Thursday, January 31, 2008

Trip Report: Singapore ..

We left Mumbai late 26th night / early 27th morning en route to Singapore. I'd forgotten how short this flight is (4.5 hours). Kinda makes it a bit hard, since the kids do not get a decent night rest. Gaurav, a friend of my brother Stephen, offered to host us in his apartment in SG. We decided to take him up on his offer.

In retrospect, it was quite an excellent decision to stay with Gaurav. We saw life outside of Orchard Road and Marina and got to explore the non-tourist side of Singapore. The kids were thrilled since there was a small play structure within the apartment complex. Gaurav rents a fairly spacious 3 bedroom apartment in Buket Purmei. The apartment complex was built by the housing board of singapore and has probably 20 buildings or so along with a lower school etc. There is a fair amount of green space for the kids and a few play structures in the complex. We also visited my friend PMT and his family, who also live in another apartment complex on east coast parkway. This apartment complex is private and has a few more facilities, specifically a swimming pool and a gymnasium. Its also much smaller in total number of apartments compared to the HBD complex.

Spending time with another family who has kids with the same age range makes things so much easier. PMT's daughter, Sheba, is also 5 years old and goes to a Montessori school in Singapore. it was quite entertaining to see how sheba and maya would play with each other. They were very polite and shared things nicely. They seemed to agree on when it is ok to break their self made rules. Mari has taught maya the dot game (you lay down a bunch of dots and then fill them up with squares and your initial). Its quite a easy game to teach and play but does provide endless hours of amusement and fun for the kids. We had an excellent lunch at a seafood place on East Coast Parkway (Red ???). PMT thinks that all the places there are similar. We ordered a chilli crab, a black pepper and garlic crab, fried rice, chinese brocolli with ginger and some fried bread. The bread with the chilli crab sauce was most excellent (one of the top 10 dishes of our trip!). The pepper and garlic crab was interesting but lacked the sauce (which IMO is quite important).

We then played at ECP for a few hours, watched some surf boarding at the man made lake there and saw lots of planes land at Changhi (amazing as to how busy that airport is!). We then went for a quick swim in the complex before heading to Chinatown night market. The kids were quite exhausted (not a lot of sleep the previous nite on the plane), and we had to carry them and give them a couple of good sugar drinks (coconut water and watermelon juice). The food at the chinatown night market (on smith street) was quite excellent. We got peanut/sesame ball soup, chicken porridge and fried noodles (char kway theo?). You need a big group to eat at such places, too many choices for a small group.

The next day we went and visited our good friends at the NZ immigration office. Compared to LA consulate, this office was very busy and quite slow. We waiting for 30 minutes before seeing the person. Unforunately our files had not yet been transferred. The person was nice enough to call our case officer (JD) in Christchurch, who immediately fixed the situation.Good thing that SG and NZ are relatively close from a timezone perspecitve (+5.5 hours). We were asked to wait for 30 mins and so we decided to head down to Food Republicj in Wasim Atria for a quick singaporean breakfast. We had a great breakfast at Toastbox (toast with eggs in a sweet soy sauce and white pepper). The other places at Food Republic seemed quite good also. We did want to have lunch there, but unforunately, we could not hang out in that area forever since shopping is the main and only attraction on Orchard Road. The much advertised and signed aquarium in Wasim Atria / Ngee Anh City is basically a large fish tank at the basement of the building. We then picked up the visas and headed to the zoo. We wanted the kids to experience the SG subway system, so we took them to the zoo on the subway. Maya has a slight aversion to subway's after seeing kurund miss the subway in NY. We finally convinced her it was ok, and off we went.

SG zoo is a must visit. Its quite amazing to see how kids change as they grow older. We've taken the kids to the zoo multiple times in the past. This time it seemed a bit different. Maya was really curious about some of the animals. It helped that the male lion got into a fight with the female lions and scratched one of them pretty badly and prevented the lioness from getting any feed. PJ was quite upset with the male lion. One of the trainers explained that the male lion gets teased a lot by the lionesses and hence reacts that way when his patience runs out. PJ seemed to relate to the situation (she likes to tease maya a lot, and maya gets mad at her periodically), but insisted that in her case it is very different. After playing in the park they wanted to go back and visit the lions again. They also liked seeing the other cats. The orangutans and chimpanzees also put on a good show for us. We convinced the kids to pose for a picture with the orangutans. The camera uses a wireless card to store the image on a computer at the picture desk (a few meters away). So you get the picture pretty much immediately after its clicked. Pretty cool use of technology. A new kids park / animal rides is being constructed at SG Zoo and this is scheduled to open in June 2008. Kinda cool to see them making things even better. The kids were having so much fun at the zoo, that we had a mediocre lunch at the zoo and played there till a bit past 5:00 pm. We arranged to meet our friends PMT and family at their house and then head to the hawker / food court at Vivocity, a new mall in SG. The Vivocity foodcourt was very mediocre. We had some decent dim sum and a collection of different noodle dishes. We over ordered a bit for the kids, and then ended up eating that food. In retrospect, we should have headed to a more historic / renowned hawker area like Maxwell, Newton or the more recent Glutton Bay (near esplanade).

