Sunday, October 26, 2008

Busy Busy... *sneeze*... Busy

As what seems to always happen: Get Busy, Get Sick. Flu season doesn't miss Chennai.

Friday I went to work. I wasn't supposed to go to work, at least that wasn't my plan all along, but then there came to light a (HUGE) blip with my timesheet, and suffice to say I'll be working for a couple months and not actually getting a paycheck. What that also means is that all the days I'd planned to take off between now and Christmas? Not taking them off.
Friday afternoon then we had parent-teacher conferences. Seven conferences, 3 hours. I'll give updates when my head isn't packed with cotton.
Yesterday we had Madras Kids in the morning, followed by a birthday party at Sparky's. Then we were going to go to Landmark to pick up the book White Tiger for the book club, but learned from someone else that it seems Chennai is sold out of White Tiger. Home a little earlier than expected, we dropped Nicholas off at a friend's house for the afternoon. The vet was supposed to come by to check out the new kitten along with updating the other cats' shots, but he'll come by on Tuesday instead. So we were free until an evening farewell party. The day was more manageable than I expected, which was definitely a good thing. Today, I woke up at 9:45 after a lousy night's sleep with a drippy nose and aching ear, and we've lounged around since then (except for the bedroom, which is almost neat!).
Tomorrow is another day off for Diwali. Thank goodness.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

If you have the time...

CNN has open voting for the iReport Film Festival. If you're like me, it might take a while to get through the 20 short videos and rank them, but if you have -fast- internet service it shouldn't take long at all. Some I knew right off I didn't like, so didn't bother watching more than the first 10-15 seconds.

My choice for #1? "Be the Change"

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Something fun for folks with kids

Looks like Katherine has just about reached her height potential.

Katherine: currently 5'4" - predicted 5'6"
Rebecca: currently 5' - predicted 5'7"
Nicholas: currently 4'2" - predicted 5'9"
Jonathon: currently 4' - predicted 5'10"

Mom: 5'7"
Dad: 5'8"

Sunday, October 19, 2008



Yes, it's the DC flag. We're coming home for a couple years after 6 years abroad. It'll be a nice brain break.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Quiet can mean one of 3 things....

1) Life is swimming along, nothing new to say
2) Life is boring as all get out, nothing new to say
3) Life is unpleasant, best not to say anything

We're living mostly in the #3 zone it seems. Time to change the second half.

We'll just do bullets, shall we? I think it's fitting.
-- Driver issues. Our old driver was brought in for an interview with the RSO office at the Consulate. He denies he stole any money. Whatever. He wants to talk to us. Hmm, could be interesting. We've interviewed a couple other people, and one we decided to take a chance on. He drove for us on Saturday and seemed to be OK though he'd never done more than valet park a left-side-drive vehicle before. He's never worked for a family before either, but he came via a well-respected driver who was just hired to the Hyderabad Consulate from our pool of Consulate family drivers (including the former and current RSOs). Monday he showed up at 7:30. It was a holiday for the Consulate but the kids still had school, so he showed up and I kid you not... within a couple hours his grandmother had "died" and he needed to be off until Thursday morning. We're stuck leeching off our fabulous neighbors who at this point we'd owe our next child (if we were having any, and if they didn't just have their own).
Nine months left... nine months left...
-- Rebecca was home 2 days last week for feeling icky. Katherine went to school Monday but spent 1/3 of the day in the clinic because her teachers told her to go home with all the hacking she was doing... and we didn't have a driver to go pick her up. OK, I should have sucked it up and just done it myself, right? Katherine stayed home Tuesday but I sent her back to school today.
-- Report cards are coming out on Monday. This is the first time I've dreaded seeing the grades. I know they won't be good. It's been a terrible quarter for Katherine's schooling and I don't know if she cares enough to try to fix it next quarter. How do you work with a kid who accepts lost books and forgotten work as facts of life, rather than something to be battled? Her teachers are already at their wit's end with her. Actually, school in general for the Hopper kids hasn't been good... Rebecca talked back to a substitute (= phone call, meeting with the teacher), Jonathon can't/won't recognize his boundaries (= 2nd grade behaviour contract, half dozen phone calls from teacher, sent a kid to the clinic, session with elementary school counselor). Nicholas is the only one who hasn't gotten in trouble.
-- Apparently swimming is open to the kids before and after school again. No one informed me of this, I caught it from someone else's passing comment. Why is it if I'm not at the school interrogating every teacher, I don't hear anything? I can fairly well guess that Katherine was told about the swimming option but promptly forgot about it because she's not interested, nevermind that her sister would be.
-- The kids are starting after school activities this quarter. Nicholas is doing puppetmaking and basketball, Rebecca chose embroidered pillows, and Jonathon is getting down and dirty with gardening. It would be a lot easier if we had, say, a driver? Then there's Katherine who wants to do everything on a day here and a day there, seemingly still oblivious to the fact that we don't have a reliable driver yet. She's gotten herself stranded at school before and only thanks to some of our friends who happened to be there too did she get home.
-- Ah, the Book Club. We have our first get-together on Friday to talk about The Road. There's no wonder at all how that book has helped brighten the days! I can't think of any topical snacks... suggestions? From the rumblings, I'm guessing it's going to be a big old book bashing night.
-- I've been doing the nightmare thing again. Over the weekend, nightmares each night of losing children, feeling lost, ending upsomewhere I didn't want to be. Monday night I took a Tylenol sleep. Took it too late and had a hard time getting up, probably not helped by the fact the cats were tearing around the room all night. Seriously, at one point I was going to throw them out, only to find Masala walking around on top of the A/C unit that is up by the ceiling. We have something like 10-11 foot ceilings. I took another Tylenol sleep last night and had a heck of a time getting up this morning. I remember the last time I had night after night of nightmares. That was when we were trying to leave Togo.
-- Ian didn't win the award for Consular Officer of the Year he was nominated for. Someone from Mumbai won, and got the sweet $10K stipend with it. Winning the award would have been great for bidding. Losing it crushed him.
-- Which leads me to the bid list. No, we don't know yet. Actually, I should clarify that we don't know where we're going yet, but we do know many of the places we're NOT going. We're not going to Virginia for the FSI jobs (he bid on 3 jobs - got none), we're not going to Bucharest, Istanbul, Athens, London or Brussels. So what's left? Sydney, Paris, Kiev, St. Petersbug, and a Department position. Ian is nervous we'll have to resubmit. I can't see it... everyone we know from here has gotten somewhere in their #1-3. We won't get in our Top 3, but no.... having to rebid?? Folks from here have gone or are going to Vancouver, London, Prague, Bucharest. Even the guy going to Kabul had it as his #1. We'd have to rebid??? I just can't fathom it. Can't and won't.
Granted, not everything is depressing or exhausting or frustrating or tiresome.
++ Madras Kids is going well. Saturday we started "California Dreaming" and the Hand Jive. "California Dreaming" is a great song for kids because the melody and harmony are so distinct any group of kids can sing it and make it sound good. This coming Saturday will be a Bon Jovi song and Green Day song.
++The pool is fixed and filled. It took about a week of filtering to turn it from river water (yes, we think it was filled with river water, it looked and smelled that bad) to pool water. The kids have gone swimming. No one has gone blind and no skin has turned green or been burned off. It's a success.
++And it's started raining. Rain is good, not good for swimming in the pool or playing tennis, but it gives us a change of seasons from hot and dry to not-quite-so-hot and wet. And the kids enjoy playing in it.
So there you have it. The past 10 days or so in a nutshell.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Just Another Week in India

