Love and peace out!
It's hard to believe that we've almost been here in Bangalore for almost two months. I feel like we have accomplished so much in such a short time. We live in a nice neighborhood, Bruce is in school, I've made some fun friends, had play dates, date nights with John, done volunteer work and commitments to do more. Wine dinners, wine tasting coming up. Volunteer work that I hope won't break my heart and that I hope will feed my soul on the horizon. Cooking classes, photography workshops, bollywood dance lessons all on the radar...You see I spent so much time in Malaysia "settling in" that although I enjoyed my time immensely there, I don't feel I ever submerged myself into the culture or the nitty gritty of what Kuala Lumpur was all about. We traveled, we played, we hosted fun get togethers. We made lifelong friendships. We did everything within a comfort zone. I'm letting my hair down here. Take me as I am Bangalore, you're in my face and I'm going to be in yours. You fascinate me, you terrify me. You have already made me incredibly happy and my heart has overflowed with the gentleness and kindness that people seem to have towards my son. I am not taking my time settling in this time. I know all too well how quickly time passes. I'm going to enjoy, learn, and experience everything I can this time around.
Love and peace out!
Ok......big huge sigh. Note to self: Don't ever plan on "picking up a few things" on day you are hosting a get together...you'd think I'd know by now.
Laughing at myself cuz I know better. I invited two delightful ladies and their kiddies over to the house for a play date, three kiddos, three mommas. I intended to serve a veggie plate with ranch party dip and wine for the mommas and fruit and yummies for the kiddos. Easy right? Say it with me, "not in India"....one more time, "not in India"....louder, "not in India". So here's what happened. I dropped Bruce off at school at 9 a.m. Plenty of time to pick up some carrots, celery and maybe another outside table for one of the balconies? Morning was great. Went to a couple of road side "stops" for a look see at the tables. Found one....good price, it was early, I should have just grabbed it. It was only a little after 10 a.m. at this time, I didn't have to get Bruce till 1p.m. play date would start at 2:30ish....plenty of time....wanted to "shop around" a little more, to see if I was getting the "best price on the table". Dumb.
So it's a little after ten. Asked Shankar (our driver) to take me to a food store so we can pick up the carrots and celery. Then we'd swing back around on way to get Bruce and buy the table(first place was the best price). We stop at food store #1 Hypercity. Maybe it was just too early but there were absolutely no carrots or celery. None. That's okay, I had some other things I needed to buy...dody dum dum dum, let me just take my time as I do have all the time in the world and jeez,it's just carrots and celery! I'm sure to find some at the next stop right? Hmph! So I spend a good hour at Hypercity buying random things that are sure to come in handy later. We leave there and it's now a little after 11a.m. No sweat. Plenty of time to find the carrots, celery and still buy a table, pick up Bruce, get home, ready the veggie tray, get dressed...no problem. Dreaming. Delusional....or just plain dumb to think that or maybe all three? So head out to store number 2, Nilgiri's....success!!!! I found celery. Let me rephrase, I found one big (thank goodness it was big and in good shape) stalk of celery. Cut correctly it would suffice. Cut with precision it could yield enough for 3 adult ladies and maybe even a little for the wee ones if they are into celery today (fingers crossed they aren't). Ha! Yay we have celery, now where's the carrots? Nope. No carrots. Seriously? Let me look around and wander aimlessly for another five minutes, nope. Still no carrots. Now it's almost 12pm and I'm starting to panic. Had planned to buy the stuff, pick up Bruce,get home show the cook how I wanted everything cut and set up, then I would take a leisurely shower and make myself ready for my pals. Hmmmmm that was the original plan. Now it's way after 12 almost 1pm, still no carrots and now no time to pick up table. One more store....yes! Carrots! Big fat orange carrots, ahhhhhh yay! But now absolutely no time to pick up table and we have to get Bruce. No worries. We will pick up Bruce and be home no later than 1:30p.m. I can quickly show Sheela how I want the veggies cut, placed on the tray, make the dip, then jump in the shower and beautify before pals get here right? Nope. Traffic jam. traffic was not moving. Now I am used to traffic being bad but usually when I pick up Bruce it is at least moving...never takes more than 20-30 minutes max and most days it only takes about 15. Not this day. Took 4EVER! Made it home, like 5 minutes til 2pm. Yikes!!!! Showed Sheela what i wanted her to do, jumped in the shower, got out and before I could even brush my hair my first guests were at the door. So with wet hair no makeup I greeted my pals....lol oh well, thank goodness I had wine. My guests had met each other when they first moved here 6 months ago and had lost touch, they were happy to see each other and I was thrilled that they could chat and catch up while I went and brushed my hair. Later the kids played in the jacuzzi (baby pool to them), we enjoyed a very nice veggie plate and three bottles of wine, kids had fun and snacked on the fruit and juices and it was a success all the way around. Didn't have my new table, hair was air dried and wasn't the hostess with the mostest but I did have the veggie tray the way I envisioned it and good wine. I was mentally exhausted from the quest to find the veggies but felt strangely accomplished. I remember walking out of that last store with a huge grin, so happy to have found beautiful looking carrots! And then I thought. Wow. I live in India. I actually felt so happy when I found the celery and carrots. The hunt was frustrating, then frenzied but so fun when I found what I was looking for. How will I ever go back to regular shopping in the US? I hated grocery shopping there and yet everything was so plentiful. Could find good veggies everywhere. Grocery stores, Target, even walmart...road side organic veggie stands....and yet I never had this much fun looking back on a quest for simple things like celery and carrots.
