Friday, December 16, 2011

Music Class

by HouseBoy

I got the chance to visit Evan and Audrey in their music class recently... It was great fun. Evan is working with Taiko Drums and learning about rhythms and beats and drumming styles.
Audrey is working with different percussion instruments including a xylophone and a glockenspiel.
Her teacher is great... she manages to incorporate Indian elements into each of her lessons.  Audrey has been learning the Gujarati dance called, Dandiya Raas. The dance uses sticks and two opposing circles (one of men and one of women). Very fun and very animated and goes great with Bollywood music!
Both of the kids gave the parents a little performance and then we were brought into the music as well. I tried out my skills playing the bass xylophone while the kids sang and played conga drums...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Me & My Grandma Watching TV Together

   by Evan Sayer

We started at my Grandma's house. We were driving to my Aunt's house.


I looked around. We were still on the highway.
"How many more hours?" I moaned.
"About two and  a half," answered my Dad.

Two and a half hours later...

Finally I opened the car door and took a deep breath: "Aaahhh!"  Fresh afternoon air I thought as I walked up the stars to the front porch.
"Don't forget your backpack!" my Dad yelled after me.
"I won't!" I yelled back.

Three hours later...

Later that night as I walked down the stairs I smelled the smell of juicy roast turkey.
"Mmmm!" I said smiling. Then I saw it, a large juicy roast turkey.
"How long until we watch our show?" I asked.
"Oh yeah!" remembered my sister.
"Twenty minutes," answered my Grandma.

Fifteen minutes later...

As I walk into the living room I smell the carrot cake. "Mmmm!" I say.
"It's time!" my Grandma says.
"For what?" I ask.
"For AGT," answers my Grandma.
"What's AGT?" I ask.
"America's Got Talent!" answers my Grandma.

Five minutes later...

I sit down on the couch with a plate and a fork. My mouth waters as I look at the cake. "BLING!" The TV turns on. My Grandma flips through the channels.
"Where is it?" asks my sister.
"Don't ask me," I say.

Thirty seconds later...

"We're never going to find it!" my sister cries.
"There!" I say.
"Yes!" shouts my sister.
"Shhh!" whispers my aunt.
"Sorry," my sister says.
"Shut up and watch the show!" I say.
"Watch your mouth, Honey!" says my Mom as the TV blared.
"Shush!" says my sister.
"WAAAAA!" cries baby Che.
"Argh!" I moan.

"Bom! Bom!  Bom! Bom! Bom!   Bom!  Bom!!!!!!!" blared the AGT music.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Grandma Rides Bareback

Our Grandma rode Champa the elephant bareback! Early one morning our Dad took her down to where the elephants and their Mahouts live by the Yamuna River. She was a little nervous, because one of her legs is injured, but Grandma wanted to give it a try.
The mahouts helped Grandma up on Champa's back. They made her step up into a wedding carriage so she would be higher off the ground. Then one of them used his hands to give her a boost. Grandma had a big grin on her face when she landed with a "plop" way up on top of Champa! Riding bareback is nothing like riding an elephant in a passenger box. You feel the elephant's spine and ribs move as she ambles along from side to side. The elephant's skin is warm and rough.You can feel her breathing.
Of course, the Mahout had to take an important cell-phone call while he was driving Champa. Grandma thought that was pretty funny.
The best part was the ending.  Grandma held on tight when Champa knelt to let her down... Grandma said she thought she was going to slide right off the elephant's rump!

It was a special ride for our special grandmother!

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Return

A little Non-fiction from Audrey...

Just before Tiger ran away I rubbed him behind the ear, walked out the door and into my Mom's silver Volkswagen. I didn't know I wouldn't see him for a while, I didn't know that might be the last time I touched him. I couldn't even guess.

"Audrey," called my Mom as I stepped into the house. "Is that you?"
"Yeah," I replied.
"Come here and quick!" she called again. I put my backpack down and ran to my parents room. When I got to my parents room my mother said, "While your Dad was working outside, Tiger escaped out the back door."
"What!" I yelled. "He's not here?" I said to my Mom.

We had been looking in the house behind ours which was being build. We thought it would be a good place for him to hide.
"Maybe he will pop up somewhere," My mom said as she tried to comfort me. Of course to no avail.
"Maybe," I replied. Life had seemed so hard lately.

