Monday, January 25, 2010

ARG!!!!

I am on a call at work.
It's the TAG. Technical Advisory Group.
Data has never had a formal seat at this table until now.
With me.
My boss's BFI (Big Fat Idea).
Anyway, I am calling in.
Most people are onsite.
They are all men.
A lot of hootin, hollerin, and laughing.
I think I need to go into work for these on Mondays, now.
PFFFT.
:o(

I am sure that hootin, hollerin, and laughing is more interesting in person.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Sister's Virus

"I spent two days online trying to find a cure for the trojan I picked up on my home computer (it changed my desktop and kept giving me useless popups). All the fixes were saying I needed to edit the registry blah blah, and I'm not a tech so there's no way I'm doing all that.

So I finally found one that would clean up the registry for me if I booted up in safe mode, which worked like a charm. I got a refund on my useless antivirus program and installed better freeware instead.

If I ever find the guy who made that trojan I am going to PUNCH him in the nuts. HARD."
Another day in the life...

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Scott Brown - Please

So, now that I am in India, I just remembered the special election to fill Ted Kennedy's vacant seat! If I hadn't been so BUSY and had THOUGHT ABOUT IT, I would have submitted an absentee ballot.

The election is today and everyone, it seems, is on the edge of their seats! This is an email conversation between me, Lilly (who is traveling with me), a guy from TX, and someone else at work who is in the States:
GO from TX: BIG voting day today in MA, can you give people off that are going to vote for Scott Brown. Is that allowed? :-)

Lilly: As far as I am concerned, YES!!

ME: Ok. So someone has to tell the team. I don't think I can do it. Is it a violation??

Lilly [copying WM on the email]: I will volunteer WM!

ME: Ok. him! Tell him to tell people that if they vote for Scott Brown, we will give them a day off! Maybe a week!!

Lilly [to WM]: Spread word around, don't leave traceable records... MA legal resident over voting age only...

ME: Oh. That's a good idea. WM. Are You There??

WM: I voted this morning and will spread the word around !

ME: Ok. Hit all sites. MMK and SMT!!

Lilly: And MRO!

ME: True. Find out who Jack is voting for.

WM:: Brown!

ME: How do you know? Did you ask him??

GO from TX: Hi, Since you all are in India, I was going to put my dress on and go vote for you is that okay..

ME: Sure. Which dress? Make sure it's the nice one. :o)

GO from TX: I meant to say Tammy's dress, I really don't own a dress, ( really ) :-)

ME: I'm not too sure. LOL.


Well.. it worked, dress or no. Scott Brown won. YES!


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Monday, January 18, 2010

Curtains

Oh, picked up the curtains tonight.
They are incredible.
Five rooms, 10 windows for about $725 USD.
I have to get the fixtures when I get back home.
I have a feeling that they will be more expensive than my brand new custom window treatments.


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Butlers

So, the thing to know about India is that the hotels have butlers. At least the hotels I've stayed in do. Even WORK has butlers. Anyway...

I didn't know this but...
All week I've been trying to get to Ali, the first butler I met when I arrived. I thought he was the only one. Then I met Mohan the next morning. I asked what happened to Ali and Mohan said that Ali switched to nights. Huh. I guess they take turns.

I gave Mohan a tip. But knowing there are two complicated things. So, I tried to find a way to see Ali but to no avail. I guess I could leave it in the room. But there are two room boys in the morning. And I leave a tip for them daily. What if they take Ali's tip?

So, now I have Mohan who I already tipped, Ali who I need to tip, and the two room boys who I think I tip every morning.

So, this morning, I left a tip in the little tray of coffees, knowing that the butler handles the bottled water and the coffee station, as well as bring you fruits, and anything else you might want. And this afternoon when I came back from work, it was gone.

So, thinking that I still needed to tip Ali, who I now believed was the night butler, I asked Lilly and she said to call the Butler Desk and they will send the butler and he will bring what you need.

Huh. Okkkkk.....

Additionally, she said that when she ordered a yogurt and some bread, THREE butlers came to her.

How many butlers do they have? Well, obviously, they have THREE. At least.

So tonight, I called the Butler Desk for dinner. There is room service but what I wanted was Pho from Blue Ginger and a fruit platter of just watermelon, pineapple, and kiwi.

In between the call and the waiting, another room boy different from the ones I see in the morning rang the door bell to see if I wanted turn down service. GOOD GOD!

