Thursday, October 25, 2012

Yippee ki yay.

I realized the other day that living in India is like moving out West in the late 1800s.  There's plenty of civilization to be had in the big cities on the East coast, and there are a few bastions of gentility in the wilds, but mostly it's just Will Smith riding giant mechanical spiders.  Wait...I think I lost my point in there somewhere.  It's just basically harder to do the things we accept as everyday occurances in America, like grocery shopping.  I need light bulbs, safety pins, hummus, and some fresh pineapple (don't judge).  I have to go to four different places to get those four items.  I have to brave the crazy traffic, then hope said items are actually in the store I picked, then wait for the driver to appear from wherever he's lurking to get me (this is not a luxury: it usually means standing on the sidewalk outside the store and being harassed while searching for any sign of him then diving in the car when he arrives), then repeat the process.  This is an all-day ordeal.  There's novelty in doing things a different way; it's just not as easy as it could be.  I also noticed the other day, while waiting outside for the driver, that there are no stars in India.  It's not like there are a lot of lights to drown them out, there's just so much pollution and smoke that they can't pierce the haze.  I'd like to try again when we're outside the city. 

I forgot to mention that during our trip to Agra we saw a snake charmer.  I got video; you can see it below.  Also, he let us wear one of his big snakes.  I was sure it was going to try to eat Eli whole...cuz, it's Eli.  Speaking of Eli's love of animals, he revealed that he was attacked by a tame camel.  The kind you rent to ride to the pyramids.  It was a trail camel, and it tried to bite him repeatedly.  I'm not sure why I've never heard this story.  He claims it's because camels are mean and expected to bite.  I made the point that snakes are expected to bite too, but if the big boa around his neck took a chunk out I was still getting it on video. 

Dante can now walk across the living room on his own.  He just doesn't want to do it unless one of us is asking him to.  He can still crawl faster than he can walk, so it's his preferred form of transportation.  Have I shared the poop story?  I'll do it again just in case.  Dante has learned how to take his diapers off.  I woke up one morning to hear Dante babbling to himself in his room.  Normally he's either sleeping or crying in the morning, so it was a little weird.  I opened the door to see him sitting up in his crib with something clenched in his fist.  I took two steps and realized that he had a handful of poop. He saw me, smiled, and started waving his other hand at me, also smeared with poop, like he wanted me to have some too.  He reached down and tried to toss his diaper out of his crib, and I realized I needed to move out of the doorway.  There was poop smeared all over the inside of his crib and all the stuff in the crib.  He was naked and looked like he was trying to camouflage himself in the woods.  I picked him up under his arms and held him at arm's length as I hurried through the house to our bathroom.  Eli was still sleeping, so I started calling him in a loud voice.  "Eli, I need you to get up now.  Up.  In the bathroom.  Now."  I was trying not to upset Dante by yelling, but I wasn't about to clean this mess up by myself.  Eli got up, walked into the bathroom, and started laughing.  I told him he had to clean the baby and I would clean the crib.  Dante thought an early morning bath was a fabulous idea.  Luckily, he hadn't succeeded in liberating his diaper, so the mess was contained in the crib.  Everything made of fabric went into the washing machine, and I wiped down everything else with cleaning spray and paper towels.  Eli and I finished at about the same time.  We decided that Dante would need to wear something over his diaper from now on to prevent repeat performances.  We're pushing the potty chair.  I do not have pictures of any of this.

We also gave Dante his first meal of spaghetti the other night.  Normally, we just give him noodles with no sauce, but our cook made him his own bowl of spaghetti that night.  It was fun.  He shoved a huge bunch of noodles in his mouth so that his cheeks were puffed out, then he had one noodle hanging out of his mouth.  Like he wasn't sure how to get that last noodle in there without losing the rest of them. 

Only three weeks left and we'll be back in the States.  Yay!  We're planning to have a big New Year's Party this year to make up for missing the Halloween party.  I'm calling it a Masquerade.  Costumes are still required, so don't get rid of your masterpieces yet.  I'll do an event on Facebook soon, so spread the word to everyone.  You know the rules.  Everyone is welcome as long as they're in costume and drama-free, even if they don't know anyone at the party.  We got some ideas for the bonfire this year (provided it's not covered in several feet of snow), so hopefully we'll be able to burn some stuff. 

