A Vacation Within a Vacation Within a Wedding

Some of you may have been wondering where on Earth I disappeared to, some of you not. Well, I was in the US for a while and was a bit busy and then I was was in India just be lazy I suppose. BUT, I am back. What was I so busy with you ask? Well, in the true nature of myself I decided that just taking a little trip to the US was not enough of a stressor so I piled it on.

With Sanjay’s visa finally in hand we were ready to hit the US and have the long awaited US wedding. It being his first time in the US I of course wanted to make sure he saw as much of the awesomeness that the NW could provide, throw in a mini honeymoon pre-wedding and of course plan and HAVE an actual wedding. No problem right??

We certainly did hit the ground running. There were vendors to meet and plan with, friends to get in touch with, and a welcome home party to arrange. While all that was going on, we were also trying to plan our trip to Disneyland that we would take just a week after getting into town.

Just a sample of the first week…..

Had the welcome home party for only about 50 of our close personal friends and family. Sanjay got the chance to reconnect with an old school friend who lives in Vancouver BC who he had not seen for 30 years.

Catching up with old friends at the welcome home party.

Catching up with old friends at the welcome home party.

Then the beach happened with the family and Dipesh and his family.

Sand, so much sand.

Sand, so much sand.

Lots of shopping to be done to get required items for various happenings, and vendors nailed down then off to Disneyland!

Cause it IS the happiest place on earth, even for people who have no idea who most of the Disney characters are.

Cause it IS the happiest place on earth, even for people who have no idea who most of the Disney characters are.

When we got back we again had more than enough wedding crap to get out of the way. I felt a bit bad when Sanjay mentioned that for the most part he had seen every store in the US already and some of them more than a few times. This of course could not be helped but still. So a trip to Mount St. Helens was in order to get out of the wedding vibe for a little while.

St. Helens goes boom!

St. Helens goes boom!

Sanjay did see enough of Portland for scary things to start happening…

Crap, he may have gone hipster on me.

Crap, he may have gone hipster on me.

But the big day was getting all closer and it was time to get it all finished off.

The wedding elves making red velvet whoopie pies for the wedding.

The wedding elves making red velvet whoopie pies for the wedding.


With only a month to really prep, shall I suggest that DIY is not the smartest way to go?

With only a month to really prep, shall I suggest that DIY is not the smartest way to go?


Benefit of DIY, you get to huff about 15 cans of gold spray paint. The day was tiring but smooooooth.

There was a small bachelor party and a henna party and then the big day was here! Boom!

Getting my ladies lovely for the big day!

Getting my ladies lovely for the big day!


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Awwwwwwww

Awwwwwwww


Cause we didn't get all dressed up for nothing!

Cause we didn’t get all dressed up for nothing!


Of course I wowed the guests by not falling on my rump while doing a bit of Kathak for them all.

Of course I wowed the guests by not falling on my rump while doing a bit of Kathak for them all.


Oh the dancing happened with the world's best DJ!

Oh the dancing happened with the world’s best DJ!


Cause I was told that you HAVE to have a cake, not just whoopie pies.

Cause I was told that you HAVE to have a cake, not just whoopie pies.


Sparkly!

Sparkly!

The day before we left, we had just one place left to visit, the Gorge!

Love a trip up the Gorge to see the falls!

Love a trip up the Gorge to see the falls!

A month was not nearly enough time to fit in everything I wanted to. So many places and even people left unseen. Not enough time to really get a chance to catch up with everyone we did see! Sanjay got to experience so many firsts. His first time drinking out of water fountain, his first pulled pork sandwich (and far too many other foods to list), seeing not only Dipesh and his family but another long lost friend while in LA, seeing what traffic can look like when people actually follow the rules, no push lines and prices that almost stopped his heart. He did however fall in love with the US and everyone he met and I can’t be grateful enough to everyone for the kindness and love they showed him.

Next time we go, we will get to take it a bit slower, see more that should be seen and get the chance to actually sit down with people and have a conversation that is longer than a few sentences long. And we will go back, his addiction to pulled pork will require it!

What does the future hold.....

What does the future hold…..

As for Indian adventures, oh they are coming my good people. They are coming!

It Is a Bit Like Fourth Meal

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So in the US we have fourth meal, here in India it is fifth season. MONSOON!!!!!!

Personally I love it. It reminds me of home. Portland is not exactly known for its blue skies and warm temperatures. We love the rain, live in the rain and I suspect there are many of us with webbed toes. What makes monsoon even better is that although the rain is cold, the air is hot so you can go and play in it and not spend the next hour getting your teeth to stop chattering.

