Friday, February 27, 2015

Mental Health Day

Before Clementine went to bed on Wednesday night, she complained that her ear hurt. She has had a cold for the past week. I feared the worst; that the cold had finally moved into her ears. I gave her some Children's Advil and hoped for the best.

A few hours later--at midnight--she woke up crying for me. Her ears hurt again, but it was too soon to give her more medicine. I tried to comfort her as best I could, but she eventually started crying and there was little I could think to do to soothe her except hold her and let her cry herself back to sleep.

Eventually, she did fall back to sleep only to wake an hour or so later, scratching. She'd been mosquito-bitten by one of the many mosquitoes that had made its way into our house. I put some hydrocortisone cream on it and, again, tried to get her back to sleep. By four in the morning, she was finally back in her bed.

She could have awoken 100% cured and I probably still would've called into work, but as it was she woke up warm, so I did, in fact, email in. Elise is still out of town, making photographic magic in Goa, so I would have to take Clementine to the doctor, something I am happy to do.

I fully expected it to take all day. But somehow, we arrived at the doctor's officer at 9:20 and left forty minutes later. It was even too early to take Clementine to Amadora for ice cream as I had promised her, so we went home, which she was also happy to do.

As we entered our neighborhood, Clementine started to cough and I thought she might throw up in the car. I asked Sundar to pull over. I pulled Clementine out of her car seat. She was hot, and sweat had drenched the back of her shirt; winter is over in Chennai, by the way.

We were close enough to walk home, so I asked Clementine if that is what she wanted to do. She said yes and we started down the street.....with Sundar following us in the car at about 2 kph. I finally turned around and waved him home. This would be only the first of many instances on that day that I felt smothered by our domestic help.

I am acutely aware that I will get no sympathy with this line of writing, and how could I possibly complain about our maid, driver and nanny being too attentive or too helpful?! Who even has a maid, driver and nanny. I never in my life imagined employing a maid, driver and nanny. But, wait. That's not all. We have a gardener, too.

When we got home, I planted Clementine in front of the TV while I ran to pick up Peter from school. Before I left, I did put her down for a nap. When Pete and I got home, he wolfed down the lunch I had packed for him earlier that morning, and we lied down in his bed for naps.

Five minutes later, Clementine woke up from her nap, crying.

I rushed into he room and scooped her up. Before I left, I told Peter I would be right back; he doesn't ever seem to nap, unless I am next to him (also napping), blocking him in.

I took her to my bed and cradled her in my arms. She started to drift off to sleep.

Then, Vasanthi came in and started cleaning the master bath. Water splashing. Scrubbing. Flushing. Then, she turned the ceiling fan on full blast to dry everything. I thought a helicopter was landing next to us. In my mind, I was chanting the same mantra, "Go away. Go away. Go away." I didn't care if the bathroom did smell like piss until Monday. All I wanted was for Clementine to go back to sleep.

She did...I slowly, carefully extricated myself from her grasp and rejoined Peter. A few minutes later, she woke up crying. I laid down next to her and we both fell asleep.

When I woke, Peter told me he slept, but I didn't believe him. The pile of books on the floor beside his bed totally gave him away. At least, he stayed in his bed for an hour and a half.

Both Clementine and I were rejuvenated upon waking. I started making beer and ice cream. But not beer ice cream. That was going to be my Facebook update, but I couldn't reveal to my peers that I was doing something other than suffering insufferably because my daughter was up all night with an earache.

This is the first job I've ever had when a mental health day every once in awhile seems to help. I can't go into all the reasons why here, but I can say with confidence that it is not because I live in India or because most of my daily interactions are with Indians. Quite the opposite, in fact. I will go as far to say that most of my work frustrations--if not all--come from the Americans I work with and not with any Indians at all.

I brewed a triple IPA and made chocolate chip cookie ice cream. I wrote a blog post. I got to spend a lot of time with my kids. I played 'the bracelet game'.

I did, "Daddy, do that thing where everything is really hard and you have to say, 'Ugh!' and 'Hmmm!'"

Though I slept well, I woke up this morning tense. I went to the kitchen sink, the first thing I do most mornings, and became incomprehensibly infuriated because the soap dispenser had more water in it than dish soap.


Okay. Breathe deep. I went to work feeling much the same.

But after I helped a Tibetan woman go see her father who had stomach cancer and was refusing chemo, I put things in perspective.

A co-worker who I had thought just had a weak stomach recently revealed that her mother often espoused mental health days. I will never question her emailing in again.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

"Let it Go"

The past couple of weeks have seemed incredible, insanely busy. Both Elise and I are swamped with work and with kids.

Yes, in the middle of it all, we did set aside four days to take the kids to see the Taj Mahal. Pictures to come. In my mind, if we did nothing else--saw nothing else--we were going to go see the Taj Mahal. We waited a year to do it--really, until we couldn't wait anymore--hoping that the kids (at least one or two of them) will remember it.

We set aside four days to see one thing, spacing out the travel and taking our time, the only way, truly, we were going to make it with three young kids, flying from Delhi to Chennai one day, driving from Delhi to Agra the next, driving back from Agra to Delhi the third, and finally, on the fourth day, flying back to Chennai.

I could tell you more about the trip, but a photo--especially a photo of the Taj Mahal--is worth a thousand words. Suffice it to say, it was an exciting, crazy, exhausting adventure. And I can safely say that I will remember as much Peter's breath on my hip as he drifted off to sleep at night, four of us piled into one queen bed, two distinct puffs of air, one, steadily, from each nostril, as I will the Taj Mahal. I plan to write more about the trip soon.

In the the past few weeks, we have started bidding on our next assignment after India. No hints. I don't want to jinx ourselves. Compared to our peers our bidding season is mercifully short, and after a year of speculating where we might end up, it seems a bit anti-climatic.

Elise's photos have been featured not once, but twice on Conde Nast Traveler's Instagram feed. She is in Goa this week at the Magnum Photographer's workshop.

Clementine is sick; we just got back from the doctor's office with the diagnosis of a double ear infection. I had a feeling there had to be a reason she was in my bed from midnight until 3:30 a.m. and it wasn't just because she missed her mother, though there was that, too. We all do.

And all the kids have fallen in love with the Disney movie "Frozen". Peter and Clementine are both equally drawn to princesses and act out scenes from the movie though they have 'only' scene the movie three times. The song is catchy, and there could be worse songs to have to listen to three dozen times a day!