Scariest Moments

With Halloween fast approaching, and today being a dreary, maybe even spooky, day, I have been remembering those times in my life when I've been so "eeeek" scared. (I say "eeeek" scared because, as we all know, there's different kinds of scared, just like there's different types of fears. There's the "what's that weird looking mole on my leg?" type of scared, and then there's the "eeeek" kind of scared.) It doesn't happen often, because I don't like to watch scary movies, and thankfully, that kind of scared doesn't happen very often in real life! So here are the few moments that come to mind. Years ago, when I was babysitting in a home with a large picture window facing the woods, I received a phone call while the little girl was watching TV. "I can see you," a deep voice said. "I'm watching you." I hung up immediately and calmly called the child to come to me and get away from the window, but inside I was frantic! Was someone really out that window watching us? Would they try to get in? I called my parents immediately and before I could tell them what happened, they told me a friend of mine had just called and they gave had given him my phone number there.  So we figured out it was just the friend playing a "joke". And what a horrible joke it was! Obviously, it scared me to death!

Once, when we were in India, we were staying in a "guest house", which was a main floor apartment. It wasn't completely decorated, but there were enough furnishings to get by on for a little while. The curtains were very simple, but there was still a lot of space around the edges that you could see out (and in). One night, Ryan and I were drifting to sleep, and I glanced towards the window, and there was a dark shape outside. When my eyes were finally able to focus, I realized it was a man staring in at us! I shouted out, and must have scared the man away, because he left before Ryan had a chance to see him. But from that moment on, we draped sheets over the edges of the curtains while we were staying there!

So that's two "eeeek" scary moments. There are a couple more, and I might share them, I might not. For now, I'm curious about your scary moments! What better time to relive them than on a cloudy, dreary, October day?

Goodbye, Hyderabad

Today is my last day in Hyderabad, India.  And while I am so excited to enter the next stage of my life back in the States, I will certainly miss some things about living here.  So I want to take some time right now and remember some of my favorite things (a la The Sound of Music).

  • having my own bathroom (even though Ryan tried to poach it near the end)
  • bottled water delivered straight to our door for $2/50 liters.
  • days at the spa (for cheap!)
  • a wide variety of wonderful restaurants (for cheap!)
  • living here was something that made me interesting (am I revealing my inner insecurities?)
  • furniture made just how you like it (for relatively cheap!)
  • meeting people from all over the world
  • learning some Hindi (I hope I can continue learning!)
  • feeling like a celebrity (being stared at, people wanting my picture)
  • our beautiful, beautiful apartment (something I already miss, as we are staying in a hotel now)
  • our sweet driver (pic below with Ryan)

Ryan and Laxman

Of course, there are things I won't miss.  But I prefer to remember the positives (in print, at least!).   So goodbye, Hyderabad!  It has been an amazing experience living here.  I will always hold the city close to my heart.

Culture Shock, final episode?

As our time living in India is drawing to a close (we will still technically live here for almost two more months, but much of that will be full of traveling and packing), I am realizing there is still a lot that I wanted to write about. So in case I don't get to the following in more detail, here is a list of things that we have come across during our time here:

  • The presence of the swastika.  Since WWII, it is a symbol that we in the west relate to the Nazis, Hitler, and the persecution of the Jews, so it is rarely seen in the US.  But here it is quite common to see it.  In fact, one of the little jewelry bags that came with a set of my pearls has the swastika on it, and I'm not sure whether I will bring it back with me (yeah, I probably will)!  The reason we see it so much here is probably because it is still used as a religious symbol to Hindus and Buddhists.
  • Islam prayer.  Five times a day the Imam calls the faithful to prayer.  It took some getting used to, but now when I do notice it, I find it rather melodic and, in a way, it really blends into the country.
  • The slowest washer/dryer ever.  As someone who has never done their laundry outside the US before, it was shocking to find that our combination washer/dryer takes approximately 5 hours to do one load!  And they are the tiniest loads ever.  In fact, not once have I been caught up with laundry for the entire year that we have lived here (and it can't be because of my own laziness...)!  Apparently, this is how it is in most countries outside the US.  Thank you, America, for huge power-hungry washing machines (I'm serious.).
  • Whipping out the ween.  That is my very cultured and proper way of saying that every time I go out, I see several men by the side of the road, peeing.  And they don't even try to disguise what they are doing.
  • The quest for the perfect lightbulb.  I can't even go into this because lightbulbs have become a very sensitive issue for us.  We search and search for ones that will fit, that are the perfect brightness and color, but we have yet to be successful.  Fortunately, a couple months into our time here, we discovered a place that sells just-ok lightbulbs.  But the perfect one still evades us.

