Tuesday, March 31, 2009

a night out with the agnostic, hindu, muslim, and bahai.

Here are some pictures from the Sindhi New Year celebration here in Lucknow, i went with some friends (see 3rd pic L-R: Athena, Natasha, Zehra, Anna). 

12 > 10.

my bath happens in a bucket. thats how we do it here. so shaving my legs is not really...how do you say...not really high on the priority list.  But that doesn't even matter because people here do NOT shave their legs--they wax:) oh boy oh boy....please read on if you want. 

Yes, they wax. Basically you can wax anything you want (except your eyebrows, they thread the eyebrows). Like, if i wanted to get my whole body waxed (arms, back, legs, feet, stomach, wherever)...i could do that. if you wanted to do that when you came to india to visit me--i would know where to take you. i could help you out with that. we could go together...i digress....

So, i needed to get waxed. In the US i do the eyebrow/stash/chin wax all the time. Body hair gives you personality, and i have a really big personality. I haven't ever waxed my legs though,  since in the US it is really costly (60 -70$?).  i don't really know since i don't do it. Here however is a different story, its so cheap--well everything here is cheap compared to Seattle--but paying 4$ for a 2-3 week break from shaving my legs sounds like an excellent idea, and excellent break from the norm. God bless india. 

So, that should be good to go right? Its economical...great idea...everyone does it...they know what they are doing...But OH how i am such a coward in life. 

Everyone has a perception of themselves which is somewhat off. For example, I feel i am an adventurous person (as my friends laugh in my face)....when the truth is....i so do not like change. Now, i love the stories and experience and amazingness that all comes from being adventurous or seeking changes or whatever you want to call it, but if i was left to myself i would watch re-runs of Friends and eat the same salad with feta strawberries and balsamic vinegarette (omg) every night for the rest of my life. Im a homebody. i love my couch, i love routine. I am 1st and foremost an observer. In a new environment i don't talk, i don't make any decisions, i don't act, i don't think or do or anything --just watch.  And when i have watched enough and have warmed up to the situation I'll start doing. One morning  i found my legs had gotten so hairy i caught myself wondering what man had crept into my bed in the middle of the night.  I knew i had watched enough, so anna took me to the salon. They have wax, i have hair. Done.

The salon is called Panache -- nice place. I was greeted by 5 men standing around at the font desk, typical. Anna explained to them i only wanted a 1/2 leg done, so they would wax right above my knees. A full leg wax we thought was a little too traumatic for my 1st time:) that will be another blog im sure.

A woman appeared from behind the corner and i was taken into a room with three padded tables with sheets hanging in between them for privacy. I changed into the 'special pants' and laid down--the wrong direction at fist (doing things the wrong way is the way i do things here apparently)--but then i worked it all out and we were good to go. She put some baby power on my legs to dry them off, mixed the wax, and applied it -- slapped the strip on top and gave it a couple rubs. At this point, I felt something was a little off....not wrong...but different. I glanced down at her, didn't notice anything in particular, and looked back up at the ceiling.  She knew what she was doing, this is what she does -- i thought to myself. She is this petite little young indian woman, all business. Sit here. Do this. Straighten your leg and foot like that. She doesn't pull any punches. 

I have always been supremely self conscious of the largeness of my feet and calves. Mom says that my feet and hands are big because i was supposed to grow into them as a got taller, but was so traumatized growing up (go figure) --my growth was stunted and i was stuck with monkey appendages within a 5' 5" frame. I fit into a size 10 shoe when i was 10 years old and when i was 18 an african friend told that if we were abandoned on a desert island together, he would eat my calves because they were so 'big and juicy'. we aren't really friends anymore.  india -- the land of perfectly small beautiful women--welcomes elizabeth the silverback. Anyway, the sight of this woman wielding my huge calves and feet in her small childlike hands gave me visions of a lost boy at Peter Pan's feast eating a giant turkey leg -- or an indian Little Cindy Lou Who was attempting to wax the Sasquatch. .......there i said it. But apparently it didn't matter to her, she had seen it all. I needed to get over myself....back to the waxing.

RRRRRRIIP! HOLY wow. that hurt. That REALLLY hurt. RRRRRRRRIIP! I began breathing, pacing myself...i took a deep breath...and blew out as she was ripping it off. RIIIIIIIIIP!  DAMN it hurt. I was totally sold on natural childbirth until i got my legs waxed for the 1st time. The back of my legs hurt MUCH more than the fronts.....toward the end I was 'OH!' 'HOLY !$%*ing' all over the place, and then apologizing "theek (teekay), sab theek" (OK, its okay) -- thats all i could tell her. that i wasn't dying. She worked very quickly, did a great job. It seemed she was equipped with super hands, super small, but super all the same.

