6 Month Reflection

It’s almost been 6 months since we’ve been here – we flew in just before American Thanksgiving, around 21 November 2010. Aside from a small handful of frustrating situations, we have no complaints, and are happy here (for a variety of reasons) – in my case, I know I’m happier than I could be in a Western country, but that’s because I’m a terrible American, etc. and so on.

One thing about being here for six months is that we can now look back and say “Hey… here’s what we would have done differently” in the packing and run-up, and hopefully this can be useful to anyone planning a trip out here for a prolonged period that will include the winter months.

Things We Wish We’d Brought

  • spices/mixes (garlic powder, Adobo seasoning, dried onion, maple extract, dry apple cider mix)
  • another pair of flip-flops/sandals each (some of the good sturdy brands you just can’t find out here)
  • Ziplock bags (we ask everyone to send anything they have to send us, in ziplocks)
  • another really good set of knives (thank you Cheyenne & Fox!)
  • another really good set of measuring cups (thank you Andrew & Michelle!)
  • our KitchenAid mixer (yes, I know it’s unfeasible. Still – I do wish we had it!)
  • good silicon spatulas/flippers/scrapers/general kitchen tools – we’ve picked up some wooden ones, but I’m worried about monsoon.
  • hatchet
  • Adam’s housecoat:  you don’t really find bathrobe/housecoats up here. Nightgowns or thin thin robes, but not terrycloth, fleece or similar.
  • Adam’s hiking boots
  • a pair of good winter slippers for each of us (sheepskin & lined, or felted & lined, with good solid soles)
  • board/card games (Guillotine, Once Upon A Time, Settlers of Catan, Munchkin, etc)
  • cooling pad for overheating laptops

Things We Wish We Hadn’t Brought

  • Darcey’s winter coats: unless you’re going up to Jammu & Kashmir or planning a winter holiday with snow, they’re overkill for the climate (given that I have no blood, I’m always cold–but I wore one once!).
  • Darcey’s winter boots: again for the ‘mountains in winter’ theory, even with only a possible little bit of snow; ended up with blisters the one time they were worn, because the temps warmed up so quickly.
  • Queen size fitted sheets: they don’t fit the beds here, which are literally two single beds pushed together. The sizes don’t match up.
  • As many pairs of jeans: we were misled on the availability and quality of denim, and Adam can’t wear it to teach… so we didn’t need to bring all 7 pairs of his, and 5 of mine.
  • Playstation 3: it’s hard to find transformers that will work well with high powered electronics (e.g. gaming systems, electric blankets, desktops), and we haven’t been able to use it yet.
  • Electric blanket: my mother kindly bought us one as a Christmas gift, and it blew–even with the transformer!–and so now it’s just a blanket with wires in. Buying one here is possible.

Things We Forgot, Lost, or Otherwise Can’t Find, Rendering Items Useless

  • USB mouse dongle for Adam’s fancy cordless mouse
  • the power supply for my external 1TB hard drive

Otherwise… this has been a good six months. We don’t want to kill each other, any arguments we’ve had are ones that have been defused with sensible conversation, have lost significant amounts of weight, get daily exercise (even if it’s only walking to and from school), are learning the local language and using French more frequently, just because. Adam is getting to teach, shoving information into heads, and occasionally they even regurgitate it properly and get good marks. We’re enjoying the sights and what we learn from them, even if some of them are a bit uncomfortable than others.

Getting me to go back West when there’s still so much world to explore is going to be a very difficult thing indeed. 🙂

Summer Holiday Plans-2011

Adam and I have summer plans rolling around – we’re planning a short trip to Lucknow (4 days, + 2 for transit) and either a trip to Amritsar (1-2 days + 2 for transit) or a trip into the Himalaya (Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath, Chopta, and so on). We don’t want to go gallivanting out to a foreign country, preferring to stay home and fuss about locally and take advantage of it being summer to get into the mountains and to some of the normally colder sites. Kashmir isn’t really an option right now, mostly due to cost; either next summer, or some other future holiday point.

