Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Prince(ling) of Devali

The Indian festival of Devali (aka Dewali, Depavali, etc.) has come and gone, but Liam was dressed up nicely. He looked like a proper little Indian prince in his beautiful dress given him by the Vetrivel family. The one problem of course, being his pasty skin color. Ah well, you can't have everything, I guess. Here are a few shots.

The Family, before we head out for Devali celebrations.

With the Vetrivels

A lovely Kolam that Subashini made for Devali

Liam, celebrating the joys of water the next day.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


We love wildlife of all sorts.
Okay, so ticks aren't very cool, and neither are mosquitoes, but leeches are kind of fun to be hard-core about. Gross, but that's really it. No big disease problems with leeches, you know? Well, last weekend we had our tolerances tested yet again. This time the wild came to get us. An infestation of insects that apparently came in through the bathroom and caught Liam while he was sleeping.

Our more knowledgeable friends say that they are flesh-eating homoptera.

We were thankful they didn't eat too much of Liam's flesh. He seems to be in good health now, though, thankfully.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Liam makes his first call

It was a busy week.
We had friends coming over on friday, and were planning a hike on saturday. Katie and I and Liam were trundling around town knocking off errands. We had to pick up a mattress, buy a wok, find some graph paper, get hair cuts, swap the jeep the mechanic had loaned us for our vundi (truck), buy groceries, deliver groceries to friends, pick up other friends, help them buy groceries, and deliver them and their groceries to their house. You know, busy. During all of this Liam is in orbit around us, talking and babbling away. His favorite things are Vundis (vehicles of any sort, preferably moving) and Babu (cell phones, so named because our mechanic's name is Babu, and I speak to him on the cell phone from time to time.) Liam sometimes carries on fake conversations on the cellphone, which we let him handle because it can be locked. These conversations usually go something like:
"Hellah, Babu"
He probably had 5 or so imaginary conversations with Babu that friday afternoon as we bustled about. It all worked, though. We got our grocieries, our friends' groceries, our other friends and their groceries, the vundi and everything sorted out. The weekend was good, we had an infuriating hike with too little water during which we got lost on a steep hillside in 8 foot tall razor-grass, but found our way out, sliced as we were, and back to the road. At the end of the weekend, my parents called from Vermont to catch up. Turn's out that they recieved an interesting call friday morning, east coast time. They say it went something like this:
"Hellah, Babu."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

"Daddy" is in the Lexicon now!

Liam finally added the word "Daddy" to his lexicon the night before last. You can tell how important "Daddy" is, by seeing the words which came before "Daddy" was added. There are just a few:


Rani - our maid's name

John - our gardener's name












teddy bear












I am honored to occupy such an important position.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


There is no arguing that Liam is at least as much a Tamil baby as he is American. This comes through, of course, in language. He has many Tamil words, including fruit (Palam), and flower (Pu), and he gestures the Tamil greeting "Vanakum" on command. Of course, he's got lots of english too, "chee" for cheese, "tee" for tree, "moom" for moon, and "cow."

He has also recently enjoyed adding a very Tamil-sounding suffix to some of his words. "-itty" can make many words sound Tamil. For cup he usually says "Kuppie", mom is "Mommie". When he wants to escape from the current situation (often in someones arms) he says "Dowm," and when he talks about the Suess-like baby book about monkeys drumming he says "Dum-ity." That along with the concept of "Yepadi," what in Tamil, has apparently given him the idea that he can, and perhaps should, add "-itty" endings to his words. So now with have "Kuppity," "Mommity," and "Dowmity" to accompany "Upitty" (in this case meaning 'pick me up', the opposite of "Dowmitty"). And now, "Combitty" for computer.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sophie's Last Days

Sophie is a big friendly dog. A German Shepherd - Doberman mix, her tail was removed when she was a young pup, but she grew up to be mostly Shepherd, so she sort of resembled a small German Shepherd bear with a great black and brown mane. She'd been a great friend to us during our time in Kodaikanal, and she's been a valiant protector of both the family and the house. She's now over 9 years old, and just a few months ago, was still wrestling other dogs to the ground, and scaring off whole packs of potential adversaries to protect us and our baby. Once she got to know us, Sophie would often sleep on the cold cement outside the front door, because that was where we'd last been the day before. She would loyally wait until we arrived the next morning, at which point she'd beg us for a walk by pointing to her leash. To her, the leash was freedom.

