Saturday, July 27, 2013

"Life Begins at the End of your Comfort Zone" - Neal Donald Walsch

As soon as I finished my last post on the ten most challenging things so far, I immediately thought of several more to add to the list! It has been exactly one week since we have lived in our apartment, and it was a very rough start. I have spent a great deal of time this week being uncomfortable. This is a feeling that is very difficult to adapt to. However, I believe that this exact feeling is what will allow me to be open minded and learn.

I have been uncomfortable in both the physical and mental sense. Physically, the environment is very hard to adjust to. The heat and humidity can make me very tired, as well as the constant blaring car horns - I feel sweaty and dirty all day. I spent much of the week running errands with Ajay (best driver ever!) Sitting in the backseat of the car with car/tuk-tuk/moped horns surrounding is a sure way to get a headache. The horn honking is used for at least eight different things, such as that you want to pass a car, you're turning, you're changing lanes, warning a pedestrian, etc. The ridiculous frequency of horn honking is to make up for the lack of road infrastructure. Stop signs do not exist, and stop lights are rare. Sometimes when we make a right turn (remember, in India they drive on the left side), I hold my breathe! 

The other uncomfortable aspects come from the vast differences in lifestyles, and the amount of unfamiliar things surrounding me. From signs I can't read, to people I struggle to understand, to situations that may make me scared, nervous, or frustrated, I am spending my days always trying to adjust my expectations. EVERYTHING is different. 

To simplify everything, I will continue my list from last week:
Top Challenges (so far)

11. I have no privacy! Our doorbell rings a minimum of 5 times a day. People are here constantly in and out of our apartment fixing all the broken things (#12) or lingering outside our front door because they are so curious about Matt and I.  I have never been stared at so much in my entire life.  I think I can count the Caucasian people I have seen on one hand, so we are a rare sight to see.  I get stared at everywhere I go, and people get so close to me.  A young gentleman who I believe cleans apartments here, literally stood in our hallway ten minutes standing over my shoulder while Matt and I were arranging the new plants we bought.  I know we are just settling in, but I am really looking forward to being able to say that our apartment is a place where I can have privacy and some personal space.

12. Nothing works the way it is supposed to.
*The lights keep burning out
*The fridge is broken
*No water comes out of the shower head
*There is a short in the stove and I get shocked every time I touch it
*The blender I bought is a piece of junk, and instead of successfully making an ice coffee, it exploded all over the kitchen
*One of the outlets is broken in the kitchen, so I have to unplug the fridge to use the toaster oven
This list could go on and on, but everything is just a lower quality than what I am used to. Nothing does what it's supposed to do or works how it should.

13. Internet! I thought that getting a cell phone plan was annoying, this was the worst! It took five people, nine days, and four trips the the house to get it installed. After it was installed, they said it would take four more days to activate! I wasn't here when this happened, but Matt said that was about all he could take. After being on the phone for some time, I think the company was sick of having an argument where neither one understood what was being said, so he just turned it on. :)

Despite all these things that are annoying, frustrating, or uncomfortable, I am so glad Matt and I have each other. At some point, we learned to just laugh it off. If I didn't laugh, I think I'd cry, so it's been helpful to try and find the amusement in all these situations. Being able to let things go allowed me to finally start to enjoy myself during all my shopping and errands. I have gone to a store called HomeStop too many times this week.  I like to call it the Crate and Barrel of India. They have many modern, Western house furnishings. I bought curtains there to replace the ones that were here, holding 20 years of a funky smell. That alone really helped. Nothing in our apartment matches, but I am learning to let that go.

Here are our two new mattresses being delivered by rickshaw. The ones that were here smelled and were covered with stains of too many colors. 

This is our kitchen. The counter tops are not made for people as tall as Matt and I, so I have to hunch over to cook.  This is also why Matt is sitting down to was the dishes. :)

This is our bedroom. We have closed off the first floor bedroom so that the AC will cool the living room better. The other upstairs bedroom has become storage for the gross mattresses, and Matt's "office". We also closed off that extra bathroom upstairs because the pigeons love to sit on the exhaust fan outside the window. If it gets turned on, feathers and germs get sucked right in.

We bought this new couch in our living room, as well as these two cubes to work as an ottoman. 

After getting the apartment together at the beginning of the week, and endless trips to the store, I was able to get out into the city and try to find what will be keeping me busy here. I went to visit a private international school, as well as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). The school houses the top 1% of wealthy children in Jaipur (NOT a fact, just my observation.) The facilities were outstanding, and it would be a great opportunity for my career. However, I just didn't feel right being there. It would be a safe and clean place for me to escape to, and would allow me to work with all English speaking staff and students, but it didn't feel like the right place for me. I couldn't justify it knowing I pass hundreds of hungry and displaced children everyday.

