Saturday, February 26, 2011

Party Planning Made Easy

I'm feeling extremely lazy and perhaps a little more guilty about that laziness than usual. This weekend, tomorrow to be exact, is Lindsay's birthday. Our friend Kristin and I are co-hosting a party tonight for both Lindsay and another friend, Sukhraj, whose birthday was Tuesday. Hosting a party here takes a slightly different effort level than hosting a party in the states.

In the past when I've hosted birthday parties for Lindsay, they've been extremely busy affairs where I've spent the entire day prepping for the party. That prep would start with trips to Costco, the grocery store, and Binny's Beverage Depot. It continues with a day of cooking (back when I used to do that) with Lindsay's Mom and finish by getting the house set up and ready to go. Busy days, to say the least, but I'm going to pat myself on the should and say that I typically do a pretty good job.

Not exactly the same here.

Today, the cook is dealing with all of the food purchasing and preparation. She appears to have a helper (whom I believe is her sister-in-law) in the kitchen with her, so I'm glad someone can help her out. My trusty driver Kailash has been kind enough to find a cooler (in hindsight, probably should have just thrown an extra cooler in the shipment from home) for me and also scout where we need to go to purchase ice. At first he mentioned thinking we'd need to go to the "Toll Plaza Market" (which to be honest, I had never heard of) but found a wine shop at Galleria that would save us some until later in the evening. He also found time to stop and by the wife flowers. I thought it would be a nice touch, you know, since I've been so busy.

While all this has been going on, I've been busy writing and trying to figure out how to organize pictures. We're also expecting a delivery from Sharma Farm, so I can use that as an excuse for why I need to stay close to home. At this point they're two hours late and claiming to just realize that we live in Gurgaon and not Delhi, so I'm thinking that delivery might not take place today.

Regardless, I'm looking forward to a fun party tonight. I'm just glad I could do so much to help get ready for it.

The Glory of Sharma Farm

Thankfully (at least from Lindsay's perspective), we have a shipping container allowance as part of our assignment package. As a result, gone are the days of shopping limited to smaller and more reasonable items like pashminas, wood elephants, and tailored clothing. Enter the days where we can focus our purchasing pursuits on larger items. Larger items, as in, furniture.

At one of the first functions where we met other expats, Lindsay learned of a glorious place where others had been able to find and have restored unique pieces of furniture. Those other expats regaled her with stories of large restored Buddha heads and one-of-a-kind end tables. The name of that place is Sharma Farms.
Unassuming signage can barely contain the glory within.
For some inexplicable reason, it took Lindsay over a year to make the trip to Chhatarpur in south Delhi to the hallowed grounds of Sharma Farm. That didn't stop her from reminding me nearly every weekend that she couldn't wait to go. I wasn't stopping her from going. In fact, with the constant reminders I was almost trying to convince her to go so I wouldn't have to worry about it. My biggest concern that she had built the place up as some sort of bizzaro world furniture utopia. Thankfully, after her first visit while her Mom was here, she walked away impressed. Surprisingly, she walked away with only two smaller orders, a small red end table and a large framed mirror.

Last weekend, I tagged along as she wanted to go back. From what I can tell, the concept of Sharma Farms fairly simple. Walk the aisles, hope to find something that you could picture being restored, and have them restore it to your liking. The first and third pieces of that concept seem easy enough to execute. It's the second part that, upon seeing the glory of Sharma Farms, can be a little intimidating. While walking the aisles I was feeling neither inspired nor imaginative so that second piece was extremely difficult. To add to the intimidation factor, the place is large. I'm not a great estimator of acreage, but suffice to say there are sections after sections stacked high with discarded furniture. I'd be surprised if they knew their inventory.
....and piles....
....and even a piano.
It's an odd retail establishment. There aren't price tags and there are very few salespeople walking around. They basically give their customers free reign of the premises and then you go back to the office when you find something you like. Scattered throughout the grounds are carpenters working to restore selected items. It's a little like walking around a working wood shop piled high with pieces and pieces of furniture.

When asked to describe our home in the U.S., I often tell people that it looks like Pottery Barn has gone to war with Asia. Something tells me that by the end of this assignment, thanks to places like Sharma Farms, Asia will finally claim victory in that war. Though in the spirit of full disclosure, close replications of all the items we've selected can likely be found at your local Pottery Barn.
Restoration in action
Unfortunately, no place in our house for a 30 foot canoe
Easily the largest selection of restored wooden horses I've ever seen

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What's It Like to Have a Cook?

