A Tale of Sorts, Part II

Published August 18, 2011 by Michelle Sharma Fitness

So, the night in shining armor arrives–Pankaj.

Right away, there were necessities that had to be purchased. Pankaj lived in a small, two-story house in town with an air conditioner in one room-his bedroom. This is where the family slept: him, his wife and daughter, and his paralyzed, bed-ridden mother. Obviously, his mother couldn’t tolerate six new additions to her living space-especially the five rambunctious kids-so she let us know in no uncertain terms one day by scooting step by step on her backside downstairs to the other bedroom. So there she stayed and she needed to have an a/c to keep her comfortable–and of course, we paid for it.

From there the expenses snowballed. We felt that because we didn’t know a bit of Hindi (at the time-which in that small town of Ferozepur was a very big deal because not many people knew good English), renting a house for the kids and I to stay in was not as good an idea as staying with Pankaj (who would always be right there to help us). So we decided to stay with Pankaj and because we knew that we would be there for at least a year and that the kids needed an actual sleeping place (other than on pallets on the floor). We were told that building a room on the top of his house would not be that costly. We were given estimates and felt that the amount was reasonable and we started the project.

Perhaps unlike a project here in the States where estimates are usually in the same ballpark as the final cost, things in India are a bit different. There are several different people involved in a building project from the man that you get the cement from, to the carpenters, masons, and plumbers. The mason gives you an estimate as to how much cement, bricks, and other materials he will need. But the price balloons up from there depending on the time it takes and the materials he needs. The whole time, it was most likely that Pankaj was pocketing quite a bit of money himself and would often tell us that the mason or the plumber or the carpenter said he needed more materials and so in order to get the room finished in a timely manner, we had to “make it happen”–as my husband likes to put it.

So as you can imagine, I began to feel like we were being put in a cider press and being squeezed of any money that we had coming in. This was the biggest factor in why came back to the States, forcing us to put our dream of an Indian education for our kids on the backburner–for now.

A Tale of Sorts

Published August 15, 2011 by Michelle Sharma Fitness

I was reading back over my blog this morning and sadly realized that it is seriously lacking in any reaccounts of experiences I had while over there. I know I went to India, had a good time over there with many new experiences, but there was one dark cloud that overshadowed the event and will probably remain if even at the back of my mind–for the rest of my life.

When my husband got orders to go to Iraq, I dreaded the thought of being here in Texas alone with no family, taking care of the kids by myself. So, to make something good out of the deployment experience, we decided that this was the opportunity for us to send our kids to school in India–a dream that we’d always had. So we decided to pack up six months prior to Sunil’s deployment(I knew that soldiers are always busy in the months prior to deployment with little time to spend with family and I absolutely dreaded the thought of attending the farewell ceremony!) and fly to India.

Now, we thought we had carefully planned out our trip to India–getting all the proper shots, budgeting for the plane tickets, even who we would stay with. We had talked to his mother for months beforehand, making sure that it would be ok for us to stay with her. She assured us that she was looking forward to us coming. So without much further ado, Sunil drove us to the airport, we said our goodbyes, and boarded the plane.

Oftentimes, no matter how much you plan something out, work it and rework it to make sure, you still come up with unexpected circumstances. Our trip to India was no exception. I think of it to this day–I should have know better than to listen to the assurances of a woman who was not quite mentally stable(Sunil’s mom) when it came to us staying with her. She met us in Delhi, we stayed in a bed and breakfast and then left on a train headed to Ferozepur Cantt. When we arrived at her house, or rather tiny 1 bedroom flat, we realized that our living arrangements would not be suitable. Add to this that fact that my mentally unstable mother-in-law also did not realize what she had gotten herself into by taking in six guests-and she did not handle it well. She would not help us with anything–she would not take us to the store to get some cots to sleep on(as there was only 2 beds in her flat), she didn’t want to cook for us, etc. etc.–using the excuse that she was “tired” I lost my temper at the way we were being treated and said some unregrettable things. I was about to move the kids and I into a hotel when Sunil’s cousin, Pankaj, showed up.

He was surprised to see we were here, wanted to know why we didn’t talk to him beforehand. He could have told us that we wouldn’t be able to stay with my mother-in-law, she doesn’t have air conditioning (oh yes, indeed, it was hotter than hades as we had come in July[mother-in-law had claimed she was going to get one when we got here but we unfortunately realized too late that she had trouble parting with her money] and this was one of the reasons for me moving us to a hotel–for the a/c!!), we need to stay with someone who can take care of us as we wouldn’t survive here by ourselves. Pankaj was like our knight in shining armor at a desperate hour. How could we have refused??

