More than stories

We’ve been back at home for more than a month now.  Our bodies are not confused by what is day and night anymore.  Our schedules are changing and we are trying to make sense of our new routines.

As we gather with friends now, I notice and really love seeing each one of us tell our stories.  The telling of our own experiences.  We tend to remember and retell the same ones (to different friends!) those we enjoy the most or remember most vividly.

For Lucas is the one of teaching to playing baseball to his friends at the school or learning to play cricket himself.

Or that he learned to play the drums.  Or the first time he met the monkeys at the school.  Or how we had a Ganesha at home or how large the radishes were.  Or how the buckets were our shower.

Or to talk about all the things and people we saw on a motorcycle or the baby python we saw.

Mark has his stories.  His walks down The Fort. His encounters with the fruit and vegetable vendors and how he managed to buy what he needed when he didn’t see it right away with dictionary on hand.  And lots of stories about the school and his teaching there.

He’s great at that.  He’s so good at telling us stories that it was one of the reasons we all wanted to take this adventure.  To have stories to tell ourselves.  To have stories to remember.  To have stories to share with everyone.

Siena has Mark’s storytelling love.  And she’s good at doing that too.  She likes to tell about our house in India.  About her friends and how much fun it was to have 600 of them.  Or doing her perfect peacock call.  About her chasing the cows the opposite way, so we can see the school and temple guards chasing the cows the other way in front of our house.  Telling about her monkey encounter when she went for a walk with Mark and Lucas. It’s about her learning Hindi words and how she used them to get a reaction from local people, and to help us communicate when we couldn’t even remember what five (panch) or six (che) was in Hindi.  Or how much fun it was to walk down the street to the school by themselves to play in the obstacle course, every single day, because after the monsoon, it was sunny and never rained again.

And how we had to walk up hill (“both ways”) to go get our drinking (and cooking) water each day.

I have my own stories too, and I think I’ve been able to share them here in this blog.  Thank you for coming to visit us here in this place, and hope you have enjoyed our adventures.  There are lots more, with many more pictures I am organizing and they are making me relive all those moments.  I love it and I hope you can enjoy them too.

There are some stories that I will keep them for an evening or afternoon with my friends with a cup of tea or a glass of wine.  Some that were just a little harder rather than fun.  But stories nevertheless.

This trip besides stories, gave us a lot more than that.  It gave us more time together as a family, because Mark didn’t have to drive 25 minutes to work each way, each day, instead we walked together to school for 10 minutes to have breakfast together.  And we had lunch together and met each other during the school for breaks.  Mark had to work on Saturdays, giving us just one-day-weekends, but we got to see him a lot more during the day.   We got to walk down The Fort together to buy our fruits and vegetables for dinner. Or walk down to The Mess to get our water.

Our four months in India this fall gave us so much, that it’s hard to put into words.  I’m sure it gave us more than I can think of right now.  Living in a different country, a completely different country, it’s an incredible experience.

This adventure gave us lots and lots of stories we have been sharing and some we are still processing and understanding and trying to make sense.  It gave us time to think of the things we have here at home, and what we had there in Gwalior.  It gave us lots of new friends.  It gave us an understanding of speaking a new language that we hadn’t heard before (I really wish I could have learned more Hindi, maybe next time!)  It gave us the chance to learn the art of mehndi and to see so many different kinds of art we had only seen in books before.

It gave us an incredible amount of topics to talk about throughout our months in India that probably would not have come up on a “regular” day to day conversation.  Like talking about different religions, gods and reincarnation and what we each believe in, as a person and for us as a family. We talked about the difference in how people treat animals, and how we all deal with the garbage we make, or how different schools and people are.  It gave us the chance to see and touch with our own hands, the Taj Mahal.

It made us talk about our feelings especially in those harder days when we felt alone or lost, in a place where everything was foreign to us, except that we had each other.  The four of us were together and were able to help and love each other no matter what or how hard that day was.

This adventure gave us a chance to be grateful for what we have and not to take them for granted.

I could continue this list for a while, since it was four months of experiences.  As we talk during our meals now and remember our days there in India, we remember new stories and share new feelings each time.  These four months there gave us so many different things that have changed our lives forever, in more ways than I can think of.  It is an experience we will never forget and one that is giving us lots of stories to tell and remember, for sure.  I feel so lucky to have done this with my family.  A beautiful experience.

Do you have any stories to share from your travels?

Metalwork : Scindia School

Lucas especially enjoyed going to the Metalwork classroom to learn and ended up doing some projects.  Siena also went a little but mostly at the beginning of our stay there.

