Sunday, 28 February 2010

"The War of the Abs..."

The other day while I was getting a piece of my leg hacked off (ie. the biopsy), the husband was busy purchasing his beloved bicycle. It's a flash, red little number and cost 6,200 Rupees (app. £80).

This morning he pipped me to the post and as I opened my eyes around 7am to a horrible racket (he was tearing apart his suitcase to look for something or other...he is ALWAYS looking for something or other) he announced that he was going on a bike ride for an hour or so.

Now I have no problem with this. In fact I actively encourage it as I am a huge fan of exercise, but the one teeny tiny little problem is that if HE goes on his bike ride then I don't get to go on MY morning run.

You see, the sun is a merciless thing here in India. I realise those of you currently in North America or Europe have scant regard for this concern - and fair enough. However, if you dare to push your body to any sort of personal limits WHILE the sun is beating down on you...well, you're headed for heat meltdown...Heart Attack City. Or at least that's what if feels like.

The optimum time for 'Kingfisher-drinking-sleep-loving-health-enthusiasts' to do their workout is between the hours of 7am and 7:45am. This obviously poses a problem, given that some time ago the husband and I indulged in behaviour which brought about not one, but two little people - who now (poor dears) soley depend upon us for their happiness and well-being. We can't exactly just both bugger off and leave them in front of the Hindi version of Tom and Jerry and let them get on with it, can we?

So we've got ourselves a little conundrum here. The husband is sincere in his belief that a daily bicycle ride will cancel out any beer or whisky beverages he chooses to imbibe later on in the day (he's become particularly fond of the local 'Royal Stag' whiskey - which, when mixed with soda, is apparently rather palatable).

I am also of the belief, that a daily run shall (eventually) turn my body into that of a supermodels and render me 'beachworthy' and allow me to one day emerge from the Arabian Sea like some sort of James Bond female sidekick...all salty hair and toned abs.

We are obviously both terribly disillusioned, and secretly I think, are becoming concerned with the onset of years, and have an innate desire to prolong our lives as much as possible - if only to see the outcome of our progeny.

Now obviously I didn't monitor the husbands packing for this trip closely enough, because as I was busy rejecting (what I now realise were necessary) items, he was tossing all his bike paraphanelia in with nary a thought: heavy biking shoes, biking tops, biking hat, specialty biking pedals, lights, gizmos, etc...need I go on?

Worryingly, now that he's gone off for a ride with most of the above accoutrements, his suitcase contents look shockingly meagre. He's as bad as the monsters and goes through at least two changes of clothes a day. At this rate we're going to go slowly bankrupt as we bring over sack load upon sack load of soiled clothing to our favourite 'Laundry Walla'.

There are various signs about advertising 'Laundry Service...With Washing Machine!" and we have availed ourselves of one such lady. Each bag of filthy gear - for around £4 - is returned to us spic and span...and neatly folded. Nice.

Anyway, I digress.

We've got ourselves a wee problem here and the only solution I reckon, is to set my watch alarm for 6:45am. Then I can get out first, haul myself along the beach for a half hour or so, and return to find the monsters dressed and fed and readying themselves for school.

The husband I think has the same idea, so it shall be interesting to see where things go from here. It may get to the point that we end up staying up all night just so we can be the first the leave the house.

We are that sad. And more tragically, stubborn enough to try it.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

"Money Money....That's What I Want"

I don't know what it is about being away from home, but each time we go away, the boys seem to get re-obsessed with MONEY. The other day walking past some downtrodden shacks in the 'unseen' part of glamourous Goa, Eggie exclaimed, "Look how POOR Indian people are".

We had to explain that India is a country of extremes, and as such, has both shockingly poor and indescribably rich people making up its population. He doesn't really believe us - and neither does Dumps.

For example, Dumpie likes our new house enough, but is put off that it doesn't have an upstairs. (It does actually - a lovely flat empty roof terrace - but it's strictly off limits to the monsters, or so the husband thinks, by having put the push chair midway up the outdoor stairway in a vain attempt to deter them.)

Being so adaptable, children readily accept what you tell them when they are young, but we can't seem to convince Egg that he doesn't need to give money to every child who asks.

A few days ago we were at someone's house and a group of young boys his age, spotting him as an easy target, gathered outside the gates and started chanting, "" and little Egg came running over demanding money to give to the little boys.

We explained that they were locals and just teasing. For they were certainly not lacking, but merely having a go...and why not?. Egg however became disturbed and began begging us for money (now this whole Pokemon business at school where he'd leave with twelve cards and return with two, makes sense!).

Eventually he must have changed tack and caught his father in a distracted moment -or worse, perhaps begged it off a fellow party goer - for he somehow got hold of 20 Rupees, which he promptly handed over to the braying mass, before running over to me to try and hit ME up for more!

The result is that now Egg is locked in a personal competition with himself to drastically improve his handwriting skills in his little notebook, so as to receive enough 'ticks' from Dada, so as to get his daily allowance of Rupees. This I expect, he shall hand over to the first child who asks. But in the meantime, his slowly growing personal monetary fund is causing major annoyance to us all.

He is forever misplacing his money, swimming in the sea with it, or sticky-fingered Dumps gets his hands on it when Egg isn't looking and hides it in any number of places invisible to the human eye.

