Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Happy Dasara!

One thing I love about India is that they have tons of holidays, and they go ALL OUT, for all the holidays. As soon as it is the week of the holiday, all these little temples pop up all over the place. And my personal favorite thing, they blast pop music from the temples.

Monday was the main day of the festival/holiday, Dasara, which is to worship Durga, the goddess of war. People used to worship their weapons/arms on this day, but now they worship any mechanical tools/any mechanical thing they rely on. On Monday morning, everyone on the street was worshipping their motor scooters, decorating them with paint and flowers and etc. We get a King Kong Temple in our neighborhood! Our Telugu teacher told us it is a gorilla because it protects the goddess from evil looks and the eyes of human beings. Our King Kong is also holding a blonde Barbie. Coolest temple I’ve ever seen:



A “wishing cow” also goes around the neighborhood, and people pay a tip to the man (who also plays music) who brings the cow around and wish on the cow.





Ps, the man on the scooter is one of my very favorite people in all of India - Veeraju (he's the one who took me bike shopping).

After lunch, a few of us (Kristin, Courtney, Michelle, Madeliene, and I) wanted to go to our new favorite place in Vizag, called Jack Frost. It is an ice cream place, or as they advertise, “Happiness Served Chilled.” So, we hopped on a bus, not knowing exactly which stop to get off. There was also this bookstore we wanted to find/go to, so on our way, we asked the bus attendant where it was. We had a slight misunderstanding though, and she had the bus driver take us to the part of town where the bookstore supposedly was. So, we missed all the possible Jack Frost stops, and got off the bus at this random place and tried to find this shop. First of all, we saw a dead person. I know that’s kind of morbid, but really, there was a man lying on the sidewalk. At first we thought he was sleeping, but then we realized he was dead. And no one was even doing anything about it. I don’t know the language or any numbers to call/I didn’t have a phone, so no judgments on me, please, for not doing anything.

Anyway, in the midst of looking for this bookstore, we got caught in pouring rain. Pouring. And as we were waiting under a tree at a bus stop, we saw another dead man. Seriously, this guy was just lying on the bus stop bench, with people sitting on either side of him. Slightly disturbing.

Documentation of our wetness:



I know this picture is sort of dorky, but I thought it was funny, because they were mocking me for having my camera out, for some reason.

Kristin was extra wet:



(Ps, yesterday during Telugu, I asked my teacher about it, just because I was curious if she had any cultural insights to share, or if it was anything in relation to the holiday or whatever. This was how my awkward conversation went with her after telling her what I saw:

Teacher: What? (look on her face like she doesn’t know what I am getting at)
Me: Well, I just wanted your cultural insight…
Teacher: They were inside?!
Me: (Trying not to laugh) No, I want your insight. I am wondering what this was all about.
Random girl in class: They were dead!
Teacher: Died?! (We always accidentally confuse her. Poor woman.)

Back to my story: we abandoned bookstore plans and got in an auto. We were soaked, and I was actually cold. (First time I’ve been cold in India.) We also abandoned Jack Frost because we were too cold for ice, and ended up at this precious place we’ve never been to called, “Pastry, Coffee, ‘n’ Conversation.” Total dream come true! Cutest little cafĂ© I’ve ever seen with retro Hollywood movie posters covering the wall, chic design, nicest owners ever, free drinks, and divine desserts. For real, they had brownies, chocolates, hot cocoa, chocolate mousse, chocolate coffee cream cake, etc, etc. We each ordered a dessert and would take one bite, and pass it along to the next person. Over and over, until we had eaten all of them. The cafe was so cute, and I was self-conscious going in sopping wet, wearing the same frumpy clothes I wear every single day, mingling with cute Indian hipsters. Anyway, it was delightful.

