Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sitting Here In Limbo: Lenny G. and the Soulsenders

Seems we will (likely) leave on Wednesday. It's such an emotional good-bye/not-good-bye time. I miss everyone. Even before we depart.

And, to avoid the really important stuff... yet another limbo link:

Lenny G. and the Soulsenders at David's 50th ???

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sitting Here In Limbo: Robin Sarstedt? (1976)

Looking like Wednesday of next week. Limbo, limbo, limbo.

[I wish I was in New York today.]

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sitting here in limbo with the Neville Brothers!

If the Neville Brothers can sit in limbo so graciously, I ought to try, eh?

In case you're wondering, there are plenty of other versions of the song.

... CLEANING here in limbo ...

Click the PLAY button (above)  for music to accompany this post: Jerry Garcia version

... limbo, limbo, limbo...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sitting Here in Limbo

Click the PLAY button (above)  for music to accompany this post

Panorama of Udaipur from Jag Mandir Island, Rajasthan, India (Photo by S. Ballal)

We are still here and likely to remain another week.

After multiple phone calls & emails, I know that ticketing got complicated, landing us in the middle of the Holi festival, delaying meetings in Delhi, delaying arrival in Santiniketan... Conclusion: wait at least a week.

Unfortunately, this only exacerbates the difficulties we already had departing just a few days behind schedule. Celia will have to return home early in order to begin school in August.  I am discouraged about my fall course.  Though department chair, Professor Houde, is entirely understanding, I feel awful inconveniencing her, the students, everyone.  It's just not how I was taught to do things.

On the bright side, it seems there is a meeting in Udaipur that I can attend after the Delhi business. Though I don't know much about Udaipur, photos make it look like quite the wonderful area. I will use some of my limbo time to read up on it.

 A little discouraged this evening, but still geared up to go.

[And, though Holi in Santiniketan sounded like fun, it's probably just fine to miss it on our first day in Delhi.]

Sitting here in Limbo, but I know it won't be long.
... Sitting here in Limbo, so many things I've got to learn.
Meanwhile, they're putting up a resistance,
But I know that my faith will lead me on.

- Jimmy Cliff

Monday, February 22, 2010

Still here

It's Sunday evening in Highland Park, Monday morning in Delhi. I've spent the weekend doing things I ought to have done last week. C visited with friends making the delay a happier thing.  I'd have preferred a little more sleep, but the giggling in the next room was just fine.

Children's taxes are ready to file. Our extension also, though the privilege means paying out more than we'll likely owe.  It is my price for putting off filing until I return. It is at least one thing I haven't left Steve to handle. The remaining (unbelievable pile of) chores, I regret leaving unaddressed.

Will we depart on Tuesday?  Unclear. I will stay up for a few hours hoping for a window of communication with Delhi.

Sleep tight.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


No confirmation, but I'm pretty sure we won't depart tomorrow (Saturday).  So, for HP locals, it's really nice to have a little more time to visit and say 'see ya.'  Still, there is this tiny probability that we'll really leave tomorrow, but (even I think) unlikely.

Next probable departure, Tuesday am.

Anticlimactic, stressful, and a bit okay (given the break allowed by a few extra days).

Definitive news tomorrow. Truthfully, any news tomorrow means we're still here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Holding Pattern

We are in a human holding pattern. Med clearance hasn't come through, though it may tomorrow. If so, we're off. Otherwise, Tuesday is our next scheduled departure date. Failing that, the following Monday. C's preference is for Saturday, as planned. Until this evening, I'd have said the same.

[If you're curious about the specific departure dates, it has to do with schedules of those we meet in Delhi, University closure dates in Santiniketan, and fitting jet-lag and travel from Delhi to Kolkata among these.]

Never being one skilled at good-bye, I'm worse than ever this time through. As we near deadline, I try to say meaningful things, to reassure those we're leaving - and more importantly, to comfort myself.  I just don't know how to do this. Thus, a little extra time takes some of the pressure off. But it also adds a little in that, in some cases, I may be doing the good-bye thing twice (and equally poorly, or even worse the second time).

