2 days from now…

Adam and I will be in the panicked last stages of “Is it packed? Where’s my X? Are you sure the Y is in THAT bag, despite the fact that the list of contents for that bag says so?”. Admittedly, I’m more the one to panic, but I hope it will mostly be settled to our satisfaction by tonight or tomorrow mid-day, and we’ll be able to breathe. Most of what remains to be packed is daily use items (hairbrush, toothbrush, etc) and there’s one last round of laundry going, and then it’s all in bags.

My mother has decided that she may not be able to drive us to Newark, given that we would be dropped off in the dark, and she would have to drive home in it. She and I both have the same questionable blessing of excellent night vision — and we’re both about 5’2. When driving down the road in the dark, everyone’s lights are in our eyes, only made worse when it’s high beams, and it becomes an exercise in misery. My stepfather is currently in Maryland; one of the houses there was broken into and some things stolen, so coming up on Sunday (tomorrow) and then doing an airport-run simply isn’t feasible there. We’re now evaluating rental car options. Kinda sucks, but all of my friends that I would ask to do this are not generally in the New Milford area, or do not have cars if they are, so… it’s not fun, but will get worked through.

In addition, Adam and I are expressing our sheer levels of insanity in participating in National Novel Writing Month (http://www.nanowrimo.org), where individuals commit to writing 50,000 word novels in the month of November. They don’t need to be GOOD novels — but the goal is to commit and work on the task, showing it can be done, and to make the task seem less daunting for those who truly want to write. I have been lucky, and may make my 50k today or tomorrow. Adam… is slightly less far ahead. The plane flight, 14.5 hours or so, might fix that. We may have a “write in” today, and there is one tomorrow — where all of us insane folk gather together for coffee, conversation, and pounding out wordcount — and they have truly kept my sanity for the month; I know I’d’ve had panic attacks if it wasn’t for this bunch. Next year, I already have a few ideas for something; I’m under no illusions about getting things published, but it’s the writing and experience that’s the fun.

Now, back to deciding what last-minute things to pack!

Tickets Have Arrived

Which makes our departure date official: we will be flying out of Newark, NJ on the 22nd, directly to New Delhi. We will stay overnight, and leave first thing in the morning for the 8 hour drive up to Mussoorie.

Now: back to packing and repacking every bag. Again.

Another Visa Approved!

Darcey’s visa has been approved and is being prepared to be shipped back to us! We should have it in hand no later than Thursday, which hopefully means we will be leaving for India imminently. The rest of this week will almost certainly consist of packing, packing, and more packing, as we try to sort out and organize our belongings into suitcases and duffelbags.

And on that note: packing ho!

Packing… Again…

My passport was confirmed as received on Thursday, by the visa outsourcing company. Hopefully I’ll get it back late next week or early the week after. Adam and I are hoping to get out on or around the 19th, if all goes well. So, in the mean time: we’ve been packing like fiends. Hopefully I’ll be picking him up on Monday (his father will be driving him down partway, and I’ll meet them and pick him up, then back to CT), and we’ll be able to repack/consolidate our luggage, and perhaps even get a couple boxes of various things (like tshirts, socks, other sundries and paraphernalia) out, before we do.

Weather so far is definitely warmer in India than here; Mussoorie is having daily highs in the mid-low 70s (F), and the overnight is around 59(F); Connecticut has been having overnights below freezing of late. It hasn’t stopped me planning for cold mountain weather, though: knitting clogs/slippers, making sure I have my thermal shirts and pants, etc. Layers are my friend, both here, and will be in India. I’ve also just finished two sets of handwarmers (one of them finally using the Christmas gift yarn from Randy and Gail, of last year!) which I am utterly in love with… and those will be packed away carefully!

Adam’s packing now, and I’ve packed one bag; the second I’m looking to pack is my carry-on, because at least half of it are things I should be able to put together now, including a knitting project or two – most likely socks or a shawl, since those can work up slowly or quickly, and generally use enough repeats that I can work them all trip (airplane flight + car trip to Woodstock; likely about 24 hours worth of travel, if not more). Have to weigh bags, determining what we can fit, what we want to take, and how to distribute the weight so we have excess baggage — and not overweight baggage!

Visa Approved!

Adam’s visa was approved today – a 6mo work visa. Once he actually gets the thing in hand, he’ll come down, we’ll get mine, and then finally be out of here!

Elementary…

While we wait for things to process with Adam’s paperwork, I’ve been stumbling along with my Elementary Hindi textbook & workbook. I slacked… HARD… during July and most of August, but last week I dedicated to Lesson 1. This week is Lesson 2. Working through the alphabet breakdown, and then the activities, supplemented by my Anki flashcards. So, for this week..

  • Sunday: Alphabet
  • Monday: Workbook activity 1.1; conjunct consonants & nasalization
  • Tuesday: Grammar – Postpositions, Pronouns; workbook activity 2.2 & 2.3
  • Wednesday: Review
  • Thursday: Workbook activity 2.4, 2.5
  • Friday: Add in vocabulary that’s not in the textbook
  • Saturday: Review all the audio stuff again

I go through the Anki every day, which is nice because it’s a spaced repetition and so I see stuff over and over again, the things that I need to work on more often than the things I don’t. Still – I need people I can speak with, and we’ll see where I can find those. Every time someone says “Oh! I know someone who speaks Hindi!” it turns out they don’t – they speak Kannada, or Telugu, or Tamil. Everyone I seem to encounter is under the misperception that India = Hindi, which it doesn’t… so they want to pair me up to talk with their friend from Kerala, who speaks Malayalam, and not a word of Hindi.

Sigh.