We ended up walking most of the way home, because we were waiting for a bus, but a bus never came and we didn’t want to have to argue and bargain and get ripped off by an auto driver. As we were walking, these two boys sharing a scooter (turtlers!) kept following us and driving by us. Eventually we came upon a group of auto drivers and this one guy really wanted to give us a ride. We were fairly close to home, but sick of walking in wet clothes and he was so willing to drive us home for a cheap price. So we went with him. He wanted Kristin to sit in the front seat, and he seriously let her drive the auto! Well, she at least got to steer and shift gears. It was pretty exciting. And this other random man (I think he was auto driver man’s friend), hopped in the back seat with us. As soon as he got in, he put his hand on my knee/thigh, and I totally shoved his hand off, even though I think he was mostly just trying to steady himself. When we got home, Kristin wanted a photo with the driver, (whom she told us was totally drunk – being driven in an auto by a drunk man – not a scary thing at all) which eventually turned into a huge group photo, because that's just how its done in India. But as we were taking the picture, random backseat man was giving me a tight side squeeze, with cold milk packets he was holding rubbing against my arm. That doesn’t sound funny, I know, but it was because a.) I had already shoved his hand off my leg, and b.) Indian men don’t get touchy like that (squeezing, hugging, etc) with girls, as a general rule. Unless they are being pervy. Oh, and those scooter boys totally followed us home (to the program house), but we had Dan chase them away, so all is well.



Auto driving man is in middle; also notice the cold milk packets rubbing my arm.

Later that night, we went out to dinner. Nothing too significant about that, except that we, (the girls in my house), actually wore cute clothes and put make-up on. I wore my new Hyderabad dress, which I told myself I wouldn’t wear until I got home, but have already worn it twice in the week I’ve owned it. This is documentation of us NOT looking like we’re camping:



And this was to document my new shoes, but I mostly just like Kristin's face:



Also, love group excursions here – always lots of awkward tension because people always have differing opinions and most of the people have really strong, dominant personalities. And some people intentionally like to “stir the pot,” if you know what I am saying. After dinner we went to Jack Frost (yep, I had 2 huge desserts – keep judging), and as we were walking home, a group of 3 boys on 1 scooter (triple turtling!) drove by and smacked Madeliene’s butt – hard. It was LOUD. About 10 minutes later, the same group drove by, and one of the boys yelled, “I am the dirty boy! Sorry!” And they drove off into the night. At least he has a little bit of a soul.

So, yes, it was definitely a Happy Dasara!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hyderabad

This is how much I loved Hyderabad:



It’s always nice coming back to Vizag though, (although it is significantly hotter) because I actually feel like I am coming home, and that is a good feeling. Not Utah home, but you know, India home, for sure.

We (this trip started off just being John and Daniel, and then slowly ALL of us minus one ended up tagging along) took a sleeper train, (can I even say how much I love sleeper trains? I love them).



On our trip over, 4 of us were in one compartment and Dan was across from us with 2 random people. In his compartment was a tiny, frail, raspy-voiced, white cotton, sari clad Indian woman. You know, one of those precious old women where her cheekbones are protruding and her mouth is sunk into her face? She looked exactly like a Pixar character! I didn’t get a picture, but she was adorable. The other woman (her daughter, I think) was a brusque, pompous woman. And she came in carrying/sneaking in a dog with a muzzle on its mouth. After about 30 minutes, muzzle came off. When the women went to the bathroom, Dan and I snuck over to get a picture in order to have a clear view of the dog and have photo documentation. We were pleasantly surprised to get this photo:



Oh, just happy and smiling away.

And this is me loving sleeper trains:



(Yes, Faj, I really am that white and pasty. Keep the judgments coming!)

The first thing we did was go to Charminar, which is the old city of Hyderabad. It is a Muslim center, with a beautiful mosque and impressive city gate. Monday was one of the two official concluding days for Ramzan.



As we took the auto into this part of town, it was cool because there were Muslims everywhere headed for this part of town as well. It was spectacular to see so many white-clad Muslims arriving at the same place, but we did not stay long because it was so overwhelming. Once we got there, we were so in the minority, and immediately received so much attention that it made us uncomfortable. Also, all the beggars were so persistent, clutching to us and constantly following us. We were also a bit uncomfortable being there on a day that was so sacred for them. I do not have any pictures from that day, because we decided it wouldn’t be wise to get our cameras out then, but I did take pictures when I went back on Wednesday morning.

