Thursday, May 29, 2014

You Know You Live in India if...

Every time Matt and I encounter a typical Indian situation, I take for granted the fact that the situation is usually NOT typical/reasonable/expected to most of you. Matt's always saying "take a picture of that!" Usually it's something that I am numb to now, like the herd of goats blocking traffic, but I'm realizing that because we have been here for almost eleven months I am becoming immune to some (not all) of the every day craziness! So here it goes...

You know you've been living in India if...

1. You've named your un-welcome pet gecko.
This is Scar. He likes to scurry around the walls and leave his droppings everywhere. There was one night I had trouble falling asleep because he was on the ceiling directly above my bed. This is what I imagined would happen...

2. You expect a flood every single time it rains. This country could use some drains.

3. When the power goes out at work (an hourly issue), iPhones are used as flashlights so the work can continue.

4. You know how to use this:
It's a microwave - duh!

5. Your life in India has taught you that many common daily activities can be extremely dangerous. Thus you have no issue hopping on the back of a motorcycle-taxi in a foreign country.

6. While staying in a 5 star hotel, you find what is presumably a bed-bug.
(Please ignore the gross close up of my fingernail.) 

Here's his baby:
You may expect me to have freaked out about this, but I was surprised how much I didn't really care. I have had plenty of bugs in my bed, just not what I believed were bed bugs. That really helped to prepare me for this.  I just wrote a note to house keeping explaining that I found two bugs and would like them to change the bed linens. There was then a note on my bed...

Basically the only reason I told them was because I really just want extra chocolates on my pillow. Yesterday they gave us three! Who gives three chocolates when there's two people? I let Matt have the extra one. Talk about some serious first-world problems!

7. Dead cockroaches in your house don't surprise you.

8. You're used to doing your laundry in the bath tub because you expect the washing machine to only work 50% of the time. Hey, it's better than washing clothes in a mud puddle on the curb.

9. When you see a bizarre picture like this for sale at a hotel, you barely look twice.
Why don't these ladies have pants on?! And is it just me, or are those the dogs from Lady and the Tramp?
If you're interested in having this painting hanging in your living room, let me know and I'll check out the price next time I'm in Gurgaon! 

So there you have it...nine examples of why I need to get to the United States! 

I have one more thing to share with you. My friend told me about this picture and I think it's pretty accurate.

I sent this image to my parents last week and this is how they replied:
Mom: "That's so cute and true!" - Mom, I only went to the spa three times this week!
Dad: "I had to google the word 'expat.'"  Not surprised.

If you want some entertainment, take this quiz! First World problems an be a serious thing!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Indian Weddings

Last week I went to my first Indian wedding! Technically, weddings can last several days with a variety of different celebrations, however I attended the final evening where the marriage ceremony actually takes place.

 I went with my friend Camila to the markets in the Pink City, and she helped me pick out a sari. Luckily she knows the market well, and knew a place with the best price. I was able to get my sari for just $5. A sari is essentially a rectagular piece of fabric that is then tied in various ways. I paid a woman $2 to insert an elastic waistband aka "sari for dummies." She even added a "silk" lining which I wasn't expecting. Even with that it was still tricky to tie! Some of the girls at school helped me out. I opted not to have a top made because they're crop tops. Instead I wore a tank top and workout capris underneath. It is my Americanized version. 

The wedding was for one of the teachers at school, Parveen. She is about 20 years old, and has grown up at Vatsalya-Udayan. She teaches the youngest kids and she's great with them. Her wedding was arranged by Gita, who works at the orphanage taking on a variety of tasks. The man she married is from her village, and the celebrations took place on campus.

When I arrived around 5:00, most of the boys were running around with anticipation, while the girls were busy doing hair and makeup, or prepping flowers.

Around 6:00 the groom made his entrance with his family, accompanied by some music, dancing kids, and of course a few random fireworks.

The grooms vest is made of rupees.

Apoorv and his twin Ayush had the best dance moves.

This is Poonima Auntie. She helps with taking care of the children and has one of the best smiles.

Here's the gift table. There were many things there to help the new couple make a home, including dishes, a sewing machine, pots and pans, and bedding. 

Here's the bride! In the pink is Gita Auntie and the blue is Jamaila, who is the school and orphanage director.

Gita Aunti, Parveen, and Laxshmi

The night before the wedding there is a celebration where all the girls get henna/mehendi.


After the grooms arrival with the males of his family, there was quite a long lull. May 14 was a very auspicious day, thus making it a popular day for a marriage. There was a full moon which also aligned with a God's birthday. I am sure there were other factors too, but I know that astrology plays a big part.
Because of this, the man marrying them, like an officiator, was delayed because of another wedding he was at.  During this delay, the DJ was set up and the kids were dancing like crazy! It actually reminded me of my 8th grade graudation dance...a mixture of teenage angst - boys and girls chatting and dancing together talking about he said she said - and the wallflowers who like to take in all their surroundings. 

Around 8:-8:30 I think that the kids had gotten so anxious that they decided to serve dinner before the ceremony. We all stood around the stone table tops near the kitchen and enjoyed many dishes. Don't forget that this is literally in the middle of the desert with limited electricity, so many cellphones were used as lights to see what you are eating!

