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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Massive Ganesha Immersions!

“Daddy, can we go out again tonight and see them dunking Ganeshas in the lake?”

Bangalore, and much of India, has been swirling and erupting in celebration of Lord Ganesha for the past frenzied week! Ganesh’s “birthday” was last Saturday, and most Hindus keep a highly revered elephant-headed Ganesh statue in their home for an auspicious period of time. After 3, 7, or 11 days of daily puja (prayers and offerings), they will take the Ganesh down to the nearest body of water for “immersion.” More puja is performed at the water’s edge, and then the clay or plaster statue is reverently dunked 3 times, and then submerged left to sink and dissolve away…

The immersions are sometimes a quiet affair, with a few family members praying & dunking a 12-inch statue at the waterside. More often the immersions are a loud colorful frenzy of fireworks, drumming, and chanting that culminates in the dramatic sinking of a 5, 10 or even 20-foot high behemoth of a Ganesha statue! Participants are covered in celebratory colored powders, singing and dancing in the streets…. The HUGE statues are transported all over town in pickup trucks, on car roofs, and especially in the trailers of farm tractors especially rigged up with portable generators, blinking lights, pedestals, and sound systems! It’s been a nightly parade, marching band drum-corps, fireworks, and festive frenzy, and will continue for a few more days.

We were at Sankey Tank (lake) last night until 11pm, and then this evening at Ulsoor Lake, to watch the festivities. At Ulsoor, they have a giant construction crane on duty all day and night to hoist the largest of the Ganeshas into the water. In the old days, families would just immerse their statues in any nearby lake or stream… With the population boom here, and the rise in popularity of the festival, the government has designated certain immersion locations that are sealed off from the main body of water. Huge pumps keep the water level deep enough, as it’s important that each statue sinks totally from view. Police and work crews are on hand to keep the hundreds (or thousands) of devotees orderly. Usually individuals can’t just stroll down to the water, but must hand off their Ganesha to an approved worker. He will wade deep into the murky water, do the 3-dip dunk, and then submerge it. After 1 or 2 am, when they finally close down for the night, another crew apparently pulls out lots of the debris (wooden frames, wire mesh, etc.) to make room for tomorrows hundreds of statues. Most of the clay and plaster apparently dissolves or oozes off it’s framework, and settles to the bottom of the immersion pools… The volume of statues is astounding…. Hundreds and thousands daily, in countless liquid locations around the city, and all over India.

As a co-worker explained, the immersion is important to “send the god back to his home. Ganesha is first among all of our gods… we must always pray to him first! We keep him in our homes only for a short time, and then must let him go home. It is to remind us that nothing is permanent in life. Hopefully he will then visit us again and again when we need his help.”

Ganesha is considered the “remover of obstacles,” who is able to surmount any difficulty in life. He is honored and consulted at the outset of any difficult undertaking in order to ensure success. He is believed to be the lord of prosperity, success, good living, intelligence, and peace, and is especially popular with students and businessmen. After the exuberance and fervor of the last several nights, I’d say he is especially popular with every breathing resident of this city of 8 million!!!

Monday, September 17, 2007


I've put a couple of LINKS to Wikimapia maps of our school and home in Bangalore. Go over to the left column and scroll down. The map-links open up zoomed in and centered on the key location. You can roll your mouse around and see tagged descriptions of nearby things.... Zoom back out to see the MASSIVE metropolis of Bangalore!

Our KV School in Bangalore!

The Girls wanted to share some highlights after their first 2 weeks at the “Kendriya Vidyalaya” (‘Central School’)…

Eliza says:
I am getting less and less shy! My best friend here in India is Deeksheeta, but everyone calls her “Sweetie.” She lives right next to the school, because she is the Principal’s daughter. She was my first really good friend here, and she even visited our house a few days ago. When I visit her house, her mom usually makes me a snack that’s a little spicy, but it’s still delicious!

