Retreat, part 2
This weekend we attended a retreat for international students and had a great time. There were about 40 people there from 17 countries, mostly in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. We spent the weekend playing games, getting to know one another, sharing about our cultures and experiences here in South Asia, exploring the area around us, and just having a good time. Here are some highlights from the weekend:

  • Hearing so many different languages spoken all around me and listening to students share about their home countries.
  • Travel...We took two trains, and then all piled into the back of trucks to get to the place we were staying. I counted at least 30 people in the back of the bigger truck!
  • Nature tour: the place we stayed is kind of like a farm and hosts groups for agro tourism. We got to see all sorts of plants and animals, and it was GREAT to be out of the city for a few days!
  • Gooooood food! We had chipatis (like wheat tortillas) and great vegetables at every meal....mmmm!
  • *Swimming in the river and just having fun outside.
  • Cultural night--students shared about their countries and performed songs and dances.
  • *Making new friends and laughing about all of our various perceptions of this country!
  • *But best of all...I RODE A WATER BUFFALO!!! Camels and elephants are fun, but wading into the water and trying to jump onto the back of a fiesty water buffalo was just awesome!

Retreat...part 1
So this past weekend was our first of 2 retreats that we've been invited to attend. Neither my roommate nor I really knew what to expect, but we were excited about going somewhere new and getting to hang out with students for a weekend. We ended up having a really cool time and met a lot of fun new people. Here are some highlights from the weekend:

  • Treasure Hunt--running around like crazy, finding clues, and eventually the "treasure" (candy)

playing guitar and singing--these students LOVED American rock songs, from Elvis to Extreme to Pearl Jam and Oasis

  • Rice, rice and MORE rice--I thought people in Louisiana ate a lot of rice, but they can't hold a candle to people here in South Asia! I'm glad I like it because we ate rice as the main part of every meal
  • teaching a session and learning from others--we had fun teaching a session on purpose and what why we are here on earth, and it was also interesting to learn more about student culture through our discussions in the other sessions
  • Dance party! Students here love music, and especially dancing. We danced to "jive music"--kind of like swing dancing--and then hip hop (and yes, this picture is of everybody doing the "cabbage patch"!!!). The funniest thing, though, was watching everybody dance to "Achy Breaky Heart." I tried to explain that this song is now really a joke in the US, but no one understood why...

Overall, the weekend was great, and I'm excited about going on another retreat and making more friends this coming weekend :)

Last Wednesday we were invited to a festival by our Muslim friends. We've hung out with them before during other festivals, but this one was like nothing I've ever seen. In fact, "festival" would not be the way I'd describe it, because it was a very dark and mournful event.
Mohorram is a time where Muslims mourn the death of Husain, the grandson of Muhammad. Everyone wore black that night, and all the women had their heads covered. The men began marching in a large group, chanting and hitting their chests with their fists. After about half an hour of this, the now large group that was gathered there moved and encircled about 15-20 men. These men took of their shirts and began beating themselves with chains and blades. They chanted Husain's name, and my friend told me they were doing this to remember his suffering and death, which happend about 1400 years ago.
Because it was fairly graphic, I'm not going to put up a lot of pictures, but you can kind of get an idea of what was going on from these. It wasn't an easy experience, but I'm glad we got a deeper glimpse into culture here...

Angles, anyone?
This post is dedicated to my mom and dad, because I know they will both get a kick out of the topic :)
I decided to rearrange my room the other day, so I scooted my bed around and put it at an angle. Why, you might ask? It all started a few years ago when my mom redecorated our house, and suddenly everything was at an angle...couches, rugs, even the pool table wasn't safe. My mom loved it, my dad thought it was a little wacky...At first I didn't know what to think about the new feel of our house, but something about this strange technique grew on me and when I moved into my own house, I put my bed at an angle.
Adjusting my room this time was a little more of a challenge, because my room is much smaller than before and with my desk, a lot is packed in. However, as soon as I made the move, I knew it was the right choice. My room, while it may look funny to some, seems so much more at home. And it makes me smile to think of mom and dad and the angle debate.
A funny side note: when our cleaning lady came in the next morning, she had no category for this strange set up and asked me if I wanted her to help me push my bed back. I just laughed and tried to explain that I was redecorating. I think this pretty much just confirms for her that we Americans are pretty strange...

Ah, packages...what a wonderful thing! I could do several posts just talking about the insanity of the postal system here, but this one is dedicated to packages and all the wonderful people who have sent them. THANK YOU!!! I cannot tell you how fun it is to hear the doorbell ring and find the mailman there with a fun package from the US, like this most recent one I'm opening in the picture. So thank you to all you wonderful family and friends who have sent something (and this also includes letters, cards, etc--these are also quite fun!).
Typically, when we get mail here, the mail man drops it off in the afternoon. Sometimes, when we've been out, we'll return and find a slip say he stopped by and that we need to go to the post office to get our package. This is always an adventure, because, as I said before, the post office/postal system are deserving of a post (haha) of their own.
The thing that's frustrating about mail is that people like to open things and see what's in your package. Most of the things we get come resealed and some have been slightly damaged, but so far nothing has been stolen. I have friends who've had their granola bars opened, half-eaten, and stuck back in the package--crazy! Makes me really appreciate the US postal service. The funniest thing, however, happened last week. My roommate got a package from her mom that had all sorts of fun stuff in it, and, randomly, a glass paper weight. It was pretty beat up and we were really surprised that her mom and tried to send something so heavy and breakable. Well, it turns out that her mom didn't send it! When the package got opened at the post office, they must of had a mix up and put this random paperweight in with her stuff! Crazy...