Anyway, the butler delivers my dinner order and this time, it's neither Mohan nor Ali. It's Sagar. A new one. Turns out there are 3 butlers. He is the afternoon butler. Ali worked this morning. And Mohan is working the night shift. The night shift is from 10pm-7am. The morning shift is from 6am-3pm. And the afternoon shift is from 2pm-11pm. They each work 9 hours shifts so they can spend an hour handing off work. And they all rotate shifts throughout the week.

I might just call the Butler Desk tomorrow and ask to see them all at once so I can tip them and get it over with.

Now, I have to figure out the whole Room Boy situation.

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Humidity has a smell

I never thought I'd ever feel the kind of heavy humidity I felt while we were in Chennai today. We got off the plane and I could smell it. I said something to Prakash (who works "for" me in India), and he said "yes, most definitely, you can smell the humidity."

I never ever want to hear anyone complain about how bad the humidity is if they are not in Chennai. Never.


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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ladies Only

So following on to my comments about the Ladies Only security line at the airport, there was a security guard outside of our bungalow, across the way, sitting on the porch of another bungalow. And when we left our rooms, he stood up and walked over to us, said hello and kept watch at a respectful distance.

Lilly commented that at night the hotel might shut the phones off to rooms with women travelers. She said that on a prior trip she could get through to Wayne at night in his room but when he tried to call her, he had to call the desk, identify himself and then get patched through. This morning, she tried to call me and the same thing happened. She had to call the front desk.

Evidently they keep a watchful eye over their female guests. Which is a good thing.

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Domestic In India

So, we're on our way to Chennai. 4:15 am pick up from the hotel. This is the first time there and the first time flying domestic.

The road to the airport was relatively empty. "Relatively" being the operative word. But at 3:30 am, there were still a lot of cars out. Compared to the US, it's what you'd expect in a moderate city or town on any weekend day.

The thing that struck me was how with clearly drawn lanes and a relatively light road, people still drove bad. They swerved back and forth as if the lanes didn't exist. They drove within inches of each others bumpers. Honking, flashing their high beams. Amazing.

It also seems that people drive fast on the right lane, not the left like in the US. Regardless, people pass to the left, right, up the middle, to and fro. What a cluster.

So Lilly was saying that when Shivani came over to the US to do her L1 stint, she drove about 20 mph on the highway. She worked herself up to 45. And she'd wander from lane to lane with her blinkers on. Like she was in India. Lilly had to give her a lesson on US driving. Also, if you're in the US for more than a month, you have to get an American driver's license. It seems that international is only good for a month. So this means they have to take the written test with all of the rules.

Hahahahahahaha!

Yup. Too funny. In India, I think you just get behind the wheel and if you survive they give you a license. And we all know there are no rules for driving.

I'm still laughing. I guess they have to study really hard.

Anyway, the domestic airport is now nice and new as a part of the whole new airport complex. As a result the check in process was smoother.

It amazed me how people would get into lines but if they saw a line "open" they would rush over and cut in front of you. I say "open" because you're in line waiting and if you don't move fast enough, it's a free for all. At one point some Indian women crossed over 3 lanes to cut in front of me. I looked back at Lilly and she had her jaw on the ground, I made some loud snarky comment about rude people. She looked at me and I looked at her. And I said to her, this is why people think India is so rude and disorganized.

Anyway, after we made it to the counter, the woman told us that our airline is 2 counters over!
What??
We've been standing in the wrong line?
Well, it would help if you people had SIGNS on your screen as opposed to stupid logos about hiding firearms! Seriously. There are NO SIGNS!

But it got better because a nice Jet Airways lady came over, took our itineraries and we basically got brought to the front of the line.

And there was a "Ladies Only" security line which was MUCH shorter than the "Gents" line. This was due to the pat down which was done to the side behind privacy curtains.

I'd say that going through security was a breeze.

It could also be the lack of teeming, writhing humanity, too.

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Up at 3am

And if Jet lag isn't enough... leaving for the airport in 30 minutes. Heading to Chennai for more meetings. Sigh...

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22 karat

I finally did it. I went ahead and bought one. A 22k ring from one of the local Indian jewelry stores.

I first saw one on the finger of my Indian teacher about 25 years ago. It was beautiful. Bright yellow gold, with filigrees and swirls. I've been wanting one ever since. I had no intention of buying one but I ended up with one that fit my middle finger on my right hand.

It only contains about 3.54 grams of gold. Making charges were $18 USD. But they took 2% off, and I bought it for about $142 USD instead of $147. A difference of $5 isn't a lot. But you have to consider the relative difference given the India cost of living and standard of pay. For the laborers, $5 is a week's salary for the whole family in many instances. The first rule of bargaining is that both sides must come out with dignity. And my second rule is to never upset the local economy and disrespect the cultural mores.