Yesterday for example, after Egg had been distraught for two days about the loss of his 36 Rupees, Dumpie suddenly emerges from their bedroom with a wad of cash and innocently asks, "Mama...who money this?"

I look at him sternly, "Dumps, isn't that Eggie's money?" for I recognize the damp, mangled ten and five Rupee notes immediately.

"Oh yes! It is! Me go give Eggie his money!" And off he trots to deposit the bills in a delighted Eggie's lap, looking terribly smug and pleased with himself.

Egg is so overcome with joy that he ignores Dumpie and jumps up shouting, "My money! Yay!....My money!"

Dumps is not impressed, and I suspect, shall see to it that Egg's money soon mysteriously disappears again...and again...until he gets the adoration and gratefulness he craves from his older brother.

In the meantime however, the husband and I are doomed to ongoing financial loss. Our pockets are constantly being emptied, handbags are being turned over, and any money casually left out in the open is furitively scooped up by one little pair of hands or another and lost in the sand, rolled under the fridge or sacrificed to the gods of the Sea during the next family swim.

Or maybe they're involved in some underground crime lord dealings, and are pilfering cash to hand over to those chanting boys. In which case, I'd better go hide my creditcard.

Friday, 26 February 2010

"And How Much Have YOU Got?!"

These are both the lyrics to a Pet Shop Boys song ("Opportunities" if you care), AND a constant question being levied - either outrighty, or by slow, protracted questioning - by the local natives here on a near daily basis.

One beach merchant in particular, a very gay, very effeminate seller of sarongs, clothing, scarves and bed sheets, seems have adopted a most unhealthy obsession with me and my worldly possessions. Every time we meet (which is everyday, given that we live across the road from the beach), as soon as preliminary greetings are out of the way, he begins his daily inventory of the jewelry I happen to be wearing.

"Gold toe-ring, white gold toe ring, gold bracelet, two gold necklace, other gold bracelet, gold anklet, new silver bracelet."....etc. and so on.

Such is his interest, he has even extracted detailed info about the precise circumstances surrounding the acquisition of my material wealth.

"This one from husband...this one from father....this one from mother....this one mother-in-law...this one for wedding gift....this one for birthday...this one for anniversary..." and so on and so forth.

I smile indulgently (I have after all only been here a little over a week so my patience has not yet been fully depleted) and try to grin gamely throughout the predictable litany, resisting the urge to hurry him along by parroting the answers alongside him.

Egg has absolutely no tolerance for shopping, perusing or anything related to buying and selling - unless it has to do with ice-cream cones, new pens, notebooks, or DSi games....)

Dumpie however is happy to while away the time fingering precious stones, and pulling pieces of clothing from makeshift bamboo hangers, all the while giving his opinion about the quality of merchandise.

"This one pretty Mama. You buy you look sexy Mama." Or, "Yuck. Me no like this one. This one yucky. Let's go buy circle ice-cream Mama. No give man your money Mama."

Funnily enough, 9 out of 10 times the little guy is right.

Today I dropped in on my favourite jewelry seller to negotiate on a beautiful silver, ruby, emerald, and sapphire ring which I've had my eye on since arriving. Deep in 'hagglesville' we suddenly hear a deafening crash, and turn to see that Dumpie has somehow upset an entire display of ancient Tibetan brass bowls and is lying in the middle of the mess triumphantly clutching his little wooden necklace, which I am guessing he had tossed up and had been trying to retrieve.

Needless to say, negotiations halted, and any bargaining power I might have had flew out the window as I apologetically dragged Dumpie out the door and mumbled something about bringing my credit card by later and paying up.

Even professionals are not above charging top dollar when they suss out that you are a potential bank machine (sorry - I mean 'Westerner'). Yesterday we rented a taxi to take us to the city of Margao to visit a dermatologist to get a questionable mole on my thigh attended to. It had been changing shape and colour recently, and after too many Kingfishers and poignant sunsets I began to fear that I might be inflicted with fatal melanoma.

Self-diagnosis courtesy of Google didn't do much to alleviate my unease as my mole appeared to almost completely resemble the life threatening ones pictured online. The husband began to worry (less about losing his beloved wife I suspect and more about raising the monsters solo) and insisted we attend to it asap.

So see to it we did. Making an appointment with the best English speaking dermatologist (and with the highest ranking on Google) we were told the procedure would cost about 700 Rupees. Upon arriving however, after performing the biopsy, the doctor gave us a proper once over and declared payment to be 1000 rupees.

Whatever. Not only was the painful biopsy over and done with, but she had said that in her opinion it was nothing to worry about at any rate, in ten days I would be contacted with my result.

Gleeful with the news that I was likely not going to have to leave the monsters under the sole supervision of their well-intentioned but by no means completely parentally competent father anytime soon, I would have gladly given her any requested sum.

Also, there was an earlier embarrassing incident whereby I wandered into the operating room and came face to face with an Indian man's arse, raised high in the air whilst two nurses tried to extract something rather horrid from the surrounding area. I was keen to get the heck out of there before he emerged and we invariably came face to face (as opposed to arse to face).

