India, our motherland, has been the most difficult country for us to adjust to. Most of this has been due to lack of control. In the past, we’ve stayed for no more than two weeks, and were happy to go with the flows that our families set. However, we’re spending two months here now, and relying on others for everything is becoming uncomfortable.
In every other destination, our we have had to figure things out for ourselves. We’ve chosen to stay mainly in rentals as opposed to guest houses or home stays because we value some privacy. After a few days of scouting around for grocery stores, transportation, and babysitters we fell into a basic rhythm. We maintained control over our comings and goings, and the people we relied on were generally reliable. Our independence may have cost us the ability to truly live as locals, but it’s enabled us to maintain some normalcy for us and the kids.
We arrived in India expecting to rely on the system our families have established. We’re here to spend time with our parents and extended family and are staying with them. However, what this means is that rather than doing our own groceries, we add to an existing list. Instead of calling a tuk tuk, we negotiate around the rest of the house’s schedules for the cars and driver. A basic errand turns out to be a detailed conversation of who knows who and how and where the task should be done. We love having this time with family, but needed to establish our own routines.
One challenge was mobility. We solved that problem when Sandeep braved the Indian wheel.
Another challenge was eating and drinking what we want. Fo example, coffee in India is a dessert-like concoction involving liberal amounts of sugar and whole milk. After much hunting we found the only espresso machine in town at Third Place. Like most establishment here, its shutters don’t rise until 11 AM. After some negotiation and a promise to patron every morning, the manager agreed to serve us cappuccino at 9:45 while she readies for the day.
We love Indian food, and can’t go a week without it on the road. Even in Thailand, with it’s diverse cuisine, we caved in and sought Indian. But days on end of spice laden dishes, coconuts, and hearty meals had our stomachs begging for a break. We resurrected Sandeep’s parents barbecue, which hadn’t seen a spark since it left New Jersey four years ago.
Another goal was to find the kids some friends. They’ve had unlimited time with us, but minimal time with their peer group. We decided to use our block of time in India to enroll them in a morning pre-school. It’s an adjustment for them, since the children all speak Malayalam, but Ava and Kayan are excited to see their new friends each morning and are filling out their vocabulary with Malayalam.
Our persistence has led to a morning schedule. Sandeep and I drop the kids at school at 9:30 and then go on our speak easy cappuccino date. Back home, I make a bland egg breakfast, after which we park ourselves on the terrace. Sandeep works, I write, and we both watch the morning unfold along the backwaters and rice fields.
The rest of the day is a commotion of family errands, visitors and visits. But the days as a whole end with a good balance of extended family time and nuclear family independence.