Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Practical Solution

We've had a problem since we moved to India with a well-intentioned pair of love birds.  They have continuously tried to build a  nest atop our AC unit, on our balcony.  Let's just say, the mess they brought with them was unacceptable. 

They were persistent.  They built a nest, we took it down.  They started building another.  We took it down, again.  They returned, again and again, with twigs and a strong homing instinct.  We banged the broom on the AC unit, made loud noises, and shooed them away.  Nothing worked until we got this.

    A rubber snake!  Problem solved.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Nepal -- Day 1

After an over-night in the airport in Delhi, we boarded our flight to Kathmandu.  The glimpses of Himalayan peaks bursting out of the cloud cover were breath-taking, and we were excited to land and get on with our trip.  We began the steep descent into the valley, and within 10 meters of landing, abruptly pulled back up, engines roaring, shooting back up into the mountains and clouds.  Apparently, our landing was aborted due to a dog on the runway.  After our hearts stopped pounding, we enjoyed the rest of our circle around the valley, and a more successful landing into Kathmandu.  Our Nepali Adventure had begun!

We were met at the airport by lovely family, and enjoyed some relaxation time; eating, chatting and cousin-playing.  It's so fun to be in a completely strange country and immediately feel right at home because you are with family.

We waited for the un-seasonal rain to let up, and then headed out to the first UNESCO World Heritage site of our trip, the Monkey Temple, Swayambhunath.  The rain and lightning kept away all but the most devout, or most crazy, visitors, but after a long wait in the car we made our way up the stairs to the temple.
We ran our hands along the many prayer wheels, delighted in the antics of the temple monkeys, dodged raindrops, and enjoyed a meal of momos.  (Don't tell the Nepalis, but they are basically just Chinese dumplings, except for the fried ones.  Yum.)

She had to touch everything during the trip and her dirty hands showed it.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Enjoying a shelter from the rain and conversation during our wait for momos.
For more pictures from Day 1, check out this slideshow.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Online Shopping

We've been surprised at how many things we can accomplish online here.  We ordered domino's pizza online and through foodpanda.in we can order from almost any restaurant in the area, although we haven't done subway because the online order form won't submit without selecting a sandwich sauce which is a horrific choice for our plain sandwich children.  They'll eat chicken curry but not mayonnaise?

Another great tool is flipkart.com, which is a bit like amazon with a wide range of items and home delivery.  They do offer a nice "cash on delivery" option as well. Today we had some usb headphones and "Insurgent" by Veronica Roth delivered (both mostly for M). 

We have struggled though to find a few pieces of furniture.  For a desk we had considered getting a simple table and got our hopes up when we saw the table below, until we noticed the dimensions with the helpful figure for scale.  This desk is more like a footstool for 8999 rupees (almost $170).  Delivered in 12-15 business days also seems to be quite standard.  Also notice the "Delivery and Returns" box lists this as a Bulky Item.  Really? Ugh.

Wishing Hyderabad had an Ikea. 

(Also a bit silly is the extra tab showing the research done to get this picture: "how to take a screenshot")

Sunday, April 14, 2013

"...on the street where we live."

We had the day off school last Thursday for Ugadi.  It was a relaxing day for the most part but we did decide to take a little walk down the street near our home.  We have buzzed by many of these shops in auto-rickshaws or taxis but wanted to take a closer look.  Unfortunately, streets here are not really made for walking: no sidewalks, unclear traffic patterns, and lots of obstacles to work around.  Anyway, we enjoyed a nice walk, did a bit of shopping, and returned home before heat exhaustion set in.  We snapped a few pictures along the way.
The building on the left is our where we live.  The small road in front if it comes out to Gachibowli road which is where we walked.  Crossing the street here is not easy but this woman had no problem, even with her walker.

A side street with shops and stalls. 

A beautiful family business

You have to look close, but the restaurant in the middle of the picture on the second level is called "Burp Fest."  We haven't tried it.  You can also see one of the water tanker trucks which are common around town.

A small place of worship along the way. 

These fruit carts are common: grapes, watermelon, coconuts, bananas, and soon it will be mangoes.

Another side street

"Hold on, some weird Americans are taking pictures of my pots"

A small shrine, some shady trees,  and what looks like a group of headstones must have been in place well before this road was build to wrap around both sides

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Building Permits Optional

Almost all the scaffolding is sticks tied with rope
We see some amazing construction projects all around the city, many of them right in our neighborhood.  I've watched a building go up next to school a floor at a time.  They use sticks to hold up the molding for the next floor and then carry up the wet concrete in large bowls on their heads.  Last week they moved the active breaker box from the tree next to the construction site into the building itself.  Edit: Our friend and my colleague has put up some great pictures of the building near school on her blog here

The "tent cities" made of corrugated metal, tarps, and other scraps (sometimes topped with an Airtel satellite for the television inside) tend to follow around the larger constructions projects and we have a few of them just outside our gates. Many of these temporary homes seem to be wired for electricity but they get water delivered in trucks and seem to be cooking over fires outside in the evening.

One building project we have watched particularly closely since our arrival about six weeks ago is just across the street.  It was a bit further along than others but still seemed far from finished when I suddenly noticed a sign roped up out front for a Domino's Pizza.  I thought, "wow, looks like there will be a Domino's here when they finish the building."

