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.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This? Oh it's natural...

So, I found some of these pictures taken throughout my year that are pretty distinctly "Indian". Enjoy :]

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

Some food and recent pictures

A demolished dinner of pav bhaji
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)

20 days? Nahi!

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 India becomes shorter and shorter. But as the international president of AFS, Tachi, said, this really isn’t the end of a journey, but the beginning.

Eedar Oodar

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 U.S. and then their tastes and try to find something suitably within your budget as well as something that kind of represents your host country. It’s… tiring. Austin and I have been rushing around (well I guess it’s more like I drag Austin around…) to shop for things. We’ve hit Bandra (Linking Road and Hill Road), Colaba Causeway, and various other places in search of gifts.

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-clichĂ©-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 U.S. that my dad had bought me when he came two years ago, I get to have this one done professionally. I didn’t get to put it up when it happened so as not to ruin the surprise but I did buy my mom a sari earlier this year as a Christmas present (and I guess late birthday because I didn’t send her anything then…). Considering how cheap that sari had been (something like rs.1200-1800 for the sari, about rs. 300 for the blouse and petticoat, and approx. rs. 500 for the tailoring), I wanted to get one done for myself. Now I guess if you want to travel to India this would be a bit difficult to do unless you’re spending more than a week in one place and you know where a good tailor is. But I do suggest it because the price is so cheap here for these things. Even dry cleaning is relatively cheap. I have sent a kurta from a set of mine and the cost is less than rs. 300, which is about $8.

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 India, you yourself never go through the clothes, but instead they are pulled out and laid out before you. At first, it’s really strange because you know what you like and you just want to do it yourself plus they just keep pulling out one right after another, some in styles you definitely don’t like. It can also be frustrating when, once you’ve found something, they keep on pulling items out, or you decide you actually don’t like anything and they have to now put everything back on the shelves. I feel really bad at these moments but it really gives one insight into the American personality. Though as I mentioned, I’m now used to it and sometimes it does serve a quite useful feature because they know where to find the right products so you’re not running around. Also, many (if not all) will ask if you want some refreshment in the form of chai, coke, or any other beverage at their disposal. Anyway, back to the sari. Austin likes to joke that this is probably the fastest thing I’ve ever bought here and it’s true my decision making was quite fast since I already had an idea in my mind. Otherwise, I’m a typical girl, debating over the color, style, etc. and having to go to quite a few other places before finding exactly what I want. Because I already had one blue kagra choli that is extremely fancy I couldn’t get a blue sari and I don’t look good in yellow or orange nor do I extremely like purple, I decided to look only at red and green saris. Although really maybe I should have looked at green since that sari in U.S. is red… whatever, I already got mine so it doesn’t matter.

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 India, be happy, because in cities like Mumbai with a western influence (like Goa or probably Delhi too) you can get pretty good quality, cheap bags. Mine feels almost like real leather and was only rs. 500 (yes I will sell my host country to you slowly).

Last weekend was a “farewell” party for Austin and I at Mumbai’s Hard Rock CafĂ© 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 India for so long, it upset my stomach, and this was a reputable company too so just a head’s up. I, myself will stick with lovely veg burgers. And this also leads us into our next topic…

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, Bombay sandwiches, cheese toast, vada pav (the “Indian burger”), the list goes on and on. I suggest you try them all except for a few factors: if you have a small mouth like me, I would skip on the pani puri since it can be hard to chew then and consequently gets stuck in your throat. Also always make sure it is made in front of you, if using raw foods- be hot, and make sure none of it looks spoiled. It really helps to have an Indian with you when you do this: they’ll obviously know the right places to go.


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!