In most of Asia, gold jewelry is based on the current price of gold per ounce with making charges (the artisan labor that goes into making the piece) layered on top. You can't negotiate the cost of the grams of gold in a piece but you can bargain with the making charges. And it is almost exclusively 22k gold, not 10k or 14k or 18k.

Jewelry is an investment. It is passed down from mother to daughter for generations. It is the rainy day fund, the dowry for the daughter when she gets married, and often buys security for the whole family. And yes, even in today's modern day, the practice of dowry isn't spoken of as such but it is what it is and it still exists, even in the most educated and highest levels of society. Anyway...

In America, gold jewelry is based on style and fashion. I rarely see anyone asking the grams of gold in a piece. And when I ask, I get a surprised look and they have to go and research the item. Annoying.

In one store today, we saw a girl who looked to be about 16 years old with her parents, trying in diamond encrusted necklaces. Wow. She is a very lucky girl. I hope she has a good heart and a deep soul to merit such privilege in her life.

I also saw a lot of gems. Diamonds here are very expensive but Emeralds and Sapphires can be bought at a bargain. I am going to do some research on emeralds for the next trip, along with measurements for curtains for the rest of the house, mnaybe a run (but with the Dingle Dog and HorriBoris, maybe not).

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The President of Iceland

I didn't even know Iceland had a president. He's visiting India.
And staying at our hotel.
For 3 days.
We knew of his arrival because we walked out of our rooms and next thing you know, we run into police, 12 police cars and the requisite ambulance.

Anyway, he's here for the green energy initiative, working with the 3 car companies here in India. I think he should be at home working on the banking crisis at home. Anyway...

hey had some function the first night. We saw people in the trees stringing and handing light strings and balls of light. And let me say that this hotel compound has LOTS O' TREES! And no scissor lifts. Good old fashion stick ladders and ropes.

Anyway, we came back at night to find them all lit up. Beautiful. It looked like we were walking among the falling stars.

We approached the ball room or function building on the way to our rooms. They were holding a reception. All the beautiful people were there. And it stuck me that I've never seen so many white people, not to mention tall blond people, in India before.

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Random Thought: Hydration

It is a sad testimonial to the quality of bathrooms in India when I am willing to forego adequate hydration at the risk of bloat, dehydration, headaches, etc., just so that I can avoid having to use the toilet when I am out and about during the day. That is...NOT in the hotel or at the office. Which is generally the whole day during the weekends.

Seriously.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Couple of new restaurants in India

I had thought about giving up on trying new places to eat but yesterday, we ended up at two new places.

The issue is that during the week, you can forget going out for lunch unless it is very close by. Even then it will take you 30-45 minutes to get there. The issue is that traffic. Unimagineably congested, crazy traffic. Busy. No order. It's a free for all. So we have exhausted all of the places close to the office.

In the evening, we are so jetlagged and the traffic is so bad, it is almost not worth it!

So the only time that we have to really explore is on the weekends. And yesterday, in between the trips to get carvings and curtains, we ended up at two wonderful restaurants.

The first was Caperberry (which I keep referring to Crackberry for some ungodly reason). It is a chic, European, minimalist style restaurant located behind a jewelry store of all places. You have a choice of 3 items or 4 items. 2 of the items in every set is the dessert bar and the salad bar. You get to choose between one or two entrees. We ended up getting entrees and sharing all the plates. It was wondering. They have veg and non-veg categories. And under each there is Coca and main dishes. We had no idea what Coca was but we soon discovered that it is a pizza (do not think Italian... it's not more nouvelle pizza). Anyway... the food was wonderful! And portions were reasonable. I highly recommend this restaurant for those who need a break from Indian food or something more European. Even just a really good meal.

The second was Mainland China. It is probably one of the best Chinese restaurants I've been to in India(and there are some REALLY good ones in India) and certainly beats out 90% of the places I've been to in America. It's slightly different from the ones in China but it still ranks very high with the ones I experienced in China. Anyway, I had the hot and sour wonton soup in clear broth. We had some chicken dish that seemed to be baby drumstick "lollipops" with a five spice sauce, softshell crab in black pepper sauce (Fabulous!), Hakka noodles (very good), fried rice with veggies (very "clean" and healthy - fresh!), sea bass in parsley sauce (DELICIOUS), Chicken in garlic chili sauce (needed to be a bit spicier but the sauce was wonderful), stir fried veggies in a spicy brown sauce (YUMMY!). No dessert. Did not have room! Although the sweetened honey noodles did sound good. This place is one I would definitely go back to. Unfortunately only for dinner because it is so far away.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

And the sad part is...

