Friday, January 30, 2009

Snow World

While I've posted some pictures and alluded to the snow in Hyderabad, I don't believe I've ever actually explained myself. It pretty much never gets below 70 degrees farenheit in Hyderabad. There were about 3 blissful weeks in early January where the highs were in the mid 80s. Now, they're back to the mid 90s. So, how did I get to spend some time frollicking in the snow this winter? At this fantastically hilarious (and un-hygenic) place called Snow World. It's a giant warehouse that basically looks like a converted cold storage building that is kept just below freezing for people to frollick in man-made snow. The scene itself is worth a trip: a couple hundred Hyderabadis who are used to hot temperatures being put into matching polyester snow gear complete with rubber boots and mittens. I was sweating profusely by the time I got them on (in the un-chilled room) and had flashbacks to getting dressed to go play in the snow as a child. Picture Ralphie in "A Christmas Story."Once we were deemed appropriately attired, we were allowed into the snow warehouse where we could play in an imaginary winter wonderland. I was the only person who didn't wear her hat and gloves. We even had an actual snowfall inside! We could hang out with the abominable snowman.
And go "sledding". Note: this was a prime opportunity to throw snowballs on defenseless targets.
We even climbed mountains in Snow World.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Celebrity

Hyderabad is probably one of the few cities in the world where I could approach celebrity status... without even trying. Because of my complexion, I am constantly searched out by photographers and reporters. Sometimes I feel like everyone is pointing at me as I walk down the street saying "whoa, look at the white girl." One such instance was the other day when I was perusing handicrafts at an all-India crafts mela. We were looking at salwar suits and handmade jewelry when a tv reporter and her videographer approached and asked where I was visiting from. When I said I lived in Banjara Hills, they were elated. They then insisted on interviewing me for their coverage of the event.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Obama!

One of the reasons I've been a bit negligent about posting daily is that I've been quite busy pulling things together for the Hyderabad Inaugural Ball. As Chair of Democrats Abroad Hyderabad, I organized a dinner, dancing and drinks ball for those of us in Hyderabad excited about the 44th President of the United States! I had a theme drink for the evening; an "Obamagranate" Martini:
Umes was crucial to my sanity over the past few weeks as I went from worrying about selling enough tickets to turning away over 100 people because we were sold out! He even played the doorman and collected all the tickets for me.
My friend Lisa and I had her Aunties help us into our sarees so we'd be appropriately festive on the ocassion; I'd say we succeeded.

There was about a 45 minute pause in the mingling and dancing during which we watched Obama get inaugurated and make his Inaugural Address LIVE! The time difference really worked in our favor this time! People were raptured and cheering throughout the speech. My personal favorite line was about the Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and non-believers all being united: our party definitely had representation of all five groups, among others!

After Obama's speech we all got back to partying with lots of fantastic dancing. We were lucky enough to count about 25 study abroad students as our attendees who added boundless energy and enthusiasm to the event.Overall it was a night enjoyed by all. I was even rewarded for my efforts with a front-page quote on the Times of India. Tomorrow we'll hopefully have some photos in the paper and the weekly "People"-type magazine is doing a feature on our event!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I cried.

I know I have failed on my New Year's resolution, but that's part of the point, right? Nobody actually keeps these things. To make up for it, I'll put a more personal post out there today (gasp!)

My boyfriend and I have been quite busily planning our future since he is Indian, I am American, and I am returning to the U.S. on the last day of March. We've had to really think about what we want and have had many discussions about how we're going to make our relationship work and the next steps we want to take. After many many talks we've decided to get engaged before I leave India in a traditional Hindu ceremony. We'll get married when he decides to come to the U.S. in a year or so (the exact date will be determined based on job prospects, school breaks, etc.) After we're married, we'll start planning 2 weddings: a traditional Hindu ceremony and a modern Unitarian ceremony. Because he is a bit of a traditionalist, we decided to have two ceremonies rather than merging the two traditions into one.

We were both happy with this solution, but I have not come to terms with the idea of having a 15 hour Sanskrit ceremony where I don't understand what's going on. It's very important to me that I am conscious and knowing about what I'm doing on my wedding day (even if it is just 1 of 3). Today, while we were walking back from talking to a Priest about the engagement ceremony, I brought it up again. I told him I don't want to do a Hindu ceremony unless we have a translator of some sort. He insisted that it was impossible to find a bilingual priest and that there can only be 3 people on the altar, so a translator was impossible. We fought about it the whole way home and I got increasingly angry that he wasn't willing to compromise and that we couldn't come up with a solution. Then he dropped the bomb "I know Sanskrit and wanted to translate the entire ceremony for you as a surprise on our wedding day." I wanted to punch him in the face and give him a huge kiss at the same time, so naturally, I just cried.

Such a lovely romantic notion: my husband translating an ancient text about love alound to me while we went through rituals that have been performed for thousands of years. I was floored. I had so misread the situation: I thought he had no concern for my feelings on the day when he was doing everything he could to make me elated that day. And yet I was so mad! We could've avoided all these arguments and all my stress about it if he'd just told me. AGH!

Since my tears have dried and I've stopped blowing my nose, I am now just happy. Happy to have someone who cares so much that he'll do anything to surprise me with joy, happy to know how wonderful our wedding day(s) will be, and happy to have finally busted the secret!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Charminar

The most famous landmark in Hyderabad:

Bangles

These are some of the famous Hyderabadi crystal bangles. People come from all over India to shop in the bangle shops near the Charminar.

