Friday, November 27, 2009

Politics & Palate-pleasers

This was taken from the balcony in my host family's house. Their neighbor was a candidate in the municipal court elections, so there were a lot of his supporters gathered downstairs. "Our neighbor is running," Meenakshiji said, "but we don't vote him. [laughs, lowers voice] Because he is uneducated." Also he is for the BJP, which I have gathered through leading questions (I had to know!) my host family does not support.

The sandwich was an amazing, amazing brie & tomato & basil on baguette sandwich from Anokhi Cafe. I discovered these one day when I was really hungry as I was having trouble eating my host fam's food, and it was just what I needed. I don't usually love tomatoes but they were so sweet and flavorful and awesome; the brie was perfect and even the tossed greens and vinaigrette were amazing. Basically if you haven't been on this program with me eating what I've been eating you can't imagine how glorious it was. Cheese is so rare here to begin with, much less cheese of a specific type, which actually tastes the way it is supposed to. And even just good bread is hard to find. And vegetables are usually so overcooked and smothered in was great to have a simply assembled sandwich with the natural flavors of everything coming together beautifully. Ahh. I took this photo after the 3 hour ordeal of getting my package in Jaipur. Anokhi is a fancy boutique here (selling clothing produced under "unusually ethical conditions" as the Lonely Planet says) that basically sells upscale/glorified versions of things normal people wear; block printed kurtas, dupattas, quilted jackets, etc. The cafe is very well priced for what you get though; this sandwich & salad was under $2. And it's a really lovely atmosphere. Rekhaji's son designed/decorated it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Happy Birthday, Linda!!!

hope you had a great day & that this is your best year yet.

Also, hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving tomorrow! (today for me here now). B & I are going to McDonald's to have chicken sandwiches tonight...sigh. And then tomorrow we're making mashed potatoes for the Kotharis, since they've been wanting us to make them something for a while now. I'm also trying to look up a simple dessert recipe with ingredients I can get here, but it's hard!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mehrangarh Fort

All of the photos in this post were taken by my dear roommate Basanti Miller at Mehrangarh Fort. I was using my film camera to document the visit.

This is in memory of all of Man Singh's ranis, who left red hand prints on the gate before going to commit sati (immolate themselves on the maharaja's fuenral pyre). There were more prints on the other side of the gate too.

This is a view of the Blue City!!! That color is called 'Brahmin Blue', as only brahmins were allowed to use it for a while. The color keeps heat and mosquitoes away. The curved awnings are reminiscent of the roofs used in some villages; the intricate cut-out windows enabled women in purdah to look down into the courtyards & see what was going on without being seen themselves.Moti Mahal/Pearl Palace, a hall of private audience. Gorgeous! The walls were coated with this special stuff (err, forgot exactly what) so that they glimmer

Winter is Wedding Season

Apparently after Diwali, wedding season kicks into high gear. There are weddings nearby almost every night; our guest house was right by a big garden venue place so there was always music blasting and fireworks booming.

We came across this one evening as we were walking home. Yes, there are people paid just to hold up electric lights so the wedding party can dance smack dab in the middle of the street.

Cows in the 'Milkman Colony' of Jodhpur, right by the headquarters of one of the NGOs other MSID students are at I took this in the early days of this internship, when I was going stir crazy down in the library... I could fit three or four of me in this drum. The hide still has some hairs on it, which I'd never seen before.

l o l.

So after another night of crazy I can't quite describe, I am back in the Kothari's home. This is the only photo I've been able to upload, after several tries...sorry it ended up being the most random one!