This is how I have landed at an NGO called Vatsayla. A very intelligent couple run this NGO and offer many great services for the community. They help women earn wages by making beautiful jewelry, scarves, blankets etc. This is an important job because they can work from home, while taking care of their children at the same time. They help facilitate trucks set up as stations within slum communities. These stations offer medical care, showers, and supplies for basic health. The spot I will be volunteering at is their school/orphanage called Vatsalya Udayan. The school is home to about 40 children, while twice as many are bused in daily for school only. So far I have only visited, but will be volunteering to teach English on Mondays and Wednesdays to start. The location of this school is about as rural as it gets. Matt and I will share a ride on these days, because the school is just past his work, about ten minutes. We follow a dirt road off the highway for about 2km, and in the middle of a rural farm community there is this great gem! I am really looking forward to spending time with all these sweet kids.

Youngest class at Vatsalya Udayan

This little one sat and finished writing the days of the week, while everyone else ran off to lunch at the first sound of the bell.

On the way back from the school, Ajay took the road through the Pink City, instead of taking the highways. I saw some great sights I am looking forward to going back to explore.

Ajmer Fort

Pigeons, pigeons, everywhere!

Yesterday, Matt and I took a break from errands, and went to the City Palace. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting outside reading, and swatting flies with the electric swatter. Matt thinks the flies are getting smarter and adapting, because it is so hard to catch them!

In the evening, our landlord Integer, and his cousin brought us over dinner that Integer's wife had made. There was sweet rice, mutton, and a chicken and pepper with rice dish. It was really delicious. They were very excited to feed us their traditional food. I made Masala tea afterwards, which people suck down like its water all day. It is interesting to talk with these two. They are from the Middle East, and we are able to learn more about the Muslim religion too. 

This week has been filled with many different emotions. I am glad that the happier feelings are finally beginning to outweigh the negative ones. I know this will be a roller coaster of emotion over the next two years, but after such a difficult start, I feel prepared to continue to embrace any uncomfortableness or frustration as an opportunity to learn. I wouldn't have been able to complete a lot of tasks this week without the help of Ajay. He has helped me barter, translate, and find things I thought were impossible to locate. I truly appreciate having him work for us.

I am excited to volunteer tomorrow, and to buy potting sand so I can plant all the dozens of plants and flowers I have bought! More photos next post. 

Also, thanks to everyone who reads my blog! It is being read in several different countries across the world! Please feel free to comment and share with others. I appreciate your interest. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013


We have been in Jaipur for a full week now, and I was certainly not prepared for life outside the hotel.  Last Monday we saw our apartment. This was the first time I was seeing it, and Matt kept telling me about how it is the best place to live in Jaipur. Now, I knew coming into this that Jaipur is a lot different from New Delhi and Gurgaon, which are the only places I've visited before moving here. But the apartments here are much older, and there is an overall lack of modern amenities.

When we walked into our apartment at the "Royal Ensign", I was floored by how disgusting it was! The place was filthy...covered in dirt and dust, and filled with huge spiders, cockroaches, a gecko, and gecko poop. The nasty smell along with the pigeon poop covering the patios certainly didn't help. There were also doors that wouldn't work, missing keys and broken locks.  At that point I had to work really hard to hold back the tears. I was really looking forward to seeing where we were going to live, and wasn't prepared to feel so uncomfortable and grossed out there. The real kicker here was when we were walking out of the apartment to the car, and I realized I had pigeon crap on my jeans! I think at this point Matt really thought I was going to lose it. I just looked at it as the topping to a really terrible morning. Matt grabbed some dirty newspaper to try to wipe it off, which of course just smeared it in. It was funny later, but not in the moment.

Luckily, we have an awesome relocation agent named Reynold who helped us sort this all out.  He communicated to the building manager about how it was supposed to have already been cleaned.  He was able to have them clean it out, as well as have pest control come in.  By Wednesday when we went back, I was glad they had cleaned it (somewhat) and that the bugs everywhere were dead. (Matt just told me last night that the gecko didn't make it...he found him under the bedroom curtains. I felt really bad, but I have to admit I won't miss his droppings all over the walls.)

On Thursday and Friday we spent the whole day cleaning. Matt spent hours and hours disinfecting the kitchen, wiping the insides of cabinets, scrubbing the sink, etc. I really appreciate how hard he worked to help make it a more comfortable place for us. It is to the point where we can at least move in. Our water filtration system was set up, we are still waiting for our new laundry machine to be hooked up, and our internet installed and couch delivered.  

The most important thing I learned this week is that everything will get done...eventually.  There is no such thing as being on time, or anything happening on a strict schedule. I am confident that even though our purchases were not delivered the day they were supposed to be, they will come (hopefully!)

