Monthly Archives: August 2013

The American Club

The American Club is as close to an oasis of America that we can find right in the heart of Delhi. Directly across from the American Embassy School lies the very large American Embassy compound.  Within this compound, the American government has created an oasis for American citizens as well as other expats.  Everyone that had come to India for Microsoft had told us to be sure to become a member of the American Club.  So, within the first week, we completed the paperwork, submitted our dues along with several passport sized pictures of each family member.  The application must get approved through the State Department because we enter the Embassy compound.  It can take up to four weeks, we were told, but where we got our application in quickly, and before the rush, we only had to wait 2 1/2 weeks. From speaking with other expats, we have learned that the American government is more generous than others in allowing expats who are not American passport holders to submit an application and become members.

The American Club has a swimming pool

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There are a couple of small playgrounds for children.

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The Club has a gym to work out in and a 4 lane bowling alley.

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An outdoor café is next to the  pool where you can order food and drinks.  A sit down restaurant  with white linen is also available to have dinner.  The menu has some Indian food options but for us Californians, we were happy to see some Mexican dishes as well as other American dishes (okay, so it’s not the same as a Chronic taco but the closest we have found here).  They offer hamburgers which Tyler confirmed with a staff member that it is cow meat, not buffalo meat.  They even have a small Baskin-Robbins stand.

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And possibly the only baseball field in Delhi is found here.  This field is where they host different large events like a 4th of July celebration.

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There are also some rooms for exercise classes, conference rooms as well as  a couple of rooms where they allow Indian vendors to come and display and sell their wares.  They rotate them every couple of weeks. Currently, there is a vendor selling jewelry and one selling rugs.

The American Club has been great to provide a place to hang out.  Conner and Thomas have loved walking over after school to work out at the gym.  Hailey has enjoyed swimming in the pool and we have all enjoyed the restaurant and bowling.  We are so grateful for the American Club and the safe place it provides us to have some fun!

 

 

 

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School Life at the American Embassy School New Delhi

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The American Embassy school in New Delhi is located in the heart of the diplomatic area of New Delhi.  It is located directly across the street from the American Embassy.  It is a 12 acre campus that is a fully enclosed compound with a couple of different gates that are secured with guards that check ID before entering.  Only students, parents and faculty are allowed on the campus.  It is a beautiful campus and when Tyler and I did our exploratory visit in May, it was when we visited this campus that I said to Tyler, “Ok, we can do this!”  It is a sanctuary from the chaos of New Delhi and a place for our children to have an international experience.  Over 40 nationalities are represented on campus.  It is common to hear multiple languages spoken on campus by parents and students.  About 35% of the student body is American but of those Americans, many have lived all over the world.  At a new parent orientation I attended, all continents were represented.

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We started school on August 12th, one week after arriving in New Delhi.  The Saturday prior to the first day of school, we spent all day at school with orientations and tours for elementary, middle and high school.  We have a student in each school so it was a full day event for us.  It is unique in that each year about 1/4 of the students are new.  The school community does so much to help everyone feel welcome and educated in how the school works.  There are about 100-125 students per grade and each school (elementary, middle and high school) are separate campuses.

As we are ready to begin the third week of school (yes, it hurts knowing all of you are still on summer vacation!), I thought it best that each of the children share their thoughts on school so far:

Hailey (our 5th grader): Hailey says “the lunches are great, they have good tire swings, NO homework and the aides in the classroom are overprotective.”  In elementary school there is no homework.  Their philosophy is that students should pursue other interests that develop them as persons outside of school hours.  MANY activities are offered after school.  Hailey has tried out for the 4/5th grade musical, “Harmony High” and is excited for the small part she will have in it.    With teachers and aides, there is a 1 teacher/aide to every 10 children in the classroom.  Hailey’s class is found on the 3rd floor and she gets tired of climbing those stairs several times a day.  She thinks the library is amazing and says she only has one year to read all those books in the elementary library.

ImageThis is a picture of the elementary campus.  Hailey is on the top floor.

Thomas (our 8th grader):  Thomas says, “It’s school!”  He doesn’t care what country you are in, it’s still school.  He loves the freedom to purchase snacks at the kiosks during break and the many choices of fun electives they have here in middle school.  He says there is a heavy Korean population (which is true — they cap each grade at 30% Korean allowed) which makes the table tennis competition fierce!  Middle schoolers are given an iPad and are expected to have it in class each day.  The school is definitely more progressive in making learning virtual.  The school has an amazing swimming pool with diving boards and currently they are doing a swimming unit in PE right now.  Middle and high schoolers are on an 8 period block schedule where they attend 4 classes each day.

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Conner (our 10th grader):  Within the first week, Conner told me “everyone is really nice at school.”  As a parent moving a high schooler that was a great thing to hear.  Within the first week, Conner had several students approach him wanting to recruit him to their sport.  He has already done some soccer scrimmages after school.  He said it was much different playing in this heat and humidity for sure!  The new high school library, completed last year, is the “place to hang out.”  It has great wifi connection and students congregate there frequently.  There is also an “Open Hand” café that the high schoolers can hang out during breaks as well.  Conner has found the teachers to be much more motivated and happier in seeing their students succeed.  The teachers definitely have more resources in this school.  I would say that his average class size is about 15 students.  The high schoolers all receive a MacBook Air to use for classwork.  He tells his dad he is doing “competitive research.”

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The school has a bus system that all children will be able to use to/from school once we move to our permanent location.  Where we currently live, it is not close enough to a bus stop to use it.  For now, the kids get to school about 30 minutes early so the driver can drop them off before he drives Tyler to work.  The driver then brings them home after school.  Where we have just one car, it will be nice for Tyler when we can use the bus so that he has more freedom to arrive at work when he would like.  We love the school and are so grateful that our children could land in such a good place to learn and grow.

