Happy New Year! Etc
So Christmas was a blast and I'm getting ready to head to Thailand for a conference as we speak! Fun times :) I will update more in a few weeks when I get back. Until then, enjoy these Christmas pics.
*Me and friends singing Christmas carols ( we got called up by the band because they saw that we actually knew the words!)
*Riding a camel at a fair on Christmas eve!
* Indian Santa!
*Me and the girls on Christmas morning, opening our presents ( we all got Bend it Like Beckham)

Only 13 Shopping Days left til Christmas!!!
***Disclaimer: If you don't live overseas, this post will be funny, though you probably won't appreciate the wonder of it as much as those of us who do or have lived overseas.***
Not that you'd know that here by the way things look! But anyway, we did have quite an adventure Christmas shopping today. We drove to a nearby city so we could visit "My Dollar Store," the near legendary import store we've been hearing about from friends.
This store is located in a 4 story mall/center, with tons of other shops, most of which are rather over priced. There's jewelry, mens', womens' and kids clothes, music stores, a food court, and of course, the dollar store. Except, it's actually the 99 rupees store, even though it's called the dollar store. This is significant because 99 rupees doesn't equal $1, but about $2.50.
Honestly though, I probably would have paid even more than $2.50 for some of the stuff we found there. It's all stuff that we take for granted in the states, but let me tell you, when you go without these little things for a while, it sure is exciting to see them again! Examples of merchandise we found: fabric softener, Pace Salsa, Hershey's Chocolate Syrup, Mug Root Beer, Pringles, Butterfingers, grits, Suave shampoo, etc, shaving cream, deodorant, Starbuck's Frappacino's (the ones in glass bottles), Jello instant pudding, Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup and a variety of other kinds as well, Capri Sun, and a number of other exciting things. Now, some of these things you can get in our city, but they're way more expensive than 99 rupees; however, most of them are rare finds, which makes this place really exciting. Sadly, 2 things they've had in the past were not there: Dr Pepper and Rotel...tear...
Oh the joys of living overseas! Adventures waiting to be found around every corner :)

This stuff costs an arm and a leg!!!
Monday 12 December 2005, 5:04pm
So I'm sitting on my bed, listening to some Christmas favorites (right now: Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree), waiting for the power to come back on so I can use the water heater and take a shower, and trying to think of a way to accurately describe Christmas in South Asia...hmm...I think that, from what I've seen so far, Christmas is basically whatever you make of it. It's not like America, where you couldn't escape the holiday season if you tried. Honestly, if I didn't look at my calendar, I'd forget that it's actually December and only 14 days until Christmas!
Though Christmas fever hasn't taken over my city quite like Diwali did, there are a few little reminders of the holiday that I've spotted. Several small Christmas stores have popped up, selling stuff that in the States, well, I'd never buy cause it's totally gaudy...but somehow, it becomes quite appealing when it's all you've got. The problem is the price--even the smallest things cost a fortune! Example: We wanted a wreath for our door--average price for wreath (and these are the gaudy ones) is between Rs 750-2000, or $18-$50! yikes! But I think we've done pretty well--we got a tiny wreath, a tiny tree, and even a tiny manger scene, and we're making stockings with some friends, so I think it'll all end up being pretty festive.

The other funny thing about the stores is that while they're trying to sell Christmas stuff, it seems that a few other holidays have gotten thrown in the mix as well. I saw Easter eggs at one store, and as you can see from the picture above, another store had Halloween decorations right in the middle of the Christmas. It's hillarious to see a scary hand hanging right there with a bunch of Christmas ornaments, and also interesting to think about differently people here view Christmas, decorations, and so on from the way it's all seen in the States.
One nice thing is that it's actually been kind of cool here lately. Either that or I'm just getting so used to the heat that anything below 80 feels "cool." It has been around 50 in the evenings, and this morning, it was cool enough in our flat for me to put on my favorite sweatshirt, which was very exciting.
Another fun thing was making my mom's famous Christmas cookies this weekend. This is a Christmas tradition back home, so I was very excited that it worked out. The cookies were easy to make (they're kind of like sugar cookies with a nutmeg flavor) but the icing was another story
because it calls for meringue powder (which I discovered is actually powdered eggs). Anyway, it was quite an adventure to find, and when I finally got it, I had to buy a kilo (2.2 lbs)--the recipe calls for 3 tablespoons! The cookies turned out great, but if anybody knows any other uses for meringue powder, let me know...
Well, looks like the power is back on, so I'm going to take a shower while there's hot water--kind of like the saying, make hay while the sun shines, here, do what you gotta do while the power's on or you might be out of luck :)

