Wednesday, January 30, 2008

India ~ Fact or Fiction?

We leave for India in ONE day. I made the decision about one week ago to stop reading Internet articles about India because I was scaring myself out of traveling anywhere but to the local store. I read about the customs officials at the airport attempting to extort money from unsuspecting people - just your run of the mill bribery. Fact or fiction? I have read numerous reports which are very disturbing about dowries and bride burning. Laws have been passed in India to protect women from this type of atrocity so is it fact or fiction? I ended my Internet reading when I was reading about the type of toilets they use in India ~ which are quite different from those here in the USA. It was the part about bribing monkeys with a banana so they will clean your backside since toilet paper is not used ~ that made me quit the Internet cold turkey. Fact or fiction? I don't care ~ I can assure you that no monkey is coming near my bum.

Now here are some facts about India. It is the 7th largest country in the world. There are 28 states in India. Hyderabad, where we will be staying, is in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Hyderabad is known as the City of Pearls. The temperature today in Hyderabad was 90 degrees while it was only 40 degrees here. There are over one billion people in India while the USA has over 300 million people. Below is a link to a Youtube video about Hyderbad which I would like to share with you:
Amazing Hyderabad

And I will end with a few more facts. I love my daughter dearly and unconditionally. That is a fact. She has made the decision to marry a man from another country but from the same world. I support her decision ~ all facts. Will they have issues due to the differences in their cultures? Probably. Do all married couples ever have issues to work through? Definitely. Another fact is that yesterday a business associate of my husband felt the need to tell us that if my daughter and her fiancee ever have children and then if they have marital issues, her Indian husband will "grab the kid and run back to India and you will never see your grandchild again." Thanks, Ray. I am sure custody issues never occur in the United States. Then today a local real estate agent came to our office and I was telling her about our daughter's upcoming wedding in India. She leaned over my desk and said, "Well, I am sure you've heard about the man who set fire to his daughter-in-law because she was from Canada. I think the man was from India. He didn't agree with the marriage." For once, I was at a loss for words.
Tomorrow we leave for India. I am going to treasure each moment and have the adventure of a lifetime. I am going to look for the good in India and its people. I will watch my beautiful daughter get married to the man she loves. I will be teary ~ and that is a fact.

Friday, January 25, 2008

This one's for you, Miss Sargent!

The only positive memory I have of my third grade teacher, Miss Sargent, involves her wardrobe. Everyday she wore solid colored suits with spiked high heels of matching colors. I can remember being impressed at how her shoe color always matched her suits. Lilac suit meant lilac shoes. Yellow shoes, yellow suit. Red suit, yep you guessed it, red shoes. I don't know how she did it but when I was eight years old I always thought it would be cool to have a closet full of matching suits and shoes. Now it is 42 years later and I am lucky to find two shoes that match each other, never mind having them match any of my outfits.

One of Miss Sargent's responsibilities was to teach us cursive handwriting. We third graders equated learning how to write in cursive with being a grown-up. We pretty much figured we could do anything we wanted as soon as we mastered the fancy squiggles and wiggles that were involved in cursive writing.

Miss Sargent ruled with an iron fist. When it was penmanship time, we sat at attention. "Sit with your spine straight, both feet flat on the floor." Our pencil tips were so sharp they could pierce an earlobe. The blank paper was passed out to each student and we waited for the Drill Sargent, I mean Miss Sargent,to give further directions.

"Students, when writing cursive you will slant your papers to the right so your pencil can flow across the paper and you will create the perfect squiggles and wiggles. You will hold your pencil lightly between these fingers - just like this - and then you will let your pencil glide across the paper. Now practice what I have just shown you."

I couldn't wait to get started. I was almost teary as I prepared to write for the first time in cursive. I sat up straight at my desk, trying to make my feet reach the floor. I chewed on my bottom lip as I guided my pencil onto the blank page. I was seconds away from becoming a grown-up.

Miss Sargent reached for my paper from behind. "Debra, you are left- handed. You must position your paper this way," and she slanted my paper in the opposite direction from everyone else in the classroom. "Debra, you are left -handed. You must not hold your pencil in the graceful position. You must grip it and then turn your hand and arm in an awkward position - a position which is very uncomfortable."