In a word? Awesome.

The title of this post is invariably one of the first questions people from home ask about life in India (it's usually preceded or directly followed by some comment about how difficult it will be for me to adjust to life in the states when this thing is over).
Our cook, Yashoda
The services our cook provides are basically (we don't have a contract or anything, but this is the generally agreed upon workload):
  • One prepared meal per day, Monday through Saturday
  • One pot of coffee each morning with breakfast items set out, Monday through Saturday
  • Laundry (up to but not including putting items in closets) as demand dictates
I recognize laundry isn't technically a cooking service, but we cut a deal. In India, you'll find any number of different combinations of services with domestic help. The services listed above are provided for a reasonable enough monthly expense (which I'm not going to disclose here as there's a chance I'm way overpaying and don't want to look like a complete sap). Said another way, if you're a middle-class American and someone offered you these services for that same reasonable enough monthly expense, you wouldn't bat an eye and you'd sign on the dotted line. Every one of you.

Our schedule is, to say the least, screwy while here on assignment. Our general work hours are noon - 9pm so that we have at least some overlap time with our counterparts in the United States. That being said, there are rare days when we're home earlier, many days when we're home slightly later, some days when we're home significantly later, and fewer days when we get home at the same time. Yashoda, our fearless cook, then has the flexibility to cook at any point in the day and we simply heat up whatever she's made when we get home. And yes, I recognize eating that late at night isn't the healthiest of eating habits. I've come to terms with that.

The second most asked question (and probably the most asked question from people here) is, "What kind of food does she make?" This is a roundabout way for Indians to find out whether or not I'm eating Indian food at home.

She typically will make Indian twice a week or so and some sort of more Western dish the rest. Her vegetarian / non-veg split is probably something like 1/3 compared to 2/3. We didn't really give her any direction before she started and basically said, "just start cooking and we'll tell if you we don't like it." There are definitely things I haven't liked (pizza = excruciatingly bad) and things I like better than others; however, for the most part, she does a very nice job.

She makes her own tortillas (not really that different from Indian breads) so she frequently makes fajitas (we brought a nice little supply of seasoning packets). Other staples include baked macaroni and cheese, butter chicken (her version is really more of a butter chicken / Thai red curry hybrid; regardless, it's delicious), and pasta with homemade sauce. Last week she made bagels. Really good bagels. Last night she made gnocchi. It's tough to compare it to my favorite gnocchi (DiPiero's in Lake Zurich which is likely to never be topped) but I've been at restaurants and had much, much worse gnocchi than what she produced in my kitchen last night.

As a whole, Lindsay and I were extremely lucky to find Yashoda (she was a neighbor's nanny just looking to pick up a mid-day job while she had a break). She speaks excellent English, can read recipes, and can write. These may seem like basic skills that most of us take for granted, but based on some of the other horror stories I've heard and read about domestic help, I couldn't be more grateful. Bottom line, she takes excellent care of us. We're very lucky.

This kind of takes me back to the comment people often make when asking about the cook and the adjustment to "normal" life I'll be forced to make at some point. My reaction to that? I'll appreciate the added time to my days and worry about that when the time comes. I mean, it's still ten months away, plenty of time to worry about that whole adjustment thing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Newly Discovered Option

I have an iPod. It was purchased in 2004. It doesn't have video. It has a gray screen. It stores 20GB, which seemed like an unlimited supply of music when it was purchased. It still works and for that I am grateful. It is, however, old. When you put it next to a new iPod it looks like an Apple IIc sitting next to a Mac PowerBook. All that said, I didn't realize exactly how old it was until the other day.
Even my playlists are old, though just wait when the college kids hear about this band.
The car provided to us here is the Honda City, which is basically a mini Honda Civic. They're relatively new and clean yet fairly basic modes of transport with few frills. Regardless, they get the job done. I recently learned that if you flipped the face of the radio down, it opened a secret compartment with a USB cable. We never really listen to Indian radio so this cable was the opening to a whole new world of listening to music while in the car. To be honest, when you're always in the car with another person, lack of music doesn't really seem like that big of a thing; however, any new discovery (even something as mundane as a USB cable) seems like a bigger deal here than it really is.
My trusty driver Kailash piloting the Honda City
I plugged my iPod into the car and expected instant gratification. The display on the radio said, "Loading...", which as you might expect I took as a good sign. A few seconds later the display switched. It read "Old iPod" and was followed by silence. My dream was dashed. Temporarily.