Top Ten���
In the few weeks since I���ve updated, so much has happened that I won���t bore you all by going into tons of details here. Besides, I don���t have time���that���s why I���ve waited so long to update! Anyway, it has been a fun few weeks with some very memorable experiences, so here���s a brief overview:
(By the way, these are in no particular order)
Wow, what madness these past few weeks have been with Diwali, Eid, and now the start of wedding season (in fact, I think there���s a wedding going by outside right now!). Though things have been a lot louder due to the fire works (���crackers���) and bands/processions marching by, we���ve also had a lot of fun and gotten to learn a lot more about the culture here.

9. Youth Conference
So in the State, ���youth��� typically refers to ages 13-18, but here it���s more like 18-30. Since that���s the case, I guess we���re technically working with youth and not college students, especially since college is really 11th and 12th grade here! Anyway, a few weeks back we were invited to a conference where we got to meet other people from around our state/country that also work with students. We had a lot of fun, ate good food, and even got to see some little kids dance and sing���they were at the same place for another conference, and they were very cute!

8. Weekend getaway���
Last weekend my roommate and I decided to take a break from busy and crowded life here and ���get away��� to a nearby hill station (small town on a hill). We���d hoped it would be relaxing and fun, and while it was fun, it was more of an adventure than a chance to relax. People here have different ideas about nature: while we were hoping to get to just sit outside and enjoy the nice weather, people here view scenic spots in a much more ���touristy��� fashion. Every place we went was fairly crowded, and being that this was a smaller town, we were often quite the celebrities���

7. ���MISS AMERICA!!!���
At one of our stops, a fairly scenic dam/garden area, I was swarmed by about 50 kids, all wanting my autograph! I signed notebooks, hands, whatever was available, and was praised for my beautiful handwriting (and if you���ve seen my handwriting, you know this is a joke!). Anyway, once I told them my name, they were shouting, Mandi Wallis, and Miss America!, even following me as I tried to sneak away��妁uite an adventure!

6. ���Monkeys��宇hey are biting!���
And jumping and fighting and stealing! We don���t have monkeys in our city, so when we saw them on our weekend get away, we were initially excited��守ntil they got a little too close for comfort! This picture is of one trying to steal my water bottle. A few minutes later, after I���d gone over to the bench to scare him away, another monkey jumped on to the bench, right where I was standing and scared me half to death! They can definitely be cute creatures, but only from a safe distance!

5. Choo Choo!
After our ���get away,��� we decided to take the train back home. We���d looked online and seen trains for between 200-300 rupees (about $5-$7), with AC and so on, and we were told by our travel agent that we could just book our tickets at the station. Well, when we walked up to buy the tickets and the teller only charged us 28 rupees (less than 75 cents), we knew something was up. We ended up on a local train, with packed bench seats, ���open-window AC���, and all sorts of stops along the way. It was definitely an adventure, and I���m glad we got to experience it, especially since it was only a 2 hour ride!

4. Homemade Cajun food!
Normally when I cook, I rely on wonderful things like box mixes and so on, but here, that���s pretty much impossible to find. Since my supply of goodies from the states is running low, I���ve been browsing foodnetwork.com for ideas and have been able to cook up a couple fun things. My favorite is that I found the recipe for Tony Chachere���s seasoning and made a big batch of it, and it actually turned out really good! I also made homemade jambalaya for friends last weekend, which very tasty, and also leads into my next top ten���
3. BLAH!
Yes, that���s right, I finally got sick. I mean, really sick. Ugh. It was Sunday night and I still don���t feel so great, but MUCH better than earlier this week! The good thing was that it wasn���t from the food, since that was the night I���d cooked jambalaya! The bad thing is that I probably won���t be eating or cooking jambalaya again for quite a while��吋he other good thing was that I had spent the night at our friends��� house that night, and they were all very gracious and took good care of me until I recovered!