And this of course leads into my next quest. I was determined to find good beer. Rumor had it that I could find Corona here. Are you sure? All I've seen is Kingfisher, Fosters, Budweiser and Snake dog, or something like that. But Corona? I was so hopeful of
finding some I even bought some Bicardi lemon. My bro showed me how to add BL to a bottle of Corona, as Dora loves to say...delicioso! So this beautiful day was totally about the quest to quench my thirst for good beer. First stop, success! I found 6 bottles, yay! Was I just going to take 2 and leave the rest for the other poor suckers looking for something other than Kingfisher or Budweiser? Hell no, I took all six. And I kept going. Two more liquor stores, zero for two on both, two more stores...big fat 0's....but I kept up the quest. Finally, sweaty (but not smelly) I finally hit Spar I heard "angels singing, and I think all the Greek Gods were smiling down on me," I hit jackpot! Twenty-two "baby Coronas". You know the small cute bottles of corona? Found 22 of them. Hmmm. Moral dilemma. Do i just take a six (6) pack and hope that when we want more we will find some? Now remember, my posts when I lived in Malaysia? And remember our motto there? If you see anything you like, want or need buy it all cuz it may be months before it's in stock again if you're lucky. Here we Iive in Whitefield, only about 6 or 7 miles from the city but trafficwise always a good 45 minutes. That's on a good day. Most days it takes longer. So we drove all the way to the city, stopped at hundreds and hundreds of stores on the way (justifying like JT here) in hopes of finding said Coronas. Tired and hungry, parched from thirst (yes exaggerating) I finally find exactly what I am hoping for and there's almost a whole case full! Heaven. So do I just take what I need or take all and not worry about it for awhile? Yup. I'm a bad person I steal from McDonalds, why would you think I would leave any Corona after spending all morning on my Corona quest? And I actually spent less time contemplating that moral dilemma than I care to admit. Guess what I'm doing now? Haha, that's right. Cheers! If anyone residing in Bangalore is reading this blog, come over I'll share.
p.s. I got my outdoor tables....or rather sent my driver out for them yesterday:)
Today I did something totally, selfishly for myself. I did a little volunteer work. Not even sure if what I did classified as "work". TREP stands for Total Residential Educational Programme. "Each year TREP selects new candidates for its unique value-based residential education programme. This year irrespective of caste or creed students both girls and boys currently studying in 5th and 6th std were welcome to attend the ADMISSIONS Process. It was held at People's Trust, Sriramanahalli, on the Yelahanka-Doddabollapur Road, 3 km past Rajanakunte. Candidates were given a written examination and some an oral examination. Those that pass these exams will be interviewed along with their parents to determine their suitability for TREP. This is a golden opportunity for a chosen few to receive a balanced education stressing both the development of head and heart. Once selected, their education will be fully paid for through 10th std and possibly for their entire education through college. TREP gives FREE balanced education, academic along with training in Values, Devotion and Life-skills to about 50 needy students each year." In a nutshell that is what today was all about.
The OWC's volunteers all arrived around the same time. Some car pooled and some of us came alone, we all were very happy to be there.
This girls dorm room was named, "peaceful".
