Thursday, October 29, 2009


These past weekends were pretty hectic. My German friend came to hang out last Saturday and the next day we went to South Mumbai in order to do some sight seeing with other exchange students. In a way, it's not the best way to go see these things with other caucasians because... well people stare a lot. And ask you for pictures. And in the end, you end up feeling like a tourist in the city/country you live in which is exceedingly awkward.

But anyways, so when my friend and I got up, we took a rickshaw to the nearby train station to meet up with a boy from Belgium to go to south Mumbai. Trains can be crazy, especially during rush hour. Thankfully, it was a sunday and not too crowded in the morning. Actually taking a train isn't too bad, you just have to be confident in yourself. Well confident enough to push through the mass of people and watch after your belongings. Pickpockets are everywhere and while I haven't had any trouble, doesn't mean there isn't any.

We got safely to the Queen Victoria station and headed off. Our first stop was a quick drink at Cafe Coffee Day (kind of like India's Starbucks) and then this famous fountain which sometimes runs but not usually. And yes I don't remember the name. But it is very pretty. Then we walked for quite a while, passing through a church and a garden until we reached the Gateway of India. Oh and on the way there we passed a TV serial filming. I was kind of excited :] After taking the standard pictures of the Gateway, we went into the Taj Hotel to look around but didn't see too much as the ballroom was still closed because of 26/11. From there we walked a bit more to see the Leopold Cafe, another place hit by the attacks and then went to the Mahalakshmi area by train.

Mahalakshmi is actually named after the temple that it stays there and right next door is the Haji Ali, a durga of a muslim saint/priest? which many muslims visit. It was all really cool and at the mahalakshmi temple, we were given blessings by the priests. We had to go after that because I had work to finish so me, the German girl and Belgian boy took the train home. At rush hour, it was completely different, as I've said, packed to the brim. Besides being very late, we got home okay and I was able to finish my work. I actually had a project due the next day and had to finish putting the presentation fully together. All went well though and I got a 28/30 on it. Hopefully my luck will continue.

This weekend was even a bit more crazy as I didn't have school on Friday so I once again had a sleepover with my German friend. Then when we woke up in the morning we took a rick to Bandra with another german girl. Breakfast was interesting though because it was the first time in 3 months that I had eaten eggs. You see, my friend's host mom is kashmiri and so she's non-veg (meaning she eats meat). So since she offered, I figured I would have one. Once we got to Bandra, all three of us went shopping including street shopping for shoes. It's a little stressful but oh well. I got some nice things in the end. From there I was supposed to go straight to school and I tried but unfortunately I got lost while taking a rick. So I called my friend and ended up bunking to go to her house.

My friend has been bugging me for weeks to get my haircut so we finally went that night. When we got back we had pizza (with chicken so more meat) and her driver took me home. I was tired when I woke up but had to get up because the chairperson of AFS India, one of the reps for YES, and another AFS India employee came to visit my home for lunch. We talked about the program and such and they gave my host family a certificate of appreciation to my host family for hosting me. After they left, I went to hang with my friend again for some coffee with my host sister and an AFS volunteer before I went back to her house to grab my stuff from our sleepover.

I'm sure reading it, it doesn't sound as crazy as it was. One thing that I was happy about though was the amount of hindi that I was able to use during the weekend. And I also did need to get few things. Unfortunately, I forgot that my camera was in my bag during this so I have no pictures of it. But there are some of my area and of our sight-seeing.

In other news, I've started my dance class and it's going well. I'm learning folk dance from a lady in my area so I'll have to end the classes when I switch families. But so far I really like the. Well, except for one thing. Since it's usually evening when I go to see her, both of her kids are there. And because it's so hot in India, parents allow their kids to take off their pants when they're hot... under which there is no diaper or anything. It caught me by surprise the first couple of times but now I'm getting used to it. But it is weird to me. America would never allow anyone to do that and they would immediately become someone you didn't want to know. But here, even my host cousins do it and my mom won't say anything.