We had an early flight the next day morning. We got to the airport well in advance and hoped to find a good breakfast spot at the airport. I was not aware that the better eating spots are in the public areas, while the transit area has the more mediocre places. We ended up eating an awful masala dosa and chai from Kaveri. The kids had inari and tamago from a sushi boat place. there were quite amused by the sushi going in a circle. There was a pretty cool block art area for kids and adults at the airport. We spent some time there before we boarded the plane to Manila, for our final leg of the journey.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Eating adventures in India ..

Its a bit sad, but its kinda hard to try out new and different food places with kids. In general eating out with kids on a regular basis is hard. It took a fair amount of time for maya to get comfortable in Mumbai. It did not help that we would take a trip out of Mumbai every other week. PJ on the other hand was willing to go with anyone who offered to take her. That said here are some of the places we ate at (and liked) in India. You'll need to check the Times food guide for address / hours. The places are listed in the likability order:

  • Cafe Madras in Matunga, Mumbai. Good dosas and absolutely the best filter coffee. They also have good banana chips, chaklis and great halwa for sale.
  • Mahesh Lunch home near Khadi Bunder, Mumbai. Great seafood preparation. the fried prawns with garlic was divine. The stuffed pomfret and butter garlic crab were not bad. Bob had a great dining experience at Trishna, which is mahesh'smore expensive and fancier offshoot.
  • Mitre Samaj in Udupi. The best snack place in Udupi. Great dosas, decent coffee
  • Jaihind in Parel, Mumbai (near ST bus stand). Good fresh seafood at reasonable / cheap prices. Limited menu. The fried prawns was excellent as was the stuffed masala pomfret. If price is included in the rating, Jaihind beats Mahesh very easily (the price is a third of Mahesh)
  • Badshah Kulfi House at Crawford Market, Mumbai. Good pau baji and badshahi kulfi (dont get the royal falooda)
  • Madhuvan Village, Mangalore. Decent food for that area, crappy service.
  • Elko Pani Puri in Bandra
  • Wild Grass lodge in Kaziranga, Assam. The assamese food at this place was quite good!
  • House of Sushi. Takeout sushi made by Ravina in Mumbai (check TOI food guide). The rolls need a bit more filling and less rice. Unfortunately she does not have any raw fish rolls :( but the rolls she does have are quite good
  • Ratan Tata Institute (RTI). We've gotten snacks from this place and have wolfed them down (might have been because we were super hungry). The pattice and quiche are not spicy and the kids love it.
  • La Pattisserie in Taj Mumbai for birthday cakes.
Places that we'll probably skip the next time include Caravan Serai, Ideal Cafe, Noodle Bar, Baghdadi. Bade Mia seems to have lost its charm for me (or i really dont care for kebabs a lot). I was not impressed by the various biryani providers either (Olympia, Noorani, Lucky, Jeff's caterers). My aunt (annie aunty) makes a better biryani than all the above providers :)

And finally we can go back to NZ ...

For most of the trip our final destination was always a bit in suspense!. We could not enter NZ unless our residency application was successful or immigration figured out how to get us a temporary visa (since we had hit our limit of a max stay of 12 months / 24 months).

Our legal team (Karsten and Julie from NZ Immigration Concepts) did a great job, filed all the papers soon after we handed it to him and followed up with the immigration department on a regular basis. We were fortunate to get a very understanding officer (i'll use the initials JD, since i'd like to avoid mentioning the name of the person) look at our papers. All things fell in place at just the right time. We recd a letter a week before we left India about an interview in Christchurch before our application could be finalized. We explained to JD over email about our situation and our unsuccessful try at getting a visa at the LA embassy.

