Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Global Kids

Emma and I were thrilled to see this article in Parenting Magazine today: Raising a Global Kid (child). As you can probably tell, it's one of our goals to have Toby and Dara aware of the world and other people and cultures, and it was especially cool to see that the first paragraphs of the story are about Toby's former school in Minneapolis - Whittier Elementary. It's a public school near our house which also happens to follow the International Bacchelauriate program, the same as Toby's new school here. I'm pretty sure that the similarity in syllabus and values have helped his transition, but so also has the progam's focus on being a good global citizen. Either way it was great to see, and to think of our kids as being poster children for this model.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I've been intrigued to see how Toby and Dara would take to our move. So far they seem to be doing really well - as I've noted Toby is doing really well at school, as is Dara. His accent has changed a lot less than I expected, but there are days when Dara sounds like a little Indian girl - it's really fun. The move has also brought them closer together (they were already really close) as they're having to rely on each other more, and for the first month we were here they shared a room, which worked out surprisingly well.

A couple of nights ago we tried an experiment - Emma was going out to the pub with some of her friends, while I had a call with work in Minneapolis. These were both scheduled to start at 8, which is bedtime for the kids, so we spoke with them to see if they could handle bedtime by themselves. They promised us that they would be fine, so at 7:30 we started the bedtime routine, and we were pleasantly surprised that when it was story time they sent us away so that Toby could read Dara's stories. They both went into Toby's room while Emma went out and I went up to the office. It wasn't clear how it would turn out, but once my call was done I went downstairs to check on them - Dara had gone through to her room and was fast asleep in her bed, and Toby was reading in his bed. They both slept really well and the next day were just as pleased as we were at how they did. It's not something we plan on doing too much, but it's great to know that they can handle this when it's needed.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Emma and I came to the surprising realization a few days ago that we've been feeling a bit of a chill in the air. Now that the rainy season has finally ended we've been having gorgeous sunny days, with very low humidity - it's perfectly comfortable. However because the skies are so clear it's been getting much cooler at night, and we've been wearing more layers. For example on Saturday night Em and I went out for dinner, and at our outdoor table we were both really glad we were wearing jackets.

The strange thing about this is that the low temps have still been in the mid-60s F - around 18C - but because we came right from Minneapolis summer to Bangalore weather we've been living in warm weather for over six months now, and I suppose we're getting used to it. I'm going back to Minneapolis in a couple of weeks for the first time since we moved here, and I'm already freaking out about how cold it's going to be. Looking at right now I'm seeing the temp there is 19F, which is -7C. That is a terrifying thought, and I'm realizing how I've been getting softened up here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Golden Temple

Once we'd visited the elephant camp our drivers suggested that we went to the Buddhist Golden Temple at Bylakuppe. I'd heard that it was a big place, one of the biggest outside Tibet. It wasn't far from the elephant camp, and we went through a few touristy towns. It was really nice to be outside of the dust and noise of Bangalore, and drive along with the car's windows wide open through the fields and villages.

The junction to the temple had a few signs saying that foreigners weren't allowed entry, although nobody seemed to be checking. I'm not sure what it was about, maybe concern about Chinese or other anti-Tibetan influence, but there didn't seem to be any problems. Once we got through the gate of the temple it was lovely and quiet - we walked past lots of apartments (I'd guess they're for the monks and other visitors) to get to the main temple:

Monks outside their apartments

The main temple
We couldn't get into the main temple, but there is a more modern temple area at the side, which we spent a lot of time in. Even the kids took a few minutes to sit and contemplate:

The doorway to the temple. Always important to have a moustachioed lion on guard

Three golden buddhas
It's clearly a working place, and we saw a lot of monks, young and old:

On the way to class

Running to prayers
The overall feel was really mellow, and Emma and I both wished we had spent more time there. However the kids were getting fairly tired and a bit hungry by this point, so it was time to go. We did get a ton of photos (here's the whole album). It was almost 3pm by the time we got back to the resort, but we did have a treat on the drive back - look who we bumped into:


It's been just over a week since we got back from our wonderful time in Coorg, and it's been crazy busy (but good busy) at work. Today is Saturday, the weather is totally beautiful, and while Toby is doing some homework I thought I should get a post up about the elephant sanctuary we visited while we were away.

Emma and I really wanted to visit an elephant place while we were in India, but we had a special reason to go this time - Emma's mother completely loves elephants, so while Em's parents were here we thought we should make the extra effort to see some. Not far from the resort we were staying at is Dubare Elephant Camp, which is a government-run place - their website explains why the camp was set up ("The elephants have been practically retired except for giving some rides to odd tourists") - we had heard that you really get to be close to the elephants, giving them their morning bath in the river and getting to feed them. Sometimes here things don't turn out quite as great as they are promised, but in this case we were totally not disappointed.

