Soft..

My mother always used to say ‘wait till you grow up, then you learn’ whenever she felt that I was irresponsible.

I had promised myself never to be like my mother when I had children of my own, but there were many times I almost said to my children “wait till you grow up”

One big issue at home was with bananas. I am obsessed with feeding my children healthy meals and fruits is a major part of their diet. I don’t buy the normal bananas(robusta/cavendish) because I had to eat bread and robusta/cavendish  bananas when my father stopped financially supporting, I just can’t eat those bananas any more and buy expensive Ladies finger bananas which cost  an average of 6$/kg( as compared to 1$/Kg for robusta.

My children, especially Yaya would never eat a banana if the skin has a little blemish.. It is too soft is what she used to stay. I used to get so annoyed with her for wasting food like that, often a full bunch of bananas. ( there is only so much banana cake you could bake!)

When we went to Churchill, we had to carry a lot of food with us. Churchill has no road network. Nearest town where the road ends is Thompson. From there it is another 12 hours of train ride to get to Churchill, which means everything in Churchill is really expensive. I bought a bunch of banana in Thompson and forgot to take it out of the plastic bag. By the time we reached Churchill, it was disgustingly ripe. I was going to throw them and Yaya stopped me. “You paid good money for the bananas mom and you are not going to throw it”

I watched my child eating really really , soft, yucky over ripe bananas. I never once told her that “wait till you grow up”.. but that didn’t mean that she never learned. When children grow up and earn their own money, they learn the value of money. You don’t have to nag them about it when they are young..

Churchill

When I was growing up, my father had a running subscription of a construction magazine. I don’t remember the name of the magazine. Although I couldn’t really read English in those days, I remember going through the magazine and looking at the photographs. (Probably the reason why I am still curious about heavy construction equipment, big rigs etc) In one such issue there was a photograph of a white bear. and underneath that there was one word I could read.. Churchill.. and I knew as a Malayalee what it meant in Malayalam. Pallikkunu.. In those days, you learned by translating anything and everything. I used to attend Ascension Church service and had friends living in Baker hill.. and pallikkunnu made so much sense to me.

Years later, I read about Polar bears and the pallikkunnu of my childhood and I promised myself that I will visit this place.

So Yaya and I went to Toronto and from there took the Via train to Churchill. It took 2 days to get to Winnipeg with an overnight stop there and another two days to get to Churchill. Being the smart people that we are, we booked and paid for the train ticket before finding the accommodation. We were in full panic mode  when all the google search for accommodation came up with no vacancy. Eventually I called the visitor information in Churchill and got them to help me find accommodation.

We arrived in Churchill in the morning and I really wanted to go for a walk. So, I went. 5 minutes after I started my walk, I found a signboard that said “Stop, do not walk here, Polar bears”. Suffice to say that I didn’t walk back to where I was staying, I ran.

Next day, I hired a car, which turned out to be a truck that was massive in size. Yaya looked at the truck and at me with a kind of look that said “Jeez., should I trust mom driving a massive truck?” Couple of minutes after I started driving the truck, Yaya started to scream.. apparently  I was driving on the wrong side of the road 🙂 Fortunately the town is really small and there were not many cars on the road.

Yaya and I saw hundreds of Beluga whales in close proximity(as in we could almost touch them), we saw the northern lights dancing in the night sky, we saw a polar bear mother and a cub and Krumholz effect.

So, I went to pallikkunnu.. and had a really good time.

Changes

I said goodbye to a teenager and picked up a woman.. I know the previous statement makes not much sense..so let me explain.

Yaya left home a week after she turned 18. Until the moment she left home, she was still a little girl who was still under my protection and relied on me to help her make decisions for her. And then she had to do everything by herself.

She booked her own flights, read reviews and booked accommodations, figured out the must see places. She had to choose where to go and what to eat.

