Saturday, November 22, 2014

If you are here because of Couchsurfing

It has come to my attention that someone has stolen one of my photos and is using it as a profile picture on the couchsurfing website.

That is not me. If you have found my blog through a photo on any social media or similar website, please alert me by commenting on this post so that I can report it.

Thank you!

Friday, May 24, 2013

It's been a while, World...

Hello there, fellow travelers. It feels strange to revisit this blog after so long. I left Mumbai approximately 3 years ago, finished high school, moved to the big apple for college, and am now about to embark on a whole new adventure: South Korea. Hopefully. That's right, I'm currently in the motions to study abroad this fall. Not to worry, you India lovers, this blog will not be replaced by my new travels through East Asia. This post, though, is to alert you that I will be blogging my time before and during my time in Seoul. If you choose to follow my journey, the address to that blog is

Not to worry, I have not forgotten about India and hope to go back someday. Feel free to keep asking me questions about my exchange experience and I'll answer them as best I can. I'm still involved with AFS and YES as a volunteer and a host family member. Anyways, signing off and I hope you all join me on my next global adventure!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Beginning

My school here in the U.S. is about to start again and it's the year anniversary of when I first went to Mumbai. It feels like it's been so long and then I remembered I never finished this blog. Well where I left off was the end of school. On our last night, Austin and my friends took us to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants to take pictures and talk. Although they had exams, they were happy to say goodbye to us one last time. My friend Sanjana gave us both photo books with pictures throughout our stay and everyone wrote comments in them. That night, I talked with my host mom and sister and we said our goodbyes since my host sister would not see me off that morning.

The next day, we boarded the planes at around nine to Delhi. Sanjana, Sasha, and Adhishree saw us off at the airport as well as Austin's host mom (mine had already left when they came). The plane ride to Delhi went fine and not long at all. We were picked up by AFS staff at the airport and took a cab to our hotel, which was very nice. The thing about Delhi is that... it's very spread out and there are wide open roads. After living in Mumbai, it was a bit disorienting and Austin and I agreed that we liked Mumbai better. I don't know why but I just didn't get Delhi. I might have to go back again to visit that city because it just didn't make sense.

We re-united with the Delhi girls and became Team India again. It was great to see them and see how we all had been changed. this was by far the best orientation yet. Everything was just about talking about things in the community and spreading your knowledge. The rest of the time, we just goofed around. We got to go to the Taj Mahel, which was AMAZING, and took a side trip to the birth place of Lord Krishna. The best part of that was riding in these cycle rickshaws down these narrow back roads to a shrine. There were sewers on both sides of it with sometimes wild hogs in them. This one temple dedicated to Krishna was decorated with beautiful flowers everywhere, and I was told that, people will get their name put on a list for years in advance just so that they can decorate this temple in the months leading up to Krishna's birthday.

Of course we are just a bit silly. It is surprising we all became so close as a group of exchange students...

This is Austin and I waiting for our delayed flights out of D.C. Our orientation there went pretty well too, although we didn't meet the president. Instead we met with the assistants to our senators to talk about international relations and to ask them to keep funding the YES program. Thanks to Colorado, we also got free passes to see the House of Representatives, which was cool to see. We saw the Department of State as well and talked with one of it's main women (I'm sorry I'm forgetting your name right now!) Lastly, we made a toast to the future of YES and left on our way.

Now, I've been very busy this summer. I started work, literally the week after I returned home and there wasn't an end to it. I saw my friends quite a bit, my grandma came to visit, and we now have a new member of our family. Her name is Bennasee and she is from Thailand. She will be spending a year here in the U.S. under the YES scholarship. She's only been here about a week but so far, we're getting along great. In that way, it is a new beginning because now I am helping someone on their own journey, while my understanding of my own deepens. I am still in contact with my Indian friends although it is difficult being so far away from them and what with their aggressive school work. But I hope that I've made friends for life and I know these memories will stay with me forever.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Saying Good-bye

So, this won't be my last post because I haven't told you about Elephanta caves and everything else that happened this past week but I thought that since it's my last day, I should put up a little on looking back at my year.