Arun was so nice to Lucas.

The students were always eager to show them how things worked, at the school and in this class.

Siena and Lucas would always come with some finished project.  They really enjoyed learning lots of new things and meeting all the students in these classes.

Also for Founder’s Day there were many pieces to display in the Art Exhibition, and here are some of the pictures I took that day.

Arun, thank you so much for letting us come and learn in your classroom.

Teaching Physics in India

Mark was teaching Physics to 7th, 8th and 9th grades, in India, at The Scindia School in Gwalior.  I think for Mark, this was a different experience than he expected.  Or I should say, at least for me as an outsider, I think it was a different experience I thought he would have.

These two pictures here below show a little of what the day of the students at our school there look like.

For my taste, they get up so early.

And go to bed so late, with days filled with activities, I’d be exhausted, myself.

The teaching, as I saw it, the school, the students, it’s all very different in many ways from what I’ve seen here in Portland.  I know, me being from Chile, and Mark having lived in Chile for few years, I think he was expecting some of these differences.

The students stay in the classrooms and the teachers go to their rooms for each period.    So when Mark has  or wants to share an experiment or use the lab, he has to reserve the lab to bring the students there.  It doesn’t seem very different (as an outsider) just a more careful planning, I guess.

The classes are only 40 minutes long, which seams really short, because his periods are of 90 minutes here in Portland.  I am not a teacher, but just what I see with Siena and Lucas and the classes they take, 40 minutes doesn’t seem like you can get a lot done.

The students all wear a uniform.  I love it!  During the summer there is a white uniform they were on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and a gray pants or shorts with white shirts the rest of the days.  In the winter, colder months (just before we left) they changed to their winter uniform and I don’t think they had different days.  They were wearing gray pants and a gray sweater, with their white shirts and black shoes.  “They all look so smart!” (a saying we learned  while there in India, to say they looked fancy.)

The students look always so nice, and it reminds me of my school in Temuco, where we also wore uniform.   We didn’t have a different color for different days.  It was always the same.  Except girls could wear pants or the dress.  But I think I like that, as oppose to in the US, where they can wear any kind of clothes.  I guess I don’t know.  I didn’t grow up here in the US and don’t have kids going to school, but it seems that there would be more peer pressure of what they want to wear so they can fit in.

Every classroom as a blackboard to use with chalk, instead of a white board.  That does take me back to my school years.  I wonder when schools started carrying whiteboards.  Not being a teacher or using the classrooms, I don’t have much to say about that, except that Mark had chalk dust in his clothes and I’m thinking he probably was breathing more chalk dust… but really, not sure how much impact is that on someone’s health.

I know also that Mark was given an eraser when he arrived, and we’d find it at home half the time.  So I’m not sure how he did erase the board when he needed to.  And we also liked hearing his stories about forgetting chalk and the adventures he went through to get some and be prepared for his class.  I guess, they were things he’s never really had to worry about in his teaching career.

I’d like to share some of the pictures from Mark’s classes.  I think it is fun to look at these now that we are back at home, in our new normal days in Portland.  And I do love seeing these posts and pictures and remember what it was like to be there, in our normal days in India, just few weeks ago.

These pictures were taken during the last week at school, before we left.  Siena and Lucas are in the front with Mark, because we were showing a video of Oregon we made to share a little about our home.

Mark tried to share a lot of the way he teaches here, as well as to learn how they teach in India.

I think he did a lot more group work than the students were used to.

Mark really enjoys doing that.

This is one of his classes.

And another one of his classes.

I also know Mark did more labs than the students, at least the 7th graders, were used to.  The Physics lab (as well as others) were in the Science Building and they had to walk there whenever they had a lab.

This is the Science Building.

The view from here (and almost anywhere in the school) is really amazing.  All the way in the back of the picture, you can see that ancient temple, we passed 2,4 times a day, for four months.  A beauty!

And Mark had a lab assistant who would help him clean and set up all the labs.  I think he’s missing them already, from all their help.

And the students, and Mark, had fun.

Photo by Mark
Photo by Mark

Mark believes that hands on learning makes it is easier for the students, or the learner, because it will mostly make it more meaningful, and hopefully more likely to retain and remember what you studied.  That’s how we learn at home.

Photo by Mark
Photo by Mark
Photo by Mark
Photo by Mark

Besides the physics lab, there are a couple of these rooms where there is a projector to use.I know Mark used them sometimes, and we went with him the last week, when he showed the slide show of Oregon, to share with the students and staff at the school.