I've written 45 pages of my dissertation in the last week, so things are moving along there.  If I can keep up this pace, I'll finish before my deadline.  Good times. 

This little girl was at Qutab Minar in Delhi.

She had better eye makeup than I did.

A herd of buffalo coming down the road in Agra.

The back of the herd, once our car could move again.

A pack camel in Agra (it did not try to bite Eli).

A man walking his goats. One big goat and two little goats on leashes.

Taj Mahal from just inside the gate.

Taj Mahal from the lawn.

Eli with the vicious non-attack snake.

Dante with spaghetti.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

That's not a deer.

So, we saw a dead body in the road last weekend.  We also saw the Taj Mahal. On the road through Agra (where the Taj Mahal is built), there were parts of a person strewn across the road.  Apparently, we'd just missed the actual hit and run because a little further down the road an angry mob was pulling some guy out of a transport truck.  We're only assuming these two events were connected, but the parts were still juicy, so it seems like a good bet.  One of the guys we were with said, "That's not a deer..." in a very confused manner.  I'll spare you any more details beyond juicy.

The Taj Mahal is pretty cool.  Maybe even worth the 8 hour round trip drive.  The building itself is surprisingly small.  It's just one room with two sarcophagi (note: sarcophaguses is also correct) in the middle.  They were walled off, so we couldn't touch them, but we could see them pretty clearly.  Unlike most of the architecture here, the whole building is made from white marble and there are actual gemstones inlaid to make the flower and vine designs.  We're talking rubies and sapphires here.  Oh, and the whole place stunk something fierce from the Yamuna river directly behind it.  Like rancid swamp.  I'm spending a lot of time in this country breathing through my mouth.

We're going to a wedding next week, so I had to go buy a saree this week.  They sent me by myself (I know, the trip was doomed from the start).  That's right, shopping for a potentially very expensive piece of clothing by myself.  I thought Eli and his coworkers had told the driver to take me to this specific place in Sarojini Market.  It turns out that they had told the driver to take me to a very specific place after Sarojini Market.  I didn't know that at the time. I followed the driver through the market to a tiny little saree shop.  It had what looked like a king size bed surrounded by shelving on three sides crammed full of folded sarees in plastic.  There was a second level above us with four full walls of the same shelves.  A one-foot walkway separated the bed from a low padded bench for customers.  When we walked in, there were three guys hanging out on the bed chatting.  One of the guys could speak English apparently because he asked what I was looking for.  I told him I was going to a wedding in a week and I needed a saree.  He asked me what kind and I gave him the deer in the headlights look.  He took pity on me and started pulling random sarees out asking me if I liked them.  After several attempts to tell him I wanted a green or blue one (where he would pull out pink ones), I pointed to my painted nails and said: like that.  Luckily, I'd painted them a shimmery green-blue.  They started pulling silk sarees out, but I wasn't really impressed with any of them.  It was fun having them pull them out of the plastic with a flourish and present them to me Pretty Woman style.  At one point, I looked up at the sarees they had hanging in the front of the shop and saw a pretty white and green one.  I asked him to look at that one and he tried to convince me that it wasn't for me.  It wasn't as expensive as the ones he'd been tossing at me.  As one guy pulled that saree down, he tossed another silk one at me that I actually liked.  Now I had a problem because one of those sarees was at the top of my budget, and I wanted two.  Here's where I lost my mind. I decided to buy both of them, because clearly I wear sarees so often that I need at least two.  Throughout this whole process, I'd seen three other sarees that I liked well enough, but wasn't sure I would buy.  I'd made the mistake of telling this guy that I liked those.  After I'd picked the two sarees I wanted (and three more less expensive sarees as gifts), he started adding stuff to my bags.  I needed blouses for each of the sarees (which were extra) and underskirts (which were extra).  Then I got a look at the bags, and it turns out he'd stuffed every saree I'd said I liked in there as if I was going to buy it.  Even I did not need five expensive sarees.  He had trouble understanding that I was only buying those two.  With all the extra stuff, two sarees for me and three sarees for gifts ended up costing us right around $400.  I was comfortable with the prices because I thought this was a legit guy that Eli's coworkers had sent me to.  Nope.  It was some buddy of our driver who gave him a 10% kickback for taking me there.  See, cray cray.  I'll post pictures of me in one of the sarees at the wedding.