It was open the next day.

The building is clearly not finished so there must be a
 pretty loose building permit, inspection, etc... process because back at home this would still be a hard hat area not fresh pizza zone.  It does work out well for the fleet of delivery motorcycles that line up in the unfinished first level.
Notice the construction in the back with workers preparing rebar for the next level while the web of sticks on the level below is holding the highest floor as the concrete cures.

Hard to believe, but this is inside where everything looks new, shiny, and freshly finished.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


We consider ourselves fortunate indeed because our apartment came with a washing machine.  Meet our LG Turbodrum.

Isn't our utility room a thing of beauty?

It's not large, or particularly efficient but it sings a jaunty tune as it powers on, moves through the cycle, and finishes up 44 minutes later.  

We don't, however, have a dryer.  I don't think anyone here does.  (Don't quote me on that.)  Instead, we have a super-duper drying rack.  The amount of laundry I can hang on that thing is amazing.

Each morning, after Danny & the kids head off to school, I join the women of India, and our apartment complex, in hanging my laundry out to dry.  If the morning isn't too smokey, it goes on the balcony.  It's one of my favorite times of the day.  Watching the beautiful saris as they are hung, and flutter in the breeze, is such a lovely part of living in India.

 The balconies across the way fill with colors and prints.  They cling to the railings with small plastic clips, that keep the saris from flying away in the fairly constant breeze that blows through Hyderabad.  

Sometimes, after the day long process that is a load of laundry, I find a pesky spot that I somehow missed.  If that happens, I pull out this....
I put a little splash on the stain, and it starts to turn white & bubble.  I'm a little scared to find out what the ingredients are, so for now, ignorance is bliss.  All I know is that this stuff has gotten out every stain I've used it on.  I might have to smuggle some back to the States for my grandma.  It would delight her stain-fighting soul.

I'm perfectly content to continue doing our laundry while we live here in India, but have happily discovered the Iron-Wallah in the basement of our building.  No more ironing for me!  Today, for a whopping 50 rupees, ($1) we had three pairs of pants, and four shirts ironed to perfection, with an ancient coal-filled iron.  Thank you, India! 

Monday, April 8, 2013


My family is always searching for the perfect rice spoon. Here's our first type purchased in India.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Which Switch?

We live in a small three bedroom apartment.  There are 84 light/fan switches.  84?!  That's a lot of wiring for a place that has power outages almost hourly.  We probably use about 15 of the switches.   Some are still mysteries.  Why is the light for the bathroom just inside the bathroom door but the switch for the same bathroom's fan is in the dining room?  Is this a safety feature to let you air out the bathroom before entering? 

We are getting better now but for a few weeks there was a chorus of clicks each night at bed time as we tried to find the right switches to turn off all the lights.  M finally took pity on her parents and added some post-it note labels. My favorite label: "random light."  Also, the switches are not consistent in direction.  In this picture the "random light" is off but everything else is on. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A weather report

It has been 37 days since we arrived in Hyderabad.  Having left behind a brutally cold winter in Utah, the hot weather here felt like heaven.  And then, it got hotter.  And hotter.  Each day, the thermometer creeps up a little higher, and the hot, sticky feeling on the backs of your knees lasts a little longer.  We have entered summer on the Deccan Plateau.

A few weeks ago, I posted this screen shot of our upcoming week in weather.  I was warned by friends here that it really hadn't gotten hot yet. 
Here is the forecast now.

Despite the heat, today we experienced something altogether new for us in Hyderabad.

Today, it RAINED!  There was wind, thunder, lightening and then the rain came down, like bullets.

I watched as neighbors emerged onto their balconies to sit and enjoy the cooler air.  Gentlemen read newspapers, women brushed and braided each others hair.  Birds splashed in puddles.  Waves formed in the swimming pool.  The power went out, and then went out again.  I slid open our balcony doors, and let the fresh air fill our little apartment.  It was the perfect little break from the heat that we have ahead of us for the next two months.

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fools' Cobras

Monday morning is a great time for April 1st.  Students are not quite on their game, especially after an extended break.  That's why it worked so well to use the end of Monday morning announcements to fool the students from grades 2 and up.  I can't take credit for the idea (thanks go to Mark and Emma) but I did execute it by telling the students we had been requested by the school gardener to help with a continuing pest problem as the small lawn at the back of the school had been inhabited by a nest of baby cobras.  The students are aware that the gardener's small flock of turkeys were originally brought in to deal with a cobra problem so it was a surprisingly believable scenario.

I had the students line up on one end of the small field and instructed them to walk slowly in a steady line with loud stomps to scare the baby cobras up out of their new burrows under the grass.  We equipped a few students with badminton racquets and instructed them to flick in baby cobras that emerged towards me as had a garbage can in which I would collect the snakes.  The students slowly stomped in a nice line from one end to the other as a backed up with my empty garbage can.

No cobras.

A few students seemed to be catching on as we turned around for another go but most were still following directions closely.  I then said that we should try stomping and shouting.  We started walking back and I told them to shout, suggesting that a chant of "April Fools" would be best.  The stomping quickly stopped, the line broke up, and the students laughed their way back to class.  A great start to the week.

Unfortunately my iphone died last week so I didn't get a picture but I wonder if any of the students were picturing this?