30 November 2010

I Broke My Toe

Now, when Muffin leaves her toys laying around and we tell her she'd better pick them up before someone trips and kills themselves, we have evidence to back up the claim. Granted, she's too little to pick up her things so this accident was technically my fault and I didn't exactly kill myself, but the point is it could happen.

Shortly after Mike left for work this morning, I put Muffin in her bouncy seat and placed her in the bathroom while I took my shower. After the shower I took her out of the seat, placed her on the bed in our room, and proceeded to trip on the bouncy seat, jamming the metal bar of a leg in between two toes. I trip on things all the time and have probably broken several toes without even realizing it, so it took me a few minutes before I looked at my foot and realized something was wrong. The fourth toe, the one next to the pinky toe, was sideways. This was more than a stubbed toe; I needed professional help.

I called Mike, who was with our neighbor and their driver. As soon as they got to work, they sent the driver back to our building and the neighbor's wife showed up to help me package up Muffin and go with us to the hospital.

Once we got there, I walked up to the regular admitting desk and they said a doctor couldn't see me until 11:00. It was 9:00. So I walked over to the emergency desk. This wasn't an emergency, but if a doctor had time to check me out, why not give it a try?

Word soon got out that an American was in the hospital, and an American woman with a cute baby at that, and suddenly the service got very good. My friend sat with Muffin while I was whisked back to the xray room. Then in the exam room, my friend and Muffin joined me while a parade of doctors and nurses came in both to explain every little detail and to see the baby. One doctor even took out her phone and started taking pictures of everyone holding Muffin.

The xrays showed a small fracture of the bottom bone and dislocation of the bone on top of it. They popped the toe back into place and wrapped it up using the neighboring toe as a splint. They gave me some pain relievers and told me to come back in one week to have it checked out. I should stay off my feet and elevate my legs for a couple days, and use an ice pack.

All that for less than $40, and we were back home before 11:00. That's great healthcare.

I am so thankful that I had a driver and a friend available to help me, too!

27 November 2010

Mr. Toad's Acceptable Mode of Transportation

Tuk-tuks are fun.

That's what I learned this week.

We have a driver but no car yet. We discovered that regular taxis are difficult to procure and can be inconvenient. But little yellow auto-rickshaws, or autos, which are also called tuk-tuks in some places, litter the streets here and are a cheap, fast transportation option. When we need a ride someplace that's just a little too far to walk, Mike sticks out his arm and like magic an auto pulls up to whisk us away.

I'm sure I'm not the first American to say something along the lines of, "It's like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride." But I can't help it. Riding in one is sort of like being on an amusement park ride. You're encased in a little bubble and you're holding on tight to the railing in front of you. You're concentrating on keeping your hands and feet inside the auto while you zoom through traffic in straight lines, then slow down to a crawl to go around corners without tipping over. There's the smell and the sound of those little engines. There's a pleasant(-feeling, not necessarily -smelling) breeze while you zip along. And they are all painted bright yellow with various designs and pictures.

And if you've had a particularly harrowing shopping experience and you're hot and tired and just want to go home, you can say, "Let's get the tuk-tuk outta here."

25 November 2010

Thankful for the Little Things

My Facebook status this morning:

I should be taking a shower, or baking cookies for tonight's dinner, or wrapping presents to mail home, but instead I've gone for a run and I'm enjoying a quiet cup of coffee, being thankful that Sophie sleeps in later than I do.

Happy Thanksgiving!

21 November 2010

I Hate the Sound of Squeaking in the Night

If Muffin hadn't woken up hungry at three in the morning, I may have slept through all the noise. But she fell asleep unusually early so I wasn't surprised that she needed a mid-night snack.

I brought her into our bed and was feeding her when I heard a crash followed by squeaking and then another crash. "No!!!!!" I silently screamed. Our neighbors had a rat in their kitchen a few weeks ago and I knew it was only a matter of time before a rat found its way into ours. I grew up in old houses in the country, so I'm used to mice getting in the house. I'm also used to having many cats to help keep the mice away. But rats are a different story. Rats are big, dirty, city monsters. And we don't even have one cat with us right now; even if she were here, I'm not sure I'd want her tangling with a dirty city rat.