(Rani holding Liam, John, and Sophie)

Starting about 3 months ago, she began to loose weight. She ate less and less, and became skinny and lost most of her energy. In the last year she'd had 3 rather large mammary tumors removed from her underbelly. After both surgeries the tumors came back. The vet, a Mr. Thankaraj who works in both Dindigul and Kodaikanal, is a nice man when he deals with humans, but his demeanor towards his patiences leaves much to be desired. A sloppy procedure, utter lack of bed-side manor, a general bossiness, and an obvious desire to avoid touching his patients as much as possible gave me the feeling that net time Sophie needed an operation, I'd learn what I needed, collect the supplies myself, and would actually do a more careful job than Mr. Thankaraj, who's loose stitches and poor sterile technique is maddening to watch when he opperates on someone you love. When we took her on walks, she would now slow us down, instead of the reverse.

(Sophie Tim and Liam enjoying the view from Cloudlands Peak)

Sophie was clearly nearing the end, just as our friend were arriving from the states for a vacation in Kerala, on which we were to join them. She could no longer manage the hikes, or long walks that we used to take her on, and even short walks had become difficult. We started having her sleep inside, where we made a little bed so she could sleep next to the fire to avoid the cold nights. We wondered if we should put her down before we left, in fear of causing her a painful last few days. Her eating had almost stopped entirely, and we'd seen blood in her urine. We assumed that her cancer hade spread (likely by a sloppy tumor excision) all around her abdomen, if not everywhere. I gave her a Darvon pill that I had been prescribed for severe gastrointestinal pain that I get infrequently from an old injury and subseqent surgery. She perked right up. It was good to see her on her feet again, even jogging around the grounds of Shelton. In the end we left her at Shelton with Rani and John, and went for vacation.

When we returned, Sophie had only further deteriorated. Now she didn't have the energy to get up, and spent most of her time lying as close as she could to where her people were. Once she managed to leave the compound when we'd gone out. Not noticing, we locked the gate. That night was the first real day of the Monsoon, and it poured rain for hours. The next morning we left for a walk, wishing Sophie had the energy, but knowing that she could never make it. When we got to the gate, there she lay, just outside. She'd been locked out all night, and like a loyal follower she'd stayed by the gate in the pouring rain all night instead of finding some shelter. The poor dog was freezing, but, bless her, she was happy to see us, and expressed it with all of the energy she had left. We immediately brought her inside, and started a fire, but she would hardly eat or drink. We knew it was time. We consulted with our friends, Kate and Ed, about it. Ed asked if the pills that I had would be an appropriate way to put a dog to sleep. Wikipedia told us that, indeed, Propoxyphene is the number one choice for people seeking a peaceful way to exit life. That gave us some sort of small, sad, hope for Sophie. It was Monday, and we gave her another pill, but getting them down her throat, even with two people and the pill encased in a ball of butter, was quite tricky.

Later that day we called Dr. Thankaraj, because Sophie had vomit that matched her stool, and we were afraid that her pain must be extreme. Being a stoic, courageous dog, though, she showed few signs of uncomfort and still chose places to lie down where she could survey the property, lest she need defend it, or her people. Monday night we heard something, and Sophie had moved to the door, but couldn't get up when we opened it. The next morning we saw that she'd needed to pee. There was blood in her urine, and she's slept in it. Tuesday came and went, and Katie and Liam gave Sophie a last bath. Usually we'd have to tie Sophie to a stake to get her to tolerate a bath, but this was warm water, and she didn't object the way she usually did, she just relaxed. We dried her off inside in front of another fire.

