Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Schools and Day Care - How things have changed.

Rewind to 2007 - October... Akshat was 2 yrs and 4 months old. PSBB Millenium started issuing Admission Forms. We went, stood in Queue,showed his birth certificate, paid 100 Rs., took the form, went to a Photographer and took his passport photographs and filled our details (Parent's education, Job details, etc., etc.,) in the form and submitted in a day. We were still worried that many parents had all the required photos in hand and submitted the filled forms right away.Then the waiting in tension when we would receive the interview notifications.It did come after few days... We were excited. We had tried to make Akshat remember and say all his rhymes and others we thought they might ask him.

Early November, Interview day, we woke the kid early in the morning, got his ready, made a quick prayer to God and reached the school. There was a big long queue with anxious parents and kids who couldnt make out what was happening.We were finally called into a cute classroom with little chairs where even the teachers and we sat.
They made him sit next to a teacher and she was talking to him in English.. Now, Akshat talked fluently in Tamil and Telugu and made little attempts in English at home... We were worried. But the little fellow surpassed our expectations and managed to answer the teacher in simple words of Yes and No and she was happy. The rhymes questions was answered by the ABCD Song. so far so good. She then asked him to find 2 brinjals on the floor. He found 3 for her :) Then she asked to identify colours... And there I knew he had a problem... He said yellow for red, blue for green... but white and black were right :) We looked anxiously at the teacher and she said, "Thats fine. Can you wait outside, we will let you know". Coming out of the classroom, we could see some children crying at being questioned, and parents trying to comfort them. Akshat was puzzled.. "Mummy, why is everyone crying? "...

Then came the note from the teacher that Akshat passed the interview and we have to meet the principal :) Good. We were ready. As usual the half an hour to 45 minutes asking us where we live. Is it ok for the child to travel 8 kms. Then the Pre KG was going to be near Chennai Trade center which was just 4 kms. So she was fine. Then the question of how much can we spend with the child. Can I as a working mother concentrate on the child.. So on and so forth. But I knew they were happy, that we both were well educated, working in good companies.. and we could afford the enormous fees and the hike in the fees as well when it came up. She asked us to wait outside again. Then came the news that he got admission and we needed to pay 40600 + 2000 and odd for the books right away to confirm :) we managed. And to think we had paid off his school's fee for first term that was going to start only in June 2008.

Then the school opened, and am glad he enjoyed. very greatful for his teacher, Ms.Mary Delfin George... She was the best... He simply adored her and she gave the comfort zone to the child. He quickly learnt a lot. He spoke English flawlessly and he always got a great review back from school. ... And then LKG in 2009, They hiked the school fees. In all Just for the beginning Kindergarten years, a PreKG and LKG we ended up paying way over a lakh with all other expenses chipping in their part.... and add ons - the anxiety, the tension...

Well I dont blame the system... All private schools follow the same. But then his LKG teacher Mrs.Bindu was also wonderful. She gave so much support to the child..

Now how did I miss my son's best friends for the two years... First year, it was Tanuja all around.. They simply were the best friends. All day in class, they chit chatted.. Then come LKG, he was a little upset to go to school on the first day... Why?... because they changed Tanuja to A section and he moved to B... :( somehow sent him to school.... He came back in the afternoon and said.. Amma.. Keerthana is also so soft ma,... :) Now you know his great friend from LKG. .. So close, that when we told her that we were moving to Canada, she told me, Aunty .. you leave Akshat in our house for one year.. You and uncle go alone.. Let him be here with me. :) So sweet of her.. We miss her too...

Then came our planned move to Canada. A year of processing for immigration and all.. Why did we do that.. We wanted to do something for the child.. His future.. We held that as a reason. There may be other motivators in the play too.. Which I am not able to put in one single paper.
Well time to move on.. When we came to April.. We were anxious.. We left our jobs back in India... Now we had to find jobs.. Move forward. Through out the weekdays, he played around inside the shared guesthouse. We knew he hated to be indoors all the while. Btu what to do, it was cold here in April.. sometimes 11- sometimes 16 degrees.. and we couldnt risk his health...but we did take him well out during weekends when we could not hunt jobs.