No way. I am not going to hold my paper differently than my right handed classmates. I will not turn my entire arm inside out. I feel like every eyeball is staring at me. I turn my paper back to its original position - just like everyone else. There. I once again hold the pencil lightly and gracefully. I prepare to create a perfect squiggle on my paper.

I can feel her standing behind me before I see her. She clears her throat. I continue as though I were right-handed and hard of hearing. Maybe if I write fast she will see the potential I have as a wanna-be right handed cursive writer but... no. She once again reaches over my shoulder, repositions my paper and tells me once again how to grip my pencil in my fist.

I look over at my best friend, Shelley, and watch as she creates perfect squiggles and wiggles on her paper. She is writing beautiful cursive letters across the page. She looks up from her masterpiece and glances over at me. I stare back down at my empty piece of paper.

I decide I was going down with a fight. There was no way I was backing down. Even though I am left handed I have rights. No one can tell me how to hold my paper. This is a free country. Miss Sargent tapped the ruler on the corner of my desk. What the heck.

Now, she never hit me with the ruler. I am sure she wouldn't dare after reading my school records. I was hoping she had read about what happened to me in kindergarten. That would probably make her think twice about slapping me with the ruler, I hoped. Now you might be wondering what in the world happened in kindergarten class. Well, it was the first day of school and my mom left me there - in the classroom with my strange teacher and all of these strange children and I became very scared. So I started crying, well, maybe it would be classified as screaming. Then I threw myself onto the floor and was kicking my legs around. I probably should have had a little more self-control since I was wearing a dress. Anyway, the teacher made the mistake of trying to calm me down and somehow, by mistake, I bit her on the ankle. She called my mother to come and pick me up - immediately. I was so happy to see my mom walk through those doors -although I quickly learned that my mom was not as happy to see me.

So... I figured Miss Sargent probably knew I was a biter so I didn't think she would tap me with the ruler but I was smart enough not to take any chances. I caved in.

I turned the paper in the appropriate position for left handed people. I gripped my pencil and grimaced as I turned my arm into the awkward curved position. I looked up at Miss Sargent and met her stare. We glared at each other -and then I wrote my first letters in cursive writing, cursing the fact that I was left handed. I felt like an outsider.

And now, Miss Sargent, I head for India. Out of respect to their customs, I will not eat with my left hand, only my right. I have been practicing for months and I am getting pretty good at using my right hand, Miss Sargent. I have the proper position and am quite at ease. I think I might be ambidextrous. But there is a time in India when it is appropriate to use my left hand, Miss Sargent, and when I do, I will think of you !

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Indian Pink Ladies

I was once criticized for raising daughters that were too strong willed and independent. My response, then and now, is that they need to have a strong will and the confidence to be independent so they can stand on their own two feet in this world. I am happy to report that both of my daughters are happy, healthy and successful in both their personal and professional lifes.

Demands for equal rights for women, cries for equal pay for women, burning bras ... this was all a part of my teenage years. It was also over 30 years ago, oh my. Wouldn't you think and hope that now, in the 21st century, women the world over would have the right to be strong-willed and independent, if they so wish to be? We've come a long way, baby, right? You might find the following article interesting :
BBC NEWS South Asia India's 'pink' vigilante women

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Typhoid in my Belly

Countdown has begun. In twelve days I leave for the biggest travel adventure of my life. I went on my first plane trip when I was 32 years old. Before that I had only been to the New England states and Washington DC. I have since traveled a bit more but never to a country where a visa or immunizations were required. India, here I come!

The immunization process started in August when I met with my doctor to discuss the shots which are considered necessary when traveling to India. I tried to focus on the doctor's words and not on the needles which were laying on the tray next to her. I bravely rolled up my sleeves and shut my eyes as two nurses tag teamed me. "Okay now, this is going to pinch just a bit. Make sure you remember to breath." Right. I held my breath as they injected MMR, Polio, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B into my arm. Ouch.

My arms soon recovered. I then booked a trip to the travel clinic to discuss the more exotic immunizations that my doctor did not have access to but felt I should consider. On the list were Japanese Encephalitis, Preventative Rabies, Yellow Fever, and Typhoid. I was momentarily tempted to ignore getting these shots but decided I had best head to the travel doc especially when I read about wild monkeys in Delhi attacking people without provocation. Since animals naturally are attracted to me I figured I had better be prepared in case a monkey decides to jump on my back.