We also can’t go too far, for too long, because I’ve agreed to help out a bit with some things for new staff, and need to be back at WS for late July for that, so a couple trips here and there let us get out of town without being gone for rather long stretches at a time.

I _think_ I’ve gotten the poll set up correctly – I’d be curious to get some input on suggestions for places to check out this summer. I’ve included our ideas; leave other suggestions in the comments, please!

Woodstock Vacancies 2011

 

#EDITED: Updated 01 June at 08:25 with changes.

#EDITED: Updated 25 May at 13:54 with changes.

#EDITED: Updated 9 May at 15:06 with changes.

#EDITED: Updated 5 May at 21:55 with changes.

So — Woodstock is hiring, and a number of positions at that. Here are links to the webpages listing the positions, and a bullet point list of what they are, as of 10:38am on May 1st:

Administration Vacancies

  • Finance Director

Teaching Vacancies

  • Senior School Mathematics teacher (filled)
  • Senior School Social Studies teacher (filled)
  • Senior School English/Social Studies teacher – looks to be dominantly Social Studies (filled)
  • Senior School Part-time Hindi teacher (filled)
  • Junior School ESL Teacher (NEW!)
  • Librarian (filled)
  • Band, Percussion and Brass teacher (filled)

Residence Vacancies

  • Ridgewood boys dorm parent (grade 7,8,9) (filled)
  • Hostel boys dorm parent (grade 10, 11, 12) (filled)
  • Community Centre boys dorm parent (grade 5, 6) (filled)

Support Vacancies

  • Alumni Engagement & Gifts Officer (filled)
  • ICT Manager
  • Social Media Specialist (filled)
  • Analyst/Programmer
  • Security Officer
  • Hospitality Coordinator
  • Senior Accountant

If you have any questions, I strongly suggest browsing the Woodstock site, asking questions in the comments, or e-mailing Adam or myself separately. This is great experience for anyone just graduating college/teacher’s college, looking for some variety in their educational atmospheres, and a fantastic campus (you will lose fat and gain muscle, I guarantee it).

Books.

I read like a fiend – Adam’s picking up, when time allows him to. I’ve taken a fair chunk of my usual “fluff” reading to make sure to read books on India, history and culture, fiction and non-fiction, all of it. Tour books, too… so here’s my “top” list of books I’ve read and found useful/enjoyed:

  • Dreaming in Hindi by Katherine Russel Rich; a woman’s trip to India to learn the language as part of an article/experiment. Interesting combination autobiography, travelogue, and linguistics book.
  • Culture Shock India by Gitanjali Kolanad; one of the better top culture-info books on India.
  • City of Djinns by William Dalrymple; a good look at Delhi’s history and present by a man who’s written a lot about India and her history, and knows how to wind a tale.
  • In Spite of the Gods by Edward Luce; a look at India’s rise in the modern world and its interactions with some of the other “big hitters”.
  • The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger; an alternative look at the history of Hinduism and its effects on India, including the way myths are structured, the roles of women, etc.
  • Ramayana & Mahabharata; two major classical historical texts, the Bhagavad Gita being extracted from the Mahabharata. Regardless of which edition you read… they’re definitely worth reading.

I’m trying to get ahold of a series called the “Raj Quartet” by Paul Scott; the individual books are _The Jewel in the Crown_, _The Day of the Scorpion_, _The Towers of Silence_ and _A Division of the Spoils_. They’re supposedly a well-wrought depiction of colonial-era India; I’m reticent to find them in any format but an e-book, since I don’t wish to have more paper editions than necessary with the problems monsoon will bring us.

Goat Burgers on Garlic Bread

Tonight’s surprise culinary delight: goat burgers on garlic bread.

