Shana Tova! Happy New Year!

One thing we've learned from traveling around the world is that Israelis are ubiquitous - they're everywhere. Including Chennai!

Last week at a committee meeting I met another woman who just arrived in town. In our quick introduction we exchanged names, arrival dates, and previous locations. After hearing we just came from Israel she asked the tell-tale question, "Are You Jewish?" In the next thirty seconds she gathered our information, made a shiddoch for her son, and told us that we were spending Rosh Hashanah dinner with her family and some friends of theirs. Well okay then.

Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year. The celebration of this holiday is marked with solemnity, as it is the day on which the whole world is judged for the coming year. Traditionally we eat apples dipped in honey, a symbol of our wish for a sweet new year. However, at our dinner tonight, we also ate dates and pomegranates, pumpkin, spinach, and leek latkes, and bread sprinkled with sugar. We said prayers I hadn't heard as our hosts were Sephardic Israelis, with traditions far deeper than I had been exposed.

Our dinner group started off small. Four Jewish families (three of which were Israeli), and a close Indian couple of the hosts. By the time we left, the table was crammed with Italians, Indians, Canadian, and American couples, all wanting to ring in the Jewish New Year with a bowl of chicken soup with kreplach, home made gefilte fish, Moroccan chicken and fish, Israeli salads, and sweet wine. It was a wonderful evening filled with warmth, new friends, and a hint of familiarity.

L'Shana Tova Tikatev V'taihatem. May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

The hosts table - clearly not large enough for everyone who joined! ~
The Prayer Book...

Home made gefilte fish... just like mama used to pour out of a jar!


Inquiring Minds Wanted To Know...

Here is what the water distiller looks like. It sits atop the counter in the far corner of the kitchen, perched between the tile wall and the extra freezer. The second photo shows what the top of the distiller looks like... the key player in the whole "cleaning" part of the distiller. Remember, I only learned how to unscrew the lid on the top of the distiller, and screw it back on. :)

Below are tools used in our garden. On the left you have the traditional broom. It is what everyone uses to sweep the driveway, floors, steps, etc. It's amazing to see people hunched over all day long using these... I can't imagine how painful their backs must be. On the right is what my gardener uses to cut the grass and trim the trees. We don't have a lawnmower - this is as close to one as it gets!

Ahhhhh... my laundry room. It was previously downstairs in my kitchen. I just didn't feel that cooking next to my clothes was a good idea, so we were able to get it moved. This room is situated outside one of the bedrooms in an enclosed space on the roof. While it will definitely be inconvenient during the rainy season, it's a much bigger space, and the only thing I have to contend with now are the lizards... and occasional bee.

Welcome to monsoon season! It poured tonight, and my street flooded. It was dark when I took this, so obviously the picture doesn't do it justice. But this is my driveway leading out to the street, and about a foot of water streaming about. And yes, I was standing in it to take the photo. The last photo is of the girls last weekend at the school swim pool. They had a great time soaking in the sun and swimming about.


Money, Money, Money, Money.... MONEY!

Well the case of the missing bag has finally taken a turn for the positive. In the last 2 days both Lufthansa Airlines AND USAA have completed their paperwork and are sending me checks to cover the entire contents of my bag at 100% of their value.... to the tune of many thousands of dollars. Amazing? Perhaps. Am I excited? Abso-freakin-lutely!!!!

While the money doesn't remotely make up for the inconvenience of having to re-purchase everything in it, it sure does make it easier on the pocket book.

Can I just say that this totally makes up for my week of having diarrhea at a stranger's house, Sheridan getting extremely car sick, and Riley coming home from school early on Friday because she was "tired" (don't even ask...).

Yeah, totally.


Mid-Week in Review

Well we're down to the final home stretch of Sheridan's two-week term break, though Friday still can't come soon enough. It took Sheridan forever to finally settle in a decent morning routine, only to have it come to an abrupt halt. As the transition to India has been really tough on her, and she's showing it through irrational behaviors, any amount of consistency is helpful!

