Sunday, January 15, 2012

Documentary - the kind that pulls at heartstrings

I someone post this preview of a documentary about an Israeli school. The documentary is called "Strangers No More" and was nominated for an Oscar. When I began watching the preview, tears came to my eyes, because I realized that I know that school, those rather unattractive walls, and those administrators - I was a volunteer English teacher there about six years ago - Rogozhin - the school that takes everyone who asked for an education irrespective of color, immigration status, age and religion.Tikkum Olam "fixing the world" at its finest.

The title is taken from Exodus - the Hebrew looks like this:

וגר לא־תונה ולא תלחצנו כי־גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים

The English translation: 

"You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

Enjoy the preview:

 Sadly, I won't be able to see it for a while, but if you get a chance, please do.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012!

Since the last time you folks tuned in a few things have happened. My parents came for a visit. A and I met them in Delhi and took off on the tour of the Golden Triangle - the best of the best and most memorable that North India has to offer. Pictured above is Humayun's Tomb in Delhi. A beautifully restored UNESCO World Heritage site. Humayun conquered Delhi in the 1500s, because that was all the rage, ruled for about a year and died. His wife commissioned the tomb in 1562 and thanks to the efforts of the Agha Khan Foundation, it is a beautiful sight. The Persian architecture of this tomb serves as the model for the Taj Mahal.

 It was a good time all around. Aside from our own digital memories, pictures of our family grace many a facebook and physical albums of fellow Indian tourists. At one point, my parents sat on a platform at Agra Fort for a rest and no fewer than 10 families got a shot sitting next to them. They just shuffled through in a rather surprising calm and organized manner - it may have been the first time I saw this phenomenon. I think my parents were deeply uncomfortable with their new found celebrity status, but hey this is India and we don't blend in around these parts. They enjoyed hanging out in our apartment and going to Adequate...oops I mean Ideal Beach.

On 24 December 2011 there was a Hanukkah or Christmas miracle and we got our Ford figo. We named the new arrival the "phantom," since it took the Ford corporation a mere 4 months to manufacture the car, get our color, model, and price (prepaid 100%) wrong. The Ford Corporation also sent us a German diplomat's tax application as a "sample," and proceeded to lose our tax paperwork several times...but I digress, we are very happy to have our little "phantom." Sadly, my husband did not take up my suggestion of calling our figo - "red tape." The diver that we hired 4 months ago, who has been waiting so patiently, is also very happy the car finally came. I am thinking about our next sketchtastic destination and whether it is possible and legal to export our little bundle of joy - we shall see! Incidentally, our driver's name means "happiness" (contentment or delight). The three of us are very happy with the arrangement.

The auto drivers across the street and I separated amicably. They wave to me when I pass them in our "phantom" on the way to the office. No hard feelings, we still use their services when A wants to have a drink at a party. Just last night, we used an auto to go to a New Years Eve party at a friend's house.

Before wishing all a great 2012 I would like to give you a short rundown of 2011. I guess I need to reach a little further, since life changed for us dramatically in May 2010 a few minutes before we left for our graduation from SAIS, A "got the call" and by "the call" I actually mean an email inviting him to join the a foreign service training class. We got married a few months later, moved to Northern Virginia (which was really a lot less painful than anticipated), and A started his training. As A, began his training I became obsessed with my professional options and started a bridge consulting job in DC. My professional obsession helped me come out of my shell and reach out to many wonderful and interesting professionals working in DC and in South Asia. My interactions helped me gain a better understanding of India's economic and social history.

In 2011, I got an awesome job offer to work as an economist for a DC consulting firm with an office in - you guessed it - Chennai! SAIS mafia power. We both studied Tamil at the Foreign Service Institute. Many zip car rentals, exhausting shopping trips, and spreadsheets later, we packed up our life in the DC area. We saved up and went on our honeymoon in Spain. We moved to India. I learned to value access to an electrical generator and internet. I discovered that I have been under-utilizing my body's capacity to sweat. I went to Israel witness the marriage of a wonderful friend, met new friends and spent time with family. I spent a wonderful weekend in Dubai together with my best friend, who is currently based out of a much less prosperous and stable South Asian country.

After a rather shockingly short brush with Indian bureaucracy - getting a work permit six weeks after submission to the Ministry of External Affairs, is pretty much unheard in this country - I started a new job. I got to know wonderful co-workers and members of the diplomatic community. My work has taken me to Delhi to meet with senior members of the Indian civil service and industry experts. A and I both started doing yoga - A occasionally joins me for a practice. Yoga became my oasis from obsessively stressing about things that I cannot control as well as a gateway for a healthier lifestyle. My commitment to keep kosher has turned me into a de-facto vegetarian, which made for some interesting conversations. We hosted my parents' first foray into India and our little "phantom" arrived at our doorstep on Christmas Eve. All in all, a pretty incredible, challenging and fun year (technically year and a half).

Happy New Year to all! I hope your 2012 is filled with lots of love, friends, family, adventures, and of course good health! Since I don't believe in keeping New Years resolutions - I sincerely hope to be more consistent in posting to this blog and keeping up my personal research.