2. Turkey (less) Day!
Our group of American friends here planned a big get together for Thanksgiving, and so we all pitched in to cook, which was quite fun. By the time Wednesday rolled around, I was feeling better, so I helped our friends make 2 pumpkin pies and broccoli, rice and cheese casserole��妃mm��宅ery good, and it only took 7 hours, with our tiny oven and power outages. Thursday was a great day, filled with good food and just hanging out with friends. We actually had pretty much everything you could imagine eating for Thanksgiving (pumpkin pie, pecan pie, homemade whip cream, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, homemade rolls, cranberry sauce, and so on) EXCEPT for the turkey! They���re actually really hard to find down here, but we had chicken instead and it was fine with me!

1. Goin to the chapel and we���re gonna get married!
Well, it wasn���t exactly at a chapel, but today we went to our first wedding here and it was a blast! So much food and music and colors and people���it was wild, and it���s still going on right now! We arrived at a little after 10, when it was supposed to start, and the place was practically empty. Gradually people started showing up, and by the time we left (around 4 pm) there were people everywhere. We got to watch the bride doing puja (worship) and getting a new sari from her inlaws, and then watch the groom ride in on a white horse! We also ate a ton of food and even danced a little. It was tiring, but definitely fun (check out my photo albums for more pictures).

This post is dedicated to one of the places I visit most frequently here (though probably need to spend more time at!): Stretch Gym. Though you might not know it by looking at me J, I like to work out. For the past 3 翻 years, it���s been my little get away from the stresses of everyday life. I usually went to the gym 3 or 4 times a week back home, and I wondered how I���d be able to keep up my workout schedule overseas. Fortunately, Stretch is close to our flat, and actually in the same society (ie, apartment complex) that our language helper lives in.
Most days, after my language lesson, I head over to the gym for a quick work out. I do some weights, and definitely some cardio, and it���s really cool because the machines are very similar to the ones in the gym back home. Of course, some ask for your weight in kilos, which is a bit confusing. But it���s nice, because it���s like I can almost feel like I���m just back home. Well, almost. There are plenty of differences, and many of them are quite funny.
For one, gyms here definitely have the ���customer service��� thing going on better than in the States. Not to down play the people who worked at the gym back home���they���re wonderful���it���s just that here, the ratio is about 1 gym worker for every 2 people working out. Hello. Not that this is always good, since I have my western mindset of ���I can do this myself, thank you.��� But it definitely is funny to see nearly as many workers as people working out.
Another classic thing about the gym is the music. They have their very own ���in house DJ,��� which is a big deal here because it���s on all the advertisements. Anyway, they play the most random mix of music, from Hindi/Bollywood stuff to current American pop. My personal favorite so far is a random techno-esque remix of ���California Dreamin���.��� Enough said.
I noticed something funny tonight as I was leaving. There���s a huge banner outside the gym, advertising the new building that���s going to open soon (relatively speaking���this could mean a month from now or a year). Anyway, this sign has this blonde white girl on it, pumping iron and looking really into her workout. This is funny because as far as I know, there is only one other white person at the gym other than me. She also happens to be tall with blonde hair, so people often mistake us for each other or ask if we���re sisters. Anyway, so, why is there a white chick on the poster? No telling���
Anyway, the gym is always an adventure, and it���s been really good for meeting people and just getting out and having fun. I���m sure I���ll have more updates on random adventures there in the future��地lrighty, I���m out.

All's well in my little corner of the world...
So, just to let you all know, I am fine after the recent bombings in Delhi. I'm actually pretty far from there, and our city is calm as far as that kind of stuff goes. However, the explosions of fireworks, or "crackers" as they're called here, are currently happening all around me. Tomorrow (11.1) is Diwali, a BIG Hindu festival of lights and everyone has been celebrating by hanging up lights on their homes and popping crackers non stop. I actually heard them going off at about 7 this morning as I tried to motivate myself to get out of bed. Maddness.
So anyway, I'm fine, thanks for your concern, those of you who watch the news and all.
[ps--Happy Halloween! Here's a pic of me at our recent fall festival...good times!]