A few days ago, I stood up on the stage in front of 2400 people and spoke a little bit of Hindi. I practiced a lot and was really nervous, but it turned to be pretty easy! I said, “Namaskar! Mey Eliza aaj aapke samne hey. Subh vichar prasthut karne jah vahey hu. Hindi hamare rashstra bhasha hey! Danyabhad!” It means something like “Hello I’m Eliza and I’m speaking Hindi which is India’s national language…”

My teacher’s name is Usha Kumari Ma’am. Everyone has to call their teachers Ma’am or Sir. Whenever a teacher walks in, everyone stands up and says at the same time “good morning Sir,” or “Good afternoon Ma’am.” You can’t sit down until they say “good morning” back to you.
Every morning and afternoon we go to and from school in an auto-rickshaw. Here they just call it “auto!” I really like them, but they don’t have any doors or windows, so in the cool mornings I wish I had a sweater. Sometimes we see cows walking down the middle of the street, but everyone just drives around them. The Hindu people think if you crush a cow it’s VERY bad, because cows are sacred to them. Once on our way to school, our rickshaw came around a corner, and a motorcycle crashed into us! My dad pulled my foot over, but if it was hanging
outside, it might have gotten hit! No one got hurt really, cuz he was driving pretty slow.

After school I usually come home with at least 5 pieces of candy, because everyone wants to give some to me and Sylvie! Usually girl teachers and kids give us candies, and sometimes just random people we meet give us candy. Every day there’s at least a few kids at the school whose birthday it is. When it is your birthday here you’re supposed to bring a lot of candy, and go from room to room to give a piece to each teacher. You don’t give it to the kids, because if you did then you would need to give more than 2,000 pieces! Birthday kids also get to wear whatever they want, instead of their uniform. That’s cool because you can always tell whose birthday it is and say “Janum din Mubarak” to them!

The uniform is not so comfortable, but just OK. It is fine wearing it every day, but some mornings I can’t find the white socks. Now we know that every Friday you have to wear all white, even a white skirt and white hair ribbons and white shoes! We now have all the white stuff, but still need to buy some white ribbons. (parent’s note… try keeping these things white on our tree-climbing bug-catching kids in India! Very thankful there is only ONE white day per week!)

Here are some Hindi words I have learned: Bear = Bhaaloo, Apple = Saeb, Boy = larka, Girl = larkee, Elephant = haathi, Tiger = sheer, Cow = gaaie, Peacock = moor. I noticed that most of the animals from the Jungle Book, are named after Hindi words like Baloo the Bear, Sheer Khan the Tiger, and Colonel Hatti the Elephant!

I miss you all sooooo much, but I do feel like I really want to come back to India some day! It would be fun to bring all of my friends to India so I could show you all of these things!

Sylvie says:
I’m feeling better about school. I’m still pretty nervous. Here I am in 2nd Grade, which is pretty hard for me, because I am supposed to be in 1st grade. But the 1st graders don’t speak so much English, so we thought it was better to put me in second grade. My two best friends here are named Shushmeeta and Tania. I wish my El Portal friends were here, but they aren’t, so I just have to make the best out of it.

Here everyone is doing cursive already, except for me. I’ve only been in 1st grade for one week in El Portal, then I’m all of a sudden in 2nd grade in India! So I really don’t know too much cursive yet! I’m trying to learn cursive, but it’s a little bit hard for me because it’s so swirly and squiggly! I like India because there’s a lot of mangos, but the mango season is done now. So now there’s so many papayas, and a lot of mornings we eat it with spoons and squeeze limes on it.

At lunch time at school, I almost always have rice and vegetables. I have a box called a “tiffen box,” and it looks kind of like a metal box. It is kind of tall and round, and has two boxes that fit together just right. There is the metal clamp parts that hold it closed in your backpack. And I really like it! I think I’ll use it in El Portal, because I love it! It’s a little smaller than the real lunch boxes that you guys usually have. So I can’t fit so much food in it. Mommy cooks the rice every day, and I get to eat it with my hands! First I wash my hands with a water bottle or at a sink,

The one bad thing is there is barely any recess. There is only the lunchtime for a half an hour, but it seems really short. Sometimes I don’t get any play recess, and I just eat and then go back in my classroom. The bell is SO loud cuz there are so many kids.