(Katie and Liam give Sophie her last bath)

Wednesday morning Dr. Thankaraj arrived on his motorcycle. We called Alice, who'd taken care of Sophie for most of her life, and Rani and John, and Katie and I all sat around Sophie as she lay on the driveway that morning. She was exhausted, but she made a heroic effort, and held her head up, on the look out to the last. Thankaraj first wanted us to bring a table for him to opperate on. We said no, Sophie can lie right here. She needs no more pain. He cut the hair off her leg, and filled a large syringe with a clear liquid. She stirred briefly, and kept breathing. We petted her lovely mane. Her fur was just as rich and beautiful as it always. Thankaraj touched her eye to test for reflexes, and she flinched. He told us to move away. We said no. Sophie deserves to be loved in these last minutes. He then injected more into her rear leg, and old us to take our hands off of her. We said no, Sophie had been faithful to us and others her whole life, at least we should stay by her side at the very end. He aske us to flip Sophie over to inject yet another leg, because it seemed to be taking more than usual. He injected a third dose, and Sophie stirred, raised her head, and looked around. She was clearly disturbed. We waited. She stopped breathing, and soon her eyes no longer flinched, and soon they glazed over in a light white. We sobbed, and bid her the best of possible afterlives, and peace, and no more pain.

John and I carried Sophie up the hill behind the house on a towel to a hole that John had dug the day before. We made sure that Liam was there because we figured that even if he didn't understand what had happened to his favorite "Bobow" he should at least watch her being burried, and would that way understand where Sophie went. We layed her down, and arranged her head so that it would be comfortable, in case she might still feel anything. John grabbed some leafy bush branches and laid them gently on her. We all did the same. Then I carefully laid the first shovel full of dirt on the branches. John and I shoveled dirt carefully, covering her head last. I wanted her to turn, to bark or squirm, so that we could take her out and she could run again. We covered her head, then the two of us worked furiously to fill the grave. We piled rocks and sticks on top so that her grave would stay unmolested.

Finally, Sophie had gone. Our loyal, valiant, stoic. Sophie.

Katie was kind enough to deal with Thankaraj, and pay him. As he left I asked him what he'd used to put her to sleep. You really want to know? he asked. I assured him that I did. Magnesium sulfate, he said. Okay, thanks. I waved him out the gate. That night I searched the web for magnesium sulfate and euthenasia. It would be fine, of course. Then I saw this:
Other injectable agents
Magnesium sulfate, potassium chloride, chloral hydrate, strychnine, nicotine, and curariforms are not acceptable as they are not considered humane when used alone (Lumb, 1974; AVMA, 1993).
and this:
Magnesium sulphate
Magnesium sulfate has three actions; neuromuscular blockade, cardiac irregularities and anaesthesia. Depending on the route of administration it is suspected that cardiac arrect and neuromuscular blockate can precede anaesthesia (Lumb and Jones 1996). It is not recommended as a euthenasia agent.
and this:
Magnesium sulphate does not depress the central nervous system and causes death by asphyxia resulting from complete neuromuscular block. Use of these drugs separately is not acceptable.
And I was crippled. Knowing what I'd known about Thankaraj's work, I should have asked him. I should have done it myself. I happened to have the medicine most favored by right to die societies, and I let HIM come. He made her last few moments ones of panic, instead of the peace she deserved.

Dear Sophie, I'm sorry that I didn't like it when you liked my face, or my baby. I'm sorry that I would step on you when you got underfoot on those walks where you would wander across our paths incessently. I'm sorry for every time that we left the gate, and had to leave you behind. And, dear Sophie, I'm sorry that your last few moments with us were of pain and panic, it is not what we meant. We love you, Sophie, and we always will.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Very First Words

First consistent symbol:
Drrrr - (the sound of anything rotary, expecially a wheel, fan, or vehicle, in action)
Kaa - Bird

First real English words:
1 - Cow
2 - Hi
3 - Moom (Moon)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

5 months of pregnancy in 18 seconds.

This version of the Pregnancy video is MUCH better:


Liam's First Year

Liam Kiran Waring completed his first solar orbit of life outside mommy on June 11th of 2008. Here are the photos from that circular journey.

Liam at 10 oz.

Since we couldn't actually photograph him inside Katie, we used a natural stand in - jars of red curry and tomato paste.

Liam at 2 pounds.

A familiar stand in. If we only knew at the time how closely he would resemble a ball of butter.

