Monday, June 30, 2014

"Notes from the Field"

Check out the interview I did for a fellow blogger!

Her website is www.thenewdiplomatswife.com  and I was featured in her Notes from the Field section.

Have a great day everyone! 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Girls Trip to Paris

I just returned from an amazing trip with my mom and sisters! We met halfway between India and the U.S. in Paris and then Athens.

Our trip was filled with sight seeing, great food, and lots and lots of walking. I am certain that the saying "up-hill, both ways" comes from Athens. But at least with all that walking I could have that extra croisant or piece of baklava. :)

For four girls, sharing two of the world's smallest hotel rooms and one confusing map, we got along pretty well and now have some wonderful memories.

Here are some of the highlights from Paris!

I believe this is a government building. We passed it on our first day while strolling through the 3rd Arr.

Inside the Notre Dame

On the walk to Basilica de Sacre Couer


Since the line for the elevator at the Eiffel Tower is always insanely long, we opted for the stairs. No wait, but never ending steps!

Picnic @ the Eiffel Tower







Friday, June 20, 2014

Top 10 Reasons to Visit India (part 2)


As promised, The Top 10 Reasons to Visit India continued.

6. To Partake in Festivals & Celebrations
*thethoughtfulindian.blogspot.fr

One of the best ways to experience the Indian culture is to participate in an Indian celebration. Whether you are having a paint fight during Holi, or dancing at a wedding, you will see beautiful colors and experience interesting new traditions. Indian celebrations showcase the importance of family and the Hindu religion, along with the traditional foods and rituals. 

7. To go Beyond your Comfort Zone

*google images

India is an assault on your senses. The sights, smells, and heat can be a shock to your system. You will often find yourself in situations where you are overwhelmed by crowds, traffic, blaring horns, 115 degree heat, and unsanitary conditions that make you cringe. However, experiencing those things are part of the human experience where we leave our creature comforts and encounter feelings we often intentionally avoid. I think that being in these situations out of our comfort zone allows us to truly experience a new culture, and discover things we never knew about ourselves.

8. To Un-Plug
*google images

India is a great place to check out from technology. How often are we burried in our phones that we miss so much of what's going on around us? I was inspired by someone who was an engineer in Scotland, who decided to leave his job and travel for the next 6 months around the world without a phone! He found ways to check in occassionally with family, but wanted to get the full experience of India so spent weeks teaching at Vatsalya without any access to the internet. India provides a great opportunity to escape technology and truly be present.

9. Meet Interesting People


If you're travelling through India, it is a guarantee that you will meet other travellers from all over the world. Although it is difficult to find long-term expats in Jaipur, I have met individuals who are often coming through for a few weeks. It is so interesting to hear the stories of people from across the globe who have decided to visit India, From young interns in the textile or jewellery industry, to retired folks looking for a new experience, you're likely to hear some great stories. 

10. To do Good!


If you're looking to do some "responsible tourism" and give back to the country you're visiting, there are so many amazing volunteer opportunities. You don't need to have money to donate to make a difference. Giving your time to an NGO can be an invaluable experience both for you and those you are helping. Offering your skills to women who make handicrafts to help support their families, teaching children, or assisting in providing basic medical care to families in slums can make an impact that will extend far beyond your visit. If you have something specific you're interested in, you can often find an organization that will put you in contact with other volunteers from your country to provide you with details of their own experience. And as always, Vatsalya is a great place to help in a variety of ways in Jaipur!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Top 10 Reasons to Visit India (part 1)

With all the bad press on India lately, I decided it's time to highlight some of the good things this country has to offer. So let's just get to it...

My top 10 reasons why you should visit India: Part 1

1. To be Inspired


Every day I am genuinely inspired by the generosity of those around me. At Vatsalya where I teach, I have met people from around the globe, including retired teachers offering their skills, high schoolers on summer break looking for adventure, and those just seeking a new perspective on life. It is amazing that people give up their time and comfort to reach out to children in need. Those are the people who inspire me to take off my crabby pants and enjoy this place. Those are the people who inspire me to do good, as often as I can, even in the littlest of ways.

2. To Eat!


I think Indian food gets a bad rap. Some people think its all extremely spicy, which it isn't. Usually spicy means that it's "heavily spiced" with lots of garlic, peppercorns, ginger, etc. I have learned what I like and dislike, and there are quite a few dishes I enjoy.  You also have to come to India to eat to enjoy the traditions of an Indian meal. Eating with your fingers is a must (right hand only please.) It is rare that I use a fork when eating anymore. I have learned the art form of using naan to scoop up juicy pieces of butter chicken. Matt on the other hand seems to be perfecting the "swirl and scoop." He has no shame in mixing all the food on his plate with his fingers, swirling it into a mound to eat. He licks his fingers which I'm not sure is very appropriate, but whatever works. 

3. It's a Great Value


I remember when we went to New Zealand, and a bottle of water was upwards of $5! It was outrageous. A vacation can quickly become unpleasant when you have to count every penny.
India however, is a great bang for your buck! In general, food, hotels, and shopping are far cheaper than in other countries. You can fill up your belly and still fill up your suitcase with souveniers.
And speaking of souveniers...

4. The Shopping


You can find a wide variety of unique items for your home or wardrobe in India. Markets are a great place to find unique items, but be willing to barter! I recommend to start at at least half of the suggested price. My rule of thumb is if you like it, buy it. When it comes down to it, there's no sense in arguing with someone over fifty cents. 
The markets are a great place for items like scarves, silver jewellery, and clothing. Small boutique stores usually offer more quality items, such as blue tile pottery, clothing, and other household items. 


