April 25, 2009

Ah, Saturday

I feel like sleeping in and lounging around on a Saturday might be a sure sign of assimilating to a new place -- and if so, I've accomplished that task. I got up today 9 a.m., ate breakfast and video-chatted with Vivek, did an hour or so of yoga and then headed out to go shopping.

I spent all afternoon in Janpath, a kind-of shopping district in Delhi anchored, at least for me, by the Central Cottage Industries Emporium -- a government-subsidized handicrafts shop, full of marble-working, gold-working, painted wooden elephants, rugs, art and, my favorite, cheap handmade paper crafts, including stationery and journals. This area's like the stationery-and-picture frame section of a Borders, but at 1/5 the price (about $0.50-$1.50 each for paper sets). And the prices are fixed -- no bargaining necessary. Ah.

After picking up a handful of letter-writing sets CCI, I braved the bargaining-necessary marketplace along Janpath and picked up some nesting jewelery boxes ($2.40), a pair of leather juttis ($11.50) and, at long last, two news magazines ($3.50 total).

All in all, a nice productive day of relaxing and shopping. Quite enjoyable.

Other random updates:
-- Anshuman, my devar-ji-(husband's brother)-to-be, posted some nice photos of his trip to Chandigarh and Gurgaon. (Bhabhi ji means brother's wife.)
-- I had my first Indian mango! (Or at least parts of one, over a few days this week at breakfast.)
-- As a result of my Hindi lessons, I can now say, "Main bharat mai hun" (I am in India), "Office janna hai" (I need to go to the office), and "Dos Cokes, ice nahi, aur dos dosas dijiye" (Please give me two cokes, no ice, and two dosas"). Swell, huh?


April 20, 2009

Agra Redux


To attempt to avoid the inevitable very hot days in May and June, Greg and I journeyed to Agra Sunday for a tour of the Taj Mahal and other monuments. It was my second trip to Agra, so the Taj wasn't quite as amazing -- and the heat at Sikandra, toward the end of the day, was nearly unbearable (by my meager Western standards). But, all in all, not a bad way to spend a Sunday. Photos here.

We opted to hire our weekday driver, Amit, to ferry us to Agra and back, rather than take the train (somewhat disappointing, since one of my chief accomplishments of last week was actually booking our train tickets, which I then exchanged for a partial refund). It was a nice way to get back and forth, I have to say, though twice as expensive as taking the train. Once my Hindi is stronger, I think I'd prefer to take the cheap way and work on bartering for a guide on arrival. (Our guide this time was included in the price of our car fare.) (Not that I'm intending to return to Agra any time soon -- two visits to the Taj seems almost too greedy for a lifetime -- but there are plenty of other places to reach by train from Delhi.)

One item that did not make it into our photos of the day, sadly, was my first trip to a McDonald's in India, where I had a fried chicken sandwich, fries and a Coke with no ice. The fries tasted the same; the chicken was fairly standard but seemed to have some Indian spices, including turmeric. I'd go it again. Maybe next time I'll be brave enough to try the "Veggie Surprise" burger.


April 16, 2009

Reverse Tourism

I don't have a photo to prove what I'm about to say, so you're just gonna have to take my word for it.

During our stay in Chandigarh, Greg and I had a few encounters with reverse tourism -- where we became the attraction, at least for a brief moment, shaking hands with small children or posing for photos.

At the Rose Garden, the guardians -- I assume family -- of the poor little guy above brought him over to shake our hands while we sat, enjoying -- what else? -- the smell of the roses.

When the little guy was unphased by the handshake, the folks I can only assume were his parents went in for another step: They picked up him, sat him between us on our bench, put one hand on Greg's lap, one on mine, and took his photo. His photo, with the Americans. The poor guy smiled not once during the entire event. I couldn't tell if he was frightened of just annoyed.

