Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Gift of Time

Imagine you had all the time you wanted to do whatever you want. Nowhere you have to be, and nothing you have to do. Well, I was given this gift, and it's very strange.

My life in Jaipur so far has allowed me time to pursue essentially anything I want.  I have time to sit outside on my patio and drink my coffee and read almost every morning.  How many people can say they have time for that? My schedule back in Minnesota certainly did not allow for that. I am late for everything (a Purcell trait, but I'm not pointing the finger). I can't ever imagine myself having "extra" time back home. I am lucky if I have time to pour coffee into a travel mug on my way out the door, 20 minutes late.

But now my life is opposite of that.  I don't have anything to be late for (and if I am it makes no difference because there is no such thing as being on-time here). Besides volunteering twice a week, my days are filled with small tasks that that I simply haven't had time to enjoy previously.

This is what occupies my time:
1. Pinterest insanity! Anyone that follows me on Pinterest must think I am insane. I am pinning meaningless crap constantly! Some of the things I pin are to remind me of comforts of home...Christmas cookie recipes I want to try with my mom and sisters, or paint colors I consider for my house which I miss greatly. About 99% of the things I pin I will likely never do/use/cook while I am here.  However, as I am writing right now, my feet are covered in shaving cream, wrapped in a towel soaked in Listerine. According to Pinterest I will have soft feet in 30 minutes...I'll update you on the success of this. If nothing else, at least my toes smell winter fresh.

2. Photography. I have the time to learn more about my camera. I practice taking pictures at sunset from the top floor of our apartment.  I am learning the patience to play with aperture, shutter speed, IOS. Ask me what those mean and I can't really tell you, but I do know it takes just the right settings to create the perfect effect.

3. Reading.  I have read more these past 7 weeks that I have in the past 2 years! So far I have read:
Reconstructing Amelia, Gone Girl, Ender's Game, The Great Gatsby, After Visiting Friends, Behind the Beautiful Forevers.. The last one is a book I highly recommend. It was written by a journalist for the NY Times, Katherine Boo, and she lived in a slum in Mumbai, India for an extended period of time. The book recounts true stories of life in the slums. Although I doubted her ability to tell me what people were thinking sometimes, her ability to portray the story of challenges and successes of a life unfamiliar to us was very interesting.

Seriously, read it!

4. Gardening. This has kept me very busy the past few weeks.  A tuk-tuk can only deliver so many plants and pots at a time, so I did everything in small steps.  I enjoy watching my plants sprout new flowers, and seeing my fruit grow.  But something is taking my limes and guavas! Any suggestions to keep pests out without chemicals? The only thing I have seen on my patio are birds. I also got some "organic manure" to fertilize the plants.  I cant read the package, so who knows what's really in it,

5. Shopping. Don't think that just because I am in India I abandoned my urges to spend. I like going into new stores and malls. There are malls everywhere here. Yesterday I went to visit a shop called Concept Jewelry. It is owned by a young French girl, and I found the shop through her post on a Jaipur Expats facebook page. I bought a beautiful gold bracelet there. Lucky for me $1 is equal to 65 rupees right now. It was 56 when we got here, so I feel like I am getting a deal.  I also enjoy exploring new fruit and veg markets. Every one has something different. I've had great melon, mangos and papayas. I squeeze lime on the papaya which is something my uncle's sister taught me when I went to Hawaii with my family many years ago. She sent us a gift basket to our hotel, which was a saving grace with four kids who just got off an 11 hour flight and are starving! There was a note to squeeze the limes onto the papayas and it was SO good! Try it.

6. Exercising.  I exercised my fair share back in the states. I was good about going in 12 times a month  so that my insurance would cover it. However, the whole time thing did not always allow for me to get a long enough workout in. I was either late getting up to workout before school, or went after school and could only think about getting home and making dinner.  Here I have joined a gym, and I can go every day for as long as I want.  I am even planning to attend my first yoga class soon. I also like to go for walks around Central Park. It is the one place where I can be outside and enjoy fresh air and feel safe.

This is Central Park. They have a 4 kilometer walking path, and this is also where the golf course is that Matt goes to.

This is our apartment from the park.

A view of the park from the top of our apartment building. The greenest place in Jaipur!  This picture only shows about 1/4 of how big it really is.

7. Meeting new people. It is a challenge to make friends here, as I am noticing that many young twenty-somethings are only here for very short periods of time. But I do enjoy talking to locals and learning about the Indian culture, as well as talking with other expats and learning more about what brings people here.  Matt and I like to go to a restaurant/bar called 100% Rock on Tuesday nights. It is 2 for 1 drinks, half priced food, and karaoke. This isn't the good karaoke, it is Indians singing the worst music America has ever produced. Think Evanescence, Linkin Park, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys. But on Tuesdays, many expats come streaming in.  This week we met a whole group of young college kids who are here to volunteer at a pre-school, as well as help women become more independent.  Matt met a guy named Raphael from Bordeoux, France.  They ended up golfing together the next day, and I think Matt enjoyed the company. It was a good reminder to me that when I do meet these people, I need to be better at reaching out to them and meeting up. 

