Archive for April, 2007

My company does a lot of activities to help the communities/towns that we operate in. Areas of help include education (schools, private computer clubhouses), environment (clean up town parks and rivers, plant saplings, sponsor electronic recycling events) etc. It has been my intention for a few years now to volunteer for these events, but … Then in the last year or so, I got interested in the activities that they do in the public schools. Although my main intention is to help the schools/kids, I have a selfish motive too.  I don’t know much about the school system here and have always been curious as to how these schools are inside, how they operate etc. So participating in these would give me a glimpse of all the stuff I wanted to know. This also became more important for me since A is entering first grade this fall.

I got an opportunity to participate in one yesterday. The program is called Engineering is Elementary and is co-developed by the Museum of Science with several other entities. There is a general concern that not enough number of kids in the U.S are choosing careers in science and engineering. The goal of this event is to expose fifth grade students to engineering. It was an interesting project. During the prep work for this, I learnt two things. It seems kids decide what they want to be based on what they know about professions. So it is apparent to them what some professions, like teaching, professional sports etc involve, but it is not very apparent to them what engineers do on their jobs. The second is that while there may be a few kids who have specific and serious ambitions about what they want to be, most are more particular about what they don’t want to be rather than what they want to be. So, we were told that as long as they kept their options open towards engineering, we would have done our jobs!

Two of us spent about an hour in the class room talking to the kids, reading a story about a kid who designs and builds a bridge (actually the story is better than I make it sound here) and then doing a bridge building activity with them in groups of 4-5 kids. The goal was for them to build a bridge > 12 inches long and would hold about 3 toy cars and a bus using supplies we provided. They were indeed very imaginative and did a great job. No two bridges were alike and pretty much all of them held the load successfully. I was impressed. As a side note, at the end of it I also realized that A is a perfectly normal kid. You see, PK and I sometimes think he should be playing with big kids toys and games instead of hotwheel cars and buses, but those are what he truly enjoys. Whenever we ask him to go play, those are what he always reaches for sometimes it annoys us that he is not playing with age appropriate stuff. But these 11 year olds were so thrilled with the toy cars and especially the school bus. Between building the bridge, they used to all lay their hands on the toy cars and especially seemed to enjoy the school bus.  

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Ahh, Spring …

After a miserable start to the week, we finally have spring like temperatures the last two days. I’m hearing birds chirping all day and saw some very colorful ones on the deck and in the back yard. Soon flowers in all colors, shapes and sizes will be blooming, some in our own yard. I love this time of year. Actually, I probably say this about summer and fall too. PK says that is one of the things he has liked about living in New England – the seasons are so distinct and there’s always something to look forward to.

View from WachusettWe went hiking on “our” mountain, Mt Wachusett. We go there several times a year, since thats the closest mountain to our place. There are other state parks and walking trails near by, but this is the closest for a good, short climb. It was such a clear day that we saw Mt Monadnock (its summit still had snow), Boston and many other mountains. A has been hiking up here since he was 3. My mom has climbed up here too. And we have also dragged many friends along over thski trailse years. There is a paved auto-road which leads up to the summit, which opens in the end of May. It gets very crowded then. We usually always come down by the auto-road since it is easier on the knees, but today it was still covered in snow in parts, wherever the road intersects the ski trails, so we had to come down by the trail. In 2002, when A was just 8 months old, we went hiking there in April with some friends. That was a bad decision. The trail had snow, so half way thru, we decided to turn around and started going down the road, but then we came across these snow intersections and it was one of the most foolish things we have done – we had to walk across thick snow banks at least 4 times. None of us had good shoes or gloves and we somehow made it down.

We are thinking A may like going to a summer camp, so we checked out one today, on the way to the mountain. Basically, since the time we came back from San Juan, he had been asking to learn swimming, so we enrolled him in swim lessons at the local YMCA. It starts next week. He seems interested in many other activities and we don’t have time to take him to many of these. In a camp, he’d get exposure to many of them and then he’ll at least get a feel for what he really likes.