Whatcha got cookin'?
So tonight we had South Asian food and we made it ourselves! Well, sorta...we haven't found a good place around here to order from yet (good=tasty and cheap), so we've gotten this prepackaged stuff at the grocery store a couple times, just to see how it was. Tonight we had yellow dal and vegetable pulau (bean dish and veggie rice) and it was pretty good--definitely the best store bought stuff we've tried so far. (that's it in the silver packages--we boil them to heat them up since we don't have a microwave).
But what I was really in the mood for was the bread. I mean, that's the best part of eating food here--delicious hot buttery nan or roti...mmm...But you can't really buy that in the store, so I decided to try to make some roti. I'd seen our friend make it last week at her house, and it didn't look to hard. You're supposed to use wheat flour, water, oil and salt, but all we had was white flour, and I had no idea how much of each thing, so I just mixed it up and rolled it out as best as I could.
After you have the roti real flat, you cook it in a hot skillet for a few minutes. Then comes the fun part--you take it out of the skillet, turn up the fire and put the partially cook roti ON THE FLAME! When our friend first did it, I was in shock, but it gets the roti slightly brown and makes it bubble up. Very cool! So I tried it and it worked pretty well--I will definitely have to get tongs before I try it again though!
So overall our dinner was pretty tasty, and I was pretty proud of myself for making roti, actually for the 2nd time (see my earlier post about the Sikh temple where I got to help roll out the roti).

Cause life is better off a mystery...

Today has been one of those days...you know, where you're sentimental and longing a bit for familiar, comfortable things. I'm learning it's one thing to be overseas, and it's quite another to realize that you LIVE here...but this is the little gold nugget I found/heard today that warmed my heart and reminded me I'm right where I'm supposed to be. And having a good dinner (jambalaya, okra and tomatoes, apple cobbler, vanilla ice cream and even coffee!) with my surrogate family helped too :)

Faith My Eyes
by Caedmon's Call

As I survey the ground for ants
Looking for a place to sit and read
I'm reminded of the streets of my hometown
How they're much like this concrete that's warm beneath my feet

And how I'm all wrapped up in my mother's face
With a touch of my father just up around the eyes
And the sound of my brother's laugh
But more wrapped up in what binds our ever distant lives

But if I must go
Things I trust will be better off without me
But I don't want to know
Cause life is better off a mystery

So keep'em coming these lines on the road
And keep me responsible be it a light or heavy load
And keep me guessing with these blessings in disguise
And I'll walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes

Hometown weather is on TV
I imagine the lives of the people living there
And I'm curious if they imagine me
Cause they just wanna leave; I wish that I could stay

But I get turned around
I mistake my happiness for blessing
But I'm blessed is the point
Still I judge success by how I'm dressing

So I'll sing a song of my hometown
I'll breathe the air and walk the streets
Maybe find a place to sit and read
And the ants are welcome company

And I'll walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes.
And I'll walk with grace my feet and faith my eyes.

Wow...just looking at the words, I'm floored. I've always loved this song, but never before have it's words been so real to my life. Hmm...

