Friday, July 31, 2009


I believe we have crossed the threshold of getting back into work. I will now leave the "setting up our lives in the US" to Tara and to my nights and weekends.

I spent the day uptown meeting with people about where is the best place to use my skills. Getting some good signals from a couple of groups, and I am grateful that I am able to find work in this environment.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Giddy with the efficiency of it all

Day 30...

Today was a good day in some key ways. At one point I was what one might call "giddy".

Today I had two goals - set up our YMCA membership, which required the routing number from our checking account. I also delivered a tax document to the state of North Carolina in an overnight delivery mode.

In India, dealing with a bank *and* an organization that you want to join all in the same day is a daunting task. The chaotic lines (or lack of lines) at the bank followed and the requests for "a passport size photo" can mean that you get nothing done and must spend time on the phone for days on end trying to get done that which you want to get done. Often it never happens. Or at least not easily.

Here, everywhere I went they had a process that they had thought through that could help me. At the Bank I explained that we don't have checks for our checking account because we have been overseas. The woman explained that they have a form for that scenario and she would be glad to print out a form with our account's routing number. She did so, and I was then armed with the document that I needed.

Then I went to the Harris YMCA to register the family for membership. I explained that we would be joining after not being members for two years. She said, "Let me look for you in the system> Ah, yes, we still have a record of you. Tara, Liam, Aidan and Jonah will also be joining? Great. Let's pro-rate tomorrow's fee for July, pay August in full and then you can pay the membership fee. You can start going to any area YMCA tomorrow morning." Debit card came out, got swiped and we were done.

She then read the form from the Bank and said, "Yes, we can use this in lieu of a canceled check and we will auto-draft your monthly payment on the first of every month. You're all set."

At this point I was sort of laughing inside. Could this really all be happening like this? You mean I didn't need to have a photo of each family member? You mean there is no old guy that I needed to meet with after sitting outside of his office for two hours? And where, may I ask, are all of the rubber stamps??

Wow. That easy?

Then, I went to the US Postal Service and stood in line. That alone was a pleasure. But the greatest part was that although the line fed into two women sitting at the front of the office, there was a third guy walking up the each customer in the line and asking what it was that they needed. As we explained, one by one, what our need was, he recommended that we either stay in line or come with him. I was brought out of the line and given special service, as my document needed to be sent overnight.

He pulled me aside and explained what form to fill out, gave me the routing number for the package and explained that I could track it online. He also said, "We commit that the package will arrive no later than 11:48 tomorrow."

"Great, are we done?" I asked.

"Yup, you're all set."

At this point I couldn't contain my smile. You mean you won't hold onto the package for a day for no apparent reason?

It just kept getting better.

Now, I am not disparaging India. It's just that India and the US are greatly contrasted in their understanding of who is the customer and what the customer expects and deserves.

So, as we deal with an emotional roller coaster called repatriation, we look for whatever we can to feel happy about.

Yesterday had some really nice attributes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Letting life here sink in....

Day 29...

Still letting life sink in slowly, mostly because we have not slowed down to let it happen yet. We're still running around and setting up our life here. It's amazing the apparatus that we usually have in place to make our life functional..... It's a gradual process, but when you have to go through it in a short period of time, it's noticeably different.


Since we have been back we have gotten new driver's licenses, set up our vehicle insurance, turned on the electricity to our house, gotten the kids enrolled in school, moved into an apartment, rented a second car, set up membership at the YMCA near our home, called a guy to establish , scheduled a vet appointment for Ashoka, made doctor's appointments for the kids, got internet established in the apartment, made a visit to the bank, and a variety of other things - it's too long a list to enumerate. And we have barely started to get the things done that we need to...

All of that in the midst of visiting family in a different part of the country.

It's been exhausting, in many ways.

Already we have become sad a few times. We really enjoyed the life we had in India. It's made us feel alive in ways we had not before.

Tara keeps saying that she's not sure how it will be living here. It is indeed a place where everyone is busy all of the time (meaning, less true community). I have been working to remind her that this city and this country have been very good to us. I also have reminded her that she is different and will perhaps find others who want to dedicate time to community in ways that she'll frankly need going forth.

Of course, I am far along enough in this process to know that she just wanted to have her concerns heard, so I listened for most of what she expressed. ;-)

The boys are doing well, I am again amazed at their adaptability. They are just ready for whatever is next. You really can learn a great deal from watching children....

