Rach's Ramblings

Thoughts from another world

The Cleaning Fairy

You may not have been aware of this, but over the last 13 years of marriage, Andy and I have employed a vast staff of house help. Think Downton Abby downstairs and you’ll get an idea. Jeeves was our first and longest serving employee. If the Lord and Lady were both sitting down at the end of a hard day, we would call for Jeeves to make us a cup of tea. Our nanny was called Mary and she would often be called upon to change nappies and break up squabbling children. Betty was our cleaner – dishes, bathrooms and floors were her tasks. Unfortunately, each of these staff were quite inept- in fact they never even raised a finger to help and we were left to do all these menial tasks ourselves. (nb. Except when Levi had a pooey nappy and we would encourage him to run across to grandmas:-). ) So the problem with our staff? Well, they were the figment of our imagination and the products of our longings and therefore they were unequivocally disappointing.
So, fast forward to India, and the staff is now a reality! She’s a one woman show called Latta and although she doesn’t come in the evenings to make me a cup of tea and she doesn’t help with the kids, there is nothing else that this woman won’t do!!! She is sweet and petite and as strong as an ox- and we love her to bits.
I struggled so much at first with the whole concept. I felt like a lazy slob and I would follow her around apologizing and picking things up around her. It even got to the point where my guilt would lead me to flee the house so as not to suffer my feelings of embarrasssment.
Truth be told, having an Ayah (maid) in India is indispensable. It is a cultural norm, providing employment for local ladies ( but at a rate that is next to nothing for Australians) It is the way things are done here and most significantly for me, it also means that I can leave the house and be engaged in meaningful activities at school and in the local community.
It would be a full time job to just keep the house clean here- no brooms, just stick brushes, no mops, just a cloth. Stone floors, dusty mountain, soaking all fruit and veg to kill germs, an ancient house with cleaning quirks. Oh, Ayahs are a gift from heaven!
Back in Australia, my very being used to rebel at the inordinate amount of time I spent in cleaning up and then just re cleaning up again and again and again ad infinitum!!!! I knew it had to be done, but as every woman knows, it was the undoing of the doing that really drove me bonkers! I would even find myself discouraging the kids from playing with their toys as that would just require more cleaning up. Well, now that is a thing of the past! I leave the house a shambles, and come home to find it clean. I bake and bake and leave the dishes and they are gone when I get home. The cleaning fairy is real and her name is Latta. My boys are turning into little slobs as she even makes their beds and cleans up their toys. I’ll have some catching up to get them ready for their future wives:-) In the days pre- Latta I would go to hop into bed and remember that I hadn’t put the fresh sheets on, don’t you hate that! Well, now I just put the fresh sheets out and she makes the bed for me.
It’s not all perfect, and before you scoff there have been some issues, for example, her acceptance of mould and refusal to clean it and her tendency to turn off the hot water when she leaves subjecting us to cold showers. There were some extreme tantrums when she packed up what looked like Lego mess but was actually a complex Lego space base. And she does water my plants every day and their roots are rotting. She also doesn’t speak English and even though I have excellent sign language skills that involve lots of waving and gesturing, we never have any idea what the other is talking about. My Hindi lessons will help in time, but at the moment unless we are counting to 20 or discussing how many kilo of carrots I would like to buy, it’s not really a help!

Living in India has its very real struggles- struggles that make me long for home and sometimes feel like giving up. But it also has Latta and when I’m feeling down I remember that I haven’t cleaned a toilet in 8 months and I feel a whole lot better.



A day in the life of me

A day in the life

6.30am – We are reluctantly pulled from sleep as Levi, then Samuel, then Josh fight for space in our bed. Luckily it’s a big bed (no such thing as double beds here so it’s two singles pushed together).
We roll out of bed and face the icy reality of no heating. Our showers are lightening fast. There is exactly enough hot water for two people to have a 1min 40 second shower each. Andy has learnt not to linger or he will face the wrath of Rach. He feels this is unfortunate as most of his best thinking used to be done in the shower- I guess it will mean a huge outpouring of retained great thoughts when he visits Oz.

7:00am – we quickly down a bowl of cornflakes ( they come in mango, strawberry, chocolate and honey flavors- we stick to original for the sake of our sugar intake:-) ) then job alert goes on. The boys have 10 minutes to do their jobs and be ready to walk to school- this includes being coated, beanied and gloved as the mornings are icy.