Liam on day 1, less than 24 hrs old.

Cigars courtesy of the Daloz/Walsh bonanza.

One month.

In the Martinez Hills his parents called home for 3 years. Notice the "where the hell am I?" expression.

Two months.

Totally at peace, ~800 feet over the gorgeous Waterton Lake, Alberta, CA.

Three months.

Hong Kong airport. What more can be said? Ramen baby?

Four Months.

Indian Police registration photos. Note the drool on chin.

Five Months.

On a Tamil Kolam outside of Shelton Cottage. This is significant because he is holding his head up long enough for a photo.

Six Months.

Christmas in Kodaikanal. Sitting up on his own - but not for long.

Seven Months.

The hood ornament for our Vundi (Tamil for vehicle).

Eight Months.

At the Madurai Meenakshi Temple. Note the juxtaposition of ancient and young.

Nine Months.

With Veera-Ma and Koopa-Ma, the two seventy-somethings who achingly amble around Kodai selling mushrooms and raspberries. They are frequent visitors. Notice the relative size of the heads of those photographed.

Ten Months.

All seriousness. How debonair.

Eleven Months.

On a vegetable shopping trip with mommy. Being his usual self.

Twelve Months.

On a bicycle in Kyoto, Japan. He *adores* bikes.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Liam Music Video!

It needs very little explanation. Liam Kiran being carried around scenes in Kodai. He made YouTube. We had fun making it.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cement Work

Cement figures centrally in life here. The road outside our gate that parallels the lovely endemic shola forest across from us is essentially a big, cement block that was laid down on the dirt road that preceded it. The first road crew that laid the road didn't make it wide enough, so subsequent road crews have been commissioned to widen the road by a meter on each side. This has been going on (or, more often, not been going on) since we arrived in Kodai last September. There have been three road crews so far. We're guessing the work will never be completed, which is not necessarily bad news for us--a narrow road makes for slower traffic, and the many electrical poles that abut the original road are not moved when extra meters of cement are added, meaning there are poles coming up out of the widened road, making the whole effort kind of pointless.

After the road widening outside our gate, we had a sharp cliff between the edge of the cement road platform and our dirt driveway, so we asked the fellow who gardens for us to lay a bit of cement driveway. It turns out that when fellows like this gardener who are operating on slim budgets have to do cement work, they mix in A LOT of sand and rocks, to save on the cement cost. I would say our ratio in this case was about 1:50. Needless to say, the mud pie driveway was a mess and did not resemble cement. So, I explained to him that we wanted this one to last through a simple rain shower, let alone a monsoon, and that I'd be happy to buy many bags of cement to make that work. He said, no problem, and set to work. I came out to find a driveway that looked like it was a healthy ratio of cement to sand, say 2:1. We were thrilled until we drove over it a few days later and discovered that he had simply put a thin layer of cement on top of the mud pie drive. Oh well. It looks like we have some masonry in our future.

Cement has also been critical for patching our old (built in 1845) house's walls, as they are red clay with a thin layer of cement, which inevitably cracks, leaving little holes that are perfect for baby fingers to pick at.

We've done some of our own cement work. We recently completed a mosaic of wonderfully pure, unadulterated cement and old tiles that were discarded on our road side, which we hammered into smaller pieces. The mosaic's in the shape of the most simple kolum we know. Kolums are designs done in rice powder on one's doorstep in the morning. They are a sort of visual prayer for the safety and the prosperity of the household. Even though this mosaic kolum is outside our bathroom door and is usually graced with our diaper pail on top of it, we really like it.

The finished product and Liam Kiran doing some tile work:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


"The Preacher" has teeth. Well, about 1.5 teeth really. The first one is very small, and the second about half the size of the first. Teeny. Weensy. You can hardly see them even when you are looking at them too, because they are quasi-translucent and kind of look pink, like the rest of his gums.

He's 11 months now. One big month left to go to the big "1.0" Liam is now a crawling machine, eating everything his parents give him (and plenty that they do not), and standing up by holding on to almost anything. He's also extemporaneous. He "preaches" about all sorts of things. Birds, dogs, people, dirt, shoes, his own feet. Babbling, giggling and uttering all sorts of baby-sentences of the sort that leave you wanting to write them down, their so language like. So, we carry on all sorts of imaginary conversations.


