Avoiding sexual Harassment of Homosexuals at Airport Security Checkpoints – 17 Sep 16

Today I want to write you about a very important topic Ramona and I were talking about in breakfast time. Well, maybe not VERY important. Or maybe not important at all…: What about homosexuals at airport security checkpoints?

Think about it: there is a rule that women get searched by women and men by men. With the new body scanners, a lot of people don’t need to be touched at all but if the scanner shows something, you will be touched, properly, by a person of your gender. This rule was obviously brought into existence to avoid sexual harassment – or lawsuits due to sexual harassment! No woman should feel uncomfortable by a man touching her. In the same way, no woman should pull out a man for further searching just to touch him from top to bottom because she feels like it!

But what about our gay and lesbian friends?

Following this logic, that would be their dream job! And going through airport security the biggest pleasure for homosexual travelers! But wouldn’t that lead to problems and issues? What can be done about that?

It’s very clear: we need a separate line for homosexuals! There they will receive checking by the other gender, to avoid any kind of problems and complains! A lesbian woman checking a lesbian woman? Impossible! A gay man being touched in intimate places by another gay man? Unimaginable! In this line, there will be lesbian women checking gay men and gay men checking lesbian women!

Yes, this is the way to keep any kind of sexual arousal and tension at bay!

 

Dear homosexual friends: please understand that I am joking – no need to fill my inbox with outraged messages! 🙂

No, dear Daughter, not every big Lady is pregnant! – 9 Mar 16

Yesterday I told you how excited Apra gets these days when she sees pregnant women. This excitement has brought a funny situation that I would like to tell you about. I am not sure whether the conclusion of this situation is that Indians are more direct or that they accept the truth more easily – or actually neither of them.

You already know that Apra gets excited upon seeing pregnant women and points them out to us right away. She usually runs to us and shouts ‘Look Ma and Pa, there is a pregnant woman!’ It is quite cute and brings smiles on our faces as well as usually the ones of the proud parents.

Well, just that in one recent case, the woman was not pregnant!

Oh, Ramona felt immediately quite embarrassed! The heavy lady however laughed out loud and told Apra ‘No, I am just fat!’

It was hilarious! The surprise in Apra’s eyes as well as Ramona’s. Ramona had expected the woman to be indignant and angry about this mistake but she was not at all! She knew why our girl had thought she was pregnant: her belly was coming out to the front as though she was pregnant!

She walked on, still amused, and left us standing there, me laughing, Apra smiling sheepishly and Ramona in between emotions of embarrassment and amusement! And one more feeling: astonishment as to how this woman could say ‘I am fat’ so clearly and loudly with a crowd of people around!

This is something which you can often see in India: someone who is definitely overweight may say clearly: I am big. There is no hesitation at all and no embarrassment to it either. It is an acceptance of this truth which is very different from the hiding and guilty feelings which you can so often see when it comes to the topic of one’s weight!

At the same time however, there is the same craze to be thin that we can see in the west as well! Women give each other compliments on their weight loss and complain about their own weight. Maybe it is just the way how they do it which is different?

One thing is for sure though: Apra learned that not every women with a big belly is pregnant!

Can Men have Babies? Why not? – Questions of a Four-Year-Old – 8 Mar 16

I yesterday told you how fascinated Apra was by the fact that we have friends, couples, who are together but not married. She is at least as fascinated by the idea of women getting babies!

For a long time already, Apra knows that she came out of Ramona’s belly. We have been telling her the story of how she was in the belly, we went to the hospital and the doctor cut open the belly of her Ma and got her out. We tell her how much we were looking forward and how beautiful it was to finally see her. Until a short while ago, this was all about her, as she was busy with learning more about her own identity. Now however, she is getting older, knows much about herself and wants to know more about the world around her. And that obviously includes babies of other people, too!

So she asked Ramona whether only women get babies. Could men not get babies as well? And why not? The next question was about how many babies could be in one mother’s belly. Twins, triplets, quadruplets… It took a while for her to comprehend that this would mean that all those children are of the same age and not that all siblings are twins or triplets!

Now she gets happy whenever she sees a pregnant woman. She excitedly calls Ramona or me and shows us the pregnant woman, telling us that she would get a baby soon. Then she usually asks further questions which we cannot normally answer: when will the baby come out? How many babies are in there?

When we were at the hospital for one of Monika’s check-ups recently, she saw a pregnant doctor with her white doctor’s coat just about closing over her belly. Apra got so excited she could hardly stop herself from pulling Ramona at her shirt towards the woman: ‘Look, Ma, a doctor who will get a baby! She has a baby in her belly!’ Of course her thoughts moved further and a question followed: ‘Who will help her get the baby out?’ Oh well, another doctor of course – and as she was the head of the dentists’ department, she would not be doing deliveries on daily basis anyway…

I love her curiosity, even if it is sometimes a bit much of the never-ending ‘Why?’ and ‘Why not?’ It helps her gain more and more knowledge, understand the world better and get a better idea of life! A new, four-year-old being on this world wants to understand better how life works, how it starts – isn’t it beautiful?

