Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Indian Night Life July 14, 2008

Before we left home, an American Indian friend of ours advised us to immerse ourselves in everything that was India—to soak, to saturate ourselves in the culture. This, I believe, we have done with abandon.

After recovering from our sickness the first week we were able to go to a down-town restaurant that served Indian, Italian and Chinese, on consecutive floors. The combination was lovely: hot and sour soup and kabobs as a starter, pasta and aloo mutter masala (potato and peas dish) for dinner, and crème brulee and a very sweet dumpling and gravy Indian dish for desert.

Our first really special outing was attending the opening of one of Jon’s employee’s family’s bakery (if you can follow that). It was the first time that Anna and I wore sarees. As Sheetal draped us in yards of fabric and adorned us with some of her most precious jewels we felt like the crowns of creation that we were meant to be.

The bakery, also, was draped in colorful designed fabric—a taste of what it may have been like to enter the tabernacle, with its woven pomegranate canopies.

Jon got to cut the inauguration cake and afterward we went to an ice-cream parlor and got baloons.
This last Saturday was very fun. After visiting a book store called Crossword (their version of B&N) we went to a splendid Gujarati restaurant (our favorite style of Indian food), where they serve you dozens of little dishes, unlimited, all you can eat.

Afterward the maitre d’ took as back to see the kitchen (this is Anna's first Punjabi dress).

After dinner we went to the lake,
There, the children finally had one of their fondest wishes granted. They got to ride a camel!

They also got to ride a horse, and Jett actually enjoyed this the best, because he got to be “prince Daniel” on his mighty steed.

After much strategizing and reconsideration, Anna and I got up the courage to take a camel ride ourselves :). It was quite an adventure.

We weren’t quite sure how we would mount gentle beast, since standing up and sitting down was dangerous for both the camel…and the riders. But the gentleman who owned the magnificent creature was kind enough to help me up, and Jon helped Anna.
Its hard to look glamorous posing for picture while the camel is unexpectedly turning :).

Two men led us down the street, and I kept leaning to the left because it felt kind-of like we were going to fall off. One guy started to sing to us in English—it was rather funny. Other things weren’t so funny, like the guy who came up and tried to convince our lead to give him the camel rope. We were happy to be with Jon and Vijay afterward. Our butts hurt the next day, but it was totally worth it! :)

Last night, Vijay and Sheetal took us to a family birthday party for a five-year-old cousin. For India, it was a rather small party, with only about 100 guests, dinner and desert catering and great music. The really big birthday parties, like the first birthday of an oldest son, would have about 500 guests. The children played with balloons and ate ice-cream and the adults sat, caught up, and laughed. The young adults hung out in groups and I got to meet several people my own age, which was nice. We wore sarees for a second time, and Anna got to wear her very own, black and turquoise saree, which was just finished at the tailor that day and is absolutely breathtaking.

I stayed a bit later with Vijay and Sheetal, and afterward we all went to Café Coffee Day (Their version of Starbucks) for some drinks, and they told me a bit more about their love story—it is perfectly charming.
Next time…On Nagpur Sojourners! More about the wonderful couple who has cared for us so well here in India.

Living In Nagpur July 5, 2008

Daily life in Nagpur is a bit of an adventure. Unlike the US, things we take for granted are much more variable. A week after we got here, the city started up government issued power cuts, to conserve energy for the city. They start at about 7am and end at 10am, just in time for the air conditioners to come back on before it gets too hot. I usually sleep through them, but Anna and the children do non-electronic activities for a couple hours :). We have a generator, which provides us with smaller lights and fans during these hours, but the television, the microwave, hot water (unless we boil it—which we don’t), the telephone and the computer are unavailable, so food preparation and entertainment are limited until 10. Tonight it was raining when the power went off unexpectedly. Anna and I weren’t sure what the night would look like. Luckily it was just a minor problem and the power returned in about 5 minutes. One never knows :).