My role was super easy. But before I tell you about that let me tell you a little bit of what I learned about the school, no that would take too long. Google it ( http://trepvalues.com ). We were given a quick history of how the school was founded by Seethamma, Yokamma and guided tours of the dorms by current students. The girl and boy were well spoken and exuded confidence as they showed us around the school, the dormitories and told us about student life at TREP. After this tour the fist group of written tests we done and we were able to start our tasks!
All we had to do was grade completed test exams using an answer key for the subjects of Math, Science, English and Logic. Easy veezy, all I had to do was take the completed exam answer forms and check them against the answer keys. Technically it should have been a breeze. Well it wasn't. I found myself cheering on the first exam sheet I graded as the candidate made a score of 23 out of 25 (one point for each question, 25 questions)! Then I felt myself cringing when the next candidate was 0 for 10 and the rest of the page was blank. I went to bat for the next candidate who somehow skipped a question and had correct answers but were on the wrong line, not corresponding to the correct question numbers. Nope, couldn't give him/her the point...I tried. Felt my heart going out to the ones who struggled in the Math exams. And was so impressed that these young kids even knew what an obtuse angle, parrallelograms, and biomedial sections were. Heck I don't even if I'm spelling those correctly much less what they are...
It was an exercise of the heart and mind. My mind knowing that not everyne would get in even if they all scored brilliantly there was only room for so many. The heart wanting everyone to do well and to somehow make it in. There were alot of tests to grade. I'm not sure how many kids attended and took the exams but there were at least over 100. Next thing you know the written exams grading was over, yay! Now time for lunch and then on to the oral exams. Now this is the part that I had originally signed up for, I was so excited to do my part. This portion of the test consisted of potential students reading a paragraph then telling what that paragrah meant to them. They would be graded on reading ability, reading comprehension, and articulation. Here we would actually interact with the potential students! In a perfect world I would have more to tell you about this part of the exams. Instead shortly after lunch I broke into a sweat and could feel my stomach churning. I instantly realized I would not be able to participate any longer so I said my goodbyes and asked my driver to get me home pronto. The bathrooms in the school were immaculate, but they were the ones with the ceramic holes in the ground (turkish toilets) and I have not mastered the art of squatting on those things and was not about to try mastering these things on this occassion. Not with the stomach issues we have been experienceing lately, no way Jose, I popped 2 immodium pills and it was goodbye for me.
I wish I could have stayed for the whole day process. Would have loved to meet more students and parents and share in their excitement of the day. But the little that I did experience was so good. It was soul food and I will feast on the memory of what I was able to learn and see today. It did my heart and soul good to see that in this tough part of the world that there are people like Bobji, Seethamma, Yokamma, who touch the lives of so many by doing what they love. I thank them for the glimpse into that world today and for what they are doing for the children and families in this part of India.
Stealing from Mickey D's was bad, our new home, new staff and when a termination becomes a negotiation.
Feb 15, 2012
Update to this post by resident guest blogger, John (my hubby) Specht
Just to add a note about the staff... There are so many instances here where you want to help somebody out by giving them a job. The salaries are really not that much and working for an expat family is a very good job here. When you think about it, a good monthly wage to them is what you might spend on a Saturday night out with your friends, and it is hard to say no to people who really want to work.
The original cook we considered hiring was one such person. He really needed a job, and was even going to share the room with Narayan whose room is smaller than our closet. We really liked him, but his English was so poor it just wasn't feasible. We went into a store to buy meats together, and I was trying to tell him what chicken was (remember we hired this guy to be our cook!) I was actually acting like a chicken in the store, flapping my arms and bock bocking to demonstrate what kind of meat that was. It was like Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves. "Tatanka, Tatanka!", No, this wasn't going to work. Sorry!
We wanted Hema to work out, but she just didn't have the right skill set. It was especially hard for Cynthia, as Hema was her little project, but we just couldn't figure out a way to get anything,ANYTHING, out of her. I actually thought the negotiation was a bit funny. I was impressed with her nerve.....You are an overpaid, incompetent nanny who we let go because we couldn't trust her with our most valuable possession (Bruce) and you think you need more. Amazing.
Yogi and Narrayan are actually included in our rent and their salaries are paid by the landlord, but we still feel responsible for them. We have grown quite fond of them. We did not have to keep them on, we could have declined their services but the alternative was that they would would leave the jobs and the neighborhood that they have called home for the past few years. It was a win win situation for all of us and we would like for them to look back at the time they spend with our family as one of the best jobs they have ever had. We want to make a lasting difference in their lives. By that we don't mean just buy them tv's and give them a better food allowance than they had previously, we are also looking into hiring a teacher to teach them English. A skill that will most likely be beneficial for them with any expat family that might come after us. We don't need to teach them about hard work as they already have shown us that they are very conscientious and hard working employees. When this assignment is over, we think we'll have learned a whole lot more from them, then they from us.
