Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick or treat: Creamy plastic?

It’s been a very long time since I’ve updated this blog so sorry about that!  I’ve been meaning to update, but I’m just now getting to it really.  And Happy Halloween, by the way!  Not that Halloween is really celebrated here, except by the expat community!

Anyway, I went back to the United States for about a week this month and I’m just starting to recover from a number of things.  But my friend Lum got married and I was a bridesmaid!  :) 

First stop was NYC to see Rae.  It was fun, except it was sad that it rained all three days.  Lamesauce.  But I ate at Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant Red Rooster and it was so yummy.  Biscuits and gravy have never tasted so good.  Also, I went to Blue Smoke (BBQ joint) on my birthday and I wish the meal never ended.   For real.  Also, I cooked some really tasty jambalaya.  Oh, if I only had all of the ingredients here and a big pot...

Jambalaya - jealous?
Biscuits and gravy (half-eaten) from Red Rooster

Bachelorette party was after my birthday in New Orleans! Rehearsal for the wedding, rehearsal dinner and then the wedding.  I wasn’t even getting married, but I felt pressure having to walk down the isle first.  Haha.  Congratulations Lum and Godwin!

And after the wedding madness, a day of rest / chilling.  I loved chilling New Orleans, way too much.  I’m still not over it, despite being back in Hyderabad… Oops.

Anyway, my dad gave me a banana that made it successful on the flight from New Orleans, layover in Chicago, stop in Delhi and to Hyderabad.  I hadn’t even made an attempt to eat it until at least a day of being in Hyderabad once I remembered it was in my carry-on.  Get this – this Chichiquita banana still looked brand new – perfectly yellow with not bruises or soft spots.   However, the taste wasn’t very good.  I’m assuming it’s due to all of the pesticides.  The bananas I get here on the street that literally look like shit actually tasted way better.

Also,  I brought back some pralines for my roommates and they agree with a back-entry that yes, kaju katli and pralines do in fact taste exactly the same.  Just in case there are any New Orleanians in India missing pralines!  If only there was something that tasted like gumbo over here…

The first week I was back, I wasn’t really ready to get back into the India way of life just yet – food wise.  I ate a ton of Lindor truffles purchased duty-free instead of real food.  I did have Subway a couple of times when I needed real food.   At the end of my first week avoiding Indian food (Saturday), I had a spectacular day of non-Indian foods with another IDEX fellow, Jin!  After waking up super late (2pm), I met up w/ Jin at a place called Delhi 9 for some much appreciated coffee, crème puffs, chocolate croissants, and chicken quiche.  So yummy! 

And then we went to Ruci and Idoni for dinner.  So good.  I had a dish called Chicken Piri Piri- grilled chicken, served with mashed potatoes and bell peppers in this South African red sauce.  It was surprisingly spicy, in a good way.  And the chicken was perfectly cooked.  I could go on about it for days.  Or rather, I’ll eat there again this weekend…  

Other random things to share:  On Gandhi’s birthday, it was a holiday (obviously!)  And since Gandhi was a vegetarian, couldn’t buy any meat- WTF!  (Really wanted to eat meat that day!)  Also, I can’t find cheese that looks appealing for anything!  Except -- processed cheese is everywhere.  Like, where’s the unprocessed cheese?  I like to refer to processed cheese as creamy plastic in my head.

I think this post might have only been about food…  But I am now adjusting back to life as it is in Hyderabad.  I’m eating Indian food again!  Looking forward to some dal or something equally Indian for lunch and everything!

Happy Halloween! (I’m sad that I can’t find any huge bags of fun-sized chocolates here though.)

Til next time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Playing Frogger

Topic I’ve been meaning to update is about crossing the street in India.  Does anyone remember the game Frogger from like 4th grade?  It was awesome.  Basically, you played the character of a little green frogger than had to jump between traffic to cross the road without getting splatted.  As the levels progressed, the cars moved faster and faster as you tried to cross the road.  Essentially, crossing the road in India is like playing Frogger, except you’re actually a person and if you’re hit, you don’t actually have 3 videogame lives. 

Another thing I wanted to update about is spitting.  People are constantly spitting here.  Well, most the men, but occasionally women too.  (I won’t blame everything on the guys.)  But yeah, I understand why because I find I can also spit like the best of them.  The pollution here is pretty crazy, like crazy bad.  The exhaust from all of the cars and the constant traffic make the center of the city filled to the brim with pollution that gets stuck in the back of one’s throat.  There are pollution check trucks in various part of the city as well, but I don’t think they make any difference in the actual air quality.  Last time I was here in Hyderabad, I lived out on campus in Gachibowli, where one can actually breathe.  I’d be interested to see the statistics in 5 years on the likely increase of lung cancer in the Hyderabad area as the city’s population has grown too large for the infrastructure to handle…

Lastly, I’m heading to the U.S. on Friday and I am super excited!  First to see Rae in NYC!  And then to NOLA for Lum’s wedding and to hang out with my family!  It’s also a little bitter sweet because after this trip, I’ll be in India at least until the end of April 2013.  And I’m not really planning on going back to the US until the end of June 2013. 