The best thing that happened this week was we found a great driver. His name is Ajay, and he speaks great English.  We chose a bigger car called an Enova, which I feel much safer in, in this crazy traffic. Ajay has been awesome so far...he is good at helping us find stores we need, he comes in with me if I am unsure of a place, and he is very professional. I am happy we found him and hope it continues to work out.

So much has happened this week, and I have been faced with so many complicated situation I can't even begin to explain them.  However, here is a list to give you a taste...

Top 10 Challenges (so far)

1. Apparently getting cell phones activated is the hardest thing in the world, and takes three days. You must provide passports, PAN cards (like a social security card), letters of intent from employers, proof of address, etc. etc. It is extremely frustrating, and the plans are usually pre-paid monthly, which means we will have to go back to this crappy Airtel place often!

2. No one understands me and I don't understand them.  Google images and Google translator have been a lifesaver so far. English is far less common than in Delhi.

3. Neck breathers...when I go shopping, about ten employees are usually hovering over me, so close that they are literally breathing down my neck.  My favorite is when they touch all the things in my cart. I just need space! Reynold explained to me that they are simply curious, but this will be really hard to get used to.

4. Hygiene. I am not used to a water cooler having one cup for everyone to share, public restrooms without toilet paper, or being allowed to pee anywhere you want.

5. Traffic. There are cars everywhere. You don't have to stop at lights, or look before you turn. You can even drive in the same lane as oncoming traffic if you want! Basically, just avoid hitting a cow.

6. Rules - there are none.

7. Swass (sweaty @$$ for those of you unaware.  Matt made me add this one.) It is NOT a dry heat here! It was very hot and humid.

8.  There is a lack of anything familiar.  I went to HyperCity, which is similar to a super Walmart. When I went there to get some groceries for our apartment, I really struggled. I couldn't find anything familiar. Where is the Chobani yogurt?! Why does the milk come in a tiny plastic bag?! The only meat is "hygienically processed chicken". I got some chicken breasts and chicken meat balls. I tried to get some new types of food...I'll let you know good finds after I start cooking.  

9. Wildlife - cows, camels, pigeons, elephants, goats, horses, peacocks. We are all sharing the same road apparently.

10. Missing my friends and family. I already miss everyone and I have only been gone two weeks! 

So those are the biggest struggles right now.  It is noon here and time to finally leave the hotel and move into our apartment. I am looking forward to finally un-packing our suitcases after three and a half weeks, and create a new home.  This week I should be busy with errands and visiting an NGO, so I will have pictures to post next time! 

"When you have a bad day, a really bad day, try to treat the world better than it treated you." - Patrick Stump

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Almost there...

In the past week I have accomplished a lot...well, a lot of eating, sleeping and sight seeing. Since leaving Minnesota a week ago, we spent a week in Barcelona, Spain. It was a great feeling to have wrapped up everything back home and feel like we could finally relax.

We walked A LOT in Barcelona. Some of my favorite sights were Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, and Montserrat. Matt and I are a good team when traveling... I research places we should visit, and he figures out how to get us there. I am terrible at reading maps or figuring out which train to take.

Besides sights, we spent some time relaxing on the beach. There is a lot of money there! Tons of yachts, sailboats, and five star hotels. We also ate a lot of delicious food. One of my favorite things was to sit at an outside cafe, eating olives and drinking wine, and people watching. It seems to be a popular destination not for Americans, but for people all over Europe. Our first night we went to a tapas restaurant, and we found an amazing Italian restaurant just down the block from our hotel. I usually make it a rule to never eat at the same place twice when traveling, but this place was so amazing we just couldn't resist. It was called La Tagliatella, and had the most amazing fresh pasta!

    Sagrada Familia

   View from Montserrat.

   We took an hour train ride out of the city to this beautiful mountain. We took a cable car to the 
   top for breathtaking views. It is apparently a very popular spot as the church on top of the
   mountain depicts a "black Madonna." People waited in line for hours to see her. 

    Park Guell

    Sagrada Familia

   Park Guell


   Amazing meal at La Tagliatella

Friday morning it was time to get back to reality and head to the airport. It took us 9 hours of flight time to get to New Delhi, with a layover in Zurich. Let me note here that I absolutely despise the long plane rides. The second flight was seven hours and by the end I was getting pretty crabby. I hate the smell of the bathroom as well as the line to the bathroom, the way the food tastes and smells, and the general feeling of claustrophobia. The worst part was when the guy sitting in front of Matt reclined his chair farther back than those chairs should even be allowed to recline! It made me feel cramped, I can't imagine how much it was miserable for Matt.  At some point I wanted to get up to stretch, so I made a point to shake the guys chair just to show how difficult it was to even get out. And I forgot to mention, he was in an exit row with five feet of room in front of him! The only thing as bad would be the girl across the aisle. She was sitting in between two women who were clearly friends and talking over her (literally) the whole flight. She tried to get them to switch with her, but they both wanted their aisle seats. Rude! 