"Tiger?" I called to the empty hallway.
"Meow," he replied as he crept out of his hiding spot.
"I've, missed you," I told him. He didn't reply.
"Where were you?" I asked him, thinking this would only be a one-sided conversation, but still it meant something to me at least.
Suddenly I shook from head to toe and awoke with a start.
"Finally you woke up," said my Mom. Then she walked out of my room.
"Oh," I thought. "No Tiger, just a dream."

"What's for breakfast?" I asked as I entered the kitchen.
"Pancakes," answered my Dad.
"Yum, yum, yummy," said my seven year old brother named, Evan. I rolled my eyes.
"Can't we have Pop-tarts, or donuts ever?" I asked.
"No," answered my Dad.
"Hhmmf.," I grumbled.

As I ate softly I spoke saying: "I wish Tiger would come back." It was a simple wish, but still it was a wish.

"Goodnight," I told my parents as I walked into my room and laid down on my bed. I tried to count sheep, but my thoughts obviously had other ideas because all I could think about was Tiger. Tiger this and Tiger that. I hoped he was okay.  Hope, hope, hope. It was easy to hope, but hard to forget, hard to forget Tiger.

"Meow, meow." I woke up and thought I was mistaken. But then it was there again:
"Meow, meow."
 I ran into the hall, turned left and ran into the living room.  I ran to the door, but my Dad had reached there before me.

"Tiger!" I cried as I picked him up and hugged him, his soft fur against my body. My wish had come true. Tiger had come back and on his own. The hoping was over.

by Audrey Sayer (Grade 5)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

by HouseBoy

Audrey and Evan spent nine days traveling in Sri Lanka with Mom, Dad and their Grandma. It is an easy flight from New Delhi - only three hours away to Colombo. And it is in the same time zone! One of the kids' favorite stops happened early in this trip. We ventured to a place called Pinnawela. It is a large elephant orphanage near the small city of Kegalle.
The orphanage has over 60 elephants within its walls. They are brought here for many different reasons. Most have lost their parents, or have been injured, either through mistreatment or mishap.
Evan got to meet a blind elephant, named Raja.  He was blind at birth, but has been taken care of at Pinnawela most of his life. Raja is a "tusker." This means he is a male with tusks.  Unlike African elephants, only 5% of male Asian elephants have tusks, so they are treated as being very special!
Audrey and her Grandma really enjoyed seeing so many elephants up close. In most of the Orphanage there are no fences between visitors and the herd. Most of the time the males are kept in one area and the females and young elephants stay together as a group.
A rather naughty, young elephant named, Jumbo, is bottle fed several times a day. Visitors are allowed to help feed him... Jumbo didn't hesitate to take Evan up when he offered him a fresh palm frond!
Two times each day the elephant herd actually leaves the compound gates and crosses the main village road to travel down to the river. We followed them down to the river's edge to watch them play and bathe amid the rocks and water below.  The elephants were visibly excited when they made the 1/2 kilometre journey to the river!
 Audrey, Evan and I all agreed that it was quite a sight for us to see eighty elephants march down a narrow village street to the river! Definitely one of the highlights on our second visit to the small but beautiful country of Sri Lanka...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Audrey's 11th Birthday!

by HouseBoy

Audrey shared another milestone (a few days early) with some friends at the American Embassy School on Saturday. She and good friend, Emma both turn eleven this week, so the girls decided to have a joint-birthday bash!
With sixteen classmates and friends gathered, the kids swam in the pool, tossed water balloons, and ate snacks provided by the wonderful AES kitchen staff. Of course there was plenty of cake - Audrey and Emma supplied the recipes.
The celebration ended with a bit of Indian culture for everyone. A local potter brought his wheel and guests learned about throwing and shaping pots. Everyone was able to have a little hands-on experience with the wheel. Emma's mom also arranged to have a Mehendi (Henna) artist available for the kids to try. Mehendi, of course is a very traditional craft here in India.
Hands and feet are decorated as a way to celebrate weddings and special occasions. I think everyone enjoyed celebrating Audrey and Emma's special day!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

WW2 Jeeps in Haryana!

