Saturday, August 28, 2010

Indian Wedding!

Wednesday night, we decided it would be a good idea to crash an Indian wedding. Well, we weren't quite crashing it...but we were only invited because the groom's father thought it would be cool to have Americans attend the wedding. We wouldn't let that slightly sycophantic reason deter us.

We got all dolled up in our fancy saris, gold bangles, and sparkly bindis. Let me tell you, saris are no joke. It took me 5 hours of wearing one to finally figure out the trick to walking (Like walking on a balance beam, or a catwalk walk: one foot straight in front of the other. Attitude optional.).
Me, Ally, and Heidi all dressed up:

The wedding was no joke either. (Bad, rickshaw picture)

Over 1,000 people were on the guest list, and I'm sure other freeloaders joined in. That's the most food I've seen at a wedding, ever. Curries, veggies, curried veggies, white rice, fried rice, dahl, yohgurt-donuts, egg rolls, chinese noodles, pasta, roti, chapati, naan, weird Indian desserts, endless butterscotch and chocolate ice cream, fruit salad...and other things I don't know the names of. And, a weird drink station, where they made us strange and gross coctails of guava juice, club soda, Sprite, and Thums up (like Pepsi). Yuck and yuck.

After thanking the groom's father, congratulating the bride and groom (and sprinkling rice over their heads—a popular Indian gesture), we sat down to watch the proceedings...and we were kind of the only ones.

It seems that most of the wedding guests couldn't care less about the actual ceremony, they just came to eat and chat...which is sort of understandable if you consider that the ceremony lasts at least 4 hours. Lots of blessings to give and promises to make, people!

Sea of people in the food room:

We went up on stage where the ceremony was being held to awkwardly take pictures:

We gave in around 11:30, heading home just when the bride and groom were beginning games they play to show their trust in each other, or something. It doesn't really look like it in this picture, but they mainly looked excited to be getting married:

Thoughts: Weddings are weddings, no matter where you go. A little fun, a little boring, a lot crazy.

Lakshmi Day

Friday the 13th was a special holiday for women—Lakshmi Puja. This isn't the correct name, but it's close enough. On this day, married women worship the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, thanking her for their marriage and asking for blessings upon their husbands. Unmarried women ask Lakshmi for a husband.

To celebrate, Karuna first took us to her house to visit her Lakshmi shrine, where we sprinkled some rice and got bindi's (the forehead dots):

Then, we went to this other house where we got sung to by a crazy old lady, as she swung us on a swing in her living room. No idea what the song was about, but it was hilarious. Here is a picture of me and Jain laughing our heads off:

Lastly, we went to a random house that had a “Tupperware” sign on the was very misleading. This was no tupperware hut, but a rich lady's house (Ruma, I think), complete with chandelier, air conditioning, and surround -sound speakers. Her husband is some sort of engineer. “I've been to every continent,” she said, non-chalantly, as she gave us more bindi's, and handed us each a treat bag with a coconut, a sweet lime, betel leaf, and a turmeric/sandalwood powder “combi pack.” We felt like we were trick-or-treating.
I'm still trying to come up with an excuse to go back to her house. I mean, she said to come back anytime, so...

Monday, August 23, 2010


**edit: Heidi moved her blog to blogspot (see below)

If you are interested (and you should be), here are a couple of other blogs by girls here with me in India:

Ally's is absolutely hilarious:

Heidi's has sparkly shoes, and I'm all about sparkly shoes:

Friday, August 20, 2010

New hobby?

I really want to learn how to play the mandolin now. (note: this was supposed to be a video, but it isn't working, so I'm just posting a picture for now.)

This was at Internationalization Day at JNTUK (a University). There were a few speeches, then we each got up and introduced ourselves (I swear, everywhere we go, we become the guests of honor. Not because we have reason to be, but simply because we're from America), then there was a talent show of sorts.