Here are the cooks in the kitchen. Deepak, in the white shirt, is the cook at Vatsalya. He had some help for the day.

After we ate, we meaning me and all the kids, the wedding ceremony started. The bride and groom along with their families ate later. 

I really don't know much of what occured during the ceremony. There was a fire the bride and groom created together, along with their families. There were different liquids and powders they all threw in, and they circled the fire several times. 

Although this was my first wedding I attended in India, Matt and I see weddings in Jaipur just about every week. We live approximitely  20 feet from a marriage garden which is like an outdoor banquet hall.  Sometimes the music is so loud our windows shake!

Here is a clip of a wedding parade in the front of our apartment. We saw it while catching a tuk tuk to go out to dinner. We see several a week and they can create some bad traffic jams. There is a truck with a large generator in front to power all those lights. The groom is sitting on a horse in the back. I find it unfortunate that everyone gets to participate in the dancing except for the bride and groom!

I am looking forward to more traditional Indian celebrations, or any excuse to wear my sari again. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Battling Boredom, Seeking Independence

The past week has been filled with new things, and frankly I think it has breathed new life into me.s I have been attempting to discover new places and people in an effort to escape boredom and frustration. School is finishing up for the year and will go on summer break in two days. While they are busy with exams, I have had to find other ways to keep busy.

Things started to look up last weekend when Matt and I FINALLY went to a pool that is only a kilometer away. It is at a hotel called the Narain Niwas Palace and is a total sanctuary. We decided to walk there after first having lunch at a Subway in a mall across the street. (The Subway was gross by the way). We were unsure how to get there and went the long way by accident. It was 100 degrees, walking on a street littered with traffic and tuk tuks shouting and practically running us over to give us a ride. I was feeling irritated, (imagine that!), but when we finally got there it was so worth it. 

The hotel is tucked away from the street and is surprisingly quiet. After paying 250 rupees (about $4) at the front desk, we walked to the pool and were quickly greeted by a gentleman who laid down fresh chair cushions and towels. It was very relaxing, and the pool was a great place to cool down from the heat. 

I have since been to this pool several times, and I have a feeling I will continue to be a repeat customer. Every time I have gone, I notice the same people are always there, mostly foreign women. No one is taking pictures or staring which is awesome, and I can read the gossip magazines my friend sent me! It's perfect.

There are many beautiful peacocks which strut around. 

On the path towards the pool, there is a large cage filled with parakeets. 

Besides the pool being an awesome new place, I have made friends! I have a bad feeling I may have come off desperate, but I was just so happy to meet women in a similar position as myself. 

I met these girls through the Jaipur Expats Facebook page. I know it sounds creepy to meet people online, but desperate times call for desperate measures. The challenging part is that the Facebook group has a few hundred people on it, but most of them are Indian men preying on young foreigners. It's hard to weed out the creepers to find those who are actually expats.

These girls and I met at a place called On The House for coffee last Tuesday. Marcela is here from Brazil with her husband who is working on a factory start up which will produce ATMs. They also have a four year old son. Camila who is also Brazilian, was previously here as an intern, where she met her now boyfriend. She now has moved back and is working to start her own company where she will export crafts back to Brazil. 

We met up a second time last night and went to a new restaurant called Blackout on the rooftop of a hotel. It was a nice atmospere with pretty good food. Unfortunately Matt couldn't come because he was out of town for work, but hopefully we can get together again. I can actually see Marcela and Roberto's apartment from our apartment window - very covenient! 

It feels so comforting to know that other people here are having the same experiences as Matt and I are. We've all had the same frustrating encounters with the crabby guys at the Foreign Registry Office, and we were able to share ideas of good restaurants and shopping. Marcela told me that she purchases red meat at the Marriott hotel. I will definitely have to check into this! There's only so much chicken one person can take.  

The last new thing I have to share, was that I took a tuk tuk by myself for the first time. I have been trying to get the courage to do this, and I am glad I finally got it over with. I am extremely grateful for our driver, but I want the indepedence of being able to go somewhere without having it planned a day in advance.

 A tuk tuk ride should cost about 10 rupees per kilometer (16 cents). I went from my apartment to a cafe for lunch which is 1.5 kilometers away.  I put my 30 rupees, because I'm a sucker, into a pocket of my bag, preparing to be hastled.  I have learned how to say "that is too expensive" in Hindi which I was also ready to shout. However, I handed him the money, no problem. Often times Matt and I end up paying 2-3 times as much, but I will no longer be taken advantage of! Last week when we went to dinner, we paid 50 rupees for a 2 kilomter ride. The guy was angry and yelling for 100 rupees. I really don't mind paying someone over a dollar for a ride, but its simply the principle of it. I want to pay as much as everyone else does. Otherwise, we develop the repuation as the people who always over pay.

On my way home from lunch, I couldn't get the driver waiting outside to bring his price lower than 50 rupees, so I started to walk. I intended to get another tuk tuk, but then decided I didn't mind walking. It wasn't so bad because on Sundays the streets are much quieter, however this heat really enhances the aromas of trash and urine. 

So let's just say that things are not as bad as I may like to think they are sometimes. I am looking forward to getting together with Camila and Marcela again, and I will continue to work on being independent, and perhaps seeing the good in things more often. 

"Attutude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure." - Bob Bitchin