Not to be defeated, a few days later I remembered (I can be a little slow at times) that the wife had a slightly newer iPod. I went through the routine again. After the display read, "Loading", something magical happened. The iPod started to play. It would only play the playlist that was previously playing but alas there was music. I was fairly certain I could at least change the song by hitting the "forward" button the radio, but when you're being chauffered around, it can be a little awkward to reach into the front seat. Plus, I can't say "next song" in Hindi and didn't feel like I really needed to bother the driver to change the song. Regardless, I was happy to just have music in the car, even though I really hadn't missed it.

On Sunday we headed into Delhi and I figured I'd bring the iPod along for the ride. Ashok, our Sunday driver and the driver I consider to be Lindsay's, stepped out of the vehicle to call for directions to Sharma Farms (more on that in the next couple days) and I took the opportunity to plug the iPod into the USB. When Ashok hopped back in the car, he seemed surprised that there was music playing. He immediately flipped down the radio cover, pulled out a small object, and said, "Here, sir." Surprised, he handed me a remote control. To be honest, I wasn't sure if I was surprised that there was a remote or that my trusty driver Kailash (with whom we had made the working iPod revelation) had neglected to tell me about the remote the day before.
The remote (with Ashok safely navigating a roundabout in the background) 
I'm just relieved that my "stuck on one playlist/song" issue that I discovered the day before had magically disappeared. Such are the issues you encounter when you're stuck riding in the back of a car seat for two years.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Missing Ralph Lauren

When most people think of polo, they likely don't think of India. I know I didn't. However, upon closer inspection (confirmed by a short trip to Wikipedia), the modern variant of the game was actually born in this fine country. In fact, the extent of my polo knowledge prior to Saturday was that (1) there's a fairly high barrier of entry into the game (i.e., it takes a LOT of money), (2) Julia Roberts attended a polo match without knowing the proper etiquette in Pretty Woman, (3) you have to play with your right hand, which as a left-hander always seemed a little discriminatory, and (4) Ralph Lauren has exploited the purported lifestyle associated with the sport to countless riches.

Needless to say, when my boss suggested an informal leadership team activity to Saturday's polo match in Delhi, I was looking forward to a new experience where I might be able to extend this admittedly limited knowledge.
Army Polo and Riding Club, New Delhi
The locale for Saturday's match changed from the expected Jaipur Polo Grounds (which even with a name like that is located in Delhi) to grounds near the Delhi Cantonment at a place called Nicholson Ranges. Apparently, there was a big match at the Jaipur Grounds on Sunday and they were trying to save wear and tear on the field.

The rules of polo are fairly simple. There are four chukkers (basically a period, it's the Hindi word for "round") of seven minutes. The clock stops for penalties and horse changes. Teams are handicapped based on past performance (I asked my boss if there was any wagering involved based on the handicap system; he looked at me a little quizzically and then suggested we start a new business) and the team with the most goals wins.
The referee looks for a second opinion. I'm sure the suspense is killing you. (It counted.)
It's a rough game and each player has upwards of six polo ponies that they swap out at least every chukker. The horses, which I'm sure are well cared for, get absolutely exhausted while playing, and it's not uncommon to see sweat pouring from their necks. My boss, who knows a thing or two about the game, claimed that the outcome is based approximately 60% on the player and 40% on the horse, so the horse has a significant impact on the outcome of the match. The last thing about the actual ponies is that they were far smaller and shorter than I expected. Upon further reflection, it makes sense based on the agility required from the animals to quickly change direction. I was surprised, however, when looking back at my pictures at the relative size of the players to the horses. Granted, the players aren't jockey-sized, but the horses aren't exactly thoroughbred-sized either.
Probably a little tough to hit the ball from that position.
The field is huge, upwards of 300 yards in length, so if the action isn't near you, it can be difficult to keep your attention; however, when the players come near, it's an impressive set of sights and sounds, including the colors of the jerseys and the stampeding hooves chasing after the ball. It's a rough game. It's also a wonder more players and ponies are seriously injured during the game. I'm shocked more players don't come into contact with the wildly swinging mallets. Of course, those mallets may just seem to be wildly swinging to a new viewer.
Speaking of wildly swinging mallets, check out the guy in the middle.
Outside of watching the match, it provides a great photography opportunity. Even if most of the 200+ shots I took basically look the same, it's an incredibly cool sport to capture on film (or, more accurately, a digital memory card) and helps provide a little additional entertainment to someone that only loosely understands what is taking place.
Transporting polo ponies. Pretty much like any other transport service in India.
The match was one of my favorite new and (what really makes it cool) unexpected experiences in India. As usual, it's a country that never ceases to surprise.

