Amy is coming to INDIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My best friend/Sister/and so much more is coming to my side of the world in September!!! My heart is bursting with JOY!!! I just ran in roommie's room and started shouting and now she's laughing at me :) But this is like, the coolest thing EVER! PTL!!!

Wow, talk about a good day!

Rang De Basanti!!!
I've said before that South Louisiana is known for its festivals, but this past week has proved once again that nothing can really compare to South Asia. This Wednesday was Holi, the Hindu festival of colors. People celebrate the triumph of good over evil (a common theme in festivals here), and they do it by first burning bonfires the night before the big day. Then on the actual day of Holi, all craziness breaks loose and everybody gets together to "play Holi." I knew this had something to do with colored dye and water, but it wasn't until Wednesday morning that I found out just how fun playing Holi can be. My roomie and I were a little nervous at first because we'd heard about that people will ambush you with water balloons and dye as you walk down the street. We cautiously left our flat that morning, wearing the oldest clothes we had, and watching as groups of people, already colored by the celebrations, eyed us on the road. We walked over to our friends' society (apartment complex) a little after 10 am and the maddness had already begun. People of all ages were running around in the big grassy area, throwing powdered dye of all colors on each other, while kids ran around squirting everyone with water guns. We hesitated at first, just taking a couple pictures of the maddness--then our friends appeared and promptly wiped color on our faces, dragging us into the
maddness. Before too long, we were throwing colors, splashing in the muddy water, and dancing to the loud Hindi music that was blaring around us. After a little over an hour of running around in the maddness, we took a break for a snack. By this time, most of the colors were gone, and it had turned into a giant mud fight, with a little dancing on the side. Within a few hours, everyone had headed home to get cleaned up, and the maddness of the morning was over. It was quite an adventure, and as my family would say, messy but good!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!
(If you're not from south Louisiana, that's Cajun French for, let the good times roll! Be warned: this post might not make a whole lot of sense to you...)
When I made my top 10 of favorite things here, one the things I was most excited about was being able to cook new foods. While I have learned to make roti and chaptis, 2 kinds of bread here, my favorite things are actually all the American foods I've finally had to just learn to make since my mom's not here to cook all that good stuff for me :) Anyway, yesterday's meal was by far my proudest cooking moment:

Yes, folks, that is real Cajun gumbo! (or as close as you can get here!). We made a roux (base for this soup-like dish), with a little trial and error, and then made a pretty decent chicken gumbo (terribly sad that there is no sausage here...). We also made potato salad (in the side of my bowl of gumbo, the best way to have it!) and my roomie even made homemade french bread. It was quite an awesome meal, even if it's warm here now (definitely not "gumbo weather"). I think the next thing we'll take on is King Cake...mmm...

Other additions to things that I LOVE here (thanks to K and others for suggestions):

-being able to have pretty much anything you could want delivered to your door with no delivery charge

-naan, roti, chapatis and all the other good food here

-crazy signs (in English or Hindi): ie, after all the bird flu scare, there are now signs up with pics of chicken that say "East or West, Chicken is Best!)

-riding on scooters

-Bollywood Movies...enough said

-crazy, noisy, wild, festivals, all the time

More to come as I think of them...:)

Top 10s, etc...
So today officially marks 7 months since my first full day here in South Asia--how wild is that! It's funny to me, because when I tried to imagine moving over here I never really thought I'd make it this far. Seriously...I was sure I'd go nuts or something, but it's been seven crazy and wild and fun and hard and packed months, and so far I'm having a pretty good time, overall.
Several friends have posted their Top 10s lately, things they miss from home, so since I've been thinking about it, I'm going to put mine out (This is, of course, aside from family, friends, etc):

10. Sandwiches (with good lunch meat and bread and mayo and tomatoes and so on...sigh)
9. Clothes dyers (hang drying socks is just plain annoying)
8. the simplicity of being able to just pick up and drive somewhere without really having an agenda
7. shopping: specifically, wal-mart, old navy, and not being constantly followed around the store like a shop-lifter!
6. being able to enjoy sitting outside, esp. in my parents' back yard (no weird sounds, animals, or people staring at you)
5. diet Dr Pepper, Diet Cherry Coke, Skittles and all the other random little things you can't get here
4. my little one cup coffee pot, and Community Coffee
3. not having a "typical" schedule (this is fun for a while, but its wearing on me lately)
2. wearing shorts (I rarely even wear them in my house here because you never know when the doorbell is going to ring)
1. my neighborhood and my house, and being able to just walk down the street to my parents' house or my sister's house

But now I must go on and make another list: my Top 10 favorite things about being here:

10. All the new friends I've made, both here in our city and all around the country
9. I have better internet in my apt. here than I ever have at home before (go figure!)
8. all the funny ways people speak English here ("You are looking good today only!")
7. going to the movies, getting popcorn and a Coke, all for less than $5!
6. dancing and music here--so lively and fun
5. having clothes made (this can be a hassle, but it's so fun when it works out well)
4. random animals that roam the streets, esp. the herd of cows that go back and forth down our road (making pit stops at the dumpsters...). oh, and riding elephants, camels, and even a water buffalo!
3. learning to cook all sorts of things i probably should have already known how to cook :)
2. frozen coffee at Cafe Coffee Day = $1....nice
1. traveling: in the car with a driver, on a plane, in a train, in a rickshaw, or even by animal! (this sounds like a Dr. Seuss book!)