...after all is said and done, I am gonna have to buy clothes for the summer.

:o(


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Fashion TV

There is a fashion channel at the hotel. And it's pretty much on whenever I am in the room. I tried CNN and all that but they bring foreign news, not American news. I think it hit home when they introduced the American President, Obama, after the earthquake in Haiti. After that, I lost interest. Who cares about the rest of the world?

HAHAHAHA!
KIDDING!
I know.
Spoken like a true American.

Oh, and that followed by... "oh, I should make a donation..."
Which is what Americans typically do.

Anyway, I found Fashion TV. And it's all about the runway fashion shows in Paris and Milan, featuring all of the famous designers. They even had one on Victoria Secret. Let me just say that thoe models look like Amazons and I know they are like sticks. Stick Skinny. Talk about the TV putting 20 pounds on you. What a understatement!

Anyway... Given that I have bought a lot of business clothes, and I just did a lot of shopping for fancy shoes and handbags, I am starting to spiral into the clothes thing. Again. I left this behind about 15 years ago. And thus, the recent buying excurions. Not to mention that India has a lot of formal bags for $40 give or take that you would pay $300-$600, $700 for. It's all the hand work to sew on the tiny little beads. And formal shoes that are also about $200-$300 that I got for $20-$40. Seriously.

Anyway, I am starting to get a lottle hooked. There are some clothes on this channel that I know I would like to wear and would look good in if I lost about 15 pounds. Which is totally doable.


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I THINK I might be able to squeeze in ONE MORE!

It's Saturday morning. I'm waiting for Lilly. And I am starving. Again. :o\ But I just talked to her so she will be up and ready in 30 minutes. :o)

I just packed the suitcase of the purchases so far and um... hmmm... well... it's kinda 2/3 full. Kinda. I know. It is or it isn't. Yes. It IS 2/3 full.

So I unzipped the expansion which double the remaining 1/3 space so I still have 2/3 space left. Unfortunately, I haven't packed the stuff I came here with. The good news is that I didn't bring a totally packed suitcase. It was 3/4 fill. I know that 2/3 plus 3/4 is not the same as 2/3 plus 2/3 but one should never underestimate my Squeeze Power. This is where I sit on the suitcase, after filling all the crevasses, and zip it up carefully.

The problem is that we are going shopping again.
Strict instructions from Joseph for a gift to get. I hope I will have room.
And curtains. I am going to see if I can get custom curtains made for one of the bedrooms. They are so cheap here. You buy the materials for like $5 a yard and they sew the panels for $2 or $3 a panel. That is nothing compared to the states.

The good news is that we can overflow into Lilly's second suitcase. Lilly and I work together and she brought a suitcase of just gifts and presents for the staff here in India. And now that we have given them away, that suitcase is empty. I would really like to avoid overflow, though.

We are also going to try out another new restaurant here. So far we have only tired one new place called OKO at the The Lalit Ashok It's Thai, Japanese, Chinese fusion and it was so good we've been twice. Lilly found another one called Crackberry. It is supposed to be near MG Road where we are going shopping for the gift Joseph wanted me to buy.

And then tonight we are going to Eswar's house for dinner. Eswar worked for me in Boston about... oh... 10, 12 years ago as a contractor. Then he left to go to Florida and Texas for other opportunities for a few years. He always kept in touch through email. I would get holiday greets and announcements about the birth of his children. Then in 2004, he emailed me about a job in India. He would move himself if I had an opening. So, he worked in India for me and just recently he left to a new outside position at a vendor.

The people in India are very close. They keep in close contact with each more often than not. And when Eswar left, this was no exception. So last night, he came to the group outing and it was like he had never left. So he invited us to dinner at his house for tonight. And he is meeting us at the stores to go shopping with us. We are looking forward to this day!


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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Holiday

So, I am here in India to work and today is a holiday. WTH??

So, we are going shopping to look for curtains.
Might as make good use of the time.


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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Nope. Didn't Eat Early...

On the way back to the hotel after dinner with Srinivas and his family.

Got there around 5:40. Not bad since once we got to his compound/neighborhood, we had to travel almost every road to find his house. What is it with street signs in India. They don't exist!