I arrived a day ahead of her in US and went to pick her up the next day. Then I saw her walking out, carrying a rather small backpack and thought ‘My goodness, she is so tiny’ She had bought her backpack from Aldi’s for 30$ and it held enough clothes etc that had to last her 6 weeks trip.

She gave me a hug and told me “I missed you mom” and the next question was “Where are we staying” and I told her the hotel address. I watched her looking it up on google maps and said to me “Let’s go”

I was expecting myself to get lost in the maze of American road networks and never thought there be a day where my child will be the navigator and I could actually get somewhere without getting lost. As many of you know by now, I have no sense of direction and I tend to get loss regularly.

When we got to the Hotel, I noticed her checking the currency exchange rate on her phone and then she told me, “Mom, I forgot to fill up water in my water bottle and had to buy a bottle of water in Reykjavik and because I didn’t have any Icelandic Krona with me and had to pay in Euro, the cashier charged me extra 25cents. I never thought there would be a day my child will worry about 25 cents.

She visited all the places she wanted to visit. Most of the people she met at the backpacker’s hostel were surprised that her mother allowed her to travel alone at the age of 18. ( most of them were in 2nd or 3rd year uni students who were taking a gap year) She only spent half of the money she budgeted for the trip. Except for a pendant for me, a marble pen for her brother and a small tin of handmade chocolate for her sister, she didn’t buy anything else.

I am glad she did this trip. Now I can rest easy knowing that she is capable of making sensible decisions and can find her way using google map..( both of which her mother is incapable of doing)

 

 

Hmm

“You’ll learn, as you get older, that rules are made to be broken. Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologize for it. Go against the grain, refuse to conform, take the road less traveled instead of the well-beaten path. Laugh in the face of adversity, and leap before you look. Dance as though EVERYBODY is watching. March to the beat of your own drummer. And stubbornly refuse to fit in.”
? Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

As usual, I am leaving for a trip with absolutely no clue as to the places to visit. I was meant to look up the places and read about them.. I didn’t have the time. I am leaping before looking..travelling the road less travelled.

Visiting Churchill in Mannitoba has always been a dream. Ever since I read about Krumholz effect, I have been wanting to visit Churchill.. So I intend to do that.. Honestly speaking after getting to NY , I will have to figure out the best way to get to Churchill..

The woods are dark and lovely ..  I have places to go and promises to keep..

until then

adios..

 

Happy

I have been exceptionally busy the past few weeks trying to finish my work, cook enough food for the kids, sort the house and garden to make it less demanding on the kids etc.

Today much as I am exhausted, I am also really happy. I doubled my investment(almost).. As the kids get older, I am very careful with my money..my expenses will be exponential in 4 years when I have all three of my kids in Uni.. I wanted to travel without feeling guilty of spending money that I should be keeping aside for the kids.. I thought  and thought as to the best way to make some quick bucks.. I decided to invest in shares.

Now, my first lesson about share market  was from one of the Jeffrey Archer’s books. He had written, you buy when everyone is selling and you sell when everyone is buying. I know people who lost their homes when the share market tanked in 1997…. but just for this time, I thought I would play the market.

I researched all the companies that have stocks less than 1$/share on ASX. It took me weeks to narrow it down to the few I felt happy about.

One was a Zinc mining company. If you are in Australia, then you would know our mining boom is very much over.. I was a bit weary about investing in mining industries.. but Zinc on the other hand has market value.. it is required for Pharmaceutical/Cosmetic industry.. I read every article available online about zinc mining and decided to invest in in a company called Red river resources 6 weeks ago. I bought their shares at 0.14 and today sold it for 0.25/share. I could have waited couple of more days till it reached 0.28 then it really would have perfectly doubled.. but I got a bit scared of being too greedy.. I sold enough shares that will pay for my trip to US/Canada..

Not bad eh..

Raising a quitter

The school where my son goes to is extremely competitive. Every child has to write an entrance exam and pass an interview to get the admission.

