Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Zealand and Merry Christmas

We finally have reached New Zealand. The place is beautiful. We arrived at midnight on the 18th after several hours of plane travel and movie watching by the kids. The moment we got onto the plane Kay promptly threw up in the bathroom, which we took as a good sign (usually she throws up in her seat, so this was auspicious). The airplane attendant looked at me and said " Kids always get a little nervous on their first flight", I just smiled and shook my head.

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

Things we'll miss about Bangalore

The PEOPLE – they are amazing and kind and engaged and curious and attentive and loving and do everything in their power to make you feel like you are the most special person in the whole world every day.

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

Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time

While old Mother Winter was blowing her storm filled breath on the Midwest we were in shorts and T-shirts attending Sunday Brunch at the Taj West End.

The Palm Meadow's group had yet another holiday gathering filled with fun, laughter and cheers. The kids all drew names and exchanged a small gift as well talked about the different family holiday plans and the winter storm back home.

The food was awesome however there were a few who did not heed the warning about the oyster on the half Shell and are paying a price. All but Kay who seemed to be able to eat just about any weird thing and never get sick, can not say that about Kay riding in a car!

The brunch was somewhat bittersweet as the Loudamericans were guests at the Taj for 2 weeks almost 21/2 years ago and it will most likely be our last brunch there :(.

These photos are the a comparisons between our first day in India and our almost last, my have the kids grown!

Hope you all have a blessed and prosperous New Year and Holiday Season.


Monday, December 15, 2008

The 2008 Samarthanam Walk-A-Thon event.

During this Holiday Season it was nice to take some time out of our stressful schedule to help raise money for one of the Target Sponsored NGO's.

This is a very well run organization and the really do great work here in Bangalore.

Not to criticize the event but it was not real a Walk-A-Thon as it was more of a stand, then sit then Stand-A-Thon.

The organizers provided us with many false starts and the directions from the MC were too much. I mean we were in a cricket stadium with a running track that was oval. The MC was screaming that we were going the wrong way? The track is oval almost a circle, how could we go the wrong way, really?
That aside the kids had a blast and as you can see Jimmy was leading the way and Billy was pushing Roshen. Kay was running and then had to carried most of the way!

Here is a link to some other photo's and an article on the event.


Happy Holidays!
The Loudamericans

Friday, December 12, 2008

Things I am looking forward to in Minneapolis

The PEOPLE – I cant wait to be back with people that I grew up with, that “know” me without me having to explain my history, that I love, that I can start up our never ending conversation, that I can call on the phone when I am having a bad day or need a pep talk at anytime of the day, that I can give a hug to when they are hurting, that I can meet for coffee or a bike ride or a walk or a play date, that I can ask for help when my basement floods or when I need a girls night out, babysitters that show up when called and pick up the house, …

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

Billy turns 4

It is hard to believe that yet another birthday for young William has come. Billy now has lived in India for 2.5 years which is over half his life and longer than he has lived anywhere else. No wonder he likes rice and dal.

That aside he roared into his fourth birthday eating rum plum cake that Saravan thoughtfully gave him. Then after school it was off to the airplane museum with his four year old buddies and Kay.

The kids were like crazed when we reached the museum. They ran all over the place Billy leading the way. We lucked out because the Indian Air force was conductiong training exercises for the Helicopter pilots and they were taking off and landing the whole time we were there. The kids had a blast.

The we got into the simulator and everyone got a chance to "fly" the plane. This of course caused a problem because no one wanted to stop nor did they want to share. The crew was able to pull themselves away and back to looking at the planes until Billy said, 'OK I want to go home"

We could not wait for the other kids to arrive so into the presents we went. Billy had no real desire to open them so Kay helped out. Billy kept a running commentary " wow that is a really nice car" and things like that. The presents were all related to cars and he was thrilled.

Pasta, fruit salad and cucumbers were this years meal selection and then after actually cleaning up and putting away the toys, CUPCAKES!

We chose to put up the Christmas tree and the kids along with our neighbor, Zari, Billy's current love interest, did a great job of decorating it. Zari, who is from Australia rad the kids An Australian Night Before Christmas and old Bill was teetering next to her on the couch.

Finally it was lights out and Billy's Birthday Bash was a smashing success.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"We're leaving, on a jet plane, dont know when we'll be back again...

Oh babe, I hate to go...." John Denver

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

Things that come home in a back pack Update

Billy's Journal Update:

Journal Entry: Date 12/8/ 2008

He got a little scratch on his nose while taking slide outside.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Things that come home in the back pack

This has been driving me crazy for the past couple of years and I finally realized there was something I could do about. Use the blog to vent!

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.

Billy's Diary:

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.

Kay's Diary:

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

Response: OK

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.

Jimmy's Backpack

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

Response: ?

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

Response: Great

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.