Anyway, had a little bite at 6pm.
Then we sat and talked.
And talked and talked.
It was nice but I was severely jet lagged.
And Lilly?
Huh.
She hadn't slept at all.
So she was basically a walking zombie and running on fumes.

So when Rhadika got up at 7:30 and said, "do you want to eat now or wait?" Lilly and I both jumped at it and said, "oh, no problem... we can eat now..." Of course, we were both jumping up and down for joy inside. Actually... we were too jet lagged to jump up and down... but we were joyful!

And then she started cooking. Yup. All Indian food is best right off the stove.
And this was no exception! It was so delicious. This was by far the biggest meal here. I had weighed yesterday and lost a half pound. After today, I am sure I gained it back, and then some...

So, now we are in the car and off to the hotel.
And some serious z's.


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Jet Lag Every Other Day

Every other day, I feel the hammer blow of jet lag. It always happens around 3pm. On the off days, it's around 2pm but it's only a general tiredness and in an hour, I perk up without having to fight it too much. Of course, "perking up" is relative. It just means that I am not dozing off in my chair at work. It only means that I am more awake than asleep but not by much.

Then on the days that it's bad, it hits me and I have to fight really hard. At that point, I am sleep walking in a sense and can barely make it through dinner.

Tonight we are going to Srinivasa's house for dinner. They eat SO LATE! We are to go there around 5:30 pm. What are the chances that we will eat at 6? Or even, 6:30? Yup. It's not too good.

Time to sleep... I wish!


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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Random Thought: Rolling Blackouts

These are so common in India that we're sitting at dinner, the lights go out, and people just carry on, as if nothing happened.

Even when the lights turn off and on several times in the course of the 15 minutes or so. No one even notices.

I think I'm the only one counting.

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Busy is an understatement

Lilly and I are at dinner.
In between bites, we're both on our Blackberries working.
In between working on our Blackberries, we get a little conversation going.
About work.
And about food.

But mostly about work.

What a commentary.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jasmine Tea

I'm coming to the conclusion that Americans don't know tea, how to drink tea, and wouldn't recognize good tea if it hit them in the face.

We are at Ginseng at the Royal Orchid for dinner, and they served us jasmine tea.

OMG.
Can I just say that Jasmine tea in India is nothing like any kinda Jasmine tea I've ever had before. Not even in China. Or Chinatown for that matter.

Aromatic, soft, smooth, absolutely exquisite.

I must find some to take home with me.

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The key to maintaining weight while traveling is...

Not eating until you're stuffed and only until you are "not hungry."

I am bloated from the flight, though.
The hotel room as a scale.
Great.
Everytime I go in there, it gets bigger and bigger, looming over me, calling to me, "weighhhhh yourselffffff, weighhhhhh yourselffffff..."
SHUT UP!!!
GAH!

I have to wait a day until this bloat goes away.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

India

The sparrow has landed. Sat in the first class cabin of Business Class. Went through Paris - so blah. Although I did find the cheese crisps they serve on the airplane at one of the duty free shops at Charles De Gaulle.

And we arrived in India to a new airport.
Two hours late, of course.
Big.
Glass.
Clean.
Amazing.

Now on the way to the hotel.
I have to take a picture of the streets.
I have never seen it so empty and probably won't until the next time I fly to India.
We do not leave late enough to see it this empty.

I can't wait to get some sleep.
So jet lagged.


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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Finally Leaving

GOOD GOD! I am finally leaving for the airport! Today was supposed to be an easy day.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Yah.
Should have known.

JJ is home from school for the week, recovering from his surgery.
I was supposed to take the day off so I could pack.
Do you THINK that happened??

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Of course not.
Instead, I found myself in meeting after meeting.
JJ had to go to the bathroom. I myself barely had time.
And then JJ had to eat. I myself didn't even have time.
I packed between meetings, during meetings, any time I had to get up from the table to somewhere, I'd walk by the suitcase and drop something in.
This took all morning.
And of course, I am sure I forgot something!

I rushed out with the cab honking and JJ calling me and saying goodbye and all that...

And now... peace.
Until I get to the airport.
Then I have to make it through check in and security.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

First New Years and First Surgery

So, I thought I'd go ahead and talk about New Years since it's fading from my mind and I don't want to lose the experience.

Just so that the non-Chinese among us don't start thinking it was wonderful for JJ, don't forget the our New Year isn't JJ's New Year. And his New Year celebration is, frankly speaking, more spectacular than ours. That is, if you like LOTS O' FOOD, fire crackers. Lion Dances, in addition to fireworks. JJ's New Year arrives on February 14th this year. On Valentine's Day. I can't tell you how much more symbolic and significant it is to have your New Year fall on the day your adopted country celebrates the meaning of Love collectively.