by HouseBoy

Evan and his Cub Scout Den had another interesting experience last Saturday. The boys had an opportunity to go four-wheel driving in vintage Jeeps. Seven Boys and some of their parents (not sure who had more fun, the Dad's or the kids?) drove about an hour outside of Delhi into the countryside in the neighboring state of Haryana. A friend of our Den Leader assembled an odd assortment of classic SUVs for us to learn about and drive.
Three World War Two era Willys Jeep MBs, a 1950's era Nissan Patrol (called a Jonga by the Indian Army) a Russian Gaz 69, and a rare 1960's era Jeep CJ-6. The parents each got to try driving in the mud, water and the sand. The boys had their pick of vehicles to bounce around in.
We drove up steep hills, across streams and muddy sections of trail. We got pointers to improve our off-roading skills and even learned how to drive in sand.
After a couple of hours we enjoyed breakfast up on the top of a hill overlooking the skylines of Delhi and Gurgaon. 
Then off we drove for another hour of four-wheeling. We ended the outing with a tour of the workshop where these vintage vehicles are restored and refurbished.
Evan said it was "one of the best scout outings yet!"

Friday, September 16, 2011

Afterschool Activities

by HouseBoy

The school year kicked off early for Audrey and Evan (8 Aug)... New classes, new teachers, new friends from around the world. Now that the dust has settled and the weather is a tad bit cooler their after school programs have started.
Audrey's back taking riding lessons at the Delhi Riding Club with her good friend, Mariam. She does this two times a week - usually in the mornings to help avoid the steamy heat of mid-day. Audrey is in rehearsals twice each week. She is practicing for her first solo-singing part in the Elementary School's next Musical, The Princess and the Pea. She's pretty excited about this because one of her goals this year has been to learn more about acting and performing!

Evan's schedule has kicked into high gear just this week. He's now a Webelos 1 in the Cub Scouts.(Dad continues as Assistant Den Leader again this year). The boys meet about twice a month after school or on weekends. There are some exciting scout activities coming up... more to follow on this in future posts!

Evan's also taking Table Tennis and Chess after school once day each week. To quote, Evan: "TT is pretty lame, but I'm getting good at chess." 
His favorite after school activity by far is Football (Soccer). Evan continues to work on his technique and has short games each session at the nearby British School... 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Legoland in Delhi

by HouseBoy

No... its not a new amusement park opening here in India... but there's been a whole lot of Lego activity here in our apartment recently.  Evan's always been a huge fan, since long before we ever moved to Asia. He started building intricate contraptions out of them from a pretty early age.  But now Audrey's really gotten into the swing of a Lego lifestyle.
Since watching all 4 of the Pirates of the Caribbean over the summer the themes have definitely changed...  Gone are the space ships, and blaster battles of yesteryear. Legos are now all about swashbuckling, sailing vessels and cannon fodder, With even a little romance thrown in...It seems girls are most definitely just as good as boys when it comes to handling swords and flintlock pistols. And, of course, they make great ship-captains for a stolen Man 'O War.
This past weekend the kids built a little village complete with houses, shops and a dock. Audrey and Evan have always played well together (although they will each be the first to deny this fact). But thanks to the mega billion dollar Disney franchise... our boxes of Legos now have a new lease on life!
We haven't purchased any Disney merchandise, or new (and really expensive) Pirate Lego sets... But thanks to a little dose of Jack Sparrow, the juices of imagination are flowing freely.  The little buggers are painful to step on in the middle of night, but Audrey and Evan really know how to extract a boatload of fun out of tiny plastic building blocks.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Seven Weeks of Fun