What a nice weekend! Friday night we just chilled out and had a friend spend the night. We ate out at Subway, which is SO good. I never thought I���d appreciate American fast food so much���
Yesterday was a down day, which was nice. It rained for a little while, and I found myself feeling very restless, so I decided to head off on an adventure. We���ve explored a good bit of town, but one of the best things about this place is that you can think you know an area pretty well, and then one day you suddenly discover a random street that leads you to a whole new area you never knew existed! That���s what happened yesterday. I went down to MG road, a pretty touristy place, but I decided to wander off the main path and ended up finding some pretty cool little spots.
I first stopped in a tiny fabric store, and after chatting with the owner a bit, I bought 2 pieces of fabric, which I can have made into shirts (���kurtas���). She sealed the deal when she told me it was ���Lizzy Busy,��� and that I wouldn���t need to iron it���that���s all I needed to hear! As I left the shop and walked a little further down, I found a small temple. This is not uncommon, since there���s either a temple, mosque or some other place of worship at every turn. But as I stopped to look inside, a man sitting by the door invited me to come in. Feeling adventurous, I took off my shoes and stepped inside. The man at the door was very friendly and told me I could look around and take pictures. The temple seemed to be mainly for Hanuman (monkey god), but also had statues/altars for Shiva, Krishna, Ganesh, Durgmata, and a few other gods. One of the men inside offered me a coconut half to offer to the gods, which I politely declined. Definitely an interesting experience.
As I continued my wandering, I found myself in a fabulous market. Up until yesterday, I hadn���t really seen many good outdoor markets that sold anything other than fruit and vegetables, but this one had it all, which was great. I ended up buying some fun glass bangles for 90 rupees(a little over $2) and 1 kilo of tomatoes and some onions for 20 rupees (about 50 cents). I also got some bananas to give away to people begging on the streets. I have a hard time with that���I want to help people, especially since so many of them are handicapped and obviously limited as to what they can do. It���s a challenge because there are so many needy people, and while many have genuine needs, there are also plenty of people who are pros at begging and target foreigners. So I decided to give food instead of money, and I was so happy to see that the people I stopped and handed a banana to really seemed to appreciate this small gift.
Later on, I found a tiny little shop that barely even looked like it actually was a shop, with three little old ladies inside. Since they didn���t look like they had much business, I decided to visit with them for a bit. This was tough, because they were mainly just gesturing in either Hindi or Marati, and trying to get me to buy something. They were very excited about one item, but I had no idea what it was for, and they couldn���t explain it to me! Finally I recognized the word ���atta,��� which means flour, and realized the strange item was a sifter. I finally ended up buying a brass ���Ful dan��� (flower pot) for about $3. Not an incredibly exciting purchase, but the process of getting it was definitely worth it!
After stopping by a sweet shop for a snack, I headed home. Quite a nice adventure overall. Today, however, takes the cake. After lunch at The Sizzler (they serve beef, though it���s probably water buffalo and not cow���still good stuff!), we went with some friends to the mountains. They surround our city, and we���ve been eyeing them for a while, so today we finally headed up there and explored. What a great time! We could see the entire city, which was quite a site. On top of that, the recent rain brought out a beautiful rainbow. There were also several cows roaming around the mountainside, and a guy watching them (a cow-herd, I guess���). I said hi and took his picture and he gave me the biggest smile, which was great. We could also see quite a few temples scattered through out the hillside. They were all very tiny, but looked well cared for, which was interesting because none of them looked easy to get to.
Right as we headed home, it started raining again���perfect timing! Overall, it was a fun and very refreshing weekend, showing that my best friend knows exactly what I need, and when I need it :)

"the rough ground shall become level..."
Today I���m feeling rather wistful and thoughtful, and wishing I had words/freedom to say more of what I���d like to say. I���ve been reading over a friend���s blog recently (let me tell you, beware of getting started on these things, as they are quite addictive), and hearing her pour out her heart and share such great stories has stirred up a lot of emotions in me. I don���t think I���m really feeling homesick or hit with culture shock, but when I stop to think about my life, especially this past year, and even more these past 4 months, I���m hit by a wall of emotions.
Living overseas is both just as I expected and also somehow nothing like what I expected. I think part of me thought I���d be basically drowning in the homesickness and newness/differentness of it all, but I���m not. I have my up and down days, but overall I���m having fun. There are so many amazing sights here, so many unique people and animals, and at the same time, so many things that remind me of home.
Cows everywhere remind me of my aunt and uncle���s house, and stories my mom has told me about growing up on a farm. Feeling the breeze as I ride in a rickshaw reminds me of riding in my friend���s convertible with the top down on a nice afternoon (though much more bumpy and no loud singing!). My language teacher, so petite and sweet, with all her little mannerisms and fun ways of pronouncing things, makes me think of my grandmothers.
The loud festivals, with colorful costumes, floats, music, and jubilant celebration scream of Mardi Gras time in south Louisiana, in more ways than I can even begin to describe. Drum beats and people marching in celebration make me think of fall and marching bands, high school and football season. Spending lazy Sunday afternoons hanging out at our friends��� house, just drinking coffee and talking, reminds me of Sunday afternoons at home with the family.
Every time I wash clothes, I think about the goofy little drying rack I had in college, which I never used; now I have a metal one just like it and it���s my best friend (oh, for a dryer to fluff my clothes instead of ironing them!). Our milk here comes in little plastic bags that you have to pour into a pitcher, and reminds me of 7th grade, when our Jr. High tried to replace milk cartons with milk bags��安hat a mess!
I���m thankful every time I walk into my own bathroom, able to take as long as I want to get ready and not have to wait for the shower J The gym has the same machines as my gym in Lafayette, although some ask you how many kilos you weigh instead of pounds. Hindi words sound like Spanish or French on occasion, throwing me into a momentary confusion. Rainy days and flooded streets make me think about watching poor UL students practically swim across campus when the weather was bad.
It may sound strange, but there are so many little things here that just seem so normal that sometimes I completely forget I���m not living in America anymore. However, it rarely takes long for me to remember where I am, and when I really consider it all (like I���m doing today), I���m truly amazed at the turns my life has taken lately. What a surprise! What an adventure! What a strange, strange journey. What a wonder that something that, from a distance, seemed so impossible has actually been made so much smoother and enjoyable than I ever could have imagined.