We roamed very well. We went to CN Tower, Toronto Zoo, Science center, museum, historic museum, Toronto Island and shopping in big huge malls. We had to keep him happy. He ended up with a toy everytime. Good for us, that we had Dollarama where we get toys for 1 or 2 dollars... He would ask for toys that were 100 dollars but didnt find any difference if we got him only the one dollar one.. To him it was a toy.. to him .. he could break it any day!
Then Vimal got his job, and I couldnt hunt for jobs from then on. Reason.. Day care for Akshat??? The law is strict here that you cannot leave a child under 12 yrs old alone anywhere even for a minute... Then what to do.. Day cares have a long line up in waiting. And they are very strict about the number of children they can take. And the cost, heavy... 3 to 4 dollars per hour. That too when we have to spend from the Indian Savings we brought.. Not worth it...And they dont take adhoc that I could leave him just to attend the interview...

In May, We found an apartment to move in and went to meet the houseowners. They were very friendly Indian Couple. She suggested I walk to the corner of the road where there is a Public School. Guys here, The public schools are run by the Government. But a striking difference, the Quality and commitment - excellent. Before we moved into the house, we walked from there. It was a quick 7 minute walk, and we went in. There was a man standing in his T-Shirt and casuals in the Principals room and we asked him for admission procedure. He quickly said, "Mrs.Whitemore sits at this desk." He showed us her seat next to the principal's cabin and said.. "she is on leave today.. Come tomorrow and she will guide you. Give her a call in the morning before you come in." Akshat started playing with some stuffed toys inside the principal's cabin, and this guy, went up to Akshat and told him the name of the teddy bear he had in his hand. he asked Akshat if he wanted to come tomorrow and play with Brownie... and nice smile and a good handshake to Akshat. Then he gave us, Mrs. Whitemore's number and his card. We came out and saw, His card read... Kevin (He was the Principal).. Wow..

Next day morning we called her at 9 and she said you can come in any time before 3.. We said we would come right away. She asked us to get his Vaccination chart and our address proof. We went in, she said Welcome to Canada :) Then she gave us some forms to fill and took his vaccination sheet xerox and our address proof copy. And what was in the forms that we had to fill.. All details about the child.. How does he react to new people, does he talk well, when he started to speak first, is he allergic to any food, does he need any medicines to be given during school, does he need any attention seperately, Does he eat on his own, how are his eating preferences, Is he ok to take food at school, who would come to pick him up, all details about the child.

Not a single question, was about what we did, except for our names, address and contact numbers :) And she asked us which time of the day we preferred for school, morning 8:30 to 11:30 or 12:30 to 3:30 :) We had a choice. We asked her to put innto the morning batch. And she said, Ok, since it is already 11 today, he can come to school from tomorrow. Since he is just turning 5 this june, he can start the Senior Kindergarten (UKG) coming septemeber :) now for the one month, let him go to the Junior KG (our LKG)!!!!

"That's it?" We asked her.. And she smiled and said .. yes. :) We asked her if she needed his school TC and report cards.. She said, no... We dont need them. If the teacher wants she can see. you can show her. But we can assess the child and take care of his needs :) And there was not a word about the fees.. Its free for all children until the end of class ten... Of course this is a government board TDSB run public school... Not a private montessori.. We wouldnt have thought about a Govt School back home... But still...

I was stumped... And we went right away to buy him a school bag and snack box and water bottle. Thats all she needed. No uniforms in the Public school till high school ends. Good for us, he enjoyed it :) Next day morning, he went to school. Now the schools closed for summer in July and August and we are waiting for September, when our little fella will go into SKG here.