While we hurry up and wait – might as well keep reading!

I finally was able to get my hands on a dead tree edition of this at a local Borders, and happily snapped it up (along with a Rough Guide: India, and Adam’s new favourite, the Pocket Ref). I had read Culture Shock! Denmark before my year abroad, and fondly remembered it — but things do change in 10 years, so I wanted to make sure this edition was updated. It was – a 2008 edition.

The author, Gitanjali Kolanad, talks about things from the perspective of having Indian heritage but growing up outside the country, allowing her a unique perspective on the culture shock (especially when she’s assumed to be a native but isn’t). The book takes time to walk you through things that you might not initially expect and could be a concern for people of all walks during their travels – friendliness, how to host a party and the way to react when your guests bring guests of their own!, economics/money (especially bartering), travel considerations, and – for the more long-term visitors – the schooling system and expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to see Woodstock listed in the boarding schools section at the back of the book (only one of 3 listed).

This book does recap material you can glean from other sources, especially with the internet out there, but it also covers material that I haven’t seen thoroughly addressed in web pages, particularly that aspect of schooling, and hosting parties/how to interact at some social events (not just dresscode, but tips on things to expect eating in different areas of the country, different religious things that may tie with meals, how someone being late and exhausted to one of your parties means that you’re on their list of ‘places to go’ – they made showings at other parties, but yours is where they ended up because they wanted to go there).

It also – very interestingly – discusses how to interact with your servants, any issues you may have, and ways to be proactive (making sure your servants see doctors if they look ill), how to behave or respond if your servants ask for a loan, etc.

This book is definitely worth a read if you’re going to be going to India. If you’re just travelling, grab it from your library – if you may be living there, consider buying a copy, then leave it behind for friends who may come visit to read! 🙂

So, riding the marketing high of this book, and after hearing VERY mixed reviews, I decided to pick it up and read it. I… was not impressed, and I don’t plan on seeing the film.

I will give the book credit where it is due – this is exactly what it is marketed as, a woman’s journey with specific focuses, in Italy, India and Bali.

This will be a difficult sort of journey for any woman to replicate – given her $200,000 advance to write the book – in the sort of economy and world we live in. It’s hard to find US $200,000 to globe-trot with, where you can indulge yourself all day by doing whatever it is you’re interested in and waving off the idea of working or having a working-holiday at the best, dealing with coming back to a career and life in your home country, etc. Gilbert at least had the right idea of when to do this, as her life was coming apart — but otherwise?

I suppose it was nothing more than a larger version of this blog (an assumption that other people care about your life, in microcosm or macrocosm) and, to me, Gilbert seemed terribly self-centred, overwhelming things with drama and finding the absolute best opportunities for story rather than trying to truly experience the countries. I read the book through because I felt it was appropriate in order to be able to understand her tripartite journey and the book as a whole, but I can’t recommend it wholeheartedly to consumers to read, or even for anyone interested in getting a glimpse of life in India or of Indian community. I recommend Holy Cow! by Sarah MacDonald much more for aspects of religious life and thought than I can recommend Eat, Pray, Love.

Retitle needed, perhaps?

At this rate, this should become “Adventures in India: if we ever make it there.”

There appears to be some diplomatic tit-for-tat going on right now between Canada and India, meaning that Adam’s getting a run-around for what paperwork he needs, where he needs to go, what he needs to do, etc. We’re in a holding pattern until another Ministry of the Indian government writes a letter with some info, and that may or may not be all that’s needed to then get the visa processed.. and hopefully he’ll get it, as someone told a family member that they’re not approving a lot of Canadians’ employment visas.

What’s happened so far is this:

  • get all the paperwork we need in order, including a letter from the Ministry of Human Resources that says they have no objection to Adam’s filing for a visa, pending approval of MoForeign Affairs and MoHome Affairs.
  • Adam goes to the consulate, who then tell him to go to the visa processing office. They then say “You can’t apply – you need two letters from Ministry of Home & Foreign affairs, as per this one from the Ministry of HR.”
  • We then have weddings to go to (namely, ours) and things to participate in (like driving across borders), so we confirm with the US visa processing place that Adam can file from the US, though he’s a Canadian citizen, etc.
  • Weddings happen, driving happens, we go to NYC to the visa processing place… and they say “Well, for an employment visa, he has to have been a resident in the US for at least two years for the New York office to process it.” Driving around isnt an option for us (to DC or further), so we confirm with Adam’s parents that they can file for his visa on his behalf – and so we overnight everything to Canada.
  • The visa office says “no, we won’t take this stuff — he has to have an interview at the consulate.”

… So, at this point, we’ve received one additional document for Adam – the letter from Home Affairs – saying “He doesn’t need anything more, just process the blasted thing”. Hopefully we’ll get that squared away soon, sending him back to Canada, and we’ll get to India before the end of September. It may take 15-20 days for his work visa to be processed, which equates to 3-4 weeks. Then mine (which hopefully will be a 1-day turn around), and then we can finally leave.

So… we wait.

Yesterday was the wine shower, which was good fun (and nice to finally MEET people I had only heard about!) and I mentioned Adam and I doing this blog (well, me more than him, but… anyway), so I suppose I’d definitely best make sure there’s content before people start getting ahold of the URL to read the previous entries…

Today we got up and Adam got the last thing he needs to file for the employment visa. He’s going to the Consulate General first, then if he has to, the visa-processing place… or we might end up driving to Ottawa to file at the High Consulate there. It’s get it done within the week in Canada, or have to do it from the US and not leave til 10 August. As stressy as it might be… I’d rather we fly out the 31st just to be DONE.

Now – I’m back to writing thank-you cards!