I had no idea what to make for dinner; we had chicken in creamy garlic sauce with rice or pasta last night, and I wanted to use up one of our packages of minced mutton, some of the processed cheese slices, and one of the loaves of utterly delicious garlic bread. So, here’s a recipe for tonight’s dinner:

Goat Burgers on Garlic Bread

  • 500gm minced goat (could substitute mutton/lamb)
  • 2 tbsp Mexican spices
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
  • sufficient slices of garlic bread for serving (either as ‘burgers’ proper or as sliders)

Destructions:

Mix goat, spices, and salt together. Let it sit and the flavours mingle for appx. 30 minutes. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat on the stove; fry up the burgers. Add cheese if desired; put burgers on garlic bread, and place under broiler/in convection oven briefly to crisp and warm the bread through.

You could, I suppose, grill them – but we have no grill, and thus, we have our precious frying pans. Getting a stovetop tandoor is next on our list. 😉

For dessert, we had chocolate mousse – I found a recipe today and tried it, modifying the instructions slightly. We have no electric mixer, so I spent about twenty minutes whisking an egg white by hand, but the result was about a cup of chocolate mousse that was well worth the time spent. Next time, I’ll double the recipe and add some dark-brewed coffee, to make some mocha mousse.

Dinner, usually, is some sort of Indian-?? amalgamation: butter chicken with pasta, chicken vindaloo, chicken curry, chicken with spicy lentils, etc. I’ll make paneer for myself (too mild for Adam), and usually my lunches are veg – mutter paneer, veg curry, some sort of daal and flatbread, etc. Having a stint with food poisoning last week has made me bid farewell to the peculiar bacon we get out here – it was either that or a bad egg, but I’m willing to bid a fond adieu to pork products, and function off fish, chicken, goat, and veg. I need to learn how to properly clean a fish before I start making things at home, but the fish you can get from the one guy in town is pretty darned good!

An update: Delhi

I’m hoping we’ll get around to updating the blog at least once a week – I may have to set it up for a regular Tuesday update, if nothing else! Things have been (generally) quiet. We’ve been having some Skype conversations with friends when time allows (and now that Eastern time is only.. 9:30 behind us?, it’s a little easier).

Quarter Break has come and gone – we went down to Delhi, where I managed to acquire a complication to the cold I’ve had since Varanasi. I was nigh frog-marched by Adam into the health centre this morning to speak with the doctor, and emerged with “well, it could be bronchitis, it could be asthma, it could just be a nasty cold.” I have cough medicine, antibiotics (in case there’s a bacterial chest infection), and an inhaler, since that will help bronchitis or asthma, regardless.

Delhi was a fun trip, even though it wasn’t as physically joyous as it could have been. We did some shopping (INA Market, Dilli Haat, Paharganj) and Adam has got material for some new shirts, as well as an absolutely delightful pink and purple paisley polyester good for ties, collars, and French cuffs on his shirts. I get scolded for liking things that affect his colourblindness… and yet the colour wheel is blatantly disregarded in his wardrobe. Ah well, que sera sera.

For anyone going to Delhi, here are places I’d recommend visiting (shopping, not tourism):

  • INA Market: good fabric stalls for saris, salwar suits, and men’s fabric/material. There are also some tailors there, so if you’re strapped for time but want to get something and get it made (and can get back to INA), you can buy your suit, go to a tailor, and beg for a rush job.
  • Dilli Haat: Vendors from all around India, bringing “the best of the best” – and prices to match (so, not always great). This changes on a basis of about every 15 days, so if you see something you like, you really should pick it up then. It costs Rs15 for entry, which keeps it clean and the beggars out. There’s a food court so you can also stop for lunch or dinner.
  • Karol Bagh: Known for cheap fabric shops, and clothes for men and women.
  • Paharganj: Touristy and you’ll be hassled by touts, but there are a few gems (RExpo has perfumes and essential oils for Rs80/10mL, as an example). There’s also a small shop that had nothing but cabinet/door knobs. Adam and I cut a deal, and got 20 for Rs360, to brighten up our kitchen. Shoe stores here will be a third to half the cost of ones on Janpath!

Places I’d avoid:

  • Khan Market: a lot of it is overpriced chain shops (FabIndia, Ashokia). A handful of unique shops, but I’d go there as a “last source” for shopping if you needed to pick up souvenirs.
  • Janpath: A nice walk, but you can get everything from Janpath cheaper elsewhere. Saris, leather shoes, purses, shawls and statues… it’s simply not worth it.