My costume, I mean my “uniform,” is white and dark blue, and my socks are white. I have black shoes, and wear braids and red ribbons and a “Kendriya Vidyalaya” belt cuz that’s our school name. On Fridays I wear a white skirt, and white everything. Last Friday we didn’t know, so I wore red ribbons. I thought I’d get super dirty because it’s so white, but I didn’t get too dirty. I’m OK with that….

Before and after school I LOVE the rickshaw rides, because every time I see animals. I see horses, bulls, water buffaloes, which are so cool cuz they’re so big and cool! Sometimes horses are in the “bump things” in the middle of the road, just out there eating grass in the middle of the road! One time we even saw a dog eating a chicken foot, and this morning at the school I saw a crow eating a dead rat. Poor rat…. But it looked so funny and it was fun to watch.

When Dadddy tells the rickshaw man where to go, he says “8th Main, 15th Cross” and when we get closer he says “right side right side” and when we get home he says “Aachaa.” That means “OK!” You can also say thank you which means “Dhanyabahd.”

Lupin adds:
I have a new school and it’s really fun. There is a sand box with toys that you can play with! I have fun at my preschool. Sometimes my Mommy leaves, and I really like to go there, and mommy doesn’t go there for the whole time.

There are special things that you wear, but my uniform is not ready yet. Mama really wants it, so after we went to the store first we got some little yogurts. My school has bunnies for sure in true life! You can’t hold them or do anything to them, you can just look at them. They run around, and when it’s time to go they put them in their cages because they would eat all the grass and that’s bad. They would dig and dig and make a hole in the lawn and live there.

Sometimes I know the kids names, but I forget them when I try to say the names. They are different kinds of names.

I really like my house in India. My toys I just have 2 toys to play with, cuz my monkey is lost and my green baby! Everytime I go to school it rains, but not all the times. I also want someday to walk with my own rainbow umbrella. I like India here!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Lions & Tigers & Bears!!! --- Bannerghatta National Park....

Each month we get the "second Saturday" off of school as a special "holiday." Today we headed out early in the morning to fulfill the kids fantasies about India being filled with elephants and tigers.... It was a really great day, and the kids loved everything! Here are their highlights:

Sylvie says - We rode elephants today and we saw really cute bears. They had a little white "shirt" that was really white fur on their belly and chest. They were lounging in the zoo. And then we went on a safari bus, and it was so cool because we saw more bears out in the wild. The bears and deer weren't Yosemite bears and deer. They were Himalayan Black Bears and Sambar Deer. We also saw tigers and deer that could walk around wild and free. They also had lions there. We saw a girl and boy sambar deer. Now I'm going to talk about masala dosas! I LOVE them so much. they are kinda like tortillas, but even better and super good. They have potatoes inside, and some of them have red chili, but they'll make it for you special without chili if you ask them. I want to eat them every single day. We mostly eat them in the morning. They also give you bowls of sauce, but we don't eat the cold stuff, just in case it could make you sick. Daddy always dips and eats the hot spicy sauce, but I usually dont. I wish you were here to eat masala dosas with me!

