Where are we now?

View Where are we now? in a larger map Jo, Annie, Miles and I are living in Northport, Alabama and working at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. We've been glad to be in one place for a bit after what appeared to be semi-permanently traveling (in actuality for a period of 2.5 years).We started this blog to catalogue some of the adventures when Jo and I were sequentially conducting our dissertation research in India and Brazil. While we've fallen off the blogging bandwagon somewhat during recent trips to Brazil, we're trying to pick it up again now that we're back in India!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Annie's first Halloween: Potential Costumes

Well, it's Annie first major American holiday. We're sure hoping it doesn't turn out like last week's Diwali debacle! We've been thinking long and hard, and think we've come up with some good potential costumes, drawing on Annie's well-fed physique, her proto-amphiphian nature, and favorite sleeping position (the cactus). What do you think? My favorite is the sumo wrestler, I think...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Old time picnic

Together with Adam and Em, we had a lovely picnic breakfast at Lodhi garden this Sunday. Now that Fall has arrived, and the weather in Delhi has really cooled down, it is just a pleasure to hang around outside.

We each brought a variety of foods, met up near the park, and just hung out for a few hours of eating, talking, walking, and music playing!

What an unbelievable coincidence, but it turns out Adam not plays old time music as well, but also plays fiddle, banjo and mandolin. What are the odds?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Diwali: Lights and Darks

As today is the end of the multi-day Diwali celebrations, I wanted to reflect on the good and bad experiences we had this year during this festive time. For those who don't know Diwali is an Indian holiday that appears to be a mix of Christmas and Fourth of July. The history of Diwali and its many significances are too much for me to cover here, for that check out the wiki page, linked here

Over the last few days of Diwali, which really only lasts for a single day but there are actually two days leading up to it, and one or two after it, we've had a lot of fun, basking in the light of our lives.

We also had a really great time hanging out with our friend Shubhra

In addition to making a phenomenal dinner for us, she had been busy all day decorating her house with beautiful lights, and being the amazing artist she is, painted traditional Diwali floor designs throughout the house.

As we celebrated, Annie just slept peacefully like the perfect baby she is.

That was all what I consider the "good", the "light" parts of Diwali. And then there was the "bad", which from my perspective was the "dark" side.

I've always said about Diwali, half-jokingly, "it's all fun and games until someone blows off their hand," which is a reference to the sad reality that after Diwali the newspapers always have stories of the people who were maimed or died playing with fireworks.


Well, I can now add "it's all fun and games until your apartment building catches on fire".

Yes, it's unfortunately true. With family friends visiting we had a lovely evening of walking around the neighborhood and gagging on the acrid smoke from the fireworks. So that you have an idea, think of a microwave popping pop corn....CONSTANTLY. And the air being like pea-soup fog from the smoke. So that was all well and dandy.

Around midnight, I've fallen asleep and Jo wakes me up. "WE HAVE TO LEAVE, THE BUIDLING'S ON FIRE!!!" Before I can put my shirt on, she has grabbed Annie and fled the building. I get dressed, go to the door which she had left open and see that our roof is consumed in flames. Noting that our stairwell is still clear, I take a minute and grab our laptops, external hard drives and passports. I'm practical if nothing else. Within a half hour the fire department arrived, and began working on putting out the blaze. Unfortunately, it took them about two hours to get it completely extinguished. So we got to spend some quality time with our neighbors in their PJs.

While no one was hurt and our flat was undamaged, it was very sad, because what had burnt was an illegal structure that our neighbors had built on the roof to house their maid. Unfortunately, this kind of arrangement is very common in Delhi. While we don't know exactly what happened, we have surmised, from the sight of the crying 10-year old neighbor's child who was being questioned by police, that he had been playing on the roof with firecrackers and one had caught this shed on fire.

The next morning, this is what remained, as seen from our porch.

the remains of the shed

The debris

Ash and water tanks

As my mom wrote in an email this morning, we sure gave Terry and Ginny who were staying with us a "warm welcome," and isn't that what Diwali is about?

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Big Lesson: Delhi's Toilet Museum

Today was a monumental moment in Annie and my father-daughter relationship. It was the ultimate teaching moment of sorts: a trip to the international museum of toilets.

It's true. It exists. And it's amazing. I'd have to say, although it's far out in west Delhi, no trip to India should be complete without a visit to it. Even our taxi driver had been, which I thought was mind-blowing.

As most readers will probably not make it to the toilet museum I thought I'd share some select bits from their website, which says:

Museums as repositories for the preservation and exhibition of the objects of historical, scientific and cultural interest are found all over the world. But rare are the museums that display the evolution of toilets and their various designs (reallllly....you don't say).

Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, the Founder of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, a pioneering non-profit voluntary organisation (NGO) in the field of Sanitation in India, envisioned the need for the setting up of a museum of toilets in the sprawling campus of his central office at Mahavir Enclave, Palam Dabri Road in New Delhi, India and has consultative status with Economic and Social Council of the U.N.The idea engaged his mind for long, eventually leading him to make hectic worldwide search for minutest details of the evolution of toilets, as also of various toilet designs used in different countries at different points of time.

The Museum has been established with the following objectives :-

To educate students about the historical trends in the development of toilets;
To provide information to researchers about the design, materials, and technologies adopted in the past and those in use in the contemporary world;
To help policy makers to understand the efforts made by predecessors in this field throughout the world;
To help the manufacturers of toilet equipment and accessories in improving their products by functioning as a technology storehouse; and
To help sanitation experts learn from the past and solve problems in the sanitation sector.

Join sanitation crusade.

The museum was inspired by Ghandi...

what would Gandhiji say?

The main exhibition room of the toilet museum

The museum was filled with a quite impressive timeline of the evolution of the toilet from it's origination in India (like everything else, didn't you know Indians invented it first) to modern day.

The museum was also filled with toilet humor.

And humorous toilets

What was one of the most funny things at the museum was the guide who showed up and started his spiel. He began at a normal even pace, but then Annie started waking up. As she started stirring the guide started picking up the pace of his monologue, and then she was awake and he really increased the tempo. And then she started fussing and let's just say he was talking like someone who really needed to go the bathroom NOW (my bathroom humor for this post). I just wish I could have charted the change in frequency of his voice over time....but that's just the scientist in me.

Sulabh is actually much more than just the museum pictured here. As an NGO it works to create economically and environmentally friendly sanitation options for rural villages (why they had nothing on Ladakh I'm somewhat mystified). In addition they had a bio-methane plant on site! Unfortunately, Annie had had enough of this lesson by that point and told me in no uncertain terms (a messy diaper filled with irony) that this field trip was over.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Three G's

Goodbye Grandma Gail!

A snuggly last moment before Grandma headed to the airport for her long trip home.

It's hard to believe the month with Grandma passed so fast; on the way to the airport I really felt like it was only yesterday that I had gone to pick her up from her flight. We sure did fit a lot in during the last month! It was a huge help to have an extra set of hands always willing to hold Annie, whether she was screaming or sleeping.

The one positive part about Grandma going home...

Let our packing commence! Gail was kind enough to lug an extra bag of ours back to the states including 49.9 lbs of Jo's questionnaires, and all sorts of detritus.

Well, this isn't really related to Gail leaving, except tangentially, but it is the passing of the seasons, and I am THRILLED to announce that Fall is beginning to arrive in Delhi, and with it...

Fun times on the balcony with little babu

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Many readers of this blog might know that yesterday (October 15th) was Jo's 30th birthday!!! What most will not know, however, is that Grandma Gail and I threw her a surprise party!!! What many do not know about me is that I am horrible at keeping surprises. I'm talking awful, the pits, the worst. For example, I remember a previous birthday of Jo's where I had bought her a dress I knew she wanted about a week before her birthday, I drove home and was so excited I couldn't keep it hidden in my backpack, I showed it to her as soon as I walked in the door, hopping around with glee. All of which is to say that somehow, due to Gail's presence and co-conspiratorial assistance, I was able to plan this bash for Jo and it was actually a surprise!

To make her think I hadn't forgotten, Gail and I made a special breakfast of a fruit platter and chocolate chip pancakes.

With the ruse carried out and the curiosity deflected, it was time for the real event!

Some of you might know that I have a history of hidden video-camera usage; I recorded me proposing to Jo by placing a camera inside a potted plant. Granted I mostly got below our knees but it was the thought that counts, right? Well, I think the following video came out much better, using the computer's webcam and a screen capture program.

The spread

Banjo and balloons, a pair that was always meant to go together

Annie in her fancy dress for the first time, which will probably last another week!

Sibghat and Annie

Emily--who is also doing diabetes research in Delhi--got a chance to meet some of our other Delhi's friends

Adam, who is Emily's husband, just arrived in Delhi a few days ago and was eager to learn about the upcoming Indian holiday of Diwali

Gail and Adam get to know each other over some Subway

Me relieved that the time of trying to keep the surprise a secret was over.

Our friendly neighbors had fun reconnecting

Jo had made it clear she wanted fruit for her birthday, so I ordered a fruit bouquet! Getting it was quite an ordeal, but when it arrived, Jo was amazed and I think all would agree it was love at first sight.