Oh I forgot, here JKG and SKG students are equally placed inside a same class room. There are three sections and each section has only about 18 students. and in that 18, half are JKG and half belong to SKG... and the SKG guys get to walk on stage at the end of year to receive their SKG Graduation certificates :)

Now to think of how different admissions were in India and how they happened here.. A saga on its own... Ofcourse a big trouble of daycare.. I finally found a very plesant family who live close by and take care of kids at home... Am content. Couple of these kids in the neighbourhood, are now going UCMAS classes. They go every friday and they are having fun.. and am glad to see how well he does additions and subtractions now :)

What more could I ask for :)

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Trip to Niagara

Like any holiday over a long weekend, this time too we planned to head out of town. It was Civic holiday on Aug 2nd in Canada and we planned to visit the most luring place we had in minds even before we moved here. Truly the magic of this place is not overstated. It is more so when you are viewing it from the Canadian side rather than the American side. Although the American part of Niagara looks subtle when you see both American side and Canadian sides at the same time, the mist as you get close to the American falls is fierce as well. Of course the depth and expanse and vastness of the Canadian Horseshoe falls is too great to explain in normal words.

We began on July 31st and took the quite comfortable Go Train to Niagara from Toronto. We booked at a comfortable hotel and immediately headed out for lunch. Starting to devour a great Italian Pasta Lunch, we headed straight on the Clifton hill road, slowly approaching the great gorge and falls. Such a place filled with Color and exuberance and a smile on every single face… People do enjoy summers to their full and it was a great feeling as we started.

Ready for a unique sightseeing opportunity with breathtaking views of the Falls and beyond, we headed on down to Clifton Hill and took a ride on Canada’s largest observation wheel, the Niagara Sky Wheel. Towering 175 feet (53 metres) over the Niagara Falls horizon, the Niagara SkyWheel is the most exciting way to see Niagara Falls. From this vantage point we were treated to memorable views of the Horseshoe and American Falls, the Niagara River Niagara Parks and other landmarks.

The Niagara SkyWheel is in deed a world-class ride featuring fully enclosed gondolas, each equipped with heating and air conditioning for year-round comfort and enjoyment... The ride duration was from 8 to 12 minutes with spectacular aerial views for miles in every direction. Evening rides offered dazzling views of the glittering lights of Clifton Hill and the surrounding Niagara skyline.

With a bird’s eye view of the Niagara River, Niagara Parks and Clifton Hill, there was no better way to snap incredible photos and quickly get the lay of the land.

From our end we saw the American Falls on the left and The Canadian Horseshoe Falls on the right. We could see the force erupting into mist at the Canadian end while the mist stays low at the American Falls end.

We headed next to Maid of the Mist – The exciting boat ride on the Niagara River to the footsteps of the Falls at both American and Canadian Fall drop zonesMaid of the Mist Boat tour going up close and personal to the American Falls

While the American falls may look like a flat cascading waterfall, it is in actual fact a little jagged. Who knows, maybe after another few centuries of erosion it will become something like the Horseshoe Falls (Canadian Part of Niagara Falls)!

The mesmerizing Horseshoe Falls was huge and magnificent. Staring at the gushing water almost made me feel like I was going to get washed away!

Dressed up in the recyclable rain coats to keep us from getting drenched, it was an exciting walk as we boarded the boat. Water rushed all around as we did "soak" in the excitement and explored the roar of the ‘Falls’. A historical ride aboard the world-famous Maid of the Mist is a half hour thrill of a lifetime! The Maid of the Mist did bring us pretty close to the Horseshoe Falls, but the towering mist made it difficult to see anything. Only by standing on the edge at the Canadian side did we fully experience the magnificence of this natural wonder called the Niagara….

Feeling the Thunder – A journey behind the falls

The sound is like thunder, the sight awe-inspiring! It’s a journey deep below and behind the heart of Niagara and stand in the mist where the mighty Horseshoe Falls tumbles from 13 storeys above!

At Journey Behind the Falls, we did experience the awesome spectacle of one-fifth of the world’s fresh water crashing down to the basin below. During summer daylight hours, they said over 2,800 cubic meters of water thunders over the brink every second, travelling 65 kilometers per hour! Enough to fill a million bath tubs per second.....

The entire Journey behind the Falls visit took us about 30 to 45 minutes. We received a free souvenir biodegradable rain poncho as protection from the mist of the Falls. Elevators descended 150 feet through bedrock to tunnels that lead and to the Cataract Portal and the Great Falls Portal which is one third of the way behind the massive sheet of water. Then you walk on to the Upper and Lower Observation Decks at the very foot of the Falls. The view from standing exactly behind the fall and see the water drop in front of us… Phew! What an excitement to live in.