Eliza says - I'm having a good time in India.... much better than I thought it would be! Sometimes I wish I was in El Portal, but sometimes I really love what we're doing here. First, I really liked going to Bannerghatta National Park today. The first thing we did was looked around the zoo. My favorite animal there was the elephants, and also they had a zebra. It was so close you could have petted it, but it was in a cage. Then we got on a special bus that has cages on the windows so on our safari the wild animals wouldn't scratch us! We saw a lot of animals like sambar deer, wild bison (gaur), wild tigers and lions. The lions weren't native to there, people brought them there. We also saw crocodiles. We saw some wild sloth bears that were wrestling in the middle of the dirt road in the forest. I thought the coolest thing in the whole safari was seeing two tigers mating!!! The male sort of sat on top of the female, then after a while they growled and the male jumped off! On this safari the animals are all inside a HUUUGE like 20 mile fence, so they can wander around in the jungle. After that we went back to the zoo and saw hippos with "scooper" tails to splash themselves. Then we were ready to ride elephants, but the park workers said they couldn't find any elephants. They let the elephants roam free, and in the morning they go out in the forest to look for elephants to ride. So Dad asked lots of different workers, and they all said "no elephants today." But later, when we were about to leave I SAW some people riding on an elephant! I wondered why THEY got to ride, and right then Dad came running back to us with the tickets for riding elephants! So we got on top of the elephant... instead of a saddle, there is a little platform with railings, and you sit with your feet hanging out. The ride was really tippy, and when we were on its back its trunk came up and it sprayed "snotty water" on us... We all laughed! It was sort of like a sneeze. Then after the ride we got to pet its trunk and ears. It's really rough and hard. Right down the street from our house, there is a man selling coconuts. He just chops the top off, and we stick a straw in and drink it.... It's SOOO good! Then he chops the nut open, and makes a scooper out of the husk so you can scoop out and eat the coconut meat. The young coconut meat is pretty soft and gooey... not hard! The food here is really good. I think my favorite food so far is masala dosa (without the red chilli). At school I made a good friend named "sweetie." She's helping me out cuz I was really shy, but now I'm thinking school is FUN! Whenever people crowd over to to me she tells them to go back to their desk. She tells me to play with only her.... So far, she's my best friend in India.There is a palm tree growing right through our roof. When you walk down the street there are dogs, horses and cows just walking down the streets with NO owner. Everyone just goes around them, even with cars, cuz they think that cows are like gods. Last thing, there is a lake near our house called Sankey Tank where all the fruit bats live. We can walk out there and look at the trees. You see big black bats hanging upside down from the trees. In the evening we go up on top of our roof, and watch the bats, with a 3 foot wingspan, fly over our heads. I feel really excited and I squeal! Sometimes they come so close, but it isn't scary... I just love it! I'm really liking India, but I still miss all of my friends a LOT!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Teacher's Day & Family Puja Ceremony

Travelers know that time spent in exotic lands can be so richly abundant in experience, that weeks of living seems packed into a single day… Today was one of those days!

We began at 5am with the girls waking up… hungry! They are still working on their jet lag, and are close to adjusting to the new time zone. After 2 hours of feeding, packing up, dressing, and heavy duty counseling and cheerleading for one nervous school girl, we were off on our daily 25 minute rickshaw ride to school. Eliza and Sylvie were well prepared, at least on the surface. New daypacks, math and English textbooks, freshly purchased school uniforms (even down to the standard 2 braids with red hair ribbons), water bottles, etc… None of us, however, were prepared for the astounding “teacher day” celebrations! It begins, as does every day at KVMEG, with the morning assembly, but today the teachers took over and led the program that is usually student-run. We teachers led the school pledge, school oath, national anthem, etc… Then they asked Karen and I to sing a special American song… we ran through our collective brains and pulled off a John Denver classic. Then there was a “name that tune” contest, a “stump the teachers” quiz show, a sing-off contest, and I even got to participate in “pin the trunk on the elephant!”

The role reversals continue as the 11th and 12th Class students are assigned to teach all the classes today, covering math, physics, English, biology, Hindi, etc. The young ladies looked beautiful, dressed in their exquisite multicolored saris, while many of the guys wore nice shirts and neckties for the occasion.

Throughout this extended assembly time, and all through the day, student of all ages were constantly approaching to shake hands, wish me “happy teachers day,” and give gifts of flowers, candies, or cards. So revered and respected are teachers in India, that many students even bent down to touch my feet! While walking down the halls, I was constantly swarmed with students, pushing and pressing forward… to get my autograph! “Please sir please sir, sign sign!!!” I felt like a rock star, signing hundreds and hundreds of student notebooks, and forcing myself to move on down the hallway leaving disappointed crowds in my wake. It was all pretty overwhelming and humbling.

