Monday, December 22, 2008

Reflections from the Ground

It's been a tough year on the ground in Chennai.

When you look at all the nitpitcky details of living here as a representative of the U.S. government, it's had its low moments. When we arrived, fuel was affordable and we could fill up our car on the Consulate compound. Now only official vehicles can fill up and the rest of us, to put it dramatically, are at the mercy of the local supply and the local QA officials. We lost our COLA. We're at greater risk of terrorism as the attacks in Mumbai showed. Living in Chennai has been a haven of safety so far, in the past year alone Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai and other spots have been hurt, and with the increase in activity who knows where the next strike will be. A few weeks ago, we were informed of a drop in our differential, from 20% to 15%. We are the only Post in India that dropped, and we are now the lowest differential Post in India. And across the State Department board, we've all lost the perk of flying business class. Yes, we realize it was a perk. It was a perk we very much appreciated. It was only for travel over 14 hours in one shot, which we have been able to take advantage of for each of our Posts.
But no one judges a year solely by what they've "lost." Because really for us it's been a loss of some comforts, and that's about it. We have had more than enough good, personal good, to offset the bad. Rebecca took off in swimming and worked her way to a 42 second 50m freestyle. Katherine did the swim team again this year and competed in Sri Lanka. We all went to cheer her on and ticked another country off our list. Katherine has been getting healthier each day also. She had two trips to Singapore, one with Ian and one with all of us. I've gotten more confident in my job, which is fitting since we're almost done here. Because, you know, we're going home in June. That right there offsets any negative points we might have built up.
There's so much to anticipate. Top points for me would be getting ourselves into a house again (house-hunting trip planned for April), finding a swim team for Rebecca, going to real church again and enrolling the kids in CCD. We'll be able to have Katherine do Confirmation and Jonathon do First Communion without any hassles. I look forward to farmers' markets, weather that changes daily, working in the yard and gardening with Jonathon. He's taken a shine to gardening, and baking/cooking too.
Now that I think about it, this should be a mutating entry. Over the next week, I'll try to add more to it. I might even add a "what I'll miss about India" part.

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