It's true when they say that you will barely realize that the end is coming. It was certainly hard for me too. Thinking back, I can hardly believe that tomorrow morning I'm going to Delhi, leaving everything here behind. And there's nothing I can do. I believe that leaving home is the easy part of an exchange. I mean, it's only 10 months and you can always return early if that's needed. But leaving your host country is a bit difficult. For me, it's scary to think how I'll never have this again. Well, I could live in a different country but I won't have my host family and my friends won't be able to hang out with me in the same way. I feel like I'll become an outsider again. And... I don't want that. I am so connected to Mumbai and I want to take in every part of it. I don't think my exchange was like most peoples (although that is a debate in itself since not everyone has the same experience). But I still have lived in Mumbai and I still love Mumbai and the people I have met (I cannot claim to love all Indian people because that would make everything so generalized and I don't want to lie and said I had access to every level of society).

It's also scary to leave these wonderful people. They have become your advisers and loved ones during the entire year and then suddenly, you can grab a taxi to see them and get coffee. I pray I will see them again, attend maybe one or more of their weddings, maybe run into them in the U.S. But there is always an option of that not happening.

In the end, I would like to say that despite whatever you have read on my blog or anyone elses, it is good to know that your own exchange will not be the same. I made this mistake during mine and became disappointed before I learned how blessed I was with the people around me. But that revelation took a while and valuable time was wasted on not keeping my eyes open to everything. I'm happy with my exchange now but if you are one of the lucky people going on an exchange my advice is: Prepare to be surprised. There's nothing you can do besides this. Maybe you'll be placed in a totally different strata of society or your family has different religious views than your own. You can't control it. When I first got accepted into AFS, I was supposed to be going to a small city in Gujarat but after getting my scholarship, I was put in Mumbai. There is no way I can say that your exchange will be different or similar but I can say, your exchange is what you make it. AFS is right about many things but only you know yourself and you are capable of pushing yourself past that previous limit to find a whole new one and break it down as well. Life is tough and an exchange does not make that any better, but you can decide what your reaction is and, hopefully, you'll come out stronger and better than before.

The world is a big messy place, and it looks even worse when no one is really there to guide you. So it's up to you to take the broom yourself and start sweeping, and that first swish will welcome a whole lot of other sweepers to share the task.

A bad metaphor, I know, but I'm happy right now and I love the people I met this year. I want to never forget what I accomplished and how much I grew. But there's so much left to discover, I want to press fast forward. Unfortunately, I still have my 12th grade left. Oh well. I guess it's back to work.

Until then, good luck :]

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Farewell DAIS...

Scary right? Ahahaha that's my English HL batch that I've been with who threw a farewell party for me last Thursday (some of them wanted to bunk/ditch Friday so we had to re-schedule). As I mentioned before, Austin and my last day of school was on Friday and so many small class parties were held in our honor. For English we had a tea party not unlike what we had done while studying Alice in Wonderland. Of course, to cover up the obvious farewell we decided we would say we were having an in-depth conversation on the use of food in Miss Julie. This actually didn't matter in the end as we had it after school so none of the heads could tell us off for doing it. In Austin's class, his teacher had made them cake and they brought in coke. I think mine was honestly cooler since we all had masks and headgear to wear.

We all brought in food. I brought donuts which my teacher had to hide in a FedEx box so that the other teachers didn't steal them. Iced tea packets, chips, and cookies were brought by everyone else and we even had a tea pot to go with.

My English teacher. She's so cool. And she's Parsi, which is one of those secret society type people who have a shrinking society because they can only marry within the Parsi to still be Parsi... This has something to do with how, when the Paris came to Mumbai, the king let them come but told them only if they didn't marry out of their society. Anyways, at the end of the party, she gifted me 5 pairs of gorgeous earrings and I was so surprised! Also, today, she gave my host sister my IOP grade and gifted me a glossy, illustrated version of Paradise Lost, which they'll be studying next year! And guess what my score was? 26/30! It made me happy.

