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.
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"

While 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.

Aug 2: Got Milk?

Walking around the city, it is hard not to run into the locals. Brings me back to Vermont a bit only instead of seeing them roaming in open pastures they roam the streets. (Dogs are quite rampant as well and surprisingly they all look like the same breed) In any give walk, you are bound to come across at least a few. Dozens if you go for a long hike. No, I havent tried to pet them.
Background: Cows are sacred animals here. You will NOT find a hamburger on the McDonalds menu. They do have some interesting other choices though. The reason there are so many cows is that fodder is so scarce in many parts of the country that owners bring them to the city.