At this point, JD suggested it might be easier to do a phone interview and potentially finalize the application immediately. This would enable us to bypass the entire visa application process and get a residence permit (and returning resident visa). We had the phone interview last tuesday on our way to the web access office. We clarified a few things with JD and seemed satisfied with the answers. There was a minor hitch, since she was not aware that we were working full time on CiviCRM and assumed we would be looking for a job. We exchanged some more email and on thursday we recd our residence permit via email. We paid out migrant levy fees and confirmed that we would obtain the permit in Singapore. We got the permit on our passports earlier today at the NZ immigration office in SG.

Overall it was an incredibly smooth and excellent process. We managed to get the residence permit in approx 5 months which is quite cool considering the amount of paperwork and back and forth that needed to happen. Being able to talk directly to your case officer is so beneficial and smooths the process a lot. The Bureau of Immigration in the US might want to learn a bit from their NZ counterparts :)

So the uncertainty is off, and kinda glad to know that we can stick to our original plans and go back to cool Nelson. Hopefully we have not missed most of the summer. We are off to PI in the morning

Friday, January 25, 2008

Things to do / food to eat with kids in Mumbai

(most of this is from maya and PJ and what they liked doing in mumbai)

  • Cooperage Pony Park (south mumbai)
  • Mumbai Port Trust Joggers Park
  • Chowpatty beach in the morning (its clean and deserted)
  • Bandra bandstand park (on the water). The promenade walk is a couple of km's and has three playgrounds along the way and a Cafe Coffee Day at the end of the promenade.
  • jechand talakshi toys (51 empire bldg, above mcdonalds at VT). A great selection of montessori based teaching materials.
  • nehru science center, museum and planetorium. We did not get time to visit this, but it was high on our list
  • Skip Byculla Zoo, Taraporevala Aquarium and Aquaria (unless u want to buy some aquarium supplies)
  • Balodyan a playground for kids and women ONLY. This is near charni road station
Food and restaurants that are kid friendly
  • Cholle Bhatura from Cream Center
  • Natural IceCream
  • Kulfi Falooda at Badshah (near crawford market)
  • Sada (Plain) Dosa at any Udupi restaurant
  • Pani Puri at Elko's (bandra). The kids can experiment and make their own pani puris and decide what goes in each puri
  • Fresh Lime Soda or Lassi in any restaurant. A good alternative to water and not too unhealthy (if u regulate the amount of sweet syrup u add)
  • Some snacks (chicken pattice, veggie quiche) from RTI (ratan tata institute, colaba)
  • The bakeries carry quite good bread. We've bought good bread from Birdy's and CeleJour. La Pattisserie makes excellent cakes. Maya chose a chocolate truffle cake for her birthday which was very good

Trip Report: Mangalore ...

On our return from Guwahati, Assam we spent a couple of days in Mumbai. We attended Claudian's wedding (which was quite grand) in Mumbai, before we headed down south to my mom's native place, Mangalore. We always look forward to going to Mangalore. The weather is very nice, the beaches quite clean and the water warm. The traffic is also quite minimal (relatively speaking).

The airlines in India like to serve good food even on a short flight. We flew Jet airways to Mangalore and the service/food was quite good and similar to Kingfisher. There are some new cheap no-frills airlines which have started recently (Indigo, Spice Jet, Air Deccan etc) similar to the Southwest model. However, unlike the US there is no passenger bill of rights. So if there is a long delay, these airlines will cancel their flight. The passenger is then left to fend for themselves. We had this experience when the Pune->Mumbai train was cancelled and each passenger had to fend for themselves.

Mangalore is pretty close to the Kerala border in South India. The scenery is very green and lush year round. There are lots and lots of coconut trees and there is a decent sized river every 10 kms or so. Typically the river and the town share the same name (mulki, udayawar, katapadi). Similar rivers across the state boundary in Kerala have a thriving houseboat tourist industry. We had done a one day houseboat trip near Bektal, Kerala two years ago. I think one day was a good amount of time, it gets kinda boring at the end, and there is only so much scenery you can look at and admire.