7:30am – we begin our walk to school. Along a quiet mountain track then past the dorms where we are joined by groups of secondary students, bags on backs, making their way up the mountain. Eyes just showing above our layers, we puff our way up the mountain. Levi occasionally lags, but he is getting so much stronger and doesn’t need to be carried now. The path winds in a zig zag up the steep side of the mountain. Along the way we greet the guards with ‘Namaste’ – they are there to protect us from the monkeys that lurk on the path and bounce in the trees- they are armed with sling shots and long sticks.

7:50am- we arrive at school, breathless and sweating, an attractive start to the day. The boys make their way to their lockers where they leave their bags and run to play with their friends on the simple wooden playground. Their friends are a kaleidoscope of cultures- Canadian, American, Indian, African American, French, British, New Zealander – different skin colors and accents which our kids are now completely oblivious to. It’s a beautiful thing.

8:30am- an enthusiastic school worker vigorously rings the hand held bell and it echoes through the quad and into the old buildings. There is a mad dash of students from every direction and within seconds there are well formed class lines and the students are welcomed to the day by the principal.
Andy leads his grade 5 class to their room and every second day, I lead my grade 6 class to RE.
The school day has begun.

9:00am – my RE class is finished and it is now time to teach a young boy food technology- some days we cook together and other days we do theory lessons. He is enthusiastic and sweet and a real blessing.

10:30am- I jump on my scooter to head into the bazaar to do my shopping. The bazaar is still quiet at this time and I make good time past the monkeys, cows and children playing by the road side. I pull over at a fruit and veg vendor, and without even hopping off my scooter, I buy my weeks fresh produce. I buy everything in kg and half kg and he weighs it on old fashioned scales. He always sneaks some old or damaged produce in when I am not looking- and I understand that he needs to sell this too. Balancing the produce between my feet I arrive at the grocers- a tiny shop with two aisles. A shop assistant follows me through the shop holding a basket. Much of what I want is not displayed and he keeps disappearing out the back to find what I need. Cold food will be added later. The owner tallies up my purchases on a piece of paper and i leave without paying and without my shopping- it will be delivered to my house later in the day and I have an account at the shop that I pay once a month.

11:45am- back to school to pick up Levi from the ECP (early childhood program). He is delighted that he has done another purple picture ( his life revolves around the color purple). He and I sit down for lunch in the staff dining room- he doesn’t eat much of the Indian style food but I quite like it. We are joined by other staff and spend a lovely time chatting. We pop in to see Andy in his class and spend some time helping out with his students.

12:30- with Levi positioned between my knees, I ride the scooter down the mountain to our house. It is bumpy and precarious but we love it- Levi keeps up a constant stream of chatter- pointing out obstacles and encouraging me to run over monkeys- its all I can do to stay on the road and not be distracted by his observations. We make it safely home, helmets off and walk back down the path to our house at the bottom of the hill, surrounded by forest.

2:45pm- after playing duplo, baking, emailing etc… it is now time to scoot back up to school to pick up Samuel. In the old school dining room we all share the afternoon tea- hot chocolate and cake. Samuel’s teacher has just announced that she is pregnant and the kids are buzzing with the news. I sit and pass the time with the other mums, sitting on the benches and trying to thaw out in the patches of sun.

3:50pm- Josh finishes school and he appears at a run, gives me a huge hug and kiss and disappears into the dining room for his snack. I try to muster the boys for the walk down hill, but Levi keeps disappearing and reappearing surrounded by girls. Samuel is playing 4 square and Josh has disappeared into the library and is curled up with a Tintin comic. I finally gather them together, we say goodbye to Daddy and join the throngs of students making their way back down the hill. Our pace is much quicker now as it is downhill and we chat about the day just been. By the time we get home the sun is already sinking and there is not much of the day left. Andy is home an hour later after tutorials. The boys play with their toy soldiers and Lego then do their homework. I have finally worked out cooking in India and dinner is mostly Western food, prepared on a gas cooker.