Until next time!

Edit: I'm thinking about getting a nose ring.  Thoughts?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bharat bandh

Yesterday, leaders of BJP, Left parties and the Samajwadi Party protested against the diesel price hike and FDI decision of the government at Jantar Mantar.  During the protest, all public transportation is stopped and business cannot go on as usual.  Also, autos are sometimes sparse on the streets so going anywhere can be out of the question.  So yesterday (Thursday) was a free day thanks to bandh.  Well, a work from home day at least. 

It was the second “free” day, as Wednesday was Ganesh Chaturthi, the Hindi festival that celebrates Lord Ganesh’s birthday.  If you’re not familiar with Ganesh, he’s the God with the elephant head.   His head was cut off and though other Gods traveled the world looking for it, they couldn’t find it.  Though, they did come across a mother elephant mourning for her dead baby and used this baby elephant head as a replacement.   Ganesh is awesome.

Ganesh, if you couldn't tell

Ganesha is worshiped for 10 days from Chaturthi and on the 11th day, the statue is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied with dancing, singing, and fanfare to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual see-off of the Lord in his journey towards his abode in Kailash while taking away with him the misfortunes of his devotees.

There are Ganesh idols everywhere right now in preparation for immersion of the idols into the Hussain Sagar lake here in Hyderabad.  The idols are made of clay so that the creations are soluble.

Also, I had a tenderloin steak at a place called Chef Inam’s on Wednesday.  It was so good.  I want more!

Can’t believe I’m heading back to the States so soon.  It’s coming up fast and I have no souvenirs for anyone.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

It Is Such a Good Night

                Ah, with three out of my four roommates going out of town tonight for Goa, I believe I will be virtually home alone this weekend.  Now to cook as much as I want and clean my dishes when I feel like it.  J  Also, I’ll probably throw a wild party just for good measure and trash the place.

                Anyway, with most of the fellows going to Goa this weekend, either leaving tonight or already there, I suspect this weekend will be pretty quiet.  Even today at work is quiet as no one seems to be here and Eric (the other fellow working here at the Foundation) is out.  So I had a nice lunch at Pizza Hut (yum, Caesar salad with croutons and cheese) at Hyderabad Central mall.  I bought a pair of Levi’s.  I checked out some of the Indian clothes, but the sale season is over!  Paying full price for leggings and a kurta?  No way! 

Speaking of lunches, there’s a restaurant one block from my job called Kritinga.  I ordered the keema (minced mutton) biryani  there this week and it was so huge (like a huge tub of rice).  Biryani is a really famous Hyderabadi dish and is a rice and meat type dish like jambalaya or dirty rice.  Usually, it’s with pieces of mutton or chicken, but there’s a number of different meats to choose from sometimes.  Kritinga on occasion offers emu meat.  Yum?  Anyway, I ate it for lunch, dinner and lunch the next day.  Sweet.  I’m especially fond of the keema biryani though as the minced mutton makes the texture of the dish similar to jambalaya with only the ground pork or dirty rice.  Closest thing I can find here to that.
Keema biryani
Jambalaya (cooked by me!)

I love all of the rice and meat mixed dishes you can find in every culture.  So tasty.

                Moving on, I think I need to buy some sunblock and today walking around it was super sunny.   And when one is walking around, beggars tend to beg at you.  Sometimes, it’s annoying, I mean more annoying that other times.  However, the thing that makes me most annoyed is when people with jobs beg to you.  Ok, seriously?  Like, you have a job; do you still need my money?  Yes, probably (the working poor and all).
                However, think about it, if I have an extra rupee or two, wouldn’t I give it to the guy or woman on the side of the road that’s physically handicapped?  I mean, there are people I pass daily that don’t even have legs or they’re missing an arm (or two).  I’m not saying that they deserve my rupees more than you, but from visiting the Dr. Reddy’s Center for People w/ Disabilities and speaking to the staff there; I’m inclined to think they probably do?  So at the center, people with disabilities are trained for about two months in the fields of hospitality or IT (data entry) and then placed with a job.  It’s a free center with the support of Accenture’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility).  From speaking with the trainers there, it seems like it’s very difficult for their students to be placed because of discrimination against people with disabilities here.   The general consensus seems to be that people with disabilities have an incredibly hard time getting a job, especially those that are poor.  Other poor people are at least able to be street sweepers or do construction work or work some kind of odd jobs as they have all of their limbs, but not those people with disabilities.  They are truly screwed in some ways.
                With that said, if you obviously have a job, don’t beg me for money.  I know you get paid (I’m not saying you get paid a lot).  It’s just something that’s super annoying and it might seem like I’m being cold, but if I gave 1 rupee to every beggar I had the pleasure to pass on the street…  There are just a lot of people around that need help and the unfortunate truth is I can’t help everybody.  L

