Tuesday, August 17, 2010
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Something pretty typical here in India: this was taken at the Indian derby at the drinks counter. Basically what you're seeing is a bunch of people pushing their way through to get their drinks and get out. Someone once described it to me as a full-body massage. I, on the other hand, prefer to get in and out as quickly as possibly. I've never been robbed but still, it can get kind of sketchy, especially when you ride trains in these conditions (I believe I've mentioned this before in an early blog about riding trains...) In any case, it's just one of those "Indian" things.
Ah, this was at the Kala Ghoda festival. Basically an art and NGO (Non-Government Organization aka Charities) festival with various stalls and programs going on. We were lucky that on the day we chose to go, there was a Bharatnatyam performance and this is one of the pictures from it. It's a truly beautiful form of dance and if you've never heard of it, I suggest going to youtube and checking it out. In this dance sequence, the girls stand on this clay jars, balancing and dancing at the same time. Each dance has a specific meaning or story. The ones we got to see were about creation, Lord Ganesh, etc.
Oh the dhobi ghat! I've been here twice and it's amazing. Dhobi means washerman (dhona: to wash) and here is where people from all over Mumbai send their laundry every week to be washed, dried and ironed.
This was from my Christmas trip to Gujarat in a catholic church. As you can guess, this was the nativity scene. I have never seen a more colorful or ecstatic Christmas like the ones Indian's offer. I should also note that Indians treat churches the same way as temples: you take your shoes off at the door and make a prayer when you enter before the altar before looking around.
You've probably heard the cliches and I've probably mentioned before how many cows you see in India. And it's no joke as you can tell. Being a metropolitan city, Mumbai doesn't have as many roaming it's streets as a town like Baroda does but there are still many. And a scene like the one above isn't uncommon. It all makes the day a bit brighter.
I guess... these are just more things I love about India and Mumbai.
[16 days til Delhi]
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Masala soda: an... acquired taste
Trying on saris: this isn't the one I got though
The sari shop. And this was only one wall
Gulab jamun with ice cream: Heaven!
(this added to be added separately because blogger messed up somehow with my html. oh well)
It's a very scary thought for all exchange students and that is: the end. To be perfectly honest, I'm quite scared. I keep wondering how things are going to be when I get back, hoping I’ve bought presents for everyone, that people will come to my welcome back picnic, etc. etc. etc. But what I’m most scared about is the leaving behind part. It’s all very easy to leave your home country because you know in 10 months you’ll be back with the family and friends who love you. But what’s difficult is leaving behind your new family, the new mother, father, grandparents, what-have-you that have become your world. The aspect of loss kind of gets to you. You’ve had so many great memories but suddenly, they will have to end, and you find that you’ll probably never be able to have this ever again. This has been what has occurred in my mind the past couple of weeks as my time in
So the past weekends I have been buying presents for people. This is a very difficult thing to do because it can be hard to pick things out for people. For one, you have to remember EVERYBODY back in the
Since I have a lot of girl friends I got mainly things like scarves, jewelry, some tops, really simple things. For my dad’s coffee shop I got one of those toy auto rickshaws despite its semi-cliché-ness. Of course, I can’t deny the fact that I bought myself a few things. This includes some awesome puffy white pants, a sari, and some movies. Actually there is probably a bit more I got but oh well, I don’t remember now.
The thing I most excited about is the sari because, well despite already having one in the
Oh but you must be wondering about the act of buying a sari. Well I should first start off by saying that Indians’ hospitality is quite well seen here. Like most of the street shopping in
My budget was under rs. 3000, so that automatically ruled out some. Eventually I took a red sari with a black border. Another thing about choosing a sari is that they will test drape it around you so that you can see how it looks on yourself. They do this by wrapping the sari around your waist once, making the six or so folds, and tying an elastic black belt with Velcro around so that it doesn’t fall and then pulling it over your shoulder for the whole look. This really does help with the visualization. See the picture to get a good idea. The sari ended up being rs. 2400, a nice price. Later in the day we went to a color matching center, which is just what it sounds like. You go there with the sari and the blouse material (which is attached to the sari originally and is cut off by the sari shop employees to take to a tailor) and look at the color you wish you go under the blouse material and for your petticoat. The reason you need it for the blouse is because, well if the sari material ends up being see-through, you don’t want to expose anything! The same thing is with the petticoat. The petticoat helps to give a definite shape for the sari and keep everything in place. In some cases, the tag for the petticoat is very humorous, as the one for my mom’s petticoat read out “Specialist in Fish Cut Crap, A Line, Bizzy Lizzy”. I’m sure this means something in Indian tailor-jargon but it just made me laugh.