Couple of days ago, my son mentioned that the only Mallu kid in his grade has quit. His work has been slacking and his grades were heading south. So his parents apparently suggested that he quit the current school and join the local school where he doesn’t have to do so much of work..

When I heard the news, I asked myself what would I have done, had my son was in the same situation?

I would have never let my son quit. It is much easier to quit than to stay and fight. Resilience and perseverance are the key strength children need to develop to stay ahead in this mad world.

If my child’s grades are falling.. then there are only two logical reasons for it. One, they didn’t understand the subject and are struggling. Two, their work is slacking.

if they are struggling, there is always someone out there who can explain things to them..(I am a lousy teacher, so I tend to not teach my kids, but will find a tutor if my kids ever need help. So far, only Yaya required extra help for Maths and I hired a third year engineering student to help her when she was in grade 12.)

If their is work is slacking… it doesn’t happen because my kids know very well that they need to give their best shot..and just have to get their acts together..

I believe that winners never quit and that quitters never win..

That being said, I am not encouraging unreal expectation from the parent’s side..which tends to put undue stress on kids.. As a parent, I really don’t care if my children get straight A’s or not, but I will raise all hell if their effort and behaviour column in their report is bad.

Baptism of fire

Soon after I wrote the SSLC exam and while waiting for the results, I saw an ad in the Malayala Manorama newspaper.. It was by a priest from an Orthodox Church in Thiruvalla who was organizing a trip to North India and he advertised asking if anyone else would like to join his tour group. It costed about 200Rs, which I had.

I remember waiting for my mother to come from work, so I could get her permission and join the tour group. They were planning to visit Taj Mahal.. and by then I had already read every single book about Taj Mahal.. and I couldn’t believe I was finally going to see the place I had read so much about. If you are my age, then you probably read the Amarchithra katha series..there was an issue about Tajmahal and the Shajahan and Mumtaz love story ..that was published around the same time..

You know that  feeling..excitement..trepidations.. fear all mixed together and create a million butterflies fluttering in your belly?

My mother took one look at the ad and told me, ” you can’t go” Apparently she has heard from others about a human sacrifice group.. they take young girls and take them to far off places and do human sacrifice..(I have often wondered how creative my mother really was to have come up with such a brilliant response)

Sadly, all the butterflies in my bellies died rather quickly…. and it took a very long time before I saw Taj Mahal..

But that was not the point..The point was, I was never allowed to do anything.. My mother always had reasons and excuses why I shouldn’t do something. The way she raised me has always made me second guess everything I do in my life and am genuinely scared of every little thing. In a few days, I will be travelling to US and renting a car. I am terrified..of all the things that can go wrong.. driving on the wrong side of the road tops my list..getting lost is a close second.. And every single time, I have to give myself a prep talk.. you have done this so many times before, remember the first time you travelled alone?

That would be the first time, I took a bus from the medical college hostel, went to the train station in a rural remote area, stayed there until late in the evening (alone and hungry), got in to the ladies compartment and travelled all the way to Kottayam.. I didn’t speak a word of Kannada and very little English and I was this tiny village urchin wearing this cloak of courage over me and doing a simple thing like catching a night train home.. that trip  was my baptism of fire.. I draw strength from it even now.. If I could do it then and survive, I can do whatever I face now and survive..

It was for the same reason, I let Yaya travel around Europe on her own. She needs to know her own strength.. that every time she faces a tough time, she can look in to herself and tell herself.. I travelled alone in Europe at the age of 18.. I can do this..

Good word..

Most often, my children’s basketball games are played late in the evening. The carpark underneath the stadium was designed by a maniac high on dope, for there is no other explanation for the horrible design.. really narrow bays with pillars crisscrossing.. I myself find it difficult to park my car there and whenever I find an L plate driver struggling, I usually tell the kid that “You are doing very well”  and you can see the happiness on the kid’s face.