I blame it on the painkillers I had taken previously. What with a self-medicated concoction of imported Nurofen Plus and 10 mg of Valium to relax me, I wasn't exactly on top form.

Jewelry or no jewelry, if my little beach seller had seen me in that state he might have revised his opinion of me as a glamourous woman. (He tells me this daily. And every other day he tells me I'm beautiful. (I suspect this is directly co-related to the ever increasing array of sarongs I have piling up at home - but hey - what position am I in to refuse such outright declarations of admiration? I've got to stockpile them while I can, non?)

Am I a rich woman? the ways that count. (And hey - from a jewelry perspective I ain't doing so bad either. You should see this ring :)

Thursday, 25 February 2010

"Supermarket Hell"

Today we paid about £1.50 to hire a rickshaw to take us to the nearest town, stock up on groceries, then deliver us back home, bags-a-bulging, to our sweet little house. The boys were BOTH (hurrah!) in their respective schools for the first time ever, so it made sense to take advantage of the time we had sans kiddies.

So what did we do? Go back to bed and have a proper lie-in for the first time in five years? Sashay over to the beach and stretch out on loungers with our respective novels, sipping sweet lime soda's and shooting smug but euphoric grins across at each other?

Nope. We scurried on over to the internet cafe for an hour and sat side by side with our respective laptops, getting our fix of cyberspace and email like the addicted little rats we are. Then after, we blew £30 grocery shopping in the most shambolic 'supermarket' (if you can call it that) we have ever been in. How lame are we?

Upon entering, you are immediately made aware that it is going to be hell. It kind of feels like 'Supermarket Trolley Dash' but in a third world country, where a limited range of products are laid out willy nilly and in no particular order.

Our carefully hatched plans went to pot. It's reminiscent of Ikea you see, with a frustrating one-way system...but more like a maze really as you don't even get to pass through all the sections. God help you if you need something in the cleaning products aisle AND the condiments section, because as I saw it, it was either or. (Hmmm...soap...or raspberry jam?)

You are encouraged to keep moving as you are shoved on from behind by impatient shoppers, nudged forward via forceful (and very much on purpose) baskets 'to the leg', past sections you barely have time to peruse. You can never, ever return to grab something you might have missed - and find yourself regretfully casting your gaze back to the package of almonds you weren't quick enough to scoop up - unless you exit the store and begin the whole process again.

Anyway, sussing out the potential headache in store, I gave the husband his own basket and brief instructions to pick up some of the stuff, sending him on his way with a sigh. I followed closely behind, but we got separated somewhere near the crisps section (figures).

Next thing I know I'm kicking my too-heavy-to-carry basket along the floor, arms laden with foodstuffs, desperately hot and profusely perspiring, and just when I'm about to lose it I spot the husband loping towards me with a huge grin. He's triumphantly waving his basket, which I am soon to discover carries a mere kettle, four tin water cups, a tea strainer and a cheap £1.50 aluminum frying pan. He appears very pleased with himself.

Dear god.

Dropping my basket and other foodstuffs at his feet, I storm upstairs to finish the job (PROPERLY I might add), amidst feeble protestations of, "Don't leave me here with all this stuff!"

An efficient 10 minutes later I'm back downstairs, and find him in one of four queues, where I forthwith replace the cheap and utterly useless aluminum frying pan he chose with a decent £9 one.

He baulks. "What! We don't want a 600 rupee frying pan! What's wrong with the one I got?"

I begin to tell him but then grow so impatient, bored, and overcome with the futility of the conversation that I merely fix him with an icy stare and say, "We're getting it. Case closed." (We all know if won't be HIM vainly trying to scrape foodstuffs off the useless pan, and either burning or undercooking ever single meal we attempt)

So now we have a fully stocked pantry, and I can basically make my family anything their hearts desire. long as it's banana porridge, 'finger chips', nutella/jam/peanut butter on toast, eggs, or pancakes.

Still, best to keep cooking to a minimum I reckon, as an attempt the other day to make pasta for the kiddies in our friends posh villa, almost resulted in a medical disaster and/or kitchen fire. Despite paying six times the rent we are, this being India, it should have come as no surprise that the entire whole stove unit was not properly affixed to the wall. You can imagine our horror when a simple attempt to open the oven door caused the whole thing to come hurtling out from the wall, scalding water splashing all over the kitchen and just narrowly missing our bare legs.

The fellows came rushing in, and my friends husband starting mopping up the mess while MY husband had the good sense (despite being a few Kingfishers worse for wear by that point) to at least rescue the other saucepan which was still hovering precariously on the edge of the stove AND even more crucially turn off the gas burners!

See, the husband has his uses. Perhaps grocery shopping isn't his strong point, but he makes a mean pot of chai (tea) and can rustle up a makeshift toilet flusher like nobodies business.

And he doesn't wee the bed.

I'm a lucky woman...I really am.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

"The Nocturnal Water Sports of A Rude Rug-Rat"

There's only one thing worse than a mattress the thickness of a Ryvita. A mattress the thickness of a Ryvita which has been thoroughly soaked in urine during the night.