Part II tomorrow…

Changes

Published June 21, 2011 by Michelle Sharma Fitness

We make plans…they change. That’s life…

Our sons started in boarding school back in March and they are presently home on their vacation. At this point, they will not be going back over there due to several factors, some of which include underestimation of the total cost involved in sending them to school over there(and they actually go to one of the more inexpensive schools over there!) and lack of funding to support said cost.

I am disappointed to say the least because I felt they were doing well over there-but apparently God must have other plans for them and for us.  From here we must move on and replot our course. A future course will hopefully involve sending them back over there at some point, hopefully by next school year. We’ll have to see what time brings.  Today I am adding a picture of my husband and I because I believe that my blog must also now chart a new course, since the main focus for now will not be on education in India(although I will still inevitably mention it from time to time!)

For now-that’s about it. Nothing much is happening since it’s the summer and kids are out of school. I’m trying to find a job-hasn’t been so successful as yet, but I’m not going to give up. Me finding a job is the necessary ingredient to being able to send our kids back over to school in India. So I leave you now to hop back on the job trail…(and a secret commitment to myself to try to blog more often!)

It’s About That Time

Published December 27, 2010 by Michelle Sharma Fitness

Not too much has happened since the last post except my husband came home from deployment this month. It’s great to have him back home and we didn’t have any problems at all readjusting to each other. What I have to get used to all over again is the ridiculousness of the people in charge at his unit. I think that could take more effort than getting used to the deployment did!

It is about that time now-the kids are getting ready to finish the school year over in India. I have to go over to get the boys admitted into the boarding school and the three little ones will be coming back over here to the States until they are old enough to go to the boarding school. Lilly will wind up being here with us for about the next three years. I hope that Sunil keeps the language up with them like he says he will, otherwise, they will probably lose a lot of it. Not that they can’t pick it up easily when they go there again, but still.

This time when I go over there, I intend on taking alot more pictures of people and places. I did do a fair amount of it the last time, but I still feel that I could have done more. I’ll have a lot of time on my hands-so I should be able to accomplish that goal! Now back to packing…

Realizing I Miss India

Published November 10, 2010 by Michelle Sharma Fitness

I’ve been back here now since July and I finally sat down and admitted today that I miss India. It has been said that India is the kind of place that you either learn to love or you just plain hate it. There can be no mediocre feelings about the place. Having experienced it myself, I’d have to say that I agree. I don’t think that even the culture or people themselves could be remotely considered mediocre, so how could the experience be so?

So maybe there are some positives to letting my husband pursue his dreams of trying out for Special Forces. I originally had fought the notion tooth and nail. Who wants to go through all that separation? But now I am slowly coming to terms with life as it is-especially after just having turned 36. Happiness for him is doing all that hard core Rambo-running-through-the-woods-stuff. Yes, I am not included in this fantasy, but I will be part of making his dream come true-and it’s the journey that counts in the end.

And while he is running through the woods, I’ll be getting back to India where life seems so much more colorful. Of course, there are the hassles of being a foreigner; being the only white chick for miles around. It unnerved me while I was there, but after having had a break, I’m ready to go back. My threads have been forever woven in the fabric of India, as strange and inexplicable as it may seem!

So Here I Am…

Published October 30, 2010 by Michelle Sharma Fitness

I’ll be 36 in just a week and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!

When I first got back to the states from  India, I knew I wanted to get a job to keep me busy so that I wouldn’t be focusing on how much I missed my husband and kids and also to get back to the business of paying off our debts. (Currently we are using Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball Method and it’s been working great in just the few months we’ve been on it! Find out more here)

So I began the job search in earnest the day my husband got back on the plane to go back to the sandbox. Fortunately for me, or so I thought at the time, I didn’t have to search long before I got lead for a job from an acquaintance of mine. I sent this company an email with my resume attached and the next day I got a phone call asking me to come in for an interview. Now I am a medical coder by profession and the job I was being offered was in medical billing. Since I had a bit of experience in my last job with medical billing, I figured I would go ahead and accept the job-after all how hard could it be?? Huh…was I in for a big surprise!