Why flies?

God in his wisdom made the flyAnd then forgot to tell us why.

-Ogden Nash

This little ditty has been going through my head for the past several weeks.  We have frequent fly infestations here, the latest of which has take over Ryan's bathroom.  They do seem to prefer our bathrooms in general (big mystery there) but particularly this bathroom because we have a pigeon's nest in our fan.  A couple months into our stay here, we covered the fan with a plastic bag and sealed the edges.  This was immensely helpful until they cleaned the outside of the building and all the nest (or at least all the excrement) was sprayed into that bathroom.  We covered our faces in towels (for fear of bird flu, and of course, the smell) and disinfected it until it sparkled!  But then came the flies.  We turned on the bug spray plug, and this morning, here is what we found (enlarge pics for best* viewing):

Poor Gas Mileage?

Recent intelligence suggests that there is a place near Ryan's work that buys siphoned gas from cabs and private cars.  We were warned to keep track of our gas mileage, because it has been discovered that several fellow ex-pats' drivers have been a part of this practice (and since have been fired). If only these clever-minded individuals would use their ingenuity for the good...

Weird Bugs

As many of my devoted readers will know, I have a huge fear of bugs.  So it's one thing to be in the US and recognize the tiny enemies, but it's a whole new story to be in India and not know what species of danger you are facing.  For example, I have seen bugs that look like an R's*, but are black with red markings.  We also have brown flies that have the segmented body of an ant and are huge and gross (I guess gross should be implied when talking about bugs).  But the bug from several weeks ago was the weirdest. When I first saw it, it was up near the ceiling and it had the shape of an R, so of course, I had to call in reinforcements.  I do not deal with R's by myself, especially ones on the ceiling.  I called Ryan to come spray it.  He came and used our R spray, and the thing leaped from the wall and out towards him!  Then, when it landed on the floor, it started to bounce!  And every time it bounced, it made a popping sound!

Bounce *Pop* Scream!

Bounce *Pop* Scream!

Bounce *Pop* Scream!

(The screaming was me, not the bug.)  It was bouncing about a foot in the air!  Ryan kept spraying it and it kept bouncing and popping, and I kept screaming!  Finally, with enough spray it stopped bouncing and died (my screams continued, however).

I have since wondered what type of bug it was, but I have a hard and fast rule that I do not search for bugs online because it would probably be much more information than I ever wanted to know about any bug.  So here I sit, torn between wanting to know what danger I face, and not wanting to know at all.  So far I've chosen ignorance.

*R's are, well, if I could say the word, I wouldn't call them "R's", so let's suffice it to say that they scurry in the dark.  That's all, I cannot speak of them any more.

Don't move to India if you get motion sickness.

I just ate a wonderful meal and my stomach was happily full.  Then I got into the back seat of our car, and happily full turns into angrily full.  What with sitting in the back seat, manual transmission, and the quick stopping and starting of Indian traffic-honking cars, rickshaws, motorcycles, pedestrians, dogs, and cows, the once happily digesting food begins sloshing around until it's ready to come up again.  So take this warning, do not move to India if you get motion sickness.  You will love the food, you will want to indulge yourself in the many wonderful restaurants, but on your drive home, all the wonders of your previous meal will be forgotten.

Feel free to stare.

Upon first moving to Hyderabad, we noticed immediately the staring of the locals.  It seems that our white skin is quite the novelty here.  In the beginning it was very disconcerting.  Remember this post from October?

Secondly, as white people, we get stared at, a lot.  In fact, we were told before we came that people would even want to take our pictures, and would sometimes even try to do it sneakily without you knowing.  Well, it’s one thing to be warned, and another to experience it for yourself!

Then we began to get used to it.

Then we began to stare ourselves.  "Ryan, look!  There's a white guy!" has become a phrase I have found myself muttering more than once.  If I see a white person in a restaurant, I watch them enter, sit down, wonder where they are from, if they live here, what they are doing here.  All this while I stare at them, open-mouthed before suddenly realizing I should look away.  But spotting a non-Indian residents is really quite rare!  Granted, there is a sizable ex-pat community, but you have to really know where to look.  There are very few white people just walking down the street.  Hence, I have to stare.