7:30pm- the old wood burner is lit and the house warms a little. Bedtime rituals for the boys and then snuggled up for sleep- exhausted from their walking, learning and playing.
Andy and I sit around the fire and do our preparations for the next day. We are tired but happy. There is much to miss from our life in Australia but also so much to be grateful for in our new life here.
10:30am – Another day in India has closed and we gratefully snuggle under the covers and rest to be ready for a new day.

(this is just a sample of one of my days- other days might have Hindi lessons, mums lunches, coffee with a friend, friendship club, rural village visits and lots more. )






Five go on World’s Worst Roads

Last week, India took up a big stick and whacked me with it! It knocked me down and has left me with a headache and a sense of confusion as to the whys of it all.
It was a series of smallish straws that broke this camel’s back. As a family we travelled out to a remote village/town and spent a couple of days there. The friendliness of the people we met there was unparalleled and their hospitality amazed me. But, being away from the Woodstock bubble caused a belated second culture shock. Temperatures were below zero and there was no heating in the hotel room. Our bed covering was a worn doona and there was no hot water. I slept in my beanie, gloves, thermal pants, trackie pants, thermal top, fleecy jacket, down coat, long socks and the rest of my clothes laid over the top of me. A very attractive sight! The electricity was out much of the time and we got dressed in the dark and dealt with grumpy kids in the dark. I am embarrassed to say, and brought low by my own weakness, but our accommodation totally unnerved me. Who knew that I was so reliant on basic comforts like heat and hot water!
I also discovered that mountains make me claustrophobic and car sick. We drove for 4 and a half hours to get to the village and then of course had to come back again and there was not a straight road the entire way. I remember thinking when we first arrived that the road to Mussoorie was like the great ocean road on steroids, well this road was like the road to Mussoorie on steroids and a crazy exercise routine and carb loaded diet. It went on and on and on and on. My stomach churned and churned and churned and there was no break. And the mountains were still there….
I had been quoted a price for the drive to the village and at the end of the trip the driver requested an amount which was so very much more than quoted. I felt done over and it is not a feeling I relish.
We got back in the chill of the evening to find that our house had been locked up and the key taken. After some confusion we discovered that the guards had thought we’d left for the holidays and packed up for us.
The next day we wandered down to the bazaar to pick up Andy’s watch that we’d left to be fixed. The watch man just looked at us vaguely and had no recollection of the said watch! He tried to give us instead a blue plastic watch.
Once again I felt my control slipping away and the helpless feeling creeping over me.
The rubbish man hasn’t been coming and we have rubbish piled around our ears. The wood we bought off the school was too wet to burn so it has actually been colder inside than out.
I am cold, confused and reeling.
And I am also totally aware that this too will pass.
I am spending time debriefing with my darling man, I am wrapping a rug around me and sitting in the presence of God and feeling his comfort and strength wash over me, I am ordering some dry wood.
To someone living in their own country in the familiar of their every day, this account of my breaking might seem over the top. But when there is nothing familiar and known, when the world does not function as you have been conditioned to think that it should- it doesn’t take a whole lot to knock someone down.
Culture shock is like a sea. It gently rolls away from day to day and I cope beautifully but then out of the blue the sea swells and a giant wave knocks me over. But, thank God, it then recedes and the sea is calm again and I can cope- actually more than that: I can love, and live and thrive!

(Note to reader- I wrote this 3 weeks ago and am only now publishing it. The moment I describe has long passed but I think it is worth publishing as it was very true at the time and will quite possibly be true again.)