The month leading up to monsoon is the worst. And I mean that. So hot and sticky. You can feel the air on your skin and just blinking can make sweat roll down your face. The first real rain is so anticipated that when it finally comes there is an avalanche of happy monsoon texts on your phone. And it is everything it promises to be. The air clears, even if just for a few hours, the world is livable again. I had a great time running about on the terrace and watching the neighborhood kids run out and play (in as little clothing as possible) in it.

Monsoon in India is considered a very romantic time. Almost every Bollywood film has at least one scene with the hero and heroine dancing and singing to each other in the rain, songs and poems in abundance are written about monsoon.

Funny enough, when the rain comes down, most people just head for cover. I have not seen one single couple doing a beautiful song and dance in the rain yet! The streets really just clear out. Vendor head for doorway or tree, motorcycles pull over where ever they can and NO ONE goes out. Perhaps that is the really romantic part of it. Stuck in the house and can’t leave? Why not have a little one on one time with the spouse?

But like I said, I am a pacific NW girl and I have no problems going out in the downpour and enjoying the sweet relief.

Yep, that is my laundry hanging out there no longer drying.....

Yep, that is my laundry hanging out there no longer drying…..

How Do You Know It Is Time To Visit The Motherland?

Such a pretty city

Such a pretty city

Travelling home is not a cheap adventure. After being in India for some time now I have grown accustom to the cheap ass prices. The thought of buying ANYTHING in the US drains my bank account. There are times however when a trip home is called for. So how do you know when it is well worth the poverty it will cause to get on a plane and go back to the Motherland?

Well, homesickness is an on again off again affair. I often long for some American food. Unlike my expat counter parts in some other countries, India just does not do international food. There is always some Indian twist to whatever they make. An ingredient added here, one missing there and your club sandwich stops looking so club like.

It is fortunate that I have a trip home coming up. The big US wedding is so close and in just under a month I will be back in the land of hipsters and food carts that won’t keep you in your bathroom for a week. (In case you were wondering where have been, planning a wedding in the US from India is just not a fun process.)

Last night I had a dream that screams “go home now”. Yes it was about food and I will share it with you even though I am a bit embarrassed to admit parts of it.

So it was evening and there was a vague feeling that I was suppose to be out and about doing pre-wedding crap. I was in some bizarre combination of my mother’s house and my apartment here in India and I was freaking out. Not about wedding crap but because the desire was so strong to eat a cheeseburger I could not keep my shit together. I needed my sister to come to take me to of all places McDonald’s. Where was she? What if Sanjay came back too soon and I couldn’t get my fix? I was tearing through my wallet trying to decide if they would take my rupees and how many I would need if they did. Could I get two? Where is that bitch?

Then as if by magic there was a bag with two cheeseburgers in it. They were old, cold and questionable. Just as I was desperately unwrapping the first one Sanjay was back and knocking on the door to be let in. I ducked behind a chair clutching the illicit cold beef and began cramming them in my mouth as fast as I could.

Then I woke up.

Really? McDonald’s? I come from the capital of Foodies. Portland is well know for the quality and range of food and goodness we possess. I couldn’t even in a dream come up with a better cheeseburger than McDonald’s? For the love of god it is time to go home and remind myself of what good food is. Thai, Moroccan, Chinese, Mexican, Cuban….. I will travel the world of food all in one lovely city.

And I better get my fill (as well as fill my suitcase) because this will be last trip home probably for several years. What is 20 more pounds when you have a smile on your face and a big bacon cheeseburger in your fist?

Hey Hey Now, Play Nice

Did you ever play sports as a kid and win or lose you got in a line with your team and did the “good game” hand slapping? ¬†Looked a lot like this,

 

Okay, some slapped harder than others but still

Okay, some slapped harder than others but still

What was the point of it? To teach you to be both a good loser and a good winner that’s what. Here in UP, it appears that some people did not play in little league or get taught this lesson by mama.

So remember not long ago I posted about the latest Indian election and how cool I thought it was that everything went off with out any nastiness? Well I spoke too soon my friends. You would think I had learned my lesson about that here in India because they seem to take that as a challenge.

For the last year or so we have been enjoying a surprisingly small number of power cuts here in Agra. Even when they did happen they were short in duration, maybe only an hour or two and then all was good again. Sanjay and friends kept saying “just wait, it is an election year, it will change if they don’t win again”. I of course thinking that there is no way that anyone would get away with something like purposeful power cuts shrugged it off.

Put it in your calendars people, I was WRONG.

Just after the election when the bicycle party found out they had lost any power in the Parliament they had a loser temper tantrum and the power cuts began.

Or shut the power off, same difference when it is over 100 degrees out.