No, the husband has not turned into the local beach drunk (yet) and soiled the matrimonial bed. Rather, Dumpie has resumed his nocturnal visits and sometime last night, after crawling between the "M.D.U." (Mama Dada Unit) he chose to relieve himself while horizontal. Unfortunately his little winks must have been pointing due West (it's always me who he cuddles up to in bed, flinging one leg over my thigh so as to get the tightest possible fit) as when I got out of bed in the morning my knickers were damp.

We're currently in the 'can we be bothered' final phase of toilet training. As a compromise, we've put a plastic sheet under the boys mattress. But what with night time musical beds, it's about as useful as a tanning salon in India.

You know that show 'How Clean Is Your House?', where two apron clad ladies come round with bacteria testers and microscopes and suss out just how filthy and minging your home is? Well, I reckon they'd go running for the jungle behind our home if they inspected our mattress too closely. I simply don't want to know what lies (lives?) beneath the surface. I just don't. I figure that if I keep getting our sheets laundered and spray them with the little lavender scented linen spray I brought (yes...I actually packed some - you can mock but it's a godsend...seriously), then I shall be protected from whichever microscopic vermin or possible disease ridden bacteria have set up house there.

Aside from night time water sports, another evening ritual is to put on a dvd for the boys. I have lost track of how many times we've watched Star Wars, but it's Dumpies first choice time and again.

Now the thing about Dumps, although he is obsessed with Star Wars, it's actually the opening 'Da-da-da-da-da-daaaah' of the 20th Century Fox bit that he adores. He's forever begging, "Peeese Mama, me watch 'Dadadadadadaaah'! Peeeeeese?!"

(Auntie Ba cottoned onto this revelation some time ago and has kindly sent us the link to the opening credits so we can appease our youngest with a minimum of frustration...thanks Auntie Ba)

I'll be a bit sad when Dumps starts conversing normally, as he's currently sporting some classics, which the husband and I can't help but find endearing. "Tookie" (cookie) and 'Kepper' (ketchup) are firmly ensconced on the top five list, but it's liable to change daily as he begins to voice all manner of new phrases.

He still continues to berate me, "You stupid woman look what you make me do!" anytime he gets really frustrated or embarrassed. I don't even have to be in the same room to get the blame! But if he's just generally pissed off he'll stomp ominously towards me, eyes squinted and glaring, and spit out, "You stupid stinky poo poo pants dirty boy!" It's his greatest insult. But to be fair the blame lies with us as when previously frustrated by his refusal to use the potty we often called him a 'stinky poo pants'. Oooops.)

When uttered in public I don't think onlookers quite know what to make of our rude little rugrat. Being so tiny but so spirited he usually illicits bemused smirks, but we've really got to nip that one in the bud. Any older and if still sporting such behaviour, we'll have no choice but to whisk him off to a trailer park somewhere deep in Alabama or some other backward enclave in the "U.S. of F-ing A". where he'll fit right in speaking to the womenfolk this way. But as for our distinctly middle class hub in South West London, methinks it might not go down so well...

Dumpie is ultra aware when being patronised and as such, any precious moments between the husband and I - even if it's just a shared look of amusement - is met with scorn and derision as Dumps shouts, "You no laugh at me! You no smile at me!" Ummm...okay Dumps. We'll try and respect the mammoth sized ego squeezed into such a little pint-sized despot.

At any rate, he and Eggie are proper little Goan school boys now. Every morning Dumpie stands in our open plan kitchen, hands on hips, barking orders pertaining to which snacks he'd like me to fill his little school bag with. In a perfect world he'd just pocket the whole jar of peanut butter in his little bag, but it's getting embarrassing being the only mother sending her child to school with biscuits and the odd bunch of grapes, when the other little ones come with little tiffin boxes of savoury meals and snacks.

Eggie returned from HIS first day of school (the one which favours the 'Steiner' approach), announcing that it was too easy and he didn't learn a single thing.

He told us that his teacher said he could move from Class One (5-7 year olds) into Class Two (8-10 year olds), after he was caught answering sums aloud from the maths lesson next door. However when I broached the subject with his teacher I realised this was mere wishful thinking on his part as she firmly believes children his age shouldn't worry about maths and handwriting so young and there is no way he is moving out of his proper age-related class. Okey Dokey then :)

The only concession which has been grudgingly made is to allow Eggie, on occasion, to read aloud to his class once in awhile. And we've explained that he can use school as a social vehicle and we'll teach him the hard stuff at home. I do wonder how that might affect his popularity at school, but he doesn't seem to be bothered - his self-confidence at an all-time high given that he's the only one who appears to know what 142 minus 97 equals.

As for Dumps, apparently his German songstress of a teacher is worried that he's not joining in at 'circle singing time' with all the other children. Again, probably also our fault as I just couldn't bring myself to attend those mother/baby singsong groups when he was younger. Therefore she's given me a songbook of all their little ditties so we can practice at home and hopefully teach him the words and accompanying actions. Ummm...yeah...okay.

Dumps has told told me that the songs are 'stupid' and he won't sing. I actually don't blame him. I remember as a child refusing to sing aloud in class for the same reason.

The kid is cool. I get it. He's a little dude and singing "I'm a little teapot" is insulting to both his intelligence and his sense of self.

