Monthly Archives: May 2015

Our “Little Happys”

Living in another country makes one miss many things they are accustomed to but dwelling on those does not bring happiness.  So, we have tried to find some things here in India that are just simple every day events that we call our “little happys” that bring some joy to us.  So as year two in New Delhi India comes to a close for us (okay so Tyler is going to sweat it out in June alone here), we wanted to share a few of our “little happys” that we have discovered.

WP_20141017_001

Flower Stands:  Flowers are super cheap here and corner flower markets are seen frequently throughout the city.  You can even pick up a bunch of roses off a child walking up and down the aisles of cars at a traffic light stop.  Hailey definitely finds joy in heading over to the flower stand and picking out a nice bouquet.  She just wishes we would indulge in this “little happy” more frequently.

WP_20150320_001

Mother Dairy:  There are ice cream carts peddling their goods throughout the city but according to the boys, Mother Dairy is the best one and they definitely find happiness in the price.  An ice cream cone (a smaller version of a Drumstick) costs a few cents.  We have a larger Mother Dairy location a few minutes walk from our home so every so often, we just stock up on these cones.  The guards and drivers of our building love when we indulge in this little happy because we always return with enough to share with them as well.

WP_20150504_001

Massages:  As we have mentioned in prior blogs, anything that has to do with labor, is inexpensive here in India and as a result, we are indulging in the “little happy” of weekly massages from Madu, a local Indian woman, that comes to our home.  For less than $20 one can get an extremely good hour massage.  This little happy is going to be greatly missed when we leave India.

WP_20150504_003

Our Gym:  One of the purposes for shopping for a ground floor apartment was because the basement sometimes comes with it and we have made a very big “little happy” in our basement with our personal gym.  Everyone in the home makes their way down there at various times and I have to say that it has probably kept our sanity by spending time in the gym.

WP_20140516_002

Fresh Fruit:  The local fruit is incredible here and Tyler loves his morning fruit bowls.  I have definitely become more efficient at cutting mangoes and pomegranates and they are delicious.  If the fruit is locally grown, it is much cheaper than at home, but if you want an imported item, be ready for sticker shock.  We are especially happy when it is mango season!

DSC02618

An Incredible Landlord:  There are plenty of scary “landlord” stories one hears throughout the expat community but we have been given the best landlord.  Household items are of a different quality and build here so we feel very blessed that we have a great landlord that attends to any issues we have very quickly.  I mean, how many times can a brand new dryer need maintenance or the government create new forms we need to submit with our landlord’s signature?  Well, he responds promptly and positively every time.

WP_20150309_001

The “Wow” Factor from the Unexpected:  New Delhi does not disappoint in seeing the “unexpected” and it makes us smile when we see the occasional camel on the road, elephant walking down the street, a bus so stuffed with people the doors won’t close or the family of 5 traveling on a motorcycle..  We definitely get happiness from the unexpected energy and reminders that “Wow!  I live in India.”

But the most recent enormous little happy is that the internet speed has been upgraded in our area!  We can’t tell you how happy that makes our life in so many ways.  Of course it took us inquiring first to pursue the faster connection and then many visits from the provider to finally get it but that is definitely one of our BIG little happys.  Okay, so it fluctuates still by the hour and we really are never getting the speed that they claim, but on those moments when it is faster, we are SO HAPPY!  I am certain year three will reveal even more “little happys” for us to add to the list.

The Trees of Delhi

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Overlooking the “greenery” from a viewing point with the Qutab Minar in the background.

There is tree coverage all over this massive city.  It is incredible to see the old, beautiful trees and when you can get up on a rooftop or higher viewing point within Delhi, you look out and think, “Wow, is there really that much green in this city?”  It amazes me each time I see it.  Trees in Delhi are very important and I will share a  little about the love Delhi has for her trees.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Many trees in Delhi have quite a history and they are beautiful!  This tree is on the Red Fort historical site and could share some great stories if he could talk.

The trees in India are LOVED and some of that stems to the Hindu religion.  Some trees are representative of certain Hindu gods and have spiritual significance.  The Indian people also value the great medicinal importance they gain from these trees.  For example the Neem tree’s bark is used for brushing teeth and cleaning breath.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Forget the toothbrush and tooth paste.  One street vendor selling Neem tree branches for teeth hygiene.