Overall, there is a constant elephant in the room..... the promise of new life, the sadness at a way of life recently lost.

Is it an elephant? Maybe it's not. Maybe it is. But as far as what the future holds, we are definitely blind....

As the poem goes....

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“ ‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!?

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In Ballantyne

Day 28...

Wow, I am really, really glad that that drive is over. Nerves are indeed like knots - both can get frayed. We were indeed frayed yesterday.

Best part of the drive was when the entire family (minus me, driver) fell asleep in the late afternoon. For like almost two hours. Delightful.

So, we are staying in Camden Ballantyne, pictured from space, above. This is where the adjustment may get interesting. This is a pretty different place. Ashoka and I went on a jog this morning. It's a nice morning, very beautiful. We were pretty much the only people on foot. This segment off the city is dedicated to somewhat higher-end shopping centers, a country club/resort/spa and office parks. It is very Charlotte - which is to say landscaped, orderly, clean.

I am writing you from Ballantyne Village. I am enjoying a harvest muffin and a steaming cup o' joe at Dilworth Coffee. Nice morning.... and I am anonymous here.

The place where we are staying is an apartment on the third floor of one of the buildings. It rained last night and Tara and I sat out on our porch and watched it rain. She turned to me at one point and laughed, saying - "We're right back to where we started." We lived in an apartment here in town 15 years ago. It was not as nice as the one where we are now staying, but it was fine and it also had a deck.

I laughed when she said this.

It may look like a big circle, but I am still interested to see what the true shape of this journey will be.....

The place where we are staying is the first time in a month that we can say we have our own place. In fact, we discussed this last night - we have been living in a place where other people come in and out for the last two years. Maids, hotel workers, family members with whom we were staying...... We have not been truly alone like this for a long time.

We don't want to sound ungrateful for all that we have had - but it definitely feels right now that we are enjoying a little privacy and quietness. Tara wiped down a table this morning, removing crumbs from it in the knowledge that no one else was going to do it. It looked different.....

Not to say the rest of us won't be doing our fair share!

It feels nice to be back in some ways.

It's just like it was..... yet, not.....

Monday, July 27, 2009


Day 27...

....we are sure now....

things getting clearer even as we realize that we cannot make it... [gasp, cough,cough]

pretty sure we never should have had children....

we like each other.... [gasp, sputter].... now it's clear that we don't like them.....

send for help

been in a mini van with them for 22 cumulative hours.... never knew life could be this cruel....

send for help

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Day 26... spent in..... car....

cannot stand children... [gasp] make it.... [cough]

send for help

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Day 25... small boy named Aidan. Seems to have enjoyed himself immensely.

Friday, July 24, 2009

In New Hampshire

Day 24...

We're in yet a new destination.... New Hampshire. We pick up Aidan tomorrow morning.

This is the webcam of Weir's Beach, near where we are located. It's a working man's paradise, with people of middling means up from Boston for a break. On Weir's Beach is a boardwalk from the turn of the last century, complete with bumper car arcades, video game arcades with games that span the 1940's to the 1980's and store that cater to motorcyclists. Laconia is the town in New England that hosts a "bike week" every year, so there is an ongoing influx of guys riding "hogs" into town (Harley Davidson motorcycles). Like India, this place is interesting to me because it is so very different - from me, from Charlotte, from surrounding towns, etc.

Our next home is a service apartment in Charlotte. It'll be interesting to live in an apartment for the first time in a while....

Our move back to the US has not really sunk in yet due to the fact that we're still a bit in "vacation" mode. It's hard to let our prior/new life sink in while living out of a suitcase.

We enjoyed seeing Tara's family in Hamden. Now - reunite the family and start the long drive home.....

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Look who it is....

Day 23...

Shawn and Lilly, our first guests in our home in India, were at a party recently where we were. It was good to see them. If you follow this blog exceptionally closely, you will remember that they were on their way to do charity work in eastern AP in early 2008 and connected with us through a mutual friend. It was great to get their stories about what happened after they left our place. They had quite an experience working to help an orphanage. They found ample opportunity, such as a lack of proper water facilities, so they focused on building a piping system for the orphanage. Shawn's stories about how looking for the right parts was a day-to-day adventure, where he didn't know what was going to be found on a daily basis brought me back to India a bit. Additionally, an Australian couple had visited this same orphanage at some point before Lilly and Shawn and had worked on helping with the diet practices and nutrition of the place.