The noise stopped as suddenly as it started, so I didn't wake up Mike. Until I heard it again. I poked at him until he got up. As I was doing that, though, it occurred to me the rat might not be in our kitchen. Our master bedroom and bathroom butt up against the concierge's kitchen. During the day we constantly hear people in there. So if the rat noise is so loud in our bedroom, maybe it's not in our kitchen but in the concierge's. I made Mike get up and investigate our kitchen. He said everything looked fine. He hadn't heard any squeaking or crashing, but he closed the kitchen door just in case. He came back to bed and I continued feeding Muffin.

Then Mike heard the squeaking for himself. He went back into the kitchen and could hear the squeaking coming from someplace else. The rat was definitely not in our apartment. Phew. I'm not that happy that it's only on the other side of a wall, but for now we're safe.

15 November 2010

Boys Wear Pink

It doesn't bother me too much that people assume Muffin is a boy. Not knowing before she was born if she would be a boy or girl, I bought lots of gender-neutral clothing that ends up looking like boy's clothing if it's not paired with something pink or ruffly. I don't mind pink, but I'm not much of a ruffly girl myself, so Muffin is dressed as a little tomboy most of the time. She's a baby. She looks like a baby. I don't mind if you ask if she's a boy or girl because you can't tell from her clothing. At her age it's impossible to tell without clothing clues.

Here in India, people have been walking up and asking if she's a little boy. I assumed it was because boys are traditionally more celebrated than girls* so the natural tendency was to assume all babies are boys. I stepped up the pink clothing to nudge people along into thinking she's a girl. People went from asking "Boy or girl?" to asking "Boy?" and I'd get looks of surprise when I replied, "No, girl."

Then I learned that boys wear pink here. Baby boys are dressed in pink tunics and their hair is grown out long. So the more pink I added to Muffin's outfits, the more she looked like a boy to people here.

In the long run, it doesn't really matter what color her clothes are. Babies and young children are celebrated here. No, really, it's not just that babies and kids are cute universally. Yesterday was Children's Day, a national holiday where kids are allowed to run around eating more candy than usual. Muffin's cheeks are constantly being pinched by strangers before I can stop them. On the flip side, you don't get looks of reproach when you have a screaming baby out in public.

*I don't know if this is throughout the whole country or only certain regions, but I've heard it's against the law to find out before the birth if the baby is a boy or a girl.

11 November 2010

Some Shopping, etc.

Pay no attention to the electric hot water heater plugged in below the shower head.

Actually, I can't complain too much about this place. For one thing, it's temporary. Hopefully in two or three weeks we'll be in our permanent house. And despite my fear that the electricity and water will mix in a number of ways--the hot water heater in the shower, the washer and dryer being in a semi-enclosed outdoor cubby, the way the power goes out when it rains--I'm able to thank my lucky stars that we have a good place to live.

Yesterday our driver took Muffin and me to Hyper City, a Target-like store on the outskirts of the main part of the city. We had to drive through some depressing neighborhoods to get there. The cows were living in cement bunkers while the people were living in shacks of corrugated metal with tarps for roofs. Both cows and people were sifting through garbage for food. As depressing as it was, I wasn't hit with the crushing sense I was expecting. Everyone told me the poverty will be unbearable in India. I always respond that I've been living in the third-poorest country in the world so I can probably handle it. Maybe I'm hardened, but I suspect what I saw yesterday wasn't anywhere near as bad as I'll see another time. However, the small bit of urban poverty I've seen here seems worse than the provincial poverty you see in Burundi. Maybe it's the sight of cows eating garbage by the side of the road. Cows are by the side of the road in Burundi, too, but they're eating a fair amount of grass.

Hyper City was hyper indeed. A number of shiny, clean shopping malls have sprung up in Hyderabad and Hyper City is in one of them. All of these big modern malls have metal detectors and on top of that, each person coming in is also wanded. Women have to go behind a little curtain to be wanded by a female security officer. This confused me at the airport, but I'm getting the hang of it now. Once you're in the store, though, you'd never know you weren't in Target or Wal-Mart, especially since there are so many American brands. I wanted to wander around the store and browse, but the driver took my list out of my hands and found everything within a few minutes. I don't know if that was because I'm an expat, a woman, or I had a baby with me, or maybe since it was his first day working for us he wanted to give me a good impression. I loved the efficiency and Muffin needed to get home for a snack and a nap so I appreciated the speed as well. But maybe next time I'll assert myself a little more and do some wandering.

