Thursday, December 17, 2009

Survive Mumbai, Survive the World

We are down to the final hours of my time here in Mumbai and while I do miss home, I wish leaving was optional. I think part of this has to do with days here being in the high 80s and sunny. And well.... Philly isn't. Not even close. Aside from the weather, Matunga Central has become home. I will miss roaming the chaotic streets, dodging cars & pile of poo and maneuvering through the hoards of people in the markets and streets. Getting a taxi where the driver understands you, doesn't try to rip you off and listening to the sound of the gear shift as the taxi from decades past putters down the street will be missed. Everything in the US will be too easy and boring. In Mumbai, you don't have to make your own adventures, they just happen. But at the end of it, if you have survived Mumbai, you can survive anywhere.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=bt1VKvDoESQ

Who wants to win Bacardi Shorts!


I want to win bacardi shorts. At the Hard Rock Cafe, it was ladies night and my last night in Mumbai. The dj announced a contest for the women and the first qustion was who was the author or Pride and Prejudice. Being the scholar that I am, I knew the answer and won. But, surprise, I didn't win Bacardi shorts. I won a Bacardi shot. Going up to the bar to cash in on my winnings, another surprise was waiting for me. Not only did I not win Bacardi shorts. I didn't win a shot in a shot glass. I think the picture explains it all. Not my style, but this was won using the old noggin. Picture coming soon to technical difficulties.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Stray Dogs Don't Eat Paratha


This story actually comes in two parts. As we also found out that stray dogs do eat pizza.

Last night, on our way back from dinner, Heather decided to share her leftovers with the families on the street. Most of them anyways as we decided it would be best not to feed them non- veg food. So the pizza went to the dogs. Two slices and we just so happened across two dogs sleeping on a pile of dirt. The first dog was given a slice; then, Heather tried to get the attention of the second and was unsuccessful and threw the pizza at the dog. Had the dog been paying attention perhaps the slice would'nt have hit him in the head and scared the living daylights out of him and causing him to jump very high in the air. We died laughing.

Today, Heather decided to share her remaining paratha with a local dog who had visited our table and looked rather famished. He snubbed her scrap offerings and she decided to give them to more appreciate dogs. Well this didn't work as a few more dogs snubbed her scraps as well. Attached is a photo of a dog walking two feet away and resettling. You can see the scrap just lying there. Apparently he couldn't even stand to be near the scraps. Apparently beggars can be choosers, even if you are a dog.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Farewell to Welingkar


Today was our last day at Welingkar. We had lunch with the faculty and said our good-byes. Being finished with the program has officially hit me. While I am excited to enjoy a relaxing last week in Mumbai, I am sad to be leaving school and the classroom in which we spent countless hours together. As a parting gift, the staff gave us lamps which I plan to bring to Temple for the first day of orientation. It's just not official until you have a lighting ceremony. Perhaps I will have to make one last stop on campus for some chai, an omlette grilled sandwhich and some final good-byes. School is just not gonna be the same in Philly without chai breaks.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Realization

It's December 1st, hot, sunny, not littered with Christmas decorations here in Mumbai and the final month of my time here in India. With less than three weeks to go, I undoubtably will have more stories to come. Most likely in a week once classes are over and the real fun begins.
And I would also just like to note that this is the first Christmas, in three years, that I do not have to deal with peak! (I also look forward to pointing that fact out at Valentine's Day & Mother's Day...particularly Valentine's Day)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Turkeyless Thanksgiving In India


When I first got into this program, while I couldn't have been happier, a part of me was very sad that I would be missing Thanksgiving for the second year in a row. I consoled myself with the fact that once again, my mom would make Thanksgiving dinner for Christmas. However, it's just not the same. Very thankfully, the Bell family invited our group over for Thanksgiving dinner. The visiting mothers had brought decorations & food which made it feel like Thanksgiving and all the normal foods of corn, mashed potato, cranberry sauce (impressively canned & homemade), green beans, among others were prepared. The only thing was instead of a turkey, we had tandoori chicken. But no matter, it was just amazing to have a home cooked meal and some American style food. After dinner and seconds on dinner, dessert came out including homemade apple crisp. And the best part was, they shared the leftovers and gave us goodie bags. I think I am tied over for now on craving most foods. Although, I still want beef. On the way home, we saw the normal people in the back of a truck but this time with a goat & a goat in the back of a rickshaw. Mumbai, four months later, you still continue to surprise me. Great food, great company & a goat made a Thanksgiving I couldn't have been more thankful for.


