Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Belated Diwali

Well, last week's prediction was accurate.  I did have to go back to Airtel. The SIM cards they gave me were the big size, and I need nano SIMS which I clearly specified. About a half hour later I got the right ones, and a few hours later the phone worked. I threw a minor American hissy fit in the one there could possibly understand how being a woman in a foreign country without any way to contact my husband or driver makes me feel. And when it takes two days to get something done that I could do in 20 minutes in the U.S., I get crabby!  I may have cursed a few times under my breath, but believe me, throwing a fit is much more satisfying if people understand what you are saying.

Let's change the topic to something that doesn't make we want to scream....

Happy (belated) Diwali!! The actual day of Diwali was November 3, but people celebrated for many days.  It is the biggest holiday of the year, and houses and businesses are decorated with lights just like Christmas lights.  People spend time with their family, enjoy a lot of food and sweets, and everyone gets new clothes. The holiday is for one of the dozens of Gods, which I can never keep track of.

Ajay had us over for dinner last week to celebrate. He kept telling us his family was so happy to have foreigners at their home for the first time.  They made Matt and I feel very welcome, and everyone certainly went out of their way for us.

 His family was lovely, and his children absolutely adorable.  Matt, Ajay's nephews, as well as other boys from the area, set off a ridiculous amount of sketchy India fireworks. I watched from far away...dangerous, unregulated explosives aren't really my thing.  After that excitement, we went inside to have a traditional vegetarian dinner. There were flat breads, I think they were chapatti. There was also dal which is a lentil dish, and a dish of peas, potatoes, and paneer which is cheese. It was tasty, and I am getting pretty good at eating with my hands.

The cutest kids!!! The little girl showed me how she can say her alphabet in English, and she can also apparently count to 100, but I had to stop her around 20.

It was really dark out and I was taking these pictures on my phone, so unfortunately they didn't turn out very well.  We had a great time and I look forward to more Indian holidays that don't involve fire works. :)

Since Diwali is so important, I wanted to bring some gifts to school.  I found a "99 Rupee" store, which is just like a dollar store! Many things were about 40 cents to a dollar. I was able to get every child a book in English.  I also bought two new cricket bats, a soccer ball, and some new posters of colors, numbers, etc. to hang up in the classrooms.

Cricket was a big hit! I am glad I got two different sized bats so the younger boys and older boys could each have their own game going.  The older boys weren't playing fair at first...I found the smaller bat hidden on top of a shelf where the little ones couldn't reach.  

One boy, Akash, had a plastic quarter he keeps in his pocket. I called the coin toss for who picked teams first.  I hope they continue to enjoy playing!

Here are the older boys reading their new books.  I also brought some newspapers written in English that I think will be good practice for them too.

Serious deliberations over teams.

One of the oldest girls, Laxshmi, was showing me her henna skills after school. She did a pretty good job!

Since our return from Australia and getting back into our routine here, I have been on some serious emotional roller coasters. I usually write about all of the wonderful experiences we have here, but in between those are some seriously infuriating, aggravating, and annoying daily occurances.  Matt was going through the deep frustrations of living here about a month ago, and now it is really starting to hit me.  I found this article about the stages of Culture Shock and it is really true:

I often go through all the phases in a single day. There are things here, like going to school, that make me feel very content.  Other times I get so angry with how daily life can be so annoying, or sad because I seriously miss my family and friends, or just irritated by the smells and sounds. (Matt and I like to play a new game when we go on a walk, where we guess if it's human poop or animal poop. Three out of 5 times, it's human). 

I have not yet been able to accept things yet. I am constantly wanting to change things and show people how to do things a better way...and the real problem is that I think MY way is the best way.  SO... maybe my bossy-ness is the real culprit.  If you know my family, you know where I get that from! :)

Some days really suck, but when I remember all that I have to be grateful for, and all the opportunities I will have here, it's not so terrible.  Hopefully that feeling of acceptance settles in soon!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Down Under

I'm baaack!

Matt and I just returned from an amazing trip to New Zealand and Australia! We were gone for two weeks, and I took tons of pictures, so I'll try to give you the abbreviated version.

We left Jaipur on October 19th, and a 4 hour drive, 12 hour flight, and 8 hour layover later...we arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand! We got in late, and spent one night before driving across New Zealand to Queenstown.  The sights were beautiful!

Lake Pukaki

After a full days drive, we arrived in Queenstown where we stayed for five days.  It's a very nice, small town nestled in the mountains on a beautiful lake.  We spent our time paragliding, riding down a luge, hiking, and visiting a winery! 

Hiking on the Queenstown trail...a bit steep fo my liking. 

Visiting Gibbston Valley Winery. We took a tour of the wine cave and after 20 minutes, I learned everything I need to know about grapes.

Taking a lift up the mountain to luge! I tried to keep up with Matt, but he went way too fast!

After our time in NZ, we headed to Cairns, Australia.  I had my first dive there on the Great Barrier Reef (diving for dummies crash course), and we saw many animals, visited the Daintree Rainforest, and relaxed on the beach!

Here I am with Nemo and Marlin. Dory was no where to be found.  We took a day trip on a large boat, where the divers took out groups of four on first time dives.  All I had to do was figure out how to breathe under water, and they took care of the rest. 

Check out this cute, cuddly Koala at the Kuranda Koala Gardens. I think this zoo was Matt's favorite part of the whole trip! All the animals were in the open to pet and feed. I even got pooped on by a parrott...but seeing as how me getting pooped on is a regular thing here in India, I barely flinched. 

Our last day in Cairns, Matt went bungy jumping! If I were a mean person, I would post the picture of him first jumping off the platform with the most terrified look on his face, but I don't think he'd be very happy. Let's just say it gave me a real good laugh. I am proud of him though. Maybe we can find a place for him to bungy here in India. :)

Last stop: Sydney.

We went whale watching just off of Bondi Beach, and saw several whales! We were hoping one would breach out of the water, you know, like you see on TV. But this one only teased us.

One night in Sydney we went to the Bizarre Festival and ate delicious food! There was a band playing 20's music, and many interesting people (artsy fartsy types). On this globe you are supposed to put a thumbprint where you're visiting Australia from...Matt put one in Minnesota, and I put one in India.

Opera House...for some reason seeing this in person was on my life's bucket list. I've always wanted to visit Australia and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to go.

So there you have it, the down and dirty version of our trip. I wish I could share every picture with you, but this is about all my sketchy India internet can handle right now. 

Speaking of India, don't worry, we immediately encountered frustrating problems within minutes of arriving in Delhi.  Our phones didn't work! No 3G. No calling. No texting. Ajay told us that when he called our phone numbers, other people answered them. This was a real peachy greeting back to reality.

I went to the phone store yesterday and found out that phone numbers for foreigners expire after 90 days and get recycled back into the system for others to obtain.  If I renew the number, it will just be gone again in three months. So...Ajay was awesome enough to provide his ID and put our SIM cards under his name so they won't expire. Ajay was supposed to get a cryptic text "20 minutes" later to activate the phone. It has been six hours and still no activation. Figures. But don't worry, I'll keep you posted on the outcome of this - I'm sure it will require another visit to Airtel. To be continued...