In the popular television show Seinfeld,  “Bizarro World” was basically a situation that was flipped to the opposite of your expectations, or um, turned upside down in a very weird way from what you are used to. I sometimes think about Seinfeld’s Bizarro World while living here because we often involuntarily entrust all our decisions into the hands of people from a completely different world than us. So, in our own version of Seinfeld’s Bizarro World, people from western cultures cannot be vegetarian and are always Christian. In this world, women cannot possibly have had anything to do with the military, and in this world, if a woman is married, she is always called MRS. (insert surname here). Sound pretty specific? Think maybe any (ahem, or all) of these things have happened to me? Ding ding! You guessed correctly.

The other day in our Bizarro, I was at yoga in a housing complex clubhouse when a security guard came in and turned up the ceiling fans before we started the class. My friend, who was teaching, got up and turned a couple of the fans off and turned the remaining fans to their lowest setting. Halfway through our “warm-up,” the same guard enters and flicks on all the fans to full blast. This man clearly knew what we wanted better than we knew ourselves. For awhile now I’ve had this posting in the works, but this incident reminded me that I really needed to write it up.

Pictureif you're western...
1. No, Madam. You want this menu.

Now, I’m not a vegetarian but I used to fancy myself as one who dappled in vegetarianism/veganism. Here in Bizarro, there are sometimes completely veg restaurants, and the ones that are not will sometimes have veg and non-veg menus. More often than not, I’d rather eat veg (especially in Bizarro), so I will often order from the appropriate menu. There have been more than several instances at restaurants where I have ordered a vegetarian dish but the waiters (because in Bizarro world, women cannot hold jobs working as waitresses, obviously- only jobs requiring strenuous physical labor) have suggested I instead take a look at their non-veg menus, or even flat out told me, “No, Madam, you want this menu, not the veg menu.” Actually…I’m pretty sure I wanted the veg menu.

2. Don’t answer the “religion” question on your doctor’s office registration form (oh yes, they do ask!)? That’s okay! We’ll fill it out for you.  

First of all, I must have been feeling very argumentative on this particular day. After living in our Bizarro for 2 years, I would usually overlook something like this, but instead, I felt like all the injustices of the world were wrapped up and delivered in this one piece of administrative paperwork. So yes, they want to know your religion, and since you can just write it in, you could really write anything you want. Of course, I could have answered, but I felt defiant. Hey! It’s none of your business what my religion is. This sort of question would clearly NEVER be on a doctor’s office form back in my world. So, I just wrote N/A. After taking the form from me, the man who worked there typed it into a computer with a screen that faced me. I watched him as he contemplated what to select from the dropdown menu marked "Religion." He hesitated, but only for a second, before selecting “Christian.” That’s when I wanted to say “Hey, hey, wait a minute buddy. Maybe I'm Muslim” or “Actually, sir, I’m pastafarian,” or “Did it ever occur to you that I might be Hindu?” But… I refrained. And kept on refraining even as…

Picture Congratulations! You're now old!
3. I see you marked your preferred prefix as “Ms.” …but I see that you are married. Only one thing to do, must change it so that you sound like an old woman. Mrs. will do fine!

…He changed my preferred prefix from Ms. to Mrs. clearly because the box below was checked that I was married. If given the preference, I have never preferred to be called “Mrs. G” and would take Miss or Ms. over the M-R-S any day, even as a married woman. The thing that really irritated me was that I had CLEARLY marked MS. but he knew better. He knew that I was in fact a MRS. In Bizzaro world, strangers know what you like to be called more than you know.


Picture My place is serving my family...
4. Hmm, let me think. This t-shirt is very small, but… it is olive green colored AND it has dudes on it dressed in Army uniforms. I know that Sir is very large man, and Madam pretty small, but obviously, this tiny little Army t-shirt must belong to none other than Sir.

In the Bizarro, pretty much everyone has a maid (in addition to a driver, a gardener, a cook…etc.). We are not the exception. Our maid is awesome. She dusts, she mops, she washes our clothes. She also puts those clothes away. The clothes, of course, never end up where you’d like them. All my socks end up with R’s socks, sometimes my jeans are with his, and occasionally, my t-shirts (does a lot for my ego, you know, since R is about 75lbs heavier and a foot taller). There is one particular t-shirt that I own from a university ROTC program. While I understand how it can be shocking for her (and you know, to be fair, the t-shirt isn’t from the university I was enrolled in- so I can see how she could be confused), this Madam did, in fact, have some basic military training while in college. We won’t even mention that this t-shirt is about 4 sizes too small for R, but somehow it is always put away in his dresser drawers, usually at the very bottom of everything. I’m sure there could be an entire thesis written about this phenomenon- the shock and appalledness of women having anything to do with the military- but for now, I’ll have to remember that each time I want to wear it, I can find it with my husband’s shirts.