A Potpourri of Unknown Medications

So the headache on Friday, came back Saturday night with a fever. Sunday I felt a bit better; however, just before bed the fever and headache returned. Monday, it was all over. I could barely get out of bed and not only had the most massive headache but also was sweating so bad from the fever that my clothes and bed were soaked not to mention the bout of chills I experienced where my fingers were white for 20 minutes and I couldn't get warm until I piled on the layers. By Tuesday, it was time for the doctors. I went to the local doctor a few doors down. No appointment needed and the office was a garage. The closest thing I got to a typical examination was saying ahhhhhh. Otherwise, I described my symptoms (which he seemed disappointed he couldn't easily diagnose me with food poisoning since I'd been here 4 months) and then he gave me a bunch of medicines as seen above. I was not told what they were or what they do but only to take certain ones at certain times of the day. All that for rs150 or about 3$. Following his instructions, pills were to be taken every eight hours. They only last four before the fever would return and I would be consumed by fever or chills. The pinnacle came at 4 in the morning when I felt like my face was going to burst into fire. Nothing was able to cool me down. Once morning came, it was time to go to the hospital. My lovely roommate escorted me to the hospital. Upon arriving, we found there was not a waiting room. We were just put in the long hall of "patient exam" rooms. Eventually, we were called into the doctor's office. After explaining my symptoms, headache & fever, he did the most advanced and out-of-date examination. Normal heart rate with the stethoscope, this really cool gadget put on my finger to take some readings of which I can only assume blood pressure & my temperature with a glass thermometer stuck under my armpit. I must say I was glad it wasn't being stuck somewhere else. Temp at 101. More meds, a shot and blood work was order. Getting the shot: I was taken into one of the patient "exam" rooms and told to lie down. Ummm gross. No paper covers but linen that had lord knows what stains on it. I pushed it aside. Getting blood work: Taken into a shared room with some little girl screaming. Wish I wasn't supposed to be a big girl so I could cry too. Hope I don't get hep. Peeing in a cup: Yup had a urine test. Very glad I had to pee but the fever had dehydrated me. After all was said and done, we went back to the doctors to give him the paper work to pick up my tests. We were supposed to go back for a follow-up but the drugs did their trick, the test results told me what I had and I wasn't going to waste my time. While I appreciated the cheapness of the doctors, I definately missed the steril enviroments. If I can't smell the disinfectant, it's not clean enough. BTW, all meds were obtained no prescription. It's better than going to Canada.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Help. I'm Surrounded.


One of our corporate visits was to an NGO. The NGO, Akanksha helps poor kids get an eduation. Unfortunately, they decided to take us to one of their learning centers. Kids were everywhere. Everywhere! This was going to be a long day. One of the girls even commented on my eyebrows. I don't know what is up with the kids and my eyebrows here. After their lessons, we all went out to build towers in groups. It was pretty cool to see how involved and excited the kids got over the competition and even some of my classmates....myself not being one of them. By the end of the day, I had a massive headache which I assumed was to the loudness of the school. Ooooo foreshadowing.

No More Forts!!




Upon arriving in Delhi, we were taken to what was about the gazillionth fort on our trip. Immediately, we vetoed it and any other sites we had planned for the day; we were forted out. We tried to have our driver take us to a market where we could get street vendor food but he mistook us and took us to a high street. We wandered the back streets til we found a hole-in-the-wall. Sadly, other white people had found it as well. Guess we weren't that special.


That evening, we wandered the streets near our hotel and found a plethora of street vendors. Everything from puri to frankies. I also discovered frankies are a Bombay thing. Or so the sign said. So we tasted as many as our bellys would allow. It was delicious. The others tried paan as well but having a wad in my mouth and spitting just isn't my thing.


This was the end of our trip. We headed back to Mumbai and now I can focus on recounting the stories of the weeks following. Hopefully soon I will be caught up.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Little Bit of Awe; Lot a Bit of Antics at the Taj





Waiting in the long queue to enter the Taj just didn't seem like a priority. So we didn't; now, I doubt many people, if any, can say they re-dressed (a friend in my case) in the cove of the mosque & made a music video at the Taj.
The re-dressing: Annie who bought a sari was determined to wear it to the Taj. And she did. However, on our stroll around some little girls started pointing and laughing. Their sister came up and told Annie she had her sari & blouse on all wrong. Guess I didn't know that much about dressing in a sari. Needless to say, we were whisked away to a cove in the mosque and the re-dressing process began. I say process because it was a process. A process that involved multiple people, inputs and ended up in the removal of improper hair ties & sunglasses and resulted in the addition of bindis & proper hair ties to give the look of a proper Indian woman. After what was at least a half hour, we re-entered, made fun of other white people's failed attempts at wearing a sari, proceeded to acquire a stalker & Annie gained a million compliments.
Stalker, an Indian boy in his young 20s, was acquire during the re-dressing story time to Bob. Then proceeded to follow to the other side of the mosque & watched our next adventure.
Making of a Music Video:
On the other side of the Taj, we found Shawn. It was now time to make a music video. Annie & I were to be the dancers to Shawn who was the main character while Bob filmed the scenes. After Shawn choreographed and we practiced, we filmed three scenes. Each as ridiculous as the last and all in front of tourist watching. No one applauded our performance though.....

I rode an elephant & a camel in one day.




Booya touchdowned Jaipur.
We also had lunch at this amazing, hole-in-the-wall place where the locals had to fight for tables. We didn't cause we were white.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oompa Loompa & Solving to Death


All through our Golden Triangle travels, an eight or so day adventure, we had the priveledge of having Mr. Sardar as our driver. The good man got us to our destinations without getting lost (expect that one time arriving in Delhi), brought us to pleasant rest stops for our afternoon chai, kept us well hydrated, and never complained when consistantly we would show up late in the morning. After so many days, I came to the realization that our Mr Sardar, looked like the Oompa Loompa from the new Charlie & the Chocolate Factory movie which we just watched for our HR class (apparently it is a fine example of selection). I swear he does. Below is a picture of him on the right. Not the best photo for comparison, so you will have to trust me.

Along our travels, we naturally came across "highways" of India our group spotted a cow lying on the side of the road only we notice it was on its side. Team LASR went into quick analytical action from recognizing the odd position to suspecting death to confirming death due to the cow being on its side because cows on their side is bad because cow tipping is bad because they can't get up and hence die. Team LASR: Not only are we cool, but we are smart too. (and a good looking group)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

So my vacation was about a month ago and I'm still writing blogs about it.