Last but not least is Annual Day night school. Some kids like it, some don't. I like it. Of course, it's tiring to be at school at night when you might've done something during the day but still. You get to hang around with your friends and do silly things. Some people are studying because SAT are coming up but other wise, thing's are pretty lax. Hm well have to go now, there's a long day ahead.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Diwali vacations= <3

So I've been on vacation the past week and thank goodness! It's been such a nice break from school although I was a bit bored for the first half. Most of the planning was to take place nearing the end of vacation which really should only be reserved for homework. And unfortunately, I'm still trying to change my un-adventurous ways and go out during the day by myself more often. So most days were spent trying to do homework and going to one of the chain coffee stores in the afternoon for more work (trying to do homework being the key word). My host mom and sister did go out in the mornings but I was never invited along or else I would've gone. Let this be a lesson: if you're bored and someone is going out, ask to go out with them. Maybe they'll say yes.

I did go hang out with my counselor on Tuesday. She lives in Andheri, a neighborhood close to my own so I took a rickshaw to meet her. I guess now would be the time to explain these neighborhoods. Basically, Mumbai is broken up into sections and each are named, but they are basically like neighborhoods. Mine is called Powai, and is located in northern Mumbai, where two lakes are. Some kids at school like to joke that we live in a village but really, where I live is a huge complex designed by Hiranandani, whom my host dad works for. The best way to describe it is that it's like those suburbs where every house looks the same except here, they're all apartments. In a way, it feels like someone took 16th street mall, stuck beige plaster on the buildings, set it down in India, and let them run all over it. But that's a really blunt description. The area is really pretty though and we don't have any beggars around, just slums (but I think there are slums everywhere in Mumbai).

So anyway, I went to meet my counselor to hang out in her house in Andheri. When the rick dropped me off, I wasn't quite sure if it was the right place but thankfuly it was and my counselor came to meet me with her boyfriend. From there, we went back to her house which was really close by. Anaka, my counselor, is south Indian so the area of buildings that she lives in is a south Indian community. Birds of a feather flock together right? Her home is also an apartment but she lives on the first floor so she owns a garden too (which is kind of cool considering Mumbai's space issue). Her dog is so cute though! I'm not sure what type it is but he's small, black with curly hair and she can convince him that there's a rat around so he'll chase after it. It's been a while since I've been around a pet dog so I had a lot of fun.

Anaka is an actress (theater) and she had to go to practice for a new play she was going to be in. So after we dropped her off, her boyfriend, mom and I went shopping for groceries in a supermarket. There are quite a few of these and most people shop for food here. After that, her boyfriend helped me get a rick home and it was quite late so I was hoping nothing bad would happen. Which nothing did but you should always be on your guard. My area is much safer than most places in Mumbai and India because we have guards at every entrance to buildings. But that doesn't mean that they are everywhere so you still have to be careful.

I did get a chance to hang out with my school friends in Bandra and we had breakfast at McDonalds. I never go to McDonalds in the states but I ike it here because... well, the food is so much better. There's no beef so no room for disgusting burgers. Just aloo tikki burgers :] I don't know if it's necessarily more healthy but it feels healthier and the chicken nuggets are also okay. So we all caught up (even though me and another girl were an hour late because of traffic) and two of my friend's little siblings were there (so cute!).

When it was time to leave, we thought it was a great idea to buy some ice cream in cones. Of course, from there I had to go meet Juhi and we decided I would meet her at this store that was a bit far from Mickey D's. So, ice cream cones in hand, my friend, her brother and I caught a rick to take us towards her house and the store. I don't think western ice cream was ever meant for tropical weather because soon enough, ours were dripping all over the place, including my friend's little bro's lap! It must have been a pretty funny scene: two girls and a little boy in a rickshaw trying too eat ice cream out of cones. By the end of it, only the top parts of the cones were left and we had to toss them on the ground whle in the rick.

I'm not necessarily proud of littering but that was just food, so in my eyes it was okay. But I do hate littering and make a conscious effort not to despite how supremely common it is here. Even at home, my host mom will just throw trash like packaging on the ground for the maid to clean up or people will leave wrappers lying around. But I will only put things into the trash can; it seems degrading to leave it on the ground for the maid. I really like my maids and not because they help to keep the room clean. In fact, because they move stuff around, it can be annoying sometimes. But both of them are cute (even though sometimes I don't understand what they are saying) and our cook is nice.

Diwali was this weekend though starting with visiting family on Friday. I went to see some relatives on the more northern side of Mumbai, a very gujarati community, which was very pretty and didn't feel like the city at all. I hung out with my host cousins, playing Uno and cards (which I'm very bad at) and after having dinner, we went to see Blue, a new movie touted as the pricest Bollywood film ever made. It was completely horrible. There are barely any other words to describe it and I'm not talking funny horrible.