Now, I know that there are many people in this world who thrive and grow under pressure(and thank God for them!!) but I am not one of them as I found out in my short time at this job. Multitasking I can handle, but not under the gun of completing monthly task queues which are an essential element of the job. I was trained for about a week and then let loose to fend for myself during my 90 day evaluation period during which I would be held to the same expectations that seasoned employees were in regards to completion of task queues.

I took a pay cut from my previous job in New York because I was told that in Texas “You’re not going to see above $9.00/hr.” I was calling insurance companies, writing appeals and dealing with angry patients who had “just got a bill in the mail” with just a little sprinkling of coding here and there. Shortly after I started working there, I began to go to work with knots in my stomach and a horrible sense of dread. By the end of two months, I knew I couldn’t do it any longer and I put in my notice.

Now I am at a crossroads of what I want to do with the rest of my life. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Health Administration and a coding certification. The billing job has left a very bad taste in my mouth and I don’t know if I can continue on in this line of work, stuck in a cubicle for 8 hours a day, only stopping to get a breath while popping up my head above the cubicle like a prairie dog poking his head out of his hole.

So now perhaps because I am quickly approaching middle age, I am increasingly feeling a sense of urgency to feel that I’ve accomplished something in my life-to have made a difference someway, somehow. I have done the career assessment tests, personality tests, even thought about following a suggestion to re-embrace what you loved to do before you were ten years old, before other distractions set in. In my case that would be biology, which by age 10, I was reading large volumes from the library by Jaques Cousteau and other such biologists. For all my life, I have been utterly fascinated with Animal Planet, Discovery Health and National Geographic and would rather watch those types of shows than anything else. Unfortunately at this point in my life, such a drastic career change would cause me to have to go back to school and rack up way more debt than I already have-I’ve been paying on my student loans from my Bachelor’s degree now since 2008 and they haven’t budged a bit!

I think that a person is supposed to be happy in their career-I’ve heard many experts say that. My husband wouldn’t agree, but then that’s a whole different blog post! In an attempt to get my college loans paid off and hopefully pursue a different career path, I am trying to join the National Guard or Reserves. I’ll let you know how that works out. Meanwhile, I love to hear opinions on whether you think the job or career should make you happy or whether you should be happy no matter what kind of job you are in…

It’s Not An Education-It’s An Adventure.

Published August 20, 2010 by Michelle Sharma Fitness

…And it certainly wasn’t an easy choice to make as a mom. We decided a long time ago before our kids were born that we didn’t like what the U.S. public education system had to offer. My husband and I were both products of it and neither one of us had experiences that we could be proud of. Even the most dedicated parents can’t shield their children from the “socializing” that goes on in public schools. Don’t get me wrong-most people don’t see anything wrong with what goes on in schools these days and if you are one of those people you can rest assured that I am not going to go into a tirade against the system. In my experience, either you love public schools, or you hate them.

We had even tried to homeschool our children, but when times were tough for us, I had to go back to work and was unable to continue in that direction. My husband had told me how Indian schools were-the discipline, the overall society that places high value on education-way higher than we do over here, and the chance to learn a second language starting in preschool. It made sense to me that if the day ever came where we could afford to send our kids to school over there, we’d do it.

Fast forward to January of this year. My husband received orders for a year long deployment and it was decided that now was as good a time as any to start our children’s education adventure. The kids and I left in July and they’ve been there ever since. They are adjusting quite well to school over there especially my oldest(a teenager) who’s picked up the language very quickly. Now I have come back to the states to get a job for the next few months while my husband finishes up his deployment. We plan to bring back the little ones at that time to stay with us until each one of them becomes old enough to stay in the boarding school over there.

Is it hard? It sure is, but so are many things in life. Our children’s education is an investment and just like any other investment, you have to give up something in the present in the hopes that you will get more return in the future. I’ve had many people, in my family especially, who are not in favor of what we are doing. They say that spending time with your children is more important than anything and you can successfully navigate the public school system if you are involved enough as a parent. In my experience, though, you can only navigate around certain things-such as a ship navigating around an iceberg-but if you know that the waters themselves are treacherous to begin with, why would you even want to take a chance unless you had no other choice?

May I note that the family member who voiced the above mentioned opinion has never had to make the choice of sending their children to public school because her husband has a good enough job where they can afford a top-level private school. U.S. private schools weren’t even a thought for us because a private school education can cost almost as much as a university education in this day and age.

So now you have the history behind our decision to send the kids overseas for their education. Let the adventure begin…