Or shut the power off, same difference when it is over 100 degrees out.

Villages here in UP are seeing 12 hours or more of no power a day and towns and cities are feeling the hurt as well. In the last 24 hours alone we have only had power for about 12 of them. The current cut is coming up on its 6th hour as I write this and my battery backup is slowly dying.

Of course the SP party is saying that none of this is deliberate, there is a power crisis in the state, it is the central governments fault but I smell a fart in the air. Interesting that this crisis comes exactly the day after you lose the elections. When villagers go to complain to their local government officials about the lack of power they are told to go and complain to the people they voted for, not to them. These are people STILL IN OFFICE.

I am shocked that government officials can lash out at their people in this way simply because their party lost an election. Instead of looking at why they lost and working to gain back the trust of the people before the next local election so they don’t lose more seats, they punish and bully people. Vote for us next time or it will be worse.

There are protests all over UP because of the power cuts and to throw on the fire there has been another gang rape and murder of two village girls. Both girls were found hanging from trees in the middle of the village. It is believed that local cops were involved in it as well. People in UP are tired of being abused and ignored. Please, keep the protests peaceful people of UP. Rioting will not solve the problem, only cause more injury and death and pain. I hope the central government takes notice and does something to intervene here but I won’t count on it.

Meanwhile, I will sit here melting in my apartment waiting for the beep of my new air conditioner to tell me that the power is back and just pray that the inverter holds out until that moment comes.

You Pray Your Way, I Will Pray My Way

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All over the world people have chosen how to pray to “god”. Some bow to Mecca 5 times a day, some on Fridays, some on Sundays, some just taking a walk through nature, and Hindu’s seem to do it as often as they pass a temple.

Although I am not a religious person (and really only boarder on the idea of spiritual) I don’t really care which god you pray to and how you do it or if you don’t do it at all. What ever brings you peace of mind and a sense of purpose in this world is just fine by me. Each person has to find the water that will float their own boat you might say. Just do the rest of the world a favor and stay away from the fanatic crap, no one likes that.

Many people travel to India for the sole purpose of finding some kind of spiritual enlightenment. Some find it and others don’t. I myself did not even consider finding any type of spiritual anything here. I certainly was not looking for it but India, as it always does, gives you gifts you never expected.

This morning I experienced an event that brought me inner peace and bliss as I have never before experienced it. So if you are looking for me, you fill find me from here on out sitting on the edge of my bed, my eyes closed, my head tilted up to my new alter with a look of pure peace and bliss praying to my new god.

MY NEW AIR CONDITIONER!!!

MY NEW AIR CONDITIONER!!!

What, you thought I had actually gone through a religious conversion? Hey, you pray your way and I will pray mine.

My First Major Indian Election

A marked finger means "Yes, I voted!"

A marked finger means “Yes, I voted!”

I just experienced my very first nation wide Indian election and can I say WOW! For the past two months it has been nothing but political smack talk everywhere. I have to say that on election day, I was a little worried about how people might handle themselves but India has once again defied my expectations and all was nice and calm.

I will give a little background for those of my peeps in the US that are not familiar with the Indian system of democracy. Like India, this is such a big topic with lots of little bits but I will try to break it down best I can.

They, like us, have two really big national parties; the BJP (lotus flower) and Congress. But to add to that there are at least a hundred smaller national parties and regional parties. If you have a belief, there is a party to match. When I talk about politics I usually only talk about the ones I know and the ones in my area that are players. Those are BJP, Congress, AAP (newest on the scene) and the bicycle party (I think SP?). I call them the bicycle party because that is the symbol for their party.

When there are major nationwide elections for the Prime Minister and Parliament you do not vote for an actual person! When you cast your vote, you are voting for a party and the party then decides who will fill that seat. Some things are a given. If a person who holds that seat already is up for election again, he will more than likely be in that seat again if the party wins. Parliament seats are generally not a question of who. The parties tend to say who is running for that seat. When it comes to the PM however…..that is a different game.

Imagine it was 2008 again and neither the democrats or the republicans told you who would be president. You just votes one way or the other and afterwards THEY would decide who got the office and let you know. Kind of an unsettling idea isn’t it. That is how it works here. There are no rules saying that a party can not announce in advance who they plan to give the top job to but they don’t have to if they don’t want to.

The news coverage here during campaign time is about what you get in the US. News networks bringing on experts or representatives from different parties to answer questions and speculate and throw out allegations. The fun part is that because there are so many parties, there can be as many as 10 people on the show from different parties at the same time and NO ONE stops speaking. It is like watching Jerry Springer except no chair throwing. Moderator asks a question and everyone starts talking getting louder and louder trying to shout down all the others speaking.

