Thursday, December 24, 2009

short run

This morning my sister-in-law Joie and I went for a short run in the Himalayas. She's thinking about training for a summer race and has a most beautiful place to run.

Soon we return to Delhi and then it's on to Agra and Jaipur. Our time on the mountain is coming to a close.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

a bazaar, a tour and a hike

Life on the mountain is quiet. I enjoy that. Yesterday we had a tour of Woodstock School - a truly beautiful campus - and saw Nate's classroom, the rooms where Joie taught for a couple of years, and the class that Will and Annie sometimes join. The day before yesterday, we wandered down to the bazaar in Mussoorie and ate lunch (Rogan Josh in India mmm). Today we took a walk up to the top of the mountain for a stop at a little store before returning for tea. We've met a few of Nate and Joie's friends here too and will spend Christmas day with some Woodstock families. After a few years of hearing about Woodstock and Mussoorie, it's nice to see where Nate and Joie have made their home.

Friday, December 18, 2009

India at last!

This is the trip we've been waiting for and we are sooo happy to be at Redwood Cottage with the India Burchells! Our trip went well. Claire is quite the trooper and I can only hope she's so content when she's thirteen and we make her pack her own carry-on. My brother Nate met us at the Delhi airport and shuttled us to our hotel, took us out for buttered naan bread and paneer, led the way through the train station this morning, and did all the negotiating with our taxi driver up the mountain. We are ever grateful.

Will and Annie are adorable. Joie is a generous and thoughtful sister-in-law, making sure we're comfortable here. And we've all got awhile to enjoy each other's company. I'm looking forward to a few hikes, walking into town for dinner, baking Christmas cookies, playing with my niece and nephew - oh, just soaking this time up! Last night over dinner, I told Nate that it didn't seem that much time had passed since we last saw each other. That's a good feeling. We are happy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

for the folks back home

tomorrow, tomorrow!

On our way to India tomorrow! In addition to what Nate and Joie have written about India in their blogs (and what immediately pops into my mind is that the monsoon is beautiful and way too many desserts taste of cumin), this is what I know: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald, and Slumdog Millionaire. Justin and I started to work our way through a six part epic long PBS (or BBC?) documentary on India, hosted by Michael Wood and his casually worn blue scarf; I made it as far as the Silk Road. I'll probably finish the rest of the series in January. In the meantime, I'll be on the ground.

What I am most excited about is spending Christmas with family. Will, Annie and Claire will get a chance to meet and play together. Joie and I will cook and bake together. Nate and Justin will talk about manly things together. We'll all play games, take walks, drink chai, and enjoy a rest from school. After Christmas we'll meet up with Joie's sister and then all of us will travel to the Taj Mahal, which is on Justin's List of Things To See.

We are grateful. Christmas in India. Now I'm getting giddy!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Three days of subbing sophomore English!

Four days until we fly to India!

And how many minutes until bedtime!?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

stress fracture prevention

I just read this interesting article about stress fracture prevention in the NY Times online Sunday Magazine. Considering my tibia were speckled with healed stress fractures (stress reactions, one doctor called them) at an MRI I had a few years ago, I was happy to read two basic ways to reduce my chances of getting another one:

1. Increase my calf muscle mass (even by just a little bit!)

2. Shorten my stride

I've actually been playing around with my stride for, oh, five years, trying to find a stride that will keep me running into my sixties (seventies? eighties?). It's difficult to judge my own stride. I think I'll ask Justin to play sports medicine doctor and film me front, side, and back so I can take a look. Right now, I'm feeling good with my stride but a couple of days ago (after reading an article about economical strides), I shortened my stride a bit and felt like I could run faster with just that slight change. Very interesting to the runner me.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

turkey tracks

When I was younger, we would stop by my Great-Grandma Larson's house after church to visit. We'd eat a little "light lunch" as she'd call our meal of bread and butter, jam on the table, muenster cheese, and a vegetable. She'd offer 7Up and make my Dad a pot of coffee. Sunday afternoons are designed for naps and reading thick papers with special sections and coupons. Sunday afternoons are made for lazy walks or decorating a Christmas tree. And some Sunday afternoons are for playing Turkey Tracks.

