Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why we get 25% differential

Generally our life here is pretty comfortable. From the outside, so much so that many people question why we get "hardship" pay - and especially why the pay is as high as 25%. I can't claim to know how all the calculations work, but this afternoon was one reminder as to why we do get the pay bump.

(1) We got our TB test done - finally. Our consulate doesn't have a med unit, so every three months or so, a doctor or NP visits us from Delhi bringing FDA-approved vaccines, flu shots, etc etc. To keep our medical clearance current, we're supposed to take a TB test before Manila. Easier said than done! A minimum of 48 hours is required to read the test. Though we've been asking for the test since April, it's only just now that the visiting nurse is staying in HYD long enough to read the results. (Don't ask me why MED didn't want us to go to a local doctor for a test. I offered, but they really wanted one of the Delhi personnel to do it). Now keep your fingers crossed we don't test positive...

(2) We stopped on the way home for diesel. Shouldn't be that big a deal, right? We're not exactly sure why, but today it involved lots and lots of hassle from the diesel pump people. In the end, Greg had to get out of the car (unheard of here) and almost pull the additional Rs 40 change from the attendant. This is pretty unusual, but it still was annoying.

(3) Lunch. We thought about trying a new restaurant, but couldn't figure out how to get our car into the correct shopping area. We drove around for some time, but kept on coming up against closed gates or walls. So then we moved on to restaurant #2, which was randomly closed for lunch today. Tired and frustrated, we decided to give up trying new places and went to a tried and true place (and thankfully were not disappointed!).

(4) Grocery shopping. Since lunch places #1 and #2 were a failure, and I didn't feel like driving back to my preferred grocery store (SPAR, a German brand), I decided we'd just pay the slightly inflated prices at the close by fancy grocery store (Ruci). After all, I could stop at the cafe for a coffee at the end and Greg could get some gelatto, making up for all the frustration earlier in the day :) At least, that was our idea. Except even though I had a really basic "must by" list (tea, sugar, ketchup, cooking oil, and floor cleaner) - none of the brands I wanted were in stock. And these are all normal brands - not fancy import brands which (with reason) are only in stock when a shipment comes. I left the store in frustration without buying anything.

In short - though we did succeed in getting the TB test done and eventually filling our car's gas tank and our own bellies, I arrived back home less than satisfied with the excursion. Only to see the kid at a house at the end of our block squatting to go poo poo outside his house next to the road. Geesh! Good thing HYD has so many other wonderful things to compensate ...

Saturday, September 25, 2010


William informed me last night that he does not want to go to Manila or to America. He said, "I'm Indian and I need to stay in Hyderabad."

Unfortunately, he has no say in the matter. But, I do feel fortunate that he adjusted so well to being here ... and hope that he can enjoy our next post as much as he did here.

Where did September go?

This is about the third time I've asked myself this question. How is it already September 26? How is it possible that Patch will be 11 months old in only three days? And why have I been neglecting my faithful readers back home with only a single blog post this entire month?

I had a great trip to Tashkent. I heard some people say there that they don't work at the end of the world, but they can see it from Tashkent. I owe a travelogue post on that trip. Then, when I came back, it hit in full force that we were going to be moving at the end of the year and I really needed to make preliminary preparations. Instead of tackling that problem, however, I basically decided to ignore the computer and the moving work ... and finished up Steig Larsson's Millennium Trilogy.

Now, with the books done, I spent the morning updating my hair color (good bye grey hairs) and am ready to face the fact that we do only have three months left in HYD, sadly. A mere 12 weekends remaining :( The challenge as I see it is how to complete all the necessary chores relating to moving while still remaining engaged and "living in the present." Oh - and not let my blog fall totally by the way-side, either!

Friday, September 3, 2010

A running list

I'm sure many parents in our line of work have a running list with the title, "You know your kid is a foreign service kid when ..." William has picked up a lot about Indian culture (including the accent and head bobble) - but to me that's more along the lines of just being in tune with the culture he's in. I can see from friend's facebook posts that other three year olds say equally amusing things and articulate similar observant facts about where ever they are.

But tonight, it was a little different than just cultural observance. For those who don't know, someone is "on call" from the consulate 24 hours a day for American citizen emergencies. Good to know your tax payer dollars are at work, right? Yes, if you get arrested - or die in your hotel room - or get stranded at the airport - hopefully you can get a call through to the "duty officer." Thus, the "on call" officer has to carry around the "duty phone" for a week. We rotate amongst the staff and, in a consulate of our size, this means being on duty about once every three months. Meaning, once ever six weeks or so, either Greg or I are the duty officer.

We've explained to William about the "Emergency Phone." It's not a toy and he has to be very quiet if a call comes.

Tonight, I was walking upstairs with the duty phone. William brought up a small toy cell phone, too, and looked at me and said, "Mama, this is my emergency phone in case anyone at school has a problem. They can call me and I will help fix it. I need to take it to bed with me."

Entry #1 on "you know you're an FS kid when ... you pretend to have a duty phone"