This was on Friday during lunch when they pulled out a cake for Austin and I to cut and talk a bit about our year. Although the student council were trying to keep it a secret, Austin and I found out already about the cake. The only sad part was that they spelled my name incorrectly on the cake... But oh well. We both thanked everyone for letting us go to the school and then I cut the cake, feeding a bit to Austin before smearing frosting all over his face. Of course he retaliated but shoving the piece into my mouth but I caused much more damage. Unfortunately, there is no evidence of this...

Excepting one person in this photo, these are all of our closest friends at school. It was so much fun spending the year with them and maybe in the future, we'll meet again.

On Tuesday, I went to Bandra to meet up with Austin and two of our other friends in order to watch a movie and make a desert Austin calls Stockton Bars. And oh my gosh is it good. First though what I learned is that if you buy a return ticket on the sealink, the taxi driver is supposed to wait and take you back. I think this is a very silly rule because honestly, who would take the sealink for a tiny little chore and immediately come back? That's a waste of money! The reason I'm complaining is that living in a city, a lot of money is used for travelling and for me to get to Bandra I have to take a taxi. Now, one-way on the sealink is only rs. 50 and return is rs. 75. Which sounds better to you? Obviously I want to buy a return because it already costs me rs. 200 to go from town to Bandra and another rs. 200 to come back. Atleast if I buy return , I'm saving a little money.

When I arrived, Austin and I immediately caught a rick and went to Hill Road to buy some groceries. Stockton bars are made with graham crackers, ground coconut, chocolate chips, and, I think, condensed milk. You crush up the graham crackers (there are no graham crackers in India so we used these other ones) and then put them on the base of a glass pan. From there you can either layer the chocolate in the middle and coconut on top or the other way around. Because the chocolate chips had melted on their way to India, we had to have Austin's cook grind the solid blocks of chocolate into nice shavings. After making the middle layer, you cover it with the condensed milk and then do it again after you make the top layer. Each ingredient should be separate of the other and should not mix.

While it was cooking, we watched a bit of The Proposal since Jennifer's Body wasn't working and one of our friends showed up then. It turned out delicious despite Austin's doubts and I went home very happy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sari :D

So because Austin's lazy, I still don't have the pictures from our last day of school, hanging out, and going to the Elephanta Caves. So, you all will have to wait a bit. Until then, you get to hear about my sari!

I'll explain from the beginning. This weekend was spent going through all of my papers from school and... throwing them away. I had a foot or more of paper when I was done and I gave it to my maid for recycling (she needed to make two trips...). But really, do you think I would keep all of those papers? In the U.S. I'm a bit of a pack rat and normally go through all of my things to see if there's anything I should keep. But not this time. As an exchange student, you can't afford (literally) to keep anything of little consequence when you're leaving. So gone was all my much suffered through notes and sheets which lead way to a sense of relief. I wish my friends the best of luck who are in IB but it was a very stressful year for me and I don't wish to repeat this academic aspect (although I did pass math! I got about a C which is fine with me considering...).

Anyway back to the sari. So on Sunday, because I had finished everything on Saturday, I had nothing really to do but was keen on some point trying on my sari and finding out how to fold it. This is very important because I didn't want to buy a sari and then look incompetent while trying to put it on in the U.S. My host mom though doesn't wear saris, only salwar kameez, because she finds it very difficult to put it on everyday and had enough of that in her younger days when it was required for female lawyers to wear saris in black and white. She also admitted to not being the best anymore at folding one so it was a blessing when her parents (my host nana and nani) came to visit Sunday afternoon. So about 15 minutes after they came, Nani came into the room I sleep in with my host mom to help me put it on. First I changed into the petticoat and blouse in the bathroom (they had to help with the buttons at the back) and then it commenced.

