Thursday, December 31, 2009

Should auld acquaintance be forgot???

2010 rang in as the Evil One and I hopped out of the auto back from the church. I ran down the street to the guy selling heart shaped balloons and bought ten of them off him (a steal at $2 for the lot), with Evil trying to hurry me along so we could see the fireworks at the Taj next door from her balcony. When I bought the balloons I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with them - what exactly do you do with a bunch of red, heart shaped balloons after the age of five??? - but in the elevator on the way up (let me tell you, ten balloons in an elevator is no small feat) I figured it out. We made wishes for the new year on them and released them off the balcony into the night.

Since I am NOT a math geek, I celebrated the beginning of the millenium at midnight 2000, which means that THIS is the beginning of a new decade for me. I gotta say, the last one was not bad - I spent the majority of it in relatively good shape, toured a lot of the world...okay, so it didn't have the fantastic music that the nineties can claim, and that decade also brought the Q girls into my life, although it was in the 00's that we came up with that title, and the 00's brought even more new and exciting friends into my life, so I can't complain too much.
I don't get too introspective on New Year's, and I don't want to start now. I don't make resolutions - not really. Personally, I find myself doing that around my birthday (and to a lesser extent, the anniversary of my baptism), and rather than resolutions, I make wishes, ones that I have a personal responsibility for bringing to pass. So my new year has already started - my new decades, my thirties, started five months back, and so far, I've gotta say they've been pretty great. I hope everyone else's goes the same way.

From General Bazaar back to Shilparamam

I didn't really feel like I was in India (in spite of the autos, crowds, saris, and public urination) until today. It really hit me that I was in another world on the way home from Shilparamam craft village in the auto (tuk-tuk). This was the first one I've been in that has a radio, and the driver turned it on and out squawked Indian music, bollywood tunes or something, you get the drift - and driving down the streets with the wind in my hair and the music blasting in my ears, and the occasional stoplight beggar tapping at my leg...now I felt I had arrived, that this was India. Can't explain why, but the music just unlocked something.

So.
Hit General Bazaar today, and tried to find a sari. Found lots of sari shops but none really had what I was looking for, and the shop I was in Tuesday had better prices, so I started kicking around the idea of heading back to Laad Bazaar. Then I thought, "Screw it - I'd rather go back to the craft village," so I grabbed an auto to Shilparamam (easier said than done - I know it's in the general vicinity of Hi-Tec City, but couldn't be more specific than that, and the first two drivers didn't know Shilparamam). But eventually I found one who did, who would take me there for 120 rupees (down from the 150 he originally quoted), and I ended up buying the sari I saw on Saturday, a cerulean blue tissue silk embroidered with purple and pink flowers...pretty stunning, even if it's not the black and red I thought I wanted. I also bought fabric for a salwar-kameez - tie-dyed cotton, black with flamey orange and red - and a beaded neckline to stitch on the finished product. Now I just have to get the appropriate bits stitched, but with only a week left in India, I'm thinking I may have to wait and get it done back in the Emirates.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Charminar and the Laad Bazaar

I should have gone to Chowmahalla Palace, too, or the Mecca Masjid. I actually looked for the Chowmahalla Palace, and I knew I hadn't gone far enough, but when I started wandering down a street populated mostly with goats and Pakistani flags, with a sign that said something about "this could cause your death." Okay, it probably was not a warning about walking down the street...I have a feeling it had something to do with an electrical fixture, but I didn't want the Evil One to have to make that call we were discussing last night, and I was a little sketched out by the lack of people, so I decided it would be a good idea to make my way back to the beaten path. Along the way I had this conversation:

Indian young man: "Where are you going."
Me: "I'm wandering. Exploring." (Note: I didn't make eye contact)
IYM: "Okay. I will protect you."
Me: "Ha. I don't need protecting."
IYM: "Why not?"
Me: "Because I know how to take care of myself."
IYM: (noticing the kites I had bought) "Why you have kites?"
Me: "Because I like kites." (rolling my eyes)
>pause<
IYM: "You have big boobies."
Me: "We're not having this conversation."
IYM: "You have big boobs."
Me: "That is inappropriate."
IYM: "I want to touch your big boobs."