Culture Shock, episode 4

I am still not used to the power outages here. In the beginning, they were few and far between and only lasted several seconds to a minute. But as the weather has gotten hotter and hotter, the power has been going out more and more. For a while it was predictable; it went out at 12pm and would come back around 1:15 or so. Then it started going out at 11am and lasting until around 12:30pm. These times were quite inconvenient as it was right when I would be making lunch for Ryan and I before he headed out to work. However, at least they were predictable, as I said. Now the power has stopped going out around lunch time, but it goes off for several hours interspersed throughout the day. This is more difficult because you never know when it is coming. Several of the newer apartment buildings will have full back-up power, but ours does not. We knew that going in, but if you will recall, I fell in love with this place the moment I saw it and would not be dissuaded. The power seems to be connected with the heat and lessening of the water supply. We moved here right in the middle of monsoon season (July through September), and apparently that was the reason the power outages were so few at that point.  I do not have any source to back up this claim, however.  It's more  of my own observation.

I am currently writing this post in the midst of a power outage (we have a UPS-Unlimited Power Supply, basically a battery-for my computer) because I was at a loss as to what else to do. I had been working through my Google Reader, but without power, we also lose internet. So I worked on the dishes, straightened up the place, read a little, and began to feel frustrated and hot (no a/c!). Hence the post.

Charminar

The Charminar is the thing to see when visiting Hyderabad.  We've taken all our guests so far and enjoyed it for many reasons.  Not only is it an interesting building, but it offers a great view of the city and some fun shopping!   Since the majority of you are not visiting us (anyone's welcome! OK, not you strangers, but friends are totally welcome), here are a few videos that will give you a virtual tour of the area, instead.

[vimeo 4114627] This video is taken from inside our car as we approach the Charminar.  It's long and a little bumpy, but it gives you an idea of what this area of the city is like.  And it's in HD (sorry for the long load times, or maybe that's just here, with the slowest internet ever)!

[vimeo 4115427] This is looking down from the top of Charminar (you can climb some very high and uneven stairs, located in the minarets to get to the top, where there are no rails to keep you from going over!).   

[vimeo 4115615] Another view from the top.  This one includes a picture of me and Mecca Masjid when the camera spans right.

[vimeo 4115742] And finally, yet another view from the top, but this one is of Laad Bazaar, where you can find bangles, cheap (but very nice) fabrics, bangles, pearls, and more bangles.

Hugo on a Plane

If any of you are curious as to how we transport our Yorkshire Terrier, Hugo, back and forth around the world, here's a short video clip. [vimeo 3711791]

He's gotten so he loves that little carrier, so we leave it out all the time now.  We think he feels secure in there.  He's an excellent traveler; we never hear a peep out of him.  And except for pooping in the Frankfurt airport (he's done this twice now), he's a pleasure to travel with!

Conversation at Charminar

We've been to the Charminar several times now (video postings to come), and every time people ask if they can take pictures with us, or we see them sneaking pictures.  I've gotten used to it, but I still get a bit nervous every time we go.  I'm mostly just uncomfortable with the constant begging (they will put their hands on you and tug on your clothes) and people following us around trying to sell their wares.  One visit, however, while we were waiting for our car, I had a little chat with a couple of boys trying to sell sunglasses.  Their English was amazingly good, especially for that part of the city, and they were very curious about my face. Boys: Are you from America? Me: yes. [still trying to ignore them] Boys: Do you speak English? Me: yes. [finally stopped to wait for our car; there was no where for me to go] Boys: Do you speak French? Me: no. Boys: Italian? Me: no. Boys: German? Me: no, only English [by this time, I'm laughing] Boys: Why is your face red? Me [pointing to the sun]: It's very hot here for me! Boys: But your face is so red! Me: I'm just very hot! Woman passing on street looks at me curiously.  I see the boys pointing to the sun and at my face, apparently explaining to her why I'm so red.  This of course, makes me blush, and subsequently, I get redder. Our car arrives, so we begin climbing in. Boys: You are very pretty. Me: Thank you. We wave goodbye to them from the car.