Also, not sure what’s happening here at my job.  The IT guy has been having some fun by blocking like every website under the sun (Facebook, CNN, Youtube, etc.).  Too bad I know how to use a proxy blocker and VPN shield.  J

Ah, and last weekend, I went to Aarati’s (another fellows) 22nd birthday party which was at her boyfriend’s apartment who works at the U.S. Consulate here in Hyderabad.  Party was great, but man, the accommodations were so nice.  Makes me want to join the Foreign Service right away...  Haha.  Does that sound good Rae?

Also, there's was very very tasty chocolate cake from LaBonel bakery (a place I had been dying to try).  So good.  I really want to try their brownies too as I hear they are to die for.

Here’s a picture from the party:
Tasha, Me, Arjun and Aarti

Until next time, here's a song to keep you entertained:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Weekly stats

This past week, my blog has been viewed more time in the UK, than the US or India.  Interesting.  Also, this is the first time Canada or China has made an appearance.

Ok, leave me comments people from other places! :)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Success and failures: Time for an update

Since living in Hyderabad, I have found that every day I experience some successes and failures.  Sometimes, the day is a huge success and sometimes it’s just hard and feels exhausting.  So let’s recap the past couple of weeks starting with this weekend and back-tracking.

The Play
Last night I went to a play with two of my roommates (Tanu and Ritika) and a couple of other fellows (Joe and Vivek).  It was a play called the 39 Steps which was a comedic take on a Hitchcock films I believe.  200 rupees down the drain.  The play was definitely a failure.  I’m not sure if I’m just overly critical, but I didn’t even smile once during the entire performance even though it was supposedly a comedy.  Actually, that’s a lie – I did smile once the torture was over.  If I only could have dumbed-down my brain to that of a 5 year old, I could have laughed.

Pizza Hut
Tanu, Ritika and I went to Pizza Hut afterwards.  I had a Caesar salad with grilled chicken and it was so tasty.  That was definitely a success.  First salad I’ve had here and it was tasty (once I picked out all of the cilantro / coriander leaves off the top).  That’s one thing about Indian food or Indian-ized American food, cilantro (or coriander leaves as it’s called here) is put on the top of everything.  Even if it’s not mentioned in the recipe.  It’s a bit frustrating, because coriander leaves are what I would categorize as a fail.

The Hunt for Salad
Anyway, after having the caesar salad I really wanted to find lettuce.  There’s lettuce on sandwiches at all of the fastfood places like Subway, Quizno’s, McDonalds, etc.  But I wasn’t able to find any in stores, despite being able to find salad dressing!  But today after I went to the gym, I stopped in at this place called Nature’s Basket (on the swanky Road no. 10) and beheld iceberg and romaine lettuce available.  The romaine looks pretty sad so I went with the iceberg.  Yum.  A whole head of iceberg for the equivalent of $0.75.  That’s a deal.  Success!

Imported groceries
Nature’s Basket is this grocery store I’ve found on Road no. 10 that is both wonderful and terrible at the same time.   First off, it’s terrible because of how expensive some products there are (because so much of it is imported).  But it’s wonderful because of things I can find there that I cannot possibly find in other grocery stores (as far as specialty items):
  • Monin flavor syrups (that American coffee houses always use in drinks)
  • Poptarts (like the Poptarts brand in different varieties but for the equivalent of $7.18 a box, no thanks!)
  • All kinds of Asian food needs (like fish sauce, oyster sauce, thai curry pastes – I know where to go if I want to make my own panang curry or pad thai)
  • Barbeque sauce (I’ve found only 1 brand at other stores, but this one that a couple varieties which includes Kraft and some kinds of rib sauces and chicken wings sauces)
  • Mexican condiments (taco sauce, salsa, other stuff)
  • “Western” condiment (mustards, different varieties of mayonnaise, other stuff Westerns may like)
  • “Western spices” (Finding stuff like paprika and dried thyme can be a challenge here.  I’ve even found something labeled “creole” seasoning here)
  • Tomato sauce (also found at other stores, but the variety is more)
  • Pasta (found at other stores, but there’s a bit of variety here)
  • Salad dressing (more varieties of salad dressing including expensive brands from the UK and Australia)
  • Organic fruits
  • Organic vegetables
  • More than 2 varieties of pesto sauce (but it costs an insane price)
  • Some expensive drink mixes (including Tabasco Bloody Mary mix from Louisiana)
  • Varieties of Oreos (including golden oreos and chocolate cream oreos)
  • European chocolates
  • Baked cookies
  • Nice imported cheeses (that cost again way too much)
  • Kraft cheese (the blocks of sharp cheese and all varieties of the singles, but again, the Britanna brand here costs so much less and it tastes the same)

Overall, Nature’s Basket is a success I terms of find the “comforts” of back home.  However, it’s a fail in terms of costs!  Some things don’t costs too much though, so I can at least get lettuce there.