That was when I turned and pointed at him and fixed him with the evil eye, and he wisely chose to bugger off. Other than that incident, it was not too eventful. I woke up late and took the auto directly to Charminar, paid my outrageous entry fee, climbed for a very long way in the dark to get to the observation deck, took lots of photos, and eventually had my fill and came back down. I got asked twice if someone could take a photo with me - the first time was a couple of single guys and I thought, "No way," but back down on the ground a family asked, and it was a rock star "Why the hell not?" moment. I had them take one for me, too, and here it is:


After my little excursion off the beaten path, I wandered back to Charminar. I had a blister coming up from my sandals but I really wanted to find a sari - I'm having major sari envy here, and last night at Dominic's party a lady had a gorgeous black one with a red border...well, the closest I came was a really luxe black silk one with a silver border, and I was VERY tempted to get it, but their asking price was high enough that even if I'd talked them down to half that price, it was more than I was looking to pay :-( If I still haven't got one by next Thursday, I guess I know what I'll be doing - til then, I'll hold off and hope. Instead I managed to get the embroidery thread and ribbon I needed to finish my cossie, and figured out how to finish the back of the bra...those small silver bangles are good for something, and I figured out what.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Third-World Redux

So the Evil One had to go back to work today. So the Great One had to amuse herself. This means, time to go exploring! The bandh (political protests, often violent) starts back up tomorrow (supposedly today was some sort of Muslim holiday...probably Ashoura but I'm not sure-a), which meant this may be my only day to explore this week, depending on how long it goes on for.

I have reports to write. I have a belly dance cossie to finish. This would not be the end of the world. At least that's what I keep telling myself.
So. Exploring. It was about 9:30 when I finally left the house. I decided the first thing I wanted to do was wander the streets for a ways, so I headed off down the hill. What can I tell you about Hyderabad? It's unruly - India in general I guess it, but it's difficult for me, being in a city this size and having very little idea of which direction is which. I know which streets I've been on and where I turned off them, and that's about it. I don't have the ability to anticipate where a road will take me and how to logically get from point A to point B. Which is kind of frustrating, but what can you do? Pick a street, pick a direction, and go, knowing that when you get in the auto-rickshaw and tell the driver the name of the very prominent hotel you are living next to, that at the end of the day, you will get home.
As I wandered down the street, I passed a Hindu temple...whose, I'm not sure. It was colorful, and you heard the bell being rung occasionally. Life was taking place along the way; a city waking up as workers swept the streets. Evil tells me Hyderabad is just about the cleanest city she's seen in India, and at 10 in the morning, I believe it...however, I still don't think I'd walk barefoot on these streets for love or money. At the bottom of the hill I came to an intersection and chose to go left - it was a smaller street, and it looked interesting. I passed cows that were just waking up for the day, women digging through a dumpster, shops starting to open, small children playing. I was absolutely the only white person on the street, but I felt safe, even if I did stick out like a sore thumb.
After a while the lane ran out into a larger street, and I decided I was ready to go be a tourist for a while. Evil mentioned Golkonda Fort and the Qutb Shahi tombs, so I hailed an auto and told him where I wanted to go...unfortunately, as we started moving it became very apparent he had no idea where that was. He stopped a well-dressed man walking past, and had him translate for me, and then tried to jack the price up on me. I don't think so. I got out of the auto and found a guy who knew where I wanted to go and was willing to take me for 100 rupees - which may have been too much, but seemed fair at the time. I made it out there alright, and got back in one piece - I'm not going to bore you talking about Golkonda because I don't know or care enough about architecture to try and describe it to you. It's a big fortress. What more do you need to know? I got another auto back here with no problems, and I even recognized where I was once I got to the street where I turned in the morning, and had Indian for lunch at a restaurant in - get this - an old train dining car, complete with serving staff costumes, and they had AMAZING mocktails! And now I'm stuffed and I don't want to think about eating ever again.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

INDIA!!! It's set in India!

I've been waiting a while to use that line.