A mixture of illness (blog to come soon) and lack of motivation has prevented me from continuing with my Golden Triangle adventures. So let's continue.



Richard Gere was here.



It seems everywhere we went in Jodhpur & to the carpet makers in the village, Richard Gere had visited and the owners were more than enthused to share & show us proof that he had come to their establishment. The fabric house boasted that he bought 20 some scarves from them. I bought one cause I'm not as rich as he.



In the village, they drink opium. We got to see the guy grind it and filter it into a tea. No cups required. It is poured into the palm of your hand and drank.



In the village, we also met a potter. Annie & I got to make pots on the wheel. Good times. And no, the experience was not like Ghost. Although it would have been more exciting if they told stories of Patrick visiting.



Sunday, November 1, 2009

National Anthems: Not just for sporting events

One day I will finish my vacation stories. Promise. But for now....
Went to the cinema tonight to see the MJ movie. Before the movie or previews could start, we had to stand for the national anthem. The dancing snacks and "silence is golden" did not make an appearance.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"'ello! 'ello! 'ello! 'ello! 'ello!"

Setting: Narrow back streets of Jodhpur. It's morning. A couple of foreigners are aimlessly wandering and admittedly somewhat lost. The locals are spotting the streets, awaking from a night of Diwali celebrations.
Scene:
Little boy approches each foreigner.
Little boy: 'ello. Happy Diwali!
Shakes hand.
Foreigner Boy: Hello
Foreigner Girl 1: Hello. Happy Diwali
Foreigner Girl 2: Hello.
Another child enter the scene greeting the foreigners with a cheerful hello.
A few more children enter greeting the foreigners with an in unison hello.
Foreginer girl 2 quickly turns around. Some has plucked a hair from her head. She sees a mass of at least a dozen children following them. The sound is nearly deafening as the streets are filled with all the children chanting " 'ello" in unison as they walk down the street.

I wanted to get video but was afraid. Very afraid.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"You Like India?"

We interrupt the Golden Triangle adventures for a short commercial break.
Tonight, I am watching "Outsourced" a movie about a call center manager that gets sent to India to train the call center. I watched the movie shortly before I left for India and now, seeing it just about 3 months into my time here I can fully appreciate and relate to his experiences. The excesses cows, exposed wiring, harassing children, the beefless McDonald's... I've also found some problems in the movie such as Mumbai airport exit really wasn't the Mumbai airport and he entered a rickshaw from a side which is not possible (because of the festival). Before I laughed because it was ridiculous. Now I laugh because it's true.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

That is one large... Dog?

So sanitation doesn't seem to make the top ten list of things either. While at dinner, at a local hotel rooftop restaurant, out of the corner of my eye I see what I think is a very large dog run through the dining hall following quickly by a little boy chasing after his pet. Upon fully turning to see what all the raucous was about I discovered it was not a dog but a goat.
Bonus Story: So our tour guide has a very weird sense of humor. Most of his jokes I did not get. Like the one when he was showing us artifacts from the past such as dresses, rugs, silverware. He points to the displays and says "this was the washing machine". Personally, I thought it looked like an old time record player but he's the tour guide. Shortly after a kid pops through, excitedly asking "really?!" and pressing his face to the glass. Moments later our tour guide says "no, it's a record player." Ha. Ha. Good one tour guide. But not really.

Dance Dance Revolution: Diwali Style




It's Diwali. The festival of lights. A time for fireworks from dawn til the wee hours of the morning & dancing. Did I mention fireworks? Kids everywhere were setting them off in the street as passerbyers and motorcyclist dodged and swerved to avoid being hit. Safety does not come first here. I'm not even sure if it makes the top ten list.... Anyways, our guide told us multiple times throughout the day "do not go out tonight". Well we did. We walked around the streets dodging fireworks, wishing locals "Happy Diwali" and meeting large mascots. Dinner at Indique provide a 360 degree rooftop view of the city and the fireworks. After dinner, we went back to the hotel to rest for a bit. A short while later, we found the gates had been shut. Luckily, there was a party in the streets right in front of the hotel gates. Interestingly enough, no women were partaking in the festivities. It was an all male cast of "So you think you can dance". Eventually, Annie and I worked our way out and tried some Indian dance moves. And busted a move we did.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

An Overnight Train and the birth of LASR




To start off our trip, we took an overnight train from Mumbai to Jodhpur. One small hiccup though. Only 3 of our 4 tickets were confirmed as we found out when we got to the cabin and some guy claimed one of the beds was his (damn you connexions travel agent!) We don't remember his name so we call him Armando. Armando was one of the best parts of the trip. He would tell us he was going to visit his friend's in the other car every time and that he would be back like we were concerned parents.


Sometime during the day, team LASR (laser) was born as Shawn randomly shared his discovery that is you take the first letter of our first names it makes LASR. Laura, Annie, Shawn, Robert.


Once evening started to wind down, we made some discrete road sodas as Armando explained earlier we were traveling through a dry state, closed the curtain, turned off the lights except for a single reading light and turned on the music. We had successfully turned the cabin from sleeper train to private night club lounge.


Eventually Armando returned and upon opening the curtains had a priceless look of confusion on his face. Clearly the last thing he was expecting was a lounge setting. We all encouraged him to join our party and immediately included him in our game of "Would you rather?" We were up to "would you rather lose an arm or a leg?" and it was Armando's turn. Upon being asked the question he frozen in his seat horrified and seemingly sizing up his options for escape. He just replied "that is a very scary question. i wouldn't want to lose either". We tried to explain the concept but it just didn't go over. We had officially freaked out our cabin mate. I'm sure he was happy to make it through the night.