Rainbow Galore

As we headed out, The Rainbows that sprang up, from the waters.. spectacular scenery that I had only imagined before.. and there they were in front of our eyes.. First over the American Falls and as we moved above to the Incline Railway, The massive rainbow over the Horseshoe falls, was just too good to be true.. but it was true, for Akshat jumped in joy and stamped my feet, and made me realize I was not imagining scenes :)

Whirlpool Aero Car

Next day we landed at the Whirlpool Aero Car… High above the racing Niagara River, we were transported through the air in an antique cable car.

Far below, the torrent of water abruptly changed direction and created one of the world’s most mesmerizing natural phenomenons – the Niagara Whirlpool. It was frightening and as expected - unforgettable! The cable car was suspended from sturdy cables and offered a wonderful view of the Niagara Whirlpool which was formed at the end of the rapids where the gorge turned abruptly counterclockwise and the river escapes through the narrowest channel in the gorge.

Our Next Stop – The simulated show showing the creation of Niagara Falls over 10000 Yrs - Niagara’s Fury!

Water bubbled and sprayed while snow fell all around. Standing in the mist on a massive platform we felt the full wrath of Mother Nature as the floor tilted and trembled beneath us. Incredible images produced with technology previously used only in satellites and medicine immersed in a “4D” Universal Studios-style attraction. The experience started with an 8 minute animated Pre-show, where charming woodland characters explained us how the Ice Age formed Niagara Falls. Then, in a specially designed, 360 degree theatre, we witnessed the Creation of the Falls in a 6-minute, multi-sensory extravaganza!


From there we went up the Incline Railway and walked past the CASINO… Now don’t ask us what we did there… It was off bounds for me for Akshat was not permitted in…. We went from there to Skylon Tower. We took an ultra fast 52 second ride in the glass-fronted “Yellow Bug” elevators to the very top of the Skylon Tower, which stood an astounding 775 feet above the base of the Falls! The circular design and provision of the three observation levels within the tower allowed us to enjoy one of the best unobstructed views of Niagara Falls! The outdoor and indoor observatories are located on the third floor of the dome and are the highest vantage points. On a clear day, it mentioned that visitors can see close to 80,000 square miles far, including the skylines of Toronto and Buffalo!

For an extra special evening, we thought of dining at the Skylon Tower Revolving Restaurant, but it was way too costly where we were sure Akshat would hardly eat anything... We then went past the Games Zone where he played to his fill and got a flexible pencil as a gift (We only managed 55 tickets in the games). Of course we didn’t miss the 3D movie experience atop the Skylon Tower! “The Legends of Niagara Falls,” which was playing. It was a clear adventurous show with simulators and excellent 3D Graphics that featured the history of the Falls and the old Indian Legend surrounding the Maid of the Mist.

Day 3 – Aug 2nd - Marine Land

The final day, a memorable destination in mind, we checked out of the hotel. Landing at Marine Land, it was a sight to see with the Sky Screamer being visible so far from the hotel itself.
This park’s slogan is “Everyone Loves Marineland”.. Well we did too… Though there are not a big number of rides like how we do have at MGM or Queensland.. But the ones that were there, were just Splendid... Enormous... Very thrilling in deed.

The best part of course was the stroller rental available, and good we took one for Akshat, for the extensive area of the park, it would have been an overkill on the child if he had to walk. They should do this at our Indian Parks too… It just is so comfortable for the parents. Whatever, it was definitely needed here as its not like our Indian parks where every available space is used to setup a ride, but the vast expanse of land, is flourishing with Trees, Heavy dense trees to promote animals and preserve trees. There are huge picnic spots, if we want to bring in home food, lay down a carpet and enjoy within our group with excellent room for fun and picnic areas and uninterrupted privacy:) There were Ocras, Whales, Dolphins, Bears, Walruses, and we even had a chance to feed the fish :)

And for the rides, all the Children’s rides, parents could go along… they call them family rides here. A Little boring for us but guess was exciting for the little ones. It was amazing to see the amount of care the parents take of children here and that too without screaming or shouting or scolding or beating. Just a word, that son, you continue to do this, we are going home and the child stops all tantrums… wonder how we could teach this to the Indian Kids.

