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Thursday, March 31, 2011


There are a few things I wish I would have packed or shipped when I had a freight container to fill, but I am happy to say I am living with less.    The list of things I miss and have not found substitutes for is shrinking by the day as I get to know India, find new things to satisfy a sweet tooth or ways to quench the thirst to shop.   However I feel it's time to recognize the stream of visitors to Bangalore that are able to get me the little things and bring treats from home.   So here's to you, my fleet of mules:

Jacqui - while you have not made it here, you shipments of Cheetos and pop tarts helped us through the first weeks of utter chaos

Christi - Shipping a box of Tory Burch purchases I made days before my departure in August but didn't have a chance to wait for and Nolan's only pair of sneakers he left behind in the rush to get to India as well as letting in our cleaning lady every month

Julie R - chocolate chips, stain stick, People, InStyle, and M&Ms - satisfying on so many levels

Michael S- more M&Ms personalized with a "Miss U Becky" and in blue / gold (all Michigan fans relate) made me realize my friends mean a lot to me

Kim - pringles, hazelnut creamora, People, InStyle, Halloween decorations, Reefs, pictures of my god daughter and load of cards keep your spot as a BFF

Eliza -  a box of goodies, cocktail napkins and reminding others to send the pringles and more importantly keeping track of Rivard Street while I am gone

Tara - my credit card (thanks mom for mailing), M&Ms and pringles - thanks for the nice Italian dinner when you were here

Alma - load of Christmas Candy, earring backings and plenty of wine to drink once you arrived

Jason - a few magazines but more importantly breaking in our terrace furniture with 12 nights of beer drinking

Stacey - a massive shipment from target including Halloween costumes, towels and clothes; the spirit of the great pumpkin was alive and well in our household

Mom and Aunt Karen - new luggage packed with enough goodies from Costco to keep us happy for a month and our smokey Joe plenty of Christmas gifts

Michelle R- awesome homemade chocolates and itunes for William; given we don't have an oven - those hit the spot

Aunt Jane - for the kids just in time for Christmas (hence the gifts that Michael brought)

Scott - picking up another envelope of treats from Kim

Michael S - yes, back again, with video games and Michigan T-Shirt

Laurie M - a valentines shipment full of my favs - InStyle, movies, white choc pretzels

Lynne B- wine and chocolates, even if they are from Bangalore duty free - it means a lot

Fiona - beef jerky, granola bars, hamburger helper, peanut butter, jodphurs for Emma, bathing suits for all

Mom & Dad - hiking clothes for will and new duds from Nordstrom for me

Jillian's mom - Weeds Season 6 and Call of Duty Black Ops for Nolan

All in all, I am blessed in more ways than one and thankful for the bigger suitcases you packed to bring me treats or the extra postage you paid for to get us treats.   I don't feel that far away from all of you and know that facebook, skype, IM, SMS and many other things keep us close.

hats off to you,

Spa Junkie

Enjoying post spa treatments
with beverage of choice - wine
for me and juice box for Emma
I caught up over email with a colleague who is both a fellow dog lover and spa junkie.    Diane related to my blog on the ayurvedic spa treatment in Sri Lanka with a recent trip through Seoul and a massage at the airport spa.   We both left the experience with pain and wondering why we actually paid money for that level of torture.     Quietly I thought to myself - who goes to the spa at an airport.

Fast forward five days and I am coming back from Mumbai after a busy three days of meetings.   Feeling like my brain had turned to liquid and left me slightly numb, I misread my itinerary and ended up at the airport 2.5 hours early.    India domestic travel is not fancy and the quality of the airports vary greatly depending on the number of international flights they have.    Fortunately Mumbai is quite nice.    Security takes about 5 minutes, there is no removing of shoes or belts - just the requisite laptop in a separate container.   I often send full size toiletries and bottles of water through no problem.   The security will confiscate alcohol- how convenient for them to enforce the liquid rule on that product only.    I walked through the relatively empty airport as most people were in the local pubs or home watching the Cricket World Cup - Pakistan vs. India, which we (yes, I mean India) finally won.     Given Diane's recent comment on the Korean airport spa I felt inclined to check out the services and prices of the Mumbai O2 Spa.  