Great-Grandma would find her box of dominoes and we'd spread them on the table, face down, and draw ten. (Was it ten?) At opposite corners there'd be draw piles. It's been so long that I cannot remember all of the rules, but the dominoes soon marched out in tracks and whoever went out won the round (smiley faces drawn in the zeros), while the rest of us racked up points from the dominoes we hadn't played. At some point in the game, Great-Grandma would push her chair back and get up slowly, walk the few steps to her kitchen and return with a plate of butterscotch cookies or her homemade doughnuts or a small bowl of Andes chocolate mints. We'd have refills of 7Up or milk and Dad would pour another cup of coffee for himself and we'd play Turkey Tracks through its twelve rounds. (Was is twelve?)

Sometimes I was bored out of my mind playing Turkey Tracks. Sometimes I giggled at anything. Sometimes I almost won a game. We didn't talk much during Turkey Tracks. Great-Grandma might mention some family news or talk about her friends. We'd dutifully tell her about our schoolwork or sports. I don't think I thought about Great-Grandma being a particularly interesting person until later on in high school and then I started asking her to show me all the old photos and tell me all the old stories. I took notes. I wrote down the names of the people in the photographs so that we would all remember who they were when she died. I have those papers lost in a box of my papers and I need to find them and give them to my Grandma who has all those old pictures.

There is a lot I need to do yet. Which is why, in my mind, my daily life is beginning to look like a Turkey Track game: branch off of branch off of branch sprawling across a smooth dining table, until bedtime when I scoop my dominoes into their box. I will always play another round tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

perhaps not so directionless

Yesterday on the bus ride home, staring out the window at the passing cars and sand and sand-colored buildings, I wondered what I am doing here. When we left the States a couple of years ago, Justin and I were self-righteously adamant that we weren't going to live a materialistic, tied-down, American existence maxing out our credit cards and zoning out in front of the tv. Oh, we were so totally unfair about Americans and happy to be mistaken for Canadians (because we all know that none of them are in debt or zoning out, right?).

And in the last couple of years, we've been talking a lot about how we want to live. As if, any day now, we'll start; as if we aren't already in the middle of living.

So yesterday when I looked at my desert and plastic bags floating on the breeze, and I thought what am I doing here? I wondered what it'd be like to return to the States. This is something that expats talk about: returning or not returning and all the reasons behind either decision.

There is so much of the world that we want to see yet. And I'm not sure why that is part of us now; I'm not sure why we want to see so much of this world. Where does that desire come from?

Now that we aren't living in the States, it's much easier for me to think that I could be happy there. I wasn't very happy where we last lived (think: crying every other day), but Justin and I have a wishlist of Where We Could Settle If/When We Return. It's a short list, but a good list. Right now, we're trying to decide what might be best for us as a family. We are hoping that this is the year we establish our direction. Are we planning to stay abroad for five, ten, twenty years? Do we return only to leave again (are we allowed to do that?)? Financially, how do we want to invest? Real estate around the world?

And we do think about family and friends in the States. Since this is shaping up to be our life, not just a lark, we've started talking about how often we even want to return for vacations. It's very awkward. If we stay abroad, visiting is a give and take and we cannot be the only ones traveling. A few older, experienced expats have said that to us. At some point, us being abroad does not mean it is solely our responsibility to make a visit happen. Like I said, awkward.

Kuwait is Kuwait. I'm not enthralled but I also haven't given myself a year. I don't expect to be enthralled. But we're meeting wonderful people and we're comfortable. I feel electrically alive in a desert and I certainly didn't expect that. I feel like I am learning to see people in a new way. Perhaps that alone is why I am here. Because I needed to learn to see people in a new way.