Jan 7, 2009

Happy New Year!

Dear friends and family,

Happy New Year, and Welcome to 2009! We’re looking forward to what this new year will bring—our return to the U.S. in May, seeing friends and family whom we’ve missed, and acquainting Liam with people and places that we consider home. We’re also feeling very hopeful about the new presidential administration, so much so that we’ve been proudly wearing American and Indian-made Obama shirts. In fact, everyone we know is feeling hopeful, including our gardender, John, who told us something that went like this:

John: “On television they are saying Obama is giving all American free loan for buying house, not bad loan, like credit card, but good loan.” (We’d been counseling him and our babysitter/cook, Rani, about good loans given by women’s self help groups vs. predatory loans given by banks who mortgage family jewels).

Katie: “Everyone?”

John: “Yes, everyone is getting this loan for free and then buying nice house, maybe two rooms, metal roof, very nice.”

So, even here, expectations for Obama are high.

Though we’re certainly looking forward to next year, we are deeply grateful for the year we’ve just completed, and to the people who have made it so great. Tim has now finished his field work (and likely all data collection for his doctoral dissertation), which most recently involved playing economic games on a mobile computer lab with villagers like these gentleman:
From Happy New Year 2009

Tim’s now having fun analyzing the data and writing papers. He also hopes to complete one last side project on the cultural transmission of the labyrinthine chalk drawings called kolams that women draw outside their doorsteps each morning. Kolams are a very beautiful Tamil tradition:

From Happy New Year 2009


Katie has completed multiple drafts of her young adult novel set in Tanzania and just recently sent the latest version off to an agent. We’re all keeping our fingers crossed, but we’re told that getting books published can take as long, or longer than the actual writing process, which was two and a half years in this case. She’s now beginning to sift through her journals and outline a memoir about life with a certain baby in India:
From Happy New Year 2009


More than any of our other work, we’ve enjoyed getting to know Liam as he gets to know life. He is now a beautiful, pot-bellied, 1.5-year-old toddler.
From Happy New Year 2009

He loves to talk and sing—some of our favorite words are “Bye-la-Killi-Koo” (bicycle), “Cumbatoot” (computer), “Chapata” (cheese paratha—a favorite Indian food), and “undi” (baby-talk version of the Tamil word for vehicle, Vundi). He’s also busy learning a lot of Tamil from mornings with his beloved babysitter Rani, who calls him by his Indian middle name, Kiran, and who takes him out to visit his other Tamil friends like the boatman, Raja:
From Happy New Year 2009

Liam loves his parents, Rani, John, all dogs and cats, most foods (especially the South Indian rice and lentil dumplings called “Idly”), playing outside, “rowing” boats, talking to grandparents through video chat, and reading books (a current favorite is The Little Engine That Could). We recently traveled for a week on the plains and he was thoroughly impressed by the overnight trains, on which we failed to sleep due to a certain wiggling little boy sharing a narrow birth with one of us.
From Happy New Year 2009

He also loved the autorickshaws (“Auto”) that got us around Madurai and Chennai. We now discuss trains about 12 times a day and autos at least twice or thrice.
From Happy New Year 2009


Other highlights of the year have included:

• Getting Liam to mostly sleep through the night and in a crib (finally, after much delayed parental learning, we have beaten sleep deprivation back, and feel, dare we say it? Normal! Well, almost.)
From Happy New Year 2009

• The very generous visits of many family and friends from home, including all of our parents (who also happen to be top-notch grandparents), both of our siblings (Uncle “Bye-un” and “Anterah”), Cousin Pete, Uncle Tom, Todd and Sus, Kate and Ed, Megan, Durell and Suzann.
From Happy New Year 2009


From Happy New Year 2009

• Celebrating the Indian festival of lights, Diwali, in November, with a number of local friends.
From Happy New Year 2009

• A full monsoon season that filled the reservoirs here, cleaned up the roads, felled many trees, and filled the sky with mist and clouds.

From Happy New Year 2009

• Our trips to Kyoto and Nishinomiya, Japan; the backwaters of Kerala; and the international city of Auroville.
From Happy New Year 2009

• Our helpers, Rani and John as well as Tim’s research assistant, Vetrivel, who have helped us keep ourselves fed, our garden looking good, our child well cared for, Tim’s connections in the villages strong, and, in general, our initiation into parenting ridiculously civilized.
From Happy New Year 2009

From Happy New Year 2009


• The wonderful surroundings here—a beautiful lake just down the road, regular guar (the massive Indian bison) sightings just outside our gate, and gorgeous mountain-top views rimmed in flowering rhododendrons and endemic shola trees—some of which we try to get out and enjoy each day.
From Happy New Year 2009

• Shelton Cottage, one of the two oldest houses in Kodai, which our generous friends, the Lockwoods, have allowed us to house-sit for the last year and a half. Thank you so, so much! What an opportunity this has been, and a time we will always remember.
From Happy New Year 2009

• And finally, our wonderfully international, multi-aged group of friends here, who will always make Kodai feel like home, even after we leave.
From Happy New Year 2009


We are already dreading the sadness we will feel when May rolls around and when we will say goodbye to this beautiful place, our nice friends ,and the comfortable lifestyle we have here in India. At the same time, we anxiously look forward to living in university housing in Davis and seeing those of you whom we miss so dearly. It’s been just about long enough.

Love, Katie, Tim and Liam
From Happy New Year 2009