If you can manage it, take the Delhi Metro system: it’s clean, there are women-only cars (and lines for security), and cheap. I definitely plan on using it the next time we go to Delhi, and only using the rickshaws if it’s last resort or too far away from a metro station. Compare Rs60 for a rickshaw to the Red Fort/Chandni Chowk, vs Rs16 for the metro!

Also, a tip/request for the ladies… please stop with the spaghetti strap camisole tops and long pants, or the miniskirts and 3/4-sleeved shirts. You’re making yourselves stand out, and it looks like you’ve only paid half attention to what’s appropriate for the area. You can get away with knee-length shorts or skirts, and cover your shoulders and upper arms. So capris and a polo shirt if you can’t bear to get a suit made up: and you can even wear short/sleeveless suits. The skintight baring-everything look is… well… not appropriate for India, and the reason you get harassed by touts and subjected to sexual harassment. I spent less than $20 to get suit material bought and a suit made, and the worst harassment I got in Delhi was to buy cigarettes/water/toilet paper/nailpolish/incense from the stalls.

Wildlife Checklist

Things We Have Seen:

History Class

Who are they?

First Awkwardness.

Today I had my first unpleasant experience at Woodstock. I mean a genuinely unpleasant, made-my-skin-crawl, sort of situation, from a staff member. Short background: Adam and I have known each other for two years, and been married less than one. Kids are absolutely not in our future for medical reasons and our own choice until late 2012, if not later than that. I’m also very much not Christian, which has made Woodstock a bit awkward, but generally manageable.

So, I was enjoying my walk up to campus to have lunch with Adam today, when I was confronted with someone who started up a casual conversation that then turned into “Your life is good if Jesus is in your life, you should be having kids now, there’s no need to wait and get to be more comfortable with each other, you should have kids, you need to start a family, because with God in your life there can never be any problems. There are only problems when God isn’t in your life, and so you need to start your family now.”

Very much not comfortable and happy. My private life – including possible children – is no one’s business but mine and my husband’s. Certainly not a casual onlooker’s, especially when they aren’t going to be raising any possible offspring on my behalf. What concerns me on another level is the talk that the board of directors and others aren’t happy at how non-religious the school has become, and are trying to turn that around. I’m very concerned that our private life and lifestyle decisions, such as giving ourselves time to settle as a couple, are going to become popcorn conversation, and that we’ll get more pressure like what I encountered today. It fills me with an uncomfortable sense of foreboding.

Sodding primates.

Really, “blasted rhesus macaques”. We haven’t really had much trouble with them, but now the students are back in class, the employees are back in housing… and the rhesus are causing trouble. This afternoon, it’s “playing in the neighbour’s sheets, which she’s drying on the roof”. I’ve gone out with Adam’s walking-stick and with rocks a few times, but one of ’em keeps going back to play in the sheets. Which, whilst cute… is also not cool. Yes, they look like adorable little critters with old-man faces, even the babies. Yes, I could – and do – watch them for long periods, grooming and communicating, and realizing how much of our “human advancements” are mimicked in their behaviour (including covering up their tracks, by putting the lid back on the compost bin after they’ve been in it).

Still – there’s only so much willingness I have to let them go about their merry way, when they’re rolling around in the sheets and seeming to play dress-up. I want to discourage this activity, to the best of my ability… so I’m at the ‘throw rocks and wave sticks’ phase, until I can get a slingshot and/or build a small trebuchet and/or ballista (with blunted end) and/or… okay, so my medieval history buff is coming out again. But nothing says cool like a ballista that can fire a telephone pole (I’ve seen one). So I just want a smaller one, with bagged rice on the end, as a discouragement… and a lesson in history and proper siege weaponry. I recognize this is their troop’s territory, too, but… ARGH. Not the laundry!

 

Also, before I forget… do people have any specific questions they want answered? Post some in the comments, and we’ll see about answering them. I’m working on a post about cows, once I pick the pictures I want to use. 🙂