The Pink Auto Rickshaw

Most auto rickshaws have a fairly wide target market. Said another way, the target market for just about any auto rickshaw is a person that has (or appears to have) enough money to pay a fare. On Saturday, we approached an auto rickshaw with a markedly more targeted market: women.
Cute? Sure. Safe? Debatable.
There's no doubt the color scheme caught the eye. While I'm sure the purported reasoning behind this is that it's a safe mode for women to travel alone, I have my doubts. Perhaps I'm a cynic, but something tells me that the safest place for a woman to travel alone in this country probably isn't a pink covered auto rickshaw that basically has a flashing sign that says, "woman on board by herself". It reminds me a little of the time in 2004 when there was a terrorist alert here and the office decided it would be a good idea to stick a uniformed guard in the car with us Americans. I'm a firm believer in the concept of not drawing undue attention to one's self.

I hate to say it and I could be completely wrong here, but I had the impression it was (again the cynic and pardon the pun) a really sleazy way to pick up or (even worse) lure women under the guise of safety. Based on a quick set of searches online, I couldn't find any mention of these types of rickshaws. Needless to say, remain vigilant, remain aware of your surroundings, and don't expect to find my wife anywhere near one of these rickshaws.

And to answer the question likely on your mind, yes, the driver was a dude.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Roman Birthday Candle

Today we headed back to brunch at Set'z (pronounced "zest", I think) to celebrate our friend Jodi's birthday. As usual, it's a decadent spread but today had the added bonus of a birthday cake at the end of the meal.

The waitress brought the cake and tried to light the first candle. After a couple of attempts, she was successful and the table was enthralled by the fact it was sort of like a mini-Roman candle that threw sparks into the air. It was almost like a little out of season Diwali celebration. But here's where it gets interesting. To light the second candle, she removed the first and dipped it down to the second candle, much like you would do if they were normal candles. Unfortunately, these were not normal candles; these were flame shooting candles. Thankfully, Jodi is agile like a cat and was able to dodge any errant sparks. Equally thankfully, Lindsay was able to capture the moment on camera. By the look on the face of the waitress, I can't tell if she has any clue how close she was to complete and utter disaster.

Enjoy. I, for one, can't stop giggling any time I look at this picture.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Not So Super Sunday

In India the Super Bowl apparently gets broadcast on a station called the "Asian Sports Network". Unfortunately, this isn't one of 8 sports stationed offered by my satellite provider, Tata Sky. Tata is a little of like the GE of India; they own everything from Tata Motors to one of the larger BPO consultancies to my cable provider to the Himalayan bottled water that I prefer (I like it because they pronounce it "him-AH-lee-yen" rather than "him-a-LAY-en"). Tata owns all of this, yet my basic package didn't show one of the most watched annual sporting events in the world. Sorry, Roger Goodell, I guess it goes to show exactly how much American football means outside the 50 states. Or it's entirely possible that I just have a cheap satellite package.

Regardless, I knew this going in and had planned to record the game on Slingbox and watch it on about a two hour delay on Monday morning. Unfortunately, the video decided to stop working in Slingbox. It's very odd, I'm still able to hear the audio and see the cable system interface to record and select shows, I'm not able to see any of the shows when selected. Since my trusty troubleshooter (aka, Dad) who hosts the Slingbox is busy skiing in Colorado, I'm pretty much out of luck until the problem either fixes itself or he gets back from skiing. Knowing that it wouldn't be possible to steer clear of the internet or people that would update me on the game's conclusion (our friend and fellow expat Kristin is a big enough Packers fan that she actually exhausted her annual home leave to go home and host a Super Bowl party; something tells me she probably would have let me know who won), I decided to listen live to the audio of the fourth quarter through the Slingbox. I'm not much a fan of Joe Buck. And that's when I have a picture to accompany his obvious observations. It's much, much worse when you're listening to him and staring into a black screen.

From all accounts, it was a close and entertaining game. If I was a big enough fan of one team or the other to change my profile pic to a player from a team, I would have been hugely disappointed and this blog post would have been a sharply worded open letter to the fine people at Slingbox. As it turns out, I simply ended up being one of the billions that didn't watch the game.