The travel doctor was very helpful. I was happy to find out that I didn't need the Yellow Fever or Japanese Encephalitis shots - relief rushed to my arms. He told me to just avoid wild dogs and monkeys. My list was getting shorter by the second. My arms started to relax. Ooh, bicep, don't relax too quickly. The doctor strongly recommends the typhoid vaccine. My bicep shrinks as it tries to hide. Wait - good news, the typhoid vaccine is a live oral vaccine. All I have to do is take four pills -one a day, every other day. Much easier than a shot, or so I thought.

The typhoid pill must be taken with cold water on an empty stomach. No problem. Day one - I swallow the first pill. I try not to think about the live typhoid I had just swallowed. I went about my day waiting for serious side effects to take place. Nothing.

Day two - I am a bit grouchy about taking this pill. I want to eat now. I don't want to wait another hour. Every time I open the refrigerator I see the box containing the vaccine capsules sitting on the shelf. Printed on the side in bold letters I read 'LIVE Typhoid Oral Vaccine'. Gross.

I almost 'forgot' to take the third pill. I don't think I can do this. What does live typhoid look like? Is it crawling around in my belly? I am tempted to break the capsule open so I can see the live typhoid. Does it look like the mold that grows on the forgotten food way back in my refrigerator? Is it green and fuzzy or purple with orange cilia wiggling around? I finally swallow the pill but I have to fight the gag reflex. When it is time to eat I can't because the live typhoid is in my belly. I pray it doesn't mutate.

Today I took my last live typhoid pill. The other three typhoids are sitting in my belly waiting for their comrade to join them. I close my eyes and try to shut off my imagination. I swallow quickly. I can feel the typhoid do a happy dance in my belly. Orange cilia tickle the lining of my stomach. I try to calm myself and be logical. These typhoid critters are my friends. They are going to protect me. I visualize them as they create a strong defensive fortress in my belly. I will sleep better tonight.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Everyone has an opinion.

We leave for India in 16 days! Our oldest daughter will be getting married there on February 10th, 2008. As excited and happy as we are, I must admit there is a certain amount of trepidation. We have never been to India. Even though we have read a great deal about the country we really don't know what to expect. As I prepare for this adventure, I am reminded of my first pregnancy. When I was pregnant, everyone had an opinion about the upcoming birth, specifically the labor, whether they had given birth themselves or not. Everyone had an opinion about what the sex of the baby would be by the shape of my belly. I heard stories of the 47 day labor and stories of the baby born while a lady was sitting on the toilet. I finally stopped listening because if I didn't I was going to just cross my legs and never let the child be born.

I have heard some interesting comments made to me about India. "Oooh, watch out for the plague." Last confirmed outbreak of the plague in India was in 1994. Did you know that there were 10-15 cases of the plague in the USA last year?
"Are you going to wear a burqa?" No, I am not since burqas are worn by women of Islamic faith. I might wear a bindi - the red dot which is placed between your eyes. Traditionally it is worn by married Hindi women. The bindi is believed to retain energy and strengthen concentration. I might be seen wearing a sari or a salwar kameez. A salwar kameez is an outfit consisting of loose trousers and a tunic type top. From what I have seen so far Indian clothing often is made of bright, beautiful fabric with colorful sequins.

Today I was asked to bring back a picture of me riding an elephant. Hmm... I already have one of those. It was taken a few years back at York Wild Kingdom in Maine. Guess it is time to stop listening and just start packing for the adventure of a lifetime!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Blogging Adventure

I have never blogged before so please be patient with me. I have been interested in the world of blogging for quite some time but never dared to take the plunge. I felt comfortable watching from the sidelines, anonymous, with no responsibilities. But for whatever reason today I was motivated to start my 'Nourish the Soul' blog. You would laugh if you knew how long it took me to set up my page. At first I downloaded a picture of some daisies but then decided I didn't want them so ...I hit delete. I sat staring at the computer screen realizing I had just deleted two hours of work. My whole blog page was gone. I was tempted to walk away from the world of blogging right then and there but I persisted and here I am. I still have a great deal to figure out such as what I do next after typing this introduction but I will worry about that later. For now I will savor the moment. I am blogging. I am an official blogger. Now what?
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