Cost is something I’ve been trying to discuss with people abroad lately, but I’m not sure if I’ve been successful.  The variances of what things cost here are somewhat different than in the US.  So for a base idea 500 INR (rupees) is like $9 USD (right now).   And 54/55 INR is like $1. 

I feel like the way I look at costs in terms of expenses in the US is usually like this : groceries / food (costs the least most of the time) , then clothes , then monthly gym membership, then electronics , then modes of transportation (cars, motorcycle, etc), and then rent.  This could be different for other people, but this is how I felt things matched up in NYC.

However, here – I feel like things like groceries / food, clothes, and gym are kind of grouped together.  For example, if I go to lunch sometimes during work – I sometimes get daal (lentil curry) and a chipati (bread) for 71 INR ($1.25).  That’s a good deal!  Sometimes, if I’m feeling like I can spend more money, then I will get a meat-based curry and a chipati for about 200 INR ($3.60).  Still a good deal. 

The things is I get the question of how cheap things are.  Well, for the meat-based curry and chipati -- it would be like $20 with tip (1,100 INR) for the same thing in the states.  Crazy right?  But I feel like that’s not the entire story. 

I’ve purchased a meal for 200 INR ($3.60) but I’ve also bought pants here for 150 INR ($2.70).  Ok, that would never happen in the US.   Part of it is the difference in culture/clothing here (women wear kurtas, salwars, and leggings!).   That’s ok to wear in India, but in the US, the culture doesn’t really embrace the same clothes (except for the leggings). 

So if you buy “Western” clothes, get ready to spend an equivalent amount to that of the US.  And that also varies by brand.  There are Levi’s here, Aldo (OMG – same prices as the US), Wrangler’s, Mango, Puma, and other’s.   The big brand costs the basically same, except for during sales.  There are some “Western” clothes here that “seem” cheaper than in the US, but the quality is that of Forever 21 (crap) at the equivalent price of Forever 21.  So in actuality, no, Western clothes (on the whole) are not cheaper here.   Sometimes, you will get lucky and find things cheaper here (that may still be quality), but then again – the style of things are different.   For example, the “Western” wear I’ve found at the kind-of high end store called Lifestyle is actually straight from the juniors department of any US department store.  I don’t want to dress like I’m 15, so I’m not interested…

Back to food costs, I’ve recently been bringing my lunch to work some days.  And the things I bring for lunch is sometimes even cheaper than $1.25 per meal and can be healthier than a ghee-laden daal.  Here, I can purchase a loft of bread for 22 rupees (40 cents has never tasted so sweet).  I can buy a bag of carrots for 30 rupees (54 cents).  Peanut butter costs $3 (180 / 190 INR) and Jelly costs $2.50 (140 INR).   With only those supplies, I can make lunch for each day of the week (7 days) for under $1 (55 INR).   And peanut butter and jelly lasts for longer than just a week so if I didn’t need a variety of food I could stretch out those goods and for 14 days eat lunch for 31 INR or $0.55.  Nice, huh?  I can get a head if cabbage for $0.50.  So awesome.

But there’s always a “but”!  I mentioned it before; it gets tiring eating the same stuff all the time.  I mean, even Indian food.   Because I’m in India, Indian food is relatively cheap unlike where in US it’s a specialty.  I had sushi here for 450 INR per roll ($8.10!)!  And that’s before taxes and service charge!  If you’re going to frequent Chili’s, TGIF, Hardrock Café, or some other like restaurant where you can get “Western” food, expect to not save a whole lot of money if you do that every day.
Here, I like to think of things in terms of rupees and think of things relatively (especially since I’m trying to live on the stipend given while here).   Also, to sum things up, some things are way cheaper like milk and bread.    Other things are not cheaper like Aldo shoes.  J 
Costs can most of the time be a success as I’m not too picky.  It could be a fail if I really want to eat some kind of specialty foods though.