Okay so kind of like the US but louder and more crowded, just like India.

Now we will jump to the idea of India as a nation. From the first time I came here I noticed that Indians are not Indian first. They are Bengali or Punjabi, Hindu or Muslim, one caste or another, all before they are Indian. With so many different languages and cultural differences between the states there is more a feeling of many small countries lumped together that other people call India for convenience. This is why there are so many small regional parties. Each party to cater to the state or region they are active in.

Is this really a problem? Well yes and no. If India operated based on many countries then it would be fine but they don’t. They are set up as a large democracy with a centralized government just like the US. Too much nationalism can be a problem but India suffers from not enough. It is my people, my state first and the nation comes in dead last. In past elections in order for any party to form a majority in Parliament they were forced to have coalitions with lots of other smaller parties. Even the two largest national parties had to team up with little guys to get the numbers. If India ever hopes to tackle nationwide issues like infrastructure, poverty, corruption and hunger the country needs to band together as one India to accomplish it.

So how did the election go down? Well, it was really cool actually. Different states and cities vote at different times over the course of what I think was one month. And boy did they turn out for this election! The percentage of voter turn out here makes the US look like lazy people. Everyone here has a political opinion and they all vote. Even those that can not read! They are given ballots with symbols so even their vote counts. After a decade of congress rule, scams and corruption India spoke as one with not so much a shout but a scream.

The BJP won the day. Why? Modi.

This guy!

This guy!


I call him the Obama of India due to his speaking style, progressive ideas and charisma. The BJP announced he was their PM candidate from almost the word go and he toured the country speaking non-stop. My favorite Modi campaign quote “toilets not temples”. This makes most foreigners laugh but I am telling you, India needs more public facilities. Walls are not toilets people.

The day of the vote count announcement came and India celebrated. The BJP did not just win, it crushed every other party. They don’t even NEED to pair up with other parties to have the majority. Indians decided they wanted a different direction for their country and voted to change their future. No riots, just dancing, fireworks and music. The best part? The party that has run the state I live in, also one of the most corrupt parties, was given their pink slip. The bicycle party rules no more! As with all elections there is new hope for better things to come. All politicians have their issues (they did go into politics after all) and every party has their bad apples but for now, I will live in the hope of better times for India.

I am proud of you India and I don’t mean that in a patronizing way. I really mean it. I have to say that I hope Americans take a look at how active the voters are in India and take a few notes. Get out and vote America! You have an election around the corner as well!

And for fun, The Daily Show has done a multi part segment on the Indian elections that will give some great info and make you laugh all at the same time. Indiana Jones and the Election of Doom. Check them out here http://thedailyshow.cc.com/.

The Saddest Place in Delhi

You probably think I am going to say it is a slum somewhere but it is not. The saddest place to stand in all of Delhi is just outside the US Embassy when visa applications are being decided.

They don't actually stamp anything YOU get. They just tell you no and give you no real explanation why.

They don’t actually stamp anything YOU get. They just tell you no and give you no real explanation why.

Sanjay and I just went for a second attempt at him getting a tourist visa to the US. We were both on edge because he had been denied the first time and I don’t know how either of us would handle it if they shot him down again. The fun part is, even though this is MY embassy, I am not allowed to enter with him. He has to go in on his own. Since this was the second time I had to stand outside in the waiting area I was more prepared for the emotion that would be going on around me. And believe you me, there is one of the most emotionally charged areas to have to hang out in ever.

As people straggle out of the building and look for their family or friends that are waiting to hear the news you don’t even have to have ESP to know the answer. A smile and a quick walk = approved and a slow walk with head down = denied. What breaks your heart is the amount of tears. Grown men, young women, old women, all crying over a denial. Some wanting to attend school, some with verified job offers, others wanting to visit their families, attend a wedding, a birth. Dreams all crushed with one word, denied.

They just say no, hand you a piece of paper and tell you that you can reapply at any time (and pay the $160 buck fee all over again not to mention bus tickets and hotel costs). What is on the paper you ask? A list of about 7 reasons your visa MAY have been denied. It is not specific to you and they don’t bother to point out the one that got you denied. People leave just feeling rejected and don’t even really know what for.

This time, we were the lucky ones. Sanjay finally got his visa approved. I, of course, squealed like a little girl, clapped and may have even don’t a little spin. Looking back, I probably should have saved that for the auto ride back to the hotel. Seems a little like I was rubbing salt into another’s wound.

To all those rejected, please don’t hold it against us Americans. It is our government rejecting you, not us. Please reapply and go and visit the US, study, work hard. We like you, we really do!