Five spend some time apart


I have been sleeping in my pink room this week. Back at the farm, second door down the passage; a room that is exactly as I left it. Samantha my rag doll sits propped on my bed, laminated posters of the railway children and dried roses hang on the walls and on the dresser are delicate jewelry boxes with forgotten treasures (including every tooth I ever lost!) It is a room so full of nostalgia that I am sometimes overwhelmed. I wake in the night to hear the same glass bells hanging from the slanting roof gently moving in the breeze that comes in through the window and I see the glow of the luminescent stars that I so excitedly placed there still shining on the walls. It’s like my childhood and girlhood has paused here and still lingers, and I am lost in remembered dreams and plans and hopes.
For a week now I have slept in my single bed under my pink floral doona and for a space in time I have not felt like a mother or wife. Of course that is what I always am, but for this time I have been a child again. I have been fed and mothered as I have recovered from surgery and I have not done a single useful thing for an entire week. I have not wiped a child’s bottom, I have not answered a child’s questions, I have not met someone else’s need. And it has felt…strange.
Added to this my drug addled brain and I have not even been able to think complete thoughts, or pray meaningful prayers or even speak intelligent sentences. And in the small hours of the night, when my body decided to remain on Indian time, I have read the books from my childhood. The bookshelf in my room has once more been my solace, and last night I found a peace in all this strangeness.
I had been reading some of my Patricia St John favorites and had then been trying to pray, and my prayers were somehow the prayers of a child in a child’s room. Frustrated, I kept trying to make things more complex but complexity would not come. The books I had been reading were about children finding faith in the midst of struggles and it was faith that demanded no theology or complexity or answers to every question. It was light in a dark place, peace in a storm, trust for provision and just simple faith in Jesus.
I had this vision of a rose in Mum’s garden. So extravagantly beautiful just as it is. I could examine it and study it and learn more of how it works, and in some ways that would enhance the beauty. But there is still such breathtaking joy in just the simple wonder of the flower and its scent and what it brings to a garden of flowers. Faith is like that rose. It doesn’t need all the trappings of study and knowledge to cause one to stop in awe. It is what it is through the simple, unquestioning trust- faith like a child. I am sometimes so overwhelmed by the complexities of faith, of life, of adulthood. Sitting in my pink room, surrounded by the innocence of my childhood and rendered useless in terms of my usual endeavors, I am bought back to my childlike faith and encouraged to begin at the beginning. There is nothing wrong with simplicity and my Saviour is one who welcomed the simple and the children who came to him.
And so, I will rest, I will trust, I will remember and then look forward to the life that awaits outside my pink room.




Five have moved to a zoo



There are days when I feel the need to pinch myself and check that this is really real, in particular with regards to animals. Did I just walk through a huge group of monkeys? Did the boys not even blink when we saw a herd of goats on the road, a troop of monkeys and a sow with her piglets? Am I really writing this with a huge brown (evil) monkey looking on? On my first scooter ride, did I really contend with 3 horses, 4 cows, a herd of goats and innumerable monkeys?
Today particularly was a day like that.
As I rode up to school on my scooter, I see a jeep drive past with a whole lot of kids waving out the window….oh, there’s Samuel…I was unaware that there was an excursion on today. At pick up, I am told by an excited boy that they just went to see the dead leopard! Oh, of course they did. What was I expecting. I was regaled with explanations of its size ( a cub really) and the state of its squashed head with its eye hanging out. Seems it had come off worse for wear with a car.
Then I am in the school playground on the side of the mountain and am told that the guards have just chased off a bear!!! Yes, a bear!!! I am picturing huge grizzly bear, but from the description it sounds like it was more the size of koala bear ( I know, I know koalas are not bears).
Then I arrive home to find that the monkeys have once again removed my clothes from the line and strewn them around the yard AND they have emptied my bin and had a party with the contents. Aargh.
But that’s not all…. this afternoon I also saw a whole family of pine martins ( a badger/weasel sort of thing) walking along my back fence. And what was that tap tap tap noise? Oh, it’s just a woodpecker tapping on the tree outside my door!!!! Did I get transported to an animal sanctuary???? No, I guess not, as this isn’t exactly a sanctuary- the leopard was dead and the monkeys are being chased away with sling shots and large rocks., but I am definitely living in a weird and wonderful place and it never fails to surprise me.



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Five blow the clouds away

The monsoon just finished. Just like that. One minute it was wet and the next it wasnt! Suddenly, the world is bright again. The sky is the bluest of blues and I just can’t stop looking at it. There are houses on the ridge behind me that I hadn’t even seen until now- wow, a whole new world arising after the mist.
Within a day my clothes feel dry when I put them on and my bed is no longer damp when I get in. I even hung clothes on the line today and they are nearly dry- I’m guarding for cheeky monkeys, while soaking up the sun, wearing a singlet top and hoping that no stray coolies or house helps wonder by and die of shock at the sight of uncovered skin!
In true me fashion, I am already feeling slightly nostalgic for the monsoon. There is an innate part of me that secretly mourns the passing of every season, (even Winter in Ballarat) – maybe its because I still find it hard to believe that each season will return in its time and will be just a amazing as the one just leaving me. Creation moves me deeply and turns my eyes to the creator- it centers me, enchants me and causes me to look inward and then outward and upward.
And so, as this season passes I already think fondly of the mist. How one minute you could see the path ahead and then the next a cloud would swarm up the mountain and over you and cover you in a soft, quiet veil. And the deep, verdant green of the moss and tree ferns – they are already brown. And walking with my umbrella….with tired, grumbling, wet boys and putting on wet shoes in the morning and battling the blue devil (mould) and nothing ever drying….oh that’s right, good riddance monsoon and no looking back!!! Bring on the sunshine:-)