The Gym
I recently joined a gym this past week (during its annual sale) for 12,500 INR for the year ($225).  It’s usually 22,500 supposedly ($405) per year without the sale.  Can you believe that?  I think the gym at my old employer in NYC costs the equivalent of 12,500 INR a year.  And to actually pay for $405 a year to use a gym in India (outside of Mumbai) seems crazy.  But I went for it during the sale since $225 isn’t bad for the year.   However, there is a perk that US gyms at the same prices do not have – a trainer.  Yeah, a trainer just comes with the gym and tells you what to do.   Since a trainer (in NYC) usually costs $90 per session, $225 is a good deal.   (Honestly, knowing that trainers make $90 per session/hour in some places in the US and see multiple clients a day, really makes me contemplate being a trainer…)
The gym has so far been a success.

Work has been good.  Eric (the other fellows at DRF) and I have been working on coming up with a work plan that we can implement during out time at the foundation.   The past week though, we’ve kind of been stonewalled in the process.   I don’t think it’s a cultural difference in terms of the US / India but more of the nonprofit / corporate culture difference.   Since this is a nonprofit, the same timeliness seems to be less.  But hopefully we can start getting somewhere this week…

Scooter talk / transportation
I’ve been thinking of getting a scooter recently.  It would be cool except for my impending death.  But I think not having a scooter is probably better in terms of actually seeing how “normal” people live. 
Sometimes I walk to work, but sometimes I take the bus.  The bus is overcrowded, people are in your personal space, and it’s super cheap.  For me it costs like 4 rupees by bus to get home.  But the bus is an inconvenience not just because it’s crowed, hot and sweaty but it’s a bus so you get off at the stop and walk however far to get home from there which makes you even more hot and sweaty.  Stops aren’t numbered or marked so if you’re going somewhere new you just have to ask the bus driver or guy taking the bus fare to let you know.  Or you can try to ask the people around you, they can be helpful also.   Also, the buses usually say the starting point and end point on the front and it’s your job to know if the place you’re going is in between and on the route of the bus.  This can be very intimidating if you don’t speak Hindi or Telegue (the local language).  I don’t speak either, so I just hope and try to spot landmarks.

Anyway, that’s the bus scoop, but not having a car / scooter I think really gives you a different understanding of how normal people live.   I live in the Banjara Hills neighborhood (which is probably the 2nd nicest neighborhood in Hyderabad).   The things I “need” are right at my fingertips (despite the walk) and there is quite the expat community here.  However, despite living in Banjara Hills, there are still beggars.  There’s still noticeable homelessness.   Today when I was walking on Road no. 10 (probably the most posh road in the neighborhood), I noticed people living on the sidewalk while Nature’s Basket was less than 250 kilometers away.   If I had a car or scooter, I probably wouldn’t notice that as much.

Also, I live in a flat here with a watchman.  But it’s open, like strangers can come in and it’s whatever.  However, when one looks around some places in Banjara Hills, it’s vastly different than my living situation.  I pass gated homes that give mansions in the US a run for their money.  There’s a couple pretty close to me that are noticeable.   I say noticeable because sometimes it’s easy to not see them from the ground because they are enclosed behind high guard walls and glass and metal gates that only open for cars.  There’s one close to me on Road no. 12 actually which high white walls, a large wooden security gate, a security guard eyeing each person as they pass, and two white lions statues with their mouths in snares.  To believe that less than a kilometer away, there’s someone sleeping outside in the rain.  It’s crazy and eye-opening.

I believe that the full extent of poverty here can be masked, especially in neighborhoods like Banjara Hills or Jubilee Hills (even more posh).  Yes, there are a lot of posh places here, but there are still people living on the sidewalks /streets very close by.  For those people that are rich here, I want to ask them if they even see it anymore.  Can they even recognize the poverty here?  I mean, I can’t actually ask them though because I can’t get behind mansion walls…  The guards won’t let me through.

People in the West might be surprised to know that poverty here can be overlooked in the same way it’s overlooked in the West.  Whenever I pass these mansions behind high walls, I think to myself that there are people living in India that can actually never experience seeing full-blown poverty on a daily basis!  They get in their cars, drive to work, park in a secured garage, eat lunch at a nice restaurant, finish working, pick up groceries from Nature’s Basket or some other nice grocery store, drive home, and their security guard secures the premises again.   It can be just the like the US here, if you have the means.   
There’s a disproportionate amount of people here with the means compared to the total population.   
Transportation in general is a success unless it’s raining.

Anyway, that’s the end of the entry.  I felt like it was time for an update on life here in Hyderabad.
Until next time!  (sorry this post is so long.)


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Yesterday, I went to Target

Another week has passed here in Hyderabad and I'm still alive.  Independence day was this past Wednesday, so that was holiday which I would have enjoyed a lot had I not been sick to my stomach.  Luckily, that has now passed.