Our first shipment of belongings from the United States arrived last night, much sooner than expected. So we now have another whole room full of stuff to avoid unpacking until we move into our permanent home.

09 November 2010

All I need is a nap under a cool fan

I never thought I'd miss the sound of the guards running across the yard to the generator when the electricity went out in Buj. Here, when the power goes out, the concierge busts into the apartment several times to throw switches all over the place. That's much less convenient at ten o'clock at night than waiting for guards to get the generator going.

I know that both in Buj and here we are fortunate enough to have generators that work most of the time. I'm trying to be thankful for what we have. But I'm cranky this morning. The power went out last night just as they were revealing who was going home on Master Chef Australia, one of the few non-Indian tv shows here. It would have been the perfect time to go to sleep, except the concierge kept coming in and out and when the power came back on in the rest of apartment, it stayed off in the bedroom, so the concierge kept coming in and out of that room in particular to flip switches. Eventually the power was back on, which meant the fan was on and the concierge didn't need to come in anymore. I was able to sleep and it felt so good after my sleepless, jetlagged nights. At two in the morning, though, Muffin decided it was time to party. I got her back to sleep at four, laying on top of me, and dozed off again myself only for the two of us to awake in a sweaty mess a couple hours later because the electricity was off again.

Thank goodness the power came on long enough for Mike to make coffee before he left for work.

07 November 2010

First Impressions of Hyderabad

It's not the poverty-stricken India you see in movies, but you can tell the poverty is nearby, just under the surface. It's a big city, so quite a change from Bujumbura, but more orderly and clean than I expected. The traffic sounds aren't bothering me as much as I thought they might, even though they are pretty constant throughout the day and night.

We saw a cow in the road actually crossing at a crosswalk.

The signs are not succinct. I saw the familiar "Children at Play" image, but accompanied by the text, "Stop and Kindly Look, Then Proceed."

I'm totally confused by the twisty roads and by driving on the left-hand side. I'll be making good use of our driver.

Indians aren't afraid to show affection for any baby they see. Muffin's cheeks have been pinched by more strangers in the last few days than the entire previous three months of her life.

The red meat is lamb and sometimes goat.

The papayas are better here than in Bujumbura. It's not mango season yet, but we've heard they're pretty spectacular.

We arrive and the celebrating commences

It was really nice of Hyderabad to have these all-night-long fireworks displays in honor of our arrival. Oh, no, that's not really all for us. We arrived during the Diwali festivial, which is apparently celebrated with quiet family dinners followed by several hours of fireworks from every rooftop in the city. It's actually kind of pretty and would be fun if I weren't so tired from traveling. The Muffin is the only one sleeping through the night, miraculously. (The Diwali decorations are like tacky Christmas decorations so I want to go to one of the bazaars and buy some since I doubt our Christmas decorations will arrive in time.)

We arrived in Delhi late Thursday night and spent all day Friday sleeping in our hotel before our flight to Hyderabad. Because of the holiday, few people were traveling on Friday and most of the H'bad flights were cancelled, ours included. Luckily they kept one going, with all of about ten people on it, which we were able to get on. We really didn't want to spend another night and day in Delhi. We'd been on the road since Monday and we were anxious to start getting settled in a home.

Fireworks and jetlag kept me up on Friday, but Muffin slept through all the madness. Last night I slept a little better. We know how this works. Every day will get a little easier. Thank goodness Muffin has dealt with the stress of traveling by sleeping. It certainly makes the transition easier for Mike and me.

We are temporarily in a furnished apartment until our permanent house is ready. It's hard, wanting to get settled in and unpacked, but knowing we'll be packing up and moving yet again in three weeks or so. The apartment is nice, though, and they bring us breakfast every morning, our choice of Western (omelette and toast) or South Asian (rice pancakes with sweet jelly or savory sauces) and fresh fruit.

Mike starts work tomorrow and I start working with a new housekeeper. I need to figure out how to describe the gluten-free diet to her, she speaking little English and me speaking none of any of the local languages. I'm tired just thinking about it.

02 November 2010

We're moving this week and I'm tweeting along the way. Follow @StephanieSD #move2india

Chapter Six: The Shoemaker: A Tale of Two Cities with Women

For background on the project and to see all the chapters at once, go to the tag A Tale of Two Cities Project . Chapter Six: The Shoemak...