All these things, while strange and different to me, are still eye-opening, and most definitely a learning experience. They give me a little glimpse into a culture that is not my own, and while I cannot claim to understand it, I can certainly learn from it. And just like Elaine from Seinfeld, I can learn about my own world (and maybe make me appreciate it in a different light), my friendships, and how I choose to spend my time, by seeing through the eyes of others.

 
 
PictureI'd love to get to know you better...
Taking a step back for a moment (you didn't think I'd leave you wondering about security on Israel's airline, El Al, did you?), we should have known our vacation was going to be interesting given our shake down just to get on the airplane. 

Getting through El Al security both on the way there and back, was likened to being interrogated by someone who looks strangely like Agent Smith, casually letting you know he's packing heat by exposing the gun under his jacket with the guise of "let me just grab my pen here." Flashing a smile, he began asking us, in the nicest of ways, all the personal questions you never thought you'd be asked at the airport before. Mr. and Mrs. G, how long have you two beautiful people been married? Oh? What day exactly was that? Where did you say you this joyous occasion took place? Did you guys have a house already? Yeah, the address. Now. What are you doing in India again? Why are you coming to Israel? What are the names of these "friends" you're traveling with?  

Of course, the whole time, our palms were sweating, our eyes were darting back and forth to each other before answering any of these seemingly simple questions. Maybe this was the reason we got pulled aside and had our luggage gone through, I have no idea. But I know that they made our TSA agents look Winnie the Pooh. 

So back to where our story left off. Our caravan left Tel Aviv and arrived safely in Jerusalem in the evening. When we pulled up to the beautiful house where we'd be spending the rest of the week, we were greeted with a burned out car sitting right in front. Maybe we were all a little on edge, but when we saw the car parked out front, I can only speak for myself when I tell you I did not believe the property manager when she claimed "cigarette fire." 

Picture
Whoops. Guess I forgot to put my cigarette out.
The house, named The Sultan's Palace, was gorgeous. It had an amazing view of Jerusalem, looking out toward the Mount of Olives and the old city, not to mention a sweet little cat who really, reaaaally wanted to come inside. It also had a Kosher kitchen, was something entirely new to me. There were separate sets of dishes, cooking utensils, pots and pans, and even different sides of the sink for dairy and meat. We went out that evening into the cool autumn air to find a grocery store (and when we finally found it, it was amazing), and prepare for the rest of the week ahead. 

Having grown up in a Christian home, I had seen many photos and videos of the faithful at the Western Wall, known to some as the Wailing Wall. When I was young, a teacher of mine had visited Jerusalem and brought back a Star of David for me, which I had worn for many years, and still have to this day. I remember hearing stories from among our church and school community who had visited, but never thought that I would go. It was definitely a sight to behold, people from all over the world congregating at the Wall. Everyone there could take a small slip of paper to write your prayers that you could then stick into the Wall, wherever you could find the room. R handed me slip, and I wrote my deepest wishes in a totally self-serving manner. R held up his slip so I could take a photo of him, and not really wanting to pry into his prayers, I accidentally what he had written. I should have went back and wrote on my prayer slip how grateful I am to have such a selfless and wonderful man for a husband.

After visiting the Wall, we took a tour underground, which made me feel like I was in an Indiana Jones movie. I take every and all opportunities to feel this way, and it was pretty amazing to see history being uncovered right before your eyes. Our tour funneled us out into the ancient, twisty streets of the old city. We walked down the Via de la Rosa, which is supposedly where Christ walked before his crucifixion…and where there were many people renting crosses from little shops to carry down the road. The rest of our day was spent wandering around here for awhile, visiting shops (R had to get a kippah to wear for the Bar Mitzvah, afterall!), spice stalls, and snack counters, which also made me feel like I was in an Indiana Jones movie.
Ben’s Bar Mitzvah, aka The Whole Reason We Were Here, was on Thursday, our American Thanksgiving Day. There was a lot to be thankful for- because it was heavy on our minds, namely the ceasefire for Israel and Hamas announced the day before.

