Thursday, December 23, 2010

Vestigial Security

When you come to India,  you immediately notice is all he security.  You are first welcomed at the airport by an Army Soldier with assault rifle.  To enter our gated and barb-wired walled community,  you must pass a check point with no less than 6 security guards who pop the trunk and look beneath the engine.   When you go to the Office or Mall,  same routine.  The hotels even have the fancy vertical bars, big enough  which to stop a tank,  which disappear into the ground to let you proceed once you pass security.     Any place worthwhile is surrounded by barb wire walls or at least broken glass embedded on the top.  So, why all the security ? 

Security likes cameras about as much as Sean Penn.  Here is a rare photo in their natural habitat.  Nolan nicknamed the guy in blue 'The General".
While the US had 9/11,  India had 26/11.  This is the November 26th ‘invasion’ of Mumbai where a group of terrorists based in Pakistan shot up key Western parts of the city, killed 175 people and injured another 300+.  Of course,  we knew about this before coming.  But no one mentioned that Bangalore has also had it’s fair share of bombings.  Last Spring,  a terrorist who was upset with the local police,  set off 8 bombs at bus stops across the city within the span of 45 minutes.  Luckily no one as hurt because he wanted to avoid rush hour traffic and nobody was at the stops when they went off.  He hit the local cricket stadium a couple months later as a follow up before being caught.  A few other organized terror groups exist,  but not much action in Bangalore. 
As an aside,  be thankful of US police.  They are alomst all honest, community minded,  trustworthy and helpful (if you’re older than 25).  Here the police play both Cop and a Mobster.  Not much law enforcement happens without a little something for the police.  Bribes are expected.   There is even a website called to anonymously report and record bribes.  The police top the charts. 
So you can understand the need for security,  particularly private paid security.    But we eventually realized these guards are just for show.  What looks impressive is in reality much different.  
A friend,  after passing his office security checkpoint,  joked with the security guard that the bomb was really in his back pack.  Everyone had a laugh.  Try that one with Homeland Security next time you fly.  
When we first hired our maid,  she didn’t get her security gate pass until weeks afterward.  We told her to just walk through security,  keep her head down and don’t make eye contact.  No problem.  It worked everyday for 2 weeks.  Did they use Hogan’s Heroes as a training film ? 
Metal detectors are common at the mall, hospital and health club.  I set off the metal detector every time.  The only guy who moves is the one who turns off the annoying alarm.  I don’t even slow down anymore.   It would be cheaper to buy a door frame and paint it black.  
We don’t worry.   Statistically speaking,  we are much more likely to be hurt by the crazy traffic than by a crazy terrorist.   

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Kids are All Right

So I've written some about myself,  but people seem much more interested in the kids.  So here's the low down.  
The new school is tough.  The International School, Bangalore (TISB) is a British school and most Americans find their approach heavy-handed and disciplinarian.  Becky and I both went to Catholic school, so no problem.  As a result, the other students are either European or Americans of Indian Origin.  When the blond Schmitt kids arrived, everyone asked them where in Germany they lived -- usually in German.  It's still a little confusing to their peers (and some teachers).  On 'heritage day' most kids wore Sarees, Khaftans,  Leiderhosen, or other 'costumes' to reflect their nationality.  Our kids wore Jeans and T-Shirts.
The school bus, a first for these Grosse Pointe kids,  picks up at the end of the street each day at 7:30am.  Since they were the last kids to sign up for the bus route,  they were assigned the last seats on the bus.  The rear-most seats combined with the numerous speed bumps (they work better than stop signs to slow traffic) and a lead foot bus driver make for a vertebrae compacting ride.  They can regularly get 1-2 feet of air off the seats,  if traffic allows.  
Will is in 9th grade and besides cutting his hair and pulling up his pants,  has made quite an adjustment.  Its been a different house, country, school, friends and curriculum (IGSCE) combined with school on Saturday.  The Brits don't hold back.  The course load is heavy.  He has Biology,  Physics, Advanced Algebra and Chemistry for starters.  Of course the Indian culture is not happy unless there is a minimum of 2 hours homework each day.  He sleeps on Sundays to recover.  We're quite proud of him. 
Will is getting Tall. 
Will has made the easiest adjustment to the spicy food. (even when we tell our cook Soudha to make it for a baby's mouth).  Will can't get enough spice.  Nolan and Emma'a mouths will be in flames and Will says,  "a little plain".  
Will has also made it out on the town several times with his friends after school Saturdays.  Movies, go-carting, the mall etc...  As a Parent it's a little unnerving to send him off with his friends into a foreign city and the only adults present are the drivers.
Emma has already made many friends (and some drama) in the neighborhood and at school.  Typical stuff -- riding bikes in the neighborhood, board games and movies at her friends' house.  She loves to be the center of attention and being a blond American girl in India,  she gets all the attention she wants. Emma will actually stay after school to pal around with her friends who board at the school.  She actually finds India “as boring as back home” and want to be a boarder at the school.  She expected more excitement and less gated community suburbia. 

Nolan and Emma share a cold one with Javeed. 
Her fashion sense has been a little repressed since she started wearing uniforms.  She has taken up the guitar and we hope to have her play a Christmas carol.  (Christmas music is a little hard to come by.)
Nolan also does very well in school,  but finds it a little boring.  He's much more focussed on extracurriculars and schoolwork is just something to pass the time.  For example,  he led the class in  a game of "lets see who can slide farthest across this mud puddle".  Not sure if he won, but was Top 3 based on his clothes alone.  He plays goalie and half back on the school soccer team.  

Overall they are well adjusted,  miss their friends and Taco Bell.   On a recent school day off,  we made the trek across town to eat at the only Taco Bell in Bangalore.  They hardly even liked Taco Bell in the US.  It's funny what you miss.
I thought I discovered another Taco Bell in Bangalore,
but it was only a mobile phone store.