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We had a good stay at the San Juan Courtyard resort. We had an ocean-fronbalconyt room, with a mini fridge and a microwave, which was EXTREMELY convenient with a baby. She needs her milk as soon as she wakes up, which could be any time after 5 am. The only thing I wish they had was vegetarian choices for lunch and dinner. We survived mostly on Pizzas and subs (we tried some proper restaurants twice, but the service was very slow and the kids got tired and impatient before the food came, so fast food was the way to go).

Except for the first 2 days, the kids and PK played in the ocean everyday. On the first day, they tried it a bit and PK got the impression that the water was too deep and unsafe. There weren’t many others in the water either (may be because it was a Sunday and people were leaving to go back?). So, we just ventured out into Old San Juan. It was quite hot and sunny to walk around in the afternoon (It is a place to be enjoyed walking, not driving around). Many people said there were trolleys plying but we just couldn’t spot even one or figure out where the stops were. It also didn’t help that we know no Spanish. So after wandering aimlessly in the cobble stoned streets and enjoying some cotton candy we were back at the hotel.

The next day, we visited the rain forest, which is approximately 45 minutes drive fallsfrom trailSan Juan. Here, we climbed up to the top of the Yokahu tower for good views of the ocean, Luquillo beach and the El Yunque peak. We also hiked to the La Mina falls. It did drizzle on and off during our entire visit. Apparently it gets ~200 inches of rainfall per year. PK was excited to see hibiscus flowers. We had to make a meal out of french fries and ice cream.

Wednesday morning was spent on the beach. This time there were more people and the water felt less scary I guess. They spent all morning going in and out of the water. In the afternoon we went to Old San Juan again, but this time we went to the more historic side (lots of sights and monuments from the Spanish colonization time). We walked around the El Morro area. We didn’t have time to go inside the fort (by tel morrohe time we reached there, navigated around the narrow, crowded streets and found parking, it was closing time), but the location was quite beautiful. We hung around here a bit and then headed back to the area where there are lots of bars/restaurants. Apparently there’s quite a night life around here. There were at least 3 cruise ships in town that evening and the place was buzzing. We went to a middle-eastern restaurant for dinner and this was one of the places where food took more than an hour to come. We wanted to sit outside (much better with kids and inside anyway seemed filled with smoke) and had to wait for a table. And then people were drinking leisurely and no one was in a hurry for food. It was way beyond the kids dinner time and they filled up on crackers and other snacks. It was their bed time by the time food arrived and the kids were very restless sitting in one place for so long. A terrible experience.

Thursday, we visited a nature reserve  in Fajardo and took an interpretive tour. It was pretty good. Walked around some mangrove forests, saw plenty of iguanas hanging on the trees, some rocky beaches, and a light house. The views from the top of the light house were absolutely gorgeous.

After that it was total relaxing at the beach until we returned. The kids also enjoyed lazing in the pool even though neither can swim. We have to take them for lessons this summer. The only thing I wish we had done was one of those bio-luminescencetours. Not sure about all the places in the world this happens but it is heavily talked about in the travel sites on Puerto Rico. But they are in only 3 places and they were all a bit far from San Juan and required planning in advance.

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After a week of 80+ temperatures, we are back to the 30s here at home. Its been a terrible transition for all of us. It’ll be at least 2 months before we reach such temps here. We had a nice vacation. It was also the first time that we took a week long one, so it felt really good. We spent time with the kids and the kids spent a lot of time with each other.

The main reason for the trip was in celebration of our 10 yr wedding anniversary. The way we started out, I’m not sure if I would’ve believed it would last so long. There was nothing inherently wrong – I think the transition from being single to sharing space was probably a bit difficult for both of us and then there were so many external factors (visa issues, not being able to settle down in the same place etc). Living along two opposite coasts for > 6 months was not easy. Anyway, I guess we figured it out. I’m not sure if he’ll acknowledge, but I think I’ve mellowed quite a bit and become more easy going than the stubborn brat I used to be.  Even now, while we have our usual ups and downs, overall life is good and I’m thankful for it.

There’s a mountain of laundry to do. Besides all the stuff from last week, I’m forced to do bedding etc since S threw up on our bed this morning. And all the grocery stores are closed due to Easter, so that is not helping in getting all our weekend chores done. Thankfully we have the essentials like milk etc (some thoughtful shopping just before we left). Otherwise PK is used to heading straight to the grocery stores right after we get back from our India trips.

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