And No, he did not stay up and watch the fireworks. He was sound asleep.

And No, having a large group of people over to the house wasn't much new for him since we have lots of people at our house for much of the year.

And No, he didn't know how special it was to have Peter and Elizabeth together, and Aunt Karen and Uncle Dave and Lauren and Brian and Jordan because he has met so many new people, and I am sure it's all blurred together for him.

The most significant moment was when we returned from shopping two days before New Years. We parked across the street from the house because we were expecting a lot of cars to get into the driveway. We got out, JJ looked up, and he saw Aunt Amanda on the porch. OMG. You could have put out a fire with his gasp. His eyes lit up and filled with love (seriously), and he smiled, and jogged off to greet her. Of course, giving Mama a heart attack because he had to cross the street.

Anyway, I think that at this point Aunt Amanda is his most significant playmate. She is like ... Ummmm... 4 years old when they get together. Ok. Maybe not 4. I'll be generous. 6. She turns into a 6 year old and I find myself scolding her as much as JJ when they are together. And her reaction just makes JJ laugh and laugh.

Anyway, on New Years Eve, we had the requisite boiled lobster dinner as we always do. Not sure if JJ liked it. But he did eat it. He said he liked it. But he didn't emit the usual "hao chi, hao chi, hao chi" or "yummy yummy yummy" followed by a spontaneous "um um um". This is what he does when he brushes his teeth with bubble gum flavored toothpaste or drinks bubble gum flavored medicine. Yup. Every night before bed ... "Hao chi hao chi hao chi" (delicious delicious delicious) with a toothbrush in his mouth. Anyway, once he understands how expensive lobster can be, he will be enthralled with it, I'm sure. :o)

The same day that Amanda arrived, we went by the agency to deliver a donation for their good work to help the orphanages in China. The Agency director talked to JJ a lot. I had tried to tell him before we went who Auntie Lillian was. It took about 30 minutes and I am not sure it was adequate enough for the message to stick because of my limited Chinese.

I told him that Auntie Lillian was important. She did very good work. And she told Mama and Baba that he was in China. She showed us his picture and said do we want to get him from China and we said yes. And then Aunt Lillian helped us go to China on the fei ji (flying chicken aka airplane) to go to him and then come back to America, JJ, Mama and Baba all together with all the Mama and Baba's and Mei Mei's he saw. This took about 30 minutes. Searching for words I knew, putting it together so he understood. And in the end his eyes lit up, and he recounted it back to me to show he understood.

Aunt Lillian explained to him what the donation was. And did he want to help his friends in his orphanage (he did) and what should she buy the orphanage to help? His answer? Winter coats. Not the latest toys but winter coats.

He seems so much older than his 8 1/2 years sometimes. And sometime when I look at him, I can see flickers of what I think is required to gain "wisdom" in one's life. It will be interesting to see what unfolds. For me, it is less about providing a good home and raising a child. It is more about raising a self-less being who can know empathy and compassion, who can give back to the world, in a karmic and universal way. To make the world a little bit better for future generations and for the sake of our humanity, through the "power or one." And to make sure that the strength of his character along with his sense of humor can help him find the right path to his destiny.

On Monday, Jan 4th, JJ went in for his first procedure. It was day surgery to overlook something that China either purposely overlooked or didn't catch. He was pretty good through the no food time zone, the waiting, the prep, the waiting, the operation, the recovery, etc. We again had an interpreter but she was more instructional than comforting since he seemed to be ok. As ok as one can be when nervous about an operation.

We met him in recovery. And the first thing he saw when he opened his eyes were Mama and Baba. Such a tiny little thing. We had been warned that he would be noises from the anesthesia and most kids get sick. JJ? He stuck it through. He turned green and gray, alternating with a dull, pale flesh tone. He breathed through an oxygen mask when he needed to. Drank tiny bits of water and managed his nausea. I will say it was quite impressive. He puts most of us to shame. I think it also helps that he seems to have a higher pain threshold just like Baba. We knew he was turning the corner when the green started disappearing from the gray pall.

We were also warned that he would not want to eat, that he would get car sick on the way home, not to start solid food for two days.

Ok. JJ missed that bulletin. Seriously. Car ride was a piece o' cake. He wanted solid food almost immediately so we started him with a banana and some rice concoction I made up. Then it was onto noodles and noodle soup. And he never got sick once.