In other non-touristy news,  I've started weight-lifting, so I feel like my arms are going to fall off at any moment.  I was stalking myself on Facebook and looking at pics from Summer 2010.  I had nice arms then. I didn't appreciate them enough at the time.  Now, I'm indignant because there's no reason I should have post-baby floppy arms when I used to have nice toned arms.  Well, I'm fixing that problem right now.  Whether they fall off or they get toned, my arms will look better than the last couple of months. 

I've also been  making progress on my dissertation.  If I'd just stop getting distracted by my floppy arms, I might actually finish it on time.  Also, it's hard to type when every muscle in each arm is on strike.

No pictures today because my phone is in the other room and I'm lazy. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Formidable rack not allowed.

Last weekend, we went back to Noida to visit yet another of Eli's work friends and his wife.  They wanted to have a meal and take us to a temple.  It took us the usual 2 hours to get there, and when we arrived, I was a little surprised at their place.  They live in a two room apartment that was the size of my living room back home.  One room was the bathroom.  The living room/bedroom/kitchen included a big bed, a fridge, a couch, two chairs, and a big coffee table which they obviously used for meals.  The bathroom was an "Indian-style" toilet, meaning a porcelain hole in the floor with flushing capabilities.  Now, I've used these types of toilets before in Japan, but there was always either plenty of room for squatting or some kind of hand rail.  Neither of these things was present; there was also no toilet paper (on purpose).  There was no AC, and all the apartments surrounding that one housed his family as well.  Which was a good thing because there was no way I could use his toilet.  It's not a matter of sensibilities; it's a matter of I can't squat and pee at the same time without some kind of support.  Ask anyone I've ever gone camping or on a long car ride with.  Eli's friend was super proud of it because 1) he owned it and 2) he had some rooftop space where they can build extra rooms...apparently.  After about 10 minutes, I felt like a total snob.  This guy does the same job as Eli (though to be fair, he's done it for a much shorter amount of time and he has less responsibilities).  It seems really wrong that we get to live in a posh apartment in one of the most expensive suburbs of Delhi and he makes a 2 hour commute every day from what would be an efficiency apartment in America.  It's a matter of expectations I guess.  The company is paying so that we don't have to lose our standard of living despite being in another country.  The other guy is apparently an example of that standard here.

Enough depressing talk, just so you know, it's very disconcerting when you use the toilet then discover that there is no toilet the whole apartment.  I had to use his sister's apartment for her Western style toilet, but silly me, I forgot to bring my emergency toilet paper stash with me across the hall.  Eli had to bring it over after some embarrassing translation.  So...that was fun.