5. Great Jumping Off Point

Once you make it to India, you have access to so many other countries at really inexpensive prices. You are just a short plane ride from other exotic places like Thailand, Sri Lanka, The Himalayas, and the Maldives. If you're in India for an extended time, you could fly to Bangkok or Dubai for a quick weekend trip!

Need even more reasons? Check back later for part Two.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Is India Safe?


*image from www.ibnlive.in.com

When I first moved to India, the question I always got asked by my family was 'Do you feel safe there?" Even now when I am meeting a fellow expat for the first time or one of Matt's co-workers, that's always something they ask.

All you have to do is open a newspaper, or that handy iPhone app you have, and you'll likey see a terrible story about hate crimes towards women. Women being senselessly raped and murdered, young girls set on fire over land ownership. I recommend you watch the documentary It's a Girl and visit the website here, to see the trailer. The statistics on gendercide is Southeast Asia is astounding.

So to answer your question of if I feel safe here...yes, actually I do. But the fact that I feel safe is largely attributed to the conscious choices I make, and sadly is mostly due to my socioeconomic status. Many hate crimes towards women, including the latest crimes in the Katra village, occur when women are using the bathroom. If you haven't gotten around to watching the news and don't know what I'm talking about, you can read the most current CNN article here.

 In this particular village, women were only allowed to relieve themselves early morning or at night in the dark, because they were to not be seen by men. However, when you have to use the bathroom in a deserted field, you are making yourself very volnurable. I am lucky enough, however, to always have access to toilets, or at least a squatty potty with a lock. 

To put it into perspective, more Indians have cell phones than access to toilets or what is referred to as "improved sanitation." I have read several news articles with varying statistics, but about 50% of households have cell phones, while only 35-45% of people have access to a toilet. Remember that video I shared with you "Take Poo to the Loo?" That wasn't a joke!

I feel worried for this country because they still have such a long road ahead of them in terms of improving the health and safety for everyone. I wish there was a quick fix, but the fact is that India is just a young pup of a country, and until the corruption is put under control, nothing can be changed.

Sorry for being so gloom and doom.

However, if you are traveling to a foreign place, here are some of my tips to stay safe. You don't have to be in a third world country to use them. And again, please don't think I take anything for granted. Just because I don't worry about my safety 24/7 doesn't mean I don't take every precaution possible to keep it that way.

1. If you are a woman, especially in an unfamiliar place, do not go out alone at night.  I know some people would think it's being overly cautious, but that is something I absolutely will not compromise. 

2.  If you're getting into a taxi or auto-rickshaw alone and feel uncomfortable, before getting in stand at the back of the car and make a phone call, to anyone. Tell someone the drivers name and the license plate number. Even if no one answers or you're not able to make calls, pretend. Making the driver aware that you have reported this information is the point. 

3. In order to do number two, make sure you purchase and carry with you a portable phone charger. You don't want to be in a situation where you can't make calls, or play Words With Friends. 

4. When you're shopping at markets you'll get lots of offers to come to the back room to see the "good stuff." Don't go.

5. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. This can be difficult in crowded areas, but make sure you know who's around you and where your belongings are.

6. I read this one in a travel guide...if you feel as though you are being followed, look that person directly in the eyes and ask something like "Do you know what time it is?" Someone with bad intentions is less likely to mess with you once you have identified them.

7. Lastly, trust your gut. If you're unsure about something, don't do it! Always trust your instincts. 


It is unfortunate that safety is such a huge concern for women in India, but it's the reality of the situation. There are many things that go unspoken here, such as the gendercide, gender inequality, corruption, etc. etc. But...it's not all bad, really I promise! I am in no way justifying any of the hateful things that happen, but I don't want it to seem like this country is the pits. There are some wonderful things about India. Check back soon to see my "Top Ten Reasons to Visit India." :)



*You've probably noticed the design of this blog has changed several times. I am officially obsessed with changing the colors and layout until it is just right! I have gotten some complaints about the dissapearance of the elephant background. While it was a beautiful picture, it was distracting from the text and my own photos. I appreciate your patience while I fine tune things.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Expanding my Blog

In an attempt to reach a wider audience and fulfill some of my personal desires to be a contributing citizen of the world, I am working to improve my blog. A woman who works at the hotel I am currently staying at in Pune asked me "So how do you fill your time?" I had to LIE to her! I was too embarrassed to say "Oh you know, I'm on season 5 of Grey's Anatomy, I get pedicures, and I'm enjoying the free wine and food in your lounge." Instead I told her how busy I am with my two online classes. Now, while it is true that I am taking two classes, I am procrastinating to no end. How can one study when Izzy is dying of cancer in season 5 of Grey's Anatomy?! (Don't act like I just spoiled the show for you - that happened in 2008.)

So, in order to reach more people and provide meaningful content, I am working on adding more sections.  Currently I will be working to post other blogs that I follow and find interesting and helpful to other expats and world travelers.

In the future, I will have a section about travel tips specific to India. What better way to find suggestions for hotels, restaurants, and shopping than from someone who is really good at eating, sleeping, and spending money?!

Please let me know if there are any things you'd like to see on my blog, and please follow me on google plus.

I appreciate all my friends and family who follow my blog. I hope to continue to fill their need to keep tabs on me while I am thousands of miles away, while also interacting with more expats.

Thank you, and enjoy!