He recovered on the couch during the day and we put him to bed upstairs as always. The first few days, walking was a mess! Forget the stairs!! At one point Mama carried him up the stairs and put him in bed. And boy was he impressed!! Baba just laughed. And I told JJ "Mama is not only smart, she is very very strong." It's important that he knows women are not weaklings. And it is a good start to him realizing that Mama is not going to tolerate him bringing home some simpy, lame, life-sucking, weakling of a girl in the future. Ahem.

JJ is such a funny kid. He always had his happy face on. Even when in pain and the medication wore off. He would start laughing, and then cover his mouth to suppress it because it made him hurt. And then I would look at him and laugh and he'd laugh harder. Then he point to me to stop and keep laughing until I left the room. 5 minutes later, I'd poke my head in and the same thing would happen.

He also learned that when he cried a little because of the pain, something which he can't help, Mama's heart opened and I would hug him and kiss his face and tell him "I know I know." And boy does he love those kisses!

By Thursday, JJ was able to walk from the living room to the bathroom unassisted. It was painfully slow but it was a huge success. Ms Chen the Nanny started coming from Tuesday and JJ did some studying while lying on the couch.

Then Thursday afternoon, I leave for a 2-week business trip to India. Which will lead us to yet another post called "First Mama's Out of Country Business Trip" which I am sure will be short since I am not there, while I am here, to capture all the moments that I cannot observe since I am not there. Got that? You have to read it slowly.

Ok. That's it for now.

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

"What Not to Wear" Neiman Marcus Style

One word: OMG!!!!
Another word: EXPENSIVE
And a third word: OMG!!!

Ok. Two words but the first was worth repeating.

And finally... Think "Mini Cooper fully loaded."

First of all, there is a special room for personal shoppers in the corner of the 3rd floor in the couture area, across the way from Yves St. Laurent.

Actually, it's a suite. A double room. One is a dressing room and one is the sitting room. There was a table with a lunch (which I said I didn't want) and a box of Godiva chocolates (which will go a long way to enhance my girlish figure - pffft). And a small split of champagne. And some accessories laid out.

In the other room, the dressing room, there was a bunch of clothes all hanging and laid out for me.

Randi had actualy picked out some things based on the conversation we had when I called to set up the appointment - black, minimalist, clean lines, comfortable, from sizes 6 to 12 depending on the make, cut and designer. I should have added "cheap and on sale" but I didn't and so nothing was cheap and nothing was on sale. Except for a cashmere sweater which I loved and decided to contrive a way of getting more of. And believe me, the "cheap" part of "on sale" was missing.. but it was better than full price.

She also wanted to make sure that clothes I would be wearing were "background," as opposed to out in front screaming that I was coming. And being in financial services, it was important that it not be "screaming" about anything. She used the words "understated," "smart," "chique," "enhancing."

We talked about how people really DO notice, and it DOES make a difference what you wear. And I never want to be in a position, where if I were to be in a tie with someone else for a position or a function., that I would be passed over because of what I wore. It wouldn't be that blatant. There'd a group of people sitting in a room trying to decide who they would choose for something and my name would come up and someone says, "she has the qualifications, but there's something I can't put my finger on that says she's not quite right..." And that is would happen by not wearing the right clothes or presenting the right image or face for the company you are representing.

So I had a few discoveries:
  1. Two hours is absolutely inadequate for a personal shopping expedition - especially if you are trying to make up for 14 years of not buying clothes

  2. After 14 years, just getting "the basics" so you can create a good foundation to build on in the future is insanely simple but very expensive

  3. I look good in structured clothes. Seriously. Randi was hell bent on getting rid of the knits. When I said to her, "I live in Eileen Fisher - I've had them for 14 years..." She looked at me and sort of "ahemed" and said, "well, yes... we will get you in something more structured." So I said that I liked knits. Easy to maintain, easy to expand... and she said, "yes, well... we will need to get you out of those."

    Hmmmm...

  4. Structured clothes can be comfortable. Really. Especially if they are made well.

  5. Clothes that are made well fit better. They also hang on your body better. And as a result they exude quality. Not to mention style - depending on the designer, of course.