On our next trip to the Charminar, I met up with one of the same boys again, and he remembered me!  This was quite amazing to me, because there are thousands upon thousands of people at this little junction in the city.  It just goes to show how few Americans they see there.  He offered to sell me sunglasses again, but seeing I was already wearing them, tried to sell them to Ryan instead.  We should have just bought a pair from him.  After all, he did say I was pretty.

Bangles!

You want to know the best thing about Hyderabad?  The glass bangles!  Laad Bazaar is the place to get them, and I go crazy there.  So just to let you share in my excitement, take a look at the following pictures and movie and then maybe you'll see why.

And here's a here's an even better hint at the extent of the bangles:

[vimeo 3712930]

This is just one little alley off of the main road, a road which is filled with alleys like this and more stores like this, all full of bangles.  (I told Ryan he should have talked to that kid more; he seemed so excited to be on camera!)

Culture Shock, episode 3

Perhaps the following isn't really a "shock" per se, but it certainly shows some cultural differences. Ryan has been interviewing potential employees for a position in his team, and brought the resumes home to review.  And I, being the interested (I prefer not to use the term "nosy", although I know others have used it to describe me) woman that I am, decided to browse through at my leisure.  Some of the hobbies listed surprised me, like "partying" for example.  But my absolute favorite needed further explanation.

When Ryan decided to ask an Indian co-worker to tell him what it meant, the answer was simply that the candidate had a lot of pets.  When the co-worker asked about the inquiry, Ryan explained that it meant something very different in the States and it's not something you'd put on a resume!

 

Hobbies: heavy petting

Sankranti

Today is also a holiday in India, the national festival of Sankranti.  You can read about it more here.  What we found fun about the day, however, (besides Ryan getting the day off) were the kites that could be seen flying high all around the city (Sankranti is also celebrated as Kite Flying Day).  They were up so high that at first I wasn't sure if they were kites or birds.  I spent some time watching a man on the rooftop across from us while he was flying his kite.  He seemed very skilled at it.   Here are a couple pics.  They aren't the best, but like I said, the kites were so high, it was hard to capture them on the camera!

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas!

Because Ryan and I are away from our families this Christmas, I've been doing my best to make it extra-special.  This has been a bit of a challenge as Christmas does not seem to be nearly as big a holiday in India as in the US.  So here are some of the ideas we've had for making it feel like Christmas, as well as what we'll be doing to celebrate.

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This is our Christmas Ficus!  

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Some of the lights we bought were actually called "Diwali Lights", but they still work well!  It definitely helped make the place feel more festive.

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I've been doing some baking to make sure we get the traditional sugar rush over the holidays.  This is our Christmas trifle.  Unfortunately, I don't have my trifle dish, so it looks a little sad in the Tupperware.  Plus, I have not seen any berries anywhere, so it's just made with jam.

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I'm also baking some Christmas cupcakes, which Ryan and I will decorate together tonight.  (I couldn't find thee necessary ingredients for cookies, so cupcakes it is!)  The candies there are like M&Ms, and I just picked out the Christmasy colors (and ate the rest!).

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And finally, here's our festive living room.  We even have a fruit cake!  (Ryan thought he was buying a chocolate cake, and was apologetic when he found out the truth.  I think it's OK though because when I think of fruit cake, I think of Christmas!)

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So, for Ryan's sake, since he let me plan our festivities and has not yet seen what we'll be up to, here is our schedule for the next several days:

Christmas Eve

  •  Decorate Christmas cupcakes
  • Watch Christmas movie(s)*

Christmas Day

  • Read Luke 2
  • Open gifts
  • Make snowflakes and Santas
  • Talk to families online
  • Read a Christmas story
  • Watch Christmas movie(s)

Friday

Sunday

  • Church
  • Make resolutions
  • Read a Christmas story
  • Watch Christmas movie(s)

 

*Choices of Christmas movies: Elf Love Actually Four Christmases White Christmas The Muppet Christmas Carol Miracle on 34th Street It's a Wonderful Life A Christmas Story A Charlie Brown Christmas 

 