It felt good to hear about this good work being done by global trekkers and good to see these folks again. Nice seeing Shawn and Lilly and thanks for the picture!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A few more snaps...

Day 22...

^ One of my Dad's gardens in Vermont.

^ Portulaca on the dock.

^ Ashoka in "stay" mode.

^ Liam on the inner tube. Probably the last year he'll be able to fit in it....

^ Jonah is still a good fit for the inner tube and we whipped him around. Despite this, he continued to give us the signal to increase the speed.

^ Liam spotting Jonah.

The below pictures show where Liam, Jonah and I went cliff diving at Bristol Falls. Tara took the pictures and was having heavy heart convulsions, so the pictures are inconclusive. SHe had to retreat back to the car.

As the pictures were not that great, I'll show one where Liam and Jonah were jumping off two years ago, Jonah's first time. Here it is.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dave's Car

Day 21...

Tara's dad built a car. Not just a car that comes in a kit. A car made of spare parts. From the ground up. Based upon knowledge that he has accrued for decades. Incredible. It is truly a skill that I can appreciate as being brilliant. It humbles me. I cannot even change oil in a car.

The state of Connecticut has accepted this car for use on the roads, it has its "sticker". Because no specific maker exists except Dave, it is listed as a "composite car".

Many of the parts are from much older cars. But since it is an aggregation of older parts, it cannot be listed as antique.

I get the distinct sense there is a connection to India here, to stick with the theme of the blog. In India, people can create amazing things out of five paper clips, nine hangers and four rolls of tape. You can see the most ingenious things happening on the streets of India - not that Dave's car is to be compared to those things, it's not like that. This is an advanced version of the same impulse, though - taking that which has been discarded and seeing in it opportunity.

I got a ride in the car, as did Liam. Fantastic. It's really as cool as it looks.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tara and Friends

Day 20...

Tara and I went to a picnic where we connected with some of Tara's life-long friends. Here's a picture.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Day 19...

We just spent the day in a picnic at Tara's family. It was a great time, although the camera is acting up again. Pictures to follow of recent events, but not of the picnic, sorry!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

In Connecticut

Day 18...

So, we are back in Connecticut. It's nice.

One observation about American life - it seems obsessed with race. Here's what I mean....

The US has representatives from every country on Earth within its borders. If you were to seek out a guy from Togo, a woman from the Marshall Islands, a family from Tajikistan, a young boy from Namibia and an elderly woman from New Guinea - they are all out there. We are probably the most representative nation on Earth from the perspective of countries that have citizens living within America at this moment.

Perhaps the UK and a few other places have this same distinction, perhaps not. Not sure.


With all of those specific details of America's ethnicity melting pot pushed aside, we generally function day-to-day with a very simple idea in place - this is the idea that there are three main groups of Americans - white people, black people and Hispanics.

Now, white Americans got tagged with the moniker "Anglos" or "Anglo Americans" about ten years ago by the news media like CNN. It didn't stick and we're all probably better off by not having a label.

Blacks, around the same time got the title "African Americans", which has taken. It is a fine label, although I have a deep suspicion that this was established by white professorial types. I don't use it. Too many syllables.

Then the third "group" is Hispanics, which are now often called "Latinos". The term "Hispanic" was used to refer to the fact that Hispaniola, the eastern half of the island that is Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is where Columbus landed. I never really understood this, but the term took with me.

So, this is how most Americans see the ethno-racial landscape around them. Buried within this description is a much more nuances, complicated set of perceptions - admiration, fears, misunderstanding, enjoyment, unity and a million other things. I am more or less free of seeing the world through generalizations, and look at people as people. There exists in me some vestiges of the society I grew up in, but I would count it as a significant change in my person that I don't function with standard American racial perceptions in place, for the most part.

70% of the US is white, about 16% is Hispanic and 14% black. When Hispanics grew more numerous than blacks, I remember the media getting all ablaze about what it meant. It's sort of funny to think back on this.

Additionally, American Muslims outnumbered American Jews for the first time in the late 1990's. There was a small murmur about this, as well.

For the most part, I have been an interested observer in this ongoing dynamic in the US, which borders on an obsession, although key events can bring out ugly thoughts. If I am completely honest, the Los Angeles riots and 9/11 were difficult days for everyone and I probably felt my fair share of negative and fearful thoughts those days. But, generally, I don't live in a racial mindset.

So, how does this connect to a blog about India?