Eating Overseas... (Part 1)
Food here is all too often more an adventure than just something needed for survival. Most of the food I've had here has been excellent, whether it was out at a restaurant or served at someone's home. Honestly, the only time I got sick after eating something was the night that I cooked! [fortunately, I was the only who got sick, so I choose to believe it was a virus, not the food :)]
Anyway, food is a fun topic, and makes for some great pictures: first off, this is NOT food. At least not in this area of the world...that's why they're allowed to roam free and basically rule the roads here. This picture to the right was taken on the street right outside our apartment building.
The next picture is of my favorite food here: Subway! It may seem crazy, but this is about the only way to get a good sandwich that's not PB & J or grilled cheese. My roommate and I typically eat at Subway about once a week, and it's great because it's way cheaper than in the US and sooooo good...mmm...Subway, here I come...lettuce, ham and cheese, man; lettuce ham and cheese sandwiches... Also, notice the chips: American Cream and Onion Style and Spanish Tomato...yummy!
Finally, a funny and slightly disturbing food picture. For the faint at heart (and you know who you are...), don't look at the next 2 pictures! These were taken outside a restaurant where we had lunch one Sunday afternoon. And yes, we did still eat there, even after we saw this odd sight. As soon as they realized we'd seen it, they quickly brought the bags inside and had us sit down. And you know what, the chicken was great! Gotta love South Asia!
The restaurant...notice the bags in the bottom right corner.
A close up...mmm!
More updates to come as I encounter and eat more exciting and strange foods!

So this morning (Monday) at 4:30 am, about 25 Americans gathered at my friends' apartment to watch Super Bowl XL. My roomie and I spent Sunday night at their house so we could just wake up and watch the game, and everybody else came over at varying times throughout the morning. We attempted to be quiet for the neighbors' sake, but with more than 10 kids running around and the rest of us going between talking and cheering, there wasn't much hope for a peaceful morning.
Right before the Super Bowl, ESPN airs "The Road to the Super Bowl." I admit, I have no idea what this is about because I didn't get up at 3:30 am to watch it, but I will tell you about our own road to the Super Bowl here in South Asia:
Sometime within the past year, our city stopped having ESPN on the cable system. Since we're not in America, this means no Super Bowl. There are some restaurants in town with ESPN (they have dishes), but most of them are closed at 4:30 am, so we knew we had a problem. The first 2 ideas we thought of seemed like a long shot: rent a hotel room at a place that says they have ESPN and hope they actually do OR check someone into the hospital (where we know they have ESPN) and all pile into their room. We also asked a restaurant with a big screen TV if we could rend their facility, but that fell through as well.
Finally, my friend decided to attempt to get a satellite dish installed in time for us to watch the game at his house. This may seem like a simple solution, but nothing is ever simple here. The dish was installed quickly, but ESPN didn't start working until Saturday night at midnight! It was a close call, but fortunately it all worked out.
We had a great time this morning--hanging out, laughing, eating good food, catching up with people and enjoying a pretty good football game. I'll admit that I'm not the most knowledgeable football fan, but I enjoy a good game with good company, and I also think the Steelers quarterback, Big Ben, is really cute :) Overall, it was definitely worth getting up for. Hopefully I'll be able to stay away until a decent time this evening, watch the Super Bowl commercials I'm currently downloading (they don't play here during the game--we did see the halftime show, though), and then crash. Have a good one :)

just an ordinary day...
well, it seems that i survived the dreaded mfr...our monthly financial report for actually wasn't as bad as i'd feared (this is probably because i watched ALIAS almost the whole time i was working on it :) hey, whatever works...). anyway, i have my fingers crossed that all the receipts are right and that i got the exchange rates right for the 3 curriencies i had to work with...ugh...
on to more exciting things: it looks like we're going to get to watch the superbowl, live even, which is pretty exciting. i can't say i'm a huge football fan, but the superbowl is just one of those events that really screams crazy American culture. the added benefits will be making fun superbowl-esque food, hanging out with friends, and the adventure of watching the kickoff at 4:30 AM monday morning (5:00 pm back home).
what else? today my friend's sister is having a baby, and i'm quite excited for her about being an aunt again. she's quite good at it, and obviously excited as well. the funny thing is that her sister is only 6 months older than me and this is her 3rd kid...hello...not that i'm ready to have 3 kids...maybe someday :)
my roommate is in the other room watching Kal Ho Na Ho, one of our favorite Bollywood movies, for her language study. i probably should be studying since we start back to lessons next week, but i'm not quite motivated yet. i like the idea of learning and speaking another language, but i'm not big on the studying, or practicing, since most everyone here speaks English.
well, i guess that's enough rambling. i'm working on posting more, but hopefully without boring all my faithful readers to death :) it's time to get off this thing and get ready for bed before i get distracted and stay up too late again...night!