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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reliving Reality TV in India

As you can imagine one of the things we miss from home is our favorite TV shows, sporting events and daily news - like E News Daily with Ryan Seacrest.   Fortunately there are new inventions like Apple TV, downloadable episodes of Glee on iTunes 24 hours after they air in the US and the slingbox.    We got some advice before we left India to get a slingbox ( so that we would not miss a beat.  Thanks to our pals Kevin and Mary, we can dial into to the slingbox over the Internet and control their TiVo box to record and play our shows.    We have kept up with Glee, CSI, The Office, and Mad Men.   We've shared Michigan's painful football season and seen Rich Rod get booted with the local Detroit Channel 7 news coverage.   And best of all we have watched Outsourced and laughed our pants off as the truth in the extreme stereotypes they portray ring home to us here in India.    

Well we have hit a snag and gone into the mid-year rerun time for our favorite shows, college football season is over and well the Lions have been done playing for a while...Now we return to India satellite TV.   Over 800 channels at our disposal.  Your choice of Hindi, American English, Tamil, Telegru, Kannada and the best of the BBC.     What that leaves us with is about 10 channels.    Their broadcasting strategy is not like the US, India TV will have a show like Dexter or Nurse Jackie on every day at 3pm, 8pm and 11pm - and broadcast through all the seasons in one month ....then poof its off the air.   Fortunately we have TiVo here too, so we can at least watch things in the right order.   

The latest craze here is The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.  Jen Schefft is our new Bachelorette here in India, I lived through that TV drama in 2005.    For my 12 year old daughter and her friends, this is must see TV and of course, they think this is real time!  I am trying not to spoil the fun by saying she doesn't choose anyone.   We are through the first few weeks of the series and with any luck it will repeat for the next month.   I am sure I will know the script verbatim shortly.    The bachelor was a little more recent - circa 2007 and funny thing is this guy was back again (Brad Womack) for the current version in the US.  Frankly we must be desperate to put him up twice, he was cheesy the first time.    Our next exciting show to start up is Survivor, we'll see how popular that is in India when the contestants every day challenges are similar to our realities (large bugs, periods without power, and large animals in your path)!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Expat Solical Life - Whiskey Dinner

Doug and I recently attended a Burns Whiskey Dinner at friends of ours in the expat compound we live in... We had no clue what was in store for us.  About an hour before we were due to arrive, I received a text that said "white shirt and jeans are best for tonight."  I immediately thought this must involve black lights, to our surprise it was much more cultured than that.   We are arrived and greeted by our hosts, I was given a tartan sash and Doug put on a tartan plaid skirt - yes - this was a Scottish Whiskey Party.   We moved through the villa to the hallway, were a tray of whiskey samplers were labeled "#1."   Doug was given a score sheet for each of the eight whiskey's we would be tasting that evening.   Down the hatch, for me it tastes like gasoline, burning my nose hairs off and singeing my throat for minutes after I swallow.   So it would be up to Doug to represent - tasting and plotting our answers on the score sheet.    Up the stairs to the second floor terrace which was illuminated with candles and lanterns, Scottish music booming.    The rest of the guests were in their complimentary Scottish sashes and skirts, while a few real Scotts wore their real kilts.   

As the night went on, we tasted number 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.    As #6 was passed we were told to hold on to this one as we would be toasting the Haggis.   Doug and I had no idea what was in store until a plate of bulbous dirt colored balloons were brought to the terrace.    I really didn't ask, but I could tell it was a stuffed intestine.   As our expat friend David, a real Scott in a Kilt and all, began the toast of the Haggis - I didn't understand much until he stabbed the Haggis and squeezed out the meat - Dinner was served!

The Haggis cooked and ready for the toast

The Haggis after the toast, stabbed and ready for eating
For your reading pleasure I have included the recipe below, and normally, this would repulse me.  As one of hosts put it so nicely, you take all the prime cuts of the lamb and through it away... everything that is left goes into the Haggis. I found the Haggis to taste like meatloaf with a nice gravy, accompanied by mashed potatoes, whipped squash and Shepherd's pie it was the comfort my body needed after several shots of whiskey.   

