Friday, September 29, 2006

Post-flood pictures

Alrighty, these pictures are from the time right after the flood, when we stayed in the Old City and when I went to Baroda. First of all is our Janmastame shrine from the Old City - note the model cars and Disney masks. Then our Ganesh Utsav shrine from the house I stayed at in Baroda (I personally like the last one better). During this festival, huge shrines are set up all around town with monster Ganesh idols in them. Samantha (another exchange student from the US) and I walked around town for awhile checking out some shrines, and here's a picture of a gigantic Ganesh. Later on in Baroda, we visited the Laxmi Vilas palace - which the current maharaja still lives in! It was amazingly huge, and it seemed like everything was covered in gold. For some reason, our tour guide made a really big deal out of the Italian marble on the floors. Indians love their Italian marble, I've discovered. And finally, a not-so-flattering self-portrait in front of a lovely mosaic on the side of the palace. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Flood pictures

Ok, so the Internet at my house is working again (joy!) so I can finally show you all those pictures I've promised. First off, the water at it's highest point- 12 feet around the bungalow! Then the cars, at an early point - they were eventually inundated, of course, but I thought I'd include this picture anyway. Next a lovely sunset from the 3rd day of the flood. Now an Indian army helicopter that was distributing food to the apartment buildings around us, and lastly, a boat that paddled by in the canal that was once the road - our own Indian Venice! Next thing to tackle is Janmashtame and this takes sooo long.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I got mehndi (henna) put on my hands and arms a few days ago! It's an incredibly intricate, red-brown design running up and down the front and back of my hands and arms, almost up to the elbow. I love it, but there are, however, a few things that nobody ever told me about mehndi, including:
a) It stinks to high heaven for the first couple of days, and for the whole evening, Rutvik and Revati (my younger sister) gave me a wide berth. In fact, only Pooja and my mom, who like the smell for some reason, would come near me,
b) It takes 4 (four!) hours to dry, during which time I had to sit and do nothing, arms held stiffly out to my sides. Thank heaven for TV. After it got somewhat dry, I ate dinner, but I felt like a cripple because Moti-Mummy (Mota-Daddy's wife) had to tear my roti into tiny pieces, which I mixed in a bowl with vegetables and eat with a spoon.
c) Also, it gets a lot darker on the palms than anywhere else. Revati informed me knowledgeably that this was because of the "sweatness" on my palms.
Unfortunately it's starting to fade, but still looks really cool.
I had my first d'oh moment with Gujarati the other day...I met the 6-year-old daughter of the servants at another house a while ago. She did the normal thing that Indian kids do when they see me, ie stare wide-eyed and unmoving. So to break the ice, I asked her "Tamaruu'n nam shu'n chhe?" which my (rather outdated, as I soon realized) Gujarati textbook informed me meant "What is your name?" However, this question only made her eyes widen further, and she stayed silent. I asked Pooja about it later, and it turns out I asked the poor little girl the Gujarati equivalent of "What is thy name, dear madam?"

Monday, September 11, 2006

Hello all

Kem cho everybody, sorry about the long break, but we STILL don't have Internet up and running at my house, so my only access to the internet is my school's creaky, ailing, paralyzingly slow computers. Life is back to normal again - it came as a shock the other day when I realized that life in India has become normal for me! I'm used to the cows on the road, I don't blink an eye at the men holding hands or peeing on the side of the road (they do this A LOT), I barely notice spicy food anymore, annnd I can even converse minimally in Gujarati!! I don't have the guts to ask my family to only speak Gujarati to me though...I am a weak exchange student.
Last Wednesday was the final day of Ganesh Utsav, a 10-day festival in honor of Lord Ganesh (he's the one with an elephant head). At the beginning of this festival, everyone decorates special shrines and brings a Ganesh idol into their home. After 10 days, they take the idol down to the nearest body of water and immerse it in the water. I'm not really sure what the significance of that part is. As we live right by the river, there was a constant stream of people going by the house all day, hoisting their Ganesh idols, banging on drums, dancing and singing. (Not all at once, of course.) Rutvik and his friend took me down to the river to see the huge idols lined up for their dunking. As I was American, we got to go right down to the river bank - a VIP only place. The idols were awesome - some as much as 6 feet tall, and no two were alike. Getting there and back was problematic though, as I was constantly having to avoid making eye contact with hundreds of drunk, rowdy, leering men. Rutvik was less my brother and more of a bodyguard, bless him.
Not much else to report, other than it's been meltingly hot lately. I'm turning into a little puddle in the computer lab. I've finally realized why Indian women don't have bangs - mine are perpetually plastered to my forehead with sweat. Not pretty.
Oh! There's an awesome festival coming up call Navratri. (In case you haven't noticed, September is a month of festivals.) Its name literally means nine (nav) nights (ratri), and it's nine straight nights of dancingdancingdancing until the cows come home. We do a kind of dance called Garba, which is done in a circle and involves lots of twirling and waving of the arms. We all wear traditional cheniya cholis, which is a short blouse and a long flared skirt. I'm not allowed to wear tank tops here, yet I can show my whole stomach and nobody complains. Strange. Anyway, I can't wait! It starts on the 23rd.
Ok, that's all for now. I swear I have lots of pictures, and you guys will see them all as soon as the internet at our house starts working again! (No promises as to when that'll be.)