Getting into a sari can be very difficult, especially by yourself. You start by tucking in the end of the sari into the front of the petticoat (make sure you're tucking in the right end. The palu is the end that hangs off your shoulder and has all the embroidery while the end has nothing at all. From there you wrap the sari around you once, tucking it into the petticoat all the way. This is when it gets hard. You see, saris don't look long until you have the entire thing in your hands. And it's long. You start by taking the palu and deciding how long you want it down your back (or in front of you; there are two styles, Bengali and Gujarati: Bengali has the palu down the back and Gujarati puts the palu in the front. The Gujarati looks weird to me because I personally like the Bengali, but Gujarati is good if you wish to show off the design on your palu. It makes sense but still) and keep it on your shoulder while you do the next few steps. After you have decided this, make sure you haven't wrapped the sari around your ankles or flipped it around in the process. It is also good at this point to safety pin your palu to your blouse so that it doesn't move. Also it should be noted that Bengali palus go on your left shoulder and the folds also face the left (see picture). Now, you tuck in the palu where it is close to your petticoat and make it meet with the tucked in end at the front of your sari. You will now have a loop of fabric in front of you and you should take the right side of the loop closest to your body in your right hand. Grasp it so that the fabric is between your pointer and middle finger and between your thumb and fore finger (sorry, it's complicated). You then make the folds by inserting the fabric back and forth between the fingers mentioned (I'm having a hard time describing this. If you can imagine an air hockey game in which the puck is the fabric and the two players are your fingers, then I guess that helps). Just make sure you keep a good grip on the folds you have made so that it doesn't fall and your hard work is for nothing.

After you're finished making the folds, tuck them into the front of your sari/petticoat and make sure that all the folds are of equal length. Check to make sure this in general applies to your sari because, although it is usually the same color, it's awkward to see the petticoat underneath. If you find your work satisfactory, safety pin the folds to the petticoat from the inside so that is down unravel while you are walking (this is slightly more awkward...). Then voila! You're finished. I love saris and, although some of the current trends I don't agree with, they're a beautiful garment. It's funny but I have a picture of me when I was younger in girl scouts wearing some long piece of cloth wrapped around my like a sari for international dress day. It was quite a shock to find last year but makes me happy. Who knew that tying a girl up in yards of fabric and then throwing it around her shoulder actually looked good? I know buying a sari is not exactly practical since I am going back to U.S. (and even those other outfits) but I bet I can wear it to some weddings or even prom if I want to take the risk. I love it either way.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Parivar aur Doston

So I promised another blog post and tada! Here it is. This one's theme is family and friends. I guess you can guess I'm gonna talk about the differences and similarities, which is true! But gosh, there seems to be so much to discuss! Let's get started...

Okay so this is my current host sister (we're practically the same age but she'll be 18 in 2 weeks). I unfortunately don't have a picture with my host mom or dada or else I would also put that up. Well as I think I mentioned, she's Head Girl at our school and has tons of work since she's doing Math, Physics, and Chem HL plus DAIMUN, Paigaam, Student council, etc. so we don't hang out often. But we do have a class together so that's nice. She's actually a US citizen since she was born there but is studying here with the family while her dad works in the US. There's actually a lot of kids at my school who are born in other countries but then their families move back. Anyway, back to family. So basically, everyday after school is spent in our rooms because she eats dinner between 5 and 6. I got used to eating after 8 (the Indian standard actually) so we eat separately. My host mom eats around these times, I actually don't know specifically when...

I guess an interesting thing about this host family is that despite living in US for so many years, the family is very religious. Well not very but they do prayers everyday, lighting the candles, and sitting in front of the temple. Throughout the day my host mom will carry a clicker around with her and from what I can tell, this is for her to do chants and such in her head. I'm not sure why the counter needs to be there but it is. My host sister is also very involved with this; she herself does much of the prayers and such in the morning and at night. While I was with my host family in Lonavla, it was the second Navratri, which is more of a prayer holiday and doesn't contain the dancing like the first one. They let me sit in while they did pooja and aarti, singing devotional songs for about 30 minutes. It was very interesting to see since my first host family hadn't done that much but I'll get to that in a bit. My family in US is not that religious and I was always interested in this aspect of Indian culture so it's nice to see it.

