are some example's of communication between the teachers and yours truly.
Journal Entry: Date 6/23/2008
Please send the crayon set your previously purchased at the book store, it will cost you 25 rupees.
Response: I have no idea what you are referring to
Journal Entry: Date 7/10/2008
The previously mentioned crayon set that was not available is now please purchase and send today.
Response: The bookstore is not open and I can get to the school until Friday, please issue the crayon set and I will pay on Friday.
Journal Entry: Date 7/17/2008
As you were absent from the PTM on July 9th the admission form was collected please fill it up and send it back it is needed or the child will not be admitted.
Response: William is already enrolled and the form was sent across.
Journal Entry: Date 7/18/2008 The previously filled out form is no longer valid as the school's name has changed.
Response: I remember when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor
Journal Entry: Date 8/28/2008
I like to inform you now assessment has already started & he is a very moody child,whenever I ask anything he only answers if he is in a mood, but this will effect his progress report please take care and talk to him personally.
Response: Williams Mother and myself feel that since this behavior is consistent both at school and home that it is the teachers responsibility to cure him of this at school first and to ensure he does not bring this behavior home.
Journal Entry: Date 11/12/2008
I would like to inform you that William has the habit of scratching his nose please take care.
Journal Entry: Date 8/18/2008
Tomorrow is pink day please send one fuzzy soft toy.
Response: Sending green horse
Journal Entry: Date 9/16/ 2008
Sports uniform to be worn on Thursday
Journal Entry Date 10/17/ 2008
Please send 2 divas for Diwali decorations
Response: Could you please tell us what a Diva is?
Journal Entry: Date 11/17/2008
They are made from mud and can be found in the markets.
Response: Thank you, I thought they were teenage pop stars with no supervision found in bars and on stage.
Journal Entry: Date 10/21/2008
Kay has been chosen for the recitation competition please help her practice at home.
Response: What is Kay to practice?
Journal Entry : Date 10/22/2008
Kay is to practice the rhyme 1,2,3 once I caught a fish alive
Response: Is that all there is?
Journal Entry: Date 10/23/2008
Response: This rhyme is only 3 numbers and 6 words? That makes no sense
Journal Entry: Date 10/24/2008
Diawali celebration tomorrow Indian clothes to be worn. That is the name of the rhyme, Kay knows the rhyme further assistance from you not needed.
Journal Entry ; Date 6/23/2008
Bring pictures of work done by the sense organs
Response: Jimmy would like to be called Jimmy not James
Journal Entry: Date 7/1 2008
Learn difficult words
Journal Entry: Date 7/2/2008
Hindi home work page 17
Response: We need more information in regards to what the actual homework is. Page 17 does not help as there is no Hindi book in his back pack.
Journal Entry: Date 7/3/2008
Sending the informed coursework.
Response: Thank you for sending the book, it is in Hindi which none of us can read.
Journal Entry: Date 7/4/ 2008
Sending Nandakisher's work please complete James book and send both books back on Monday without fail.
Response: The books were not in the bag. Please inform us how we can be assured that the proper books are being sent.
Journal Entry: Date 7/5/2008
I am sending अ-ज़ as H.W. was written in big lines and neatly
Journal Entry: Date 7/15/2008 Learn articles from page 20,21,22,23
Response: Please note in the English worksheets two wrong uses of a and an were mark correct and they were not.
Journal Entry: Date 7/16/2008
The words written in the book were correct Jimmy must have changed them at a later date.
No response seemed appropriate
Journal Entry: Date 7/17/2008
Revise the revision words done so far
Journal Entry: Date 9/4/2008
In honor of teachers day we will only work until 10:30 please pick your child up by 10:30
These are just a few of the conversations that I am having and not really sure whom I am having them with. The kids now only have school from 8:30-12:30 until the 17th of December because of exams. I really have no idea why an exam that takes an hour to complete causes the school to shut down at 12:30 for the next two weeks. Then again maybe I should learn the difficult words and practice revising the revision.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
So, in other words, I couldnt have said it better myself...
From - Where are the Fischers?!
"Why does India hold such powerful sway over people? Why do some foreigners come to this country, with all its squalor…garbage, poverty, strangeness, dust, and find beauty? How can anyone, by Western standards, claim to “love India?” On a personal level, why do we find India both completely, frustratingly exasperating and intoxicatingly wonderful?
I think it is directly related to this concept of being AWAKE, of being present, attuned, attentive to the very moment. It is difficult to be complacent here. Everything, the horrific and the lovely, can be seen. Nothing is hidden. As a friend has said, the highs are higher here and the lows are much lower!