Now if only peeing on his mater fell under that self-same blanket of distaste....(sigh)

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

"Schools and Scoundrels"

We have discovered, much to our delight, that the monsters need not become uncivilised little urchins during their time here in Goa (which, if left to the solo care of their distracted and creatively indulgent parents might just have been the unfortunate result).

Indeed it appears that formal (if you can call it that) education may well be on the cards for Egg and Dumps...for a mere £100/month each. Bargain. Dumpie started yesterday and Eggie starts tomorrow. From 8:45am each morning until 1pm and 3pm respectively, the husband and I shall be free to indulge our creative pursuits without fear of child negligence and the near-constant interruptions for crisps, a game of football, a toilet break, the smashing of a glass, the screams of a brother-on-brother wrestling match in full swing, the wail of an unfortunate child who has been facially assaulted by a sand-blasting Dumps...etc.

It will be bliss. Even better, we shall stop the niggling voices in our heads proclaiming that we're merely self-indulgent 'Yippees' for having uprooted our family of four from the comfortable enclave of SouthWest London, and into this deep, dark, exotic Indian subcontinent.

Saying that, yesterday we could have been down our local boozer (well, maybe not ours...) what with the raucous cavorting of a group of ladies well past their 'prime', (and none the wiser about it), noise polluting our favourite little restaurant on the beach. Wearing bikini's and filthy grins they proceeded to get blind stinking drunk on vodka and cokes, then spent the next few hours serenading those of us unfortunate enough to have chosen to eat our lunch there, with the most tone-deaf 'slur-singing' as I have yet had the misfortune to ever encounter.

I was embarrassed for them, for Britain as a nation, and several times audibly (so the husband says) vocalised my fervent wish that both they and us be put out of our misery by accidental drowning or some such other 'unfortunate occurance'.

No such luck. Two of them at one point did indeed lurch drunkenly across the burning sand (with nary a flinch) and stumbled about in the waves like gleeful sea lions for a time, but wouldn't you know, they made it back to the beach shack, still very much in one piece, and sufficiently refreshed and invigorated enough so as to launch into a second, even more piercing tirade.

Incredibly annoying package tourists aside, Dumpies first foray into education has proved incredibly successful. I no longer wish to end my life (painlessly and quickly of course) by the time midday rolls around. And Dumpie gets to sing silly German counting songs and do things like wee in the Kindergarten sandpit.

Egg feels a bit left out, so we went and checked out the local foreign primary school. Taught not by a young, guitar-strumming German, but rather a middle-aged no-nonsense Hungarian, he is to start tomorrow. I have no idea what he's going to learn as they apparently favour 'play-teaching', and just finished three weeks learning about house building, but whatever it is, it shall no doubt be superior to riding shotgun on Dada's Enfield and doing little errands like picking up Kingfisher beer from the nearest village.

The husband is still a wee bit grumpy - despite being in Paradise - but i'm putting it down to his not yet having acquired an Indian bicycle. Apparently the procurement of such shall turn him into a happy little camper and render him eligible for 'husband of the year'...i'll keep you posted. In fact tomorrow I reckon we'll take the hour long taxi to the nearest big city while the boys are in school, as we have some errands to run. That is where said bike shall no doubt be purchased, and then a two hour ride back in the sweltering sun for him shall follow, as I journey back solo in the back of a white people carrier with 'Bollywood' tunes a'blasting.

Having spent the morning scouring our new home and unpacking all of our stuff, I can say with no uncertainty whatsoever, that I have BROUGHT TOO MANY CLOTHES!!

I would happily trade a few of my prize All Saints t-shirts for some bloody tupperware (to keep the ants out) and a big jar of proper Peanut Butter...not to mention some plastic drinking cups and some decent biscuits.

Egg rather tragically takes after his father and finds it difficult to keep hold of his valuables. We've been here a week and already he's lost his best (and really only) sun hat, his prized flashlight, a wicked whistle/compass/thermometer gizmo, and yesterday at breakfast while he obliviously munched on lemon sugar pancakes, a beach dog chewed up his only pair of flip-flops (sigh).

At any rate, it's time to go and collect our laundry, for which we shall no doubt be charged a ridiculously exhorbant sum, and shall henceforth discover that all our clothes have bled into the same reddish-brown hue and furthermore have been shrunk to midget-size proportions.

Ah well...we're in bloody Paradise innit. What's a few hundred pounds of ruined designer clothing (which I might add, should NEVER have been brought here in the first place...what was I thinking??!!) next to the gorgeous Arabian Sea and a yummy ice-cream cone which awaits our little family forthwith.

Adios...and don't be too should feel the monstrosity of a mattress we have to sleep's about as thick as a piece of Rivita.

Monday, 22 February 2010

"Kindergartens and Villas"

Tomorrow Dumpie starts at the local 'Kindergarten' here in Goa (ie. nursery). Conveniently, it will be mere yards away from the house we'll be renting, which - for those who know us - is both a result, and completely necessary if he intends to ever get there within the operating hours (8:30-1pm).

It shall be an interesting experience given that a) it's in India b) it's his first time at nursery...ever c) he's only four days toilet-trained d) it's being taught by a German, a Spaniard and two Indians ie. 'mega-lingual'. I must confess that I look forward to hilarious bits of discourse with Dumps in the coming weeks as he tries out his unique blend of Hinglish/Germanic/Spanish mishmash.

