the great flat search of 2005

My friend Shelah did a fun blog about some doozy homes they looked at recently while house searching. I laughed a lot at it because it also brought back some scary memories of when we were apartment searching here in South Asia. I couldn't find the pictures from our Capital search, but I still had some pics from when we were searching in the Himalayas.

This was th
e first flat we saw. We loved it! Except...the location. It was literally a walk down three steep hills to get there! We even went back to look at it again just in case the walk there wasn't as bad as we remembered...but it was. We even liked the pink walls. haha You gotta take what you can get here. And the bathrooms were fun. I have a theory with the bathrooms here - they are almost always odd colors with a lot of printed tiles. I think the bathroom is their room to experiment with decorating. Our current home has camels in one bathroom...I love it! Who else can shower and see camels trotting by?

ther place we looked at had a huge mold/mildew problem on the walls. Pretty much every wall had some mildew on it. We expressed our concern about this, and received the typical South Asian reply: "Take no tension, we will paint over it."

Also, here's another fun bathroom picture. As you can see from the picture, this place was super nice. Unfortunately it was way too expensive. And it was so loaded down with furniture we could barely move through the apartment, but they wouldn't take any pieces out! We saw a total of 8 available flats, and were told these were all they had. Fortunately, one a bit more suitable miraculously became before we had to move into one of these.

Check out some of the fun kitchens we saw:
Where does this kitchen window lead to? It's a mystery.

Check out these half Western half squatty potties! If you are used to sitting, you can sit on the lid, but if you are more inclined to squat, you can
stand on the ridged foot part! (The second one was actually in the home we lived in :)

Most of the places
we looked at, even if they were already vacant, had a spot for po0ja (or id0l w0rship).

One thing most of the flats did have was a pretty awesome view!


random photos

I have some random pictures that I don't think I've ever posted before, with a few random facts thrown in.

This is a child's school bus! A lot of times you'll see a cart go by with children locked in a cage, on their way to school. Doesn't sound quite safe to me. I like it that this one is called "Jingle Bell."

You see people carry the most random things on their scooters, bikes, rickshaws, you name it. Last night I commented to some friends that I have a funny picture of a man carrying a computer on a scooter. At least 2 others piped in, "I have a picture like that too!" Here's mine...I was wrong though, he's on a cycle rickshaw.

The largest m0sque in the country is in our city, and we visited it last year. Here is a picture from it. The construction was completed in 1626, and can hold 10s of thousands of men at the appointed times.

Most auto rickshaw's will have stickers on their windshields. Sometimes you'll see Bollywood stars, sometimes pictures of their favorite g0d(s). This one sadly lumped in ours with it - he's trying to cover all the bases.

Every now and then, you'll see trees with marigolds and pictures of g0ds up against them. I'm not sure why these particular trees get w0rshipped, but they do. This one is on our street.

And lastly, as many of you know, this culture is very modest. No kissing in movies, and definitely no kissing in public. So many times, young people will sneak off to gardens alone together. Yesterday, Andrea took our family to these cool old ruins to take some family pictures. (she ROCKS!) Anyway so we caught these two there together (and it was before 10am!!). I guess they also go to the old ruins to make out? I guess if you're gonna disobey the parents, you should do it in style? :)


what i'll miss

I have grown to love many things about this culture that I'm living in, and I am really going to miss a lot of it when we leave in just a couple weeks. Obviously, the relationships we have made I will miss the most, and not only with the nationals we've met. When you pick up and move to the other side of the world, you form an incredible bond with other like-minded people who have also left their 'home' country as well. You become family. So now our hearts are divided in that are hard to explain, but certainly easy to feel.

Like I said, I'm going to miss so much, so I thought a top 10 was in order. Like the one I did about what I'm looking forward to, I'm not putting the obvious one of family and friends. That's already a given!

Top 10 Things I'll Miss the Most About South Asia:

10. The mangoes! Oh you wouldn't believe how good the mangoes are here in season. And not just the fresh ones (which are incredible), but you can a
lso always find mango juice, mango popsicles, mango ice cream...I don't even know if you can get such fresh mangoes in the US. I sure hope so!

9. Cheap Indian Food! I know in the US you can get Indian food, and it can even be good quality and authentic. However, I've heard it's usually super expensive. The Indian restaurant here I will miss the most has a dish called Veg Thali - it comes with enough food to feed you for at least two meals, if not 3, it's oh so delicious, and it's only $2.50. Oh, and they deliver. Naturally.
Which takes me to the next one...

8. Deliveries! I've posted about it before - I love how everyone delivers here. I'm going to really miss that!

7. Creativity and contentment! I'll admit, sometimes it's a pain, but because lots of conveniences aren't available here, you have to get creative. This includes with recipes, recreation, decorating, daily life, you name it. You always feel a sense of
accomplishment when you've cooked something that you had to substitute 5 items in. And when you have less options, it's easier to feel contentment.

6. Easily accessible health care!
Can you imagine a world where you walk into a modern hospital, with no appointment, stroll to the receptionist and pay (with no insurance card) $12 to see a doctor, wait for 5 minutes, and the well-educated doctor calls you into his/her office? Then if you need any medicine, you go to your local pharmacist, spend pennies on your meds without even needing a prescription? And if you have any later questions, you just call your doctor up on their mobile phone? This is the exact nature of medical care in the Capital. I'm sooooo gonna miss this.

5. The
wallahs! Remember my mom blogged about the wallahs - the men and women who provide services or sell things for a very small price. The press wallah who irons your clothes, the fruit wallah who walks by your house and sells you fresh fruit, etc. What is husband going to do without his press wallah? His wife sure doesn't iron like that!