Five are not surprised by cows.

I realized today, that I am settling in. I look around and I don’t see foreign, I see familiar. I see my home.
The trigger that made me realize this was something so small, but indicative of the bigger picture.
I walked into the bazaar and kept walking! Ok, so to explain that… Motorbikes, scooter, trucks, taxis, oversize cars all came past, zooming alongside me, tooting their horns and jostling for space on the road…and I just kept walking! The me of last week would have squished to the side of the road, stopped in shop doorways to let cars past and generally looked nervous. The new, settled me, just kept right on walking, weaving around cars and cows and dogs and monkey poo and just kept on walking!
And when I stop to think about it there have been other indicators:

  • I don’t exclaim in wonder at cows in the middle of the road or trying to get into shops.
  • I don’t even hesitate to let Josh and Samuel squish onto an already crowded scooter to go up the hill.
  • I see a scorpion on my floor and just calmly get the dustpan and squish it (not even a scream, although maybe still a slight shudder:-))
  • I see a spider on the wall and pause, take off my shoe, squish it, put my shoe back on and keep walking (the kids don’t even notice the danger I’ve saved them from and to quote the Scottish play, “if it were done when tis done then twere well it were done quickly”.)
  • I expect to walk everywhere and don’t complain anymore (well not as much anyway.)
  • My legs are strong as! No more shaky legs after walking up a million steps.
  • I don’t even think about putting my seat belt on  (funnily enough I went to get out of the taxi the other day and wondered what was holding me back- seems 34 years of conditioning had come back to the fore and I’d unknowingly put on my seatbelt. )
  • Of course, I say, we can fit 8 people in that little car!
  • Namaste comes more quickly to my lips than hello.
  • If I even touch Andy in public I feel uncomfortable- we held hands the other day and we might as well have been full on snogging!
  • I love wearing the long Indian tops- they are ridiculously comfortable.
  • I don’t even pause when the power goes out. Levi still tries to count to 15- he knows that the power always comes back on after 15 seconds when the generator kicks in.
  • I no longer sanitize my hands all the time
  • A dose of the runs is a positive thing- it helps combat the oily, carb loaded diet.
  • I think of fruit as a thing of the past and instead long for the sweet tea, sugary treats and junk that we eat here. I don’t think Levi even remembers a time when we had healthy snacks!
  • Man weeing as I walk past… Just avert eyes and keep on walking (actually, that’s a lie, I  usually back up around the corner and then wait until I hope he’s finished and keep walking forward – give me another month or two and I’ll probably be squatting next to him:-)
  • The people in the quad, the children playing, they have stories now for me – they have a place in my world and I in theirs.

And a feeling, as I walk down the mountain ridge to our house, that I am walking home.

As Levi says every day, “I got two homes, one in India and one in ‘stralia.”


Five consider dying their hair

So, in Australia, being blonde is normal.  In fact, I’ve always thought that blondes have more fun.  Just like red cars go faster.  I enjoy being a blonde (I’m probably more mousy brown now in my old age) and I know Andy and my brother Nathan  would have been pressed to know what to do without the joy of hours of blonde jokes at my expense.

So, in India, being blonde is VERY abnormal.  As a family of mainly blondes, we stand out like 5 cows in a mob of sheep.  I’m ok with this.  I don’t mind a bit of attention, but it’s a different story for Samuel.  As our dear little introvert, he is absolutely hating the excessive attention. After one particular evening of staring, giggling and cheek pinching, he declared that he is going to dye his hair brown so he doesn’t get stared at.  When he and I were walking into the dining room for dinner the other night, I turned to find that he had his hood pulled up over his head and was slinking along behind me, hoping he wouldn’t be noticed.  One girl yelled out, “Hey Levi” and I heard Samuel mutter, “yeah my disguise worked.”  It was still attention but at least he felt it wasn’t directed at him :’-)

People always want photos with us. We normally say no but this time it was us taking the photo.