Quick story: Before heading to the train station, we all met at Welingkar. While waiting for the last of our group to arrive, some kids harrassed us for money as usual. Us white people are becons. The kids hung around for a long time trying to get money out of us. Then stood there and then one kid proceeded to make fun of my eyebrows. So I made fun of his and his face.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bend It Like Beckham

Before I get into my week long recaps of the Golden Triangle vacation which was absolutely amazing and you should dying of anticipation to hear my stories and see my pics. Anyways, Bend It Like Beckham is one of my favorite pick me up, feel good movies. There is a scene where the mom and daugther are in the kitchen and the mom starts freaking out cause her daugther is playing around with the soccer ball and not learning how to cook indian dishes, one of them being aloo gobi. Since arriving in India, it has been a necessity for me to consume aloo gobi just because it was mentioned in the movie. Tonight I did at the restaurant down the street and it was amazing. The end.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bets, Birthday Surprises & Attempted Train Rides




Short story 1: People like to bet on me. Last week, a couple of germans bet how much my height would translate to meters. The answer is 1.63. They thought I was under 5 foot. Just more proof I don't look my height. Today, I was chased down by a fellow Welingkar student so that he could have a two minute conversation with me. Apparently his friends didn't think he had the balls to go up to the white girl and hold a convo. Hope he got something decent out of it.
Short story 2: Welingkar surprised me with a birthday cake. That Gouri....She's too on top of everything. Above is Smeeta, our professor, feeding me the cake. I always thought the first person to feed me cake would be my husband on my wedding day. But I guess I'll settle for my finance teacher. Beat that.
Short story 3: Another day, and as always another adventure. After visting BSE, we stopped for dinner and were then enticed by the colorful outdoor markets in Dardar to do some shopping. Diwali is coming up and laterns and all sorts of colorful decorations are out. At the end, we tried to take a cab, then decided the train would be easiest even if it were for one stop. After asking the ticket holder what platform, we find no platform exisits. Upon asking others, no one is willing to tell you what platform, even though I know they know it. We ended up giving our tickets to some girls who urged us to take a cab and were escorted out of the station and given directions by a traffic cop. We know he was a traffic cop cause he showed us his ID. A 5 minute taxi cab ride later, we were home. This was after a good 30-45 min of other activities trying to get home. Just as a note, there was no way they were gonna let us take the train. We were cabbing it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Classy Dinners & Crashing Parties




Monday: Group dinner at the Taj Hotel with Zelon. Food was amazing and free. So were the drinks. This poor grad student was very happy and very full. Upon leaving the hotel, we spotted Nivea gift bags and suddenly it was MBA students turned Hardy Boys and the case of the unknown source of more free stuff. Our detective instincts led us to the first floor where we found a table loaded with gift bags. It was the 19th Annual German Unity Event. Of course we got ourselves in and were greet by a free open bar, free dinner buffet and free dessert buffet. Was this heaven? Shy we were not and our mingling and partying til near closing paid off as we were rewarded with two gift bags. But not to worry as I am apparently one of the event sponsors. Who knew. It's ashame my German roommate wasn't there. For being in India, I am getting a whole lot of German.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Taxi? No, I think you better hail a boat.

While being prepped for our trip over here, we heard stories about monsoon season. We were told torrential rains, flooding, don't wear nice things. Well the season came and went and while it rained, it was hardly what we expected. Overall, it was a very dry season and we felt lucky to have had escaped the daily floods and constant wet clothing. For the past 3 days now it has been raining with today being the ultimate down pour. Walking home after class, I scolded myself for ever doubting my 25$ investment in rain boots which up until today I thought had been a waste of money. There is no doubt that today in the two and a half, small block walk home they paid for themselves. The streets and sidewalks were flooded. Water levels in certain areas were nearing the top of my rain boots which hit the bottom of my knees. I wish I could stay in the rest of the night and watch some good tv, but sadly, the tv was blown out by the thunderstorm last night.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunsets & Sunrises at Nagarkot




Please Send New Legs






Day 2 of trekking: Today was going to be a long day. My legs still hurt from the day befores hike although I was surprisingly able to move my legs which I hadn't really been able to do the night before. The hike started out easy enough compared to yesterdays never ending stairs. We had already climbed most of the hill and were now making our way along it at a level point. It was only a 3 hours walk til lunch which we figured was really 4 and then another 5-6 after that.



Just before arriving for lunch, we had our first mishap of the day. One of the boys got ill. Unfortunately, he was not able to enjoy the fresh, homemade lunch made for us. Everything was made and grown right there at the house. Our porter, guide and Preshal all helped make the food. It was so delicious. One of my favorite pictures is from this stop. We had some local boys come and play around the house. I got one skipping back home down the pathway. Before we left, we got one last story of the place involving our guy puking off the stair landing, scaring a chicken at the bottom and having the chicken almost attack him. Sure beats my story of puking off a moving train. We later named the chicken Shanker, but that is another story. After trekking a bit more, we came upon a small town, here we tried to get a ride for our ailing guy and once again it started to rain. At least this time we could get some plastic to cover us. By the time we headed off to continue our trek, we were down two. The only two remaining were the girls.