4. The hospitality!
South Asians are notoriously hospitable. I couldn't even begin to tell you the number of times a woman and I have exchanged just a few words of small talk and she invites me into her home. They take pride in treating their guests like royalty - offering chai, sweets, food, and comfort. You always feel like you have made their week by visiting their home.

3. Bollywood!
I love getting into a taxi or auto rickshaw and the driver turns on the radio to popular Bollywood music. Or sitting in a coffee shop that plays Bollywood music videos, or going to the gym and watch Bollywood movies while working out. Bollywood is so unique and so fun, and I'm going to miss how
everywhere it is here!

2. Interesting life! It's hard to find a title to sum up the interesting day-to-day things you see here in the Capital. Opening your front door and seeing cows sitting at your gate is always fun. Or when they walk by mooing. That's cool too. Or driving down the road and you see an elephant plodding along beside you, or camels. The park we walk in has wild peacocks that cross our path. I like to chuckle at signs that are so funny (usually unintentionally), and the crazy way people drive or sell. Like the balloon wallah who rides his bike on busy streets, loaded down with dozens of balloons. And I'll definitely miss seeing all sorts of history on a daily basis. An old fort built centuries ago, or a bridge, or a tomb. It's fascinating.

1. The bargains!
This is a no-brainer. The markets are a fun experience in themselves, what with the sights, sounds, and smells. (not all bad, mind you :) But then getting a great deal on something like jewelry, clothes, shoes, or home decorations...man! I am definitely going to miss the bargains.


you are what you wear (kind of)

Although it may not seem like it at first arrival into this foreign land, the women in South Asia have a lot of variety in the way they dress. And I don't just mean the colors. My friend, Chrissy, asked on the other blog if it's hard to wear a sari, and I thought it might make an interesting blog to some of you.

The picture above has several styles of clothing represented. On the right half of the picture, you see two women wearing salwar kameez suits. A
salwar kameez consists of three pieces - a long shirt (kurta), a pair of baggy pleated pants with tapered ankles (salwar) and the scarf piece (dupatta). The salwar pants are usually one size fits all at the waist because they are drawstring. But you usually have to take them to the tailor anyway to get the length you want, and sometimes get them taken in a little. They are very comfy. Usually, the dupatta and the salwars match each other, with a coordinating kurta to complete the look.

The dupatta, by the way, should almost always be worn with a suit if you want to stay modest. That's because it represents the woman's virtue, and you stand out pretty big time if you don't have on a dupatta with your suit. You don't play with your dupatta, men should never touch it, and it shouldn't drag on the ground. Unfortunately, they are very annoying, because they slip off easily and also are pretty hot. Husband calls them stupattas. I would agree.

The woman in pink is wearing a suit also, but instead of salwar pants, she has on tight legged pants called
churidars. Her kurta is also longer than what you normally see in the Capital and other cities in the north. I'm not sure if she chose this for stylistic reasons, or because she is from a different state.

The woman in green is of course wearing a
sari (or saree). I posted about it before that there are several ways to tie sarees based on the region you are living in or the design of the saree. This woman looks to have hers tied in the traditional way. Saris are very difficult to tie and wear, but they are definitely fun and flatter most figures. Since they are 6-9 meters of fabric, they are obviously heavy. Not only that, but South Asian women can spot a cheap sari a kilometer away, and I've been told that we foreign women look odd when we walk in saris. That is probably true, because they can be very awkward! Underneath a sari is what is called a petticoat, which is basically a straight long drawstring skirt. It has to be drawstring and it has to be tied tightly. (not good if you have flab you'd rather camouflage!) Also, a short top ("blouse") that is tailor made is worn under the sari as well. Let me see if I can sum up the traditional tying process into one sentence: you wrap the sari around once, tucking it into your petticoat along the way, then take it and fold in 10-15 or so pleats, tuck that big piece under your naval and attach with a safety pin, then wrap the sari around one more time, this time under the right armpit, across the chest, and then over the left shoulder. Whew. Keep in mind, the pleats have to be just so, as well as the length of the sari. Stylish sarees are worn long, and cause lots of tripping. Add in heels, heavy fabrics with heavier embroidery, and sucking in your tummy the whole time, and there you have why South Asian women think we walk strangely when wearing sarees.

Some women wear burqas, like in the picture to the right. (notice there is also a woman in green, wearing what you now know is a salwar kameez) Because the culture is very modest, most women will do their exercises in salwar kameez suits. The men will be out jogging in shorts (which they never wear any other time) but the women are still out power walking with their suits, dupattas, and tennis shoes. I even saw women in suits at the gym that I went to last year! However, clothing tends to be more modern in big cities, especially with the younger generations and in the "posher" areas of town.
And then for fancy occasions, women will sometimes wear a long skirt with a top and a dupatta, altogether called a lehenga. The traditional bride will wear a lehenga. If the woman wears a short top with spaghetti straps, that is a choli, and I've only seen this in Bollywood. I'm sure the super modern women wear them as well, though.

Something interesting is that women will even swim in their suits or sarees. Or wear swimming costumes. (Andrea will probably be blogging about that soon!) A 50-something Auntie I know went parasailing in a beach city down south a few years ago. I have never seen her in anything besides a sari, so I asked if she wore a sari while parasailing. She laughed and said something like, "Oh goodness no. Obviously, I wore a suit." She thought the question was ridiculous - of course she wouldn't wear 6 meters of fabric and a petticoat ; for water sports, it is far more practical to wear baggy pants, a knee-length shirt, and a scarf. (said with a facetious tone, of course :)

When I first moved here, I couldn't tell the difference between village-y fashion, upper class fashion, fancy or every day suits. My friend Priya even once told me that my fashion sense was pretty bad. (said in what she thought was a very helpful way!) Now I can usually recognize cheap from expensive, or North from South, but not always. There is just so much variety to the clothing here that I don't know if I would ever understand it all!