So here I am, in Hyderabad, in the Evil One's fabulous state department flat. Let me tell you something - this is not how I typically travel. Not just the posh lodgings, but giving up my navigational duties and taking things at a slower pace. I got in at 5 a.m. on Thursday morning. I slept til ten, then I wasted a few hours reading and goofing off on the internet before Evil came home and put me to work stirring the things she was making for her Christmas party. I socialized with strangers...well, to an extent. Before the party really got started, I got out the back of the belt I needed to sew and started stitching, which later on sort of backfired, because when her friends asked what I was making, I saw no reason to lie about the fact that it was a belly dance costume, and they all wanted me to demonstrate...which led to everyone showing off their dance skills. Kinda strange and wonderful, actually.
The next day was Christmas, and while Indian Mormons apparently go to church on Christmas, the Evil One and I saw no reason to do so ourselves. Instead we opened our presents, went across the street for coke and Indian food, and napped while waiting for her cute Indian-Mormon-boy-Partner-in-Crime, Nik, to come over for a True Blood marathon. "Nik watches True Blood???" I asked Evil. "Does he KNOW what HBO is like??" Apparently he does. He was likewise interested in my decision to drag her to Khajuraho...a stop on our itinerary that she hasn't shared with her other church friends. That evening, she dragged me to a Christmas dinner at a consular friend's EVEN LARGER AND POSHER flat. One of the gals had been to Shilparamam that day, a huge craft fair, and Raika, a soon-to-be-consular-ex-wife volunteered to take us yesterday. Of course, though, she had a hangover from the previous night's wine, so it was noon before we left the house, late roll-outs being another thing I don't normally do on my travels...but then, things in India don't open until 11 or so, anyways, or so the Evil One tells me, so I should just probably just shut the heck up, sit back, and enjoy the ride. I can do this - I don't normally travel this way, but I managed it for Bronte last fall...but of course, that was Greece, and I was getting cooking lessons during the lazy afternoons, and it's hard to feel antsy when you're full of moussaka. And just as I had real travel coming up then, this tour's real travel bit doesn't start til the 2nd, so I should probably conserve my energy and money and concentrate on not getting Delhi Belly...(non-degenerate formula? A coke for brekke, a coke for lunch, a coke for dinner - this method has seen me through the third world countless times over. The acid in coke will kill just about anything).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Get Gone

One more sleep, teachah. That's right, guys - tomorrow I fly out to India! It's only been three weeks since the last vacation, but I didn't really go anywhere (Dubai doesn't count), so I'm pretty excited. It will be a warm Christmas - the first one ever. It's funny - the Evil One is more family to me than anyone I spent my other away season with, but that Christmas in Korea felt more like it because of the barren trees and sharp Siberian winds. Here's hoping the similarities stop there - that was the year I trekked up to Seoraksan and got nasty food poisoning, and I realize that there's a very real possibility of me getting some sort of bug whilst there.

I think it will be really good for me to get out of the country. There are a few points on which I need to get my head straight. I got asked to give a talk and serve as a youth Sunday school teacher two weeks ago - me, bad attitude Mormon girl. The talk went well enough...I didn't quote scripture, but for the record, I did look for articles on the church's website. What can I say, it was a tough topic: staying close to the family as a single adult away from home. Yeah, that's right. I was not impressed, and one of my fellow singletons, when she saw my topic, thought it was a crap subject. Apparently it was pick on the Great One week. Anyways, I gave the talk, and it was a manic-depressive sort of talk, because I'm kind of manic-depressive when it comes to my family, and afterwards this sort-of batty old lady comes to me and suggests I take Vitamin B, that it will help even me out.

(Hey you, you old bag! Why don't YOU try giving a talk about being away from your family at Christmas time without being a little emotional?)

And I accepted the calling, too, because that's what we do, and I miss working with high schoolers, and our high schoolers are pretty cool. When I was set apart, I was promised that the Lord is "poised to bring forth miracles." Let it be the one miracle in all the world that concerns me right now - that's all I want. Maybe it would cure me of my bad attitude...maybe not, since I don't have a problem with my Heavenly Father or the church in general, but rather with the congregations I've been in in the past year. And maybe that's not what miracles are for...maybe that's what the youth is for. I don't know. But it will be good to get away and sort out how I really feel about it and other things. Catch you on the flip side.

Monday, December 7, 2009

City of Gold

I've been back in the salt mine for a week now. I'm not going to lie about it - there was NOTHING in me that wanted to come in last Sunday, and I pretty much didn't want to again today. I felt the sort of panic I had five years ago on Sunday nights in Korea when I would linger at dinners with friends after church, putting off the moment when I hit the road to Bundang and it would become all too clear that before I was ready, I would be back in front of eight adorable Korean children that I was utterly unprepared to teach.

I spent a lot of time thinking about teaching over the week off, mostly because I didn't want to come in and put any work towards it. Don't get me wrong. I love children, but sometimes I wish I could just scrap the lesson plan and let us go wild, and who cares if we get paint all over ourselves and the school?

So I thought about it a lot and talked about it a little, and the mirage, the dream job of someday making my living by illustrating, is still wavering in the distance, and if I can just break out of my inertia, if I can build up that portfolio, I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it wouldn't be a mirage, it would be as real as that city of gold down the coast there that I've now beaten footpaths down. Really.