Fasionably late��她r not���
So our house helper is originally from Kolkata and celebrates Durga Puja, one of the several goddess festivals going on now. Anyway, she took yesterday off and told us that we should stop by the festivities. This is all new to me, of course, and it seems especially confusing right now because there are several festivals going on all at once, celebrating different and yet somewhat similar things��匈 think. Someone said they���re basically the same with different names from different regions. Others have said they���re different, with different gods and traditions depending on the state you���re in. This is a typical answer here to pretty much any question���everyone has a different perspective/opinion/etc. So anyway, there���s Durga Puja, Navaratri, Dushera, and others, and it���s all happening all around us now. Oh, and the Dandiya���festive dancing with sticks, which is what we really wanted to see.
Well we went down to the Durga Puja festivities on Monday night, but we were too early and it looked like things might not start for a while, so we decided to come back the next day, but this time later. Well, when we arrived Tuesday (after eating at a snazzy Pizza Hut downtown), it seemed like people were leaving and there was a lady singing, but no dancing. I asked one of the people near us and he said the dancing was actually Gujarati (a nearby state) and the festival was for Bengalis! Oh, and the dancing was only yesterday. Ha! Gotta love the randomness of life here!
Mooooove it!
I think I���ve mentioned before how much I love the wild variety of animals here. They are definitely one of my favorite things to take pictures of, because they���re so random and unpredictable and EVERYWHERE. Cows literally rule the roads (and everywhere else) here, and they will just lay in the middle of the street and look at the cars passing like, go ahead and just TRY to make me move!
I���ve had many cow experiences in the 2 months I���ve been here, but I think yesterday takes the cake. We went to this crazy little market, fully of people selling fruits and vegetables in tents. As we���re examining some potatoes, I look up and see 3 cows stroll by and each one steals a potato off the cart! The people kind of shoo them away, but they basically are doing whatever they want. So I spent the rest of our time at the market trying to get a good pic of the cows stealing food, and I got a couple decent ones.
Right as we were about to leave, I was distracted by something, and then noticed there was commotion around me. When I looked up, I see this HUGE cow stomping right through the market, horns down, pushing its way through the people. I jumped to the side and missed getting knocked down by this big bovine (and I thought, heiffa what?!!?). It all happened very fast, and after it was over, I realized one lady actually had been knocked over���fortunately she wasn���t hurt. The cow just strolled right on out and on its way. Love it!
On a more serious note���
So goes life here in South Asia. This is all fun and lighter stuff. Fortunately, we are far enough south to have avoided any damage from the earthquake, but reading about the disaster in the paper is quite overwhelming. I still can���t believe that my home here has been hit on 3 sides by disasters (tsunami in the east, floods in the west, and now the earthquake in the north), and that my home in the states has also been hit by 2 huge hurricanes. The thing that amazes me, and I know is just HIS grace is that in all this mess, my homes have missed directed hits. Natural disasters have struck all around us here, and Lafayette missed Katrina to the east and Rita to the west���it���s just insane, and hopefully the end of all this madness.