Iced rasgullahs with almond and cashew features & coconut hair--I bought these intending to bring them to my host family not knowing what they were, & as they turned out to be rasgullahs I had to eat them the night I bought them (they are a dairy product). Sooo delicioussss


Time for another round of big heartfelt digital hugs and thank yous:

Thank you so much to everyone who sent me things in that big box I picked up in Jaipur!!! Getting them may have been a hassle but it was so worth it; all your sweet cards and letters made me the kind of happy best expressed by this emoticon :')
Angela and Linda, I haven't had a chance to try out those teas but they look and smell beautiful! I'm excited to taste them. I'm also saving the chocolate for the right moment, but I love the name, haha..."New Moon" came out this past weekend, didn't it? Also Linda, those otters are the cutest! I'm afraid I couldn't eat any mangoes for you; I've been trying to every since I got here, but they're not in season :/. Can't even get mango ice cream!
Kyera, of course I <3 the <3 :P.
Manasi, thank you for the aromatherapy bath packet! I haven't set eyes on a bathtub since entering this country, but I look forward to using it once I get home, to help me deal with the shock of the climate change :P.
Sonam, the orange dark chocolate is delish (of course) and I love, love, love, Zen tea! It's what I usually order when I'm out 'n' about in downtown Chicago. Anyway I had my host family try some of it, since we'd once discussed how I don't normally drink black tea with milk and sugar and they were wondering what I do drink. My host parents enjoyed it; my host brother whined to try some and then seemed to have a hard time getting his down and demanded sugar, lol...and my little host cousin (the cutie in that one Diwali picture) said she liked it and finished it with gusto, aww.
Stephen, thank you for the marina, the tea, the Blue Mountain, the Jarritos (I can't believe you sent that...and that it made it here the customs people were eyeing it suspiciously and I had to be like "Cold drink! Cold drink!" [that's what people call soda here] while they were like "that is not wine? it is cold drink?" oh man), the 'chicken nuggets' (they turned out to be superdelicious! actually spicy, and a great texture--today I tried putting pieces of it in my instant hot and sour soup, it was awesome), the magazines (I don't think anyone can fully comprehend how happy magazines make me, on top of which these both had all kinds of great coincidences in them like a girl from my HS being featured in Vanity Fair, and Cosmo announcing that the dresses I've been planning to unveil this upcoming season are right on trend), the candy, the camera, the batteries and for being wonderful.

- magazines here don't come with perfume sample inserts. One had an entire booklet devoted to Bvlgari BLV II in it, but nary a scented slip of paper in sight.
- however, they do come with freebies like a 3-movie DVD or cough syrup (!!??!!)
- our supervisor is way, way sick. A) we haven't seen him in weeks B) his mother has been around more lately, and whenever she's about to go into his room she covers her nose and mouth with a handkerchief

Circumstance changes:
We are living in the Rupayan building/our supervisors' home for the next few days, as some couples had reservations in the guest house from long ago. We've packed up our stuff but are still waiting to move some of it over. :/ bleh.

I was going to post a lot of photos today but the internet connection is being particularly finicky so I'll try again tomorrow.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"The whole life starts with broom actually"

-Kuldeepji. I don't know what he meant by that.

So I have a lot of things to update you about, especially how crazy the post office experience was yesterday, but I have this rambly disorganized thing written up that I guess I may as well post now..

Written 2 nights ago:

First of all, a big digital bear hug to Auntie Violy and Auntie Pat, for sending me such an amazing package!!! I can't believe how much ma pa and ma hu you sent. I am definitely not going to lack for protein for the rest of my time here! ^_^ It's great to have green tea again too, it came just in time--I was on my last bag of genmai cha that my parents sent me. And the Tim Tams!!! Ahhhh! Pure deliciousness. Thank youuu! Oh and also the cheese you sent is pretty cool, I've never had anything like it before, and it's a great supplement to my otherwise calcium-lacking diet.

& thanks to my parents for the two kinds of tea you sent (the ginger was especially nice when my throat was freaking out in the transition to dusty Jodhpur). The spearmint gum was exactly what I needed, and the rice candy and my favorite fruity Japanese gum were wonderful surprises. That was an extremely well-packed box! Oh, and all my classmates were very happy to receive the SPF social security chapstick, Thanks also for the birthday card.

& thank you to my confirmation sponsor Mrs. Shraiberg for the beautiful card you sent me, and the article about Frankfurt! =) they were delightful.