I have actually been sleeping in my host mom's room with her since I got here except for a few times when my host dada has been out of town. Sharing a room here isn't that un-common due to the lack of space and price of property. Of course, the upper classes usually do have separate rooms for everyone but I know one of my friends does share with her younger brother so it's not that different. In the US I rarely slept with others unless it was at a sleepover. Now, it's like if I'm on a trip or at home, I always slept with others. Now because my dada is in Spain until I leave, I have to sleep alone and it's kind of weird. I mean, I can stay up for how long I want to and use the computer for homework (except the internet is shut off). It's... weird. I mean going from sleeping alone most of the time to usually with others around you makes you kind of lonely. I never thought I would feel this way but it has happened. So a warning! You might be sleeping in a room with someone else! :p ahahahah

So this was my second host family although this picture is missing two people, the older sister and their grandfather. I actually went over to their house the other night for a final goodbye, and we all had dinner together (the 6 of us!). Although I had some problems coming in and especially during those first five months, we all had a great time together and I had a long chat with the mother. Our conversation was mainly about my experience and the culture and religion in India and other places. She wanted to know how it was at my current host family and what I did everyday. She was surprised that I didn't go out with Ambika often but she knew that that family is more education based. I told her how they pray everyday and how it was different since at their house, I never saw them do any prayers except at Diwali. She then explained to me how it was for a variety of reasons, that the dada in this family did not want prayers always taking place, he was not very religious and would prefer for her to feed him first and then do prayers (she's a housewife). This really surprised me because I hadn't thought before that maybe the dada hadn't been religious. She also told me that it was the opposite from her whose family is very religious and who often go on pilgrimage to a temple during the year (she is only able to go once). It actually explained quite a bit and I'm happy to have learned these things about this family before I left.

The older sister Jheal was also there when I visited so I got to eat dinner with all 5 of them, which rarely ever occured since we were all busy usually. When I had just arrived they practically fed me to death since they made they gigantic sandwiches and then decided to make waffles and put ice cream on top as well as they had just gotten a waffle maker. Jheal and the mom made dinner since the cook had gone on holiday or something and they made baked bean soup and toast with cream of mushroom, cheese, and olives on top. It actually tastes better then it sounds. After dinner, I gave them a card and a framed photo of Juhi and I. But of course, that isn't the end to the presents. My parents back home will be sending things after I leave, which is nice because I have no idea what I would get them from here! I slept in Juhi's room for the last time and went with her to school in the morning. It was sad to say goodbye but I hope to visit them in the future and they want to see me too.

This was from my birthday. From left: Akanksha (Sasha, my "mom"), me, Srushti (my "sister"), and Sanjana (my... really really good selective sadistic friend :p). They're so pretty! Sandra, the German girl, and I have both decided that Indians are some of the most beautiful women in the world. The guys... are okay (ahahahahhaha).

So this was at the 12ths Farewell. They don't really have a Prom here but this is practically the same thing. The 11th graders are given a budget and have to plan the whole thing, from the theme to catering to the entertainment. This is a good thing in some cases since you get student input but it must suck when they don't plan anything...
Our school uniform! It's Austin, Juhi, and I.

Our pool party farewell party at Austin's apartment. We had so much fun just swimming and eating pizza with each other. It's actually not common for Indians to go swimming this way, in fact many of out friends needed swim suits since they hadn't brought one. They mostly wear one pieces and I was the only one wearing a bikini (there was no way I was going to wear my Indian swimsuit).

This is Austin and I with our Hindi teacher, Miss Singhal. She invited us for dinner for one night and we had a good time talking about India and such.

Today was my last day of school (05/21/10) but I'll post about that later when I get the photos.