One Day at a Time...
Today I splurged a bit and enjoyed a really good treat with my lunch: Dr. Pepper! Bottled in Texas and imported over here. It was a nice (though expensive) taste from home, and a good reward for a week worth of language learning. We finally found someone to help us learn Hindi and started our lessons on Monday. I didn't know what to expect at first, but it's turned out to be really great. My roommate goes in the morning, and I go about 4 pm everyday, and then afterwards I head over to the gym. I met our teacher (Ms Maanju) through my friend from the gym (it's her mom), so it's all worked out very nicely. I've been learning all sorts of important things this week, like Main ne kal baal dhoye (yesterday I washed my hair) and Hurray purde buncaro (close the green curtains). My favorite is peeli beeli, which means yellow cat. It's just fun to say :)
It's nice to finally feel settled and like we're busy doing something. Learning Hindi is an adventure, but it's good because it's keeping us busy and it's the first step in helping us to connect with the University students we're going to be working with here. This past week has been really good because I've finally started to feel like I'm really living here, not just hanging out or visiting, which is good because I've been here almost 2 months(!). It is an adjustment though--ordinary things like shopping and cooking and washing just take longer here. For example: I have to remember to turn on the hot water heater (that's for you dad :) ) about 10 minutes before I want to take a shower; before we can eat vegetables, we have to soak them in bleach water or potassium permanginade (which main ingredient is "poison") for 20 minutes so we don't get sick; every time we wash, everything has to be hung up to dry and then ironed because we don't have a dryer (though thankfully, we do now have a washer!). None of this is bad--it's actually been really good to learn to slow down, but also a challenge because I'm such a multi-tasker!
This past weekend was fun: we went to a traditional Indian dance performance Saturday night, which was very interesting, and Sunday night we went to a concert. We also went to see another movie this week, which according to our teacher is very good for language practice :) There wasn't much English at all, so we struggled to follow the plot, but I did notice that I recognized more of the words, which was encouraging. Today we're going shopping for fun, and hopefully by the travel agent's office to book our tickets for our January conference in Thailand. And then hopefully a relaxing weekend :) Hope yours is as well--I'm out!

Hold on to your flip flops!!!
So today was an incredible day. I mean, words cannot describe today. Wow. We did our regular Sunday morning things with our friends, which was fun because we love getting to spend time with them. Then we all went out to a really good lunch, and headed for coffee at Cafe Coffee Day after than. We were enjoying our coffee in this random little Coffee Day, which was in the upstairs part of a gas station (way less sketchy than you'd think!) and what comes walking down the street? AN ELEPHANT! My roommate starting yelping and pointing and I was like, what??? and then I saw it. I was like a kid at Christmas! We paid for our coffee very quickly and ran down stairs and climbed abord this massive creature. I think the funniest thing was that we weren't in some rural location--we were riding down the middle of a fairly busy street! After riding for a few minutes, the guys stopped the elephant and were like, 200 rupees (about $5). I said, no, 100, which made him laugh. So I said, I'll pay you the 200 only if you take us back down the street, which seemed a pretty fair deal. So anyway, we had quite a fabulous adventure. Check out my yahoo pictures for more shots of our trip :)

Mira nam???
During my first week or so here, someone told me I had a South Asian name. And there's actually a city in the north named Mandi, so I was really feeling pretty special. But no one ever told me what my name meant until the other day, when I was informed that it means something like vegetable or fruit market. Today this was confirmed when my roommate pointed out the sign about the fruits and veggies at our grocery store. Fabulous.
So as of yesterday I've been in South Asia for 6 weeks, and as of Saturday I've been in my new city 3 weeks. I still can't really believe it--somedays it seems like time is flying by, and others just seem to drag on. Several people have said that it just takes longer to live life here and they're right. While this is a fairly modern/western city (compared to the rest of the country), life definitely moves at a slower place than in the US. Part of that is because we're still trying to get settled and find our way around--I imagine that once we start meeting more people things will pick up.
We're still very much in the beginning stages of our work, trying to meet students and learn the language and just seeing what opportunities are going to be available. I feel very blessed because our supervisors ROCK and it looks like we're going to make a really great team. I've also made a few friends from going to the gym near our house, which has been a lot of fun. This weekend we're going shopping with our neighbors, who are very fun and friendly.
That's about all for now. Check out the link to my photos on the right for more pictures of our city. Hope you're all doing well, esp. you all back home in LA--stay safe!

So we made it to our city! Our apartment is great and so are the people we're working with. We've been busy getting settled this past week, which has been an adventure, but also really WAY smoother than I could ever have imagined. Anyway, hopefully we'll get internet at our house and I'll be able to update more then, but I just wanted to let you know we made it and say thanks for thinking about us!
(This is a view from the roof of our apartment building).