After being there for a while, we went to lunch at a little street place. First they gave us already-opened “bottled” water, aka tap water, and then kept going next door to get our food because there was actually no kitchen in the restaurant. We were a little sketched out, but Courtney investigated and realized that the restaurant was an extension of the restaurant next door and it looked legit next door. That makes my story not as funny, but also not as sketchy.

After lunch we headed to the lake and took a boat ride to the Buddha statue out in the middle of the lake. (Funny side note story - a few years ago, as they were bringing the statue out to erect it in the middle of the lake, they somehow dropped it and it sank. At the time, they did not have adequate funds to retrieve it, so it stayed at the bottom of the lake for a few years until they had enough money to bring it back up.) And, the Dalai Lama consecrated the statue as well. Some of us took a boat ride out to the statue.



After that we went to this Hindu Temple called, “Birla Temple.” It is on top of a hill, and overlooks Hyderabad. No cameras were allowed, which was a bummer because it was absolutely beautiful. It was kind of nice to not have cameras though, because it made it a more peaceful experience. (Especially because then everyone wasn’t constantly flashing cameras in our faces.) From the bottom of the steps, you couldn’t really see the temple. First you walked up steps, which are all white marble, with ornate lattice carvings on the sides, passing by different deities. Actually, the entire temple was made out of white marble, making it opulent and gorgeous. This temple was different than other temples I have been to because it was mostly outdoor, and had many different levels. There was this one bridge going to a clock tower. The view of the city was amazing. The temple was just so pretty and tranquil - definitely one the best experiences I’ve had thus far in India. These pictures obviously do not do it justice at all.





But, I loved it so much and wish I could write better about it. While we were there, this adorable 12-year-old boy kept coming up to us and talked to us with superb English. He was with a group of friends, and he would run up to us and then slide on his knees. Then he told us that he wants to be a dancer and kept doing awesome dance moves for us. (Indians are good dancers, by the way.) I loved him.





Doesn’t little dancer boy have the most beautiful skin color?

After the temple, we went to a bookstore. Totally heavenly. Totally therapeautic. I loved it so much. I miss browsing bookstores. I miss the smell of coffee in bookstores. We have a couple bookstores in Vizag, but they have totally lame selections. I bought The Little Prince and Brothers of Karamazov by Dostoyevsky.

For dinner we ate at this place called “Paradise” to have renowned Hyderabadi byriani. Byriani is a way of preparing the rice, where they cook the rice with certain spices and/or meats, so it flavors the rice so deliciously. Another one of my new favorite Indian foods - roti. It is a soft, thin, stretchy tortilla-like bread. I think I even like it better than naan. I love eating spicy food so much and I love when your lips burn after you are eating. Soooo good. Also, we had Baskin-Robbins, which was exciting. (But, actually, I think Vizag has better ice cream at this place called “Jack Frost.” It is so delicious that I will blog about it sometime.)

(Sorry this is getting so long - I just have so much to write about...)

Tuesday morning we went to Golconda Fort. It is a huge stone fortress with tons of levels and rooms. The Muslims built it, and it is quite a ways outside the city, but apparently has an underground passageway to Charminar. We hiked all the way to the top and then back down through different passageways and rooms.



















Oh, and just some dreamboats who wanted their faces on my camera:




That took the whole morning/early afternoon. We had ice cream for lunch at Baskin-Robbins, and then tagged along with John to the home of some of his converts. I debated whether I wanted to go or not, but I am so glad I ended up going. They are seriously some of the best, most kind and stellar people I have met. It was also cool to meet them because they are friends with my good friend Perry Kimball, who served with John as well. After feeding us a huge plateful of rice and spicy beef (beef in India, I know, right?) curry, we went up to the terrace/roof top to chat and feel the breeze.