This is what happens when you get too complacent.

8:30 - Get dropped off for work.
8:45 - Phone call from driver. Car crapped out on the way home. Burning smell from engine. Driver calls repair shop and they're sending out a tow truck.
10:00 - Phone call with estimate for repairs and part that's busted. "Fuel pump moto relay" Cost for repair Rs4000.
11:00 - Driver arrives at Consulate to pick up Rs4000 and shows an estimate/receipt breaking down the Rs4000. Car gets repaired.
12:10 - Car is seen driving on road by neighbor, and returns to house. We consider it a miracle. Indian efficiency exists?
12:30 - I get picked up by a friend, scheduled in case the car wasn't ready. Had lunch, went directly to school for a meeting. Called driver to get picked up at school with kids at 4 p.m.
4:00 - Got picked up from school. No receipt from car work, always previously given immediately. No broken car part present, always previously available.
6:00 - Driver leaves for the day saying he's sick and probably won't be in on Saturday.
No driver.
I texted the driver to see if he would be at work Monday morning. Received text "I wont come tomorrow because. still i am not well" A first, because the driver in the past year has NEVER texted me. In fact, early on he told me his phone didn't text. Improbable, of course, but suffice to say I've never received a text from him before.
Didn't hear anything from the driver all day. Went to work with the neighbor. In the evening texted again to find out if he would be at work Tuesday morning. No reply. Ian called him. No answer.
Texted first thing in the morning to see if driver was going to be at work. 20 minutes later, received a text saying "I.Wontcome today" A few minutes later Ian tried calling the driver, no answer. I texted him "Please call me." No call.
Informed the housekeeper of our suspicions that perhaps we'd been swindled. Went to work with neighbor.
The neighbor's driver called the driver again in the morning. Learned he was working for someone else at the school.
We've been swindled.
I'll pull out the information I still have on our former driver and put it up at the school, with a warning that no one should hire him. The same info will go to the Consulate list. He stole, he lied, he quit. I'm so ashamed I trusted him. It all felt wrong from the moment he called with the "car problem" but I haven't liked having a driver from the moment I arrived here and felt like I had no choice but to trust, otherwise I'd be classified as paranoid.
Well, just goes to prove paranoia has its place.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Photos from Sri Lanka are up.

Actually, it's all of the swim meet, because warnings against taking photos and scary soldier guys with machine guns every 50 feet kinda dissuade you from taking pretty pictures of the city.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

And.... we're back! Again!

We spent weeks switching over to BSNL. It went out Tuesday night. Ian managed to get it running again Friday night. I'm so over internet access at home, isn't that awful?

Onto the mundane...

Did you know
...the U.S. Embassy in London is planning to move?
...the United States has had representation in Madras/Chennai for 100 years?
...Dale City has a swim club called the "Frogs"? OK, so it doesn't fit in with the other Did You Knows, but it's true, there are loads of swim clubs in Northern Virginia, and the summer swim club for Dale City are the Frogs. The only reason I know this is I'm looking at next summer when we leave Chennai, and Rebecca really wants to continue with swimming. She was bummed she couldn't participate in the SAISA swim meet, and the Frogs have a meet every weekend for 2 months. I can see where my summer would go! There are loads of other swim clubs, some year round. Check out