Thou shall not steal. Being raised Catholic I should have known better (not a practicing Catholic but still remember all the teachings). Stealing is bad and you shouldn't do it. I should have listened to the Catholic angel that sits on my shoulder all these years later.....
For those who have faithfully followed my blog (all ten of you, muah!) will remember that I "stole" our new "intended" nanny from Mickey D's. I would love to tell you that her bond with Bruce grew, that she was the most amazing nanny ever and that we trusted her with out most precious little boy and we all lived in harmony for the rest of our days here but alas that was not to be. Not even close. Hema, was soft spoken and had a beautiful smile, she could get Bruce to try ice cream and she melted my heart with her attentions and affections towards Bruce, I had to have her work for me as Bruce's nanny! Perfect fit, right? So wrong. What I didn't realize when I hired her was that Hema already had two children of her own. And they were being raised by her in-laws in their home village. I understood why seeing Bruce would trigger maternal emotions in her, but what I didn't know was that though she could be sweet and could sit and play with Bruce, she didn't have a clue about "taking care of him". It didn't occur to her that he shouldn't be outside of the house unattended or that she should keep him from taking off on his bike down the road. As she was new with us I kept her and Bruce in view while I attended to the unpacking, and home start ups that I needed to accomplish to get us moved in, so it became apparent very quickly that other than being able to be "nice to Bruce" Hema did not know how to keep him safe under her care. Everyone else on our staff was helping me run after Bruce, feed him, keep him entertained while we had various electricians, water people, cable guys, movers etc in and outside of the house these past two weeks. Everyone did an outstanding job of keeping Bruce busy and happy and SAFE.....everyone but Hema. I sat every day with her and told her what I expected of her and what her job entailed. When by the second day I realized that I would never trust her alone with Bruce,( yes two days and I knew) I told her that we would train her to do other things if she was willing and we would keep her on. She agreed. But she showed no interest in learning anything and made no attempts at trying to do better in any role we gave her. I wanted her to work out, I truly liked her and even the rest of the staff would try to encourage her and give her advice on how she could do things to keep her place on staff. But she would just laugh and tell them that she was fine and ignore them. All came to a head this past Saturday when we realized that our driver was stepping up doing things that we asked of Hema and helping us with Bruce on top of everything else. We decided that day to let her go and we had already arranged with our cook to stay over that night and watch Bruce while we attended a party later that evening. It was painfully obvious that we were never going to trust Hema with Bruce. We are not unkind people, we kept trying to think of ways to keep her on as part of the staff but she truly showed no interest. The time came to let her go. So I decided to do it on Monday. Yesterday. She came in and I asked her to sit with me, I had an envelope with a full month's wage for her even though she only worked about 8 days...and only about 3 or 4 hours each day (I would send her home early rather than watch her not try to do things that were asked of her). I knew I had made a bad decision and though we all rallied and tried to find a place for her, she really wasn't interested. So...back to yesterday, me and my guilt and an envelope with a full months wage ready to tell Hema that I was very sorry but that after repeated attempts to get her to do better (she would also arrive late every day) it was time to cut our losses and let her go. She said "yes madam I understand but I require more money". Whaaaaa ut? No really what? She said, yes madam I will leave but you must pay me $2000 more rs. Guilt quickly gone, incredulity sets in....rest of the conversation went like this.
.Me: "may I ask why you think you are entitled to more than a month's pay when you worked less 8 days and for not even four hours a day?"
Hema: "I will leave when you give me $1500 more rs".
Me: "Hmmmm no."
Hema: "Okay madam, will take $1500 rs".
Hema:"Okay madam I will leave when you give me $500 rs more"
Me: I start thinking in the grand scheme of things, that isn't alot of money, and now I was really uncomfortable and just wanted her gone. Her smile seemed less sweet and now menacing. But no matter how I looked at it, we were being more than generous with her with the months pay for such a short time she was with us in which she barely worked. So I did what any person in my shoes who all of a sudden was not sure of what she was doing and was torn between principal and guilt. I went inside and told John what had happened and asked him to handle. See she wasn't budging. She said she would leave when I gave her more money. It was a little unsettling. I walked in, John walked out and the conversation went like this:
John: Hema we are very sorry but this isn't working out. Here in this envelope is a months wage. If you would like we can instead pay you hourly for the hours that you worked and pay you that instead. We thank you for your efforts but this is not working. Do you want the envelope or shall we pay you for actual time worked?