Now the downfall that comes along with this gift of time is guilt. Guilt for not going off to a job everyday where I bring home money to contribute to our family of two. Guilt for my occasional afternoon nap.  No one, particularly not Matt, has made me feel this guilt. It is simply something I am just having a hard time adjusting too. One thing I believe will help is volunteering more. I intend to go at least three days starting next week.  I realize that still may not seem like a lot, but truly I am still adjusting to teaching outside in the heat, with no lights or fans in the classrooms, and creepy crawly critters everywhere.
 But I also plan to take full advantage of this. Never in my life will I again have time on my side. So, for all of you who never have time to enjoy the things that make you happiest, I encourage you to make some time.  Stop and do one thing every day that makes you happy - even if you can't do it for long. Remember, "Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted." - John Lennon

I removed the Listerine covered towel from my feet and my cracked heels are still cracked! Thanks a lot Pinterest! 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Put your bug spray on!

Put your bugspray on, folks! Dengue Fever has hit the U.S.! My friend emailed me an MSN link, stating that three people have Dengue in Florida. I swear I didn't bring it there...

After my last post, Matt couldn't believe I didn't post the pictures of me sick. It's like he was making a documentary of my misery. 

This is probably the worst picture I have ever seen of myself...unshowered, pale, and a lovely white tongue.

This is me after being in the hospital 24 hours...there is only so much sleep I can get. I watched almost the entire first season of "Revenge." I want those hours of my life back. It's like a train wreck I can't turn off.

Here I am sporting my new outfit. I had to get up and walk around. I am surprised I didn't get bed sores from seven days of being in bed.

I am feeling much better, and glad to be settling back into our apartment. Hopefully no more dengue for me!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Dengue Fever and the Indian Head Wobble

Well, I haven't kept up with my posting because I am just getting over Dengue Fever! Last week we went back to New Delhi for a few days. Matt had to work, and we planned to go to the Red Fort on Saturday. However, plans changed drastically when I woke up on Saturday with a fever of 103.  Imagine a flu on steroids. I first started feeling icky that Friday night...really tired and my arms felt sore. Then Saturday came the entire body aches, chills, pain in the back of my eye like two giant headaches, and nausea. 

I stayed in bed sick until Monday, and that's when I finally gave into Matt's plea to take me to the hospital. I was trying to convince myself I was just adjusting to the hygiene here, or maybe got sick from the orphanage. But  when I got to the E.R. at Fortis Hospital, apparently my symptoms pointed straight to Dengue. They did a test to confirm, and Matt thought it was great that I got such a tropical disease. He thinks it makes a good story...

I was able to go back to the hotel in Delhi that day, but had to monitor my blood platelet count.  Normal is around 150,000 and mine was 99,000.  I went in every day that week to get my blood taken, and by Wednesday I wasn't much better and my count was 69,000 so I was admitted. I had to stay in the hospital Wednesday and Thursday night.  Getting fluids and medicine from an IV helped so much. By Thursday night I was bored and antsy, and on Friday I was definitely ready to leave and get back to our apartment in Jaipur. 

The hospital system in India is very interesting. It seems to be the one time where having too many people on staff comes in handy. I was able to walk right into the E.R. and be seen right away. It is also very cheap, and you just pay cash.  I haven't quite figured out if there is insurance here or how that works, but I got my blood tests for about $3, and prescription medicine for about $2. The only expensive part is the cost to stay overnight.

While in the hospital, I was presented with the head wobble situation which Indian's do constantly! The head wobble is a mystery to me and most Americans. They wobble their heads when they agree with you, or when they don't understand, or when they don't want to tell you "no", or...the list goes on and on. If there was just one type of head wobble with only one meaning, it would be a lot easier. However, the head wobble is a delicate thing. I think I mistake the head wobble as the "I understand what you're saying" type, but really it means "I have no idea what you're saying to me, so I will shake my head and walk away," In this case, I end up thinking they know what I mean, but never come back with what I wanted.

When we were trying to check out of the hospital, I made it very clear from the night before that we needed to check out at 9:15 am. This was crucial because we had to catch our already once missed flight from Delhi to Jaipur.  After explaining this to many nurses and doctors, and getting many head wobbles, no one would discharge me! The problem is that no one will do a job that they don't think is their responsibility. A doctor won't fix my I.V. because it's the nurses job, the nurse won't pass along the message to discharge me because it is someone else's job, and on and on.  To make a long story short, when we finally decided to walk out after hours and hours of our request to leave being ignored, we were swarmed with hospital security. It was SO frustrating. It was the first time I saw Matt get American mad, but it was justified as I had been ignored for so long.