The rain wasn't so bad, but my legs were not liking the length of the hike. The last few hours were some of the most painful of my life as our level hike suddenly turned to climbing again. Our hotel for the night was at the very top of the highest hill of course. Our guide then took us on shortcuts which were nothing short of mountain climbing. At the bottom of each, I had to give my mind and legs a pep talk to make it up. My legs were dying fast and the hill was not getting any less steep. Even after the short cuts were over the walk was a steep incline that only seemed to get steeper and with each step my legs seemed to turn a bit more to concrete. Of course the final 100 or so meters to the hotel was the steepest incline which I barely had the energy to do. My triumpant picture was not nearly as enthusiastic as the day before. Tomorrow was gonna be interesting unless I got some new legs to use to walk.

30 More Minutes







First day of trekking was the day of the never ending stairs. After about 20 minutes of climbing high, uneven, never ending steps in the heat, I learned I was not even close to being in shape for the trek. The stairs just seemed to reach into the sky and when a plateau was in sight, it was a short lived relief. The locals put us, well mainly me & my fat, skinny ass, to shame. They effortlessly climbed them and I swear they were secretly laughing at us. If I wasn't wheezing so bad I probably could have heard a chuckle under their breath. The day started out hot and sunny. Not being a person for rain, I was so hot and sweaty I didn't care. Rain would have been a welcome relief. Often, we would ask our guide for how long til the next resting place and he would answer 30 minutes. After a couple hours of it always being 30 minutes away and not a single stop, we started to get wise. After a bit more than the half way point, my wish came true. Only I should have been a bit more specific. It poured and poured and hailed and poured. Everytime I thought I couldn't possibly get any wetter, I did. I think my insides were more dry than my outsides and I now was cold as anything. As we continued on, wet, cold and aching, our destination was always just 30 minutes out of reach.



Arriving at the teahouse was an accomplishment but short lived as we discovered our bags were not at all waterproof and everything we had was wet. The teahouse had no electricity, what was barely warm water and a small fire trash fueled fire in a nearby stable for goats. We were back in the early 1900s with no dry clothes and this was only the first day of the trek.



Additional notes: We found tons of MJ growing everywhere. You could smell it along the trails. There were leeches along the trail. I was lucky enough to be spared. Others unwillingly fed the local wildlife. This was turning out to be quite the adventure indeed.

Because of the Festival


Upon arriving in Nepal, we quickly had our first adventure and unknowingly discovered what would become a theme of the trip. Getting our visas turned out to be more of a process than anticipated and more of a process than it needed. Since only one of us had the cash to pay for our visas, we needed to tap Mac which required handing our passports over to security to go downstairs only to find a broken Mac machine. Being the resourceful travelers that we are, we discovered another machine just outside of the airport. But that turned out to be broken as well. It was now down to figuring out how much money we had to free some of us who could then go get cash and save the rest of us. Until it was discovered we actually had just enough cash to free all of us. Score. We were free & prayed that there would be a working machine on the outside.

Getting to our hotel, we were greeted with Nepali tea and snacks and were sat down to plan our stay. We worked in a 3 day trek with sight seeing around Kathmandu. Our planner told us that our free day might have to be switched with our day of sightseeing scheduled for the next day since there was a chance of not being able to get a driver and a guide because of the festival. The festival, which involves the olders giving the youngers tikkas for good health, started the first official day of our vacation and lasts for 5 days. Because of the festival, we would soon find no other excuse was needed for why things didn't work (ATMs were a nightmare), why things were closed or why help was sparse. If we wanted to, we could have turned it into a drinking game we heard it so often. The next few blogs might be a bit slow in getting published...because of the festival.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

It's Sexy Feet Time


Finals are over! It was a long week, a long term, but we finished. After weeks of 6 day, full day, class days, all day and all night studying, we are going out. Our plan: dance our mental and physical exhaustion away. Ok, dance and drink.... Nonetheless, I broke out my sexy feet and the night was on. (my feet are also extra sexy having just received a pedicure. Preshal and I treated ourselves to mani, pedis post finals for a mere 6$ and that includes the upsells of scrubs and french tips.) After some hotel drinks and quick dinner, we landed at China House. Shots quickly followed. Followed by beer. Followed by shots. Followed by a beer from an Italian Nuclear Engineer. And dancing was all night long. I wish I could share the video from the last song of the night. It was what can only be descibed as, "if you had only one song to dance it all away, this is how you would dance", crazy dancing.
As of this morning, my body still had not fully unwound from the stress of the week as I partially awoke feeling not so good from the beer and liquor combo and trying to do financial equations to figure out if I really did feel fine or not.
In four hours, we are headed off to Nepal for a week. Check back then.
Plus a bonus story will be added then. I got a roommate.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The "Where's Waldo" of Shopping

Going to the local "super"market brings new surprises every time. The shelves are loaded with single or a few items of thing which equals hundreds of different products bombarding the eyes. Every time I go to the store, I spot something new that I wish I had found the trip before. I haven't quite figured out if the inventory changes/move frequently or if I just miss stuff. Today's trip resulted in the discovery of cheese. Grilled cheese sandwhich, check. And REAL maple syrup although I bet that is quite pricey. But nonetheless, maple syrup has been noted.
My good friend Amir, I can call him my good friend because he asked me to be his friend, even looks out for me ever since that time he forgot to bag my spaghetti sauce. Our friendship still needs work though. I don't think he's quite caught on to why I bring an empty bag into the store yet. I'm sure one day we will have a good laugh. But he has suggested that I try garlic roti with curd. It's good for my health. Next time Amir, when I actually figure out what curd is. Also, he tried to upsell me on the Skippy for my American palette. It may have more peanuts than the Indian brand but for an extra rs95, it tastes just fine.
Side note: After finding out that back home, the weather is cooling, I realized that the seasons here are changing too. And for the better! After living in Vermont for three years, today while out shopping I fully took in the warmth and sun of the day. The rains have stopped and the sun comes out a bit more each day. It's still very warm and I love it.
Additional side note: Ambush! Walking home I saw a bush with legs walking towards me. There was a man under there somewhere. I wish I had my camera.
Farewell for now & on to the grilled cheese!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Name that Professor

Let's play that game...name that professor!