We did the Macarena...but only because they turned on the Macarena song when we went onstage. We had kind of learned a Telugu lullaby, called Chandamama Rave (that's "rah-vey," not "rave"), but we're glad they saved us the embarrassment of singing it. It would be like someone coming to America and singing "Rock-a-bye Baby" at a college talent show with a really terrible accent, but trying to be sincere. Not good. The mandolin guy was my favorite, just ahead of a girl who did an amazing 15 minute dance routine (holy stamina, Batman), a girl who did a lovely traditional dance (see picture below), and a guy that sang Backstreet Boys' "I Want it That Way."

Here's the traditional dancer:

Here are the Nuckolls' twins, Kathryn and Maggie, who upstaged us by singing a Hindu prayer:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

India's Independence Day

I just got back from the doctor. Interesting experience. Everyone who is sick sits in his office, and he goes around to each one, asking symptoms and treating you. Imagine your doctor coming out to the waiting room with his stethoscope and flashlight, and everyone knowing why everyone else is there. Privacy not needed. Me? I have a throat infection and low blood pressure. No big.
Have a random picture post:

This is the mahendi that Karuna did for me yesterday. She's amazing:

Best Clock Ever. His hand waves as the seconds go by:

This is a battledore/badminton court in the King's guest house. I wanted to play word-tennis:

Here is the outside of Big Bazaar, the closest thing to WalMart in India (and still far from it):

This is my new favorite place:

And this is an interpretive dance representing the Indian flag:

Haunting in India?

I may have captured the spirit of something on my camera. These were both taken on my camera, the 2nd to see if it was a trick of the light...

Perhaps it was one of these fellows?

Or this guy?

(Please excuse the sweaty mess that is my face)

Or maybe this guy?

(All pictures taken at the Boboli King's guest house)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


It is a very warm Wednesday/Buddhavarum morning. We just had Telugu class, and now we're relaxing for a while—we had a long day yesterday, from 9am-9pm (6am-9pm, for 3 of us that made it to yoga). This post may be a little meandering, so I apologize.

On Saturday/Senivarum, we took a trip to Borra Caves and Aropo Valley to visit a tribal village. It was a long drive up windy mountain roads, similar to the Road to Hana in Hawaii, if you've been there. Our driver thought he was Speed Racer. It was insane. He would speed up on straight roads, then slam on his brakes for the switchbacks. And passing trucks and buses on roads that are barely 2 lanes wide with trees on one side and a cliff on the other...good gravy. I was glad I was facing out the back window. Did I mention it was a long drive? 2 ½ hours long.
My favorite part of the day was visiting the tribe. I'm sure most, if not all, of the children and many of the adults had never seen white people before. They didn't really know what to think of us. They live the most simple, beautiful lives—they live and die in a beautiful valley, caring for rice paddies and livestock, knowing nothing of corrupt politicians, celebrity news, or how to hold an iphone the correct way. It really changes how you think of wants vs. needs.

Other random tidbits:

--Everywhere we go, Indians will “slyly” take pictures of us with their cell phones. If we are in a place for more than 10 minutes, people will get more brazen and ask to have their picture taken with us. When that happens...look out. At Borra Caves, we were mobbed.

--We were in four different newspapers before we had been here a week. I think I was on Telugu TV on Monday night, too.

--Our group get's excited when we see other white people...though we don't take pictures of/with them.

--The first couple of times we went to yoga, we had this nice teacher named Nigini, I think, who would say, “Don't stress yourself. Don't strain yourself. If you need to rest, rest. Deeeep inhalation, deeeep exhalation.” But we haven't seen her in a few days, and now we're with a Nazi-Yogi who mostly says, “HUP! NO MOVEMENT! FORCE!” and will snap his fingers at you if you stop. And, he'll push you. Literally. Yesterday, I was like, “No, I don't bend that way—OP, GUESS I DO.” It's a good time.

--India is a prime place for Optimistic Pessimism: “It may be humid, but at least I'm sweating like a pig!” “It may be hot, but at least there's no air conditioning!” “I may have a mosquito bite on my arm, but at least I have 10 more on my foot!” “This soda may be hot, but at least there's no ice in India!”