We had a whirlwind summer. Evan and Audrey traveled up and down the east coast...over 4,000 miles with Mom and Dad. From Atlanta to Buffalo and back again. The trip included visits to grandparents,
swimming in Georgia lakes and streams and fishing in Canada. We went to Mystic Seaport and learned about rope-making, we learned what a "cooper" does (they make wooden barrels)
and got to pretend to captain 19th Century Sailing ships with our Aunt Heidi and cousin Che.
For the first time ever we went cherry picking at a farm in New York state. We used tall ladders and metal buckets to pick 10 pounds of Bing and Queen Anne cherries!
Our Grandma went with us to an amusement park where we ate yummy food, saw a western gunfight and got to go on some wild rides. In Philadelphia we marched in formation with Colonial troops. We got to ride on an ATV, paddle a canoe and see black bears in the wild!
Evan caught some fish and learned home to use an outboard motor and an electric trolling motor. We ate Pretzels and pies made by Pennsylvania Amish families, and got to spend time with our cousins Sarina and Isabel,
our Aunt Melanie, great Aunt Jane and her daughter and grand children. We saw fireworks on the 4th of July and visited with our cousins in Buffalo. We watched "Gone With the Wind" (our Grandma's favorite movie) and we saw the worlds largest granite rock (Stone Mountain)
We found an ancient American Native burial mound and we went hiking in an old-growth forest - the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest where some of the trees are 100 feet tall and are 400 years old!
We even went to see the house where Dad grew up and the town where our Mom and Dad met...
Our Mom and Dad say we're pretty fortunate...  We do miss our house and cat (Tiger) in Austin, but we have a nice friends, new teachers and unusual adventures to return to in India.
Yeah, it was a pretty good summer.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Taking our Cousin Site-seeing

Our cousin Hannah visited us for 2 weeks here in India. She came all the way from Detroit, Michigan to see us! It was very hot when she got here. It took her a few days to get used to the climate. Delhi can also be dusty and dirty. We think that took her a while to get used to as well!
Mom and Dad didn't waste any time. The first morning Hannah was here we rented a bigger car and drove east to Agra.
The road is dirty and crowded, but we stopped at McDonald's on the way for a snack and to use the toilet.
We stayed at a budget hotel called the "Sheela." We don't think Hannah will every forget the Hotel Sheela.
But she got to see the beautiful Taj Mahal, and the Agra Fort and then the next morning we took her to Akbar's Fatehpur Sikri... the 500 year old ghost city. She liked that a lot.
During the week Dad took Hannah all over New Delhi. They went on a Rickshaw in Old Delhi,
ate in the Sikh Temple on Chandni Chowk (the Sikh volunteers gave her a tour of the giant kitchen there), walked in Humayan's Tomb and went shopping in different markets and got to see the Rajghat - the National Memorial for Mahatma Gandhi.
Then we all boarded the train to Dehradun. It's five hours on the Shatabdi Express. Then we got in an old, white Ambassador Cab and took the mountain road up to 6,000ft to the Hill Station of Mussoorie.  Hannah liked it there. It was cool and sunny. We ate Tibetan food and walked on the outdoor Mall. Hannah got to see the snow peaks of the Himalayas in the distance and visit a Buddhist Temple.
She took lots of pictures. We even had our lunch stolen by a monkey one day. He just came up to our table by the patio and grabbed some of our sandwiches and french fries. He was pretty naughty. Then we had to come back to hot New Delhi.
Our Dad took Hannah for some more sight-seeing. She got to see the Qutab Minar, and Mom took her to a fashion show at the Kuwaiti Embassy! Hannah's last few days were filled with a live Bollywood Musical. This was at a new place called, "Kingdom of Dreams."  The show had lots of singing, dancing, and even a sword fight.
On her last morning, Dad took Hannah to a place he found where elephants live.
Hannah got to ride on an elephant bare-back and she met some of the Mahouts who take care of them. It was like an urban-safari.
We think she was always a little tired, but Hannah never got sick and was always ready to go out for the next day's adventure! We think she had a good visit to the "Sayer Ranch."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Audrey the Poet

From a collection of Poems called "Shadow & Light"
by Audrey Sayer
Grade 4, AES New Delhi

Prom Dance

We Dance together all night long.
In the deepest depths of the forest
But we still can't get along.
For we are one river that flows apart

Floating Away

We whirl and swirl together,
As one but still we are different,
We try to get along
But we are town things not one,
We just don't know what to do
Because we are different.