To help you understand the wobble, the link below will take you to a video showing the various head wobbles.

Video explaining the wobble

Although I didn't get to see any sights in Delhi, I'll leave you with a few photos I have taken recently.

These are from the top floor of our apartment.  I wish we were higher up in our building to see these great views, but the higher the floor, the more pigeons there are, so I'll settle for minimal pigeon poop.

I also posted a video of a snake charmer Matt saw in Delhi. I was very jealous I didn't get to see this!

I hope everyone has a great weekend! To all my teacher friends - have fun on  your first day of school!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Teej Festival

Teej Festival was this Friday and Saturday and Matt and I had a great time seeing the celebration.  Ajay took us to the City Palace on Friday night to see the parade of the royal family.  The festival celebrates Goddess Pavarti and her union with Lord Shiva, and takes place on the third day after a moonless night during the Indian month of Shrwana. It also recognizes the end of monsoon season (even though it keeps raining here!)  Women wear beautiful sarees and have henna applied.

We had to park about a kilometer from the City Palace, and walked down the busy street towards the parade. On the way we saw a group of monkeys!

When we arrived at the palace entrance, there were people lined up on both sides of the street. There were men carrying flags of Pavarti, similar to totem polls.  One man carries it, and he is surrounded by dozens of other men prepared to catch it incase it falls...which it almost did many times.

While Matt and I were watching the crowd, Ajay had found a great place for us to see the parade. We went up to a rooftop designated for tourists. There were many Europeans up there. A type of sweet cake was served to everyone, and women were there to apply henna (sometimes called mendhi). I got my first henna art there! The henna comes out of a tube similar to a toothpaste tube, is very thick. It dries for about an hour, and then you can wash it off to reveal the orange-ish dye. I of course smeared some on my jeans. 

When the actual parade finally started, it was hard to see because everyone was standing on their chairs, and many had their umbrellas open.  Ajay was able to get us onto another side of the rooftop which only had a few people there. I sat on the edge of the roof for a great view.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Delhi Belly

A few days ago, Matt needed to go to New Delhi for work.  His company puts him up in one of the nicest hotels I have ever been to, so it was a natural decision for me to join him for some pampering. We stayed two nights there on our initial trip down to Jaipur. While Matt worked for three days, I slept in the world's most plush bed, went to the gym, shopped at the Ambiance Mall, and lounged by the pool.  Don't judge my pure indulgence.
Check it out @

Yes, I Instagramed this awesome picture. I actually had to google how to do this. 

While we were in Delhi, we went to Chili's! Sadly, we go to this restaurant far too often in the U.S., but it was good to go to a familiar place. However, I don't know if it was Chili's, the hotel food, or just the fact that we were in Delhi, we experienced some serious Delhi belly. For those of you unfamiliar, please see the attached link:

While Delhi belly is not enjoyable, we were able to spend a day seeing some sights.  We went to see the Lotus Temple, which is of the Baha'i faith. This religion encompasses many other faiths, and emphasizes the unity of humankind. It was an enjoyable visit, despite some of the people I was annoyed by. While we were waiting in line to enter, a man was taking pictures of me on his cellphone. I didn't even realize what was happening until Matt stood right in front of me to block him.  Apparently he didn't take the hint because he tried again and I had to use my crabby voice to tell him to stop. I know people are only taking pictures and staring at me because they are curious about me, but it is still weird.  I learned from a couple we met who has lived in Delhi for six years to stare right back. I have since then tried this, and I think it's working! Plus, it's fun to turn the tables.

While we were in Delhi, we went to Cannaugh Place Market. If you want to go to a place flooded with people, many of whom are trying desperately to sell you their goods (or drugs), then go to a market! Matt is much nicer than I am, and engages in conversations with every person who talks to him. I, on the other hand, am getting really good at ignoring people. Matt advised me to be nicer, telling me that some people are really just curious and want to chat. However, his conversations often ended when he declined a drug offer. When I am in a crowded place like that, I am too busy watching our for piles of cow dung, contagious people, and keeping track of my wallet to talk. 

I bought a lantern similar to these. 

I wish I was able to capture a picture that really shows how many people were at this market. 

There was a lot of street food at this market. I don't think our stomachs will ever be ready for that...

Visiting Delhi made me grateful that we live in Jaipur. There are millions (literally) more people in Delhi, and the traffic is insane.  The traffic and the size of the city means it takes a minimum of 45 minutes to get anywhere.  And the poverty, especially the children, is also much worse there. Although there are not nearly the modern amenities in Jaipur as in Delhi, I'll take Jaipur any day just for the sanity. 