The Bathroom Discovery

Ryan and I have rented a beautiful apartment in Banjara Hills, which is a very nice part of Hyderabad. Once we saw this place, nothing else would do (as you will remember from The Sum of All Impressions). I love it because it's bright and cheery during the day, and cozy at night. The place is probably a too much room for us, and currently we are just living in the main room (living room/dining room) and the master bedroom. Even that space is more than we are used to! All in all, there are three bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms, a kitchen, two balconies, one large main room (as previously mentioned) and a den. There is also a small room off the kitchen. It's a utility room and that's where we put our washer/dryer. One day, Ryan and I were exploring our apartment (that's right, exploring it!) and we got to the utility room. It's like a balcony because it's technically outside, but it's mostly walled in so you don't really feel outside. Then, for the first time we noticed yet another door off the utility room. Curious, we thought we should check it out, however, opening doors that lead to dark rooms is not something I am usually prone to do! So Ryan slowly turned the lever and pushed open the door. And this is what we found:

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It's our servant's bathroom!  We had no idea we even had one, but there it was!  Don't worry though.  I know I told any visitors that they could stay in our servants' quarters, but we won't make you use it (unless you want to...)!

Let it snow!

Oh the weather outside is frightful, (frightfully hot)But the fire is so delightful, (on the screen*) And since we've no place to go, (cuz of security threats) Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

It doesn't show signs of stopping, (the heat is neverending) And I've bought some corn for popping, (that we do have!) The lights are turned way down low, (cuz of power outages) Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

When we finally kiss goodnight, (but not in public!) How I'll hate going out in the storm! (it's sunny here) But if you'll really hold me tight, (but not in public!) All the way home I'll be warm. (no kidding)

The fire is slowly dying, (on the screen) And, my dear, we're still good-bying, (we're alone for Christmas!) But as long as you love me so, (I know you all do) Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

*I have a picture of the yule log on my computer screen to give the illusion of a fireplace!  It doesn't really work.

Snoopy

I've heard more than one Indian refer to Hugo as "Snoopy" as they slowly back away from him in fear.  I suppose that since so many dogs in the city are wild, people are just not used to interacting with friendly pets.  And Hugo is overly friendly.  He even decided to bark when I wouldn't let him play with the water-delivery men.  Their faces were horrified as they asked, "What was that?!"  I answered, "A dog?"  Did they really not recognize a bark? Recently he's taken to climbing on the back of the furniture, and this seems to especially startle people who are visiting our house.  Below are some of the terrifying images that you might face when you first walk through our front door.

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Watch out!  He's coming for you!

Fear and Safety

For those of you out there who have wondered, Ryan and I live in Hyderabad, which is about 8 hours away from Mumbai, where the attacks were.  For all our friends in the Northeast, it's about the same distance from Bridgeport, CT to Buffalo, NY.  I'll admit to looking that up after we heard about the attacks.  I wanted to know what kind of distance separated me from all this horror.  I was not comforted; I wanted it to be a lot farther. I guess the thing that gets to me is that these gunmen were seeking out Americans and Britons.  And believe me, from living here, I know how much we stick out!  All these events have got me thinking about racism and persecution. As a white person, growing up in suburban Connecticut, I don't think I've ever been on the receiving end of it.  On the one hand, it's probably good for us, to know how it feels to be afraid because of the color of your skin.  But on the other hand, no one should ever have to feel this way.

I have been trying to tell myself that we are safer here in Hyderabad than the people were in Mumbai.  I say, "Mumbai was the business capital of India, and therefore more of a target.  It is a peninsula and easily accessible via water."  And while those things may be true, it doesn't really assure anything.  And I've been imagining what those people were going through, when they were asked at gun point, where they were from.

I call myself a Christian, and yet I still have so much fear in my life.  I've always been like that, and kidded about it often on this blog, but this fear is so much more real than ever before.  I guess it comes down to a matter of trust.  I'm supposed to believe in God, and in His will for my life.  But it is so hard for me to surrender my own control and trust in His.  Every time I read the Psalms, I'm always amazed at David's trust in God.  He was being pursued, his very life was being hunted.  And yet at the end of so many of his psalms, he says "but I will trust in your unfailing love".  It's like he was saying, "Despite all the men chasing after me, wanting me dead, I will still trust in God, because His love for me does not fail."  I wish I could trust like that.  It's definitely something I need to work on, not just so that I can have some sort of peace in the rest of our time here in India, but for the rest of my life, however long that may be.

All this to say that my thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tragedy in Mumbai, as well as with this nation, that it may someday be at peace.