Speaking of which, it really, TRULY was amazing. Some of y'all (hi Christa), have heard me boast on countless occasions about my navigational skills (in the dark, one hand tied behind my back, etc...) and it is good to know that they haven't suffered any in the last three months. Driving in, I missed our exit (the roads veer off at inopportune moments, and could be signed better), and yet I managed, with just one quick glance at the map to get turned around and find the way into Mankhool. There were moments in which I may have been approaching the state of "lost," but these came as a result of listening to my menfolk. Yeah, I should know better. At least Socrates actually knew where we were and was able to get me unlost when he was the responsible party...Tony, on the other hand, was pretty hopeless. Of my three objectives for going to Dubai (belly dancing, Korean food, and shopping), I only achieved one (but you should see how kick ass my bed looks with the red bedspread and new pillowcases.

Entertaining myself since returning to RAK hasn't proven too challenging. I cooked twice last week, chili on Monday for the lot of us, and curry on Tuesday because Socrates and I were both bitching about how we didn't have anything to eat...well, it turned out that I had everything I needed to make curry except chicken, and I knew that he had a ton of meat sitting unused in his freezer, so we collaborated. However, my last week's amusement also came at a cost paid out by others. Particularly...well, I have a bad habit of baiting people, particularly those who kind of annoy me (yes, I should know better, but what can I say, it entertains me). So when a certain friend sent out an email about doing a secret santa amongst our "friendship circle," there's a very good chance I might have hit "reply all" and got up on my soapbox about socially coerced gift giving (something which, as you may know, I feel quite passionately about). Which pissed the person in question off - they called me melodramatic (well, duh. that's one of my more endearing qualities) and questioned whether or not they were right in the first place about Americans. Christa, the two of you would have a lot to talk about, I think...but then, you always managed to maintain a good sense of humor about my quirks, so maybe not.

We actually had a little Christmas barbecue over at Dean and Michelle's new palace that night - it was lovely! Well, up until the part when I got stuck in the corner behind two people who had eyes for only one another. When they started sucking face I lost my patience and, when they came up for air, I told one of them to trade me spots so I could enjoy the conversation on the other side of the porch. In the process, that individual managed to miss the chair entirely and almost became the next round of barbecue. I won't spell out exactly why, but there may have been one glass bottle lying around that he was directly responsible for emptying.

The next morning found me up early if not bright for a grueling 6 hour marathon of church (8 if you count the ride to Sharjah and back). I call myself bad attitude girl and don't particularly like the fact that I have a sort of confrontational relationship with Mormon culture right now, but really? Sitting around for two hours afterwards doesn't make me want to be there. But I accepted the assignment to speak this Friday, anyways, and I accepted the calling to teach the youth Sunday school. The funny thing (well, not funny "ha ha" funny) is that after sacrament at 11:30 I gave a lot of thought to leaving, catching a taxi, and going home. After the fact, I wished I would have...but I was planning on going to Quiz Night at the Golf Club, and I thought the fact that I stayed the extra two (excuse me, four) hours when I wanted to leave might cancel out the fact that I was breaking the Sabbath. I guess that's what I get for justifying.

Quiz Night = EPIC WIN! For denizens of RAK that are Quiz Night fans, I just have to say this: don't take on a Mormon girl and her back-up (Socrates, John, and Melissa) on a Christmassy quiz, cause we will BEAT YOU DOWN. The end.

That said, I was in a good enough mood to put up with our Professional Development Super Saturday, which, as it turns out, was not as painful as I was expecting. A little shopping and lunch at Manar Mall, and a bit of beach time...but not too long, because I got a text from Trish asking if I was interested in going to the Dubai Film festival at Madinat Jumeirah. Can I get a "Hell, yeah!"??? Dude, the place was unreal, and don't even get me started on the view of the Burj al Arab looming up behind in the dark, I should have spent one of my afternoons there during the vacation, but I digress. We saw Mother and Child, which was one of those twisty movies that takes three storylines and weaves them together. It was good, but it made for a late night, and was followed by another late night, in which I attempted to be a good little trooper and go to a PD seminar on reading in Dubai, that we never actually made it to, and I'll spare you the recounted misery and tell you that at least I got to buy myself a book and found a Godiva chocolatier at which I bought one person's Christmas gift, so not a total loss, but I was definitely glad to spend the night at home (more or less) last night.