Ok, I am done complaining.

Around midnight on Friday night we arrived in New Delhi. Getting through customs and getting our bags went surprisingly smooth. The Delhi airport is much more tolerable at this hour with such fewer people. After getting our four bags which currently contain our life, we walked to the car pick up where a very nice young man was waiting for us from the Leela Hotel.

There is a saying in India that "the guest is God," and certainly the staff at this hotel live up to that saying. Our bags were carried for us to the car waiting for us with cold waters and fresh towels for our hands and grimy faces from nine hours of stale airplane air. It took us about 25 minutes to drive three miles because even though the airport isn't crowded, there are still an obscene amount of people driving, honking, and maneuvering through a ridiculous amount of fog. And to all you people who say "Oh, but it's such a dry heat there," try being in India during monsoon season...the humid as heck!

Done complaining, again.

Once we got to the hotel we were apparently already checked in and just ushered to our room.  I am  impressed that several employees here actually recognize Matt from his previous work stays.
Everyone is extremely friendly, overly friendly actually. This hotel employs about 100 people too many...There are some people here who are literally paid to smile at me, or hold the door open. It is a little overwhelming to be treated this way. I like carrying my own stuff and I can open a door myself. It makes me feel uncomfortable to be waited on like this, but I'll just convince myself it's good hospitality.

Today is our full day in Delhi, and we leave for Jaipur in the morning. On Monday we begin spending the week with our relocation person to help us get ourselves established. Don't forget, I have never been to Jaipur! I have not seen the city or our apartment, so I am really anxious to get there. We will be spending the week furnishing the apartment, getting phones set up, getting internet in our apartment, etc. I will post again from my new (temporary) home!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Goodbye Tour

The Goodbye Tour is upon us! Two weeks ago Matt and I went back to visit my family in Chicago. My parents hosted a bbq so we could see all our family. Dad made a feast, and we enjoyed seeing everyone before we leave. I also was able to stay the week and hang out with my mom and sisters. My mom, Rachel, and I went to Millenium Park to have a picnic and see Glen Hansard perform. We also went to see West Side Story on broadway. One of my favorite things was waking up to a fresh brewed cup of coffee everyday made by my dad! I should teach Matt how to do that for me! :)
By the end of my stay it was really hard to say goodbye, but I appreciate how my parents are so supportive in this next adventure, and although we will all miss each other, this is an experience we cannot pass up.

Below are some pictures from the bbq.
My sibings Mark, Rachel Annie
Matt, my dad Jeff and mom Marilyn

Me & Grandma Purcell

My best friend since elementary school ---> Sandi and her husband Aaron

After Chicago, it was time to let reality set in. Last week, there were several big storms in the Twin Cities, and  a big tree in our backyard up-rooted and came down on our storage shed! This was not something we wanted to deal with the week we moved out of the house, but it could have been worse.

Matt's parents Steve and Jo came down, and Steve and Matt cut down the tree. Then the movers came the next day and packed our entire life up into boxes. I must say... having movers is about the best investment ever.  I felt bad, standing there with my iced coffee, watching them work for 8 straight hours...
Hopefully everything is accounted for and is returned in the same condition in two  years. The movers seemed extremely thorough and careful with everything.  It is amazing how much stuff we have accumulated. As I watched them I wondered why I was having them pack certain things, for example random scraps of yarn, that winter coat I haven't touched in three years, or ten different re-usable Trader Joe's bags. I think worse than packing will be having to unpack everything.

After everything was moved out, we all cleaned the house, and Matt and I stayed in a Marriott in Minneapolis for two days. It was very strange seeing my house completely empty. It reminded me of the first time we saw it and knew it was the one.  Our new renters move in today, and I hope they take care of our house and enjoy living there.

Now Matt and I have been staying at his parents house, living out of a suitcase since Saturday. Our room is a disaster. Trying to pack for three weeks in two suitcases is not easy. I feel like I'm always having to pull everything out just to find something that is of course tucked in the bottom corner. At this point, I am really looking forward to leaving and beginning this adventure and moving into our new home. 
We have been keeping busy in Pelican Rapids. We went golfing with Josh and Casie. Matt met up with a childhood friend and we took their boat out. Today we are going to the Zoo with his parents and Spanky's for dinner...Happy Birthday Jo! Tomorrow we are going to Aunt Betty and Uncle Dave's cabin for the 4th of July, and Friday we will be up with everyone for our last night at Zorbas ----> I can't wait for that!
Only 4 days left!

Our last night in Minneapolis. We went out for Chris' birthday at 7 Sushi. These are some of my favorite girls! Crystal, Allie, and Casie (Katie we missed you!)

Golfing in Pelican Rapids with Casie, Josh, and Matt. Casie and I aren't golfers, to say the least, but Matt and Josh were patient and good teachers! I personally think that driving the golf cart is the best part.