We were in the bazzaar a while back and it was like we were film stars.  People followed us asking for photos of the boys, ladies came and pinched Levi and Samuel’s cheeks and giggling children followed in our wake.  Samuel was once again hating it, until he realised that with blonde cuteness comes added perks.  He was being given handfuls of lollies! Levi was too, although by then he had been hoisted onto Andy’s shoulders to avoid the touching.  So, suddenly attention was not all bad.  So, where does Josh fit in all this?  Well, he is neither blonde nor cute (more handsome in an 8yr old sort of way), so he doesn’t get any attention and consequently no lollies.  Well, you can’t win them all.

There are two main attention givers.  Firstly, Indian ladies and children, who giggle and point as we walk home from school.  At first I was trying to figure out if I had a hole in my pants or was showing too much ankle.  Now I know it is just part of life lived in a fish bowl.

The other main attention givers are the Korean and Indian female students at Woodstock.  We live just near the dorms and a couple of times a week we eat in the boarder’s  dining room.  The girls  are so friendly and just LOVE blonde children so we always get girly screams and “Oh you are so cute” as we walk by or go to eat.

I’m working out how I can use this attention to my best advantage.  I’m thinking babysitters, walking up the hill buddies for the boys and whatever else I can come up with.  In the mean time, I’m sure our novelty will wear off and if it doesn’t, well we could always dye our hair.  Mmm, maybe red???


Five slowly figure things out!

To laugh or cry? That is the question.

Day 1: Setting up washing machine. A man was supposed to come to do it but due to communication difficulties ie. He doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Hindi, he doesn’t turn up so Andy sets to work.  Does a smashing job- lugging if up the stairs into the bathroom and connecting it.  Hose wasn’t connecting properly to the tap so water poured all over the floor.  Clean it up.  Set the machine going.

Andy goes down to get a drink only to hear yells from Samuel who can’t get to the toilet as the washing machine is in the way.  Too late – and as he has “loose bowels” it was a sight to behold.  Clean up the floor.

I go downstairs only to find that in Andy’s haste to get upstairs for Samuel, he had left the filter going and it had poured water all over the floor in the kitchen.  Clean up the kitchen.  While doing that, I hear a clunk from upstairs and rush up, to find that the hose that empties the washing machine had flicked out of the shower recess and was emptying the contents of the machine on the floor.  Clean it up.

Day 2: Turn on the washing machine again. Collect a stool sample from Samuel (a story in itself!). On my way downstairs, whack my head on the low ceiling and collapse.  Manage to save the stool sample, but drop my phone.  The screen cracks. After recovering, go downstairs and realise that somehow turning the washing machine on upstairs had flicked the water filter on downstairs (go figure) and it had poured out all over the floor. Clean it up.

Day 3: The dryer goes round and round but doesn’t dry the clothes.  Andy puts his hand in to check and gets a mild electric shock.  Call the dryer man.  He doesn’t speak English. Get a translater in and 2 days later I’m still waiting. I now have lots of clean washing but it is all wet and going mouldy. Andy gets the runs.  Samuel still has the runs.  Levi gets the runs. I get the runs. We spend all day running to the toilet with our runs! Gastrolyte the drink of choice for the family.  First day of school tomorrow….

To laugh or cry?  Bit of both.  Probably more crying than laughing at the moment but once I’m feeling better I’m sure the laughter will kick in. In survival mode at the moment.  The honeymoon definitely finished after week one and now reality has set in.  Praise God that He is here with me in the midst of it and will walk with me into better days.


Five fly over the sea

The monsoon just started!  I woke this morning to thunder rolling through the Himalayas and now the rain is thunderous on the roof.  The paths are gushing with rivers of water.  The hills are soaking up the rains. The insects are making a mad dash for safety by retreating into my house – so far this morning 3 silverfish, 2 earwigs and 1 massive spider. And…this will continue for two months!  Two months of stir crazy children and being perpetually wet.  Suddenly India seems more daunting!