Yesterday we ran into old friends of ours from London. They have coincidentally come to Goa for a month and this being their first time ever on the Indian subcontinent, we are completely astounded (not to mention green with envy) that within mere hours of arrival they have not only managed to make a load of new mates (getting themselves - and us by proxy) invited to a sunset cocktail party, but have sorted themselves out with the loveliest villa I have ever seen on these shores.

It is on lush riverside landscape, boasts a gorgeous outside garden, breathtaking views and has the distinct advantage of being on the path of local fisherman who daily pass by and offer to sell some of their catch of the day...which can then be grilled up on their state of the art outdoor barbeque....nice.

But the piece-de-resistence is the on-site 24 hour butler/security guard/babysitter/errand boy/cleaner/laundry boy and all round 'Boy Friday'. Lucky sods. I expect we shall be spending a fair amount of time over the next month hanging round their plush digs - if only to get our bags of filthy clothes laundered and avail ourselves of the free babysitting option :)

We have decided to go for the two bedroom house option, which although far superior to the one room beachside hovel in which we currently dwell, is by no means anywhere near a 5* standard.

Still, we are not a 5* crew....might as well face it...and I'm sure with a bit of spit and polish and some lurking round local markets, I can do something with the place and make it cozy and homey. Besides, it's authentic Goan digs and kind of cool in its squalor, and apparently boasts warm water. Having spent the better part of a week shrieking under cold showers this is more of a draw then you can imagine.

Now, if I can drag Dumpie to his Kindergarten tomorrow AND make him stay, I somehow don't see myself getting teary-eyed or sentimental. But I do rather expect there is a high likelihood of being called on my local Indian mobile phone and told to come pick up my child immediately as he has done a wee in the sand pit or tried to strangle another child over a piece of watermelon.

Or, more likely, given our proximity to the school, I wouldn't be at all surprised to turn around whilst unpacking and see that Dumpie has simply wandered back home...leaving a young German teacher pulling her hair out in panic and forthwith rescinding his offer of acceptance.

I wonder if tuition costs are refundable?....

Friday, 19 February 2010

"Where Is Our Home Sweet Home?"

Without falling headlong into a racial cliche, I think it's fair to say that OFTEN in India, when you ask for help, people are so keen not to disappoint that they answer (whatever the query) with, "Of possible." If only it were so.

We are currently embroiled in the almost futile attempt to procure a long term residence near the end of the Goan tourist season. All the best places are snapped up in October/November by those keen to use their six month visa's in their entirety. We knew this might be an issue but had naively hoped against hope that a delightful large home might just magic itself into our lives. Not.

After three nights spent here on the beach, our little family of four are threatening to burst out of our one room hotel accommodation. Last night the husband had to spend a second night on Eggie's little mattress on the floor - which though affords the prospect of not being continually kicked and prodded by little hands and feet all night long - is much to small for his 6 foot 1 frame.

Everyone we ask, thinks for a minute or two, then breaks into a grin and announces that they know of some place somewhere.

However, we currently have but two prospects - neither of which is perfect - both having sufficient enough drawbacks as to be equally unappealing.

The first is across the road from the beach (great) and right next door to the kindergarten where we'll be enrolling Dumpie on Monday (super great). However the house is rather small (not great) and is situated next door to the young German kindergarten teacher - who although nice enough - did make it clear she doesn't like noise and within minutes of meeting us, told a rather random tale of having been massively annoyed by noisy neighbours (not so great).

This place does thankfully boast a 'Western' toilet and though compact, is in fairly good condition by local standards, but I can see the potential for going a bit mental in the rather confined quarters.

Our other option is a huge four bedroom residence right next to a primary school - which depending on how you look at it - is either amazing proximity for Egg (who we're thinking of sending there) or potentially annoying as all hell given the penchant over here for learning by rote..usually vocally. It's also rather shabby and a fair way from the beach, and a bit 'jungle-y and hippy' according to the husband (I haven't seen it myself).

So you see we're in a bit of a conundrum. Do the same rules apply here as they do in London? (ie. Location, location, location) OR do we need the space for the boys to run wild, have a dedicated room to trash with their toys, and have ample room for any friends/family who might decide to drop in. (Saying that, neither of us can think of anyone we know who might condescend to live in such squalor with us.

The husband is leaning toward the compact/close to beach option. I can only surmise that he is clever enough to realise that if he's going to bugger off all the time on mad bike rides, beer drinking sessions with visiting mates and solo adventures involving local chai shops and trying to write the next great British novel...then he darn well better make sure his wife is at least near the gorgeous beach where she can at least while away her time chatting to the stall owners, eating her own body weight in fresh fruit, and working on her tan (though if you know me you'll know that thanks to my Egyptian/Austrian heritage I generally always look like I've just come back from a week in the Caribbean...).