Again, I peered down the side of the table to watch her work and identify that strange feeling??????? What could it be? 

I counted her fingers....1, 2, 3, 4, 

I counted them again.....7, 8, 9...and delighted in my discovery...

Not 10, but 12 was my final answer :) Homegirl had 2 extra pinkies, one for each hand. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. suddenly my throbbing legs weren't a problem anymore. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SO exciting:) I am so lucky. ONLY in india #374.

Here are some pictures from my legs traumatized after the waxing....they were totally fine the next day...no te preocupes.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

what i get to see.

These are just some of the new pics i have been taking. The first shows how i have conquered india. i hope you realize this....

The Stone and the Roti

I wasn't feeling well the other day, so i went home early from work to lie down.

While i was sleeping i heard Deepmala come in the apartment to start cooking dinner...I woke up, said hello, and then went back to sleep. A couple hours must have passed when I heard her open my door and her start talking to me in hindi...

She looked really concerned about something, which alarmed me because Deepmala never looks worried or concerned. 

Deepmala is 24 years old, 5 foot nothing and has enough bubbly smiley energy to change my current self--a sarcastic jaded seattelite-- into a girl whose mother gives her a french braid every morning from my middle school, full of fluff and butter. i think her name was kristin something. Anyway, Deepmala sings indian love songs as she makes the roti...and you know by being around her for 5 minutes - shes one of those people that would never hurt a fly. I mean, the woman makes salad and cuts our carrot and beet pieces into heart shapes. She's making us chow mien for dinner tonight, because Athena is chinese and we all miss noodles:). She is just a lovely person.

So naturally i jumped out of bed and walked over to her in the dining room. She is standing there clenching her stomach, crying, doubling over in pain...talking to me in a language that is just as confusing as the diagrams the engineers draw on the board at my old job. She references to the floor in the sitting area--asking if she can lie down--and then keeps saying "stone didi, stone, stone didi". Did she SWALLOW a stone? Eh, no. Oh boy. Deepmala has a kidney stone and is in agony. on my floor. in india. and i speak no hindi. and according to anna, things get done here by just 'working them out'--so here we go.

"YES didi, LIE DOWN" i told her. She lies down and continues to cry and lie there writhing in pain. I asked her if i could move her to the bed. She refused of course. I BEGGED her to move to the bed, which she then refused a 2nd and 3rd time. Fine. So i went and grabbed a pillow from the bed and placed it under her head and then ran and got her a glass of water (DOES A PILLOW AND WATER CURE PAIN FROM A KIDNEY STONE??? PROBABLY NOT. but this is allllll i haaaaaad). She drank the water, and then lied back down-thanking me--and all i wanted to do is shoot myself for not even having the WORDS to talk to her. I asked her if she had medicine...."Medicine?"..confusion--probably because i wasn't asking with a proper indian accent-- "Chemist?"...i acted as if i was taking pills. "Nahi" she said. No. she doesn't have any. She continued talking about the why not part...something about money.  "How much is it?" I asked. "150 Rupees" she replied. Oh, i see. 150 Rupees is about 3$. 

For 25 minutes Deepmala was in pain on my floor, and i was sitting there not knowing what to do. I prayed. I got her more water. I asked her if i could take her home in a rickshaw, she said no to all of these suggestions.  When the pain seemed to ease up, I told her to just go home. After all, she still probably has to go home and make dinner for her 2 children and husband, not to mention the fact she was just crying in pain for the past 1/2 hour in front of someone helplessly trying not to stare at her. She didn't like this idea--her work wasn't done. "No didi" she said. "The roti". I went into the kitchen, she had made all the dinner, even made the roti dough, but was hurting too much to finish.  She followed me into the kitchen, I looked at her with the most brilliant idea and said "Deepmala, I WILL FINISH IT, I WILL MAKE THE ROTI!" She looked at me like i had 12 heads..."Don't worry, I will do it. You need to leave, you need to go HOME!". I was so frustrated with the whole situation I drew an imaginary house in the air with my pointer fingers. Mid way I realized i was drawing a house with a ROOF (like my house)... so being the women studies major that i am...I actually ERASED that house and REdrew her a new 'normal indian looking house'--whatever the hell that means. god why am i such an idiot. WHY? Her mouth crinkled into a half smirk of amusement, half "this lady has lost her bloody mind".  She wiped the sweat and tears off of her face, smiled and said "Thank you didi." She crouched down to pick up the trash and start cleaning up the kitchen. "DEEPMALA!" i was loosing my patience..."PLEASE go home! I WILL do it....PLEASE." She collected her things, and left. I went out onto the patio and watched this small mass of mediterranean blue fabric hobble down the dirt street. She passed a cow at the corner, turned and disappeared. 