The Peepal tree has such spiritual significance that you will often find it with red ties around its trunks and statues/pictures of a Hindu god placed at its base.  It is also believed to protect from the “evil eye” and prevent bad dreams.

DSC02099
A peepal tree with several Hindu statues laid at its base.

A specific basil plant must be planted in a certain piece of pottery and only designated people of the household are allowed to water the plant.
DSC02118
In the Pottery Village I toured, this potter was finishing up the clay pot that is used only for this special Basil plant that has religious significance.

As millions of people live in this ever growing city and firewood being an important cooking and heating element to certain sections of the population, Delhi has learned to protect her trees.  How do they do this?  Well, the numbering system seems to be one way.  One can drive down roads and see numbers painted on many of the trees.  A second way of protecting those trees is making it illegal to decide to cut down a tree if it is on your personal property.  An owner can go through an extensive process requesting to remove a tree but the end result is usually a “no” for approval.  But what if that tree is bringing up the sidewalk or driveway?  Well, the tree definitely has rights here.  Let me give you an example of how protected they are here.

DSC02954
Numbered trees are a common site ensuring they are not being removed.

This past month, The Times of India newspaper, did a write up on a road in South Delhi that is trying to be widened from 2 lanes to 4 lanes.  (Let me say that the traffic is so backed up here in New Delhi, that the need for that 4 lane road is not even a question.)  So, as the city has contemplated the removal of trees to build this road, they have chosen to risk thousands of lives driving on these streets to save 35 trees that reside in the middle of the road.  As a result we have a road that is more like an obstacle course than city driving.   Warning signs have been placed around trees and reflective paint to help in the evening, but these trees have caused accidents, traffic jams and forced speed reductions to avoid driving into the trees.  Tyler drives this section of road on his way to work and each day both he and the driver have a laugh over the odd decision to leave all these trees throughout the road.

tree in middle of road
Near our neighborhood where they just left the tree right there in the middle of the road. 

I am personally grateful for the green in Delhi adding much beauty and helping fight the massive pollution problem that exists here.  Do I understand the craziness of deciding to leave a tree in a middle of a road or build the fence with a tree included in its path?  No.  But then again, I am realizing there is much to learn here and I am grateful that Delhi does love her trees.

Got Power?

At 11:30 this morning, as I entered a local market store, to buy some milk, I realized all was dark but didn’t even think twice about it.  That is one sign that I have been living in India for a while.  Beyond needing to ask a store employee if someone could read the expiration date on the side of the milk for me, since I could not make it out in the dark, it just seemed like another day in Delhi.

WP_20150505_001
Our large generator at the back of our building.

An infrequent power outage from a storm or power grid issue was an occasional treat to pull out the candles and flashlights back home.  Here in India, everyone gets to experience power outages and let’s just say they are not occasionally.  Fortunately for us, we have a very heavy duty generator that turns on the moment the power fails so it feels like a beat is hardly missed when these occur.  We are one of the fortunate ones — we have power back up.  I must also state that we seem to get very few power outages compared to other parts of Delhi and its surrounding areas.  We have sat in friends’ homes in other parts of the city and had the power go out 5 or 6 times in a couple of hours.  We seem to be residing in an area that gets good power supply and we are grateful for it as we look around and realize how many people do not.

According to an Economist magazine article a few years ago, one-fifth of the world’s population does not have access to electricity and many more have intermittent access.  It is in the villages and rural areas of India where lack of electricity is common.  According to a local newspaper only half of rural India uses electricity as its source of power. So what is the power source?  It’s firewood and kerosene.  In urban areas, over 93% use electricity as their power source.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Quite honestly when I look at the power lines EVERYWHERE I am amazed that through the chaos, our power supply emerges.

In this massive city, the amazing thing to me is when I pass the slum neighborhoods, there is no electricity running to their homes, but satellite dishes are prevalent all over the rooftops.  How do they get their power?  That is definitely a mystery but from what I have been told, they are very creative in running wires to connect with electricity outside of the slum area and tapping in to “someone’s” electricity. I have also heard expats share how they have had to hire some “detective” work on their use of electricity as they notice their bills skyrocket and the mystery reveals that people have tapped into their electrical source.