Run Away

Run! Before it reaches you.
Run! Before it takes you away.
Run! Before it captures you in it's cage.
Run Away, run away, run away

Born To

I was born to run free
And to go through life like a river running down a mountain
to always be on the top not the bottom
To be a wanderer and a walker of the world
to taste life on my tongue
And to run forever in a field of life.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2011 AES Science Fair!

by HouseBoy

Audrey and Evan both participated in the elementary school's Science Fair this year. The Fair is sponsored by Lockheed and is in the memory of one of the mom's from Evan's Cub Scout pack who passed away unexpectedly last fall. 
The fair had over 180 participants and over 100 elementary school science projects.
Audrey worked on a project with her friend Emma.  The project included research on food groups, and healthy eating and involved collected and analyzing data on people's eating preferences. At the fair, the girls had people do a taste test using 2 recipes for banana bread - one made with butter the other with apple sauce. This was correlated with the healthy eating habits survey.
The results were inconclusive, but the girls had fun and learned a lot about the foods we choose to eat. The also learned about the difficulty of writing and completing a survey.
Evan chose water as the focus of his project. He researched facts about water and decided to try two experiments.
One to demonstrate water pressure and one to illustrate water surface tension. For water pressure, he used a large container that we cut 3 holes in, each deeper than the other. When the container was filled with water, it proved the presence of increased water pressure at the bottom of the container (the water jetted out of the hole much farther than the top hole).  Water surface tension used a small plastic boat and a tray of water and a drop of dish washing liquid. Both tests were a success and he learned some unique facts about water, and conservation. We learned that still, in 2011, 1.5 Billion people are without access to clean water each and every day.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fun in Vietnam

By HouseBoy

Audrey and Evan had quite a blast during our recent 11 days in Vietnam. Too many temples and too much sight-seeing tend to be a little dull when you're 9 and 10, so I'll give you their version of our trip...
The Indira Gandhi Airport was all about stumbling onto the world's largest cricket bat and ball.
(Of course it helped that India had just defeated Pakistan and Sri Lanka to win the 2011 Cricket World Cup...)
The best moment during our unexpected 24 stop-over in Bangkok was finding a stash of baby kittens in a tree on the grounds of Wat Arun..
In Hanoi, for Evan it was trying to coax noise from a giant drum at the ancient Temple of Literature. The drum and the Temple are about 1,000 years old. Audrey had an ear-ache at the time, so you can guess what she'd say about her time in Hanoi's Temple of Literature.
Our 14 hour night train from Hanoi to Danang was all about getting the top berths in the cabin. And, of course the can of Pringles and package of Oreos we ate for breakfast.
The central Vietnam town of Hoi An was all about the shopping. Trying on hats, checking out the souvenirs, and having custom clothing made were definitely some of the highlights.  Oh, and riding bikes to the beach in busy Vietnamese traffic. The BIG waves and sandcastles we made at the beach were also pretty good.
Vietnam, by the way, was not about exploring local food. The noodles and fresh spring rolls were okay.
It was really the pizza that made it all worth while. A slice of pizza and a cold bottle of orange Fanta - definitely Nirvana.
We spent a morning exploring the 4th century Hindu ruins of My Son. Evan's burning question? These all centered around B-52's, shell casings and bomb craters left over from 1968.
The highlight for Audrey in Hue was definitely her horse ride. She spent 20 minutes solo riding within the 200 year old walls of the Forbidden City from the Imperial Nguyen family. 
And for Evan it was riding on a Dragon boat up the Perfume River.,, Pagodas, Schmagodas.
And our last stop - Halong Bay? The Beautiful UNESCO site made up of over 2,000 towering limestone islands? That was all about the kite flying on the top deck of our house boat...
Vietnam was cool.

Monday, March 21, 2011

India's Where the Wild Things Are

by HouseBoy

Audrey and Evan both participated in the elementary school production of "Where the Wild Things Are." They each got to play musical instruments, dance and sing in this unique and very colorful musical. All of the kids in the AES 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades helped with its production.
Evan started out in Scene 1 as one of a dancing chorus of Max's. The kids each helped to make their own costumes and learned about choreography and even about writing song lyrics.
Audrey was part of scene 2 where the jungle grows in Max's bedroom.  Evan and Audrey both had a chance to accompany a song on the xylophone.
A curtain and back lighting were used to show the sailing voyage of Max across the sea. I thought it was very well done. But I think, for me, the best part was the portrayal all of the "Wild Things." 
The kids - mainly 5th graders, made large, crazy creature-heads out of foam material and helped create the dance moves and chants that were used during the "wild rompus."
Audrey and Evan and almost all of the kids (except the stage hands) were in the huge finale.
I think it was the biggest finale I've ever seen in a school musical! It was a fun evening for the children and, of course, for all of their proud parents.