Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Growing Audience

Elise was recently interviewed by the social media company VSCO, a groundbreaking firm that fuels a worldwide creative movement through a suite of innovative imaging tools and experimental projects.

Her interview is featured in the VSCO Journal here.

In her own words, "It's nothing short of overwhelming to have just realized my photo feature by VSCO's Instagram received 45,000 likes."

You have no idea how exciting it is to see her evolution as a businesswomen and artist. Well, if you are her parents or close relatives, you must have some idea. :)  

I was with her when she took this photo that 45,413 people like. Not counting me. Make that 45,414. But it's not only this photo that I like, or her photography that I love. 

I love that she shares her journey with me and our children. This is only the beginning, and I'm excited--bursting at the seams--to see where her dreams will take us. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Place We Will Never See

I’ve never been to Nepal and I may never go.

It seems as though people have certain places they have always dreamed of going. I know after having visited Colorado as a young boy, I wanted to go back, and I know Elise always dreamed of living in Paris. My mom tells me that I have a cousin who had always dreamed of going to Brazil.

I had never dreamed of going to Nepal. Mostly, because I never could have imagined it actually being a real possibility. But when I started my new job, Nepal became one of those places I wanted to visit. Kathmandu. It sounded about as foreign and exotic as you could imagine. That is had the world’s highest mountains didn’t hurt either.

When Elise and I were putting together our list for our second assignment, Kathmandu was on the list. “How about Kathmandu?” I asked her. Maybe not in those specific words, but I definitely wanted her to consider the possibility.

She shot me down. If not immediately, then pretty close to it. She nor I remember her exact words, but we both distinctly remember having the conversation about Nepal as we sat across from each other at our dining room table in Brazil. She didn’t want to go. She heard they were due for a major earthquake, and while she knew that natural disasters could strike anywhere at any time, she didn’t want to go. End of discussion.

Later, working in Chennai, there was an opportunity to work for a week in Kathmandu, I immediately threw my name in the hat and got it. I didn’t end up making the trip; Elise had an opportunity to travel for work, so I stayed home with the kids. It was the right thing to do. Considering how much she sacrifices for me, not going to Kathmandu was the least I could do. We are still far from even.

But I still wanted to go. I wanted the kids to see the Himalayas. I wanted Elise to have the opportunity to photograph the place, the people, the temples and prayer flags.

Last week, I emailed back and forth with a guide who was putting together a mini-trek for our family this fall. It included short hikes, between four and six hours. We would stay in teahouses at night and sleep in tents under the stars. We would get up early and glimpse the Himalayas in the dawn. The kids would run through the hills, walk, and tire quickly, no doubt. He arranged a porter for Clementine, and I imagined her toted in a basket on the back of a yak.

My own sense of loss is nothing compared with the loss of life and property. Livelihoods have been forever altered. The world—not just me—has suffered a monumental loss.

I have not heard back from the guide since the earthquake. I wonder if he is okay.

I still want to go, but don’t know if we will. I still want the kids to see the mountains, to breathe fresh air, to sleep on the floor of a teahouse, to have the mountain adventure. Maybe we’ll go to North India, maybe we’ll go to Bhutan, but it won’t quite be the same.

Last week, Elise had lunch with her friend Ed, before the quakes. She told me he said he was still in to do Everest Base Camp. I was a little shocked. I hadn’t even realized this was an option. When I told her it was a two-week trek costing $1,500 dollars, the possibility may have come off the table.

We will see Nepal. Some day. But it will never be the same as the place it was. I don’t have a bucket list, but when the kids are in their late teens or early twenties, I want us to all do Everest Base Camp. Elise, too. Someone has to document the trip for posterity. Maybe they will indulge me on my 60th birthday.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tales from Summer Camp--Day 7

"Our smarties are ready to handle formal dinners now. They were taught table manners and eating habits. Dental care was stressed again with a happy song. They made their very own photo frames and are ready with their little Zumba dance."

Okay, we'll see about that.... : ) 

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Long, Sad Day

Friday was a long, sad day.

In my line of work, no one is ever in the same place for more than two to three years at a time. Often, less. We work in one country for a couple of years, before saying goodbye and moving on to the next. One may think it would be difficult to forge friendships in this milieu, people coming, people going, an endless revolving door, but it's often quite the opposite, because in a lot of places, though we may be very different people, in these--sometimes adverse--settings, we have more in common than not, and when forced to work side-by-side in a foreign place, it is possible to forge strong bonds even if you only work with them for a year.

These are exciting times, too, because, of course, departing colleagues will be replaced by new ones. We were especially fortunate our last few months in Brazil, where we made some very cool, new friends just as we left. I still remember the meatballs and manhattens with friends in Brasilia. Knowing that we may make new friends before we leave, makes it hard to believe we, too, will have to leave at some point, and it will make our own departure bittersweet.

Two work colleagues left on Friday. Two more will leave next week. One the week after that.

Last summer, Elise and the kids went back to the States for six weeks to escape the brutal summer heat. I was putting together the July 4th reception for our office and couldn't get away. Those days, too, weere long and sad. There's nothing quite as lonely as coming home to a completely empty, completely silent house...especially when you are used to being greeted by a cacophony of tiny voices. When I was missing my wife and kids desperately, one person stood out as especially supportive. When Elise and the kids were out of town, I volunteered to work every Saturday; what else was I going to do? Sitting in the office on a Saturday, working on the details of the party, he was there, too. I'm not exactly sure why. He didn't have to be, but he worked hard, sometimes too hard, and I appreciated the company.

