Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pictures! and first impressions

Our girls eagerly awaiting our flight from Kansas City. Armed with their stuffed animals in their backpacks (and passports that they made for their stuffed animals--hoping to get these passports stamped at airports in U.S., Paris, and Chennai India. The customs person very nice in Atlanta, but said she didn't have a stamp for us (they scan passports now). The customs officials in Paris did not appear at all friendly, so we didn't ask. And by the time we got to Chennai, too tired to ask!)
The girls noticed some bananas growing in a tree just outside our apartment. They excitedly check every time we pass this tree to see if the bananas are ripe enough to pick. Our driver told us yesterday that these are not eating bananas, but cooking bananas. Isn't that plantain?
The beloved bananas. Isn't it cool that they grow upside down? I never knew they grew that way.
You see a wide variety of vehicles on the streets here. Cars, little taxis (could be compared to a motorized rick-shaw), bicycles, motorcycles, and even cattle-pulled carts. Look at those horns! Well, everything else on the street has horns, so I guess the cow needs to have its own, too. (I've never heard so much car-horn honking in my life. Heidi explains, "They just beep and beep and beep and beep. They never stop!") Byron is pretty sure that different beeps (long, short, 2 long, 3 short, etc) mean different things but he isn't quite sure what the different signals mean). The driving seems as crazy to us as Kent has reported but we haven't seen an accident (yet).
These are the three ladies who clean our apartment every day. Actually, the ladies in the green and pink saris clean, while the one in the blue sari arrives a bit later and watches the other two work. The lady in the green sari is "Odyssey" and the one wearing the pink sari is "Mahala-shmi." Mahala-shmi managed to communicate to us that she has 2 daughters Erin's and Lily's ages. She's also invited us over to her house for dinner in a couple of weeks. These ladies just LOVE the girls--talking to them and watching them play. They're especially taken with Heidi--they like to tickle her, pinch her cheeks, pick her up. They're also interested in looking over Erin's and Lily's homeschool books.

I usually put the girls' hair up every morning, as it is really hot here and it's not fun to have hair on your neck. Lily had just washed her hair and I hadn't had a chance to put it up when the house-cleaning ladies arrived. They were enchanted with the braid I had put in Erin's hair, and wanted me to purchase some jasmine flowers to hang in it (the ladies here often hang these pretty white flowers in their hair which smell so pretty). Ladies on the side of the road sit at tables stringing these tiny flowers (look somewhat like lily of the valley) and selling them. They also wanted to braid Lily's hair for her. This is what they're doing here.
FYI: Technical blog information, but something you might want to know, so keep reading even if you think "Oh please, the last thing I need is something technical! When you send a comment on our blog, we have the option of "publishing" it or "rejecting" it. Please let us know if you want us to publish it or not. If you do not wish the general public to see your comment, please indicate that. If, on the other hand, you always wanted to be published, this is as good a time as any to start, and we won't even charge you publishing fees. Since we are first-time blog makers, (remember, the Burkes aren't quite in the 21st century) we are learning as we go. Or shall I say that Byron is figuring it out while Dawn watches him in fascination.
In other news: If you ever need to have anything mechanical figured out, call Lily. She has figured out what every switch does in this apartment. Within hours of arriving, she figured out how to adjust the ceiling fans' speed, make the shower work (it has three different options of where water can come out), which switches on lights as opposed to ceiling fans, and how the remote for the many air conditioners work. On the other hand, the remote for the air conditioner plays a note every time you make an adjustment and Byron found her playing it like a piano the other morning!
Erin's favorite pastime is taking walks in our neighborhood. She is a bit disappointed that we aren't learning much Tamil. We've tried, but it's hard to ask, "How do you say, 'girl'?" when you're talking to some very nice housekeepers who don't have the slightest idea what you're asking. Or perhaps they do, but I don't understand what they're saying back to me. I need to ask the driver to take us to a bookstore where we can purchase an English-Tamil dictionary, a large World Map (I am going through withdrawal not having my world map nearby), and some postcards. Erin also has a list of things she wants to buy, which includes a coconut, a sari, and some pretty knick-knack things that girls always seem to like.
Heidi's comments: "We are in India. I don't like the smells. The cars beep beep beep beep, beep and beep. And beep. I like the flowers (many trees are in bloom with these gorgeous flowers around our neighborhood).
We brought some toys, but the girls' favorite toy is a rolling footstool (ottoman). It's been a bus, a taxi, an elephant. . . .
Sah-jee has managed to fix breakfasts and desserts that the girls will eat. We've had banana-coconut smoothies, french toast, rice-meal (similar to oatmeal), and pancakes. For dessert we've had "Christmas pudding," custard, and these crunchy cookies that are similar to Taco Bell's cinnamon crispy things.
We've heard that most Indians eat with their hands (no utensils, unless they're eating soup--then of course they use spoons). When we heard that, Lily decided she needed to pick up her crepe-thing-drenched-in-sauce that Sah-jee had just put on the table. Sah-jee exclaimed in excitement at this--Lily was eating like an Indian. Heidi now thinks she MUST eat her rice with her hands, so mealtime is getting messy.
We're working on having Sah-jee fix things the girls will eat. Lily is the most adventurous. Erin will at least try each thing. Heidi flat-out refuses (I think because many things are spicy, and she doesn't like her tongue and mouth to burn after a taste of innocent-looking noodle or rice dish. Now everything is suspect). Yesterday, I managed to comunicate to Sah-jee that he needed to make some fried rice with vegetables, but NO SPICES for the girls, not even salt. He put some of this tame fried rice on the girls' plates for supper, and Lily took one bite and said, "This is really bland. I don't like it." (sigh)
But oh joy, I found peanut butter and bread at a grocery store yesterday, so now I am equipped to make sure my kids eat something besides "bland rice" and fruit. The girls LOVE the fruit--mangos, watermelon, pear-apples, oranges.
Supper (they call it dinner here) is a four-course meal. Sahjee brings out the soup, then the salad, then the rice or noodle dish always accompanied by some lovely sauce, then the dessert. We could get used to this!
As we said before, we've taken walks in the neighborhood, but haven't ventured far yet because we're afraid we'll get lost. Even though they have sidewalks, not many people seem to walk on them. Most people walk in the streets, and it's easier to push Heidi's stroller in the street (no curbs to manage every few feet.) Erin and I are on a quest to find a market-place with lots of stalls offering a large variety of wares, especially knick-knack types of things. Lily wants a bracelet--we've seem some spectacularly beautiful ones for sale, and Mahala-shmi (one of the housekeepers) wears ankle bracelets that jingle as she walks, which is a pleasant sound. Heidi is just happy if someone is playing with her or listening to her talk.
We don't see much of Byron, as he is working long hours. We comfort ourselves that we are certainly seeing more of him than if he was in India and we were back home in Kansas.
We'll continue taking pictures. Can you believe that we get so interested in looking at things, that we forget about the camera?! (Must be the jet-lag.)

P.S. Our 12th suitcase arrived at our door this morning at 3:30 am (local time). Fortunately we had been having trouble sleeping so D and B were awake to answer the door.

1 comment:

Binder said...

Hi - greetings from Neb. and what fun it has been to read all of your experience.Having been there I can relate to all of it! It is quite overwhelming but we have enjoyed each of our trips. I am still hoping to see if someone from the Conferance would take you to the Villages where we were this last time (just outside of Vellore). I would love you to meet our Host & Hostess and give them our regards (of course you would have to have it translated) --- Well I well see if I can figure out how to send this to you. I had sent one when I received your first "Blog"-- not sure you received it. God Bless -- Mrs Binder