Group email courtsey of Shawn
"Laura are you with us"
"Tony"
"Prayshull"
"Hedder"
"David"
"Sabudana Vada"

A good majority of our professors seem to have some trademark phrase or pronunciation. Of course you have to be there to understand most of these. I guarantee we laugh daily at them.Hint:There is no David in our group.

Ahhhhhhhh! My friends, we will talk soon. Good night.

The Long Awaited Pancake


After weeks of talking about pancakes followed by 3 weeks from when we spotted the Hungry Jack, we finally got pancakes. Fluffy heaven was only delayed by not having a pan then forgetting to get butter.

But alas, Sunday morning was a glorious day for pancakes, once we figured out how to use the hotplate. Toppings were banana and Nutella. Perfection. Please note the pancakes did not look this gross in real life. I think it's the plate. I could have eaten them forever. Now, I have to work on getting a big piece of meat. I miss meat. Of all the things I miss from home, I miss food the most.

Unfortuately, this has been the highlight of my week. Classes 6 days a week does not leave much time for anything. More blogs to come after finals!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bring Back the School Dance!


Saturday night, Preshal and I went to the school dance held for the incoming class. It was magical. We were instantly greeted by the principal, determined we had to be dancing, passed off to a fellow student to find people to dance with, and shoved into a crowd. It didn't matter we actually were looking for some of friends from the dorm. The dance was held outside on the school's beautiful rooftop. It was full of dancing to Indian songs which I have never heard of while an overexcited crowd goes nuts and sings along. But there were two American songs they threw in. I happily sang along while screaming "I know this song!"

Once again, being the only white person around I got asked to have my picture taken and asked to dance. I should start asking if they want my autograph as well.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ganesh Goes for a Swim


Final day of Ganesh celebrations. After days of parades, Ganesh idols at every corner, & lights everywhere, it has finally culminated into today. The idols are being taken down to the water and it's a long procession of all the parades that took place in the past fortnight.

Once again no video, courtesy of crap internet. Probably for the best as I am a better photographer than filmographer.

Here's the equation for today's events. Take the summation of all the weeks parades which include: dancing, music, idols and add color powder, firecrackers and a shit ton of people lining the streets= one wicked party on the way to and at the waterfront.


Side bar: If you have your key, you can still be locked out.
This is the first time, I've been locked out and had my key with me. This actually all started two days ago with my padlock getting jammed while during the unlocking process. No worries, security guard to the rescue. Today, it wouldn't even budge past go. Yup, I got a brand spanking new padlock after my other one had to be forcefully taken off with a hammer. There was a saw; but I'm glad he thought better. I didn't want bits of finger all over my door.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Can You Please Baggie Up My Leftovers?


When taking home leftovers, there are a few things to know about the way things work around here. One, phrases like "boxed up" really don't mean too much. Parcel will get the job done. But that's just a minor detail and to be expected when crossing cultures. Secondly, the reason "box up" doesn't work is there are no boxes. Well most of the time there aren't. Many times our leftovers are put in bags and knotted. And that's no Ziploc bag they're using.

Well what about liquids, you ask? Yup, they get the bag treatment as well. Mostly, we take home sauces, things that have some viscosity to them. Tonight though was quite the treat. We order take-out; and fruit beer came with our meal combo. To my part disbelief and part enjoyment, my drink did not come in a can or bottle. No, it came in a baggie as seen above, on the left, which also include the mystery condiments for my meal. I was very interested in trying fruit beer; but now, not so much. I'm just very glad I didn't order soup. Not having a bowl or spoon would have made that very hard.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Next stop: Bollywood

This story starts way back at the beginning of my arrival in India. Day 3, we went to Phoenix Mills (shopping mall) to get some provisions. In the courtyard, we stumbled upon a crowd of people. As we got closer, it was MTV filming something. They were interviewing 3 contestants. 2 guys and 1 girl who clearly loss and was on the verge of tears. We had no idea what she lost though. And as with many things in India, we would probably never figure it out.
Well this evening, we finally got our answer. The episode finally aired on MTV and Preshal and Heather just happened to be on that channel. And we all just happened to be filmed in the crowd. Who would have thought my first tv appearance would have been on MTV India. BTW, the contest was to go around kissing peoples feet. If I were the girl, I would have been happy to loss that contest. Nasty.
Now I just have to work on getting into a Bollywood movie.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I Wear Rain Boots Inside

Every day is a new puddle. I feel my room needs to have "Caution. Wet Floor" painted onto the tiles. Today's puddle came from the fridge. Not sure why. I think the icebox is overflowing and melting. This is incident number two with the fridge. The first being a my bad. Every outlet has a on/off switch. I accidentally turned it off. Big puddle along the length of the room. Turns out my floor has a slight decline.
Then there are the rains. The hallway to the bathroom frequently floods from open windows. We are talking small lakes that need to be jumped. I used to try to prevent it. But now I just put on my rainboots.
Rainboots were also necessary for the hopefully one time only massive flooding of my room due to cracks in the windows. Thankfully, the monsoon season is almost over. Otherwise, I might have to start building a boat.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

And a hotplate.