All I do know is that this current state of homelessness does not suit our filthy little crew. Dumps has suddenly done a 180 as of yesterday and toilet-trained himself (like I rather suspected he might). During dinner last night he just announced that he wanted me to take him to the toilet, and once there, aside from me having to grasp his little 'winks' between my thumb and forefinger and aim it into the bowl, he did the deed. (I am pleased to report that he is now on solo 'winky' duty - thank goodness- though the wiping down of bum area after a number two still needs to be administered by a learned hand). Nonetheless there are still a few accidents here and there, and the last thing one needs when sequestered inside a room the size of our former family bathroom, is to be aurally poisoned by the stench of souring wee in the hot midday sun.

To confuse matters further, we've just heard from a local woman that the place by the beach should be avoided AT ALL COSTS because the owners next door are loud, always crazy fighting and one of their sons is a bit funny in the head.

That should make them perfect potential neighbours I would have thought...non?

Thursday, 18 February 2010

"Home is Where the Hangover Is"

This is our second full day here. Our first was punctuated by an unfortunate altercation between three year old Dumpie and a molly-coddled nine year old boy. Dumps had accidentally thrown sand in this older boys eyes, and some time later his grumpy (bovine-like) mother stomped over and told off the husband and his friend (a mate from London who we bumped into on the beach) for not coming over and making sure her son was okay. I watched the scene unfold as she got angrier and angrier - despite my still-jetlagged husband's sombre and repetitive apologies and his mates effusive ones. She just wouldn't drop it. I finally had to interject (though I hadn't been privy to the crime), "He's only three years old! These things happen..."

(At this point I didn't realise her bloody son was nine years old and bawling like a baby over a bit of sad being chucked on him by....a baby. I suspect my response would have been a little less tempered had I known...)

With such an annoying start, the day had to get better...and it pretty much did. Despite the husband losing his mobile phone immediately upon arrival (unless it's stuffed in a pair of dirty knickers somewhere) and the four of us getting ravaged by mosquito's in the night, the sun is sublime, the food delicious, and the air....oh the air is heavenly. I forgot how lovely it is to breathe sweet sea air.

Jay is chuffed to have bumped into an old London mate, and as such, has fallen back into his usual London ways, transporting his tired family home after dinner last night and then sneaking back out for a few more 'bevvies' while I fended off the advances of two sweaty, cranky little midgets in our cramped mosquito-netted king size bed. Dumps insisted on sleeping ON TOP of me, and Egg awoke with nightmares and had to have a cuddle in the middle of the night.

This morning at first light, I grabbed my ipod and snuck out to the almost deserted beach for a quiet morning run. Wow...beautiful. There was plenty to keep me amused - not least the sight of an anorexic, scantily-clad Russian prostitute type doing a bizarre sort of canter along the beach in a barely there bikini and full make-up. It made me - initially self-conscious in my Adidas shorts and trainers - look positively normal.

I was further entertained by the sight of a sock-and-sandals wearing fellow and his lithe young lady companion beginning the reenactment of a pretty hardcore porn film. With what can only be described as pornographic urgency, just steps away from me they began heavy-petting and panting their way towards something which was headed inevitably towards copulation. Luckily some barking dogs killed the mood and discouraged them from their attempts at al fresco lovemaking. I shudder to think of what the locals would have made of that had things progressed any further. (Cut-off denim shorts are still considered risque here...)

A solo morning swim and a ten minute stint in the hammock later, and I was feeling distinctly chilled. That is, until I crept back into the room to find two starving, chattering monsters and a prone, passed out husband face down on the bed.

You can take the boy out of London...but you can't take the London out of the boy.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

"The Yippee's Have Landed"

I wish i could take credit for the term 'Yippee' but I can't. A good friend of ours jokingly referred to the husband and I as potential 'Yippee's' on the weekend at one of our many 'leaving do's' (this one a spontaneous, wine-fuelled last good-bye to a few dear friends)...and the term has stuck. (For those not in the know, a 'Yippee' is one social evolutionary step on from a 'Hippy'. Essentially a "Yuppie" who is pretending to be a 'Hippy'. Hmmm...

This point is made all the more clear now that we're here, surveying the local talent. There is the usual array of Westerners wearing 'bindi's' (the coloured dot women wear on their forehead between their eyes), and dressed in flimsy cotton coloured garb - picked up at the local stall for less than the price of a coffee at home. I hear a load of London accents and see many bikini-clad 'Yummy Mummy' types, marshaling two, three and even four young children down the beach, and frolicking with them in the deliciously warm Arabian Sea before slipping sparkly sarongs back onto their suntanned hips.

There is also the usual parade of freaks and geeks up and down the beach - but you have to look out for them. They can usually be spotted by their odd gait, mumbling happily to themselves and gesturing emphatically to no one in particular. At the airport I met one such loon. About my age, she had the remnant of a sweaty thong hanging out of the top of her jeans, wore a crazily euphoric expression, and invading my personal space in a big way, made as if to initiate a lesbian encounter. I was so exhausted I didn't even have it in me to be amused, but I did note the discomfort of other passengers and wasn't at all surprised to here she was also headed to Goa.

(FYI if I ever properly lose the plot, PLEASE can someone ship me out to India. They take care of the 'Kooks' out here, and in fact appear to accept them as necessary social fodder. People give them food, allow them to sleep where they may, and I wouldn't be in the least surprised if there are some naive European travelers following them blindly across the 'hippy trail' and believing them to be enlightened guru's, worthy of their devotion and foreign travelers cheques....)