Speaking of overwhelming, our daughters also had a major role reversal on their first full day of school. Eliza, who had been dreading today like it was the end of the world, writhing and weeping frequently for days of gut-wrenching self-induced stress, had a splendid day. We had her placed in a specific class, sitting next to the principal’s daughter “Sweetie,” who instantly became her wonderful friend and protector. Sweet Sylvie, possibly as a counter-balance to her stressed-out older sister, was pretty casual and relaxed about the whole “first day” situation. She said, “well, I actually am a little bit scared, but not as much as Eliza, and I’ll try to have fun!” Poor Sylvie had a really rough day, mostly due to the language barrier… I purposefully moved her up to 2nd Class instead of 1st, trusting that the older kids would have more solid English skills. Unfortunately today, being teacher’s day, was quite unstructured and chaotic. The student-teachers, while kind and well-meaning, were not well versed in class management or group dynamics… We had paired Sylvie with a sweet friend “Tania,” but even so, she lamented, “they only spoke Hindi, and I couldn’t talk to anyone today!” We are sure that things will improve day by day, but it was so sad to see her casual confidence get crushed today…

While the teachers all gathered for an after-school meeting and delicious spicy lunch, our kids played outside with “Sweetie,” the principal’s daughter. They climbed trees, played basketball, chased lizards, and stalked green parrots around the school grounds…

Then it was ‘rickshaw time’ to head over to Mr. Nagaraj’s house for tea. His wife Asha is also a teacher, and had several great books and puzzles for the kids to play with. Four year old Siddarth awoke from his nap, and played a vigorous game of “biting snake” jumprope with Lupin. We enjoyed a nice long visit, and then gathered up our things to go to the next event… just as the clouds opened up! We ran to a rickshaw without enough umbrellas, hopping from shallow puddle to puddle, trying to avoid the flowing creeks that 10 minutes ago were dry streets. Packed tightly on laps, and zooming through the soaking traffic, we held our umbrellas against the open rickshaw doors to keep the majority of the water outside….

Ranging from moist (me), to dripping (Sylvie), we arrived safely at sunset at Mr. Prem’s house to attend his “home and family puja.” Prem, and his brilliant son Karan, have shared wonderful conversations with me many mornings before school, and invited our family to join them tonight. This type of puja (prayer ceremony) is performed annually by many Hindu families to ensure health, success, prosperity and spiritual merit. Prem explained that this event would be a very special, traditional, and “rare” version of the event… and he was so right!

As we entered the home, an exquisite colorful geometric mandala was being created on the floor, right next to a brick-lined firepit built in the center of the living room. Three robed priests were carefully making preparations and gathering materials for the incredibly complex series of rituals we were about to witness. Several other family members, friends, and neighbors sat with us on the floor, and the ceremony began. We expected an hour-long event, but what ensued was more than 3 hours of mesmerizing chanting, prayers, offerings, and the combustion of a fascinating assortment of objects. Holy water was sprinkled on attendees, saffron rice was tossed on statues of various gods, incense was burned, butter was drizzled, red and yellow tikas were applied to everyone’s foreheads… I was in awe of these priests, chanting for hours in Sanskrit, and somehow remembering the precise order of events that included the careful placement and ritualized presentation of coconuts, dried grass, apples, bananas, ghee, green grass, lotus blossoms, marigolds and other flowers, colored pastes and powders, grains of rice, steaming cooked rice, special coins, butter lamps, milk, incense sticks, honey, mustard seeds (both black and yellow), and on and on and on….

