Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Fifth Mosquito Battle Plan

Every morning our boys wake up with 5-8 new mosquito bites this time of year. It doesn't really bother them, but it bothers us. In a country where windows and door are not made to seal tight, it is difficult to prevent the blood eaters from getting in the house. We do have screens on the windows, but...

The first battle plan was little plastic circles which adhere to furniture and are soaked in some anti-mossy repellent. Didn't work. Then we put mossy repellent/lotion on the kids (both standard stuff as well as lavender extract spray). Must have worn off part-way thru the night because it didn't work. Third, we tried a plug-in thingy that burns some liquid that kills the mossys in the room. We tried blocking gaps around the door with foam in combo with an electric racquet (powered by rechargeable batteries) which we used to kill any invaders. Fourth, I spent an afternoon treating the curtains with permethrin -- a nasty chemical which kills any insect which touches the treated fabric. The mossys often hide in the curtains, but they seem to still be in the room and just hiding elsewhere now.

Now I'm planning a fifth strategy: use all five methods at once. Sigh.

By the way, Asha is generally okay because there is a net around her cot. A few still get in occasionally. The good news is that there are only a few months of the year with a lot of mosquitoes. But for this season the motto is: Give Blood. Live in India.

(originally posted on Wednesday, December 29, 2010 as "The Fifth Mosquito Battle Plan" at

Thursday, December 23, 2010

India's Unique Cities

We just returned from a four day visit to Calcutta (or, officially, Kolkata). We stayed with Indian friends that Libby met 10 years ago while working with street kids and recovering drug addicts. We met kids that have grown up, married, and have jobs at multi-national companies. And others who are still struggling to get by with three good meals a day.

It was refreshing. And exhausting. Although the flight is only two hours, traveling thru pushing/shoving crowds and multiple security checks with three small kids and pregnant wife...

But mostly, we enjoyed seeing the differences in Calcutta. The streets are narrow (a remnant of British planning, I'm told). There seems to be more of a bustle in the air. Cars are a bit older. And there are many other small differneces which catch your attention and excercise your senses.

I'll never forget the green, lazy, grand feeling of Chennai. The wild-west, dusty feel of Ahmedabad. The sophisticated but grid-locked feel of Bangalore (now renamed Bengaluru). The appearance of power, influence, and Western development in Delhi. And the humid chaos that is Mumbai.

India's diversity is amazing, but in the middle of all that it is the people that matter. Our boys can't stop talking about their new "didis" (sisters) who played with them in Calcutta for hours on a lovely patch of grass between high rise apartments. We're grateful for renewing old friendships and the gifts of hospitality that we can never repay.

(originally posted at Thursday, December 23, 2010 as "India's unique cities" at

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reading Insanity

I like to read. In fact, in a good way, I take pride in the fact that I read widely. I read a study once that said the average American (after finishing school) reads less than 2 books a year. But somehow I've gotten myself into a mess. Check it out.

On my bedside table:
  • Parenting with Love and Logic
  • India's Unending Journey, by Tully
  • Bakht Singh of India
  • Complications, by A. Gwande
  • Nehru, by Tharoor
  • And at least 5 past issues of Wired magazine, 3 issues of Outlook Traveller magazine
On my Kindle:
  • The First 90 Days, by Watkins
  • Leadership with Cultural Intelligence, by Livermore
  • And a bunch of free PDF books, mostly by J. Piper
On my desk at work:
  • In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India, by Luce (re-readig this; best book on India I've read...ever)
  • The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently and Why, by Nisbett
  • Speaking of India: Bridging the Communication Gap when Working with Indians, by Storti
  • Change Across Cultures, by Bradshaw
  • Just Courage, by Haugen
  • And five other "leadership" books which I want to skim
Yikes! Time to focus and try to finish a few before starting any more. But it does reveal the main themes of my life right now: parenting, cross-cultural, and leadership issues.

(originally published on Monday, April 12, 2010 as "Reading Insanity" at

Sunday, March 14, 2010


In any friendship, there must be give and take. A two-way street. This is especially true in cross-cultural relationships that are genuine. It is also more difficult to develop cross-culturally and I've learned not to expect very many reciprocal relationships.

But, in January, just when I was a bit discouraged that we seem to be "giving" so much and not seeing much feedback/response, there was a flood. A friend asked me out to lunch, and then insisted on paying the entire bill (which was 5% of his monthly salary). Then another couple brought us dinner. And yet another couple came to our house and cooked dinner (one of my favorite meals in the world: India's dosa).

This all happened in the span of about a week. We were really encouraged. Sometimes work overseas is hard to measure. But we do look for deepening relationships that, just as in the West, are mutually respectful. When there is dignity on both sides, there is reciprocity.

(originally posted on Sunday, March 14, 2010 as "Reciprocity" at

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hidden Costs of Births in India

It has almost been 2 weeks since Asha joined us. Overall, it has been great! She is generally a very polite, relaxed kid. She seems to have a similar temperament to Shane...but only time will tell. She's starting to sleep for longer periods which will hopefully allow us to catch up on sleep.

But within hours of her delivery, I began to spend lots of money due to Indian culture and tradition. It was fun and I wanted to document this for posterity.

At most hospitals in India, the staff (nurses, cleaning staff, security guards, etc.) ask for tips -- either blatently or subtily. However, our hospital, has trained their staff not to ask for tips. We decided to give a large gift (about 10% of the overall bill) to their employees' benevolence fund. And I did give the valet parking attendent Rs. 10 ($0.25).

The next day I bought about 11 kg. (24 lbs!!) of candy to distribute to colleagues, neighbors, friends, local businesses, etc. This cost about $100. But in terms of income for the average Indian, it was a full month's salary. And it almost broke some bones since I carried it home on my motorcycle in two bags hanging from my wrists. It also took a lot of time. I personally handed the sweets (they're milk-based candy with nuts/fruit mixed in) to at least 140 people over the next three days. Another 40 people received sweets via some helpers.

And, besides showing a picture of the baby, everyone wanted to know: the weight (they don't care about length! and the avg weight here is 2.6kg...Asha was 3.7kg) and if it was a "normal" delivery (i.e. not a c-section, which many doctors push ladies to have; it takes less time and costs a third more than natural delivery). Then, when I shared that we've already "fixed a name", some were shocked since babies usually don't get a name for a couple of weeks. That gives the family time to consults the stars (or Christians will pray) and make a group decision. We're a little strange and different...but people were thrilled to hear we chose an Indian name!

(originally posted on Thursday, February 25, 2010 as "Hidden Costs of Births in India" at