...and then, this is literally the first thing i thought...FINALLY, I get to do SOMETHING! I GET TO HELP! WOOHOO! I have to make the roti. H-E-R-E W-E G-O....

Now, I don't know a lot about roti. I know its delicious, I know it should be light and warm when it is eaten, i know it should have the circumference of a small corn tortilla (way to go mexican reference). I know i have no business making it. I had watched Deepmala make roti on one occasion, and had seen my friend Amy make if for us on another occasion. I knew i had to roll it out, put it in a pan, and finish it off by putting it in the fire. Great! I am alllll ready.

It took me about one hour:) I think it took so long because i was really going for SHAPE on my first go. The ones I saw amy make were monster shapes and i really wanted to say that mine were ROUND. And oh boy were they....45 minutes later...roundish, HUGE (definitely no the circumference of a corn tortilla, more like a flour tortilla), and dry dry dry. Something that would have taken her 5 minutes became my pride and joy of that day. I could have written a novel in french i was so impressed with myself.

So when the girls came home, i told them my story, served them the meal, and we began eating the dry roti (which they of course claimed to LOVE). Anna kept telling me "ya did good baby, ya did a good job." Athena kept laughing...at me...at herself. Athena just laughs that is why we like her. A few minutes in we got a phone call from Deepmala,  apparently she felt so bad for leaving and not finishing the meal she sent her sister over with roti for us. (NO my ego shouted NOOOOOOOOO). The sister didn't just send us some, she sent us 25 warm, moist, perfectly made beautiful little roti--carefully wrapped in newspaper. I unwrapped them and put them on the table. Anna and Athena both looked at me, and then at each other, and said something to the effect of "Don't worry honey, we are going to eat your roti tonight...its sooo delicious (crack crack)....we can have hers tomorrow (crunch crunch)". I just smiled and ate. I had finally helped. Finally.

Friday, March 13, 2009

holi cow


So i am fortunate-believe me i get it. i get to be in India, i get to laugh about it with a friend of mine, i get to do amazingly important work...eat amazing food...learn about a new culture......and the most exciting of all -----i get to play holi.

Holi happens once a year...so i happened to arrive JUST in time! 

This is basically the dirty dirty of what went down:

Naturally I woke up with much anticipation for the day. some friends from the university came over  (they are here studying hindi and urdu). we walked about the neighborhood in search of scoring some holi powder. we tracked some down--felt like champions for about 5 seconds. and then with the help of some indian kids/families/and a hindu temple--which had somehow turned into a dance dance revolution competition mecca-- we colored each other to our hearts content.

The powder is given out in small plastic bags--everyone gets a different color--mine was bright green of course:) The dry powder isn't a big deal as long as it remains dry (good luck)....add some water to it, and then you have a different story. my goal for holi was not to be a victim doused in or sprayed with colored water or that gold/silver paint stuff---apparently that business doesn't come off so easily.  i did pretty well, but many of my friends were not so fortunate. (see example anna to your left).

i don't have any pictures yet of us before the mess, but i will  get those and post them soon. If anyone is interested in having their own holi celebration, please let me know and i will be 154% in.  There is nothing quite like it. For me, it was the most thrilling experience i have had for some time. Throwing and rubbing color on complete strangers???? Having an excuse to look like you shat a rainbow out of your pants? getting to hug, smile at, and say 'happy holi' to grandma indian women strangers--GORGEOUS already, but EVEN MORE SO NOW (how is this POSSIBLE)???? i am in. always was. i always will be.

There are several ways to do this so take notes...

The nice way: Making eye contact 1st. Saying "Happy Holi" with a smile. Slowly approaching the other person as you put a small bit of powder on your fingers, and then applying a little dab of it to their forehead and one to each cheek. You can also put some in their hair, lightly apply more powder to each cheek...This is also a lovely and nice way to play -- and no one gets hurt. Then there is the hug....one side...other side...other side.....youre done:) Happy Holi!

