Friday, November 28, 2008

Cyclone Nisha

kidsinchennai would like to say thanks to all those who have expressed concern for our safety with the tragically still ongoing terrorist strikes in Mumbai. We are all fine, although of course saddened and worried.
We are having other, weather related difficulties - Cyclone Nisha has been causing havoc in Tamil Nadu, the state in which Chennai is located, for the past four days. Rain has been very heavy, and incessant and winds have been quite high at times. The naming of cyclones is quite recent ; from 2004 when 7 nearby countries gave name suggestions to the Indian Meteorological Dept.  Apart from the heavy downpour over the past three days at least 70 people have died so far. In Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu a record was broken for the most rainfall in a single day- 26 inches. Thousands of people have been evacuated following flooding of low lying areas in the state. There is flooding in parts of the Annanagar neighborhood where we live, but we are very fortunate to be in our dry second floor apartment and have limited interruption in electricity. Parts of the state lost power for 3 days. Due to the cyclone, schools throughout the city have been closed for the past 3 days . So Ashwin and Priya have been enjoying a mini Thanksgiving vacation here.
This along with the ongoing terrorist strike in Bombay are difficult times for India. Our thoughts are with all those affected by both natural and man made disasters.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wii Will Wii Will Rock You....

Once we made the decision to spend this year in India, Leann rashly promised Ashwin and Priya that we would get them a Nintendo Wii to play in India. At the time, of course, we didn't realize that Wii's are not sold here in India, and that it would have to be imported from the US. Leann brought the Wii safely to Chennai and it has certainly lived up to our expectations. Ashwin is clearly the expert in all games, although Priya excels in Wii boxing.
We recently had a minor, actually major Wii crisis when I hooked up the Wii console to a new converter (needed as power supplied in India is is 220 volts, not 110). In small letters it said on the converter "not to be used with computers ,TV " etc. But in keeping with my proud tradition of not reading instruction manuals I didn't read that, and proceeded to plug in the Wii. Needless to say, nothing worked. Ashwin was devastated. Leann looked like she wanted to string me up. Luckily I was able to track down a Wii expert here in Chennai, Mr Saravanan , the owner of a video game store called Game Shoppe. He was able to diagnose the problem (fortunately, only the adapter and power cord were fried) and to get a new power cord which rectified the problem. I have an uncomfortable feeling that this story will become part of family lore. Hope you enjoy the Wii pics.
Disclaimer: this blog is not being commercially supported by Nintendo (or anyone else, for that matter). We are working on creating interest in the product, so if anyone from Nintendo is following the blog and is interested in doing so, please let us know.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Infrastructure Problems

So, no major family events this week - no trips, weddings, or presentations (although Ashwin did have exams, and did very well). So, a word about the headaches of day to day life in India. (sorry, no photos here) This week has been rife with problems in day to day services, although most weeks are. The major telecommunications server was down for a few days, so no Internet service. Additionally, almost every day sees a power cut of a few hours - there is a perennial shortage of power here which has worsened in the past couple of months. We are typically without power for a few hours mid-morning every day. We consider ourselves lucky, however, as many homes have cuts a couple of times a day, often at very inconvenient times such as early in the morning and at dinner time. Also, it's much more of a problem for small businesses, folks who work from home, etc. Even some large businesses are affected - this week we read in the paper that one of the largest malls in Chennai has been without power from 10a-10p almost daily. They have a limited backup generator, but that only keeps some lights on - no AC, so as you can imagine, business is down tremendously! The final insult here was that on Wednesday, our tap water went dry. An explanation is in order here - we actually have FOUR types of water available at our apartment. 1 - bottled water for drinking, which is delivered every other day in 20l. bottles, at 70rs/bottle 2- tap water, which comes from the Corporation of Chennai. This is good for washing, bathing, etc, but should not be ingested unless boiled or filtered first, which leads to... 3 - filtered tap water. We have wall mounted filter which we use to filter some of the tap water (#2) for use in cooking, washing fruits and vegetables, rinsing dishes, etc. You could actually drink this water safely, but it has a rather brackish taste, due to the high saline content of the water, so for drinking, go to #1. (also, since the filter is electric powered, if the power is off, you cant use it...) 4-ground water - basically, an emergency backup tank under the apartment with ground/rain water. Can be used in urgent situations for washing/cleaning, but not clean, and only limited amounts available. So, what went this week was #2 (and also #3, since it's filtered #2). And why, you may ask, was there no water from the City? Well - it's a bit complicated, but basically boils down to the fact that instead of distributing the water equally, the city lets some people put their water access point lower on the pipe than other people. So, if you've got clout, or paid a big enough bribe, you get very good water pressure... if not, then your water may be just a trickle. Additionally, since the area that we live in is becoming much more developed, with individual homes being quickly replaced by multi unit buildings, there is a much greater demand for water. So, apparently this week someone upstream from us turned a big faucet on - and ours went off. Now the building is buying water and keeping it in a big tank, until the appropriate official can be bought off, and a new pipe laid. Talk about wasted resources!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Spot Light 2008

Nov 14th, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's (Independent India's First Prime Minister) birthday, is celebrated as Children's Day in India to commemorate his love for children. All over Chennai there have been festivals, competitions, and other special events. At Jessie Moses school there was a week long celebration with special competitions to showcase the students talents. During the Spot Light 2008 Ashwin and Priya took part in various contests.
Ashwin came in 3rd in the poetry contest for his recitation of The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear. Priya qualified for the finals but didn't finish in the top three in either Poetry or in the "fancy dress" category. The recited a poem by Ogden Nash and for the fancy dress contest played shoemaker's wife from 'The Shoemaker and the Elves'. Parents could attend either the preliminary or final rounds of competition - so Prabhu went for the prelims and Leann for the finals. "Fancy dress" (in which the children had to dress up as a story book character and then tell a little about them) was especially entertaining with a full complement of princesses, cap sellers, hunters(one with two live birds!), little pigs and a tortoise!
There was also a Children' s Day service at church and during this special service, Ashwin sang with the children's choir.
Happy Children's Day 2008.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Great Day!

The consul general, commenting on Obama's victory.
Ashwin and Priya with their candidate!
This morning we awoke early and plugged in our laptops. Early returns started trickling in about 0630, IST. At about 0800, instead of heading to school, we took Ashwin and Priya and headed off to the Taj Coromandel Hotel for an election open house given by the US Consulate. A large crowd of expats, NRI's, Indian schoolchildren, consulate personnel and other interested individuals filled the ballroom. We sat in the front row sipping tea and watching the results roll in, and were thrilled when at about 0930 Barack Obama was declared the victor. We stayed to watch his speech, and then went out for a celebratory lunch. There was a large crew of photographers and reporters at the event, and Ashwin was interviewed twice by TV crews. One was the local CNN outlet, so keep your eyes open!

Saturday, November 1, 2008


This past Thursday, October 30th Ashwin celebrated his 9th birthday. He had a fun day - starting with a call from his Nana and Grandpa in Wisconsin. Then, at school he got to wear dress clothes, instead of the usual uniform, and pass out candy to his classmates and teachers. In the evening all the aunts, uncles and cousins in the area gathered for birthday dinner, cake, singing and gifts. Great fun was had by all. Thanks to all of those who came or sent birthday wishes! Next weekend, he will have another party with his friends - the plan is to have pizza, cake and Wii games.