Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Hardest Question

So, I mentioned in my previous blog post that I was feeling a little overwhelmed and anti-social for a few days after we got back to the US. I was trying to find the source of my anxiety and I may have figured it out.

I knew people would ask me how India was and I didn’t have a good answer. Certainly not a short and sweet answer anyhow. Not because I don’t have things to say about India. On the contrary, I have too much to say and I was afraid people wouldn’t care. I think people would listen to me for about five minutes and then tune me out, which would be understandable. But I don’t have a five-minute answer because how do you condense two and a half years of impressions and happenings (and several thousand years of history) into five minutes? You can’t. Or at least, I can’t. Not yet anyhow. I can give you snippets. Lots and lots of snippets. Snippets until you are blue in the face… but who wants that?

I’ve talked to a few friends and relatives since we came back and I have shared some things but I am careful not to spill too much too fast, lest I overwhelm them. Because India can be overwhelming in many ways. And I didn’t want to be that person, who wouldn’t shut up about their last post. Although it’s very tempting and I want to talk about India, a lot. But not everyone is willing, ready or able to listen. So I have to be patient and pace myself and spare my listeners.

I remember years ago when I first came to the US, people would hear my accent and ask me where I was from. I’d say Bulgaria and they would often ask about it. Most people didn’t know anything about Bulgaria. So, I’d tell them. Over time, I noticed that many of these people were just being social. They didn’t really want to know that much about Bulgaria or they just couldn’t relate. So eventually, I came up with “an elevator pitch about Bulgaria.” I usually say it’s in the Balkans (sandwiched between Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Romania and the Black Sea), that it has four seasons and that you can go skiing there in the winter and to the seaside in the summer. That it has fascinating though mostly sad history, that it’s beautiful and that the food is delicious (similar to Greek or Turkish food but better). I usually end there because that’s about the amount of information most people can handle. Anything more can be dicey. Unless the person asks for more information, of course.

I need to come up with something similar about our time in India, which will be tough because India’s so big and diverse and full of contradictions. Plus, my impressions are still quite fresh and raw. I am still processing some of them, trying to make sense of them. If I talk about India and our time there, I want to do it justice. I don’t want to make it look better or worse than it was but I also don’t want to offend anyone. I’ll keep you posted on the “elevator pitch” about our time in India. Until then, I have a bunch of unwritten blog posts swirling in my head and I feel like I can’t move on until I write them.  I need to get them off my chest, which will hopefully help me clear my head, put closure on our time in India and clean the slate for Ethiopia. My plan is to write several Retroactive India blog posts over the next few weeks so stay tuned…

Back in the US

So we are back. We have been back for a while actually – Paul and Nia for about a month now and Max and I for almost two weeks. Paul and Nia had to come back earlier, so she could start school in Falls Church. My parents really wanted to see the kids and had been asking us to stop in Bulgaria on the way back from India, so they could spend time with all of us. We couldn’t leave India any earlier because of regulations and such and it didn’t make sense for Nia to miss school but we compromised and I went to Bulgaria with Max for a couple of weeks.

So I spent a few nice lazy days in Bulgaria doing pretty much nothing, which was just what the doctor ordered after the craziness of packing out and leaving India. Max earned both of our keep by helping my father with some important projects…


… ran around in the rain…


…visited some Roman ruins…


… said a tearful good-bye to this Indian drink:


… also known as 99% of Max’s diet for the last 2+ years. He used to drink 5 bottles of this thing a day, so we were the product’s best customers, probably. I am sure the people at Mother Dairy (the manufacturer) are scratching their heads right about now trying to figure out what happened with their demand. Here he is with the very last bottle:

One day, after the end of the hefty stash of said strawberry lassi (which I had smuggled into Bulgaria to nurse my son’s addiction a few days longer) I found Max desperately rummaging through our backpack (where historically there had always been a bottle or several of his favorite thing. I asked him what he was looking for. “Delhi milk,” he said, his voice trembling a little. When I told him there was no more “Delhi milk,” he thought for a moment, then said excitedly, “Let’s go back to Delhi then!” I had to tell him that going back to Delhi was not an option any more because other people were now living in our house there. He was heartbroken and proceeded to tearfully sing the song “No More Delhi Milk” to his toys for a half an hour. Then he was better. His diet is still pretty limited though. He’s still eats no meat whatsoever and lives mostly on bagels, pretzels and orange juice.

Occasionally, he’d eat macaroni and cheese, rice or ramen noodles but that’s about it. We tried really hard to get him to eat fresh fruits and vegetables from parents garden - peaches, nectarines, figs, tomatoes, papers, etc – he said no to all. So that’s work in progress. But I digress…

While we were in Bulgaria we also hung out with my best friend from college and her family, which was wonderful:

Finally, we made it to the US, also known as a “huge awesome playground with lots of cool toys and a pool,” according to Max. Just before we took off from Frankfurt to Washington, Max made the following important observation: “The men are loading our bags in the butt of the plane!”
Back in the USA
So what have been up to since we got here? Well, at first, I didn’t want to do anything. I felt discombobulated and overwhelmed and did not want to leave our cave at Oakwood but slowly I’ve started getting out and doing the things we used to enjoy before India:
  1. Checking out all the playgrounds and sandboxes in the D.C. metro area,
  2. Eating our favorite foods - Baja Fresh, Chipotle, District Taco, Qdoba and the like,
  3. Living our new rule of thumb: No meal is complete until you are in a food coma!
  4. Food shopping at Safeway, Shoppers and Costco and realizing that as much as I missed meat in India (mostly turkey and beef), I am completely grossed out by how much meat we Americans consume,
  5. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables without having to bleach the hell out of them,
  6. Drinking water from the tap,
  7. Shopping at TJMaxxx, Marshalls, and Ross – not very classy, I know but loooooving the prices and the awesome stuff,
  8. Enjoying Amazon Prime in the US, where you often get your stuff the same day!
  9. Freezing my butt off – it’s been in the 60s F here in the last few days and I have been wearing fleece jackets and such. I think Delhi has made a complete cold sissy out of me,
  10. Slowly reconnecting with friends and family,
  11. Unpacking our UAB, which came yesterday and I realized that it’s too cold for half of the clothes we shipped. Dang!
  12. Spending my Home Leave (27 days of leave mandated by Congress, so diplomats going from one foreign post to another can reconnect with America) at Falls Church. So exotic, I know but the timing of our departure from Delhi killed our plans to travel around the country and show the kids some National Parks. Hopefully, next time.
So, life’s good. Having stayed in Oakwood, Falls Church before we left for India and now again makes it seem like we never left. We know we did, of course and I like to think we are better for it. As a matter of fact, I have been reminiscing quite a bit about our time in India. There are a bunch of blog posts that I wanted to write, while we were there (mostly about trips we took) but didn’t get to it. Here’s hoping I will write some of those before my training starts Oct. 20.
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