On Tuesday I went to the Water Distiller Training class where I was to learn how to clean the top tank of the unit. Usually the housemaids handle this tedious process, though as we all know, I still don't have a maid, and my distiller is LONG overdue for a little sanitizing. ... I wasn't feeling too hot that morning, so I called ahead and let the host know that I would be running late. Sure enough when I arrived, it was just me and 10 housemaids. We all crowded into the kitchen around the water distiller while the maintenance man walked us through the cleaning step-by-step. It took about 5 minutes for him to explain how to turn off the machine, take off the lid, and how to pour in the salt. It was at that instant when I felt the first tinge of stomach pain... then the next... Awe crap (literally). I quickly looked over to the host and asked her where the bathrooms were. "Don't wait for me..." was all I said as I rushed off. When I finally returned, the maintenance man was recapping the lid and asking if anyone had any additional questions. Uh yeah... can you go over steps 2 - 9?

Unbelievable. I missed the entire training. And I did my business in a 16 year old boy's bathroom. I'm not sure which part was more frustrating.

Say hello to the new kindergarten - 2nd grade cooking teacher. That's right!! I really wanted to wait until we were completely settled in before I began volunteering for all of the girls school activities. I wanted to get my bearings. Make friends. But when I heard they were looking for help with After School Activities (ASA), especially for the K-2 classes, well I jumped at the chance. Monday afternoon I went in and spoke with the coordinator and told her that a friend of mine mentioned the ASA group may need assistance. I told her that I'd like to teach one of the classes, specifically the K-2 cooking class. Before I could even get the entire sentence out of my mouth, she sat down at her computer and typed my name into the roster. See, they had 12 kids on a waiting list, and with me volunteering, they were able to solidify a new class. Best of all, both Riley AND Sheridan are going to be in it. The class starts in mid-October, and will be just one afternoon a week. I'm really looking forward to it.

Just in case any of you were wondering, Sheridan has NOT grown out of being car sick. It has thankfully been several months since we've had to endure the horrific vomit smell during a long car ride. But she still remembers how to do it like a pro! True to Sheridan form, five minutes before we arrived at our destination today, she threw up everywhere! As we were on our way to a swim play-date, we had towels and her cover-up in the back seat. Hooray for small miracles. I changed her clothes on the side of the road, moved her into Riley's car seat, and we drove on to our new friend's house. She continued her Sheridan-ness at the play date by coloring on their cream marble floors with a bright blue crayon (not the washable kind of course), and just before leaving spilled a tall glass of water all over the floor.

Is it Friday yet?


Take a Tour of Casa de Perlman

I now have the house in relative shape and can finally post photos of various rooms. As you may remember, we live in a concrete bungalow complete with 3 bedrooms, 3 full bathrooms, a play room, an office, a living room/dining room combo, TV nook, and kitchen. We also moved the "laundry room" (which was really just a washer and dryer in my kitchen) into an outside, covered room on my roof.

But enough of the small talk. Without further adu, I give you ... Casa de Perlman

Our TV nook... and the couch we had made for the small area

The Living Room / Dining Room area

The Kitchen
First photo is when you just walk in.
Second photo is taken on the other side of the room.
The white door on the right in the second photo is the door leading into the pantry.

The Play Room

The Office... and the built-in shelving.

The Girls Room - photo taken at different angles.

Our bedroom ~ photos taken again at different angles

More photos of the furniture... and of Sheridan showing the height of the armoire

This is to show the height of all the light switches in our house.
Notice the height of it in the first photo. They are 66 inches off the ground.

After explaining that there was no way the kids could reach them, they agreed to move them down. The second photo is one of the switches that they moved down over 1.5 feet. First they put a huge hole in the wall. Next they put in the new box. Then they filled the hole with cement. Today they're supposed to come back and do the wiring, and repaint it.

Hopefully by tomorrow these new switches will be working and the girls can turn on / off the lights in 6 different rooms.


Oops. Seriously. Oops.

After five and a half years, it finally happened. The day I had long been dreading. The moment I knew I would forever have to change my ways, modify my verbiage, my awareness of who is around me. I'm really not surprised at all that it happened, only that it took as long as it did. Now I have to do some monitoring. Of myself. And my three and a half year old.

Yesterday, while washing our hands at the dentist office, Sheridan said the 'F' word.

I must admit, I do have a bit of a potty mouth. I have been known to drop a few 'F' bombs here and there. Though, if I'm going to incriminate myself any further, I should mention that my favorite word is 'ass'.

So Sheridan had the infamous teeth cleaning appointment yesterday, and before we went into the room, she said she had to use the bathroom. I'm not a fan of using public restrooms here, but from previous experience (the week prior), I knew that the worst thing in this bathroom would be the overwhelming smell of mothballs that they keep floating in the sink.