The Laundry Casualty

Since I'm a reasonably fit person, I typically choose to walk the seven minutes it takes to get from my office to the apartment. So when the wife called this evening and asked if I needed a ride home, I told her without a thought that she could go ahead and release the driver.

After my last meeting, I texted Lindsay to let her know I was on my way home. Two minutes later I was set to walk out the door but was greeted by an unseasonable monsoon-ish downpour. This is my third February in the Delhi area. It's the first time I've seen it rain at this time of year. As you might imagine, I wasn't expecting to wait out a heavy downpour before beginning my walk home, but wait it out I was forced to do. I thought I might have left a rain coat in my office so went back upstairs to check. I hadn't. However, when I got back downstairs the rain had decreased in intensity from torrential downpour (which I'm sure flooded streets in Gurgaon) to mild rain shower. Not knowing when it would stop for good, I decided to start my seven minute walk.

The walk itself was incident free. After arriving at home, I was welcomed by Lindsay. She asked, not knowing that the rain had slowed, "How did you get home?" I explained and she responded meekly, "Well, we've had a casualty from the storm. A laundry casualty."

Like most people in India, we don't have a clothes dryer so we hang dry. When you first move here you think it's the biggest inconvenience but the reality is that you just get used to it and plan your laundry needs accordingly. In other words, there's a two day minimum cycle to get items washed, dried, and folded. That cycle can easily extend in the cold winter months. Seeing as how my interaction with the laundry is limited to putting it in a laundry basket when dirty and putting away when folded, it's tough to complain about the extended lead time.

Last night Lindsay had decided to hang the laundry (I'm still not sure why she was doing it but maybe since her Mom is here she wanted to show that we still can occasionally do domestic things; in the spirit of full disclosure, I actually cooked breakfast on Saturday). We hang the laundry on the guest room patio where her Mom is staying. Her Mom, still adjusting somewhat to the time, went to bed early, was awakened by the storm, and heard something on the patio. She and Lindsay checked what was going on and Lindsay noticed an item was missing. My favorite pair of jeans. Thus the laundry casualty.

We live on the first floor (the Indian/British first floor, which is the second floor in America; by the way, I've converted to the Indian way, it makes much more sense, just trust me) so it wasn't a long fall. Lindsay decided she'd go outside in the storm to try and find them. She was soaked immediately and had no luck.

So when I was greeted at the door with the news that my jeans had flown overboard, I grimly changed clothes, grabbed a flashlight (thanks to my friend O'Neill for the going-away gift), and started my search. The guards looked at me a little strange and I all I could do was hope my downstairs neighbors didn't see me snooping around their property in search of a soaked pair of jeans that I had purchased at a Turkish outlet store. After a few minutes without luck, thinking that the jeans had been blown off the deck and hadn't fallen directly down, I flashed the light on my neighbors patio directly below mine. There, sitting in a jumbled blue mess, were my beloved jeans. I quickly turned my light out, trespassed, and grabbed my pants.

I'm not sure there's really a lesson to what's probably the longest story you've ever read about missing laundry; however, if you're ever driving around see people's laundry hanging from their patios, rest assured that the answer to the thought rolling around your head ("I wonder if it ever blows off the drying rack?") is "yep, sure does".

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Lesson Learned

When last night blended into this morning, I learned a valuable lesson about picking people up from the airport: always check the most recent email with flight arrival information.

On Tuesday night, as a blizzard blanketed Chicago, we received an email (as expected) that Lindsay's Mom's flight was canceled and that she was being rebooked for a later day. She included a new itinerary that included a stop in London before boarding an Air India flight set to land at 3:20am Saturday. Very few flights from Europe arrive in India at a convenient time so the hour wasn't unexpected and we planned to sleep a few hours before heading to the airport at 3:00am to welcome her.

On Friday morning, we received an email from Lindsay's Dad saying that Mary Jean was at the gate in Chicago. I skimmed that piece, figured all was well, and didn't think twice. The part I missed was the flight details indicating that she was now on a British Airways flight arriving in Delhi at 4:55am. In my defense, I later learned that Lindsay hadn't even opened the email, but to be honest I'm not sure which is worse.