Sight seeing in Delhi has made me look forward to exploring our own city more.  Our driver has pointed out several temples and shopping areas I want to see.  Hopefully we can do something fun this weekend. I'll be sure to let everyone know when I do something really awesome, like ride an elephant!

Settling In

Remember all those uncomfortable feelings I mentioned last time? Yeah...they're still there, but you should see all the gross stuff I do now and don't even care! I drink milk and orange juice from the pantry section at the grocery store. Last time I checked, cow's milk should be refrigerated. I obviously refrigerate it when I get home, and I've been eating it in my cereal for two weeks and nothing bad has happened (yet).  I also walk around in sandals and my feet are covered in dirt and God know's what else. It's easier to wash my sandals off in the water on our balcony than wearing shoes that will just trap the dirt because I can't wash them. The other reason I go the sandal route is because last week Matt and I went for a walk around Central Park which is a huge, well kept park with a golf course and Polo grounds. I of course had not learned my lesson yet and wore these really cute, over priced sequined Sperry's I bought a few months ago.  I got what I deserved because they gave me huge, painful blisters on both feet.  The point in me telling you this is how despite my efforts to wear bandaids to cover my gross wounds, my foot sweat made the bandaids not stick, so flies ate away at my flesh for days. Aren't you glad you know that? I guess the point is that despite my efforts to change or avoid things, sometimes I just have to let it go and remind myself that warm milk and flies won't be the end of me.

Matt and I have experienced a lot of "firsts" lately.  We have wanted to venture out on the weekends without having to rely on our driver. Ajay has a family, and also has a farm where he grows vegetables, so we are trying to make sure we are not taking up all his time, as well as learning the area for ourselves.  There are many places within a 15-20 minute walk, but sometimes it's just too hot. It also gets dark here insanely early, usually by 7:20, so we try to avoid walking in the dark.  Our solution to this is the tuk-tuk.  Tuk-tuks are everywhere. Basically, if we just walk outside the front gate of our apartment complex, there will be several looking for someone to give a ride to. We have used tuk-tuks several times now, the first time being the night of those blisters that almost caused a meltdown. We've taken them to our new favorite restaurant 100% Rock, or to check out other new places nearby. The best part is we usually only pay 50 rupees, which is about 85 cents. 

*Note the three wheels.  Matt has advised me that in the event we are in a tuk-tuk and it rolls over, to keep my arms inside and not attempt to catch us.  

We have enjoyed many other new things lately.  Matt has golfed twice in Central Park at Rambagh golf course. It is a members course, so he is looking into joining. He seems to really like it. The course is used for several professional golf tournaments, and many of the caddies are professional which he likes because they offer good advice. I think his goal is to come back and not hit parked cars anymore. 

I have volunteered several times now, and I really enjoy it.  I teach five different classes, and each class has a distinct personality. My favorite class is the one that's a little mischievous.  The boys are testing me by doing all sorts of things they shouldn't be doing, like shredding up paper under their desk, or  eating these berries they pick. But they are all adorable, and are so excited to be learning English. My big task is to write five different tests for them to take in a few weeks to see what they know so far. 

Last post I mentioned planting flowers at our apartment, and I'm almost done. Our driver has been getting some dirt for us a little at a time from Matt's work. It is a construction site since they are adding onto the plant he works at, so there are mounds of dirt we can take for free.  I must have at least 80 plants. It has been fun to pick out what I want, and make our apartment look much nicer. I think the other residents here think I am crazy for planting myself. Everyone else here has a gardener. The modo seems to be why do for yourself what others will do for free or a minimal charge. But, I enjoy doing this myself. I also forgot to mention that apparently plants are required. Everyone has them lining their entire apartment. So, it's not like I really had a choice, I just made the choice to plant them myself. 

I still have a few more to plant. In the bottom right I am growing guavas, limes, peppers, and chiku. I am not sure what chiku really is, but I wanted to try something new.

The door on the right is where our laundry machine is. First time I have had to go outside to do laundry, and then let it hang to dry. I hang it inside to avoid pigeon poop on our clothes. It is better than going into a basement, however it takes so long to dry in this humidity, and it is a small machine, so I feel like I am constantly doing laundry. 

Table for two. Outdoor furniture has been extremely hard to find. I settled on this little table for now, which looks a little silly on this huge patio. But I feel like I bargained a good price for it.

All these plants are mine! 

 So, needless to say, things are getting much calmer.  It is great that Matt and I are enjoying our time together, but are also starting to find hobbies of our own.  We've both been able to read a lot more, and be outside. I just finished reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and Ender's Game by Orson Scott. I am just starting Reconstructing Amelia. In fact, I am headed outside right now to read and chase pigeons off the patio. If you have any great book suggestions, please let me know! 

My quote I leave you with today: "Your day will go the way the corners of your mouth turn." It's never been more true.