Haggis Recipe from the BBC
  • 1 sheep's stomach or ox secum, cleaned and thoroughly, scalded, turned inside out and soaked overnight in cold salted water
  • heart and lungs of one lamb
  • 450g/1lb beef or lamb trimmings, fat and lean
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 225g/8oz oatmeal
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground dried coriander
  • 1 tsp mace
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • water, enough to cook the haggis
  • stock from lungs and trimmings
I also learned that the Scotts deep fry everything, so our dessert consisted of Baskin Robbins Vanilla ice cream and deep fried Mars bars.  Quite heavenly and a nice compliment to #7.    As we passed over the dessert and onto #8, the final round of toasts began.  One for the Lassies and one for the blokes.   Humor and wit dominated the night, those with too much to drink missed the punch lines.    Wobbling home at 1 am, my insides felt warm for the whiskey and friends.
As a thank you to my hosts, I sent a Burns thank you.   Robert Burns (1759-1796) is known as Scotland's Poet.  A drunk at that, his words of wisdom held true for a group of Anglos and Anglo Indian expats in Bangalore.  So here is my attempt at a Burns thank you from a local lassie:
A Burns Thank You

I’ve learned a lot about the flavors of whiskey
Thanks to our friends Andy and Dixie.
If you test me on the names, I am sure to fail
As my taste buds are accustomed to the flavors of ale.

The night was divine
Although I was chasing my whiskey with wine.
Our attire was complete with a Scottish theme
However men in skirts was a site to be seen.

As dinner was served, the toasts began
David, Toby, Martin and Susan
The hosts selection of speakers was superb
Even if many words sounded a little slurred.

Next year my goal has been set
Learn about whiskey and score high on the test.
Hoping for a few trips through duty free
To collect the bottles that suit me.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Words to live by

My employer has a performance review process that culminates in November with notice of your raise, bonus and performance rating for the year.     To support this construct, each person has their own advocate, commonly called a "Career Counselor."   This counselor reviews all the feedback given throughout the year, makes a final rating suggestion and then sits through the moderation to represent your case.    I am very lucky to have the same person as my advocate for the last 4 years.   FG (her name is withheld to protect her identity) is a straight shooter, open thinker and frankly just fun to work with.   While I have moved to India, I have retained my relationship with FG.    

This week we had a virtual annual review, 730 am for me and 9 pm for her.    Our conversation was all over the place - a mix of how am I doing now, where I am going, a little gossip and problem solving for the world.   I have to admit, I am feeling overworked right now and it's virtually impossible to do anything but work, collapse, sleep, coffee, work.    I am hiring a personal Yoga trainer, who will come to my house at 6 am three days a week to make sure my mind and body are limber.   Doug will be joining me too.    FG knows my cycle - full force, mild collapse and then a restart.   We are trying to avoid the mild collapse, so hopefully the yoga will do it's trick for me.     However as a back up, she has given me three goals for 2011:
- Give some sh*t
- Don't take any sh*t
- Get yourself a minion
I have decided to post for a minion, some of my favorite colleagues are open to applying but they wanted clarification if I need a slavish type minion or more of a favorite person to be at my side.    I guess I have to decide, but my preference would be a smart favorite who can do slavish tasks.   Please let me know if you have any suggestions!

Maid me Crazy!

We fired our maid, Sudha.  It was one of the most difficult things I have done in a while.    You may think as a HR professional, I would be used to "Exit Discussions" however they are usually due to business conditions, not theft.    In my previous blog, Domestic Matters, my David yurman jewelry was missing.   Having items stolen out of your home rattled me more than I could have expected.    In early December, I found a similar necklace on eBay and purchased it.   I felt a little better to at least have my anniversary present back.    Just a few days later, the original necklace reappeared in my purse pocket.   Fishy.   The funny thing is that I has a feeling that my purse was opened.   However when no money was missing, I went on with the day.    There was only one person with access to my purse, Sudha.   

The next few days her presence irritated me to no end.  I knew she was responsible for taking the necklace and returning it.    Should i hold out for my ring to show up?  What about the missing black pants, Addidas track pants, pink ipod and now $120 USD missing from Mom's purse.     I still gave her a Christmas bonus and some clothes Nolan had grown out of.  I was hoping that my generosity would return the missing items.    No luck.   On January 3rd we sacked her.   She had nothing to say.    We withheld her December salary since she clearly has paid herself with the US cash from Mom's purse.   Doug took her Palm Meadows ID and out she went.   

My tactic was to wait a week and see if the ring showed up or at least she admitted to it.    I would gladly give her December salary if I got something back.    No luck.  She has called our driver asking for the cash, but he is on our side and only asks where is Madame's ring.   

Doug is now playing the role of maid and cook, the laundry is a little behind but I do think the food is better.   What are the chances he will continue to do this for $200 a month...