After we had a late lunch, we left to go see the temple.  I was expecting a building roughly the size of a church that would have some interesting statues and worshippy bits lying around.  Mostly I expected to be bored after the first five minutes.  I was wrong yet again (that's what I get for having expectations).  This temple was like the original size of Disneyland (not as big as you think for all you non-Californians out there, but still a hefty piece of land).  Every piece of architecture was sculpted into some kind of design.  We couldn't take any pictures because, well, nothing was allowed inside.  No purses or electronic bits of any kind.  No leather.  No food or drinks except apparently water.  No clothes above the knee.  You get the picture. It took us about 30 minutes of standing in a sweltering line, ass to armpit with a lot of other people.  Every little bit (I have no idea what the trigger was), the guards would raise the rope, and people would start running past them.  After another little bit, one of the guards would ring a bell and they'd lower the rope.  It was chaos because Indian people don't really stand in lines; they stand in blobs.  It's every person for themselves when it comes to moving forward.  Once we were past the first check point, we had to separate into male and female lines.  The male line wrapped around the building (we're still outside in the heat), but the female line was much shorter, maybe 20 feet.  Again, I have no idea why since it seemed like there were a lot of families there, families that included males and females alike.  Once we got to the front of the line, we had to walk through a metal detector (par for the course for just about every building in India) then get a pat down by a female guard.  I got an older lady who started asking me questions in Hindi.  She didn't seem to care when I didn't answer.  She did seem to care about the top I was wearing.  I'd chosen a top that has a deep V neckline in the front and back, but I'd paired it with a lacy sport bra that looked like a camisole (no one had to know it didn't go below the boob line, it's not like you could tell from the shirt).  I want to be clear here.  I wasn't showing any outright cleavage; it showed as much as a normal scoop neck t-shirt.  The lady tugged on the bra and immediately realized it wasn't a cami after all.  Also, it's a sport bra, so it didn't really move.  It's job was to stay put, and it was doing it's job well.  She started speaking loudly in Hindi and tugging more on the bra.  I caught the word underwear, and by this point, all the people waiting for the guys directly in front of me were watching the show.  I had my hands out away from my body because she was supposed to just be patting me down, and I wasn't sure what the proper position was for "semi-molestation."  After a minute or so of useless tugging, she pushed the edges of my top down so she could get at the straps of my bra.  She stretched one up so that my bra was digging into my armpit and tied it in place, then did the same thing with the other side.  I was then allowed to pass through into the temple proper (which was still outside).  Let me tell you, having your sports bra shoved as far as it can go into your armpits and secured there will eventually start to cut off circulation in your arms.  We had to wait for the guys to make it through the huge line, so I was stuck that way for 15 minutes or so, waiting outside, before we could walk away and I could untie my now considerably less elastic straps.  I had asked before we left our apartment if there were any dress code rules I needed to follow.  Eli was told that I could wear whatever I wanted.  Clearly, not the case.

We walked around the temple for a while (it really was like an Indian version of Disneyland, except with gods instead of cartoon rodents), saw a light up fountain show, walked around some more.  Most of the place was outdoor, but the actual temple was a building with doors and everything.  We had to take our shoes off before we could enter and I was sure of two things.  1) I was never going to see my sandals again, and 2) the floor was going to give me typhoid.  To my joy, the floor was this really clean white marble, despite the wall to wall group of tourists and worshipers shuffling around each other.  No one in India has any concept of personal space.  Also, there was still no AC.  I was fanning myself and sweating and trying desperately not to breathe through my nose.  I eventually had to just rush the exit and wait outside for the others.  My sandals were there and intact.  By this time night had fallen, so we decided to check out the food area in the hopes of getting me some kulfi (Indian ice cream on a stick that's denser and creamier than our ice cream).  I'd had some at one of the restaurants we'd been to (Pirates of Grill, if you recall), and I wanted more.  We found the kulfi, but we didn't know what flavor I'd had before.  Eli got me malai flavored because it most closely resembled the other one.  It was not the same.  Remember in Mexico, when I had that "raspberry cheesecake" ice cream that turned out to be raspberry cheese ice cream?  Yeah?  It was kind of like that.  Malai is essentially butter flavored.  Not just flavored from what I understand it.  The kulfi is made with malai, which is mostly just butter.  So, yum, frozen butter custard.  (To no one's surprise, I got sick a day and a half later).

I'm going to end this post with the best part of the trip, which was that we got to see a monkey during the drive there.  It was eating an apple on our car while we waited in traffic. I'll also throw in some cute pics of Dante because I can.

Monkey with an apple.

He loves playing under (inside?) the coffee table.

Slides are fun.

He squealed the whole time he was swinging.

Like every other kid everywhere, he tried to climb back up the slide.

Walking around by himself (with help).

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Video tour continued.

Here's the second half, condensed for your pleasure.  I hope it works because apparently my phone is too epic for Blogger.

Video tour

The long awaited video tour of our apartment.  This is the first half.  I'll upload the second half soon.