Laundry — Airing It Out All Over

Laundry with 4 children has always been something one needs to stay on top of but I have never really minded doing it.  Of course, until now, I have always had a large washing machine AND dryer to make the task of doing laundry easy and relatively quick.  Well, welcome to India!  Yes, most places have a washing machine (small in comparison to what I am used to) and they either have a drying rack or a clothesline or just the balcony ledge of their residence.  If you are a little less lucky, you have the public fence of a park or even a roadside that you can hang your laundry to dry.

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When we arrived in our temporary “furnished” apartment until we get our own shipment from overseas and have settled on a rental contract (which takes a lot of time in India with negotiations, etc.), I asked where the washing facilities were located.  They opened up the back door to a very small patio (we are on the 2nd floor currently) and showed me my lovely new laundry room.

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Yes, it is a front loader, but about half the size of the one I just put in storage.  Dryer?  “Oh, the clothes come out about 90% dry.”  Believe me, there is no magic washing machine here that produces your clothes to be 90% dry but again it is coming from a completely different perspective.  So, I do my small batch of wash and then hang it on my nice aluminum drying rack.  It takes at least a day for it to dry before I can do another small batch of laundry.  Sometimes I try to squeeze a second load on the drying rack.

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Most people here have their clothesline or drying rack outside on their balconies.  For example, my back neighbor, hangs hers up and leaves them there for 2-3 days.  I have not come to terms with doing that yet because (1) with monsoons, the downpour will come immediately and who wants to start over drying it all out again and (2) on occasion, the smell of “trash burning” is so great that who wants to  put on some clothes that smell like you’ve been sitting around a campfire?

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Yes, one of the many things that are on our list of negotiations for our place of residence is that it includes a washer AND dryer.  Having discussed this with other expats, builders really don’t plan when building for the dryer vent — something that will need to be worked out.  Just another fun thing to laugh about when realizing that I am the lucky one — I am living with electricity to be able to use these conveniences instead of doing my wash in some dirty water and air drying it along a park fence.  Ok, so maybe it isn’t so bad!

Daily we have water pouring from the skies yet we miss the ability to really enjoy water.  After cold showers as well as trying to attempt a shower but there was no water, we have learned a few things about water usage in India.

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Each building has water tanks on top of them that hold the water for the different apartments.  (These are some pictures of buildings across the street from where we currently live.  The black tanks are the water tanks.)

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In our kitchen there is a switch we have to turn on daily for about 30 minutes to refill the water for our apartment.  Some of the water comes from the ground well and some comes from the tank sitting on the top of the roof.  There are trucks that come by as needed to refill these water tanks.  If the switch is not turned on daily, you go to turn on a shower and find out there is no water to be had.  We wish someone would have explained that to us a little clearer.  We also learned after I tried taking the first shower when we arrived that unlike the big water heater sitting in our garage at home that automatically produces hot water as it is turned on, each bathroom has a little individual water heater that needs to be turned on about 15 minutes before you want to shower.  You get about 6-8 minutes of warm water for your shower.  If you share a shower, the next person to shower needs to wait about 10 more minutes to get some warm water. (Picture of water heater in bathroom below.)

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What is missed more than the automatic hot water though, is the ability to drink the water.  It is getting old having to brush your teeth with bottled water and make sure that no water enters your mouth during the shower.  The boys have said, “let’s just adapt quicker to India by getting used to the water now.”  But it only takes a little bout of “Delhi belly” (the name given by those at the American school) to realize that our bodies are having enough adjustments even when we are using only bottled water.  When we go into a restaurant, we have to either go without ice in  drink or take a gamble that they really understood us when we asked if the water is filtered for the ice.  I haven’t taken that risk yet but seem to be the one experiencing the most “Delhi belly” in the family currently.

It is not suggested to eat any raw vegetables at restaurants (I miss my salads!) because of the water in which things have been washed.  When Tyler ordered a Subway sandwich for lunch one day at work, he realized there were too many risks in the fresh vegetables to make it worth it after a few bites.  At home, we wash the fruit and vegetables with a vegetable wash that can be purchased in the stores.  It is a solution that kills all the different bacteria, insecticide, fungus, etc.

The American Embassy has a large water treatment plant which makes the American school water safe so my kids can drink out of the water fountain and can eat from the salad bar at school.  Too bad, we can’t brush our teeth there in the morning and night as well.

Perspective

Perspective is the way one see’s something — one’s mental view or outlook of facts and ideas.  It took just a few hours in India to realize how this family from San Clemente California is going to gain a new perspective in life from living in New Delhi, India. 

Just minutes into our arrival, upon exiting the airport at 6:30 a.m., our perspective of humidity was changed forever.  We arrived in monsoon season here when the humidity is at its peak.  The moment the doors of the airport opened to exit the airport, the stifling heat from humidity drenched us.  As we loaded our 11 suitcases and 5 carry-on bags into a small Toyota Innova mini van (a large car by their standards), our children got their first view of what this new place of residence looks like as we drove the 30 minutes to our new temporary residence.  They saw auto rickshaws, bicycle driven taxis, barefooted children knocking on their windows begging for money as we sat at an intersection, lush greenery from all the rain, people sitting on the sides of the street cooking cobs of corn on a small metal plate to sell for their livelihood, school children in uniforms heading off to their Indian schools that had already begun the school year, and yes, we even saw some cows wandering the street.  The sights, sounds and smells are a lot to absorb in that short ride but awakened all of our senses that we are now in a different part of the world where 17% of the world’s population lives. 

Our family is going to gain some new “eyes” during the next three years of living here.  Our perspective of nicely manicured lawns, free time at the beach, grocery stores full of unlimited choices of food, is changing each day as we experience what it is like to live half way around the world.