So, we will be okay regardless of when we leave. School/College schedules are the only real problem areas. The later we depart, the more complex they become.  On the plus side, a little more prep time would ease some of my stress. A little more good-bye time means more time with friends and family (and extra practice saying, "so long.")

And I might really finish the taxes!

Or, we'll leave on schedule and none of this extra bother about scheduling will mean more than a bit of additional hassle, some extra whining, and another (rather tedious) story.

No matter when we leave, I miss you all already. [And Liz, thanks for reading. It makes me feel more confident about staying connected.]

A Map

Steve suggested moving the map from the bottom. Since I don't have time, today,  to learn how to embed the changing maps, I thought I'd just include various maps relevant to what we're doing and writing, as we do and write.

Below, Chicago and New Delhi, with a line between. I would have preferred a realistic arc, but I don't know how to do that either. (And it doesn't seem a good use of my time right now.)

View ORD -> DEL in a larger map

If you like maps, click here for the map where I'm marking more of the places we plan to be in India.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Delay is possible

... or we will leave Saturday, as planned.

Sure is tough to plan, not knowing. Yet, surprisingly, I am relatively relaxed.

Unfortunately, a delay means complications with all our contacts, plus major complications with C's re-enrollment in school in August. AND, impossibly difficult arrangements - or even re-assignments - at Lake Forest College. The semester start won't wait for my medical clearance. 

However, looking over the calendar, it appears that there are options. But, those options require mighty tight scheduling.

So, we will see...
And we will plan...
And we will hope that all the parts come together...

Really not so foolish to hope.  ALMOST everything is in place; we may even depart on Saturday. If not, I assume we will depart soon there after.  And if not, you'll hear about it in bold CAPITAL letters.

If we are a day or two late departing, schedules will be fine.  I will have time to double-check the taxes. And, I'll have time to check on Jane's status.  And that will make me more relaxed.  But please (if possible) no extra crises.  And (if necessary) I hope the crises come and go really soon... And that I may help.  And that you all are well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Countdown 3 days
... OR ... Stop the clock!

Frantically we ready for the adventure.  We sort, pick, duplicate, digitize, check and recheck. Reluctantly, we prepare to miss friends and family...

Not nearly enough time to get it all done...

But then! An alarmed email (with high-priority !! and everything). No medical clearance for me. For me? After all those tests and exams? After the hassle of getting the forms to DC? Though  C's been cleared for weeks, my paperwork just keeps getting stuck. And that means no go.

At first, I panic. Have they seen something in my records suggesting I'm not fit to travel - probably not fit for anything else! Then, more rationally, I follow up with a few more emails and a couple phone messages. Nothing dire. It turns out that the physician responsible for reviewing my medical paperwork has been on vacation. This wouldn't have been a particular problem, save for these outrageous snow storms in our capital.

So, it seems that my file of forms again was stuck in the stream of review. I like to imagine my file vacationing or, better yet, snowed in.

I assume all will work out, but am resigned to the possibility of being delayed.

I am even comfortable with the idea, more so after seeing the seat selection on our proposed flight. It's full. And we don't have seats yet. It's a very long ride to be stuck between and infant and sniffler...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tragedy is everywhere

Again, India is in the news for terrorism. Please note that it has been newsworthy in all our nation's media for weeks and months without tragedy. Still this is real and horrible.

For those that fear C's and my safety, I promise that C's safety is my highest priority. This tragedy is that: a horror and a tragedy. I promise that we will not be in places attractive to those wanting to harm affluent westerners. Nor, in West Bengal, will be near militants angry at their government. I promise, I am paying attention.

Though the project suggests adventurousness (we even call it the India Adventure), those who know me, know that I am careful - often to a fault. Taking on this project means that I have evaluated the risks and benefits and found the risks to be minimal compared to the benefits. I'm not alone in that opinion. Look around and you will see that everyone is interested in India. Heh, it's where the future will be happening, or so I hear.