As you can see, many of our daily routines and activities are affected by our situation here—its not bad, for sure, its just…well of course, different. In all honesty I find many of these differences extremely fun. For the first week or so here I felt like I was actually living my life long dream of playing “Desert Island,” grown-up style (my Beachmont friends and darling children will know what I’m talking about). Most things are make-shift, or more do-it-yourself. Here are some pictures of me learning how to do laundry the classic Indian way:

We bring the clothes into the bathroom, which also serves as one big shower, soap them down, rinse them, wring them and hang them. Every muscle in my body was trembling by the end of a 40 minute-long load. Now (by God’s wonderful grace) we have a washing machine. But we still hang the laundry. Ironing is also necessary, to fry any pesky parasites that might have made their nests in the fabric while it was drying.

Taking a “bath” is also a transformed process. Instead of the constant water flow from a faucet, like we have for showers in America, Indians conserve their precious water by filling a bucket, and using a large cup to soak and rinse themselves. Anna has a great time giving the children “bucket baths.” :)
As you can see, its just more fun this way :).

Cooking has been quite an ordeal over the last month. Pleasantly we have finally learned enough to begin cooking Indian style: with pressure cookers, spice tins, masalas, rolling pins, and the gas flame, which some things are cooked directly over. Indian chai (tea) is one of our favorite treats.

Next time on Nagpur sojourners: Experiencing the Nagpur night life--Our social adventures!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Using Our Imaginations

One of Anna’s favorite things about being in India has been watching Necessity act as the mother of invention. The children, stripped of their usual environment and toys-r-us, have had their imaginations unleashed to create and invent to their hearts’ content. Some of their recent games have included making a toy city under the table:

Creating a tent over their beds with the cloths rack:
And painting and drawing. Anna is particularly gifted in the visual arts, and has generously endowed them with water color pencils, color changing markers, roller stamp markers, coloring books and paints, which they utilize far better than I ever could. Their artwork is scattered about the house, bringing appropriate color to an Indian home. Jett isn’t as original as Rayne, but he finds great joy in asking any adult around to draw Spider man and the Green Goblin, over and over and over…probably a dozen times in a day, for him to color.

One day in the first week, we were able to go out to the market, where we found a beautiful sari dress for Rayne and a Spiderman costume for Jett.

They pretend to be the princess and the hero to no end. Jett is especially in love with his sword.

I have successfully taught the children to say “Its hot in Topeka,” randomly, just for fun. The phrase, from Fosters Home For Imaginary Friends, has at least half-a-million uses. For example, Jett has modified the verb to become a basic pronoun: “Stop it peeko!” and also as a ulternomen for our location: “you don’t want to go to the park today, you know why? Because its hot in Topeka today, it is.”

I would also like to mention, for my sister’s sake particularly, that we have watched “The Land Before Time” almost every day for two weeks :). I’m sure you’re jealous.

One of my favorite parts of this trip has been my reading time with the children. During our layover in Newark I was able to scrounge a copy of “Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” from a miniature Borders between the gates (thank God for Borders!). Although Rayne is five, a year younger than I was when my father first read the books to me, and Jett only three, they have both amazingly enjoyed the story. Rayne listens intently and picks up on new words, and Jett, although unable to understand the general prose, listens patiently and stays very engaged with the general plot, always one step ahead of Lewis in his predictions: Me—“Oh my goodness, what do you think Edmund is going to do?” Jett—“He’d going to do to the witches house!”; Me—“who do you think is going to save Mr. Tumnus?” Jett: “The Lion!”

These stories also seem to have taken on a very personal significance to Jett during our time here. He plays pretend and tells stories all day about being a prince, or Peter, with his sword, who goes to the witches house and kills her and breaks her wand and saves Rayne. He talks about how God is strong like a lion and how God is a warrior with a sword, much stronger than the witch, and how he wants to fight with God. Its really cool.

Next time on Nagpur Sojourners: bath time, buckets and bubbles: what it takes to run an Indian household!