India taught me a great deal about this question of race and ethnicity and the idea of human differentiation in general. In a very Indian way, India is confusing on this subject. It is at once the most diverse-yet-unified land I have ever seen, where people of all walks of life go about their business in an incredibly diverse nation with remarkable freedom from strife - yet - there is a constant undercurrent of caste, religion, class, state allegiance, ethnicity, etc. that infuses so much of life there. It's a confusing set of dynamics in India. It can be accurately described as a place of great harmony and a place of extreme dischord.

I can surely say that in India I learned once and for all that people are, in point of fact, people.

So, returning to the US has been amazing in this way.

Michael Jackson died and the American media has been feeding on the story ever since. He was a black guy who became a white guy (sort of) and spent some of his time singing about unity. But in the current American environment there are ongoing questions and subtle comments and the occasional slander across racial lines in the media about what Michael "was made to endure". Was it the beatings from his black father that made him seek an increasingly white visage, or did the white-run media and establishment push this guy to the point that they killed him - intentionally or unintentionally?

And so it goes, while they drone on and on from CNN and Fox News about this.


Then, there are the Hispanic people who clean our property and public spaces, watch our children and work incredibly hard in menial jobs throughout the country. And some demagogues like Pat Buchanan state that we are "under siege" and in a "state of emergency". It is with some irony that we say this, as the ancestors of these same people have been here for thousands upon thousands of years. Most Hispanics are at least partly indigenous Americans, what we have generally called "Indians".

History is funny, no? "American Indians".

Racial politics and racialism in general are like an industry here in America.

We spend time dissecting ourselves across ethnic and racial lines to a degree that is perhaps unhealthy. It's ongoing and all of the time. And until I had a chance to get away from it for a few years, I didn't realize how pervasive it is.

So, I will state that this has been a very interesting thing to witness with new eyes - America's racial climate. And all of this still goes on in a country that just elected a black President for the first time.


Friday, July 17, 2009

On the road again....

Day 17...

We're on the road again. I am writing this from the Calatayud home, where Sarah, a faithful reader of this blog, lives. We're in Avon, Ct. Ashoka made a new friend, Snowflake, seen below. Snowflake's breed is undetermined, but he is thought to be beaglesque, at least. So, Ashoka was enjoying memories of his friend from India, Pete.

During the drive this morning we thought about what was next in the whole process. We went over what was next for the house and what is next for my work and this was generally discussed in the context of my parents trying to sell their house in Vermont. It has been 27 years that we have had the house and it has always been a part of the life we have lead. I was in eighth grade when we got it. And it has been part of our family life since then...

Here are some pictures of us there in 2006.

In the current downturn, it is possible that they may not sell it for a few years - here's to hope! ;-)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Day 16...

Day 16...

I was asked what I missed about India. I am sure I will be asked this often.

My answers:

1. Having help with my life.

2. The unique and different nature of it all.

3. An excellent social life spent in good community with interesting people.

Sometimes the big questions have short and sweet answers.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Where we are

Day 15...

We are at the location of the red circle.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Day 14...

I went out to look at the Camp Brookwoods site this morning to see if we get some good glimpses of the boat house or the front lawn. We found that Aidan's picture was on the front page of the camp's website. It is above. It was a nice surprise!

Monday, July 13, 2009


Day 13...

I'll let the pictures tell most of the story for this blog entry. Vermont is great. All of the photos are taken from my family's porch, right on Lake Bomoseen.

^ First, here are Uncle Bill and Aunt Sara in Philly. Aunt Sara follows the blog with some regularity, so here she is *on* the blog. Note their monstrous dog, Bonzo. Huge Rottweiler, but a nice dog. Ashoka and the kids got along famously with him.

^ Tara with my Mom and Dad.

^ On Lake Bomoseen, a gaggle of Canadian geese were swimming by. Aidan and Jonah went out to the boat to get a closer look. It's a mundane event on the lake, but an exciting one for boys returning from India.

^ The boys on the boat.

^ Aidan with binoculars.

^ Then a storm rolled in. It was breathtaking. The pictures below are of break that followed the rain and preceded sunset. Click on the images for a better view. Without a doubt, the pictures don't do justice to how amazing it was.

Then, seen below, the lake calmed to a glass-like state. Beautiful.

What follows is a sunset from another night. Unreal. Note - the thing that looks like a UFO is actually a bottom of a hummingbird feeder.