  6. That Akris is the designer that works for me in style, fit, and comfort.

  7. Chanel is as expensive as I had thought it would be

  8. Not everything Armani works for me, as I had wished it would

  9. And finally, underneath all the guilt of spending the kind of money that would feed a small village for a few years... that I really felt good. Not about the spending or about the clothes. Sure. The clothes are just beautiful. But I felt really really good about myself, in the clothes. I liked myself more. I felt more, "worth it." Even at my current weight, knowing I have to lose about 10 pounds. Randi pointed out that this could help me lose the weight that I want. You have to feel good to look good. I think she may be onto something.
The alternationist is Chinese. And she said that if I lose weight, just call Randi and make an appointment with her and she will take the clothes in again. As many times as I need to. And if I have other clothes, then bring them too. But I feel like my other clothes "aren't worthy."

The funny thing was when she was pinning the clothes, she felt the texture and fabric and noted the stitching and said, "ohhh, these are very good clothes. High quality." Well, THAT'S an understatement!

I am going to pick up the alterations at the end of the month when I come back from India. And she is ordering a few more piece for me in my size. Another 6 hour event, I'm sure.

This time I will be sure to tell Randi "no lunch!"

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Final Word from the Boss

The Boss is Joseph.

He came by on his way to dinner with his niece at Vlora.
I am supposed to be there too.
But I am here.
Doing the thing I hate the most.
Trying on clothes.
The expensive kind.
And not only that...
But having someone pay close person attention to me.
Which is the second thing I hate the most.

So, we chatted.
Joseph and Randi chatted.
Sigh...
And then they both lectured me.
Hmph.

Randi walked out at one point, Joseph looked at the Chanel jacket and proclaimed I had to have it, "of course." I almost had a heart attack. I even showed him the price tag.

Basically I have put off buying clothes for the last 14 years.
Other than running clothes, shorts, sweats, and t's.
Work clothes? How boring. No interest.
And so, here I am making up for lost time.
And in that lost time, fashion has moved forward.
My role at work has moved forward.
And all that time I complained and worried that I was becoming a frump?
Well... little did I know, I was already there. And then some.

So... At one point, Joseph pointed out to Randi that my fleece pants, my pink LLBean turtle next, my fleece vest... well, it is sort of my uniform.
And of course, Randi looked up and said, "oh, well, that's fine. Only at home though, right?"
And Joseph laughed.
And he said, "she put on her good fleece pants just for you."
And she looked shocked.

Ok ok ok.
WHATEVER!!!
I like to be comfortable.
No one cares.
No one sees me.
Everyone dresses this way.

To which... they both ignored me.
PFFFFT!

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Starting to get tired...

Ok. So there is a man outside who bought his wife an entire wardrobe for Christmas and they are outside. Supposedly, he wanted to talk to Randi, just Randi, and no one else but Randi because no one can talk to his wife and make sure that she doesn't return anything... Huh. So, either she is really dowdy and looks really bad or... he is a control freak. However, if he is the kinda control freak that spends that much money (I am only guessing by what is in this room) on his wife to get her a new wardrobe... well... I mean... really... she should be just happy....

Anyway... I am continuing to try things on and just waiting for her to come back. And some assistant is here... and she is trying to make me try things on that she brought over (just to bide the time). And I guess this personal shopper thing is an art, because quite frankly, I really hate the stuff this assistant (who I am guessing is not a personal shopper) is telling me good for me... And she is telling me how she would wear some of this stuff... uh... NOT...

So, Randi asked if I wore textured stockings. Uh... No....
She said she didn't think so. Whatever.

Earlier, I told her that I had put on my best fleece running pants for this occassion. Needless to say, she didn't look impressed. Hmmm... she's a tough one...

So, I while I am here alone (relatively since the "assistant" is hovering), I keep looking at the clothes she lined up. Akris. Chanel. Armani. Tahari. TAHARI! The most reasonably priced clothing in here. I once thought that it was expensive. Go figure.

And I keep looking at the price tags. Over and over. The numbers are starting to blur...

I am so screwed.


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Black is the new...BLACK!

Now that Randi has exited the dressing room to take a call...I can actually get my bearings...

Uhhhh....

Wow. Lots of clothes.
All on hangers.
Not a single one that is folded.
Uhhh... which of course means there are no KNITS!
GAH!

And wow.
They are all BLACK!
Except for, ummm... a gray suit and a purple sweater...HAH! A KNIT! YES!

Uh... NO! How MUCH is this thing??

Good GOD!

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Revelation: Gonna be a while

Ok. So.... There is a table with lunch. And I can have champagne if I want. And a box of Godiva chocolates...

Err.... I think this is gonna take longer than two hours...


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I am here

For my "What Not To Wear" session.

And just met Randi, my personal shopper at Neiman Marcus.
She is very small.
A micro person.
She looks great.
I do not.

Hmph.

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