We pressured Daniel into showing them his duck walk:





And then somehow got on the topic of games. By this point, tons of neighborhood kids had gathered and decided to play a game. I guess it was just like the game “Bacon” in the US (which I have never played), but here they call it “Dog and Bone.” Basically there are 2 teams and each person has a number that is the same number as someone on the other team. Someone calls a number and those 2 numbers run to the middle and try to steal the handkerchief, but you can also tag each other. You get a point if you retrieve the handkerchief and get back without getting tagged. We were all so loud and had so much fun. Even the mother played, wearing a sari and everything, and she was good.







During one round, my same number was this little boy and he was so good! He beat me every time! Meghan later pointed out to me that he was totally using sports psychology on me because he would scream every time to catch me off guard. It worked. I played how I normally play sports - spastic with lots of unnecessary screaming. And apparently, I did this:



What the Lars dance? I'm glad I have made my blog into a shrine to embarrass myself.

But, the highlight: So, there was a rusty clothes line going across the roof, and before we started playing, we were making jokes about how someone was going to die by running into it. Well, sure enough, as soon as we started playing, Daniel gets the handkerchief and darts back to his side, and rams his neck into the rusty wire, which catapults him to his bottom. I was dying. He had a red mark going from his chin, across his cheek, and then a rust mark on his shirt. And he still has a line across his chin and cheek. So funny. Meeting this family and being able to connect so well with them and the children who didn’t speak my language, and having so much fun was another one of the best India experiences I’ve had.

That night we went to a swank mall. I forgot how much I love shopping and retail therapy. I made a couple super cute purchases. And I did not purchase the cutest shirt I have ever seen in my whole entire life because it was too expensive. Maybe I already regret it a little bit. But the Faj Mahal should be proud. For dinner that night I had a mango smoothie and rose water granita. The granita even had rose petals in it. SO divine.

Okay, final day in Hyderabad. Wednesday morning we headed to Charminar again, since the festivities of Ramzan had died down.









We shopped. There are millions of bangle shops.



Awesome perfume shop (Muslims are known for their perfume because they make oil based perfume, because they don't use any alcohol)



Also, bought Indian shoes, ate delicious, spicy chicken tikka masala, and went to this huge museum. (See I got to do practically ALL my favorite things in Hyderabad.) Then we had to rush to make it to the church (where we dumped our luggage for the day), and then to the train station. It took us forever to get an auto and get across town to the church/train station, so it ended a little stressfully. But, we made it to the train station just in time, and then I spent the evening on the train playing with this cuteness:



I was trying so hard to make her smile. She drew pictures in my journal, and had way good English, especially since she was only 3 years old.

Sorry for the biggest travel log you've ever read in your life.

Ps, sometimes they sell doors on the side of the street:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rain!!

After so many hot days, it finally poured one night.





And sometimes when it is hot, we sit inside and do this:



(sit on the cold tile floor and eat salt water taffy sent from loving parents)

Hyderabad postings coming soon.

Friday, September 18, 2009

That's all...



Learning to pee on the street from a young age...

Fish Market

The other day I went to the fish market. The fish market is held every day at the harbor by Dolphin nose, which is the natural harbor in Vizag. Because Vizag is on the coast, fishing is a big deal and many men fish for their livelihood. Usually the women/their wives sell the fish at the market. Basically everyone in the Jalari-Peta (which is the place I am doing a big bulk of my research) is of a fishing caste.

The market stunk – like fish, obviously. Or according to my roommate, “fish, trash, dirt, people, poo, sweat, spices… India.” That is pretty much what India smells like.

The market was loud, crazy, bustling, colorful, and dirty. (Thank you chunky chaco’s for keeping my feet elevated and away from the sloshy, muddy, stank, fishy water that covered the ground.)

I took a million pictures… sorry for posting so many.

Notice how many people look, wave, smile, or pose when I take a picture. It’s nearly impossibly to get candid photos here.