Moving on, yesterday, I went to Target.  Actually, I finally had a chance to make plans to hang out with my friend Bhavani, who was actually my Hindi teacher last time I was here.  Anyway, I went out to her house in Gachibowli and had lunch with Bhavani and her daughter, Tanvi.  Tanvi is so amazing -- 4 years old and speaks 3 languages.  And she's so cute!


Anyway, we had a yum lunch of lemon rice.  And caught up a bit with what's been happening in general.  And afterwards, we went to Inorbit Mall in Madhupur.  We went to place that looked like Target / Wal-mart called Hyper City.  But even more so than Spar does.  I truly felt "American" in Inorbit Mall.  The first store I saw walking in was LaCoste.  MAC (make-up store) was coming soon.  And the food court (aside from the basic India food stalls) included a mexican place, chinese place, thai place, Baskin Robins, Subway, McDonalds, Quizno's, Pizza Hut and a KFC.  There was also a place I've seen a few times in Hyderabad called "Cream Stone Creamery" -- which is exactly like Cold Stone Creamery.  It was a good day overall though.  And now, I know where I can go to get tacos - super important.

Also, while in Hyper City, I found tuna in a can -- which I had planned to bring to work for lunch.  But actually, turns out that one tuna can costs 165 INR!  Which is like 3 USD.  Ok -- tuna costs less in the US. And, I can get a 6 inch tuna sub from Subway for 125 INR ($2.25)!  Does that make any sense? Nope.  I know.  I also found bacon -- in case I ever need any.  And in case I ever need Louisiana Bloody Mary mix, I found this in Hyper City:
From Louisiana to Hyderabad...Too bad I don't like Bloody Mary's..

I don't think I'll be going to Hyper City any time soon as that place was super expensive...  But I think I'll be hanging out with Bhavani again soon!  We're going to plan a spa-day!  I really need a massage.

Eid is this evening / tomorrow so we have off which is awesome. :)  Yay!  I finally finished booking all of my tickets to and from here back home in October.  Now to work on booking my travel within India. 

Besides my trip back home in October, I should be going to Udaipur with Tanu in November for Diwali!  And maybe Jaisalmer as well.  And I'm thinking Kerala over Christmas?

Also, here's a picture of me looking "dashing":

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Any doubts?

So a lot has happened since I last updated.  I've gone through this retreat / training workshop in the middle of nowhere for 3 days and spent my first full week at my job.

Also before this "inspiration" workshop, my roommates and I threw at party our apartment that our watchman (security guard) was not happy about:

(I want to point out the "Royal Challenge" in hand because it's really a challenge to drink that beer...)

Later in the week....

Through the fellowship, there was an "inspiration" workshop at a retreat about 60 kilometers outside of Hyderabad.  It was fun because the Hyderabad fellows were able to meet the other fellows from Mumbai and Bangalore.  I met another fellow from New Orleans too (besides the other Hyderabad fellow from New Orleans) that went to my high school, but was 2 grades lower than me.  Very cool.  I tried to climb up a rockwall, but that was a fail:

Tanu made it to the top though:

This past week was my first week at the Dr. Reddy's Foundation so Eric (another fellow) and I pretty much traveled to 3 different training centers around Hyderabad to get a feel for how the operations of the non-profit work.  It was very interested and eye-opening.  Dr. Reddy's Foundation offers job training to needy aspirants for about 45 days and then places them with employers after training them.  While we were in the Dilsuknagar center, we went with the facilitators on their mobility (marketing) outreach.  It was very interesting and crazy as for party of it, we were in the slum.  Like a real one which was also next to some government housing (that reminded me of the projects in the States).  It's interested how you can spot "government house" no matter where you are...  

When were in this area, we also met with a group of women to tell them about the program and I found out that they do not speak Telegue (the local language), Hindi, or English.  These were a mainly tribal community living in the slum because they had been displaced due to a fire.  They spoke Lambadi, which I had never even heard of.

Also, a couple of nights ago, Tanu and I had dinner with the watchman and his family since it was his son's birthday.  His wife (also our maid) made this chicken curry that was so good.  I'm going to try my hand at making something of the sort today, but I don't know if I'll be successful though... Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Short post -- songs I've heard at Spar

So there's a K-mart/ Target / Wal-mart-esque grocery store near my apartment called Spar.  I thought I would just share a couple songs that I've heard play while shopping:

TLC - What About Your Friends

Chaka Khan - Do You Love What You Feel

The song selection is so random.  Love the Chaka Khan though.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Foods of India versus Foods of New Orleans -- Tied?

Yesterday, my roommates cooked rajma which is literally red beans and rice.  Here is a picture I found on Google of rajma:

And here's a picture of New Orleans' red beans and rice:

It's pretty hilarious how extremely similar the dishes are, just different spices (but also some of the same ones as well).