Our girls were alert and fascinated… for about an hour, and then, one by one, they started to doze on our laps. We carried them into another room to sleep on a bed. It was just about the right time, because then the burning began! The priests began loading sticks into the ring of bricks, and right there in the living room (tile floors), they started up a big fire. The rituals continued, with the fire itself the center and focus of the offerings. Much ghee (clarified butter) was drizzled into the flames, both as offering and to keep the flames dancing. Many of the other items were also consumed by the flames, as we stood up and sat down, tossed rice, sipped sacred water, and watched Prem and his wife offer countless prayers and prostrations for family, friends, health, prosperity, success, and happiness. Even with all the windows open, the smoke was pretty thick. I could handle it just fine while sitting on the floor, but after standing up, I had to retreat to the cool night outside for some fresh air. Other friends and neighbors were doing the same; heading inside for 20 or 30 minutes, then moving outside to chat and visit. Our girls were now snoring on a dry outdoor couch, under the overhang, among piles of shoes, umbrellas, and other kids… Eliza had her head resting on the father-in-law’s lap.

Finally the elaborate ceremony concluded, and Mr. Prem came outside to explain many of the details to us… and invite us back inside for dinner! “Shall we wake your daughters now for eating?” Please no! Karen and I, along with Nagaraj and Siddarth, enjoyed a deliciously spicy home cooked meal, served on the bedroom floor on a banana leaf, and eaten with our right hand. Absolutely wonderful conclusion to the evening!

Several kind folks helped lift and haul our sleeping lumps of daughter (still in their school uniforms), and stack them in a rickshaw… The rain had stopped, but we were carrying plastic bags filled with wet umbrellas and soaking socks and shoes as a momento of its fury. We hugged, waved, and shook hands goodbye to everyone in the dark. As we pulled away, Karen and I looked at each other in the back of the rickshaw, and just began laughing out loud. What a day! WHAT A DAY!!!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Nervous about school in India - by Eliza

(Eliza and her sisters share some worries, highlights, and hopes upon their arrival in India... These thoughts were collected in the somewhat delirious fog of their first morning here, after12 time zones and 3 hours of sleep....)

Eliza says:
When we flew to Bangalore, we stopped in a few places. I think I like Hong Kong better than Singapore, because we could see mountains and the ocean. I saw one big mountain, and said, “hey look at that mountain,” and mommy said she had climbed it once. In Singapore we walked around by the “mermaid lion” and got sprayed by salt water. We bought lots of kinds of fruit like mangosteens, rambutans, rose apples, and some gooey thing called a durian. When you eat it you make a weird face, because it tastes so weird… a little like peanuts, but more smelly.

I already miss El Portal, and I’m feeling really sad because we’re going to be here for months and can’t go back home for a visit. Right now time is going so slow, and I really think it’s going to be such a long time here in India. Everyone says “it’s going to go by so fast,” but I’m glad we only came for half a year. I hope that I won’t feel so nervous after the first day of school. I know can make new friends, but it’s just not the same as my friends that I grew up with my whole life. If we ever go to a different country for a real long time, I’d really want my friends from El Portal to visit us there.

I’m really feeling shy and scared about going to the school. There’s going to be so many kids, and I’m used to my school with just 50 or 60 kids, and not one with 2000. I’m afraid they’re going to crowd around my and ask so many questions. I’m going to be the only one with blond hair, and everyone will look at me all the time.

A lot of people say that I’m sooo lucky to go to India. All my friends say that, and they say they want to come to India too. It makes me feel lucky and good, but I think it’s also sometimes a hard thing to do. I feel like it’s a good thing to travel around a lot, but I also really love spending time at home. My favorite place so far that we’ve been was Europe. I also loved going to Guatemala, but we never stayed in such big city or went to a new school. It was also a shorter trip, so that made me feel it was easier. This trip to India is the longest one so far, and it sort of feels like I’m trapped here.

I sort of wanted to come to India, but I’m not so sure about coming to school here. I’d feel a lot more comfortable if my friend Maya was going to school with me.