Incidentally, I'm reading 'Eat, Pray, Love,' Elizabeth Gilbert's book about traveling through Italy, India and Indonesia. In a chapter about how she makes for a not-so-great traveler, Gilbert mentions that she dealt with this same phenomenon -- being pointed out by parents to young children -- in China. There, she said, the
"... children -- who had never seen anything quite like this pink-faced yellow-headed phantom person -- would often burst into tears at the sight of me. I really hated that about China." (Penguin Books, 2006)
I don't think my experience makes me hate India. In fact, it was sort of interesting to be, for a moment, on the other side of the lens.


April 15, 2009

Chandigarh Photos -- Before the Wedding


Here and here.


Random Thoughts


Musings, while I wait for my photos to upload (not as slow here as it could be in other households in India, but still slower than desired):

  • One thing you don't get from my photos is that, most often, when I'm taking them, the air is hot, stinky and either dusty or buggy (mosquitos and flies are most common). But, that said, I always am glad I went wherever I did to take these photos, when looking back on them from the comfort of my AC'd room.
  • I had my first power outage of this trip to India last night. The generators kicked in within about 10 seconds, though, which is super. Crazy thing is the cable went first (must be closer to the power source); unfortunately, the cable going out now puts me on edge, in expectation that our power is going to go out, too.
  • Every day has been so crazy and different and exciting so far. I haven't been bored at all. Not even close.
  • Things I forgot to pack: my brown belt; a flashlight; my cell phone charger (I'm using a mini-USB to charge it from my laptop).
Photos still uploading, but I'm tired. Ciao for now.


April 10, 2009

Jami Masjid -- Delhi

In a continuation of our irony-in-India ways, Greg and I spent a good portion of today, Good Friday, a key date in the Christian faith, at Jami Masjid, India's biggest mosque, gathering place for the Muslim faith. Photos here.

Other highlights of today, our first public holiday in Gurgaon:
-- no work! (OK, we both did at least a little work, actually.)
-- running errands at Big Bazaar (a local chain) at Sahara Mall.
-- more working out at the tiny gym on the first floor of our building.
-- buying our return tickets from Chandigarh.
-- finding affordable bangles on Dariba Kalan in Old Delhi. I saw them on sale at the mall for five times as much as I paid (which was 150 rupees, or about $3USD).

Lastly, we rested at home, beautiful home, and had afternoon chai.


Candrama bhara hua

On the way out of work last night, I glanced out the car window to find a big red full moon following us home. I said something like, "wow," which caught my driver, Amit's attention. He took a glance back but quickly decided it was better to keep his eyes on the road.

To let him know what I was looking at, I pulled out the Hindi-Urdu phrasebook I've been carrying (Anna, I think this once belonged to you), and looked up "moon" and "full." Amit, who speaks very little English, did his best to help me pronounce the words. (chundramah bar-uh hoo-a, from what I could gather, if you're interested.)

And then I realized that this is my life for the next three months. Very cool.


April 7, 2009

Settling in

Just a quick post.

A very exciting thing happened last night: I slept a total of 7.5 hours and only woke up once. So I have a stuffy head today (the cold is taking its course), but I feel a bit less jet-lagged. In just 3 days, I feel like that's not bad.

Work is going well. I'm not going to blog about it, but know that it's challenging and keeping me busy. And yes, there's a cafeteria; yes, it serves delicious Indian food.

OK, off to another day.

Hong Kong Photos

Photos, as promised.

Stories to come.

April 6, 2009

No photos yet

I caught a cold and need to sleep. Photos soon.

April 5, 2009

India - Day 1

We're here! And off to a rocking start. I'm posting two photos of our wedding-attire-buying extravaganza in Karol Bagh yesterday (for a family friend's wedding next weekend in Chandigarh).

Greg and I arrived in Delhi about 2:20 a.m. Sunday, after a long layover in Hong Kong with my fiance's brother, Anshuman. After a few hours of sleep at our guesthouse in Gurgaon, we headed out with the other expats from our office for a leisurely Japanese brunch (ironic, I know, for our first full meal in India - but we also had homecooked Indian food in Hong Kong, so who knows what we'll eat next) and finished off the day shopping. At home, we had samosas and jalebis for dinner.

I'm heading out for work now, so I haven't got a ton of time to write. But I'll post some more photos tonight (Monday a.m., for most of you -- just in time to help you procrastinate the start of the work week).