Hema: Big huge smile. I will take envelope, thank you sir:)
Uh why didn't it play out like that with me? Since yesterday, after talking with the rest of my staff, letting them know that she was no longer with us and finding out that two of them were listening in our conversation, I was advised by them that I must get used to most everything being a "negotiation". Somehow Hema had turned her termination into a negotiation. And I obviously suck at negotiation. My husband obviously was very good at it and she earned his respect when she took the envelope. Me and all my guilt and worry about her and her children in their village etc.....the rest of the staff told me she would be fine. She had never truly quit her job at Mickey D's and she enjoyed the more social, busy atmosphere of that environment than working in a home with the same people every day. It was only a matter of time. I hope she is ok and will be fine because I still feel bad about it, but know that she had to go.
So now with Hema gone. I can finally, with a huge sigh of relief, introduce you to our staff. There is a good feeling among us, when we're all together and the communication is good as well as the way that everyone pulls together to make our house run smoothly and make sure that the "little boss" (Bruce) is well taken care of.
Meet Shankar our driver, super dependable, always dressed nicely and always opens my door for me! Takes real pride in his work, we are very lucky to have him. Plus he speaks good English which is a huge help.
Over to your left is Yogander. He "came with the house". Meaning his salary is included in the rent. He is the gardener and maintenance man for our home. Anything that needs fixing, he's our guy. He's also a huge help with Bruce. His English isn't great, but we always seem to be able to communicate. He doesn't live with us but he is always nearby, always on call and always around when we need him. He is called "big uncle"by the rest of our staff.
The young man with the nice smile is Narrayen. When we first moved in, he was as quiet as a mouse. He still is, but after living with us for these past two weeks, he now rewards with a good morning and a bright smile every day. He is the cleaner and he also came with the house. He actually lives in an outside room attached to our home. We have purchased a TV for his room and set it up with cable, he also helps with Bruce and is very sweet and unassuming. His English is not good at all but he knows his job duties and he gets things done. I have yet to ask him to do anything as he always seems to anticipate our cleaning needs and things just magically get done on his end. A true gem. And he's like a ghost....you rarely seem him, but he's around if we need him.This is Sheela cook # 1 and Bruce caregiver/nanny. She cooks our "day meals". I can't pronounce half of what she's cooked but it's all been so delicious. We pay all our staff a food allowance, but just for my own piece of mind, I have Sheela cook a "staff meal" at lunch time. If I'm around I'll eat too. It usually consists of a roti, rice, some kind of dal or sauce and veggies. My staff is welcome to eat or not, their choice. They are not obligated to eat at lunch time, and we do not deduct from their "food allowance" (we included it in their salaries) if they do, it's just available if they want. So far when we are all at home around lunch time, everyone chooses to eat there. The staff eats outside in our gazebo, and they all eat together and seem to have some kind of really good comradarie already, it's fun to see and I'm glad they seem happy in our home. Sheela is the nanny I should have hired originally for Bruce. And her role has turned into cook/nanny. She speaks excellent English and is very good and trustworthy with Bruce. She's only part time though, she has another job in the neighborhood in the mornings so the hours that she works for us work really well along with some Saturdays now. So lucky to have her.
And this......is Latha, also part time, she arrives when Sheela is leaving. I am so extremely lucky to have the best of both worlds. Sheela for help with Bruce and all our Indian meals and Latha for everything else. OMG, this woman can cook the most amazing western dishes I have ever eaten. She cooks Western, Thai, Chinese and Greek too. Oh and of course Indian, but I haven't sampled those dishes yet....soon. Soon. So this is our staff. Yes, we have more staff than we dreamed we would need, but insanely enough, everyone has a place here. They're all part of our lives and they all serve important roles. They are all very kind people and they all are hard working. We are lucky to have them and we hope they will enjoy working with us. Please don't think our house is mad chaos with people everywhere, it isn't like that. But our house is running smoothly, we are almost unpacked but we are still waiting on that last shipment from Houston (my custom made tables by Lee!) our new mattresses etc. Our new "house" is becoming our home, can't wait for y'all to visit!