At the same time, there are risks everywhere. I live in Highland Park where we have a troublingly high number of teens dying in cars. Fortunately, the state of Illinois has changed driving guidelines, requiring teens to have more driving experience. We hope this will save lives. In Chicago, we lose youth to violence weekly. I applaud those working to make the city safer for teens and everyone else. And we all grieve every loss. We pray for the families of Chicago youth lost to violence, for children of the North Shore lost to car accidents, for tourist and local victims of violence in Pune.

I pray for safety for us all. Here at home, in India, everywhere.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Countdown: 7 days

Thanks to everyone for all your good wishes. And sincere apologies to all those to whom I haven't yet written or called back.

There is too much to do in such a short time. I believe I mentioned that earlier.

Minutia: Insurance has become more complicated than I had hoped. The flood we had last fall did away with a lot of documentation of little details (exactly when and for how much I bought each piece of equipment). I found most, but not all the requested paperwork. The up side, it helped me organize some of the tax materials for this year. (Yah, that's one of the things I have to do in the next week.)

Today I was reading about Sundarbans National Park. (I should have been doing correspondence, calls, taxes, paperwork, etc. But an occasional break is okay, isn't it?)  Professor Debburman was the first to suggest it as not only a great place to see, but as an educational experience for C. Among other things, it's a UN World Heritage site. One of the most striking things I saw was this photo.

About the photograph: This satellite image shows the forest in the protected area. 
The Sundarbans appears deep green, surrounded to the north by a landscape of 
agricultural lands, which appear lighter green, towns, which appear tan, and streams,
which are blue. Credit: NASA image created by Jesse Allen, Earth Observatory, 
using data obtained from the University of Maryland’s Global Land Cover Facility.

Unfortunately, like so many important environments, the Sundarbans are at risk from industry, fishing, deforestation (in the mountains), subsidence, and climate change. Plus the Asian tsunami tragedy did damage here also.  Fortunately, a lot of people working on the challenge.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Countdown: 10 days

Slight exaggeration due to this tiny blizzard here. No kidding about the blizzard, at least according to the radio, but not really huge. Still, it's bad enough that after driving a few miles, I thought it best to stay inside and wait it out for at least 24 hours. Icy, dark yet quite pretty, and happily nothing pressing us to venture outside. (Though Steve is still in NY, perhaps heading home in the storm.)

The children's schools canceled today's activities. Tomorrow is late start for both middle and high school. Oddly, I - the Mom - wish for a snow day off, though I don't have to go to school anyway.  I enjoy the idea of puttering about with all the whole family. Sure, I have an enormous amount of stuff to do, but how nice to have one little snow day before we head off.

Weather Underground predicts snow and below-freezing until Sunday, but nothing more exciting, suggesting local news may have exaggerated again. Never having been a journalist, I can giggle at the phenomenon of over-blowing newsy things. I have empathy enough, though, to respect excitement over weather. (Certain other things over-blown require greater scrutiny, even criticism. Weather, though, gets no argument from me.)

News from India is another thing altogether.  NPR had a story on All Things Considered tonight for which I interrupted our household noise, hoping to get everyone to listen. Didn't really work, but inspired a discussion about the importance of a global understanding for business students. Both N & S are thinking about business education these days. It's early days, and I would like them to set their sights a little higher, but if they do peruse business, India is the place to be, eh? [Sorry, I can't find the link to the story.]

Uh, oh. I have to back up: Trying to link All Things Considered tonight, I found that this storm is more exciting than I'd expected. [Or so it seems...?] As I said, I can't blame real media that rely on viewers for support to get a bit over excited by weather, but I can't find any one who's not reacting to today's snow.

So, I will take it as a sign and "hunker down" and enjoy a last snow storm... for a while.

For those wondering: Steve did make to back to Chicago safely.  Otherwise, I would not be comfortably chatting about the weather - or anything else.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Countdown: 12 days

Countdown: 12 days, says it all.

Overwhelmed. Tasks, preparation, details, paperwork, apprehension, anxious goodbyes. And a lot of people to miss, even before departing. I find it impossible to write about the big things and feelings. I am  filled with such varied emotions, yet haven't the skills to describe them... much less to handle them.

