Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve

When we lived in Falls Church, I rode the shuttle every morning to work. It was a short commute, usually lasting twenty minutes. On the way to work I would listen to Pandora Radio…specifically, the Rogue Wave channel as Rogue Wave is one of my favorite bands.

Other people on the shuttle read the news, checked email, and studied flashcards, but, invariably, everyone was glued to one wireless device or another while I gazed out the window…firstly, at snow flurries, then summer showers, and lastly, at trees with leaves changing colors. I haven’t listened to Rogue Wave radio since we left Northern Virginia almost two long months ago.

Recently, I tried to pull up Pandora on my iPhone, but Pandora doesn’t have a license in India. I put the iPhone away, discouraged. Until I realized I could pull it up on my laptop, connecting to the internet through a VPN which disguised my computer and made it seem to the internet that I was dialing up from the U.S. instead of India. But, unfortunately, my computer has less than stellar sound quality. No sub-woofers or tweeters here. I have iPhone speakers, but no way to connect them to my laptop. I found a random cord in a plastic zip-lock bag. It was a cord that came with the treadmill we bought right before we left the U.S. to connect an iPod to the treadmill’s auxiliary jack (it’s a pretty fancy treadmill). Low and behold, the cord fit! I was back in business.

Sunday mornings, Elise has been intrepidly leaving the house at 5:45 a.m. and joining a photowalk somewhere in the city of Chennai. You can see the fruit of her efforts in the margins of this blog. That leaves me solo piloting for most of Sunday mornings. Hardly an unpleasant, but rarely an easy task. By way of example, my homemade Martha Stewart pancakes that I made last Sunday morning turned out more like Olympic discuses after I mistakenly substituted baking powder for baking soda. I miss Bisquik.

It is interesting to me how certain sounds and smells can sometimes more easily evoke a time and place than sights can. Whenever I smell gas, I am still reminded of Sitti’s kitchen in West Palm, the only gas cooking appliances I had really ever been around until we moved into our home in Brazil. When I plugged in Rogue Wave radio last Sunday morning, I was immediately transported back in time a few short months to our home in Falls Church…and all the good and bad memories of the place came flooding back.

I immediately scooped Clementine up in my arms and we danced around the kitchen much the same way we used to in our small two-bedroom corporate housing apartment. Her muscle memory, too, is keen and she easily fell into step.

Music, especially familiar music, can bring a sense of calm, happiness, and reassurance. I had been without these things until I returned from my work trip to Bangalore a week and a half ago. The music helped.
Never let it be said that moving your family halfway across the world is easy. It is not logistically easy, nor is it a mental exercise for the faint of heart. The jet lag alone is reason enough to think twice. I don’t know exactly what it was about Bangalore…I don’t know what happened there…but once I had returned I felt much more at peace with the decision to bring my family to India.

The first month we were here I was incredibly anxious. I was quick to temper and slow to patience. I wasn’t sure if I had done the right thing.

I was stressed out.

I wasn’t sure if the change would be good for my family or if everyone would contract dengue fever and we would spend the next two years medivac-ing back and forth between Chennai and Singapore or, worse, the States.  On some intuitive level, I thought India would be good for us. It looked good on paper…a good international school for Sam to start kindergarten in…good, challenging pre-school for Peter…affordable domestic staff to help around the house and let Elise and I re-establish the connection we had in Brazil, but that had frayed under the stress of living in Washington, D.C….no end to the wonders awaiting Elise’s photographic eye. But being good on paper is one thing. Being good in reality was something entirely different, and the long commute to and from Sam’s school, the pollution, and the mosquitoes made me second guess myself. It would only be natural to wonder if I had done the right thing, and there is no way to know if one of the children won’t get sick. In India, it is a near certainty.

I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. When it didn’t, I finally relaxed.

The reason it didn’t drop is because Elise didn’t let it. My sometimes unrealistic optimism would not have been enough to get us through those difficult first weeks. It was going to take no-nonsense, pragmatic adaptability. Which she demonstrated in spades. All I have to do is go to work. My exposure to India is a fraction of what hers is. I am incredibly proud of the way she has embraced our new home. I don’t know anyone else who could have dove in headfirst the way she has. I know, already, India is loving her back.

Before we came to India, I had heard it said that it is a place that you either love or hate. You either can’t get enough of it, it brings about in you an insatiable appetite and appreciation for noise, color, smells and tea or it revolts and frustrates you.

It is cliché to say that India will change our lives or become a seminal turning point. It surely will, but in as of yet unfathomable ways.

When I turned on Rogue Wave radio, I was reminded of another seminal moment, another life changing span of time that will often be overlooked as I think our time in Falls Church was much more difficult than our time in Chennai and India ever will be and will go much further in shaping our lives. It has already gone further in bringing Elise and I even closer together than India ever could…for all the good and the bad that happened in that tiny, two-bedroom shit corporate housing apartment overlooking a cemetery that was either freezing cold or boiling hot and…….

…filled with love.

It goes without saying that 2014 will be a very, very interesting year.

Happy New Year, Hewie.

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