Another unique place we went was Chiminlal’s, a stationary store with so many nice paper products. I got some nice cards to write thank you letters to people here, a bangle box for myself, and some other tiny presents for people in US. I wish I could’ve gotten a packet of stationary but I know myself too well and the fact of me never using such nice paper would make it a waste for me to buy it. My host mom took us to Bombay Blue for lunch which is a pretty nice chain of restaurants. AND they have Onion Rings. Okay maybe that’s not such a big accomplishment and yes, they do taste different from the ones in US but they are good. Plus here, we eat them with chaat masala and it’s delicious (but I’m betting it’s an acquired taste because at first I didn’t like it either. The causeway was nice as usual and I ended up getting a new bag because the chain on mine broke again (it’s a warning: I had bought a fake Diesel bag here and when I was in Goa it broke due to over stuffing but when I got back we fixed in. Little did I know it wouldn’t last…). Although if your bag or purse does ever break in
Last weekend was a “farewell” party for Austin and I at Mumbai’s Hard Rock Café which of course would not be the real thing. A lot of our friends were taking their SAT and so afterward we hopped into cabs and went speedily to the restaurant. Now, I should’ve been more careful but sadly I was tempted. Here is the moral of the story: DON’T EAT BEEF IN INDIA! Yes, I had a burger (well more correctly I had the equivalent of ¾ of a burger- ¼ of one and ½ of another). It was good but too much meat after a practically all veg 10 months with small meals here and there of fish and chicken is a bad idea. My other two Indian friends didn’t have digestion problems but my system hasn’t been good for the past few days. I didn’t throw up or anything but just generally stomach aches and all that goes with it. Anyways, despite being in
Ap kya khana pasand hai?
Oh khana. Or what is better known as ‘food’ in English. It occurred to me that I have never necessarily talked about this so I should really do that now. The typical Indian meal involves roti, subzi, daal, and chaval. This translates basically to bread, vegetables, soup, and rice but not exactly. Roti can also be called naan, paratha, rotilal, etc. based on how you make it and it generally can be called bread but is rolled and made over a fire on a pan with ghee/butter into a circle/triangle/whatever shape you want. You use this to eat your subzi or vegetable (with your HANDS! :D) which is actually vegetables mixed with masala/spices or put in gravy (if you’re familiar with Indian food think aloo gobi vs. paneer tikka masala). Now if you’re non-veg (you eat meat) this can also be where you have chicken or lamb (like the favorite chicken tikka masala or lamb korma).
I actually don’t think you can call daal a soup but that’s the best way to explain it. It’s made out of daal (that’s what it’s called) or lentils and they are boiled in water with other vegetables or spices. Take Daal Fry, which is what I usually have. You put in toor daal with water into a pressure cooker. You can add also, tomato, onion, and green pepper with the masala. Daal Makhani is different, instead having lentils, kidney beans, onions, tomato pulp, and some other things. As you can see, daal has various interpretations. Chaval is the name for rice and you have many different styles there too. It can be mixed with jeera or cumin seeds, it’s called pulao if you add peas or dired fruits, etc., biryani with a spicy sort-of paste with vegetables, or kichadi, which is a mix of daal and rice (very easy to make when camping). This is typically what I have everyday for lunch and dinner with a few exceptions and for breakfast I have cornflakes (boring I know. I wish I had an exciting breakfast like paratha and jam).
Another type of food that is close to my heart is chaat or street food. Oh my gosh, if you come to India and not have this then… well you’re losing out because it’s some of the most fantastic food you will ever have. My favorite is pav bhaji, which is buttered bread with mashed up vegetables- a Maharashtrian special. There’s also sev puri, pani puri/ gol gappas, bhel,
I forgot to mention the events of Saturday night which was actually quite exciting. All of the exchange students, their families, and AFS staff and volunteers got together in Mumbai for a dinner with AFS International president Tachi. Tachi (it's not his real name but a nickname) is from Paraguay and had been on an exchange himself to the U.S. and now works with AFS in New York. It was really nice to meet him and share our experience of being in India and he was very excited to talk to us. Because Austin and I have learned hindi in school and the others know a bit of it themselves, we were asked to speak a bit. During dinner, all of us exchange students sat together and caught up a bit. Sadly, they will be leaving this saturday so this was the last time I might see all of them. That's another thing great about U.S.: meeting the other nationalities. Of course we didn't meet so many since we're on the YES scholarship but I like my new German and Belgium friends. AFS gave us all gifts since our experience was ending: the girls were given scarves and the boys, elephant statues. It was a really fun night in the end.
Well I think that’s it for now. I’ll post more later!
Monday, April 26, 2010
I'M SORRY my lovely readers for my absence but as you might be guessing I've been very busy. I've been on 4 trips since I last posted and it has been a complete rush. The first one which I had mentioned in my previous post very briefly was to Rajasthan. It was a class trip for geography and we were investigating the eco-tourism in effect there. If you want more information... google it :p just kidding. Eco-tourism is just what it sounds like: tourism in an eco-friendly fashion. So we stayed at an eco-friendly hotel (which turned out it wasn't) and went on a couple of safaris through Ranthambore National Park to look at the state of the park and how it dealt with pollution, etc. As you can see from the photos I've posted, we took an overnight train there (so much fun!) and ended up seeing two leopards mating (oops).
Most of the trip was spent either at the hotel, at the park, or going to some different markets. Rural India is very interesting and so peaceful compared to fast-paced Mumbai. I loved seeing the old ruins inside the national park and the beautiful colors worn by the locals. On our last day we drove to Jaipur to get on a plane back (our school didn't want us to miss another day of school by taking the train). We didn't see much of the famous city, just ate lunch at a Pizza Hut and then did some quick shopping in some shops.