 Only one week ago we arrived and yet it seems like a lifetime.  Life here is SO different and praise God, we are loving it! (So far)  The people are beautiful- welcoming and friendly and the scenery is SPECTACULAR.  For us country people we couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place to live.

 I could write an essay on all we have experienced but for my readers sake I will put it into a list.

  Walking through the gates at Melbourne airport after farewelling our family and Levi announcing “I in India!” And after every flight after asking, “Are we there yet?”

 25 new staff, all equally bewildered by India, bonding and discovering our new country together. One very special family with 3 kids the same ages as our boys – feeling very blessed to have such lovely new friends.

 A 5 hour train trip across India.  The boys had their noses stuck to the window most of the trip as they took in the masses of humanity, the slums, the sugar cane, the Hindu processions, the mangy cows and donkeys. An amazing introduction to India.

 A one hour ride up the steepest, winding road imaginable (think the Great Ocean Road on steroids and going uphill) and we climbed off our bus to a huge welcome from the principal and some of the staff (check out the Woodstock school website for photos of our arrival)

Monkeys and more monkeys!  Very cute but not so friendly.  One tried to attack Samuel and was scared off just in time by my brave and valiant husband.  Another one with a baby came into our staff meeting! And I arrived home yesterday to see all my washing spread around my yard – apparently they can be very cheeky and love to play with washing!

 An Australian Party.  All the Aussies on staff got together at a house on the hillside to talk footy and cricket and all things Australian.  Had a ball! (Many of the Woodstock staff are from the USA so it is a pleasant change to be with Australians.)

 Quirks of life at Woodstock:

  • When I turn on the kettle the lights go dim.
  • The tap with the red dot is the cold tap
  • Leeches love me and I only know I have had one when it drops off and then there is blood everywhere. (Lucky I’m from a farm so not at all freaked out!)
  • Purple water is safe water. You have to soak all fruit and veg in a potassium solution which turns the water bright purple.
  • When you ask to see a dryer (to combat the monsoon)  in the electrical shop, they ask you to wait a minute and then you see a man carrying it up the bazaar from their store house which is obviously somewhere else! Nearly had to buy it from embarrassment.
  • The bread man, Ayahs seeking work (house help), grocery man, bin men, coolies who are lost – are constantly at my door!  I have taken to making sure I am decently clothed at all times.
  • When I bought a dryer, it was carried up the mountain by a coolie (strapped on his back – a 30 min walk straight up!!) And arrived at 9pm the day I bought it – the Good Guys could take a leaf out of their book!
  • We live and breathe hand sanitiser.
  • The saucepans don’t have handles
  • Monkeys are scared of rocks and umbrellas – we carry them at all times.  You can also buy monkey bombs (like a firecracker) from the bazaar – am going to get myself some of them!
  • To get an Indian outfit you go to one shop to choose material and then to the tailor to be fitted out. The boys and I are going today as they need outfits for Indian Independence day – they are going to look so cute!

 So, how are my darling little boys:

Well, they love it here!  Josh says he would like to stay forever, and despite the evil monkeys, Samuel is really loving it too.  He has been a bit more prone to sook and I have been getting lots of cuddles and I think that’s his way of coping with the adjustment.  Levi is just cruising along- loves playing with all the kids but needs to have time by himself.  The school is ridiculously well equipped – gym, pool, ovals.  The kids will do hiking, languages, music and heaps of other extra curricular activities – so they really are fortunate.  But the standard of academics is very high and when they start school next week the rubber will hit the road as the holiday ends.

 Overall, we have been overwhelmed by the friendliness of everyone.  From staff to the people in the bazaar, we are feeling truly blessed to get to know these people.  I had prayed for a heart for the Indian people and I can feel it starting to spring to life in me.  I can’t wait to get into Hindi lessons so I can start to communicate with those who don’t speak English.

 Thankyou dear friends in Oz for your love and prayers for us as we have settled in.  We have felt the impact of those prayers like never before.  Please keep us in your prayers as we know the honeymoon period will end and some of the quirks mentioned above may start to seem less quirky and more challenging. We know there will be struggles ahead but also great joys and we feel truly blessed to be here in India to do and experience all that God has for us.

 Xxxxx Rach