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 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!