Snow Dance

Ahh, the nice cold winters of Hyderabad!

video

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Your Taxpayer Rupees

Oops! I missed posting yesterday, so there will be two today to make up for it. First, I'll share a little story about one of my errands yesterday:
A couple days ago I saw an advertisement in the newspaper for a Ravi and Anoushka Shankar concert here in Hyderabad. There were no details about ticket purchases except an email address to write to for more information. I emailed requesting tickets and got the following reply:

"Dear Sir / Madam,
Thank you very much for your interest in attending the Concert of Pt. Ravishankar and Anoushka. For your information this is not a ticketed event and entry is by invitation only. We can reserve invitations for you as per your actual requirements. Please respond to us accordingly. Meanwhile, we require more details about you particularly about your background, your organization, your employment details etc. This information is needed to update our database.
Looking forward to receive this information from you."


So, I replied with the information that I am an American management consultant working with municipalities here and that I require 3 passes for myself, my husband (boyfriend/fiance don't exactly exist here) and a friend visiting from the States. I was told they would reserve invitations for me and that I should go pick them up from the tourism office.

Yesterday, I headed to the tourism office with my confirmation email and waited in line for about 15 minutes. Then an officer shuffled through a pile of all the printed out emails he had received about the tickets until he found mine. He read it, checked it against mine, and a handwritten list he had and then gave me the tickets. A highly efficient system!

Not only was it humorous that the entire process had been moved from electronic communications to hand-written notes and print-outs, it was somewhat horrifying to realize that the government of A.P. was paying for me to go to the concert of a world-reknowned musician. In a country where almost all municipalities are bankrupt, public services are at a minimum, and corruption runs rampant, the government is spending it's money on entertaining the rich.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Still Sick...

... but here's a common scene in India. People lined up to get water. This tanker probably only comes once or twice a week and the only water they get is that which they can carry back to their homes (the tents in the background). Even when I'm feeling miserable and sick at home, I count my blessings that I can turn on a faucet and get running water to take a hot shower, cook, or clean. Most people in India don't have this luxury and it's certainly not something I'll ever take for granted again.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sick.

I have a very yucky cold. My nose is all stuffed up and my throat burns. Thus, this is as much of a post as I'm up for today. Thanks Umes for passing on your germs!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hyderabad in December

Confused? Come back tomorrow for an explanation to this meteorological mystery!

Fuzzy Fella'

This little cutie lives on my block along with his Mom and a few friends. I don't know who exactly they belong to since they roam the streets freely, but they are all awfully cute and help me get an equine fix here in Hyderabad!


Birthday!

My birthday was about 3 months ago and was one of my best birthdays to date. I don't know why I never posted about it here, so I will do so now since it is long overdue. The day started out fantastically when I walked out of the house for lunch and found a camel waiting to greet me:

The afternoon was spent having lunch with my boyfriend and going on a mini shopping spree financed by him. The jewelry box and skirt we bought that day remain among my favorites. We went home to rest in the evening since we were headed to a friend's for drinks and then dinner out that night. However, upon arriving at my close friends' home for what I thought was simply going to be a glass of wine before dinner I received a fantastic surprise: almost all of my friends in Hyderabad were there to celebrate with me! What's more, there were life-size photos of my family and dogs with Happy Birthday signs all the way from the U.S. of A. They had found all of my favorite yet hard to find foods in Hyderabad- salads, cheeses, and wine! There were friends to be silly with and kids to help me blow out the candles on my cake.

I cannot express my thanks enough to my "Foster family" my boyfriend, and my family for coordinating all of this and making it a birthday to truly remember. They worked across continents (literally!) to make sure I had a great day and a fun surprise. THANK YOU!




Saturday, January 3, 2009

Sari!

After 9 months in India and upon receiving one as a gift, I decided it was time to face my fears and conquer the art of wearing a sari. Umes insisted that he knew how to tie one and could help. So, we took out all 9 meters of fabric and started to wrap them around me. Our attempt left me forlorn and looking more like a potato sack than an elegant Indian woman:
However, upon enlisting our neighbor, I managed to get myself into one without looking too horribly disheveled. Would any respectable woman go out like this? No. But hey, it's a start.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Best Breakfast Ever!

A year ago, when I was vacationing India with my family, I discovered the dosa. I made a habit of ordering a masala dosa and fresh squeezed juice every morning. I loved them so much that I'd wake up in the morning and start singing a song in their honor: "I'm ready for some juice and dosas, yeah, yeah, yeah." There's a reason I'm not a lyricist. Anyway, I've rediscovered my love of dosa's here in Hyderabad and am lucky enough to have a great dosa place just across the street, so I head over to Ohri's for breakfast fairly regularly. Here's my dosa and Umes enjoying his on a recent Sunday morning:
As you can see, dosas sort of like a crepe. They're cooked until crispy and made out of rice and lentil flours. They can be filled with all sorts of things, my favorite of which is the traditional masala dosa. This is a mixture of onions, potatoes, chana dal and seasonings that are just the right mix of comforting and spicy. Dosas are traditionally served with chutneys and sambar... coconut chutney, mint chutney, and tomato-ginger chutney. Sambar is a spicy tomato soup that is great for dosa dipping.

Mmm, I'm getting hungry just writing about them!

Resolution

I am well aware that I've been rather amiss in posting over the past few months. So, my new year's resolution is to post every day for the month of January (at least!) to get the blog updated and have a digital record of my great year in Hyderabad. Since I didn't post yesterday, there will be 2 today to make up for it! So, lets start from Dec 31 and move backwards. My boyfriend and I spent New Year's at a Belgian friend's house for a relaxing evening of cocktails, food, conversation, and celebration. We were joined by her lovely St. Bernard Coca:

Her yard was lit up with twinkle lights making it look like a mystical fairyland perfect for making new friends and celebrating the coming of 2009.
Shortly after midnight, Umes and I took our first picture together of 2009! I think it's pretty cute considering we took it ourselves:
Happy New Year Everyone!