--Another version of the above is Surpassing Extremely Low Expectations: “Wow, these holes for toilets are great, I was afraid we'd have to use public outhouses!” “This heat is great, I thought we'd have to have heat lamps!” “I'm glad that old man is wearing a cloth as a skirt, I thought all the men would be naked!” Once we get laughing, everything is funny and great. And 100x better than we expected.

--Telugu is hard. The combination of an alphabet that looks like a 6 year-old made it up, different ways of pronouncing and writing each letter (k can be “K” or “KH”, t can be “T” “TH”--not th as in “the,” but like “talk”--or other “T” and “TH”, d can be “D” “DH” or other “D” and “DH”...I don't even know how to explain it. It's something to do with the tongue.), and not being able to understand our teacher when she's speaking English, let alone Telugu (and her not being able to understand us)...I can't say it's going great. I did learn to write my name today. Vowels are another problem—they each have a symbol on their own, but when you are writing a word, you have to write a different symbol that connects to the consonant. And instead of 5 vowels, there are 16.

--Dad, I asked about the crows, and I was told that if you give crows food on the anniversary of your grandparents' deaths, the crows will bring the food to them.

--I'll leave you with a picture of my room, in all it's glory. In the morning, this girl Suria likes to come talk to me through my window (the ones on the left). Usually when I'm just getting out of my shower, or changing. Really good times. She likes to say “Stahn! Stahn!” which I haven't figured out the meaning of. It doesn't mean anything in Telugu (I've asked several people). Some people suggested she wants me to stand up, but I'm usually standing when she says it, so...Then, she'll say, “Super!” and walk away.

Love you all!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Alive and Well

I made it! I got in on Saturday afternoon, all in one piece (including my luggage). It has been pretty exhausting—trying to get used to the time zone, the humidity, all the new sounds and still hasn't quite hit me yet that I'm here. I registered for a yoga class this morning (6 days a week from 6-7am! I've been up at 4am everyday, so it will be nice to have something to do), and lying there with my toes touching the ground behind my head, I repeated to myself, “I am in India, practicing yoga. I am practicing yoga in India.”

I don't know what I should say, there is already so much. Here is some general information: there are 12 students in all, living in 3 houses in Lawson's Bay Colony. I have my own room (and my own bathroom, er, hole in the floor and showerhead) in the Program House, where all our meals are taken. There are wonderful Indian people taking care of us: Durga, Lova, Suria, Mariah, Sudha, Karuna, Radia Lakshmi, and K.P. are just a few.

Everything seems eventful: harrowing experiences in rickshaws (I decided they need to invent a rickshaw racing video game called India 500, but more on this later), Krishna temple bells at 5am, monkeys tied to bus stops, cows and water buffalo in the middle of the road, and some more unpleasant things, but I'm sure it will seem very normal soon. Because my brain is constantly processing new experiences, the 4 ½ days I have been here seem much longer—not in a bad way, but I'm learning a lot in a short amount of time. A few lessons:

Always be aware: be aware of where you're stepping, be aware of cars/bikes/rickshaws/motorbikes/buses that may think it's ok to run you over.

Be grateful for hand sanitizer.

Learn where the A.C. is, and go there if you are sick/sad: Church, the mall, the movie theater, the van.

There is no rule of what head bobbles mean. Yes, no, I don't know, you're an idiot, good job, I love it, I hate it, it doesn't matter—all are head bobbles. Go with it.

Smile. Strangers are constantly taking pictures of you, and you want to look happy.

If there is anything specific you want to know, comment on here or email me (, and I will include those in my posts. I don't know what is interesting to hear about...I'm still a bit overwhelmed (“underwhelmed” is not included in the Telugu-English dictionary). Love and miss you all!

P.S. It is 12 ½ hours later here than in Utah, 10 ½ later than Boston, fyi. So it's 11:47am now. We're resting our brains from our first Telugu Lesson.
P.P.S. I'm bringing Punjabi dresses into style this summer in the States.
P.P.P.S. The picture is Megan and I on a playground at a park on a top of a big hill. I can't remember the name right now. It was the most humid day, I don't think we were dry at any time. Most of the playground equipment they had would be banned from the U.S. because of liability, as Megan is clearly demonstrating.