Physical changes -
* nails - they've been polish-less this entire trip, which has been an adjustment. For the past year for whatever reason it was my weekly ritual to repaint my nails; it was something calming I would do to force myself to concentrate on my studies as both reading and typing can be performed without affecting one's nails, but pretty much any other activity will result in one accidentally damaging one's work. I keep my nails pretty short here too, as despite perhaps being stronger for not having been painted for a while, they get a lot more beat up here in my day to day life.
* hair - longer obviously, and sun-bleached (even where my hair has grown out and there should be no highlights I have noticeable natural ones now). Also I have a deeper appreciation for the hair genes my parents have given me--Thanks Mom & Dad!--unlike most of the girls on the trip I don't have to deal with mad frizziness. Whenever I take a rickshaw I do have to put my hair up though, or else it'll get really wind-whipped and tangled.
* skin - Jodhpur was a big adjustment; it is even drier and dustier here than in Jaipur, with random humid days, so my skin was very very angry. But with a lot of cleansing and moisturizing it's about back to normal finally. Thank you Caudalie and Queen Helene. I've definitely never lost my tan from the summer, it just keeps going and going... A week ago I got attacked by spiders in the night, so my limbs are dotted with little scabs right now :( At least the itching has mostly subsided.
* ankles - I've been wearing a pair of anklets constantly since my host family gave me them over breakfast one day, so a little tinkling sound accompanies my every leg movement. Sometimes I have to adjust the way I sit because of the anklets; the beads can really hurt if I don't pay attention
* ears - I have become much more conscientious about wearing earrings, whereas back home more than half the time I go out without any, whether by choice or through forgetfulness. Here if a girl isn't wearing earrings people will notice right away and demand to know why, so wearing them all the time saves time and awkwardness

Circumstance changes in Jodhpur:

We are being oppressed by spoiled little boys. They get into our yard (even though it's clearly private property; there's a big metal gate with two types of bars to keep it shut) and run around being as loud as possible, hitting things around with their cricket bat (when they are using a ball this makes an intense booming sound against whatever part of our building they're hitting it to), and sometimes even taking a wall hanging on our porch off its hook and carrying it around, or tearing apart plants in our garden. The walls are so thin/the window closest to my bed has a hole in it, so it sounds like they are right in the room with us. And our room is on a corner, so when they run around it's like they're all around us. It's so claustrophobic/alarming. The first time this happened, it was around noon on Sunday. (We had been sleeping in and were awoken by them.) We called Anitaji, who told us not to go outside, and that she would call neighbors to make them leave. Soon the children were yelled at and they left. However the second time it happened was early in the morning during the week, when children would usualllllly be at school. We called Anitaji, she said "oh, they're just playing" but still said she would tell the neighbors to get them away. It took much, much longer for that process to take place this time. Then another morning they were in our yard, and since Anitaji had been so dismissive last time we decided not to bother her with it. Having never contronted the children before and hoping that us coming out would scare them away, we left the house while we still heard them out there. We did some glaring and made as much noise as possible locking up the house but they didn't make a move to leave. I was the first out the gate and I just held it wide open, indicating that they ought to leave, but they didn't, and Basanti ended up closing the gate with them inside. (One of the bars is on top of the gate so it can be easily undone from either side; she didn't do the one that would have been harder for them to get undone.) It was especially bad because there was clearly an adult right across the street (these are narrow streets, so no more than 10 feet away) watching the kids and not caring that they were invading our space. This morning the children were out there again. We are pretty sure we heard them talking about us. They started doing stupid things like shouting nursery rhymes at the top of their lungs, clearly hoping to get a reaction out of us/see us again. We heard someone tell them to leave, and they did for a while, but then they came back. This happened twice. It was so infuriating. It's hard knowing they have no fear of authority. Once we heard a female neighbor talking to them and they just shouted back at her and didn't leave. And the thing is other people live in the back of this guesthouse, so we can't set up booby traps or do things to make it more difficult to get in and out through the gate. It's so frustrating that the one place where we're supposed to feel safe and able to breathe in this city is being infringed upon, and there's nothing we can do about it.

A couple days ago we were walking home from our internship and these two little boys (they didn't look like they were from the neighborhood, their clothes were dirty) ran up to us and asked us to give them five. I thought they seemed harmless enough and I was in a decent mood so I replied "nahi..." instead of just walking past silently. But the fact that I responded to them at all seemed to set off a trigger or something and they just started really getting all up in my business, tugging at my bag and (as I told them to leave, and B & I started walking faster) hitting me in a particularly inappropriate place. >: Basanti raised her voice a lot more and they finally scampered off. RRR.