Steve is taking the brunt of my anxiety. The rest of you, my sadness at being away for so long. Celia and I can handle the excited part. Thanks to everyone for putting up with the emotional turmoil while continuing to be so encouraging.

What can I write about? The details.

Today, insurance and taxes. (Probably tomorrow and the next day and the next, also.) Turns out that for a small fee, my current insurance will cover equipment, too. (Thank you, Anne, for the excellent idea.) However, I need to document each item. Not so easy. Between inefficient record keeping and the great basement flood of 2009, it's unclear how much documentation I can provide. I've been sorting papers all day today, and will continue this evening to see what I can produce. Then I'll throw myself on the mercy of the adjusters on high.

And, of course, there are a thousand other things, but thinking about them is tougher than doing them. So far, stuff gets done every day. It had better be complete in 12 days.

This is a completely new experience for me and I can't help questioning myself, my skills, abilities, flexibility, everything needed to travel far from home for a very long time. In other words, I'm scared. But I'm also very excited and looking forward to the adventure. And I hate being so far from those who are important to me.

See the conflicting mess of emotion? Ugh.

Off to sift through more paper (done with the digital docs). I miss you all already. And I'm still here.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Shots and Equipment Registration

Planning, sorting, organizing, paperwork, equipment checks, connecting with friends, and so much more. I suppose the huge amount of work to do before we go is helpful quelling all the emotions around this adventure.

I already miss everyone. I feel badly for the boys as I take everything they say and do too seriously, imagining all the time I won't see them. They are turning into such amazing young men and I hate to miss a moment of it. But I will.

C is trying to help by taking care of her responsibilities before we leave. But she's still young. I know how stressed I am right now. I can't imagine being 13 and handing all this. At the same time, we are both very excited.

Yesterday afternoon, we went to Northwest Community Hospital's travel clinic. (I highly recommend them. They were the only ones who could help me get Yellow Fever vaccine instantly before the Chad trip last year.) C really lucked out.  She doesn't do needles well. She had to have a blood test (required by Fulbright for reaction to malaria meds), but only one immunization shot. So yesterday she had hepatitis A. Due to her small size, she can have the pediatric dose, so she doesn't need the second for at least six months. Then she'll have lifetime immunization... (unless it changes).

Then we drove to the Homeland Security facility in Chicago for Customs check of my equipment. I did this prior to the first India trip and had the form with me for Africa last year. Unfortunately, I lost it in Africa. Not a huge problem as I have much additional stuff now. The process involves completing this little Customs form, bringing the form and all your equipment to a site that can verify it.

Last night it was snowing, so the traffic was unpleasant, but this Homeland Security building is opened until 8 pm, so it wasn't a crisis. The problem was that the online-form CBP-4457 doesn't indicate that one needs to include the serial numbers on the form. [I got the link to the form as I was writing this and it DOES have the s/n requirement. The one I downloaded YESTERDAY didn't. And, in case you're wondering, the CBP officer agreed that it doesn't say so on the web. How weird?!]

Luckily, the Customs official on duty was a real star. He suggested I get them and come back next week since I'm not leaving immediately. When I told him it had been an hour drive to get there he suggested I write the s/n for each item next to it's description on each form (in very small print). This took ages, during which C lay down on the only bench and practiced waiting - something we're sure to experience in India.

Not only was the officer patient with this process, which took about half an hour, but he helped me by re-assembling devices requiring battery removal to find the s/n. Here's a man that wasn't missing any of the necessary checks. At the same time, he is a gentleman, patient, vigilant.

Yet another person acting in a way that suggests everything is not only okay, but quite good.

I still am not entirely comfortable with the Homeland Security bureaucracy as the best strategy for protecting us all. But I know they are staffed by really good people. So maybe the structure of the bureaucracy isn't so important.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Back in Illinois

Wonderful, and always too short, stay in NYC. Easy trip back to Illinois. We're fine and will continue moving ahead with everything (at least parts of everything) we need to do.

Here, however, S seem to be coming down with something. He says he's not, but this Mama won't take "I'm fine" for an answer. Of course he's fine. He's fine and has a cold. And that's not fine. Right?