"Oh really Liam?"

"Ah Da blreu"

"Well, I love you too."

"Dah! DEEEEE! uh-Dah!"

His favorite consonant is definitely "D."

* * * *

Elsewise, life is going well for us here in Tamil Nad. It's tourist season, which means serious traffic problems, and extra Police who come from the plains cities ostensibly to help, but seem more interested lounging by the lake, or frequenting the caf├ęs and craft shops. They re-route traffic during this time, which makes a simple drive from home to town and back a nightmare because we have to drive all the way around the lake, which is packed with tourist buses, and gawkers on foot. Then Katie (genius woman that she is) got us a "car pass" that allows us special local permission to cheerfully avoid all of this nonsense. What a difference.

Katie has completed a second draft of her young adult novel, too. And is gearing up for work on a second book project.

Tim just turned 31 and he and his research team have completed 265 surveys across 6 different villages, each of which took between 45 minutes and two hours. The collected data, that Tim is not analyzing because he is procrastinating by writing this post instead, probably have some interesting patterns and valuable insights about the relationship between cooperation and caste-based social differences.

At least Tim hopes that's what they have, because he's got a week to synthesize and prepare a presentation on the fascinating aspects of his work before we all leave for Japan in late May. Tim will present at the HBES (Human Behavior and Evolution Society) conference in Kyoto, and we'll visit friends from Spokane while we're there. Also, Sally Q will be joining us, which will be an absolute treat, and the first family member to have seen Liam since he was 3 months old. Liam will turn one on June 11th, too, when we are in Japan. It's a big month.

Since the last update, we've been doing all sorts of things. Like:


Research in villages like Manavanur, and


Spotting Guar (aka "Bison" for us Americans). But note - these "Bison" are much larger and more deadly than the silly furry little cows that live in the American west. It's hard to see here, but their horns are MASSIVE.

Playing some rousing ultimate. Sadly Katie was sick during the tournament.

Ultimate, being a gentlemens game, inevitably involves a technical dispute (or seventeen).

But, Hey! We assembled a team that beat Madras, Delhi, and two teams from Bangalore! I think that makes us 2008 India ultimate champions!

We've also been watching spring blossom in Shelton Cottage. What a treat.

And climbing up inside scaffoldings to see the insides of new temple construction. This is at about 30ft, the top of a new little Kali temple in downtown Poombarai.

So that's the update for now.

More photos should also be coming soon at:


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Happy 2008!

Dear Family and Friends,

Hello from Kodaikanal, where the women are indeed strong as they carry bundles of firewood on their heads, where the men drink a lot of tea, and where Liam is chunkier than your average Indian baby.

We’ve had a wonderful year. Tim finished his qualifying exams and is now left with only his dissertation, the topic of which has morphed over a couple of trips to India, but he has now narrowed his focus on village communal management of irrigation. The Palni Hills, where we are living, stretch up to 7,000 feet and scrape off rainwater predominantly during spring and fall monsoons. Competition for this water is now becoming fierce as it is needed for the booming residential population, farmland, and reservoirs on the plains. Last year during the dry season, the town’s main reservoir dried up, as did the well-known Berijam Lake, and the town was in crisis. Some theorize the increasing frequency of draught is due to reduced rain fall because of global warming, but our botanist friends who have been here for over twenty years are certain that the widespread invasion of exotic trees is responsible for sucking up all of the water. In any case, water is a hot topic all over India and Tim’s choice to study irrigation is proving interesting. After visiting about X villages he has learned the system of irrigation management is at a crux—some villages still have their traditional system of appointing a water manager who oversees the distribution of water, and others have been forced to disband this local management system in favor of government and police management, which villagers agree leads to corruption and poor management.