Me and a friend wearing wearing our matching salwar kameez (we picked out the same material at the fabric shop). Posted by Picasa

Kal Ho Naa Ho...
Tonight I watched my firth Bollywood movie, Kal Ho Naa Ho (which means something like tomorrow may or may not be--how perfect for here!). Anyway, it was definitely interesting, and I'll admit, I cried at the end...I'm not so tough when it comes to sappy movies! Check it out if you can (I don't know how available it is in the US).
Our weekend was very good. I got to chat with a good friend from home Friday night, then sleep late on Saturday and cook lunch with the crew here--fun stuff. Saturday night we went out shopping (5 pairs of earrings for less than $1.25--I love shopping here!) and out to eat the The Big Chill, which was pretty good. This morning we went to a national service--quite an experince, covering our heads, attempting to sing in Hindi, listening to people share their stories and sitting up close and personal on the floor for about 3 hours. The amazing thing was that time totally flew by--it really was an awesome experience. After, we headed to lunch and came home and just enjoyed a day of rest (and Kal Ho Naa Ho). Good times.
This week we have language camp, which will be fun because some other friends will be in town with us. Then Saturday we hop on the plane and head down south!!! I'm going to miss the friends I've made here, but I'm excited about getting unpacked and settled in.
Alright, time for bed. I'm out!
[This pic is from last Sunday when I hung out with my friend Nicole and some of her friends from here--so random and wonderful that we got to meet up all the way across the world!]

Salwar Kameez: this is me in one the outfits I had made by the tailor. Well, the tailor made the shirt and I borrowed a shawl to wear as a dupta (scarf) until I get one I like. The pants are actually scrub pants, which are WAY better than the traditional ones (dubbed "hammer pants" for their flaring style..). Anyway, these outfits are fun, although not so flattering on the hips... Posted by Picasa

For Sale: this statue/idol was on display at the market we went to last night (that paper hanging under it is a for sale sign...) Posted by Picasa

Home sweet home! This bottle of Tabasco sauce (on our table at dinner last night) is also from Louisiana--it was made about 20 minutes from my house! Posted by Picasa

Hindi tori tori!
(this means, I know a little Hindi, which makes life an adventure every day!) So this weekend was quite an adventure���we were quite busy but had a fabulous time! Thanks to all of you who were lifting us up Saturday on our tour of the city���we really had a great day and had lots of opportunities to talk to people. Our first adventure of the day was getting dressed���since we were going to temples, we (by we I mean us girls) had to be dressed very conservatively, wearing the traditional Indian Salwar Kameez/Punjabi Suits. This was interesting because I haven���t found a suit yet���they don���t really make ready made stuff for big tall people! But, I���m getting some clothes made this week (which is very fun) and I did have one Indian shirt, so I wore that with my scrub pants and a dupta (scarf) that kind of matched (look at the pictures and judge for yourself!) Anyway, we started our tour at the Baha���i temple, which is shaped like a giant lotus blossom���very pretty. After the temple, we went to the crematory. Very interesting, seeing people prepare the bodies of their loved ones and then place them under huge stacks of wood and burn them. There was also a fountain nearby with water piped in from the Ganges river, since people believe that its water is holy. Our most interesting experience, however, was at the Jain temple. The Jain���s have a number of men throughout India that are naked monks. As in, they don���t ever where clothes. At all. So there���s one in here, and we got to sit and visit with him for about 45 minutes. We had a great conversation with him, although it was definitely funny that he was naked the whole time :) We headed to lunch next���south Indian food! I was very excited because we had LOTS of puri (little fried pieces of bread), which we made back home���soooo good! After lunch we went to a Sikh temple. This was interesting���everyone had to wear a head covering and as we walked into the temple, we saw the book that they worship under a little canopy. After we left the temple, we walked through an area where they were cooking food for all the worshipers, and I got to help roll out roti (flat bread, like a tortilla). Very cool. As you can imagine, this was a pretty long day���we ended up just driving past the Parliament building, and then made one last stop at the India Gate, which is a giant war memorial. This turned out to be my favorite stop of the day because as we approached the gate, this man ran up to me with a little basket and when he opened it up, a cobra popped his head up! I had to pay him 20 rupees (50 cents) to let me take a picture, but it was well worth it! Sunday evening I had another fabulous adventure���my friend Nicole from college has been in India the past 4 months, working on a research project for her master���s degree. She came back through here on her way back to Atlanta, so we got to hang out and have dinner Sunday night���such a wonderful way to end a great weekend!