So it has been one month since I left my job and began my trip around the world. (Next week will be 1 month in India.) I can't say I miss work. But I do miss having income.
Living in India has meant change for a lot of things other than going from worker to student.
My days are now spent moving from sidewalk to street back to sidewalk, dodging cars, manuevering around people, cattle and lord knows what on the ground. The only similarity is that instead of sitting behind a computer all day, I'm now behind a desk all day.
Living went from being a cozy one bedroom with the comfiest bed ever to a one bedroom, shared bath, and a hotplate. Not to mention what I can only imagine is plywood for a bed. It reminds me of freshman year. Shower sandals, bath caddy, and the desire to not make skin to wall, floor, or dirty fixture contact. Although I never have to worry about their not being any tp in the stall, cause there never is. Each trip a roll is tucked under my arm newspaper style.
I have once again reclaimed my nights. 10pm no longer seems late but instead seems to be the perfect time for a snack. Nights of 8+ hours of sleep are gone and continue to dwindle from their currently far too few hours. I don't miss getting up at 7 or earlier. I rather enjoy an eight o'clock rising which could only be made nicer if I actually went to bed at a decent hour.
Eating out every meal is very affordable and since we only have a hotplate, it's pretty much what we do. We have plans to cook but this requires time to find cooking supplies. Time which we don't have for at least the next three weeks as we are now starting to make up our swine flu classes on Saturdays. Although eating out probably in the end takes up more of our time as there is no such thing as a quick meal. I like to think the rule of thumb is don't wait til you are hungry to go eat; go eat when you think you'll be hungry.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Curry In My Eye!!

Setting: Dinner at a local restaurant. Plate full of different curries accompanied by bread and rice. Three beautiful, exotic, intelligent girls. Sitting, eating and enjoying a full meal costing less than a dollar.
Scene:
laura: brings hand to eyes to brush away something. shouts ensue.
"Curry in my eye! Curry in my eye!"

Lesson learned: Hands do not go near the eyes when eating curry.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Finally a parade that is actually a parade.


There is never a quiet moment here. This morning I was awakened by drums. It's the start of Ganesh Chatuthi celebrations and it's a celebration. Come on! A small parade, compared to US standards, slowly, very slowly made its way down our street. First came the drums, then came the dancing, and then came the very large Ganesh statue covered in plastic (due to rain). The drumming was intense with build-ups and low beats and full on, no holds. I really wish this site wasn't being so lame and would let me upload my video.
Hours later, I can still hear the drums in the distance. The town also has large statues set up along the street. Two stories high statues.... and lights everywhere. This festival will be going on for a week or so. More stuff to come I'm sure.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My mother never said, "It's not polite to stare"

videoWhile I am sure I have mentioned the love of white people, I think this video starts to illustrate just how much. Aside from being asked for photographs, being stared at, having pics and videos taken without permission (most of the time not very discreetly), congregating gets added to the list. India is by far the most intense, unabashed culture I've come across.

This was taken during one of our walks on the beach. We stopped to get Henna and quickly we were surrounded by at least a dozen guys. They seemed to have come out of nowhere. Some stood around for a few minutes and left and the rest as you see stayed. Others passing by would stop and look up close as well. I want to make a shirt that says "White people aren't that interesting"

Friday, August 14, 2009

Nothing Smells like Freedom in the Morning


Got to make this quick as I am leaving in 5 for the airport.

Today is the 62nd yr of Independence. The school has a ceremony to celebrate the event. It started with the raising of the flag and national song. Then onto the show. Once again we light the traditional light and once again I was not able to get pictures of it happening since they invited me to participate. I think it was cause I'm white. (the only white person there too). There

were lots of dances and songs which were amazing and a fashion show of the different cultures. Again, I just love this stuff. Indians know how to party.

Festivals, Flu & Flying

Today was the Gokulashtami Festival which we have seen the city preparing for for about the last week. Guys form a human pyramid and knock down something. We were not lucky enough to see it. Although it would have been freakin awesome! That's the thing about having class. We did see the parades of trucks and buses go down the street packed with guys and some even sitting on top. This bus loved us white girls and my attention got the whole bus waving and cheering. In movie star fashion, I waved back. It's like I'm famous! I love it. I love it a lot. In fact, I was even considering setting up a stand and charging 100rs for photos with me. I think I could get near enough to put a dent in my tuition.
So the swine flu continues. Class Mon-Wed of next week has been cancelled because of it. So we booked a long weekend in Goa and plan to be sitting on the beach sipping beachy drinks. Can't wait! I plan to enjoy it as much as possible as it will be no picnic making up the classes on once free weekends.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Doctor's Orders: Don't get Swine Flu.

When we first arrived in the country we had to sign a swine flu sheet saying we were symptom free. However, the recent deaths including a school girl has brought on an heightened awareness today around the city and country. On the walk to school people were covering their face with handkerchiefs. I'd say it was about 1 in every 15 people. Not that large of a number but a marked difference from yesterday in which no one wore anything. Even our Econ teacher came in speaking of covering his mouth. Luckily the hassle of keeping the handkerchief in place was too much. I honestly don't think I would have been able to take the class seriously if he had.
The school even had someone come to our class to warn us about the dangers of swine flu and let us know of their offerings to help us through. Aside from a list of reputable doctors and testing locations, he said the school was offering juices and other drinks at a reduced price so that the students would be able to afford to keep especially hydrated. They were also looking into getting us protective masks. A very impressive effort that I doubt I would have seen from any institution in the states. Everyday the warmth and the way the people continue to look out for each other continues to impress me.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Yea, but they weren't nice monkies"


Elephanta Caves:

So I've been ill (cold not the other end thankfully) for the past couple days. Last night I got a very interuppted 17 hours of sleep. Seriously still no egg crates to be found. And was feeling better this morning and decided to push through the remaining yuckiness and enjoy some sites.