And I also had some kaju katli tonight (Indian sweet) which tastes a whole lot like a praline:


This makes me think of tasty New Orleans food which just makes me really want this:
(Shrimp and grits from Surrey's -- coming October 2012...)

Though similar, Indian food is still my second favorite food to creole/cajun food.  Really suck that there's no sausage here by the way.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What's beef?

I didn't mention this before, but on Sunday when the other fellows and I went to Old City, I got the best question from my flatmate Tanu.  So Tanu is a vegetarian and a Hindu from North India.  And in the Old City, there is a large Muslim population.  So we are passing through the Old City and pass up a meat shop.  And Tanu asks me: "what's beef?"  Unfortunately, I had to tell her beef is the sacred animal: cow.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mosquito bites

So many mosquito bites in so many places, including two on the bottom of my foot.  Who would have thought that my foot tasted so good?

Anyway, this morning the IDEX fellows went on a heritage walk around Charminar in the Old City.  Saw a lot of really interesting architecture.  We arrived at Charminar at 7am which was super early, but fine because I was already up due to the really elaborate call to prayer this morning.  Ramazan started this past Friday and since then the call to pray is really amazingly elaborate.  It serves as my morning wake up call.

In other news, two more of my roommates arrived this week, Tanu and Tasha, whom are both very awesome.  Tanu is from Udaipur (i.e. Lake Palace) and Tasha is from Colorado.  I’m really happy to have such great additional roommates in the house.   After the Heritage Walk, we walked around Laad Bazaar and did some shopping.  I purchased these really cool green bangles for super cheap thanks to Tanu and her bargaining skills!  We also went to another bazaar, Sultan Bazaar I think, and looked at kurtas and pants. 

Also, when Tanu arrived on Thursday, her parents had made the trip with her and they were both so amazing nice.  And Tanu’s mother can really cook- yum.  I wish she could stay here with us….

This past Thursday night, Ritika, Tanu, Esther, Sneha and I went to TDS for karaoke night.  It was really fun and a nice time.  A lot of the fellows came out as well and it was overall a good time.  I thoroughly enjoyed other people singing ridiculously.

Here are a few pictures from the events mentioned:

Also, I have a phone now so people can call me!  Hopefully Tuesday I will have internet to post all of my pictures on Facebook / Blogger!  As well, I hope the mosquitos grow tired of my blood….

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


By the way, it's monsoon season here in Hyderabad so I thought I would add a picture (taken by my roommate, Ritika):

All the roads were flooding left and right!  And even in the rickshaw, I got soaking wet..

Ritika and I went shopping for some house supplies (for Indian cooking) and had a hell of a journey getting back to our flat.  We had too much stuff so wanted to get an auto, but it was raining a lot, the streets were flooding, and there were a mass amount of people on the road so no luck!  We had to walk home from the store (with heavy bags) in the flooding streets.  It was disastrous and just not fun at all.  Glad that's over.

On another note, Ritika cooked dahl and rice are it was awesome.  I just ate way too much of it.  Yum.  And tomorrow we are suppose to be doing some yoga in the morning!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pictures as promised

Today was fun.  I went out with Ritika and a couple of her friend’s at this place called Coco’s in Banjara Hills.   I had actually been there before and it was pretty nice.  No pictures of that yet… but here are some pictures of my apartment as promised from last entry!

My room!

Door lock of my room

Closets in my room

My bathroom

My bathroom again

Living room

Americans were here... obviously

View from the balcony


And again..

Washing machine hook up on the balcony!

Another view picture

Stove burner in the kitchen

Enclosed balconey

Sticker found in my room...  Yeah, I can't imagine someone seriously putting that up anywhere.. Too patriotic for me... Thanks.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Definitely time for an update!

So I arrived in Hyderabad on July 12th at 2:15pm from Mumbai.  The trip was so long, but actually not bad.  It was the layover in Mumbai which was a killer.  Mumbai waiting area of the airport – not for the weak.  Definitely saw a rat there, twice.  Also, flies everywhere.  Speaking of bugs, it rained here in Hyderabad last night, which kind of sucks, because that brings in mosquitos.  I have at least two bites this morning it seems.  I’m hoping that my body will adjust soon and mosquitos will become uninterested in my tasty blood.

Only one of my roommates has moved in so far, Ritika.  She is super cool and very accomplished.  I’m very impressed by her passion for development work.  Two more are moving in as well.  Sneha is moving in this evening.

Yesterday, I had breakfast with Ritika at a small place nearby.  By US standard, we would call it a hole-in-a-wall place, but it was good.  Total breakfast for both of us, was about 60 INR (rupees) which is, without the exchange rate transaction costs, a little over $1 USD. 