I had never been to a Bar Mitzvah ever. I felt pretty awesome that my first one was that of a dear little friend, who always made our Teen Book Club discussions very…lively, and we had travelled all the way to Israel for the special day. The location was a beautiful restaurant called Rama’s Kitchen, serving all organic and local food, much of it coming from the surrounding gardens. Here, we were perched in the Judean Hills, overlooking the magnificent Jerusalem hillsides. The grandparents (proud as ever), and the awesome Israeli couple we had visited on our first day, were all present along with a couple of very friendly dogs that lived on the premises. R looked quite the part in his kippah, and Laura remarked afterward how he would make such a nice Jewish boy. The kids were also very curious as to when we would become converts.
Picture
Our man of the day had clearly put a lot of time into readying himself for the big day, reading his Hebrew flawlessly and giving speeches genuine enough to make grown men cry. Abigail, his sister, gave a hilariously cute speech that seemed a little more like her brother was leaving the earth rather than turning 13. I hope that one day when she gets married, Ben remembers her speech and reciprocates in the same manner. When I heard that Abigail was getting married, at first I felt so sad, because I knew she wouldn’t share our last name anymore. But then I felt so happy, knowing that she was just getting another name, and getting a wonderful man to share the years with, too…

Oh, there were many amazing things that happened after this particular point on our holiday. In fact, one of the things (spoiler alert! We get held at a checkpoint in Palestinian controlled West Bank…) that happened is maybe to this day one of my favorite memories from a trip, ranking much higher than the El Al shakedown. Don’t worry, I’ll try to add some variety in here too, breaking up the infamous Israel trip into several parts so you’re not so tired of hearing about it you don’t ever want to visit that amazing place.

 
 
Picture
The first time I met my soon to be sorority sister, future roommate, and one day maid of honor, Selina, I'm certain there was a fair share of eye rolling and eyebrow raises on my end of the introduction. I thought she was most likely legally insane. Of course, that crazy person, as different as we were, ended up being one of the best friends I've ever had. 

A lot like college or joining a sorority, making friends while living in Hyderabad can be what Laura once described as "slim pickin's." While some might find that rude, I totally understood what she meant. For example, she was a transplant from the East Coast to suburban Georgia, mother of 3, and I was just a young, totally cool, ridiculously hip (duh!), half Mexican-American girl from the various ghettos of Ohio (yes, they exist). In no situation other than the one we were thrust into would we have ever had the opportunity to become friends. Pretty soon after meeting Laura, we began to "hang." She and our friend Heidi taught me how to play mahjongg, a game that I will most likely play wherever we go next, and soon I was living down the street from her in our neighborhood. I realized that her husband, Phil, was my brother from another mother, and our bond with this family soon deepened. 

Taking this unlikely match to the next level, we were invited to their son's Bar Mitzvah in November, 2012. Because there is a virtually (or actually) non-existent Jewish community in India, they were taking the party to the motherland itself, Israel! I knew their children relatively well (as much as a 29 year old could know a 12, 11, and 7 year old) thanks to the "teen" book club I run, so it was an easy decision for us. We couldn't resist joining the celebrations and booked our tickets.

Here is where I mention that in college and for quite awhile after, I was very interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, having read many books and knowing several people that it affected on a personal level. I didn't have much interest in visiting Israel other than to see a glimpse of history with my own eyes. I really didn't expect to enjoy it much as I did- other than sharing the joy of momentous event in our friend's lives. There were some slight complications, however. Because the conflict is never-ending, a week before we were scheduled to leave, things started to heat up. We were scheduled to leave on November 17, and on November 14, the head of Hamas military operations, Ahmed al-Ja'abari was killed in a targeted air strike, codenamed Operation Pillar of Defense, by the Israel Defense Forces. These airstrikes were retribution, as stated by Israel, for increased rocket attacks from Gaza. The next day, on November 15, two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at Tel Aviv. One of the rockets landed in the city's suburbs and the other landed into the sea.  On November 16, the day before we were scheduled to leave, a rocket aimed at Jerusalem set off air raid sirens throughout the city. The IDF announced the calling up of 30k reservists, readying itself for possible ground invasion in the Gaza Strip (You can see a brief timeline of events here and here). We suddenly found ourselves fielding phone calls left and right. We did our research... should something happen, we knew how long we had to take cover and the correct way to shield our heads. We were unshaken. We were still going. 

