March 2008

Here are a few memories of our holiday to give you a feel for it…

Sri Lanka:

Rain!  Rain!  More rain!  Abundant, lush vegetation everywhere

Driving through tropical downpours, in the dark, trying to avoid cyclists (with no bike lights, carrying umbrellas) and crazy buses (overtaking on sharp bends or forcing oncoming traffic off the road)

Yummy home cooking to greet us at our guest house

Our decision one day not to do a six hours’ round trip to see some impressive sight or other, but to stay near the hotel instead and just enjoy time together as a family

Watching from the safety of a shop window while forty or more elephants made their journey from the Elephant Orphanage to the river

Playing in the sand and the waves with the girls while admiring the surroundings – a lovely sweep of coastline with hills, palm trees and rocks to clamber over, too

Crashing into one of the crazy buses, in the rain, on the way to the airport, crumpling the front of the car enough that the electrics failed but we could still drive.  So drive we did, with me holding my door open a little all the way because the windows wouldn’t open and it was very hot in the car.  We missed our flight anyway…


Horns blaring around us all the time when driving through towns and cities.  Honestly, some drivers don’t seem to take their hand off the horn at all.

Peace and tranquillity in the national park next door to our hotel, being taken round in a cycle rickshaw, seeing lots of birds not to mention buffalo, antelope, turtles, butterflies and chipmunks aplenty and enjoying the birdsong.

Inescapable spicy food.  I’m sorry to say, I only enjoyed one meal in our time in India – a lovely korma.  I did learn that “not spicy at all” means something entirely different when Indians say it…  The day after the lovely korma I tried to eat korma in another restaurant.  I sent the meal back twice because it was too spicy for E (with whom I was sharing it) and me.  After tasting the third attempt, I just pretended to like it.  E had plain rice and naan.

Trying to navigate our way through dilapidated Agra, getting lost in its narrow street bazaars with motorbikes hurtling past in both directions, people, rickshaws and cows blocking our path, not to mention holes in the road, ditches and rubbish/sewage and wondering whether we would find a way out or eventually have to reverse all the way back again!

Finding M&S in Delhi!

Browsing (and buying) in a rather nice craft fair

Waiting for breakfast in the garden on the last day, watching parrots and chipmunks in the trees opposite, while the girls were entirely absorbed playing with ladybirds…

…and won’t be blogging for the next two weeks (ish).

Poor girl, it sounds horrible – and even worse when she’s crying and coughing at the same time.  The trip to the doctor was just as uncomfortable as the cough for her, too!  She was weighed on an old machine where the nurse had to balance the weights to find out her weight.  Well, before the weights were balanced, R’s whimpering had turned into reaching out to hold onto me – changing her weight on the scales, of course.  So she sat on the digital baby scales instead…  Then there were examinations of her rash, chest, back and ears to be endured.  Still, this is a very good local paediatrician and he had a good manner with her.  He also impressed me by giving me his mobile number along with the prescription, so that if R had difficulty breathing we could phone him to see if we needed to take her to hospital to use a nebuliser. 

Now I have three medicines to administer to her: two syrups and one tablet (would you believe), three times a day.  The tablet, the doctor suggested, I should crush up and mix with a bit of water on a spoon.  I tried that, and the tiniest amount of it was bitter and unlikely to be welcomed by my suspicious daughter who claims not to like the taste of Calpol!  So I took the advice of Mary Poppins (It was her, wasn’t it?  “Just a spoonful of sugar…”) and that seemed to get it down – unlike the first syrup which was spat out on the first two tries.  I mixed the tablet with Angel Delight (one of the few things you can’t find here, but a good friend brought some round for a children’s tea at my house yesterday) last night and with pancake syrup this morning!

I was rewarding her with a sweet once she’d taken all her medicine, but that has backfired as she has twice now handed back the sweet and said, “You have it!”  Surely not!  Don’t all children like sweets?  This has brought her preference for vegetables and all things savoury to a new height…  I’m very proud!  🙂

So, she seems a lot better today and has gone off to nursery happily (a little late after the marathon medicine meal this morning!).  And that has given me time to go to the Embassy of India to apply for our visas for next week’s holiday.  Wonderful place, they moved me to the front of the queue because I was there with a baby – I was in and out again in ten minutes!