And the thrilling rides….

Dragon Mountain Roller Coaster: an Arrow roller coaster which opened as the world's largest (not longest) non-stop roller coaster (covering 30 acres). It features tunnels that lead to the queue area, has two consecutive vertical loops and the only bowtie loop of its kind in the world
Breathtaking… What an experience…
Sky Hawk: a spinning ride which also moves vertically up and down. Features one- or two-person cages without restricting belts or harnesses.
Wave Swinger: a swing ride with a moving top that allows the swings to move up and down. The first adult ride the park ever had.
The only major adult ride thriller that Akshat had a chance to be in coz of height restrictions… now that is an incentive to me, for the past two days I am tricking him to eat without making a fuss, that only if he grows quite tall soon, we can take him along in all thrillers next time J
Lady Bug Coaster: children's roller coaster features a lady bug cart. …
Well I need to admit it was the most thrilling of all family rides
Tivoli Wheel: a "hanging" Ferris wheel.
Magic: a spinning ride located near the bear area; features statues of bears on the ride.
Kandu's Twister: a "teacup" style ride that features orcas on the sides of the cups.
Space Avenger: a spinning ride that features a control panel in the cages allowing the rider to move vertically up and down.
Dragon Boats: a simple carousel with a Viking boat theme.
Flying Dragon a ride that offers thrills for a lot of ages, goes up into the air then falls back down without inversion.
Sky Screamer: It is situated on a 150 foot tall hill, making the total height of the ride 450 feet, which affords the rider an impressive view of the city and the falls. It is a recognizable landmark with the Marineland logo at the top clearly visible at night.
Topple Tower: This ride has a circular gondola where the passengers sit, is elevated into the air and then starts spinning, and the tower rocks back and forth on a 60 degree angle, giving it a 30 degree angle with the ground, and its scenery features a walrus on top of the tower.
Viking Adventure: it is a small sized Viking boat ride that operates on a track to rock passengers back and forth and spin them around.
Orca Screamer: this is a miniature, child size one-tower version of the famous Sky Screamer.
Bumble Bee: this brightly coloured children's ride allows parents and children to sit in a car together a bee elevated and spun around.

The day ended with a Show of Walruses, bottle nose dolphins and California Sea lions showing tricks and splashes to an wonderstruck audience… and then we were on our way to catch the Go Train back to Toronto…

Finally to conclude, Niagara Falls is such an idyllic place, and the holiday setting that truly makes everyone happy, and live in a sight of smiley people ..

Btw.. You can browse through our other Toronto Weekend outing pics too in the gallery :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My nostalgic trip to GCT

Heading back to GCT I was kind of thinking how the place would be... Quite anxious to see the place that I had left behind 9 yrs ago.

Reaching Coimbatore was a bit tiring for me. I had planned the visit too short of notice and could get only Mangalore Express ticket... Starting to wonder why they call it an express... It stopped at all places on the way and chennai to coimbatore took just 12:30 hrs! The waiting room at the coimbatore junction was still the same. What to say.. I even recognized the man who collected 2 rs for resting in the waiting room :)

Took an auto and went straight to GCT. Got down near the auditorium. New posters ....one model of a ship.. all reminiscent of the Graduation Day ceremony for 2009 passouts. One look around and the old hostels looked even older. Went to the COE office, gave the application. The erstwhile SBI extension counter is no more the same. Its a full fledged branch looking all sophisticated with netbanking enabled kiosks, atm center and a well managed banking system... Now how different was paying mess bills all those years back :)

Roamed a little and tried to meet our old professors and lecturers.... Not many still at GCT... Of all those whom I met, half of them said they didnt remember me :) But half of them said werent you wearing spectacles then! They remembered me... Yipee !