All the craziness of going through El-Al security aside (who knew there was such a thing as a friendly interrogation?!),  we made it to our destination in the early hours. We would spend the next few days in Tel Aviv, but the first location we'd be staying in would not be ready for us until that afternoon. So we jumped in cars from the airport and drove to Caesarea, a town (built by this guy) between Tel Aviv and Haifa, for the day. We stop first for food, of all places, at a GAS STATION, that has a ridiculously amazing breakfast. This wasn't your average Sheetz sustenance. 

Caesarea offered us our first look into the history of the region, as well as our first view of the Mediterranean Sea. The water was clear, the air crisp, the sun shining. We made the right decision in still coming. Nothing could go wrong...right? 

As the afternoon was winding up, we made our way to visit some of Phil and Laura's friends, an Israeli family that had lived in our neighborhood in India before we moved in. They eased our fears about safety, even as they showed us their mandatory bomb shelter, and fed us the most amazing food I think I have ever tasted on God's green earth. I stupidly refused an offer of jumping on the back of our new friend's Hyderabad-restored Royal Enfield, and soon we were on our way. Evening was upon us and the twinkling city lights of Tel Aviv could be seen as we navigated (with special thanks to this amazing app!!) our way into it's open embrace. 

As we drove on by the glow of our trusty mobile GPS, we wound up in the neighborhood we thought we'd be spending the night. Just like how on a TV commercial that cheeseburger looks so delicious and succulent, with it's perfectly melted cheese and strategically placed lettuce and tomato, a little bit of special sauce peeking outside the bun... only for you to rush out to the nearest fast food joint, order that same cheeseburger and have it be, well... a dump? No one can blame our awesome trip planner for what we found next. The room was....incredible!...in the way that a Russian spring break cement block hostel with the words "F(*#&$ THE POLICE" spray painted on the outside might be. In a past life, or if we were a lone couple, or even with other people, I could imagine a freak out. A total meltdown. We're in a WAR ZONE. Here's where we'd be frantically imagining all the horrific things that could happen to us if we stayed in this place, air raid sirens and all...and at the moment that we decided we were not staying, and we were slamming the car doors on our way to find a new resting place- what's that? A SIREN? AN AIR RAID SIREN?! Oh, ohhh yes. At that very moment, sleeping children in the backseat of a car and all, we jumped out of that sedan shouting "WE HAVE 90 SECONDS TO TAKE COVER!!" (WE DID OUR RESEARCH.) grabbed the frazzled children and ran back into the den of past spring break debaucheries. The long-haired Israeli Michael Jackson, who was in charge of opening the place for us, sat with us on the cots. "There will be three blasts," he said, someone clearly feeding this information through the cellphone attached to his face. And...there were. In the middle of what seemed like a precautionary Ohio tornado drill, we heard what clearly was NOT the sound of a tornado. Blasts, not unlike what you can hear here: Anderson Cooper taking cover from Explosion in Gaza (not coincidentally, a couple days after we arrived in Tel Aviv). Each pair of eyes, the size of our breakfast plates that morning, darting back and forth at the others. Murmurs of "Mom, what IS that?" And the looks on our faces that said it all, "Dude. What are we doing here, again?" After the third blast, the long-haired guy said "Well, that's it." And clearly planned on going about his business, only a couple minutes interrupted. I don't really remembering leaving that place, I just remember R driving, our friends behind us. 

"Where are we going?" I asked. At that moment we pulled into The Sheraton, it's red logo blazing like a beacon of hope to weary travelers. When R emerged from the building with Phil, we had rooms booked for the night. "They said that there's a lot of open rooms but no one can stay on one side of the building... in case of a hit," R explained. We grabbed our bags and checked in. 

On the way to our rooms the luggage guy made sure to show us the bomb shelter. "This is just in case, but in the event of sirens, you can make your way here." He then explained the structure of the building, built to withstand such blasts. I won't lie, that night I took the fastest shower ever, asking R from behind the curtain, "Soooo, what if we're in the SHOWER and the sirens go off?!" I quickly rinsed the shampoo from my hair and dried off. 