Katie enjoyed a good portion of the last year pregnant, which aside from a fairly miserable period of morning sickness, she found intriguing. She wrapped up teaching at Berkeley City College, a job that she loved and was sad to leave, just two weeks before Liam was born in June. Now she spends morning working on writing projects, most recently revision of her young adult novel that had been put on hold since Liam joined us, and journaling about life in India with a babe. As part of this second project, she is working on maintaining a fresh eye on India and not growing too accustomed to the oddities that India presents us with:

• The metal detectors stationed at the exits of airports and the entries of shopping malls. There are invariably way too many staff stationed at them and yet as the machines beep with every other passer-by, signaling the presence of metal, no one bats an eye.

• The negotiable nature of rules. After our third day of being run through the harrowing process of trying to get ourselves registered with the police in Bangalore, which involved getting our marriage certificate faxed to us, meeting with a lawyer in a black robe and white wig to get papers stamped, and running all over the city in auto-rickshaws as we sucked down pollution, we noticed that others slipped money into their passports before handing them off to the officials.

• The ubiquitous noise—air horns on cars; bus engines groaning up to our mountaintop home; monsoon rain thundering on the clay-tile roof.

• And the special treatment Liam gets (more on that later).

She feels really fortunate to have the time to spend afternoons with Liam, going on walks, playing in the garden, and trying to pull off the parent magic of occupying the little fellow while getting housework done.

Liam is easily the most exciting change for us this year. We’ve watched him evolve from a dark-haired little larva who was inclined mostly just to nurse, scream when his diaper was changed, and sleep (only on our chests) into a blond, chuckling little fellow, who is way too busy to sleep on our chests, but who would be happy to chat over a diaper change. At seven months, he now babbles a continuous narration of our existence, sits up, busies himself with his toys, and charms us endlessly.

Life in India has offered him some unique experiences. First, we make active use of his Indian middle name (Kiran). We’ve quickly learned that if we tell Indians his name is “Liam,” we’ll get a confused squint, but if we say “Kiran,” we’ll get a satisfied head bobble and comment that we’ve chosen a good name. When we take Liam on his daily walk into town or around the lake, we will inevitably hear people shouting out “Kiran,” most of whom we recognize, but not all. The tourists who don’t know him by name will stop us for a “snap” (we figure there are well over 75 such snaps of this child floating around India) and a cheek pinch. The cheek pinching is always followed by a gesture toward the pincher’s mouth, as if she is consuming some of the chunkiness in Liam’s cheeks. In general, Liam seems to like India, not particularly for the attention (fortunately, he seems not too tuned in to that) but for the constant activity and sound.

We don’t see many of Liam’s peers out on the road. People here believe in the evil eye (jealousy, essentially) to which babies are very susceptible. If a babe has to venture out, there are several options for protection: a black dot on the face to make the baby ugly; girls’ clothes put on a boy (this is a sad comment on gender preferences here); a black string around the belly, a necklace of white beads, or bangles on the wrist to soak up the bad energy. The lady who takes care of Liam in the morning has tried several of these on Liam, though none to much avail—his hands were too big to get the bangles on, the necklace she brought scratched his neck and had to be removed, though the fluorescent, polka dotted, very feminine suit she gave Liam is being put to good use. In addition to keeping Liam well protected from the evil eye, Rani is generous, hard working, and adored by Liam, which could not make us happier.

Though we miss family and friends more than ever and would love to spend this first year of Liam’s life with all of you, being here has been a gift in other ways. We enjoy extra time to be together, many opportunities for walks and hikes, wonderful Indian food, and the promise of newness and adventure right outside the gate of our house, which brings us to our last point—our house. We’re really fortunate to be guests in the home of our friends, the Lockwoods. The house, Shelton Cottage, is one of the two oldest houses in Kodai. It was built in 1845 to house up to three missionary families who retreated up here from the heat and disease of the plains. The house has all sorts of quirky and wonderful features—three-foot-wide mud walls, stones in the yard that look like they were once used for grinding, lovely antique chests and iron wood stoves, and a huge garden with plants including California poppies, a magnolia tree, rhubarb, and some endemic shola trees.

We hope you all are well. We’ve felt so fortunate to receive news from those of you who have been so generous as to post us or email us updates from around the world, and we look forward to hearing from even more of you in 2008.

New Photos: http://aliandcedar.com/gallery/back-to-india

Love, Katie, Tim and Liam Kiran