The next day we spent preparing for a diwali party in our apartment and I got to wear one of my new churidars. I got to make diyas which are like candles. Basically you take cotton, roll it into long pieces, put oil into the bowl with some water, dip the cotton into the oil and light it. They're really pretty! And we also put food coloring into glasses and put oil into the with little threads things that you burn candles with... if that makes sense (oh! wicks, that's what they're called). The whole house was lit up. The party went nicely, with our building friends and some relatives attending it. One of the best parts was seeing our fireworks go off. I know that fireworks cause so much pollution and I hate how noisy they are. But I got to light one off and it was the best so there. :p

The next night we went to another party, a "kiti party". Basically all of the people who live in our building who are apart of my host parents social circle get together. It was a bit boring but the uncles and aunties are so funny and amusing that it became fun. My host sister and I left after we ate dinner. I should have done homework when I got home (at 12:30) and I did try to finish but... I didn't. Then yesterday I was supposed to hang out with my friend which never happened and ended up going to my nana and nani's (maternal grandparents) home and my aunt's home. I got to see my little cousin again and received some unexpected money. You see, during diwali, elders give the younger children money but I didn't expect any as I'm not a relation. But my nani did give me money in an envelope that said "America". Cute right?

Which leads me to today in which I'm just starting to finish my work after coming back from one of the German girls homes. Oh for woe is I :[ I'm really not looking forward to the next few hours.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama and Cockroaches

Part 1:
I found out yesterday while in school that Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize for inspiring hope and change. I won't lie, my first reaction was "What?" because it came as a major shock. Not that I'm not proud of my president but that's a big accomplishment and he's only been in office 9 months. In a way, I don't think he should have gotten it just yet as he is still in office and hasn't completed all of his work. I believe he has inspired many people and that it is very good to have a person with a goal to improve the global situation in power. Basically, I think the award was given too soon and if, by chance, Obama does not succeed with his plans during his turn, criticism will be put upon him. Plus this just adds more pressure to his already packed schedule.
Still congrats Mr. President, we're proud of you.

Part 2:
It can happen at any moment. I go to the bathroom before going to bed but close the door quickly at the sight of movement. "Didi!" I yell and walk quickly towards the kitchen and the TV room where the maid looks questioningly at me. "Kya didi?" She asks and I reply, "Cockroach didi, bara cockroach." She gets the spray and follows me to my bathroom where we go about hunting down the buggers, me pointing and her spraying. And this hasn't just happened once, but several times although I'm still not used to it. The creepier part was finding a dead one on the floor of my room with a tiny baby ones surrounding it. Freaked out yet? Yeah I felt the same. Fortunately, it's becoming normal to me. Just another example of unexpected situations, I guess.

Aur Kuch (And More):
Well... I'm mostly use to life here now. At times, it can be frustrating especially with classes. I love my school, it's quite fun and all of my friends are really nice. But classes... trust me sometimes I wish I could bunk all the time. As I mentioned, since I've been put in one of the best schools in Mumbai, my credits will most likely transfer so I'm working hard to do well in class. But with some classes that's hard, specifically math and physics. In Indian schools, they start with the basics of Biology, Chem, and Physics much earlier than in US schools (like in 8th grade and earlier). This makes it considerably harder for me to get along and study when everyone has already covered the basics. So I'm diligently trying to catch up but also trying to complete other work it's all so... tiring. Then again, I didn't really go on this to relax, did I?

Diwali break just started for us and marks the end of Saturday school and 10 days of no school. Which is nice (excepting my load of work). Diwali is the festival of lights and so my family is decorating our flat for it. Diwali day is next Saturday and we are celebrating Friday and Sunday. For it, I have another chuni choli coming and am having two salwar kameez made, which I can also wear for the weddings coming up. Kind of cool right? I'm excited, especially to see all of the lights in the city. It will be almost like Christmas almost but in 30 degrees C.

A couple of days ago, one of the ladies in my building was holding a mehendi party because of a festival the next day. So I went down after doing some of my homework to have dinner and have mehendi put on. I've always like mehendi and I got to talk to the aunties from my building and my sisters' friend. Speaking of sisters, my older host sister has gone back to UK for school so now my other sister has the room all to herself.

Lastly... Annual day is starting soon so a week after diwali break, we will start having night school. Interesting right? No school during the day but practice at night... Hm oh well.