And so we left our apartment for the airport at 3:00am, arrived at 3:27am, which was only notable because that was the exact time listed for arrival on the Air India website for the original question. Lindsay, nervous with excitement, hurriedly walked to get to the terminal so we wouldn't be late (even though I, remaining calm as usual, knew there was very little chance a flight arriving at 3:27am would process passengers through customs and baggage claim before 4:00am - I reminded her of this later, as you might have guessed). At the arrivals hall, you actually have to buy a ticket for Rs. 80 to get inside. We paid and then quickly walked the wrong direction (we're typically on the "getting picked up" side of this situation) before being redirected, the stress level rising the entire time.
Anxiously chipper at 3:35am
Finally we arrived where every person arriving on an international flight in Delhi clears customs. I checked the flight board, the flight had arrived, and I thought it would just be a short wait. But then we waited. And waited. And waited. I started stalking checked baggage tags and realized that flights that had landed 40 minutes after the Air India flight we were waiting for were spitting passengers out of customs. Finally, we decided to call her cell phone, figuring if anything were wrong she'd probably have it turned on. It wasn't. The next step was to call Lindsay's Dad to see if he had heard anything. He hadn't. Thankfully, Lindsay mentioned we were considering calling the airline to see if we could find out if she had checked into the flight (though I'm not even sure they would give out that information). He seemed surprised that we would call Air India when she was flying British Airways. Finally, a light bulb illuminated above our heads.

At this point, it was 5:15am, twenty minutes after it was supposed to arrive. I went to the arrivals board, and found the flight. Of course, it was the one flight with a blank spot indicating whether it had landed and if not what the expected time was. Seconds later, a word appeared: "Landed". Finally our wait was over. Or so we thought. Technically, it was over an hour later when her Mom finally emerged through customs with a carry-for herself and two suitcases containing 100 pounds of goods for us to restock our imported American wares.
Deliriously excited at 6:15am
Lesson learned; next time I'll read the entire message regarding flight information. While Terminal 3 is a much more welcoming place than the old terminal, landing in India after twenty or so hours or travel can be a little discombobulating. On the bright side, at least we were two hours early and not two hours late. Of course, I never thought I'd have a three hour wait at an airport for a flight that was on time and basically give myself jet lag in the process.
Finally able to pause for a photo on the world's longest walk to a parking structure

Friday, February 4, 2011

Visitor Season Opens

Visitor season officially kicked off an hour ago when Lindsay's Mom departed Chicago on her flight bound for Delhi. With the snowstorm that dumped nearly two feet on Chicago earlier in the week, she ended up getting delayed by a day and a quarter. The extra quarter day is because she wasn't given the direct on American in the rebooking process and now has to go through London and ends up arriving at 3:30am rather than 9:00pm. I won't even complain about the arrival time because I'm guessing it's a lot worse for her than for us.

While late, the important part is that she's on her way. We've instructed her to sleep as much as humanly possible, especially on her second leg, and that we'd just make a very early day of Saturday. I hope that strategy works, but we'll wait and see. The body does strange things when you move 11.5 time zones. The extra half hour is so that even time zones can be confusing here.

The good news is that she visited us in India for Christmas 2004 so there aren't a lot of must-see items on her list. She's seen the primary sights of Delhi and northern India (including the Taj). The objective of her trip is to spend time with us and see how we live.

Easy enough.

Khan Market? Why not. Brunch? Absolutely. Hauz Khas? Wouldn't miss it. Gurgaon Connection Bash? Yes, please. Brunch again? You betcha.

The one bit of travel we have planned is back to Neemrana for one night at the fort palace. It gives a great introduction to Rajasthani forts and culture, is close to Delhi, and is a peaceful place to spend a day. Plus, there's a zipline, so if the serenity gets to me too much, I can always hurl myself across a wire for an hour or two.

Selfishly, one of the things I'm looking forward to the most about her trip is that Lindsay is taking her to Sharma Farms on Monday. For those of you who don't know what Sharma Farms is (which I'm going to presume is most of you), it's been described as a big furniture graveyard where expats and others go to pick out old junk furniture and have it refurbished to look like it's simply old furniture. I say "it's been described" because Lindsay has never been. Yet at least once per weekend she makes reference about how excited she is to go there. We've been here for approximately 56 weekends. Suffice to say that I've heard about the glory of Sharma Farms well more than 56 times (mind you, this "glory" is entirely based on second-hand accounts; I worry it will be the biggest let down since new Coke). If Sharma Farms even comes close to meetings expectations, I'm pretty sure the wife will be making her second guest blogger appearance.

Regardless, it's one more day of work, hopefully a little sleep, and then a quick trip to the airport to welcome our first family visitor to share this (relatively speaking) crazy life of our's.