I was greeted by a lovely Chinese woman in a Sari, yes things in India are often not what you expect, and handed a menu.    Reflexology, massage, manicure, pedicure  -oh the choices for Rs900 ($19 USD) to Rs2000 ($44 USD).     I cranked my neck around the corner only to see several pairs of hairy calves propped up on terry cloth footstools.    A crew of Asian masseuses dressed in crisp white jackets slathered on jasmine oil and applied pressure the several sets of hairy toes.    I was surprised that all the clientele were men and they were all getting the 30 min foot reflexology.   I evaluated my choices.  The Luna Bar sat behind me in the center of the concourse and the male dominate spa in front.    A gin and tonic with a bag of chips cost about the same as the foot massage and since it was only 430 pm, I opted for the reflexology.   

The entire process was quite normal and relaxing, I nearly fell asleep in the reclining seat.    The only negative side effect is that my feet swelled up like balloons in flight and I was barely able to walk to my car once I was back in Bangalore.   I guess I had a lot of toxins.   Airport Spa - thumbs up from me. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fond of Fiona

One of the great things about being in India for an expat assignment is that many people have business related trips to Bangalore.    We have been fortunate to have many visitors coming from the US or Europe either via my employer or clients.  Our guests add to the excitement of daily life, allow us to try out new restaurants and give us an excuse to play tourist all over again.     Since most of the visitors work for the same company as me, I generally have some work overlap with their visit.   This has been an exciting way to connect my team to our global network.    Recently my former supervisor, Fiona, came to help get my team up to speed on some specific processes.   

Fiona is one of a kind.  She is petite, powerful and packed with wit.    I had the luck of working for Fiona for the last 3 years before my move.    She helped me grow into the person that was ready for stint in India.   Fiona is well traveled, having grown up in Manchester, England and Tunsia; taken her own family to Paris for a year, now lives in the US and is generally adventurous.    What a perfect person to come to India and help my team sharpen their skills.    While I won't bore you with the list of things we accomplished, I will share with you the mishaps.

Manchester United Bar in
Bangalore - Prithvi & Fiona
After a quick night off to recover from jet-lag, I enlisted my driver to take Fiona and me to work.    Bangalore traffic is something I have learned to ignore but Fiona was rather jumpy in her seat as the number of near misses with buses was more than you count.   The symphony of horns kept her distracted from my ever important download of work dramas.    Upon arrival to the office, Fiona was in need of real tea (remember she is English).   I have gotten used to India filter coffee or chai tea, so finding Darjeerling proved to be a challenge.   Once found Fiona quickly figured out how to get herself through the maize of cubicles and up to the Cafe Coffee Day for a refill.     

Our nights consisted of finger foods and drinks.    Our first stop was at the Manchester United Bar, equipped with autographed jerseys.   Prithvi and Priya joined us for a platter of snacks and drinks.    While all these late nights were keeping my driver busy, we opted to be adventurous and take the 45 min ride back to the hotel via a rick-shaw.    Even our Indian colleagues thought we were brave for going so far in the rickshaw.   Well you only live once and we survived for less than $10.    Of course our driver tried to change the price once we got to our destination, good thing we are tough.      

We made the rounds, dinner and drinks around town.   Shopping for jewelry, handbags and fabric - it was great fun.  Somehow I was the only one who got wrapped in a Sari, no matter how I tried Fiona would not induldge me.      Fiona joined Doug and I for lunch after my scuba diving and ordered a Tomato Basil salad.  In her zest to share her treat, she passed doug a tomato which promptly landed in his kingfisher beer.   I am not sure Kobe Bryant could have sunk a basket more efficiently.  Fortunately Doug is a mix master and enjoyed a beer marinated tomato.  We rounded out our day with a trip to the Shiva Temple, just a few days after Shiva's birthday / festival, the temple was still in full celebrations... We checked our shoes, walked through a maze of small shrines where we could ask Ganesh for help, offer some milk to Shiva and round the diety for blessings.   It is really quite peaceful to see so many people constantly visitng a temple.    
Loose tomatoes
 For those of you that know Fiona, you are probably expecting more "shocking" behavior... Aside from announcing to our HR team that she is a real live "lesbian" and sharing her issues with her digestive track before air travel - her impact can be seen in the team's excitement to work on new things.   We look forward to her retun and have remembered not to take ourselves so seriously all the time.   