When she was done we washed our hands. Knowing there weren't any towels to dry them, I jokingly told her to shake, shake, shake them. She thought that was funny and started to laugh...

Then she put her head down, shook her head, and said, "Oh, they're 'F'-ing wet."

My ears immediately perked up and I felt my face go flush. Not sure I heard her correctly, I did what any good mother would do, I asked her to repeat herself.

She looked straight at me, shook her head again and said, "Mommy, my hands are 'F'-ing wet."

I had to gain my composure quickly because my first reaction was to laugh. But since I needed to be the parent here, I grabbed her little innocent face in my hand and told her that we don't talk like that, and if I ever heard her say that again, I would wash her mouth out with soap.

Mine would then be next.

At least she used the word correctly in the sentence, right?


Our "New" Armoire

Well, the armoire is finally done, but it isn't fancy by any means. We bought this monstrosity because we're lacking closet space... not because it was the prettiest piece of furniture we could buy. If you remember, we paid next to nothing for it; though in order for it to pass the threshold into our house, it needed some serious work. A new paint job to be exact.

I originally thought that all I needed to do was spend a few hours scraping off the brown paint, then I could primer it and paint it... in just a day or two's work. Boy was I wrong! The armoire wasn't painted brown, rather it had a waxy exterior that made it virtually impossible to scrape, and was none to easy to remove with paint thinner either. The first weekend we had it, I spent at least 3 hours scrubbing with paint thinner, getting high as a kite, nary making a dent.

Matt finally got fed up and instructed our driver to hire a carpenter who could come to the house and sand it down. He found someone who came the next day, and in about 8 hours and 20 sanding disks later, it was as good as it was going to get.

I spent this weekend primering the thing, and both yesterday and today sponge painting it white. We thought we would white wash it with a hint of turquoise, but once I primered it and saw that the red wax was going to shine through, we left it the original color.

Okay... so it's a little pink. But if you look closely, you'll see it's a weathered pink (I'm grasping at straws here people). Lucky it will blend in with the funky furniture we have in our bedroom. More importantly, Matt couldn't care less as he knows he now has a place to hang his clothes (besides the chair, the hamper, and on top of the last 3 boxes in our room.) We'll bring it up tomorrow after it finishes drying. Now I just need to hire 3 men to carry it and pray it fits through the door.

This is the armoire in its original color the day it was delivered.

Here we go after it was sanded down. Notice the inside left door wasn't sanded completely... the carpenter tried and tried, but he couldn't get it off.

The finished product. The armoire has a lot of red shining through,
but mixed with a white paint, it does give off an aire of pink...
especially when the doors are open and you see the inside door that I didn't primer!

Once we get it into the room, I'll snap another photo or two.


Headaches and Highlights

What a week. A long week. An overwhelming week. A week filled with running around and waiting. Endless phone calls and e-mails. Minor irritations and frustrations. No work or school on Monday for Labor Day and Wednesday for Vinayakar Chathurthi.

Here is a brief recap of the week... I won't bore you with all the nitty gritty details, there's too much to write. But here are a few highlights:

After spending several hours last Saturday trying to remove the waxy outer coat of paint from the armoire we bought for Matt, I finally broke down and hired a carpenter to come over and sand it down. It took him an entire day to do it.... and it probably could have used another few hours. I have since primer-ed the inside of it, and am waiting for a break in the action to begin painting the outside. Hopefully I'll finish it tomorrow.

I met with the Head of School earlier this week to discuss the bus schedule; more specifically, the end of the day drop off. While the elementary school day ends at 3:15 pm, the middle school and high school doesn't get out until 3:40 pm. And as there are only 2 buses, the elementary kids have to wait for the middle school and high school kids before they can leave. So they sit with a monitor in the cafeteria and wait.... for at least 30 minutes, sometimes 40 minutes before they board their bus and head for home. On a good day Riley will be home by 4:35 pm. More often with traffic, she gets home closer to 5 pm. Call me crazy, but I think this is a very long day for a five year old. Now I could go and pick her up every day. However, she LOVES the bus. To her, taking the bus is what going to the "big school" is all about. In the end, my meeting went well, and the Head of School is looking at a few different options to see what he can do.