DSC02600
A slum neighborhood I pass frequently that has satellite dishes all over their rooftops.

So how common do we hear those generators turn on?  We are one of the fortunate ones — we only have it happen a couple of times a week.  The only time it really has affected us is last May, when the temperatures were around 110 degrees and a wind storm knocked down some trees taking the power lines on our street with them.  When our generators take over, the air conditioners do not work so it was a couple of very long, hot days.  It sure does make one appreciate the miracle of electricity and count the blessing of being one of those here in India who has it.

.WP_20140531_007
The trees that knocked down our power lines last May.  Yes, it takes a while to get it all untangled when you have a man climbing the tree with a hand saw to get the work done.

WP_20140531_009

Home Is What You Make It

DSC00129
A typical Delhi home front

Shortly after arriving in India and making New Delhi our new home, there were some aches and pains and complaints about what our new home would really be like.  No, it was not going to look like the home we left, nor have some of the comforts that we never appreciated until now (where’s that garbage disposal?).  When you leave a city with a population of 65,000 and land in a city of over 18 million, “home” is going to be something a little different.  As we transitioned and tried to take a positive view of our situation, we decided that Phillip Phillips song, “Home” was our new song —  “As we roll down this unfamiliar road, Just know you’re not alone, ’cause I’m going to make this place your home.”  We have definitely done our best to make it our home and along the way, more importantly, we have learned quite a bit about the definition of home for a large number of people in the world today.

WP_20131026_003    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Our home In New Delhi (ground floor) vs. our home in San Clemente

60% of the population in New Delhi lives in self-built homes put together with whatever can be found on land that is not necessarily owned. These homes are in a range of neighborhoods from the freeway underpass or sidewalk to something thrown up in a slum neighborhood.  Many individuals find their home to be the servant’s quarters for those whom they work which are located in the back of the apartment buildings.  Drivers, maids, cooks would fall in that group.  These servant quarters are free of rent but they are small — let’s just say our bedroom closet in San Clemente was larger than these living quarters.  For those individuals that can afford rent, those “homes” can consist of a very small concrete room, with a communal bathroom shared with as many as ten other families in the vicinity up to apartments that would be a little closer to what we in America would define as an apartment.

DSC01368
Apartment living in New Delhi

DSC02604
Someone’s home in a slum area.  They just attach 3 walls to one already standing and fashion it out of whatever materials they can find.

DSC02609
A home on the side of a street at the base of some power pylons.

According to a non-profit group, Indo Global Service Society, there about 150,000-300,000 homeless people living in New Delhi.  The government here has about 170 shelters that house about 15,000 people but there are various reasons why a lot of people choose to make their home on the sidewalk or park instead of the shelter.  For example, when you put drug users, alcoholics, and families into one big room, it creates a pretty emotional place.  Theft is a huge problem in the shelters as well as the spread of sickness due to hygiene.

WP_20140825_002
A home at an underpass that I drive by frequently.

So, in April I attended a silent photo auction fundraiser to help support a non-profit group that has developed a “home” for those that have no shelter.  It consists of 5 bamboo sticks, a few metal joins and a canvas cover with some mosquito netting when the side flaps are left open.  It is basically a simple tent.  It can be put up and put down within a few minutes, making it very easy to take your home with you during your work day and it costs $20 to provide this shelter.  This non-profit has been handing them out at a freeway underpass where many of the individuals are sleeping on the pavement and are migrant individuals that have come to Delhi to work as rickshaw pullers, ware sellers, and rag pickers.  They hand these “homes” out free of charge to help improve the living conditions of those who currently define home by the simple clothes on their back and maybe a few items in a bag.

WP_20150417_002
The “home” that was on display at the fundraiser

I have been in all sorts of “homes” during these past two years in India, and I have loved visiting each one.  Most of America would have a hard time finding a way to make some of these living quarters feel like a home, but I love the spirit of the Indians and how they welcome people into their home, want to treat them well, and always have a smile upon their face.  I have been most impressed as I have glanced around at these “homes” to find out what is really important to these people — their family and their religion.  I see it displayed in what they have occupying these very small spaces and am so impressed with their ability to make wherever they are, their home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Some homes up near the base of the Himalayas — definitely different than the city living of New Delhi but jobs and opportunity are very limited.