Archive for November, 2015

October’s hightlights

November 1, 2015

Earlier this month, I traveled with a group of friends from work to Deradun in Uttarakhand and from there drove to Rishikesh, the yoga town made famous by the Beatles who traveled here in 1968 to meet the Guru Maharishi and to expand their “spirituality.” The plan was to enjoy the outdoors, breath in fresh Himalayan air, white water raft, and hike. We set out on the Friday morning in a bus that carried us up the mountain side on twisty and windy roads to a location where we would paddle downstream on the Ganges River, sacred for many locals and peaceniks the world over. We separated the group into 2 rafts. My group was not on the raft for five minutes when we hit a series of turbulent rapids and we were projected outward, then downward into the river. I ended up pinned under the raft and scaled the bottom of it like Spider Man scales a building wall, internally freaking out telling myself “this isn’t good, this isn’t good, this isn’t good to be NOT breathing under water, under a boat.” Luckily, the adrenaline propulsed me to the surface quickly enough, although when I recollect the incident now, I was under the water for what seemed like a very long time. The five of us made our way out of the water one by one, and were pulled assertively back into the raft by the expert hands of the guide. Near the end of the white water route, the kids, including mine, were able to get out of the raft and jump off small (yes small!) clifts into the Ganges. Nicolas jumped in without hesitation, the way kids often do, raw and unhindered. Annabelle, on the other hand, hesitated and observed from afar, not too sure of herself. Looking at them I thought they are experiencing life-time adventures that will be registered into their consciousness for ever. As kids get ready for bed on that first night, Annabelle asks me if the birds and crickets will stop making noise. We are staying in tents above the Ganges on the grounds of the Himalayan Hideaway. I tell her we can’t stop this kind of noise in the wild. She soon fell asleep to the lullaby of the wildlife.

Two weeks after this initial trip, Annabelle returned to Rishikesh with her classmates from the British School as part of a field trip.This time, with the experience behind her, she jumped from cliffs into the river without hesitation. I was so proud of her setting off on her first overnight trip in India. For days, she said she didn’t want to go, that she wanted a parent there, but by the time the trip came around, and the train was leaving the station, I could see the look of glee and her radiant confidence as we waved emotional “good-byes” from the train window, her inside, and me outside.

We received our boat shipment from Canada a few weeks ago. It was like Christmas morning opening our belongings. Even though these are our things, we’ve been waiting for them for over 2 months. The kids were ecstatic to receive their book collections (especially their comic books) and Annabelle her beanie boo collection. We were most happy to see some of our bulk items, peanut butter, jam, maple syrup and granola that we ordered before leaving Ottawa. Staples that will remind us of home. Interestingly many of the things I unpacked made me think of the insignificance of these very things, which I had gone without for weeks now. It’s not to say it’s not important to surround yourself with items of personal relevance, it’s just that I’ve realized after a certain time has elapsed, that there is very little I need in life to sustain and thrive. I have a loving family, supportive friends, my health, plentiful food and a comfortable roof over my head. I’ve hit the jackpot of life.

Richard left for Ottawa a few weeks ago, after our trip to Rishikesh. I missed him soon after he left. Not only is it easier to have the other parent to parent, he is my human GPS for navigating the chaotic streets of Delhi. He has studied the map of the city and has managed to travel large sections of it by bicyle already. He is brave setting out on his adventures by pedal power. He often comes back home with interesting stories of locals he meets along the way, the bike is a leveler, a equalizer with the masses, you can see them, and they can see you. Yes it is dangerous to cycle in Delhi, as are all modes of transport, but the traffic is relatively slow compared to Canadian standards where traffic can zip by at 80km per hour. The key to success is to look ahead, not behind, and just keep with the flow of the traffic. I have been taking my bicycle for local trips, but have not ventured very far. Nicolas has been taking his bike to the American school for his soccer practices, about a km away from where we live. Soon I will allow him to cycle back home when I get lights installed on his bike. Baby steps for mommy!

I am learning on a day to day basis that doing business in India is a tricky business. People say yes when they mean to say “no” or “don’t know.” There is a live for today mentality, which impedes any real problem solving for the future. Fix it now, and fix it again tomorrow when it breaks down because it wasn’t fixed properly the first time. First there was a problem with the foosball table I ordered for my son. When we received the package, it was visually damaged and looked like it has been bounced around on the back of a truck from the Punjab, which it probably was. When we opened the contents of the product, we noticed parts missing and tattered surface board. When we sent pictures to the company, they replied that they couldn’t see the problem and that we should try to mount it ourselves and ask for replacement parts. The problem was that to mount it ourselves would imply building a partially  home-made foosball table. Why order one then? In the end, I insisted on a refund and sent it back. It took three sets of emails back to the company to get the full refund, including delivery costs, which the latter was sent in the form of a cheque from a local bank in local currency. The problem is I don’t yet have a local bank account, but those are details. I am learning to go with the flow, and not take things too seriously. By the time I leave this place, I will be a master of zen and inner tranquility. At least that is the hope!

Every year the High Commission puts on a ball as a means to raise funds for the various local charities it supports. This year the charity ball took place on October 10th, day of Canadian Thanksgiving. For the occasion I sported my elegant sari that I bought back in September. The beautiful burgundy and turquoise sari was among the most exquisite pieces of clothing I had ever worn. It felt regal. Walking in it for several hours is another matter altogether. In fact, it felt like I was walking inside a curtain, much like when a child wraps him or herself up in a curtain in a moment of childhood glee.

The month of October ended on Halloween of course. There are over 20 children who reside on the compound, so the kids experienced a fairly typical Canadian halloween with their disguise and parading door to door in search for sugary treats. To finish the evening off, they celebrated in our Canada Club singing to karaoke and further indulging in popcorn and cotton candy. It was a successful night!

We’ve been here now over 3 months, and we are fairly settled into a routine now. We are still missing our family and friends back home, but I see the benefits already of our little time here. The kids’ English has improved tremendously and their horizons are expanding by the day. They are able to compare their lives in Canada, with their lives here, and to conclude they are really lucky to live in Canada and to have this chance to live in India.