The nest trip I went on was during Spring Break to Lonavla, a small Maharashtrian village where my host family has a vacation home. We barely went out except for meals, spending most of our time reading or playing cards. It was really relaxing surprisingly, considering me. My family in U.S. usually can barely stay in the hotel for longer than maybe 2 hours when there are places to go (this might be a slight exaggeration but pretty close to the truth). I was only anxious because a lot of my friends were just hanging out in Mumbai and I wanted to be with them. But really, it was nice getting to know my host family better. The picture above of the man and the coconut was spurred by me. We found a coconut had fallen so I wanted to see how much juice was inside. It turned out not much but the guy was kind enough to open it for me.
The third trip was to beautiful Goa. I know it's such a typical place to go and yes it was the second time I was going but gosh was it worth it. My German friend and I went together to meet her friend and her friend's mom who had already been there for 2 weeks or so. We stayed at the same guesthouse/hotel as them, in no way luxurious (just the way I like it). Unfortunately due to malaria threats, I brought along some odomos (mosquito cream) and we used it safely. Honestly I recommend this because if you want a tan (and even if you don't) the mosquito medication they give at the travel clinic will just make you more pink than brown. Trust me, Austin has been taking the stuff all year and he says he's way whiter here then he ever was in the US.
We rented out bicycles and everyday rode to the beach in the morning, went into the waves then got out to eat breakfast, layout for a couple hours, bought from some hawkers, ate fruit and had lassis (like the Indian milkshake), got back in the water, and repeat. I love the sea and the beach (the latter not being found in Mumbai unless you just want to sit on the sand with all your clothes on) and it was incredibly awesome to just be there. Although it is true that Goa is expensive. A ten-minute taxi ride which would be maybe rs. 30 in Mumbai, they want to charge rs. 500 is such a rip-off. But I guess they are just trying to get the best out of the tourists. But if you accidentally forget your swimsuit, have no fear they do sell those. And don't be turned off by the ugly fully covered + skirt swimsuits that displayed outside shops. Inside you will find real bikinis and one-pieces! (I learned because I'm smart) And the price is under rs. 500 (remember bargaining is my secret weapon, I got mine down to around 400).
In the end, I got a nice tan, some nice jewelry (4 pairs of anklets ahahahah), a dress, swimsuit, and some nice memories. It helped that we were at a nice beach too (Benaulim) at an awesome beach shack (if you stay at one of these all day and order food, drinks, etc. they allow you to use these beach chairs). Sandra, my friend, and I took the train back (I will repeat, trains are amazing; although not always the cleanest thing, even in AC, it's still good, we went and came back this way for only rs. 1500) and I returned to my host family.
The last trip was to Jamnagar in Gujarat the week-end after my brithday. So before we talk about the trip let me just say, my birthday was AMAZING! In Indian schools, they allow you to wear whatever you want and it's tradition to bring chocolates and give them out to your classmates (weird right? I thought you were supposed to receive gifts on your special day... just kidding). After school was finished and Austin and I were walking out, he spotted Hrithik Roshan, one of our favorite actors, and we immediately followed him. He was being showed around the school since his kid will be coming next year and we didn't know whether we should stop him for an autograph. But we got our answer when some other kids stopped him so we rushed up and got his as well. It was even more cool though because when I told him it was my birthday, he wrote out (and spelled correctly) my name as well as happy birthday then gave me a hug. I kept my composure but I was freaking out inside! I was practically jumping up and down. When I get back to US, I'm definitely getting his autograph framed.
So Jamnagar was nice. We had to take planes there and back (a bummer) and had to take buses everywhere since it was the entire 11th grade. Thankfully, my friends and I were all on the same bus. Sanjana and I ended up rooming together. I ended up getting a bit in trouble on the first day but that cleared up. I didn't really do that much that weekend since I'm not taking a science and my group didn't have much for me to do. The pictures you can see of the water and rocks and the octopus were taken at this marine sanctuary near Jamnagar which was awesome to go to. Austin held one octopus but the one in this picture was actually poisonous so we couldn't hold it. It was funny though cause it ended up inking on him. On one of the nights we were given the option to go play football or watch a movie, so Austin, Sanj, and I picked the movie, I truly B-C rated one called Prince. All of us who went took pure delight in making fun of it because the dialogue and plot were so bad. As my classmate loves to point out it took the storylines and other aspects from about 20 other famous Hollywood blockbusters and smushed them together. I thought was one of the funniest parts was when the hero on a motorcycle started going up a parking lot entrance in Mumbai, despite this part of the film taking place in South Africa.
Well since then, nothing has happened except that Austin and I are currently buying presents for those back in US. It's scary to think that we only have about 35 days left in India. Where did the time go? I'll update soon, I promise!
(you happy now mom? :p)
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Everyone was planning to go out afterward for more food but I had to leave because my host sister was coming to pick me up. I said goodbye and hopped into the car, back to town.
This past weekend was myt Geography class trip to Rajasthan but I'll save that for another post.