I think they all enjoyed to see a little bit of where we are from.

And I know Lucas and Siena liked sharing some about their home too.

We hope they’ll remember us in the future.  Mark, as a teacher, and us as a family visiting their school, their home.  We certainly will.

Have a beautiful weekend.

:: this moment ::

A beautiful and fun Friday ritual. Inspired by SouleMama.

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. – Amanda Soule
If you’d like to share ‘your moment‘ leave a comment and a link to your post here.  Thanks for sharing!  Have a beautiful weekend.

India: ‘Medical Services’ from the outside

This post is dedicated to my family.

I have lots of members in my family who work in ‘medical services’.  My dad is an OBGYN doctor.  Two of my uncles (my mom’s brother and my dad’s brother) are medical doctors as well.  An uncle (my mom’s brother) and my aunt (my dad’s sister) are dentists.  One of my nieces is studying to be a dentist and one of my grandfather’s was a dentist too.   And my mom used to have a pharmacy, a long time ago.

So while we were in India, I was excited every time I’d see a dentist or medical office, or hospital and decided to take pictures of them, just for this post.  All of us would see a red cross and try to figure out what it was (Ayurvedic medicine, pharmacy, emergency room, or maybe something else?) and we’d grab the camera and snap a photo.

I wanted to have a way to share what we saw in India with my family who didn’t get there, and gladly we never got to see it up close.  It was just from the outside of these buildings.

I think this is my favorite! What do you think?  To all the dentists in my family… a sig for you.


I just love that smile.

In the bigger cities we saw bigger and better looking hospital buildings.

I’m still, very glad we didn’t have to visit one.

Not even a month of being in India, Lucas fell off his bed one night, asleep.  He got a cut by his eye.  In the middle of the night when I woke up with him crying (the floor was slate and it must have hurt him hitting his head like that) I ran to see him.  I saw all the blood running down his face, I got scared.  Mark woke up and we tried to figure out what was happening.

We tried to talk to Lucas but he didn’t make sense.  We thought he had a concussion.  In the middle of all, I was thinking I didn’t want to go to the emergency room in India, I didn’t know where it was, even how to get there, or who to call.  We had no phone still, had no car, and didn’t know of all the nice teachers who had introduced to us the previous weeks we would go get at 1:00 in the morning to rush to the hospital.  It was scary.

We go to the kitchen to clean Lucas’s face and see how bad the cut was.  Trying to find a real clean rag, clean bottled water, we finally got to clean his face and he finally woke up!  Lucas was almost asleep this whole time, so he wasn’t making sense because he was half asleep.  A relief! We then studied his cut, and decided it was going to be OK and probably have a scar, but we didn’t think it was necessary to visit the ER for it.

This is what his eye looked like the next day.

With Lucas’s permission I took these pictures of his eye, so he could have some good story to tell about how he got this scar by his eye.  Maybe not yet.  We are just glad we didn’t have to go visit any doctors or hospitals while we were there.

Lucas took naturopathic remedies I had brought with me and was feeling better quickly.  His cut didn’t get infected at all, which was my biggest concern, with all the dust, and the swimming pool, and all the things little boys do during the day.  It healed beautifully.  Though would open up a little every time someone would grab his cheeks (as most people did to him…. I’d say about 30 times a day?) and wished they would have let him alone to heal better.  I guess it will be part of his story.

I think Lucas will just have to make a funnier story (besides the falling off the bed) to tell about this scar, when he grows up.  We’ll have to wait and see what it might be.

Doors in India

After a while I started taking pictures of the beautiful doors we passed by in the different cities and towns in India.  Here are some of them for us to remember.

These here below are from Amber Fort and in the city, in Jaipur.

I love this door with these two huge locks.  Lucas really likes locks, and for his birthday Siena gave him one.  He loves it and has it in a special place now that we are at home.  I wonder if this is hereditary, because Lucas’s Oma loves locks too.

This one here below Lucas took down in Goa of the door of the Basilica.


Photo by Lucas

And now these last photos are of doors in Udaipur, also in the state Rajasthan. I still need to put the photos of that trip.  That will come soon.

A short tour of Indian doors.  Hope you enjoyed them.


What I’m missing from India

Living in a different place, you make your house, your home. We lived in a house the school gave us for the time of our stay in Gwalior. We made it ours, and made it work with what we had.