We tried to see a movie yesterday at Central Mall called Cocktail, but it was sold out. L  Lame.  But went shopping in the mall and I got a kurta with matching pants and scarf.  I’ll post a picture when I wear it!  Also, speaking of clothes here, so there are these skinny pants here that are the fashion.  I swear that Indian women do not have calves.  Like, the waist of the pants will fit, but not the legs.  It’s very crazy.  Also, clothes run pretty small here in general, but seriously, who has calves that small?!

Also, ate Indian food at the food court at Central Mall which has this place called Ohri’s there.  I remember that place very fondly because last time I was here in Hyderabad, my old roommate Jessica and I would go to Central Mall to eat this chicken dish from here with this really yummy gravy and french fries. It was definitely not very healthy, but when in desperate search for non-Indian food (that wasn’t Pizza Hut, Dominoes, or Subway), doesn’t matter. 

It took me about 4 months last time to get tired of eating Indian food for 3 meals a day.  I’m going to try to hold back a little longer this time…  Pizza Hut is really close though and so is Subway!  Damn them!  There are quite a few “American” brands here actually, in food and household supplies, by the way. 
Oh, by the way, while I was starving in the Mumbai airport, I bought this almond milk chocolate bar (called Temptations) by Cadbury.  So fucking good.  It definitely reminded me that yes, Cadbury is so much very different to the gross Cadbury sold in the States.  Cadbury in the states is made by Hershey’s by the way.  Had to hold back to only eat one candy bar….

As for the apartment, it is so huge…  I mean, at least 4 to 5 times bigger than my studio apartment in Manhattan.   There are 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, one enclosed balcony, another opened balcony, a den / seating area (which is alone the size of my studio apartment- hah), and a kitchen.  Still need to work on getting a fridge and washing machine. We will be renting them and that shouldn’t been too bad with 4 people living here.  No dryer here, just hang up drying. J

I have my own room here that has these really nice built-in closets.  More than I need really.  And then there is a twin-sized bed.  Otherwise, the room is completely empty which is how I expect it to stay.  Also, I have an en-suite bathroom which is pretty awesome.  The apartment is very Indian styled.  I’ll post some pictures below of my room and bathroom by the way.  Also, the previous tenants left some random stuff here.  I can tell they were American because in my room there’s a sticker on my mirror that says “American Pride” and there’s another American-esque thing on a high window in the kitchen.  I found a guitar which I’ve claimed as my own.  And I guess there was a girl previously in my room because I found a huge bag of tampons (tampons are very hard to find in India).  Also there was huge unopened box of them as well.  Thanks for leaving them!  Seriously, it’s a fucking lifetime supply of them.

I need to hit up my friends Bhavani and Dipankur soon to hang out in Gachibowli!  Sucks because I don’t have a phone or internet right now- been using Ritika’s internet connection (like this prepaid USB thing).  Here, you can’t just get a prepaid phone or prepaid internet, you have to prove you are a resident here and have your passport.  The phone is literally tied to you here and your name.  Not like in the states where you can get a burner phone from Walgreen’s and be done with it.  Hoping by early next week I’ll have it.  I also need to get some passport sized pictures for my foreigner in residence registration next Friday.

On another note, not sure if Rebecca will ever make it thanks to the Indian Consulate in Houston not ever issuing her visa.  L  Really fucking sucks.

That’s all for now.  I really miss Rae, and everyone back in the states.  Send me emails!

Also, I give up on posting the pictures for now....  Just will not upload!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

This is the day, your life will surely change...

It feels really surreal to be leaving today.  My flight is tonight at 6:30pm out of Newark, with stops in Zurich and Mumbai before getting into Hyderabad.

I'm also proud of my packing skills-- just two bags really.  A large hiking backpack and a smaller backpack with my laptop to carry-on!

I'll miss Rae the most. :(

Monday, July 9, 2012

Countdown until Tuesday

It's my last Sunday in New York City!  It's so sad.  I'm hitting up Goodwill tomorrow to get rid of a lot of my old clothes.  Then lunch with Tzu-san to say goodbye.  Then picking up a few things to bring with me to Hyderabad.  So much stuff to leave behind / organize, so little time!

I'm so excited to be going to back to Hyderabad though!  This time I won't be living on campus in Gachibowli at University of Hyderabad though.  I'll be living with 3 roommates in the Banjara Hills neighborhood.

Until next time,

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Introduction to the Life Exotic

Hi all,

This is my blog dedicated to following my time in Hyderabad, India as an IDEX Fellow in Social Enterprise. I will be pursuing work with Dr. Reddy's Foundation while in Hyderabad.  My move will be on Tuesday, July 10th from New York City to Hyderabad!

Will update soon!