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 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.