When we got to Shankerpura, we gave the kids a bucket of water and let them play in the front yard (aangaan). The kids can spend days just playing like this. We managed to keep the kids entertained and snuck out to the big town of Udupi. We visited our favorite Udupi restaurant (Mitre Samaj near Krishna temple) and then took the bus back home. Mari and the kids went with my brother Frank to Coondapura on the second day, while I attempted to recover from a mild cold and fever. The third day we went to our aunt Sunita's place in Mulki. Her brother, Peter, drives us around when we are in mangalore. They have a great place in Mulki, adjacent to the confluence of the Mulki river and the Arabian Sea. They have built a new house in the past year and have a good 2 bedroom apartment on the first floor for guests and visitors. We are sending our friends Michal and Piotr on a 5 day trip to Mulki and environment later next week. I suspect they'll have lots of photographs. If anyone is interested in staying at Mulki at Peter's place, you can him at: +9194481 04396. There are lots and lots of beaches (most of them clean) around that area (Surathkal, New Mangalore Port, Kapu, Malpe, Ullal).

The next day we took all the kids, Ashwita, Allan, Anita, Maya and PJ to a water park near Mangalore (Manasa water park). We had a lot of fun on the various water slides. However, there the kids school was also going to be at the park later that day. So the kids were a bit on edge, as any group of kids sent them into scurrying away since they thought it was their school. This turned out to be wrong a few too many times, before we decided to pack up and leave. We had lunch at Madhuvan on the airport road. Its got pretty good manglorean style seafood. It also had spaghetti with olives which our kids devoured (it was a wee bit spicy!).

We spent the last couple of days just hanging out at home and playing with the kids. Mari started teaching the kids baseball. We used a 2 liter coke bottle as the bat and the kids collapsible ball as the baseball. It was good fun watching Maya and PJ trying to figure out the various mechanics of how to hit the ball. Its quite interesting to see how all these small things add up in the development of a kid. Its amazing how many things we take for granted :)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

four different kids, four different personalities ...

we just 5 days with Amitav and Nandini in Assam. It was quite entertaining to see the kids interact with each other over a decent period of time and how different each one is. Here are some of my thoughts on each kid and their parents (i'll try to be politically correct and postive)

  • Both Maya and Amitav are moody. Amitav goes in and out of moods quite quickly. He rebounds quite nicely from a down mood. Maya switches moods less often, but she takes a long time to get back into a good swing
  • PJ is always upbeat. She is very binary. She's either charging full steam ahead (1) or she is sleeping (0).
  • Nandini and Maya knows exactly what they want and when. They get quite upset if things dont match what they expect. Maya being older, is a bit more logical and is right most of the times
  • Maya and PJ are two very different creatures. Maya is like a cat, who does what she wants to do. PJ is more like a dog, who can be influenced to do things. Maya is sensitive, PJ is more thick skinned. Maya gets upset even if you just raise your voice when talking to her. PJ is always thinking of how she can get by with eating less good food and more sweets. PJ seems to be a very carrot-stick kind of kid
  • PJ and Nandini get along very very well. They are the best of friends most of the time and are always holding hands and cuddling each other. Its interesting to listen to their conversations, since they are always talking about two totally different things on two different topics. Hence there is really no need to disagree with the other person
  • Mari and I have very different playing styles and conversations with the kids. Mari is much more creative and language oriented and can get the kids to sing / talk in various languages and pass time away in a car. I look to the environment and things around me to figure out what can be done to keep the kids amused and entertained. Mari had a great conversation with Amitav on the way back from Tezpur where they talked about everything from Pokemon to shopping at Target. My conversations with Amitav are much shorter and each of us trying to get the better of the other.
  • Mrinal has a very quiet peaceful way of dealing with the kids. He never seems to get angry or mad at them. Smita spins things in a very different way than us. She managed to convince PJ not to suck her thumb for 5 sleeps in the car.
  • PJ adores crowds and attention. She loves people cuddling and kissing her. Maya is not very comfortable in crowds (like her parents). She clings to us a bit more in the presence of strangers.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Trip Report: Guwahati / Kaziranga National Park, Assam

We just got back from a 6 day trip to Guwahati, Assam. We stayed with our friends: Smita, Amitav, Nandini and Mrinal. The two sets of kids and parents get along quite well with each other. I went to school with Mrinal at REC Warangal more than 20 years back (yes, we are old!) and always wanted to goto Assam and the Northeast. So to some extent this was fulfilling an old dream of mine.

We flew on a kingfisher flight from Mumbai to Guwahati. I suspect this is one of the longest flights in India. Going there was more than an hour faster than coming back, most likely due to the west -> east winds. Also for some reason the flight did not cross Bangladesh, at least on the map crossing Bangladesh seems the best route. On the way over, we gave Maya a Dramamine tablet for her motion sickness. It did do the job quite nicely, but also had the unpleasant side-effect of making her feel wierd (and hence cranky) for the next 12 hours. On the way back we decided to limit food intake and skip the drugs. This did work, but made her a bit queasy after the flight landed and hence not a very happy camper either :(. I suspect we'll skip the drugs for the next couple of flights.