Yesterday, when I went to fetch  my son after his uni classes, he asked if we could drop a classmate home on the way back as it was raining. Since he needs his on the road hours, I asked him to drive. The traffic was really heavy and it was raining .. and the road to the friend’s house was like a mini mountain pass.. a lot of  sharp turns.. My son follows the speed limit to the T. Every bend has a posted speed limit of 30KM/hr and soon we had a huge following of cars behind us. .Single lane, evening traffic, rain and an irritating L plate driver.. enough to make any sane person mad..

When he finally stopped at the traffic light( where the lane became two) the car that followed us came to the right lane and the driver ( burly looking guy) lowered the window and gestured to my son.. and I thought this was going to be a road rage..

Guess what?

He actually smiled and told my son

“Mate, you drive very well.. good job”

You should have seen the happiness on my son’s face!

Why,,

Before Yaya left for Europe, I had asked a classmate of mine to help me get a mobile phone connection for Yaya. I explained clearly that she will be visiting many countries in Europe and require roaming. I usually do not try to subcontract my responsibilities to others, but I was really busy(end of term at uni) and didn’t have the time to find out about European mobile phone plans and I really wanted Yaya to have a phone connection the moment she arrived in UK. Since my classmate has been living in UK for the past 25 years, I thought she would be the best person to sort it out. Besides she has kids of them same age as mine.

She got Yaya a Lyca mobile number with 500 minutes call time to Australia (so Yaya can call home! and apparently Lyca to Lyca is free and so I can call her.. I don’t have Lyca, nor do any of my friends), no data and no roaming..

I don’t know if it is just my kids and their cohorts here or is it generally the same everywhere.. None of my kids or their friends use the phone to call.. They text, snapchat or use FB messenger.. What Yaya needed is data and roaming.. She is travelling alone and need data to find information or even to use the google map..

Fortunately, I insisted on Yaya taking her Australian mobile phone with her.. and I activated roaming for her from here..

Yesterday night my child found herself outside a closed,remote train station in the middle of the night for 5 hours ( from 1 AM to 5 AM). She booked the train ticket thinking that she can sleep in the train (and save accommodation costs) and found out that she has a 5 hours lay over and the station where she got off at 12 midnight would be closed from 1 AM to 5 AM. Because she had roaming and data, she could message me on FB and even though we were thousands of miles apart and I imagined all sorts of horrible things that could happen to her, I was still able to comfort her and give her the courage..  She was sitting outside the station and didn’t want to talk over the phone and let her presence be known.. so we texted through the night..

I am never ever going to ask anyone else to help me get a phone connection..ever..

 

 

Investing

My son is representing his school for the UAV challenge(Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).

First he needed to design a parachute.. I gave him an old plastic table cloth I had used for one of the birthday parties..It was too thin, but would work if you folded it and glued two sides together and made it thicker. He needed to figure out what glue would work on plastic.. Then he needed to cut the glued piece in to a perfect circle.. He was attempting to draw a large circle.. Years ago, I had seen a caterer cutting a circle table cloth for a function by folding the fabric in to quarter and then drawing a quarter circle on it..) And I showed the trick to my son.. He was really impressed..

He wasn’t happy with the table cloth parachute.. so he went to the Thrift shop and bought a second hand Egyptian cotton bedsheet and made another parachute..

Last evening, he looked visibly upset.. and I learned that, he has a perfect parachute and a holder, but somehow the system he had designed is not working.. His parachute doesn’t deploy..

He is angry and upset.. and it is quiet natural to feel that way. I am sure he was expecting me to help him to figure out what is wrong.. I didn’t.  I told him, the only way to find out what is wrong is to work out all the forces involved.. He needs to draw the diagram and calculate the forces and figure out where he is going wrong.. There has to be a reason why his design failed.. and it is his job to figure it out..After all, this is his project..

I did however cook his favourite tacos for dinner..

Now I feel terribly guilty.. If he and I work on it, I am sure we would find out the reason.. Was I not supposed to be the teacher?