A few things I noticed in making these lists: 1, they're not in order really, because that would just take too long, 2, these are my top 10s today (meaning it's subject to change) and 3, the second list was a lot easier to make than the first...hmmm...

And you thought American Idol was exciting...
We don't watch TV much, mainly because we don't have time and still don't understand most of what's going on. Oh, and there's really not much on that's better than some glorified soap opera/drama. But occasionally something truly exciting comes along: Indian Idol
There is no question as to whether or not this show was totally copied from the American version (which I've heard is a copy of a similar British show). It's the same music, same logo, same set--even the judges are versions of Paula, Randy, and Simon (the middle 3):

They even try to dress and act like them...too much! The finals are going on, so you know it's getting exciting. Here are some more fun pics:

ooh, guess she didn't do so well...

but look who's up next!

you know you want to votefor Sandeep. just go ahead and send that sms (text message)

All in a Day's Work...or something like that...
Sometimes people ask me what I do everyday, and I have a hard time answering because everyday here is so different. I'm not a schedule freak, but having NO schedule whatsoever can get a little crazy sometimes. But it also makes for random adventures and good stories. Today is a perfect example of this:
11:00ish am Typical Saturday--I slept in, leaving my door locked so our helper wouldn't wake me up (having dusty floors is a small price to pay for sleeping in!)
12:30 pm Someone finally comes to change out the filter on our AquaGuard water filter. I think it was supposed to be done a couple months ago, but we haven't gotten sick yet (maybe we've been slowly building up a tolerance...). Anyway, he can't speak any English, and we don't know how to say 'change the filter' in Hindi, so this is a bit of a problem. We finally show him the way expired contract and he proceeds to change the filter and add some carbon powder stuff to the device (we stayed in my roomie's bedroom and just peeked out every once in a while).
2:00 pm Cleaning my room and watching ALIAS
4:00 pm Head over to the pool at the gym to meet some of our friends for swimming. It's a little chilly and the pool is in the shade, but we have a good time anyway.
7:00 pm Order dinner from Foodies 'cause we have no food in the house.
8:00 pm Food arrives, and we have only big bills and the guy has no change, so we scramble around to pay for it. The food is ok, but not incredibly exciting, so we bag up the leftovers to give away when we go out.
8:30 pm Leave to head to our landlord's new house for the blessing of the home. We stop along the way to buy them a house warming gift and this is where the real adventure begins: as we're about to enter the store, roomie points out that this crazy man we met before is right outside the store. This is not good, because he freaked us out the last time we met him, and so we duck into the Coffee Day next to the store and try to figure out what to do. Of course, we order coffee while we wait.
This was one of those moments when I think I must watch ALIAS too much. We hid out for a while, trying to keep an eye on our subject. He starts approaching Coffee Day, and we try our best to hide, but this doesn't work well when you're the only 2 white people in the room! He ends up sitting outside and so we continue to drink our coffee and strategize. We're just about to try to sneak out when he gets up and heads for the store, which is where we need to go. After waiting a bit longer, roomie heads inside to buy the present while I watch from outside and keep her posted on coms (I mean, cell phone) as to when she's clear to check out.
9:00 pm We finally hop in a rickshaw and head toward our landlord's house. We're a little concerned because 1. the rickshaw is struggling and we have to go up several hills and 2. the blessing was supposed to be around 8 pm and it's pretty late. However, we finally make it, and other people are still arriving as well.
9:30 pm The priest blesses the house and we have a tour and eat some more food (should have known not to eat dinner!)
10:30 pm After lots of visiting, some of our neighbors offer to give us a ride home
1:30 am And now, here I am, blogging 'cause I had coffee and I'm wide awake. :)

3 Random Stories
1. Earlier this week there was a fire near our house. There's a big field near our house and my roomie noticed that a big patch of it near the road had caught fire. The funny thing was that we seemed to be the only people that noticed, because everyone else just kept driving by. The fire kept growing, and finally a man appears with 2 buckets of water. He nonchalantly walks across the street and proceeds to put out the fire, just like this sort of thing happens every day. Random.
2. On Friday we went to see a movie with some friends. They asked if one of their friends could come, and we said sure. Then we found out it was a guy. Not that I have anything against guys, but all too often, they end up wanting to get our numbers and calling or messaging us and so on, even if we've made it clear we're not interested. Fortunately, that was not this fellow's agenda--he actually was interested in selling us something! After the movie, we sat down to eat, and when I asked him about his job, he pulled out a brochure for a company that sells all aloe vera products. He spent the next 1/2 hour trying to get us to join the company. At one point, he even pulled a bottle of honey out of his briefcase and had us taste it to prove how good the products were.
3. Last Sunday several of our friends came over to hang out and have pancakes with us. We had a really good time and we said goodbye to several of our friends right about 4:30 pm. They hopped into the elevator and right as they did, the power went out! I just about died laughing when I realized they were stuck in between the ground and first floors. The watchman at our building finally appeared and rescued them. Quite an adventure.