Visiting the 50 ft Shiva
Statue/ Temple

Shopping for souvenirs,
somehow i ended up with another Sari

Auto Rick-Shaw - dirty/ bumpy

Must Love Dogs

Jami and friend (Jami is
dog on left)
I have turned into one of those small dog people.   I am self-aware and know that this can be truly annoying.  Fortunately we are in India and it's too hot to dress my dog in her University of Michigan rain coat or puffy pink sweater that were such a necessity in a Midwest winter.     There are other things I am finding myself doing lately:  coming up with new nicknames for Jami, our 2 1/2 year old beagle mix; carrying her around the house when she is certainly capable of walking and creating sleep space for her in our room.    OK, I also speak to her in baby talk.  Disgusting - I know!   Perhaps I am suffering from a mom version of mid-life crisis - the kids are growing up and our baby is now 9 years old - so this dog is the one living object that is just plain happy to see me.   For those of you that are not yet living with teenagers, please enjoy the years before age 12...I think I took them for granted.    In order to make up for those lost years on my oldest two kids, the youngest child (Age 9) and the dog have become perpetual babies.  This sends the older two kids over the edge.   I am often accused of favoring the dog over the kids or making exceptions to the rules for our youngest child.   Growing up I realize I accused my mom of the same thing.  I have one brother who is 7 years younger and I always felt he had the easy ride.  Somehow he was the favorite.   As an adult, I have come to find out my brother felt the same way about me.  The saying is true, the grass is always greener on the other side or you never know until you walk in someone else's  shoes.   However back to my current dilemma.   We have brought Jami from the US to India because I could not fathom a separation.   I spent loads of money on getting her permits, shipping her via Lufthansa and organizing the right set up for her in India.   We researched kennels she could stay at while we are away and committed to lots of dog walks to keep her happy.    Needless to say this cramps our style or the style we hoped to have as the jet set family.      We have been using the same kennel since November.   Aside from one case of fleas (and yes they do bite humans), we have been pretty pleased.  Again, we live in India, so fleas, scorpions, cockroaches and snakes are not unusual for us and have no relation to the cleanliness of your home.   The bugs and reptiles were here first and are getting edged out as we move in.  We have returned from a 5 day trip to Jaipur and Agra, pictures coming, and Jami appeared to be fine.   We are now dealing with a very sick dog.   I won't alarm you but for a 7kg dog, I am not sure where all this vomit could be coming from!    I am proud to say the kids and Doug all love Jami just as much as me.   They have rallied to nurse our sick puppy back to health, have not complained about the disgusting clean up jobs we all have to do and can actually team nicely when it comes to taking care of something we collectively love.   

p.s. we do not think it's the kennel but actually some "India" manufactured dog treats that have rattled her insides.   Any future visitors will have to bring milk bones and puppa-ronis along with the requisite m&ms and red wine for me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

All for Love...

Suited up and full of faith
When Doug and I first were married, we had these grand plans to get Scuba certified when we went to Hawaii.    Three kids later, a move to India and 15 years of marriage, we have taken action.    Now, to be honest, this was no longer one of my dreams or even something in my "bucket list."    We have made plans to go to the Maldives for Easter week and that is one of the best places to dive in the world.    Seemed like a crime to go there and just see the water from the beach.    Doug researched our options and to our surprise we have a dive shop in Bangalore.  Land locked but still cosmopolitan, the Bangaloreans have figured out a way to certify those interested in scuba.   

I was dragging my feet on whether or not I would join Doug for the certification.   Let's be honest, the equipment is heavy, I am not sure that flippers qualify as "footwear" and will the regulator really allow me to breather under water?  William was on board.  So would I really back out when my 14 year old son was going to get certified...I am not the most maternal but I am competitive and I didn't think I could be outdone physically by my child.    

Completed my first phase of certification, in record time
What was the tipping point?   Doug simply said, "the kids are growing up and what will we do together once they are gone?"   My mind sped ahead to the future, in 8 years it would just be the two of us...watching TV, running errands.   I don't golf, that ship has sailed, so my chance to develop a hobby with my spouse was now.    The classroom session was fine but there was still a pool test.   I will be honest, I was nervous - could i swim 8 lengths, tread water for 10 minutes or take my mask off under water and not freak out?  

Sunday March 6th, I showed up at the St. Joesph's school pool which was currently being occupied by a toddler swim class.   The school pool was a far cry from my neighborhood pool back in Michigan and it was not heated.    I put on two wet suits and learned how to organize my equipment.    The first 10 minutes in 3 feet of water were nearly the end for me.  I did freak out.  The instructor could tell that I was not there out my own volition.   I regrouped and just trusted they would not let me the end of the course, I enjoyed it!   I did struggle with removing my mask under water, putting it back on and breathing without the use of my nose.    I am praying there will not be an emergency in the future.   I passed, in record time.   It's an exhilarating feeling to push yourself mentally and physically.     I am looking forward to April 26th and my first ocean dive...however I do remind Doug I did this just for him :)