Anyway, I digress. Let me catch you up on the past few days:

The flight was....amazing! Yes, Kingfisher Air has my vote. Before the flight even took off, the ultra pretty air stewardesses (no overweight, past-their-prime, grumpy cabin crew like the type favoured by Air Canada) sashayed up and down the aisles, dispensing various little plastic packages with all sorts of treats inside (including decent amenity packages which most airlines have now ceased to provide on account of them trying to transport economy passengers as frugaly and inhumanely as possible, like huge loads of stinking cattle).

True to form, there was one epic throw-up session, and I was the lucky recipient of most of it. Poor Egg lost it as we came into land in Mumbai (Bombay). The hot runway and long flight had proved too much and the little fellow let rip with what felt like 4 pints of Apple Juice in the sick bag I frantically hauled out. One of the pretty stewardesses simply sashayed over and without losing her stride, took the folded top bag and whisked it away out of sight...bish bash bosh.

A short transfer later and we landed down in Goa. Exhausted and swelteringly hot, we couldn't be bothered to negotiate a large vehicle to transport us and our luggage (8 check-in bags and four carry-on's plus about four more little bags we somehow acquired en route...??). So Dumps and I took one mini van and the husband and Egg took the other. An hour and a half later we pulled up to our little bit of paradise on the beach, and shortly found ourselves ensconced in a fairly simply room right on the water.

We're here. For better or worse we've done it. How do we feel? Like shell-shocked but terribly fortunate little 'Yippee's'...

Friday, 12 February 2010

"It's All the Little Things..."

I'm sitting here at my dining room table, glumly surveying the wasteland of 'Forgotten Objects' which litter the dark wood surface. Despite having spent the past three hours trying to attack the mess, I have precious little to show for my zealousness.

Where do all these miniature bits and bobs come from? Why do I have a million and one scraps of newspaper/magazine clippings and will I ever read them? How come we have triple the amount of power cords that we do actual gadgets? Whose homes do the dozen odd sets of keys in our utility drawer open and belong to??!

I've now stopped caring what I look and feel like and am devoting my last few days on this continent to systematically trashing/stashing/packing ALL of our personal possessions. I am subsisting on a diet of super-strength cappuccinos, homemade peanut butter cookies (what can I say?...baking is the only thing that relaxes me these days), and the odd bit of cheese and baguette.

Tonight however I intend to break out the red wine as the Diet Pepsi just ain't cutting it anymore. We are up to six suitcases and all thoughts of traveling 'light' have abandoned us. We shall be as we suspected - no more and no less - a wailing, shouting, vomit-stained traveling circus.

On a positive note however, I shall at least be hair-free as I'm booked in (the morning of the flight...why not live dangerously) to get waxed within an inch of my life.

Perhaps I should have made the appointment for today. It might have jolted my spazzed mind into some sort of panicky packing frenzy. Which would mean I wouldn't still be staring at the utterly useless pile of junk before me in exactly the same manner as I was over an hour ago.

Time for that wine.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

A Haiku

Eating licorice
Drowning in paralysis

We are really screwed

-"Moaning Mum"
(composed one week before 'G-Day' - sitting at my dining table...eating licorice...and too panicky to do anything about the hundreds of still as yet unboxed possessions in her field of vision)

Monday, 1 February 2010

"Flash Those Pearly Whites"

I've decided, in a dual effort to rid our home of 'stuff' and have a glorious white smile to flash on the beaches of Goa, to embark on a 14-day treatment of home tooth bleaching. I realise that there are a million other tasks lined up on the sidelines frantically vying for my attention, but no...priorities. Plus, it hasn't escaped my attention that we depart these shores in exactly 14 days and there is something stupidly pleasing about finishing the course on the day we leave.

I call it madness because after only one treatment, my already sensitive teeth are buzzing with pain. Like I need this right now. Moreover, both Egg and the husband were looking at me with a mixture of incomprehension and pity this morning, as they weren't aware I was wearing the yucky tasting gel strips, and hence were a bit puzzled/put off by my incoherent lisping and inability to communicate over breakfast.

Spoke to our estate agent this morning, who confirmed what we had already suspected. The couple who viewed our home on the weekend have decided against our place (how dare they?!) and ergo - the four hours we spent frantically turning this tip into a show home of sorts was a TOTAL.WASTE.OF.TIME. (sigh)

Today, aside from packing up the lovely portraits and family pictures which adorn our dining room wall, I have done sweet little else but frantically order Disney dvds online.

You see, I've decided that since Egg and Dumpie have the uncanny ability to watch the SAME movies over and over, therein lies the answer to our future problems. When boredom hits in India and whilst I have my headphones on and 'Dada' is off cycling round villages with reggae blaring off his portable speakers, the monsters can watch 'Shrek 2' for the fifteenth time and be none the worse off for it.

Never mind the school little men will be educated by the 'school of Disney' (which dictates that the good guy always wins out in the end, the boy always gets the girl, and the evil witch is always defeated....).

With the future well-being of the boy's emotional behavioral expectations sorted, that leaves me with the freedom to get back to sorting out my now horribly sensitive teeth.

Off to buy some sensitive mouth toothpaste (and maybe another dvd)...