Our Fun in Germany continues – 29 Nov 15

Another week has passed in Germany and again we have had so many wonderful experiences that it is hard to mention them all in one blog entry! I will try anyway:

I already told you about the snow storm which we experienced in Hamburg last Sunday. After this beautiful day, we took another trip on Monday, but not to Hamburg, just to downtown Lüneburg, to the thermal bath! While we have been to outdoor pools, it was the first time for Apra as well as me to go to an indoor pool. It was quite an experience! They had many different pools, one with waves, whirlpools, a baby pool and one for children, one with salty thermal water and even an outdoor section! After Apra got a bit comfortable in water that was not only knee-deep, we also got her to slide with us and enjoy the whirlpool and to swim on our backs. We had incredibly much fun!

Apart from this, we filled our time in Lüneburg with heaps of fun! Andrea went to the playground with us, we went shopping, which is always an adventure for Apra and we had several friends visit us! We cooked a delicious meal and had a beautiful evening together!

On Wednesday, our last day in Lüneburg, we had another highlight of the week: we went to the Christmas market in Lüneburg. Something else that Apra saw for the first time of her life – and something which I always find beautiful to see. People are in good mood, there are sweets, children can go on rides and there is nice music. Apra, who had read a book about a masked ball, went with her fairy princess mask on both, the carousel and the train ride, ate a ginger bread heart and drank a hot chocolate with us!

On Thursday we said goodbye to Andrea and Michael and hopped onto a train to Augsburg to Apra’s German grandparents! It was an enjoyable ride and by crossing Germany, Ramona and I celebrated our 5th German wedding anniversary! Five years ago, we all had come together with friends in Wiesbaden to sign a piece of paper – time flies by so fast!

Day before yesterday, we drove to Munich, not only to go to a really nice museum with many exhibits for children but primarily to visit more of Ramona’s family, including her cousin’s son who is going to be three years old soon! Reconnecting for us as well as Apra, who was very excited about exchanging gifts – and a spinner which already Ramona and her cousins had played with.

Back home yesterday, we woke up in a winter wonderland full of snow! It was snowing the whole morning and so we took the chance to do what we had not done in the snow a week before: Ramona, her dad and Apra built a snowman! Complete with carrot nose!

In the afternoon, Apra could try her luck at ice skating! Just in front of their home, there is an artificial ice field where you can borrow skates – and I have to say, if Apra could come to practice every day, she would soon skate like a professional!

Finally, we went to Augsburg’s Christmas market with Apra’s German grandmother, grandfather and aunt. They had put up candles in the whole town, which was beautiful to see. At six o’clock, everyone gathered in front of the town hall to see how children and young adults, dressed as angels came to the windows and onto the balcony with harps, flutes and an organ. They played and sang heavenly – but Apra had only one question: why don't they fly? 🙂

Let’s see what we will do today – tomorrow will be our day to travel back to Wiesbaden, so we will make sure to enjoy our remaining day with family. It's the most beautiful holiday we are having right now, showing our baby girl Germany!

Join us for the Colour Madness at Holi 2016! – 22 Oct 15

If you get our newsletter, you have already received an invitation to the retreat we planned next: the Holi Retreat 2016! While in the past years we just loosely invited everyone with a special offer for the time of the colour festival, we now have a complete program ready for a first-hand experience of India, the Ashram and of course the colour madness of the Holi celebration!

Holi, for all who don’t know it, is one of India’s two biggest festivals of the year! It is a huge colour celebration and while the rest of India celebrates it on one day in spring, the town of Vrindavan hurls itself into colours a whole week long!

It is an exceptional time of the year during which you can really feel like a child again! You can play tricks on each other, paint with colours without worrying about your clothes and throw colours onto one another as well!

With our Holi Retreat program, you will have the possibility to enjoy Indian culture from within, starting with a welcome-party at the Ashram followed by a guided tour through Vrindavan so that you know the city you will spend the next one or two weeks in. Next, you will get to see how Holi is celebrated inside the main temple of Vrindavan, how we prepare fresh colours ourselves and then take part in the big Holi celebration at the Ashram on the climax day of Holi. In the safe environment of our private party, we will get crazy with the colours!

After Holi is over, your holiday will continue a bit calmer but not any less interesting! You get to visit our school and the school children, have time for a question and answer round with Yashendu where you can ask whatever you want and of course you will make a trip to see the Taj Mahal in Agra! In a presentation of Indian spices, you’ll get to know what creates the wonderful taste of the Ashram’s food and in an Ayurvedic Cooking Workshop you will learn how to prepare these dishes yourself. With a walk around the town and a stop at the evening fire ceremony at the river, we will conclude the program – and after a farewell party, you will be on your way back home with the most beautiful memories on your mind.

