Saturday, March 15, 2008

New Casa, New Roomie

Well, hi there. I found myself a new flat at the beginning of January. A new year. Felt like time to learn about a new part of the city, live in a new place with a new roommate...oh, and save some money at the same time. This place is a little less expensive than my last place. It was kind of difficult to move though to be honest. I really loved our old place in Safdarjung Enclave and it had really become my home. All that said though, I'm glad I'm now in Jungpura Extension, next to Bogel Market and Nizamuddin West.

Our mighty "service lane" next to Mathura Road. We're the top terrace, second from the right at the top of the photo.

Mehul Shivastiva, my new roommate is from Kolkata, West Bengal and is a journalist. He got his undergradate degree at William and Lee University in Virginia and then had jobs in both Ohio and Sacramento before moving back to India last spring. We've found that we get along well. I scratch his beard and he showers me with little kisses.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Save a life - buy garlic bread

I bought a loaf of Harvest Selects Garlic Cheese Bread today for a dinner we are having with some friends tonight. The back of the loaf of bread begins,
"Garlic has been known to prevent everything, from the common cold and flu to the plague. Garlic also helps you improve cardiovascular health. Prevent certain types of cancer and counter infections, including Anthrax. Combining the properties of garlic and wholeshome goodness of a loaf of bread, Harvest Gold, the No. 1 bread in Delhi, brings you this delightful Garlic Cheese bread."

Maybe the Red Cross will start recommending garlic bread for their 3-day emergency kits.

We did have a really great Thanksgiving feast. It's always really nice to share our American traditions with our international friends.

Pictures from New Year's at the Spanish Embassy. Well, the first is at the apartment before we left.

Then look who I found in south Delhi for a night of giant Indian family dinners and a few beers?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Back with a Vengence

Ms. Reiman, Ms. Liljengren, Ms. Reiman, Uncle Scott, Madam Speaker Pelosi, Grandma, Prime Minister Singh, ladies and gentleman,

I know it has been a long time since the last post on this blog. I have received emails, phone calls and death threats that if there isn't a blog update soon, I better make sure to double-lock the door at night. Lucky I knew that none of those sending those lovely letters of encouragement would ever be able to find my new apartment, let alone give directions to it. Not succumbing to any pressure that was put forth in those friendly pieces of communication, I have now posted the best blog entry in the history of the blogosphere - purely on my own terms.

Enjoy, rejoice, praise, do a "puja" (look it up). Here it is. Strap on your seat belt. Get a cup of coffee. Heck, grab a box of tissues. This is going to be a hair-raising, emotional, maybe life altering experience that I promise will be well-worth your time.

Let's assign your reading homework at the beginning. And I don't want to hear any complaints! I'm sure only 20% did your reading from last time. I know how this works. I have teacher friends.

First, an article on the monkeys of Delhi. Our Deputy Mayor actually died a couple of months ago because he fell off his terrace after a number of monkeys attacked him.

Second, an interview with the Vice Chairman of DLF, India's largest real estate developer. And interesting look into the massive development, infrastructure and commercial, that is taking place in India and the equally massive challenges in doing it.

Third, an article that I have kept for a long time and keep forgeting to share. It's an op-ed entitled, "Iraq - Whose Oil is it Anyway?".

Alex and Tina arrived on the 19th of December, after a short (wink, wink) layover in Tokyo. Awaiting them at my casa in New Delhi were Marina, Emily and my friend Dasha (L-R), who was on her way back to the US after having spent the last six months in Kabul.

Their first couple days in Delhi we got to see some cool spots like the Qutab Minar, one of Delhi's oldest and coolest monuments, originally built by a Mughal Emperor with an inferiority complex.

Among the coolest of well over 300 photos that were taken during Alex and Tina's time here in India.

Then we were off to Pushkar, a very small town (pop. 15,000) in Rajasthan. This is also the city I visited in late November for their annual Camel Fair. This time around there were probably about 200,000 people less.

During our time in Pushkar, between eating and mingling in the many markets of this quaint city, we rented scooters to check out "old" Pushkar and explore the surrounding areas. Our formidable bike gang can be seen below.
Pushkar is unique in that it has a number of temples located at the summits of the surrounding hills. We hiked to the top of the largest one to watch the sunset.
Then a few hours later, we hiked to the top of a smaller one to watch the sunrise.

After our sunrise hike and breakfast, we set off for a round of yoga.

Yoga prepared us for the overnight camel safari that followed though. Rocky, Babu and...damn, I can't remember Alex's camel, well all three of them were sterdy steeds and got us to camp like good camels.I even found my Pants Twin to share a blanket with!
Our camel safari guides certainly took care of us. I even got a hug out of the deal :)

Back in Pushkar and with a few hours to kill before we boarded our night bus to Agra, we roamed around the city looking for interesting places. We even found a hostel I had been renting out and didn't even know it. Some foreigners were having a difficult time finding it though, so I thought I would help out.

We finally made it to Agra and the Taj Mahal to celebrate Christmas. More than once I have thought that it was really cool that we celebrated Christian's most important holiday at a famous Muslim monument in a predominently Hindu country.