Now, a month after arriving home, I can say that I miss our place there.  When we first arrived, it took few weeks for us to adjust to our new time and new schedules.  I kept talking to our friends saying “home” as the house in Gwalior.  It was home for that time.  it felt like home for the most part, we tried hard to make it home.

Now from here I miss some things and some people.  And as the rest of our stay in India, I don’t want to forget what we had there, so I’d like to share here a list of things I’m missing from India, so we can look back and remember them as we read through these pages later on this year or in the future.

:: Our friends.

And lots more friends I don’t have the space here to share, but they are close to our hearts.

:: Tasty fruits: like custard apples, pineapples, papayas, and bananas.

:: Seeing the statues on the way up the fort, whenever I wanted to see them.

:: The beautiful clothes. Look at our friends with beautiful clothes every day!

:: Krishna, the cutest baby in the world!

:: Seeing the students ride the horses and walk and run in front of our house.

:: Seeing Siena and Lucas walking around the school.  Especially with their uniforms!

:: The cool buildings everywhere.

:: Hearing and seeing the school marching band parade in front of our house as they prepared for their performance in Delhi.

:: Seeing this huge cat (we called him “the tiger”) once in a while around the house.  I don’t think it was anybody’s cat and he was huge for sure!

:: Seeing our friends Mac and Ros.  They have also gone back to their home in England, we miss seeing them every day of our four months stay in India.  It was a real gift to have met them.  Very special people indeed.

:: Knowing it’s going to be sunny the next day, for sure.

:: The sound of the peacocks.  Their calls. But I need to admit, that Siena learned to make the same sound, and we can ask her to do it, and it almost takes me back home, our other home, to India.

:: Cheap vegetables.

:: Sweet and delicious red carrots.

:: The pool on sunny, warm days.

:: Seeing Mark ride the bike to work to a meeting or to help a student and then come right back.  No car necessary and maybe for just half an hour.  That never happens here at home.

:: Seeing the red sun at sunset.  Even though I know it was so red because of the dust.

:: Sometimes I miss getting fresh milk every day.

::  The teacher’s tea time each morning and seeing Mark during school/work hours.

:: The delicious samosas at said tea break.

:: Seeing Mark during the day.  When we could work to his work and come back in just 10 minutes. Have a snack or lunch with him.

:: The beautiful colors of the women all over and what the teachers wore every day.  Kurtas and sarees brightens anybody’s day.

:: Sometimes I miss the funny honking of the buses carrying the junior students back to their houses.

:: The parrots and their sounds.

:: Seeing the cows walk in front of our house.

:: Seeing the Gurudwara, a beautiful marble building just across the (football) field from our house.

:: The students walking outside on their uniform.

:: Seeing Siena and Lucas play with their friends.

:: Auto rickshaws.

:: Going to the Art Department and seeing the teachers and the students do their work and seeing all the art being done.

:: Walking down to the school and passing beautiful, ancient buildings.

:: Siena doing mehndi every other day.

:: Head massages for $1.

:: The music classroom.

:: “The curves”.

But one thing I’m NOT the least missing:

:: Taking malaria medicine every single morning.

Kids in India

Living in a boarding school for four months we saw kids every single day.  Lots of them.  The school has students from 6th grade through 12th grade, 600 students, so we saw them all most of the day, at least to say good morning.

Besides the teachers, there are also other people living up in The Fort and they have children of all ages, of course.  We saw them walking down, or riding their bikes or taking their bus down to school, or going places, playing or just passing by.

Most of them say “Hello!” as if they were practicing their English. And some of them would continue their conversations to “Where from?”

There was one kid in The Fort whose English was as good as mine.  Not that mine is perfect, but for a 10 (or so) year old, I was always surprised to hear him talk so well.  He didn’t attend school, but knew the story of the Palace on The Fort very well and spoke Spanish, Hindi and Italian besides English.   Billy, talked to everyone!  He has a great personality and I’m sure and really hope he does great things as he grows up.

He came to our house within the first week or so we had arrived asking for money for one of the festivities.  It was him doing the talk and explaining, with 4 or 5 more of his friends.  I gave him some money and he made some comment about not being as much as our friend Mac down a couple of houses.  But he was OK with it.  The next day he shows up again asking for more money.  By the third visit I said he’d have to wait a little longer before coming back.  Our conversations were getting a little expensive.

Living at The Fort we were isolated of lots of things.  We didn’t see as many people, or saw lots of cars.  It was very quiet for Indian standards.  When we went to Goa, even just in the drive down from the forest, it was really fun to see all the kids in uniform coming and going from school.

Here are some of these pictures.