There will be daily yoga classes and enough time to explore the surroundings yourself, relax at the Ashram, take Ayurvedic massages and treatments, play with the children or go shopping in Vrindavan’s colourful bazaars!

With this Holi Retreat we want to combine the fun of the Holi celebration with the feeling of being taken care of in your experience of incredible India – and we are already looking forward to getting coloured together with you!

Here you can get all details for the Holi Retreat 2016!

And here you can see pictures of previous Holi celebrations

Having a great Time with Friends – 18 Oct 15

Oh, we are having a great time! Yes, it is just wonderful – life is busy, people are coming and going, every day there is a new development and right now, we are having lovely friends here at the Ashram and enjoy our time with them thoroughly!

Thomas and Iris arrived on Friday together with our common friends Peter and Heike, their son and two more friends as well. After one evening of relaxing we had a great birthday party yesterday! We didn't actually do anything enormous which needed a lot of preparation but it was truly special: we had a delicious dinner followed by a little dance party. Then some chocolate cake for everyone and some more dance! Apra, Pranshu and Guddu, our youngest, performed their dances, showing what they have learned and then Melanie, our friend from France, did her fire dance show. Finally, we ended the evening with a beautiful musical performance by our German friends on various instruments.

It was a beautiful evening which we all enjoyed much – family, friends and Ashram guests alike! For three ladies it was actually also their last evening at the Ashram before going on a journey through Rajasthan which we organized for them. They started today in the early morning towards Jaipur, will then go to Jaisalmer and finally return via Delhi where one of them will take a flight back home.

So we are sitting here, with fewer guests and our friends and are enjoying our time together, we catch up on each other’s lives, indulge in memories and make plans for upcoming adventures.

Apra is super happy right now because Thomas is here and the whole day long she plays with him or tells us of all the things they played, thinking about what they will do next. She loves having the house full of people and especially when it is not only people she doesn’t know but friends with whom she skypes nearly every week!

Additionally, all of our German friends brought loads of gifts from Germany for Apra and the boys of the Ashram. Everyone is busy trying out new toys and eating delicious German sweets! We are having a wonderful time!

Life is good!

When Apra washed a Tiger – 28 Sep 15

A few days ago, in the afternoon, Apra came into our office. Ramona was working at the computer and when Apra came in, she turned around. Apra stretched out her hands, keeping them carefully away from her clothes, saying ‘Ma, I have to wash my hands!’

Ramona looked at her hands but they looked clean. Nevertheless she followed her to the bathroom and on the way asked, already suspecting something, ‘How did they get dirty?’

‘I cleaned my tiger’, was the answer, referring to the big stuffed tiger in her room.

‘With what?’ Ramona asked, already wondering if she really wanted to know. ‘With water?’

‘Oh, no, just like that’, Apra answered as she walked through the bathroom door.

‘But with what, a cloth, a brush, anything else?’ Ramona urged our daughter to elaborate.

‘Yes, a cloth’, came the short answer again, while Apra pulled a chair to the basin so that she could climb up.

‘A wet cloth?’ Ramona asked again, already knowing the answer. It got better than she thought though:

‘Yes, wet, with foam! Don’t touch him now or your hands will get dirty as well!’ was the matter-of-fact answer of our daughter.

At this point, I came in and Ramona, who had been in the middle of an important work, just asked me ‘Can you please take care of the tiger situation?’ 🙂

Oh well, what does a devoted husband and father not do? Obviously, tiger-washing is part of these duties!

With the joined forces of Apra, Pranshu and Guddu, we moved the tiger to the bathroom and washed his foam-coated tail until it didn’t drip white bubbles all over anymore. Apra then dried the tail with a towel while the boys wiped up the water and dried the room, so that it didn’t feel like shower area of a swimming pool anymore!

Apra was very content with the outcome of this task she has set herself: the tiger is clean and she has had a great time!

Awkward Handshake Situations for Women in India – to shake or not to shake? – 22 Mar 15

Yesterday Ramona and I were at a meeting in Delhi. While I will tell you more about the kind of meeting that was at another point of time, I would like to tell you about a topic that Ramona and I shared and laughed about: the handshake in India.

It’s not that Indians don't shake hands. They do and at meetings, conferences and events just as excessively as pretty much every other country. They use this international sign of saying hello to one another. The men in their three-piece-suits extend their hands, shake the hand of the other one, in sleeves or even pullover. A new person enters the round, he walks from one to the next, shaking one hand after the other. Then, there is a wife at one man’s side…

And she is skipped!