That summer, he was especially supportive. He would say things like, "You're doing a good job, Paul." It could have been condescending or trite, but I never took it that way. It's not an easy thing to tell others they are doing a good job. You encourage children endlessly, praise them for silly things like taking a good poo, but I don't think as adults we encourage each other enough, especially when the going gets rough.

Oddly, and perhaps surprisingly, diplomats are a bunch of misfits. On the whole, they are a brilliant, but a mostly socially-inept breed. In many ways, it's as though the United States took its smartest and shot them out across the globe, faults intact, and every single one of them that I have met is eccentric, quirky, if not completely professional, compassionate, and capable.

One of my co-workers is an African-American who lived in Japan for seven years and speaks perfect Japanese and Chinese and has a love for Star Wars. Another is a Bangladeshi-American whose parents were Bangladeshi diplomats; he worked for the World Bank. Tom was born to Dutch descendants, spent twenty years in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper, and now runs through the streets of South India barefoot and buys antique cameras off eBay, hoping there is film in it that he can develop. Eric is a vegan and a swimmer. He was born at home in the Pacific Northwest and is a lover of all things Russian.

Earlier on Friday, I had to call an 87 year-old man in Oklahoma to tell him his younger brother had passed away in India. Though the death was not unsuspected, it didn't make the call any easier. And though, it was 2:00 in the morning, the man wanted to talk. I wasn't expecting that. I didn't know what to expect, but the fact that this man needed someone to talk to was clear. I was on the phone for forty minutes, much longer than I thought I would be. He thanked me no less than four times for bearing the heavy responsibility. He asked me where I was from, what I did before I moved to India, where I went to college, if I had any kids. He told me that his son had died earlier in the year from pancreatic cancer. He told me he was in a wheelchair, and though he wasn't as mobile as he would like, he still considered himself fortunate to be alive.

Later that afternoon, I said goodbye to my friend. We shook hands. All that day, without intending to do so, I was capturing our conversations and interactions on a reel in my head, saving them for posterity.

Later that night, I would have to run to the airport. Right before I was to go, the sky opened up, and it rained, an unusual occurence this time of year. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled. Clementine was scared. I don't even know if she had ever heard thunder before. If she had, I am certain she does not remember.

I drove out to the airport to pick up my mom. Lightning flashed around the car. It was as though the gods had suspected and concurred that, indeed, it had been a long, sad day. But even so, it had a happy ending.

Nanny is here, and the next morning--much to the kids' delight--she surprised them by coming down the stairs and knocking on the door; they didn't even know she was coming.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Tales from Summer Camp--Day 5

We have reached the halfway mark of Smart Me and the kids are having fun filled days with back to back activities, planned for them. In today's mechanical world the value of building and nourishing relationships are getting redundant.
Their fine Motor skills must be in tact now.  We have worked with their small muscles on the hand. It is the foundation children need before they learn handwriting. This method improves the muscles in the fingers and hands, strengthens hand grip and developing wrist movement.  Two popular terms that come up with learning about fine motor skills in children are the fist grip and pincer grip (refers to pinching grip).

Day five will stress on the importance of team work, making and building relationships, through a PPT, a story, worksheets, song, and a game. They will create a paper people chain learning togetherness and that "Unity is strength".
Have a great day until tomorrow....

Not sure how I feel about the idea that in our "mechanical world the value of building and nourishing relationships are getting redundant." Especially since they spent the day building relationships. Can't wait to hear from Peter what he actually did today. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tales from Summer Camp--Day 4

"It's been such an amazing interactive three days with the smarties.
It's sheer pleasure to see them falling into their line, shouting out a thank you
or a sorry from time to time and eagerly waiting for their craft activity.
The first Zumba movements are sinking in.
Day four will enhance their kitchen skills, helping around the kitchen, cleaning the
dining table, to name a few.
You will enjoy seeing your lil car cleaner sparkle your car clean.
They will enjoy their first fireless cooking session.
Gratitude is becoming a redundant word these days, the kids will be taught to
express their gratitude to a person of their choice.
Have a great day.
Until tomorrow............"

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Peter's Report Card

Tales from Summer Camp--Day 3

Pete just started a "summer camp" at his usual school. The first two-week session is titled "Smart Me", and he is learning etiquette, manners, and hygenine. We receive a daily email telling us what lessons were taught that day at summer camp.

When we ask Peter what he learned at summer camp, we get the inevitable shrug of the shoulders followed by a mumbled, "Nuthin'." When Elise emailed the headmistress of the school to ask her why Peter's clothes smelled like paint when he came home from camp yesterday, the story she received as a reply had Peter standing outside of a restroom, waiting for a friend to come out. The rest simply doesn't add up.

Between all these sources of information, I really have no idea what happen in Peter's day. I have to take a little piece of this fiction and a little piece of that fiction to splice together a narrative that I hope is somewhere close to reality.

With that, I leave you with Tales from Summer Camp--Day 3:

"Hello Parents,
You must be seeing a smarter child walking into your homes.  Consistency is the key word to success.  Please encourage and motivate them to practice tasks learnt to reach perfection.
 Day three will help enhance some important life skills buttoning, zipping, lacing, polishing shoes and basic sewing.  Self-sufficiency is the primary word in today’s world and that is what aLphabet is wishing and helping your little ones with.  A new art form called Mod Podging is taught for their craft today.  Find out from your kids what it is.
They did learn a new story too.
Have a great day until tomorrow."

Don't worry. I will definitely be asking Pete what Mod Podging is. And I can't wait to see his sewing. If it is anything like his drawing, he's probably already completed sewing his first fall line.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Flag Day: Part Three

Washington, D.C.!