Definitely a honey day today…

M is dashing about all over the country, trying to give all the projects who work for him as much time as they deserve, while also doing the usual round of meetings, reports, “putting out fires” etc etc.  And still find time to give the children some quality Daddy time.  In short, he’d be much happier if there were about 36 hours in a day…

It’s now probably a month since I last had 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep…  minor illnesses, insecurity when Daddy’s away on a trip, untucked sheets and loo trips being the main culprits.  I’m now reaching the post-birth first-three-months level of tiredness again, I think – and finding it iddficult (see?!) to talk coherently.  BUT, I seem to have progressed straight from the Arabic beginners’ class to the advanced class, missing out the intermediate level entirely.  This is probably just the challenge I need – I’m finding it surprisingly motivating being the dunce of the class!  J

E thinks she’d be much better suited to the life of a dictator than the small child one she seems to have been given.  There have been a few big tantrums recently as she struggles to come to terms with this…  At other times, she plays with R and G and is utterly cute in the way she looks after them – although I think the poor girl sometimes feels stressed by the responsibility she shoulders.  Here’s an example:  she tells R what to do.  R responds by screaming at her and hitting her on the head – she’s good at over-reaction, that one, and keen to get the first slap in!  E then yells back, because of the unfairness of it all – she was only trying to look after her!  Five minutes later, after time-out away from each other and muted apologies:

R or E:  Shall we play a game?

E or R:  Yeah.

R or E:  You/I’ll be the mummy and I’ll/you be the baby.

E or R:  OK. 

R seems to spend most of her time playing with boys, when she’s not with her sister.  There is a four-year-old redhead who has recently become a particular favourite; her aunt and I witnessed her giggling with him as we’ve never seen her giggle before!  Most of the time she still likes to be close to Mummy and often just wants to be carried towards the end of the day when Daddy’s away.  This can be a bit wearing for me, but I can usually plonk her on the worktop with a few carrot sticks while I get tea ready!  (She still loves vegetables!)

G is enjoying formula milk from a bottle during the day (despite the revolting smell it has!), although he still wants breastmilk during the night – and he ain’t gonna get it much longer, so I anticipate a few really dreadful nights very soon!  He still can’t sit on the floor by himself (a bit like his daddy, bless him!), preferring to stand, holding on to someone’s hands.  Just yesterday he started making the most comical stepping motions when I start walking with him – if I lift each arm up in turn.  Don’t ask me why I tried that:  he loves it, so I think I’ve got a backbreaking job for the next three months till he can do it by himself!! 

Come 9 o’clock on the day after our night on the farm, we were on our way again.  We had some distance to make up and were also taking a longer route to avoid a trouble spot, so we had a lot of driving ahead of us.  A few hours into the journey (with the children fortunately asleep, so they missed the whole thing), we were on a small road through the hills, when we started noticing the people we passed were watching us as we went by.  Most of them were just sitting at the side of the road; and none of them was smiling.  We then noticed that a number of them were carrying short, stout sticks.  We drove through a village that was entirely deserted.  Eerily quiet – everything shut and nobody to be seen.

With growing unease, we considered the options.  By this time, we were some way up the road and would have to pass the staring, unsmiling people again to get back.  Besides, there was no other viable route to our hotel for that evening!  We decided we should press on.

Then, rounding the next corner, we were faced by a group of men standing across the road, blocking our way.  Some of them had guns; some were swinging pick-axes menacingly into the ground.  Help!  What now?  M, having sensibly braked quite hard, began edging forwards. This seemed like a crazy idea to me, going back suddenly seeming quite an attractive option…  But one of the men with guns was beckoning us forwards, which was just odd.  We were confused by his intentions and I felt as if we were collectively holding our breath until he broke away from the others and started walking towards the car.

It was all all right.  He was a policeman – and he explained to us that these men were clearing an attempted roadblock.  Somebody during the night had tried to block contact between the villages either side of us.  We were able to drive past, almost breathing normally…

But very soon we encountered the second roadblock.  This one was a narrow but deep ditch that had been dug across the road; and this one we couldn’t get past – a minibus caught in it was convincing evidence of that!  The occupants of the minibus were standing round and its cargo had been unloaded onto the road.  Again there were policemen with guns and people attempting to make the sides of the ditch shallow enough that a car could drive through it.  The atmosphere was tense here: the policemen were quite rough with the young men digging, who seemed to be from the same village as the troublemakers who’d dug the block – and hence were tarred with the same brush.  M (very sensibly, I thought) got out and offered to help.  It took a while and some clever driving (more accolades for M!), but eventually we got past.  The policemen had assured us that there would be no more roadblocks and we would be fine after this stretch, so we held our breath and drove onwards…

They were right: there were no more roadblocks, but for quite some distance we saw people clearly fearful.  More people sitting and watching, many men with sticks, shops and businesses shut while people waited.  After a while, M and A started to wave “thank you” to those we passed who moved to the side of the road for us, and got many waves in return.  These small connections felt like normality trying to return to a place from which it had been banished.  Possibly the sight of white people, who were clearly on neither side of the ethnic unrest, was reassuring to them, who knows?  Certainly it was reassuring to us to know that their weapons were not intended for us.

At the end of the road (about twenty kilometres later), we turned onto a tarmac road and headed for the town.  The tense atmosphere was behind us; in the town, everything was business as usual.  Relieved to be away from that area, we felt deeply for those who couldn’t escape it so easily, for those whose homes and families were under threat…