Oh, yes, ladies don’t get the pleasure of a firm – or not so firm – handshake. Or, you can say they get an extra treatment: a ‘namaste’ with the palms placed together in front of the chest or just a nod with the head.

I had never explicitly noticed that but obviously Ramona did when trying to figure out how to greet people in India! I think there are few things more awkward than stretching out your hand for someone to shake it who in that moment reaches out to the next person, ignoring you completely. Or maybe it is more awkward when that person comes back to finally shake your hand when you have decided to fold them in front of you and just nod!

After several unsuccessful attempts of getting a handshake as well and going through variations of the above, she gave up. Nodding and smiling it is for her now! 🙂

Rather amused, she wondered aloud what the root of this behavior was. The handshake as something that the British brought to this country but the reservation about touching women a remainder of the Indian tradition? We laughed, wondering whether a handshake was maybe already an indecent touch. And especially as the auspicious time of Navaratri has started during which many people fast, would that be breaking your fast through this outrageously sexual behavior with a woman who is not your wife?

Excuse our silly thoughts – but we had to laugh a lot and enjoy such fun and thoughts without taking anything too serious. I wanted to share it all, the awkwardness but even more the amusement with you, so that next time when you are in such a situation can decide what you would like to do: stay reserved and nod at the other gender or surprise a few people with a heartfelt and tight embrace – or maybe a kiss on the cheek?

🙂

Something is wrong if you are too busy to have fun – 2 Mar 15

Holi has started in Vrindavan! If you don’t know Holi yet – it is a huge and wild colour festival which is celebrated on one day all over India but in our area for a complete week! The origin is a kind of thanksgiving celebration, the end of the harvest, and today just everybody plays jokes on each other, throws coloured water and water powder on each other. It is quite a bit of a mess – and huge fun, too!

A lot of people think Holi is a celebration for children. While they, of course, look forward to this nearly the whole year long, it is so much fun for adults as well! And if you cannot see the fun in this at all, I would say, you are doing something wrong! I tell you, this is not only about Holi but about any kind of celebration that you skip due to one of the following reasons.

Maybe you feel that you are too busy to enjoy such a celebration. I know exactly that you probably have a whole lot of work. There are projects to take care of, calls to be made, meetings to be held and paperwork to be done. You have the busiest time of your life and cannot get away from your computer or customers.

Maybe you are upset about something and think you are not in the mood. You sit in your room and find that you are too depressed and just in a too bad mood for being happy right now.

Both of these are nonsense! What is life for, what remains of your life if you are at all times too busy to celebrate, too stressed to enjoy life? And don’t you think that your mood would actually improve by celebrating, by being among others who are happy and jolly?

If you don’t go out now and enjoy with your kids, your partner, your friends or even just enjoy yourself, you will have a day in future when you will regret. If you go out and enjoy now, you will not only be happy now but you will have many hours of happiness over lots of years to come! All the memories you create – don’t miss out on this!

Sometimes it just takes a little change inside, an active switch, a decision to join a celebration – and be happy!

When one Word of Introduction changes all! – 4 Feb 15

We recently had a teaching vacancy in our school. Whenever a post is free, we go through the applications we previously got and also ask friends if any of their teaching friends are looking for a job right now. This time, we got a recommendation which first made us wonder and finally laugh.

A friend told Ramona that she had a friend who was a teacher and would like to come. In her words, what she said was: ‘She is disabled, so she really needs the job!’

Ramona invited her friend for an interview and told us about it. We talked and said it wouldn’t matter, in fact, that it would be good for our children if they saw someone who is impaired in walking for example – or whatever her disability might be – teaching them! It would show them that we all are equally valuable humans, no matter how we look! They could also learn that whatever issue you have, there is a way to take it in a positive way and still have the strength to go far in life!

With all these good thoughts we were waiting for this lady to come, give her resume and do this job interview. A woman came and introduced herself as the friend of a friend. We understood that it had to be this young woman whom we had been talking about. But wait – we could not see that she was in any way handicapped!

So Ramona talked to her. She read her curriculum vitae, she talked with her about her experience and aims. Throughout the complete conversation, Ramona was trying to subtly find out anything about that before-mentioned disability! She had both arms and both legs. The hands had each five fingers, nothing misshaped or not functioning well. Two eyes, a nose, a mouth, just like everyone else!

Another thought: maybe her friend had meant ‘mentally disabled’? No, that could not be either – how would she study and then teach with such mental problems? And anyway – in the conversation, nothing hinted to any difficulty in thinking or talking or expressing what she wanted to say!

So when we met our friend the next time, Ramona asked: it was a good interview – but how come you said she was disabled?

The reply was clear: ‘She is disabled! Her family is so poor, they are not able to provide for their food and clothes!’

We looked at her in amazement – and then started laughing! Our friend tried to be polite and thus replaced the word ‘poor’ with ‘disabled’! Oh well, we always like supporting the poor, too!