I am looking forward to some things in India… like riding elephants, and maybe finding a place to ride horses. Today we went for a walk around and saw some squirrels that looked like golden mantle ground squirrels. I also liked drinking coconut milk right out of the nut with a straw. We saw lots of huge palm trees and other tall ones that hang over the roads and have big roots breaking up the sidewalks. We ate dosas at a restaurant, and I mostly ate them plain. A few times I dipped it in the spicy sauce, and that was OK. We went to the aquarium in a rickshaw, and that was so cool. I spotted a huge hawk in a tree with a white head, and my Dad took a picture to show mom cuz she loves birds. I looked it up in Dad's book at home. It's called a Braminy Kite. The tickets for all of our family to go in the aquarium were only 11 Rupees; that's about like 25 cents! I couldn't believe it costs so little!

Today was a fun day, but right now I feel like India is going to be hard for me. I’m also really looking forward making new friends, even though that’s the one thing that makes me the most nervous.

Sylvie adds:
I’m pretty excited to be here, actually I think I like everything… I hope even that I’ll like the school. It’s gonna be soooo big, so still I might be a little scared, but not as scared as Eliza!

Lupin pipes in with:
Everything and everything I like here. I drank coconut milk, and I ate ‘saladosa’ but not the spicy part. We also ate the sweet thing at the sweet cake place. It tastes like sweets and yummies!

The Family Arrives!!!

Yipeee! Karen and the Kids flew in from Singapore last night! All safe and sound and sleepy and totally wired all at once.... What an exquisite moment it is, first spotting them, through the crowd of travelers, and the kids joyfully sprinting to me for our first hugs in 3 weeks... What a sweet reunion!

Mr. Balaji, my exchange partner's husband, and his son very kindly drove to and from the airport, and helped with all the luggage. Karen passed out just as soon as we got home, but the kids were racing around the house until 3am. I finallly got them to sleep with stories.... ahhhhhh..... blessed sweet slumber..... until they all awoke again at 6am! Egads!

Today was their first day, and I wanted to hopefully "reset their clocks." We pushed them pretty hard, keeping them awake and moving and stimulated all day, so they would be ready to conk out at a more normal hour. We walked around the neighborhood, ate masala dosas, explored a few temples, then returned home.

The kids continued to 'unpack' and spread their chunks on every flat surface of our home. Karen took a looong hard nap, and I took the kids by rickshaw downtown to the Government Aquarium. It's a pretty basic place, but the kids loved it. They aslo giggled and squealed each time our rickshaw bumped over a pothole or swerved to avoid a bus. Sylvie was especially thrilled by the sudden downpour after the aquarium, and didn't want anything to do with my silly umbrella! "Dad, I LOVE to get wet!!!"

Back home, they played with stuffed animals, and created intricate designs on the front porch with scores of white jasmine blooms that continually rain down from the tree above. They LOVE the palm tree that grows through the eaves of the roof. They all seem to like dosas, just not with all the chilli.... Then, during the early dinner at a nearby restaurant (about 5pm), they all simultaneously began to run out of gas. Lupin first, completely unconcious on the bench. Sylvie, eyes closed, swaying back and forth about to pass out into her chutney, mumbled, "No daddy, I won't fall asleep. I won't close my eyes. I promise." Eliza went from chitter chatterbox about many topics to nearly comatose at the table. We barely managed to drag them downstairs & out into a rickshaw, got their teeth brushed and carried them to their beds around 6pm. Hopefully they will snooze well and all through the night!

Tomorrow they'll visit the school for an hour or 2, and probably begin attending on Weds. (Tuesday is a holiday for the Birth of Krishna). Eliza is pretty anxious and filled with "new gigantic school" worries. She and I had several nice long talks about that today... She gets herself so worked up way in advance of big events. We can't wait to just get her through the first hour, and are confident that she will feel so relieved and welcomed by her new classmates ad teachers! Sylvie and Lupin? They are so busy collecting flowers off the ground, looking for dogs and cows in the street, and chasing each other around the room, they aren't thinking past the next stimulating moment!