There are NO lack of work functions and events here. In fact, we went to two evening parties this week, one with kids and the other without. Last night, we had the maid (who on another note, will be starting to work for us in less than 4 weeks) babysit the girls. I'm thrilled I'm waiting for her. I think she's worth the wait!

We've had a lot of work done on our house this week. We had an air conditioning unit put into our kitchen, two air conditioning units fixed, weather stripping put in on all doors and screen doors, pictures and mirrors hung, measurements taken for new vanities in the bathrooms, and a new kitchen countertop. As excited as I am that they're so responsive to our maintenance requests, I do look forward to the day where I don't have anyone in my house... except the dog.

We received a notice that the electricity board of Tamil Nadu has announced a new schedule of "load shedding" for one and one half hours daily for the foreseeable future. That's right, our power will be shut off every-single-day for 1 1/2 hours. Now we do have generators, that take about ten seconds to kick on once the power goes out, to help deliver electricity to our houses during these times. But, when the power goes out it, it turns off all of the A/C units and the computer; neither of which switch back on by themselves once the generator is activated. Of course, these are just the power outages they TELL you about. This doesn't include the other 10 or so times a day that our power goes out.

The week ended on a high note, when at 4:15 pm yesterday, the movers pulled into my driveway and delivered my 34 boxes of consumables! Yeehaw! 1962 pounds of food, toiletries, and dog supplies made their way into my kitchen... only to be put completely away, in our walk-in air conditioned pantry, within a few hours. Yes, we're anal retentive that way. Our items are piled floor to ceiling, and all around in places I can't even photograph. You all asked where we were going to store it. Remember the before photo? Here's where we put it all away. Take a look...


Birthdays and Bindis

Tomorrow is the Indian holiday Vinayakar Chathurthi, also known as the birthday of Ganesha (the elephant headed G-d of wisdom and purity), which is celebrated all across India. Ganesha is famous not only for being a trickster, but also for his sense of humor and his wisdom. He is the foremost G-d of the Hindu pantheon. You'll see him carefully guarding temples and homes, peeping out of calendars and happily gracing marriages and other occasions.

As Sheridan's school is closed tomorrow in observance of the festival, they had a mini celebration today, with each child dressed in Indian attire.

Never wanting to be left out, both Riley and Libby decided to don a Bindi as well, and pose for a few photos.


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle... Repeat

On Saturday morning we attended Sheridan's preschool "End Of The Term" show. The topic was about saving the environment, with the focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling. Ironically, it was the identical theme of our year-end show from our preschool in Israel.

There are around 50 kids who attend the school, and every child's parents and if possible, extended family members, showed up to watch the show. Wow, were there a lot of people! The show started at 9:20 am and lasted a little over an hour... outside... in the 90+ humidity. The power continually fluctuated and went out several times during the show. Did I mention how freaking hot it was outside?

The show was very well put together, with the teachers writing their own scripts, music, and scenes. Each class focused on one topic. The kindergarten class acted out the formation of the solar system, and they even dressed up as planets! The pre-K class (Sheridan's class) focused on reducing waste and keeping the environment clean. The toddler class talked about oxygen, water, and what is needed for people and plants to survive. Heavy stuff for kids, eh?

Sheridan was so excited for the show, she practiced her one line all week... "Together we can work to make it beautiful." She had her costume. She had her line memorized. What she also had was a HUGE case of stage fright. From the second I dropped her off, she began crying. Not her normal "I don't want you to go without kissing me good-bye first" whine. It was a, "Oh my goodness, don't you dare leave me here with all these people or I'm going to LOSE it" scream. I thought it was just silliness, so I left her with her teachers and found a seat up front. That scream never lessened, and when the show began, she came out crying. And didn't stop THE ENTIRE SHOW!

Sadly, half-way through the show, my sweet little girl had to be escorted off stage, for she was sobbing so hard that the teachers' couldn't stand to watch her cry any longer.

About two minutes after the show ended, she came over and gave me a hug, and told me that she was sorry for crying. She was just afraid to be up there... that people were going to laugh at her. Then she put on her shoes and ran around with her friends, laughing and giggling as if nothing ever happened.

But it did happen ... and here's the shaky video clip to prove it! This is Sheridan during her opening song.

And this is the video clip of her class' interpretive dance to the 3 R's. Yup, she's still crying.

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