I awake to sound and smell; the pungent taste of the air. We drive and are constantly shifted. I stand still on a swirling street and purposely notice others posed in stillness. A visit to the shops finds empty shelves, or twelve of everything I do not need to buy. A bus has driven off the edge of the earth and 35 people are dead. The T.V. blares out ads for bubble gum and noodles and washing machines, while the woman down the road beats her clothing on a rock. An elephant is accidentally electrocuted by power lines slung too low in a jungle village. My driver who makes the equivalent of $200 per month and has just recovered from some personal and financial losses takes out a loan for a $500 television. There is money here…a lot or a little depending upon your position in society, your karma, your luck… There is passion here…for family, duty, intelligence, God, freedom and at the same time, a lack of freedom. There is brutal hardship here. Corruption here. Laughter here. Some people cannot imagine how India functions, how anyone can claim that India is the world’s next “superpower….” I’ve heard it said by more than one person upset by the seeming disconnection and lack of outrage at the absence of infrastructure that “Indians don’t care about their own country.” I am sometimes as puzzled as anyone…not understanding…exasperated or even angry but I have to say that my experience has shown me that the opposite is true. The problems are immense and some may be insurmountable but it seems there are plenty of people willing to try climbing that mountain, anyway. "
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Born: November 13, 2008
Weight: 8 pounds, 11 ounces
Length: 21 1/2 inches
All are well, and we wish the same for you and yours.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
There were times when we thought "OH my God what have we done???", and there still are.
Jimmy instantly knew the exact location of each drum on his " stage" how to tune them, fix them and some people even made comments. "Wow is he good." "Look at how he holds those sticks, awesome". Mom and Dad keep right on paying for lessons the rupees were flowing like water. But can he play a song? "Oh yes Ma'am"? What song can he play? "It is a solo Ma'am". (we never did get clarity on this and it seemed that they were going to let our 7 year old "loose" on stage with drums and no plan. We were nervous, very nervous.....
So without further ado here is Jimmy's first live drum performance coinciding with our first posted video, God help us. (I think we have many years of smoky bars and back stage auditions ahead of us. Please note that he was the only kid in the recital that got hoots and hollers. He was pretty energetic and very engaged....)
http://in.youtube.com/watch?v=L2KNEd2JJ4I youtube - Jimmy's 1st drum solo if you can search the internet
Monday, November 03, 2008
I looked it up and it means:
Prefect (from the Latin praefectus, perfect participle of praeficere: "make in front", i.e., put in charge) is a magisterial title of varying definition.
A prefect's office, department, or area of control is called a prefecture, but in various post-Roman cases there is a prefect without a prefecture or vice versa. The words "prefect" and "prefecture" are also used, more or less conventionally, to render analogous words in other languages, especially Romance languages.
Jimmy says he is the second monitor
He is not a maorning person:)
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Then, off to trick or treating! The kids literally ran from house to house. The good news is, only about every 5th house here celebrates Halloween so while we covered a lot of ground and got some good exercise, we werent too sugarred up.
After about 1 1/2 hrs of this mayham, we landed at Heihn's for their big Halaween bash. They had witches brew, candy, cupcakes, pigs in a blanket, etc... They also had a fog machine, tombstones and scary music all were the hit of the party. The usual crowd was there (see Diwali entry). Everyone had a great time:)
So, another year, another Halloween. They are already planning their costumes for next year.
God help us.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
We have started the remodel on the house and none too soon! The project should be complete by early 2009 and we can not wait. We will have a new kitchen, living room, dining room, fireplace and hardwood floors, you think we are loud now ??? just you wait! (oh where oh where to put that new drum set?:) )
For those of you who have spent many an evening solving the worlds problems at our dining room table or on the back deck, holy cow, I didn't realize how small our house really was! I think I freaked out a bit and might have scared off our contractor. He assures me that it will look HUGE when its finished, but seeing your home ripped apart is a bit unnerving...
When this project is complete, we will also be passing into the fourth stage of adulthood. Stage one getting married, stage two buying a house , stage three having children and stage four, buying your own furniture. Yep without the influence of anyone else we will buy our own furniture. Table and chairs here in India and then couches, chairs and love seat when we get back home. Keep posted on stage five:) - empty nest? mid life crisis? retirement?
Here are a couple of other pics so keep posted we will update on the process.
Cocktails and appetisers when complete, black tie required.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Brigid and Dennis (aka FUD or otherwise known as Fake Uncle Dennis) are proud to announce the birth of their baby daughter, Anastasia Rose!
She was born at 8:48 pm on Friday Oct 17. She is 7 lbs, 14 ounces and 20.5 inches long!