Smita's parents have a great place with a lots of space on the yard and rooftop. This was quite a treat for our kids after being enclosed in an apartment in Mumbai. We spent the first day just playing various games on the terrace. The next day, we rented a tata sumo and set off for kaziranga national park. From a distance perspective, its relatively close to Guwahati (210 km / 110 miles). However, this being India the trip took us pretty close to six hours. India is making progress at an incredible rate. Will be good indeed when the traffic moves at a significantly faster rate and you can cover distances in reasonable time.

We stayed at Wild Grass Resort in Kaziranga. We got in at approx 4:00 pm on Monday and decided to take it easy and let the kids run around. The resort is great for kids since there is lots of running space and some swings / badminton set etc. In summer, I suspect the swimming pool is also open. We had all our meals there, and the food felt like home cooking. We had some traditional assamese dishes and there were a few hits and misses. We signed up for the elephant ride the next morning and a jeep safari in the afternoon. The kids enjoyed both events and found it quite thrilling to be on the elephant (pictures coming soon). We were quite pleasantly surprised to watch Maya enjoy the jeep tour. She was the only kid to be awake for the entire tour. She was also the kid who complained the most about the long car rides. So kinda nice to see her realize that there is some benefit of being in a vehicle.

Kaziranga lived upto its reputation and we saw abundant wildlife other than tigers. There were quite a few one horned rhinocerous, wild buffaloes, deer, sambal, jungle fowl and wild swine. In contrast we just saw one mother/baby rhinocerous on a trip to Chitwan National Park (in nepal) 8 years ago. The population growth is nice and linear for all species in the Park. India's parks are more like reserves / sanctuaries. There were no hiking trails within the park that we could explore with kids. Adding some hiking trails in various parks would allow people to spend a lot more time within the park. I suspect this will also allow poachers much easier access, so there are some disadvantages :(

We drove back to Guwahati on Wednesday via Tezpur. The DK guide led us to Cole Park there which was a very welcome spot for the kids. The park is well designed in a limited space and the play structures are not bad. We then drove back to Smita's parents house with a short snack/dinner break. The car ride was a wee bit too long. Mrinal's answer was its two more hours to home irrespective of the distance travelled

On thursday we visited Guwahati zoo which is spread across quite a few acres. Significantly better than Mumbai's pathetic Byculla Zoo (which we refuse to take out kids to!). We saw quite a few elephants, some cats, a couple of tigers and a brown bear. The kids were in a perpetual state of hunger, for snacks we gave them digestive biscuits (none of the adults had read the label very carefullty). After a couple of hours at the zoo, we headed to Beatrix in town. We had the Indian-Chinese food there while the kids had a chicken / fish burger. The food was not bad, and a good change from all the Indian food we've been eating the past 3 weeks. The digestive biscuits seemed to have done the job quite nicely, since all the kids had to use the bathroom. Each kid seemed to take their own sweet time and were occupying the potty for 15 minutes or so. We shared quite a few amusing (and disgusting) potty stories while we waited the next hour. We were having a pretty early lunch, so we had the top room, and more importantly the bathroom all to ourselves.

After lunch we trooped over to the Assam State Museum and learnt a bit more about the various assamese tribes. The kids did seem interested in seeing the various model villages and other activities. Would be good if they had some hands on activities. The bathrooms were beyond disgusting and we headed to the nearest cafe coffee day. Yes, it does seem we spend a lot of time in bathrooms :). We then played at the park across from the museum.

The final day we went to Nehru Children's park which is supposed to open at 10:00 am but in reality opens at 10:30 am. The play structures were ok, but it has a pretty cool maze and we spent 30-45 minutes playing hide and seek there. It was just perfect for the younger kids. We then headed to Dynasty, Guwahati's premier hotel and restaurant. The Indian restaurant was not open, and we had to settle for the breakfast menu at Chopstix. The food was passable but the service was pretty pathetic. The food took forever to make, even a simple plain dosa :( We asked for the cheque which took even more time than the food to arrive. We managed to get out of there just in time to catch the plane back home to Mumbai

Friday, January 04, 2008

The good and bad of Mumbai / India ...