The "oh my god those little bastards got me for the last time!" way: Just run away. Don' t trust anyone or anything. Children are hiding everywhere with water guns to spray you down. nothing will save you. Strangers will run up behind you and smear stuff allll over your face and hair. its like a jackson pollock war zone so beware. If you can prevent the buckets of color/water/god knows what from being thrown on you-- then you have saved yourself a good amount of soap and water.

All in all, my left ear and neck were died pink--but that was nothing compared to some of my friends...im sure you can see for yourself:)

Friday, March 6, 2009

...no not indiana...INDIA

So i am in India:)
Yes this is true. Ive been here for almost a week days (honestly it feels like 5 months) and I have some things to say about it. None of them involving getting sick or coming face to face with a king cobra (thank krishna) .

The Arrival.
On Tuesday (i think tuesday) my friend Anna picked me up from the Delhi Airport around 10:30 pm. The flight over was quicker than i expected (14 hours?). I slept enough, and took total advantage of every movie, tv show, and brownie at my disposal . I had incredibly vivid Gaudiesque dreams/nightmares, one of which involved a small brain growing underneath my tounge, it got so large i couldn't speak, but when i showed it to my mom she smiled and said "OH that is perfectly normal!", so I picked it out--and carried on. (just LOVELY).
Once i actually landed, I couldn't stop laughing to myself "I can't believe Im here....holy shit. Elizabeth what have you gotten yourself into this time?" The smell of curry wafted into the airplane, throught the airport, and I just laughed even more. As I walked past the last security checkpoint with my bags I entered a long walkway lined with a croud of men wearing turbans about 4 or 5 people deep. holy sikh convention batman.

It was wayyyyy to easy to find her, the only white woman waving franically, smiling, woohooing--wearing a fitted jcrew blowse and huge smile (typical anna)---i RAN---we cried---we laughed--and all the indians looked at these two american girls giggling and swearing together, making unecessary hand gestures. we got into a cab, and anna took me to my palace for the night "Hotel Cottage Yes Please", and no I am not joking about the name. It came with a dog, cow, something burning somewhere out in front and wifi......mmmmmm wifi. what more could a girl from tennessee ask for?

Lucknow is truly beautiful. The people are very inquisitive and friendly, the children at the nearby school flock to anna as she walks home after work--just like the momma hen she is.
 They love her (just like everyone loves h
er) and call her 'didi' (means big sister). The food is amazing, and so far I haven't been sick. This 1st week I really paid attention to what i was eating/drinking/etc, so now i slowly feel like I have sort of a sense of
 what is OK, and now I can move on to new things, so we will see. This is all really difficult to do since anna will eat and drink whatever--she has that iron stomach--that will never be me. ever.

Presently, there are two things Im having a difficult time with:
1) Deepmala cooking and washing my clothes
2) the 375,001 noises I here every night and morning while I attempt to sleep

I am trying to get used to having Deepmala-- slowly but surely this will happen. If I go home early from work, she will be in the kitchen singing songs. I stay outsid
e in the main room and tinker with stuff just to listen to her. She is younger than me, married with two children. Very patient with me and my lack of hindi, always smiling. She calls me didi now...i am very excited about all of this. Part of me secretly ENJOYS having a delicious dinner ready every night (who wouldn't enjoy this?), but the other part is frustrated. Frustrated because I am so limited here in the things i CAN do for myself--they go and take one more thing away from me! I can't speak the language, therefore I don't know where anything is, Its difficult to get around, I can't argue with the rickshaw drivers about how they are trying to steal my money. Anna's presence is required to ask about the gas, the bathroom, how to operate the hot water heater, the 34 locks on each door, which switch turns on which light....why only the driver in the car wears his seatbelt. you know just about everything.
 And now, I can't even cook and wash my clothes.  i know i know, i will shut up now and just enjoy it. 

The 375,001 noises oustside my bedroom window are as follows. They can be heard anytime between  the hours of 11:00 pm and 5:30 am. 

Mind you, this is not a complete list, but it sure is close...I listened carefully:

cars honking
mosquitos biting
dogs howling, whimpering, growling, talking, chuckling/playing cards
the train (yes there is a train of course)
birds that sound like monkeys
a futbol game
king arthur's army 
the war of 1812
a spanish bullfight
techno music 
another louder prayer
gunshots (anna swears to me these are fireworks (it is wedding season) i don't believe her)
today's hindi lesson being repeated over and over in my head.

...and that pretty much sums it up.

I will post more later...

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