Jack (dog) is having trouble also. We're not sure what is up, but he's not right. I've been poking him and checking him all evening, but he won't tell me what's up. My first (dog) love, Tally, always got very weird before I traveled. Sometimes even acting ill. Best case scenario: Jack is sensing that things are about to be very different around here. Still, I think Steve or I will take him to the vet... no problem, since we all have so much free time.

On the India front, Fulbright sent C's medical clearance. She's okay-ed for travel, but they say I still have to have her G6PD blood test (malaria med tolerance). Not so! She did it before her physical. I was there. Then I looked over the document the Doc sent. Sure she had the blood test. But they omitted it from the report. One more thing for my list: Get the blood test results, send to CIES, confirm they received it, have it attached to her med clearance, follow up... And, did I mention that my clearance isn't done yet because my med forms were misplaced (in Illinois, not in DC).

I may whine about the endless chasing after paper lately, but these errors and omissions stem from those submitting the forms. The recent mistakes making me crazy are happening long before anyone official gets involved. The program folks are the ones telling me what everyone else messed up, which sort of goes against the stereotypical complaint about government bureaucracy creating problems. So far, the mistakes all occur long before any public employee gets involved.

Not to belabor the point, but... my physical form was filled out and detailed lab and other test data were attached (though it took many phone calls and trips to the office to get them sent out). And only one question on the onerously-long form was left out: Candidate has no health conditions prohibiting her from travel? Only one question missing. Unfortunately, it's the bottom line. Oh, well. I'd have been asleep by that one if I'd been responsible for completing the form.

Enough complaining. I'm going to see if I can convince S to let me do what comes naturally: worry about his sniffle. Then I'm off to bed, so today is done. That means: 17 days. (It's scary to even type such a small number.)

Last thing: better maps coming soon (read: when I get a sec).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tough to Leave New York

Life became so complicated so quickly.

The other day I was saying, "...if we go..." Now, we're looking at less than three weeks. Eighteen days, but who's counting?

I know that all the nonsense preventing us from going, then finally clearing the 'poison' to begin the adventure, made the real countdown very short. Suddenly it's less than three weeks to lift off and I'm trying not to crumble.
C and I wanted to go to NY to see family since November. We missed Thanksgiving, spending two weeks in bed staring at re-runs, too fried by flu to be disappointed. When we became human again, we wanted our time back. This long weekend was our first chance. Unfortunately, it's also our see-you-in-six-months (or more) visit.

We aree having fun, no doubt, but it's also leaving me weepy when I least expect it. 

I'm eager to install phones at 25, but can't get them in a hurry. Jane tells me stories with names that I desperately want to check in archival databases, but when will I have time? There are so many books and articles that I should have read by now, but I won't get to. The house is a wreck.  I want to do so much for N & S before I leave. Steve should not have to dig himself out from the disaster we leave behind... AND, I have to file the taxes.

Not to mention packing!

But wait. Certain things are coming together unexpectedly. 

Sandals: I've searched high and low, ordered from the net and failed. Then, Bea takes us to Tip Top and ... "No. We don't get those until late February." Yet,  when the nice man is convinced we are serious he searches the basement and... Yup. Sandals.

Orissa: Things are not coming together so easily for our adventures in Orissa. Disappointing and a little scary, since we haven't even arrived yet. Then Paul arrives. He's here to cut hair, not to work travel miracles. Or is he? Turns out he's got contacts in Tamil Nadu. (An early plan had us there for over a month, but those contacts didn't pan out.) Perhaps we'll go there instead?! Or - if we are really blessed - both.

Skirts: After many tries, Bea found a long, light-weight skirt for C. But nothing for M. Then, tonight, Jane mentions that she has not one, but two, long skirts, large enough for me. 

I try to be up-beat. There is so much to be positive about. Still, I hate thinking I will be away from my people. Oddly, they are the ones making this all work. Contradictory and way too complicated. No, complicated isn't the right word. I'm struggling with missing those I love (even before leaving) while they are helping me go... proving, again and again, why I love them and why I'm missing them... now... and for real, later.