And do you see how close we are to them? I’m taking all these pictures from inside the car, while we are driving.  Though the driver was very careful and a great driver we were still extremely close to all the people walking and motorcycles and cars and trucks riding along with us.  Oh… I do not miss driving in Indian roads.

The students at our school had a pretty busy schedule.  They wake up before 6 am, do exercise, then breakfast, assembly and classes all morning until lunch at 1:45pm.  After that, they’d go to their houses and change into their sports clothes for the afternoon.  They can pick any of the sports or hobbies they’d like to do.  From sports they could choose from basketball, to track and field, soccer (football), archery, skating, hockey, basketball, squash, table tennis, horse back riding, and cricket.

The hobbies were varied as well and they could do arts, music, sciences, languages, literature… lots of things to choose from.  The sunset ceremony, studies, dinner and time at their houses before bed time.  They keep them busy.  They are very busy all day, but they seem to have many choices in the afternoons at the school.

Besides the students at the school, and Billy, we only met few other kids that are the teacher’s children.  But not many more besides them.  Being at the school on The Fort, on top of this plateau was great in many ways, but it felt a little isolated from the rest of the city.

Before going to India last summer, we watched and read a lot about the country, the families, culture and customes, trying to understand a little before we went.  We thought it would be helpful for Lucas and Siena to have an idea before arriving to this new place.  I think it helped, and mostly I think it was really fun to learn this way, even before we were out of our house.  One of the videos we watched was about different schools around the country.  It was a great video told by kids, where we could have a little glimpse of what children and schools were like in India.

Now, having spent four months there, with our experience, we can say that kids are kids everywhere.  How beautiful is that! And how cute is this beautiful baby!

Snow day

The last week here in Portland has been very cold, on and off.  And we’ve had warnings of snow falling.  But where we live it’s not that high so we don’t get to see lots of snowflakes, even when other parts of Portland get them.  but we hope.

Two nights ago it had snowed a little, but it didn’t stick on the ground.  To me, it’s the most beautiful sight in a winter’s day. Snowflakes falling.

Yesterday was a little different. It started snowing the night before, when everyone was asleep.  I went outside and without realizing it the snowflakes were sticking on the ground, covering everything in a thin white sheet.  It was chilly.

I opened the curtains so I could see it falling from the warmth inside.  With the street lights outside, I could see it falling for a couple of hours, and everything was bright and very quiet.  I love it.

Me, being an night owl, I wonder who else was able to witness this beautiful storm.

By the time Mark got up early in the morning, it had started to rain and melt some of the snow.   He still had to go to work today, regular hours.  But I think he got to see how pretty it looked.

Photo by Siena

When Lucas and Siena woke up they were so excited to see that there was snow on the ground.  They were screaming and jumping of excitement.  They got dressed real quick and went outside to play.  Not much snow left and very wet.  But snow nevertheless.

We went for a walk and saw all those half fallen snow people, and some trees that have fallen with last night’s storm.  The left over of nature.  The fun ones and the sad and scary ones.

We were lucky.  Our house is intact as are all of our trees.  We did some trimming before we left to India last August, in case a storm like this would have happened while we were gone. I think the work we did helped.

I wish we’d get more snow this winter, without the rain or the wind.  Just the fun part when everyone can enjoy.  Will cross my fingers.

Namaste : Welcome Home

Welcome Home is what I saw and felt when we arrived in Portland, and after two long days of traveling we were ready to be home.

A month today, has passed since we arrived home and it seems as if we just did.  The time has gone by so quickly, it amazes me it’s passed mid January already.

We still have the signs and drawings that our friends made for us, for our homecoming.  It warms my heart to see them hanging.  To realize we have these beautiful, amazing friends that made our life much easier while we were gone (and always).  By maintaining our home and fixed what needed to be fixed to keep the house safe and tight and warm until we arrived.

Seeing these signs on the house makes me realize we were really gone for 4 months.  In my mind, right now it all seems like a dream.  The time, now looking back, went fast while we were in India.  Of course there were days, weeks, that seemed like the heat had made the time stop (OK, so you know by now, I’m not a heat or sumer person, right?)

Thank you to our friends who made our home so welcoming the day we arrived.

The house was warm, the heater and water heater working, ready for us to settle in. and take a nice long shower.  It was exactly what we needed.  It was wonderful. Thank you my dear friends, very much from the bottom of my heart. You are a beautiful group of people and we are so lucky to have you in our lives.  Thank you.

Yes, we are home and we are happy.

Thank you for everything, my dear friends.