Teaching Sex Ed


I have a great teaching partner.   Holly and I were born 10 years and a day apart.   We grew up maybe 40 miles from each other.   We met in India and are the High School PE department.  We sit three feet from each other and have such a similar philosophy to getting kids active and healthy that it seems impossible that one of us was an outgoing popular jock (her) and the other an introverted wall flower.   But we have found this incredible middle ground and it works.

This picture was taken after I came to work with 100 condoms (in the cute bag that Brooke gave me and Holly is holding) and we had the shared goal of teaching kids from around the world the importance of safety once sexually active.   Instead of the bananas we used relay batons.   Oh, to have heard students answer their parent’s question about what they learned in school that day!

Jacob went into the pharmacy with me when I bought the stack of condoms.


He asked…  “Pa,  are you sick?”

I laughed.   I told him I wasn’t but was buying these so that kids learned how to not get sick and so that they didn’t have babies when they were too young.

The next day,  just before this photo was taken,  Jacob helped un-box and separate the condoms and put them in the bag.   He loves to help his dad.  At one point,  noting the picture on the boxes, he said that they were for girls so they didn’t have babies.   I chucked as I corrected him — they were actually for boys.   He said “Boys can’t have a baby!”

Oh son…  we will continue this conversation later.

Habitat for Humanity work

A few months ago, Jordan and I spent part of a Saturday with a group of other students from the school to participate in a work party for Habitat for Humanity.  Our school was assigned to help with a home that was largely finished.  They mostly needed help with moving bricks.Habitat for Humanity Tamil Nadu


So we moved bricks — something like a thousand of them.  Some we moved to the roof for construction of the parapet wall, others were moved behind the building for later use.

The bricks were so rough, that after a few hours of handling them I actually had already developed holes in the thumb and finger pads of the gloves they gave to us.

It was a hot day (I doubt I would say otherwise much here) and we had to keep up with our water consumption.

We spent more time in the bus than we did actually working, but it was good to put some sweat and labor into a worthy project.  We learned that the recipients of the Habitat build work have to provide their own sweat-equity into the project.  They also will repay the organization — that the home materials are not free, but the loan conditions are those that a non-profit issues and not those of a bank set on profits has.


My April stats from my work email account

This is a word cloud using the most common words from my April emails.

I just installed this Chrome app that scrapes through my email.  (Don’t worry, it has some great reviews from some significant media sources so I’m not too concerned about privacy issues). It told me interesting statistics for the month of April such as:

  • I received 516 emails of which 65% were directly addressed to me (not to a mailing list).
  • I send, and receive a gradually increasing number of messages on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but that declines quickly Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  See the chart below. (I suspect that travel for the meet a few weeks ago hit that significantly.)
  • 56% of my email came from outside of the school’s domain.  (I’ve been emailing operators for our Discover India trips quite a bit.)
  • I reply to 21% of my messages within 5 minutes, another 21% withing 15 minutes, and another 22% of messages in less than an hour.  That’s 64% of my messages that I respond to sent within an hour of receipt.
  • About 70% of my email messages have less than 10 words!

weeklytraffic april

Mitten isn’t well

For a few weeks, Mitten has been getting more and more sick. At first she was vomiting a bit, then more, and then we noticed she had stopped eating and was becoming very lethargic. Opportunities to take her to the vet just didn’t seem to come up. When I finally did take her she barely complained about being put in her carrier and also meowed little while in the car. She clearly wasn’t feeling well.

The vet immediately gave her a subcutaneous fluid injection for a few minutes, drew some blood, sedated her and did an EKG. He then had an assistant walk me and the cat to a diagnostic center for the blood tests and to have a couple of xrays done.

The next day (yesterday) he called me and told me to pick up the blood test results and come to the clinic. A colleague of his had studied the xrays and confirmed a concern about a light spot on the image in her kidneys. That along with the blood work showing high BUN (blood urea nitrogen), creatinine levels, and white blood cell count makes him suspect kidney stones and renal failure. He suggested she continue the subcutaneous IV fluids and trying to shift to a renal diet – mostly low protein. Then after a week we will have the blood work done again and see if levels have decreased. All of this cost me about $100 USD.