The drive from the resort was a bit bumpy and twisty, but we did get to see some wonderful scenery:

We arrived at the opposite side of the river from the camp, and it had a nice touristy feel:

The pier for the ferry - a series of sandbags
We had to clamber along some sandbags to get on the ferry, which was fun, and had a nice quick zoom across the water:

Mahesh and our family on the ferry

Our first view of the elephants in the water
It was totally amazing to see the elephants in the water - people often talk about the amazing experience of swimming with dolphins, which is something I'd love to do, but this was also a wonderful feeling to be with these beautiful animals. Emma's mother was in heaven, and she's in pretty much every photo, petting an elephant (here's the whole web album). Here are a few highlights of us washing the elephants:

After bathtime it was breakfast, and we got to help:

They bake these food cakes for the elephants - the guy shoves them right in the elephants' mouths

We bought a load of cucumbers, which the elephants loved.
It was great to feel the elephants' trunks as they grab the cucumbers from your hand. Finally we had an elephant ride:

They have a big tower to climb to get on and off the elephants
It was a great outing, and we were there for quite a few hours. I did get the feeling that the organizers of the place are missing out on a load of opportunities to make money by having a shop or something to sell souvenirs, but in some ways it was charmingly disorganized. The stars of the show, the elephants, were wonderful, and Emma's mum was probably the happiest person on earth.

Wondering if she could fit this guy in her baggage allowance to take home

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A little under the weather

On Sunday I took Dara to the local clinic to have her week-long cough officially diagnosed and treated as the bronchial infection that is making its way around.  Dr. had a good look and listen and thanks to the drugs, other than the night time cough, she is now doing just fine.

A little unusually for me I had felt like my lungs weren't at full capacity and I had a mild cough, so I asked the Dr. to take a look at me as well. It is clearly not a cold, no other symptoms, and he has taken the route that it is quite probably an allergic reaction that is causing some respiratory distress. I am by no means an asthmatic, but I do have a tendency towards that when the right conditions arise, and a couple of times in my life have been given a short term inhaler. For this I have a couple of pills to be popping for a week to see if it all clears up, but for now, lots of rest, warm drinks and an annoying cough.

Stella and Suma have managed to find the pros and cons:
 - Madam, your face; you look so tired
 - but Madam, you are looking a little slimmer
They are also turning into mother hens. Yesterday I had decided no lunch, toast and marmite would do if necessary. Stella overruled me and made tomato soup, "no oil, Madam, good for health". It was delicious. Today, Suma decided I needed a little hands on healing and I got a rather nice head, neck and limb massage.

I better get at least half way human as I have an early Thanksgiving lunch tomorrow that I do not want to miss. Kettle has boiled and I'm off for another round of Ribena.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The road to Coorg

Last weekend we did our first road trip - while Emma's parents were here we wanted to show them some non-Bangalore India. We had decided that a stay in the Orange County Resort in Coorg would be a very relaxing and luxurious thing to do - friends of ours have stayed in their other resort in Kabini and loved it. So on Saturday morning we set off with a mix of excitement and nervousness as to what the trip would bring. Our driver, Mahesh, had advised us that an overnight stop in Mysore would be a god idea, partly to break up the 6-hour drive, and partly to visit Mysore Palace. The drive was actually pretty good once we got out of the city, and we arrived in time for lunch at our hotel.

On the map it looked like the hotel was very close to the palace, so we decided just to walk over, although it was a bit more of a trek than we expected as we had to go right to the other side of the palace complex to get to the main gate, which meant crossing crazy busy roads and running the gamut of loads of street vendors pushing their wares on us. Still we made it into the palace no problem and went around the inside. I had been before about 5 years ago, but the others hadn't, and I think they really enjoyed it. Lots of opulence and things to see, although if we ever went without the kids, or when the kids are older, it'd be interesting to have the audio tour or an official guide to get a bit more info. In the grounds they were doing elephant and camel rides - the kids insisted that Emma took them on the elephant and they had a great time. It's a bit over-touristy and there were loads of people trying to scam us out of money but it was a lot of fun. We did find a quiet corner of the palace gardens near a temple where the kids had a bit more space to run around which was a good thing for them. We ended up getting a horse and cart home to the hotel which was awesome - loads of people waved at Toby and Dara! Unfortunately I didn't get any photos as the hotel's guidebook said that pictures aren't allowed in the palace, although pretty much everyone was taking pictures regardless of the rules.

We ended up having dinner just in the hotel - the hotel itself was a bit odd, as it looks amazing on the website but it was actually a bit musty inside, but good enough for one night and a great central location. Next morning we headed out bright and early to Coorg. The road was very smooth most of the way and it was great to be out in the countryside - loads of green everywhere:

The last hour or so was along single-track roads through villages and coffee plantations. Totally beautiful if a bit twisty and bouncy. We saw loads of palm trees, coffee plants, huge bamboo trees and even some monkeys, although they ran away as soon as we got out of the car to photograph them. Eventually we made it to the Orange County resort, and it was even more amazing than I expected. We were welcomed at the central reception area by a lady with flowers, and she put bindis on our foreheads. As it's a coffee plantation they bought us delicious glasses of chilled coffee, and walked us to our villas. Emma, Toby, Dara and I stayed in a private pool villa - it had a lovely large living room/dining room where we set up the kids' beds, and a beautiful peaceful bedroom, plus a small swimming pool in the garden:

The front porch of our villa

The resort has three restaurants, and a really nice pool in the center:

There is greenery everywhere - as well as the coffee plants there are banana trees all around:

The weather looks beautiful in the photos, and it really was as we wandered around the resort. However right before we were going to go to dinner we saw lightning flashing in the sky, and a huge downpour started. I had noticed that in the living room of our villa there is a rockery with plants growing, but hadn't really realized that the roof above this area is open, so when the rain started, it actually rained inside the house!

Fortunately the rain didn't last long, so we had a delicious buffet dinner, and then to bed - pretty wiped out after the travel but well ready for our Monday morning trip to the elephant park. And that's in another blog post.