Speaking of which, one of the most unexpected forms of harrassment I've experienced:
whenever other students and I try to get rickshaws near all the temples by where my host family lives, we get asked for money a lot, and as we are stuck in traffic or before our rickshaw pulls away they will sometimes touch your feet (a sign of respect, so they're trying to be humble to guilt you into giving them sth) or nudge you in the arm repeatedly. That is fairly standard and makes sense on some level. But this one girl literally touched me in the most awkward, inappropriate part of my torso. Not once, but twice!! so that was clearly what she was aiming for. Shudder. I was so taken aback. That's the closest I've gotten to physically retaliating; after the second time it happened I raised my hand abruptly in anger/warning and finally the rickshaw pulled away.

Also the thing about children here is it seems like they tend to find really unfortunate things hilarious. Once when we were at the juice stand we saw a man who looked truly insane; he was standing in the street and was shaking his head around and around in this really intense way as he stumbled back and forth. A group of children kept running up to throw rocks at him, and laughing as he chased them away in fury. Then he would go back to his head spinning, and they would come back and throw more rocks...
There's a couple other things I have to say on this topic but I think I may have posted about them before, will check and get back to you if I haven't.

It was funny, the other day when we went to the train ticket booking office, Basanti and I both noticed an Indian man wearing a hiking backpack, something we'd never seen before. Then he spoke to us when we were in line and it turned out he was visiting from Britain; he'd worked in Jodhpur 29 years before and was coming back to see how it was doing. Anyway it was refreshing because we'd thought he was about to creep on us/try and cut us in line, but really he was just as confused as we were about what window was for what, and asked us for help. Not to say we weren't creeped on; this man came up behind me and reached his arm around to try and like, get the attention of the lady behind the window (even though I was clearly right up at the window)/physically intimidate me into stepping back, but instead I just did this little casual body adjustment as if I hadn't seen him, effectively hitting him lightly in the chest with my bag 0:). He backed off and went to a different line.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Wrinkles is beauty"

- my host father on the skirt my host family gave me for my birthday, telling me how I shouldn't iron it because its beauty is in the fact that it's wrinkled

I'm getting away this weekend, back to Jaipur because a package a certain gentleman sent me is being held by customs so they can open it in front of me and inspect it and make me pay them a mystery fee. Hopefully none of it will be confiscated. My host family is being awesome and letting me stay with them (they've repeatedly said in the past how whenever I come back to Jaipur, I shouldn't stay in a hotel because I am family). I'm excited to a) be away from here b) see my host fam again c) be able to go to good restaurants again d) be able to get more materials to keep me busy. Although I have finally made work for myself at the internship, putting the dusty library in order. And soon I'll have to work on my final paper for MSID, 10 pages about the internship..XP Have to meet with Rimaji while we're in Jaipur to talk about the internship, bleh.

And then next weekend I'm going to Udaipur!!! ^_^

Monday, November 16, 2009

Photos from Happier Days in & around Jodhpur

Arna Jharna: the Desert Museum of Rajasthan's man-made pond--during the monsoon season the water cascades down the sandstone terraces in waterfalls to collect there Flowerz
Basanti, umbrella to keep cool, and a big cactus

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Bad experiences:

rickshaw driver overcharging ridiculously, trying to take us to the police station and almost getting physical
villagers purposely running into me and trying to grab me (men, at a night festival)
men cutting me in line at the post office as if I don't exist; the man who works there allowing them to
men crowding into atm booths behind me, or cutting me in line if I don't go into the room when the person in front of me is in there alone
a rock being thrown at my roommate anonymously while we were just minding our business, walking to our internship

I want to get out of here.

("here" being Jodhpur.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009


My laptop can no longer read flash drives so I can no longer prepare epic-lenth'd blog entries for you on an even semi-regular basis. =(
Sunday morn we're being picked up for a mid-internship seminar in Jaipur, returning here Tuesday mornin'. I'll try to spend a couple hours in a decent internet cafe at some point during that weekend...