This is neat — the vet does house calls. Many days it will not be easy for us to get mitten to the clinic. So having her get her treatment won’t be quite as difficult on us. We won’t have to build everyone’s schedule about Mitten’s treatments. (Jordan can still go to the mall and watch a movie with his friends while I go help out with a swim meet at the school and the vet and assistant can stop by the house while Pepper is there or even during school days as long as our driver has returned home.

I have to say, the availability of medical care – even for our cats seems to be quite good. Sure, the clinic that I took her to was tiny, perhaps not nearly as clean as an American vet clinic, and was crowded with people coming and going with their pets. But blood work, xrays, EKG, and an IV for $100? The house calls for her treatment won’t be cheap… but it is available and will still be relatively affordable. Now, finding renal diet cat food here might be another story!


Let’s play “Find the Microchip” and “Find the Kidney Stone” kids!

BOOM! I made Silver membership on Jet Airways.

That was pretty fast.  In October, after realizing that I was flying Jet airways quite a bit with vacations, coaching traveling sports teams, and the occasional work trip I joined Jet Airways incentive program.

It’s free to join mileage programs and a smart move when an expat in an area that you’re likely to be for a bit.  Unfortunately the airline that is connected with Star Alliance and flies out of Chennai is the worst — poor record for on-time flights, lots of cancellations, friends that have flown have experienced cockroaches on-board, lost baggage, etc.  So I have tried my best to stay away from that unnamed airline and stick with Jet Airways.

I have been doing regular reviews of hotels, restaurants and attractions on Trip Advisor like I suggested a while back.  I flew with them to Dhaka, Bangladesh for our fall break.  Then a flight to Bombay for volleyball.  In February I flew with them to Kathmandu, Nepal for soccer.  Then for our spring break it was a flight to Delhi to be tourists.  And last week we flew with Jet to Muscat, Oman.  Five flights and the reviews that I wrote (I’m not sure that they counted toward the attainment) landed me at Silver on their six month quick route.

The Silver status gives me benefits like checking in at dedicated counters, priority standby, 10 kg of extra baggage allowance on flights within India, an extra piece of checked luggage, 15% extra mileage accrual, and an upgrade voucher.

Orkhon Valley, Mongolia

For our fall break of 2011, Pepper, Jordan and I went with friends Grant and Leanne through many sites in the historic Orkhon valley. While I uploaded photos from the trip to Facebook, I didn’t do a blog post about it.

We spent our first night at Hustai National Park where the wild horses have been reintroduced. It snowed and when we opened our ger door in the morning there was a thin blanket of snow everywhere. We spent the following morning driving through the park seeking horses but enjoying the snowy landscape despite never seeing the horses.

For the next few days we usually drove a fair bit, saw sights and then slept at either very small guesthouses or in gers that were available for rent.  It was a good thing that we hired a car and driver because navigating the landscape, finding the next town and then locating the place to stay would not be easy unless you speak Mongolian.  Asking for directions is very frequent in Mongolia!

Nepal on my mind


The two stiff whiskey drinks are not masking the man’s breath next to me.   He is confused by most of the questions on the Indian customs form.  I just filled out half of it for him.  He isn’t dumb or drunk…  but probably wants to be.   He is Nepali and flying back home to Kathmandu after the devastating earthquake there yesterday.

Things like the earthquake there hit harder with the international travel and connections that we have as expats.   At the track meet we had a team from a school in Nepal.  Some of the kids went hours before they were able to hear from family.  Some lost relatives.  All will be going back to a home (however temporary or permanent) that will be in disarray.   Most of their homes are undoubtedly constructed to higher standards than the majority of Nepali.  But they will have homes of neighbors,  shops, and streets that will be unrecognizable.  