We took the local train from Matunga, First Class. Or so we thought. Rumors of air conditioning and bountiful seating were far from the truth. Def not worth the extra 44rs. But lesson learned.

I also got to experience hanging out of a moving train. Well sorta. I think after the 3rd station all bets were off and I found myself not only sitting on the train floor but puking out the doors of a moving train. India is just full of unique experiences. Afterwards, I felt much better and was able to take the ferry without incident.

Elephanta Caves are a peaceful, carless, not overly crowded place. Did I mention carless? Although they did have lots of bold monkies who we have witnessed steal more than one persons snack or drink. They apparently also like Sprite as they practically attacked Heather at the sight of the bottle (See above picture. His rewards were not from our group. Also very cleaver. He opened it and drank.)

Indians love white people. I don't know why cause white people really dont like anyone other than white people. But thats besides the point. Today I felt like a movie star! Not really but got an ego boost when a girl asked for my photo. Such a small price to pay for being pretty I guess.


Time for a remembered story brought to you by Ignorance

I think it was day 2. Walking around the city. Lost yet again. I see a carriage with flowers and people following and proclaim, "Look a parade" It looked like a parade in South philly when they honor the saints. I swear. But no. It was a funneral. The body was under the flowers and they were taking it to be burned. It was pretty amazing. Even if it wasnt a prade

Thursday, August 6, 2009

First Day of School!

So, I finally got internet. I back dated the blogs and put down what I could remember. There has been so much to take in and I feel as though I've experienced weeks of culture, sites and traditions.
School started today at 9:30 am. Ended at 4:30pm. Which will pretty much be my schedule while I'm here. Thankfully no 8am classes.
Today was Stat and Financial Accounting. So far so good. The teachers are great. Although my finan. acct. teacher kept thinking I didn't understand the lecture. Even after I had given her lots of correct answers to a problem. If I look confused when I understand the material, I'd hate to see what I look like when I don't.
I have some more stories which I will add later. So stay tuned for Blogs on electricity, toilets and who knows what else.

5 Aug: Rakhi Bandhan




Rahki Bandhan or Brother's Day is where the sister give the brother a braclet as a symbol protection, loyalty and affection. The brother also gives the sister either sweets or money. We were going to participate in it, but we shopped last minute and didn't have the time to hunt down a good deal. Maybe next year.


Today we also toured Mumbai. There are some amazing places, traditions and people all around. Above is a photo of the washers. There are hundreds of men, no women, who rent the stalls to do laundry. They do pick up service and will wash all your clothing for you. The more I learn about India, the more I wish the US had such services. There are many food services, grocery services and pretty much anything you can imagine. Buying clothing? Chances are they will tailor it. Everyone is really friendly. They really do know how to do service with a smile. Americans should take a page.
On our journey, we visited Ghandi's house. It was closed for pest control. But we did get a picture of the Mumbai Cohort. A good lookin' bunch, aren't we? For those of you who I am FB friends with, you can see the remaining of the tour. Hopefully tomorrow.

3 Aug: If you don't get lost, you're not doing it right.

After classes, we went for another long, adventurous walk around the city. Once again we got lost. Lost as in we only had an inclination of what direction we needed to head. There were 3 of us so no worries.
I don't know how a city this large could possibly not have some sort of signage. Probably to keep the tourist out since even the locals have a hard time navigating the streets. Using landmarks is key, although distinguishing one delapidated corner from another is hard. Big and nice buildings stand out the most.
There are tons of open markets. If you are not happy with one vendors price, there are many others to choose from. It took my cohort, Heather, 4 vendors before she got her braclets two for 5rs.
The streets are filled with cars with no established traffic pattern and only a handful of traffic lights. Horns, like in China, are constant with no reason some of the time.

3 Aug: Friendship Day

While walking back from orientation, one of the locals keep trying to get our attention. Being the unknowing Americans, we tried to ignore until we couldn't any longer when he caught up to us. Apparently it was friendship day. Trick to pick our pockets? It def cross my mind.
But no, it really was friendship day and all we had to do was let him sign his name across our arm. Now we are friends with Eshawn, whom we will probably never see again. After signing, we noticed people had their arms covered in markers with their friend's names. It was quite amazing. Kinda like a yearbook signing, but no book. Day 2 and already participated in a tradition. Check.

3 Aug: First Day of Orientation.

Today we went with the Welingkar staff for orientation. We were very warmly welcomed to the school and participated in a traditional candle lighting ceremony which I sadly did not get pictures of. We also got complimentary bookbags to carry our many books. I wish I could say my back would have been spared by only having two classes a day, but our beds are hard as rocks. Sometimes I wonder if the sidewalk would be any more comfortable as many Indians sleep on it. Of all the things I wish I had brought, egg crate would be number one.
Back to school, we had a luncheon with our teachers and had some very delicious Indian food. I don't think I will be loosing weight over the first month like I had thought.....
School starts on Thurs.