Tina was so excited to finally have made it to The Taj that she could hardly control herself. She just kept jumping and yelling "yippeee!!!" Alex caught one of her spontaneous acts of jubilation.

After Agra, we were off to Fatehpur Sikri, the fort that the Mughal Emperor Akbar built. He actually moved the capitol to this location for 15 years before he realized that it's difficult to sustain a capitol city where there IS NO WATER!!! He built this freaking capitol where they had no access to water. Not one of Akbar's better moves.
We returned to Delhi to have a great dinner in Emily's new apartment. The stars were out. Okay, that was dumb.
Back in Delhi we also finally got to celebrate Christmas in the way that really matters. We opened presents. Among our many gifts sent by Santa from his Everett home near Silver Lake was new underwear. Santa always seems to know that come December my underwear from the previous year is usually ready to be discarded.
It was really nice to still celebrate Christmas with family :)

Next up: Goa. Amit and Josh's boy weekend in Paradise. Amit was out in Mumbai visiting his family so we planned a trip to meet midway between Delhi and Mumbai. Goa was pure paradise.

It was a pleasure to meet Amit's father, whom I hadn't met for. He also enjoyed Goa with us.

There is not a lot to say about the Goa trip, given we spent most of the weekend in restaurants or on the beach, but it was great to see Ami. Hopefully, the pictures pretty much tell the story. It was a great weekend away from the chaos, noise and pollution of Delhi.

Back in Delhi, we recently celebrated my 27th birthday :) I figure it didn't matter we were 29 days past my actual birthday. A birthday isn't official until you've had a party.

Then just last weekend, my friends Anna and Mattius from Sweden swung through Delhi to visit. When I studied abroad 6+ years ago in London, I met Anna and her three Swedish roomates who I became good friends with. I hadn't seen Anna since then. Her and Mattius are traveling the world over 10 months! They have already been to Russia, China and most of southeast Asia in their first four months. Now they have India for six weeks. Later, they will be traveling to Mexico and the western part of South America.

That brings us to the present day. I am happy, healthy and continue to enjoy my Indian adventure. I am definitely starting a new chapter. Good friends have gone. New friends are entering my life. I'm in my second year at CII and finally have some paid vacation time to use. :) I am living in a new part of Delhi with a new roommate. I send you all my love and will do my best to continue to keep you updated on my adventures - and an adventure it is.
Don't forget your reading homework!

Friday, December 14, 2007

A normal weekend...You know, we went to a camel fair

Just another weekend, except that we explored India's own famous camel festival, which takes place every year at the end of November in Pushkar, Rajasthan. We really had the opportunity to do and see some new things on this trip. For example...

We got to play with swords.

We got to try sugar cane like our Indian brothers and sisters.

Well, feeding camels I guess doesn't exactly make the list of new things. But I still am not quite an expert with these animals, which are the closest things to dinasoars I have ever seen that still exist on Planet Earth.

Ruth kissed one. I'm not really down with that, NOT THAT THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH IT!

And then we got to see what was maybe the last thing I expected to see. But then again, in India you kind of start expecting the unexpected. What could those three be in such awe of?
Stunts straight out of a traveling circus. It was awesome.

Well, at least half the giant group fit in this farewell-to-Pushkar-oh crap-we-only-have-beds-for-half-of-us photo.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

If your name is "A" or "T" you may want to be cautious in what you read or see below. I don't want to spoil the surprise that awaits us in Rajasthan when you come for Christmas. However, maybe you should go on and see because it will make you even MORE excited than you already are! Ahh, the choices in life.

Well, the plan was to take a nice 13 hour train to Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, a small, dusty, brown tourist town about 60 kms from the Pakistan border where we would embark on an amazing Indian Jones-like camel safari. Of course, things are never that easy.

After we missed our first train (due to small error made by the travel agent where he told us the wrong train station - no biggie), we improvised and took three consecutive sleeper buses. To say the least, we were simply excited to be on our way to meet our camels.

We finally settled down though and the 21 hour trip to Jaisalmer actually ended up being quite fun.

Greeting us in Jaisalmer was the amazing Jaisalmer fort. Everything is the color of sand...

...and greeting us in the desert:

What you can't see below is the giant cooler my camel (the youngest and presumably the strongest...or simply lowest on the camel food chain) that got stuck carrying a big cooler with food and ice.

On our first day, we were accompanied by four people, two men and two boys, 7 km to the camp where we would sleep that night. Parbu, pictured below, goes to school from 10-1 p.m. every day. Then at 4 p.m., he walks tourists like us 7 km to a desert camp, sleeps overnight in the desert, wakes up at sunrise and walks back (at least 7 km, although I don't know exactly where his school is) to town in time to go to school at 10 a.m., then he does it all over again.



There's not enough times in our lives where we get to see an amazing sunset and sunrise back to back.
Here, we were spying out on the enemy camp.

All of our guides made us a nice lunch on the second day to cap off an unforgettable weekend. Nearly as unforgettable was the strawberry the camel left me in a place to be named in private.