I was in Kathmandu in February and the son of the family I stayed with while there was at the track meet.  They had a wall mounted earthquake detector that I was intrigued by and now I wonder if they were home and heard it go off.  The father was a teacher and the mother worked for the US embassy.   She is undoubredly busy right now.   Busy tracking down Americans.   People on vacation.  People trekking or climbing Everest.   People that live in Nepal and had their means to communicate with their families severed along with the country’s infrastructure.  I wonder about the referees of our soccer matches.  I wonder about the kids that just yelled “die” at us as we walked by one morning.   I wonder if the narrow alley we walked along each morning is full of bricks and other parts of homes and lives. I know that some of the sites I was wishing I had time to visit are now destroyed but that isn’t nearly as relevant as the group of kids on that track team that are hoping to get back to home via an airport that has been shutting down because of the quake and strong aftershocks.

Suddenly the men that were removing the packaging from three-packs of huge flashlights made sense to me.  They will need batteries.  Water.  Blankets.  Maybe that is why most of the checked baggage looked like a pile of blankets bundled and bagged.   This flight I am on is the first leg for disaster relief workers that are headed home to pull bricks off of family members and neighbors.

I asked the man next to me on the flight if his family was alright and his home intact.  I think that his brother’s leg is broken, though his English is limited he made a hacking motion on his femur and said “brother.”  It sounds like his employer gave him two months off to help rebuild his brother’s home.  Regardless,  I then wonder if I should hand him all of my Oman rial and U.S. dollars.  I could donate to a cause and cut out all the middlemen. 

I keep wondering how many people on this flight are headed home to try and cope with the disaster.

Oh, the places you’ve slept


It is hard for me to not take photos of Jacob sleeping.  Right now we are waiting to check in for a flight from Muscat,  Oman back to India.  We have a while before I need to disturb him and Clifford by checking in his bed.   The moments before he passed out he was humming and singing Pharrell’s “Happy” which I think he says “because I’m happy bummm da bummm da bummm.” 

Jacob crashed in the cool down room at the track meet.

We are returning from Oman where we have been since Wednesday for the three day track and field meet.  I have been coaching the shot put and discus four days a week from 6:15 to 8 in the morning since the middle of February. I had throwers place in almost every age group,  many personal bests and a 13-14 girls shot put record for the school set by a half meter. 

Pepper has been coaching the high and long jump events and had some great successes including three gold medals and a new high jump record for our school in the 15-18 boys.

Jordan had a good meet and was even on the 4×400 and 4×100 relays which earned third and second place respectively.

Our team of four coaches also put in a performance at the expositionary 4×100 event where we won our heat.

Speaking of heat,  it was warm.   We usually had a four hour break in the middle of the day to avoid the 100 degree heat.   There was plenty of dehydration,  cramping,  exhaustion and collapsing.  

It is nice to be done with the season.  I am done with coaching until August so I will feel like my work days are much shorter for the rest of the school year.  But I am sure I will miss working with the kids and after seeing so many of them perform so well over the past few days it is bitter sweet to be at the end.

We are heading to Oman for a track meet


If I told you a story about visa hassles leading to having to change flights you might think I was retelling a story from last fall when Jacob and I had to trail behind the rest of the family by a few days.   Or maybe you thought I was telling a story from the year before when we were held up over a week because of visa problems… 

Nope.  I am telling a new story about visa problems leading to police clearance letters for a 9 year old and a flight missed by 12 hours…  but things are all working out and Jacob and I are on the next flight to Muscat,  Oman to catch up with Jordan,  Pepper,  and the rest of the track team.

We have all been practicing since mid February at 6:15 in the morning (sleepily hitting the snooze button at 4:45) and this is the season-end meet.   Pepper has coached the long and high jumps.   I have coached the discus and shot put.   Jordan has mid distance events as well as jumps and even is throwing shot put.   Jacob gets to miss school for three days and be a cheerleader.

Ryan McFarland's travel, thoughts, projects and more.