We've been in India a bit more than a week and its quite amazing as to the city evolve and change with the times. Here are a few things which we love about mumbai

  • The three essential books that any tourist / family should have are: The Times of India Food Guide, TimeOut Mumbai Kids Guide, Outlook Weekend Guide (you can get a copy specific to the big five/six indian cities)
  • Thanx to the above books, we had pretty good sushi rolls from House of Sushi, got a few good cheeses from a cheese shop in Crawford Market, discovered a few new parks in the Colaba area and a small aquarium in the Bandra area. Kinda nice that we can get everything out here, kinda sad that it took us so long to discover these places
  • The food as always is amazing and so so so tasty. There are so many places we want to eat at and we probably wont even eat at a fraction of them. Its a bit more difficult to eat out with kids at night (jet lag, getting them on schedule etc)
  • Maya says that her favorite activity is playing at Chowpatty beach. We tend to go early in the morning to avoid the crowds and that has been working quite well
  • Hanging out with friends and family is always a treat. The cousins get along well with each other (most of the time)
  • The joggers park in various parts of the city is a nice place to get away from it all (especially the one in colaba)
  • Traffic discipline is so much better and gets better every year. Drivers do stop at red light at night these days (some of the time).
  • The city is so much cleaner. Fining people for littering is a good thing :)
And for a few things we do not like about the city
  • The traffic sucks. We've been doing better this time and planning our trips during non-peak hours.
  • The poverty and seeing all the kids in the street is hitting me much harder this time. Its sad, and there does not seem you can do that much. This does not mean you should not do anything :)
  • Crossing a street with kids is an adventure and/or a video game (depending on your outlook in life). Drivers still refuse to stop even if you try to make eye contact (not that traffic is moving very fast)
  • The parks / playgrounds have very strange hours. They are open in the morning and evenings only. What do we do during the day folks? We like to play all day and all night :)
  • Bob C does not like the short ceiling height of the taxi cabs. He is 6'2'', which is significantly taller than the average indian :)
  • Its a bit hard and frustrating dealing with St. Catherine's. While we are very grateful to them for raising PJ and giving us the opportunity to adopt her, its been real hard to schedule/plan any visits. Simple etiquette of taking messages and returning phonecalls is a foreign concept. Hopefully we'll be able to visit a few more times before we leave

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A visit to St. Catherine's

As most of you know we adopted PJ (Pranjali) from St. Catherine's close to two years ago. The adoption process was quite interesting and fairly long and deserves a seperate blog post of its own. At that point, we did not really get a chance to see the place where PJ spent the first twenty months of her life. We had decided to go back and spend some more time out there when we visited India the next time.

We went back and visited St. Catherine's on Dec 28th. It was a wonderful experience and I'm so glad that we did it. St. Catherine's is part of PJ's life and she was looking forward to the visit. She knows pretty much all what we know about the place (which is not a whole lot), but she does remember Sr. Helen and all the chocolates she gave PJ. Sr. Helen was on vacation, so we coordinated with the Sr. Superior (Sr. Udaya) for the visit.

We went at 3:30 pm when the kids were waking up from their afternoon nap and ready to start the afternoon session. There were approx 30-35 kids with at least 16 infants including an 8 day old baby. It was quite nice to see a very high staff to kid ratio. There was approx 1 staff for every 2 infants and 1 staff for every 3 toddlers. It was nice to see how they raise the kids and the kids interaction with each other. There were a couple of kids at the place that reminded us of PJ.

Quite a few of the staff remembered PJ and were very happy to see her. We met some of PJ's primary caregivers and made sure we got some photographs and names of them so we can have some more details of the PJ story. PJ was probably a bit overwhelmed at the visit and for the first part was very very quiet and stayed relatively close to Mari and me. There were a couple of kids who were there when PJ was there, so there was a mini reunion. The two kids who were still there were handicapped and hence i suspect they were still there. I did feel a bit sad for them, but they are also getting really good care from a great group of sisters and staff. PJ got a bit more playful as the day progressed but was still quite reserved compared to her normal self. We will visit St. Catherine's a few more times before we leave and hopefully she will get used to it and enjoy the experience and interact with some of the folks who took care of her a lot more. There was a movie screening that night, so we left a bit earlier than expected. All the kids were quite excited to go see a movie. In addition to the kids orphanage, they also operate quite a few other services for abused and hiv children.

We were pleasantly surprised to see one solar street light which they are testing. We'll probably get them to install quite a few more for the rest of the complex. It also seems to be lacking a good play structure for the smaller kids. We'll probably chat with the sisters about both these projects