Shanthi mam was saying I still look the same except for the little cheeks that are prominent now. Some said I don't look like a mother of an almost 5 yr old :) Now.. werent they being sweet. Everyone were like sit .. you are no more a student.. ofcourse I have been out for 9 yrs complete. What more our dear Chemistry sir of first year .. he recognised me promptly.. of course he didnt forget the spectacles too... They all said they were happy to see me come back and meet them.. and wished me luck :)

Our geology Natarajan sir is the MBA MCA admission cell secretary now. He called Rajagopalan sir and made me talk to him. Though he didnt remember our set when I gave him the set students names, he said that the names sound familiar though he couldnt place the year :) I met our Survey lab attenders and even our Strength of Materials lab store keeper... Of all the people I ever met in college today, she was the only one who remembered by name and face and I didnt need to give any introduction to her. They all said they were proud of us... though noted most of us are not in India now.

Am proud of all of them too ..... They look still the same... They teach still the same. :) Valuation time... so couldnt meet another group of professors.

Seeing the girls and guys teasing each other.. the boyish talk :) wondering we did all that too all those years back :) but today it all looked funny to me. Perceptions have changed.. for the better? Who knows. Exposure does a lot of refining.

Young girls and guys coming out from classes.. workshop uniforms. ..But there was not that much of life in the college.... I felt it looked full of energy and color when we were there... It looked very mechanical to me. All buildings looked old.. wonder if they renovated at all.. A little changes in the infrastructure here and there.. But it was well maintained and preserved when we were studying.... Only big difference.. There's an alumni building, department of civil engineering block with seminar hall opposite Computer Science building just outside the workshops and labs.

and the new Alumni building thats being constructed.

Went around the walls behind the pelton wheel in front of the Gandhiji's picture frame... All our set college medalists' names are all included. Moved around the hostel roads... palaru illam's visitors hall now had the board as Internet Center! but locked.

Dispensary and the hostel office.. still the same....

As I walked out of the college.. I was amazed at the number of Xerox shops that have sprung up. Every where I turned there were so many of them! Our old telephone shop which sold the greeting cards and had the public telephone booth.. the catalog is different now. They sell all mobile sim cards, recharge cards... the next shop sells traveler's bags. Every one in the college seemed to sport a mobile phone. no wonder there is no need for a telephone booth... and not many cycles on the hostel road too.. Saw many scooters plying inside the college.... no wonder there is a two wheeler service center just outside.

My biggest disappointment....... Home Bakers were no longer at home :( The nice shop we loved to visit.. is now taken over KR Bakers. It looks a big chain and every road in Coimbatore seems to have the KR Bakers outlet. And the only decent hotel in the area was opposite Avila convent near the Venkitapuram bus stop. From the times we saw college students filling the roads, today.. it was full of school students.. So many schools around GCT! the effect of it was seen no where else than Baba stores the most.

Remember the shop where we used to go for stationary.. HB, 2B all silly pencil stuff... It sports all kiddoo stuff, like what I buy for my son's school assignments every week or month. stickers of leaders, plants, exam pads and etc etc.... Wow.. Life has changed so much here.

Took some photos. Will share after some time.

I came back to the railway station. Still 3 hrs to go... Killing the time.. writing my blog...

Phew! what a day it has been...

Some mixed feelings. Missing friends with whom I roamed around. but life has changed. So much that the distance we easily walked from college to the bus stop seemed ages long to me.. May be the heat.. May be I have got too used to driving than walking now.. May be I have become too used to comfort now...

Life has definitely changed :)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Open Source or Cut, Copy and Paste?

"The migration has to go in tomorrow, Alok", said Ram, the project manager. Even though his voice was soft, Alok really couldn't miss the steely edge in Ram's voice. "I will try my best" managed Alok.

Late in the night, almost alone, Alok ran his fingers through his hair. "Migration code" - That was the only thing in his mind. And then it struck him. He quickly browsed the open source repository. Somewhere he had seen that bit of code to make it all fit together. It was in that now retired application. Alok had a smile on the corner of his lips now.

He carefully read the code and did a cut and then a paste onto his workspace. Lo! the Migration code is all set for testing and MTP tomorrow. He called Ram and said, 'Ram, I've fixed the migration code now. We are good to go for the show tomorrow.!" Ram chuckled at the other end. He was a programmer too before he took over as a manager. He knew, Alok would have got up, stretched and bent down to lock his computer for the day by now.

Now to think of the best things to ever happen to a programmer... Isn't that Open Source and even better was Cut, Copy & Paste :)