Over the next couple days, we experienced some more craziness. While Hamas was calling for an end of Israel's blockade on Gaza as stipulations for a cease-fire, Phil and Laura's parents flew into Tel Aviv from the U.S. for the big day, which was later on in the week. While Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, visited neighboring Egypt for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, the grandparents were getting a flat on the highway and experiencing their own ridiculous journey through Israeli rental cars and tire shops on our way back from The Jewish Diaspora Museum. While then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came to help bring an end to the recent violence, and while a "A knife and ax-wielding Israeli man attacked and lightly wounded a security guard at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv ," we walked just minutes from the scene of it all, on the Tel Aviv beach, visited the Old Jaffa Flea Market, and ate more of the best food of my life with friends and their family by our sides. 
While I know you are all dying to know what happened after we left Tel Aviv for Jerusalem, a day before this bus bomb, and how the actual Big Fat Israeli Bar Mitzvah went, I did warn you that this was a post in numerous parts. I will give you a hint. We are still friends with Phil and Laura, survived another vacation with their family, and it's not just because of the a limited friend pool here in Hyderabad. ;) 

(We miss you guys!) 

-L
 

M.I.A.

06/18/2013

0 Comments

 
So I guess for a few months I just forgot the address to my blog or something because I know I've been M.I.A. for quite awhile. The good news is, I have so much to write about! Since Election Day (wow!  So, so long ago!) R and I have been to Israel (during the conflict of November 2012), the United States for Christmas, cycled across Thailand and Cambodia, and back to the United States again for our "summer break." All while R works his face off. You can say we've been busy. For now, we're back in Hyderabad, enjoying the "cool" weather- a la monsoon season. I've made a summertime resolution to myself to keep up with this blog, so you can hold me accountable for updating you on all our journeys. Please don't give up on me just yet. Haha. 

L
 
 
Picture
It's interesting to talk about Election Day without getting into personal politics and beliefs, but I'm pretty sure I can do it- at least I will try. Since I've been a wee lass I've loved Election Day. I've probably mentioned before that I've always been a bit patriotic, even when I might have just kept my mouth shut. But just like many Americans, my parents followed the elections in their own way and it instilled in me a love for political engagement and informedness whether or not we have the same political beliefs. That's something they should be proud of, no matter what my registered party is. So for that, I thank you Dad and Mom.  

I didn't think an Election Day could be more memorable for me than 2008 but back then I had no idea that in 4 years time I would be living overseas in India, filling out an absentee ballot, following the election through iMessages with friends, constant online news reading and Facebook feeds. A year ago, I remember sitting at our dining room table here in Hyderabad and telling R "I am so sad I am missing this election year!" To which R replied, "I am sooo glad you are missing this election year." Hold on! Who says I've been known to have blood pressure spikes, angry outbursts, or multiple facepalms in a row over politics? Pssshh!!! But I had to laugh last night when R said to me "I'm sort of sad about missing this election year." For R to say that, well, seriously, it's been interesting.     

Picture
Me and my friends, Election Day 2008. Just kidding: Election Day in Philadelphia, by John Lewis Krimmel, 1815.
Because the debates happened pretty much overnight for us, I would wake up in the morning with a fresh Facebook newsfeed of hilarity. Mitt Romney says "binders full of women" or he's going to "fire Big Bird" or Obama totally lost that debate, and what jerk Joe Biden came across as, this or that. And there was the constant "I AM SO TIRED OF THESE ADS!" Meanwhile, I saw no ads but heard a lot from non-American friends here who had their own ideas about who should be President. That was something I didn't really expect. R mentioned that he has also enjoyed explaining the voting process, the electoral college, swing states and other things to various coworkers or non-American friends. I can say that I also enjoyed more than once feeling super cool to explain that the Vice-President was President of the Senate. What's the Senate you ask? OH, Well! Let me tell you! I don't remember a ton from my US Government classes, but man, I've felt like a pro lately. And also, I felt very proud that OHIO is once again, the heart of it all. :)
 
This Election Day I am sadly not watching the results come in with 100 other neighbors and friends on a large screen at our local watering hole while taking photographs with lifesize cardboard cutouts of the running politicians. I am not sitting at home with family waiting for a debate to happen at any second over why "my candidate is better than yours." I am probably not even going to be sitting at home watching results on TV. I will most likely be falling asleep knowing that our President is Barack Obama, and waking up to the news of who our country has voted in for the next 4 years. I will also fall asleep very proud to be an American, proud to have exercised my right to vote- even while living abroad- and knowing that no matter what happens, I will always be proud of where I come from. (P.S. Ohio, do me proud!)

....and yeah...I probably lied. Maybe I won't be going to sleep tonight at all. 

 
 
Picture
There are not too many Americans living amongst us. Stumbling upon other native English speakers, one will find that they usually seem to hail from the UK. About 9 months ago, I was very lucky to find myself thrown together with another American girl who is like-minded, around my age give or take a year, and also- big surprise- childless. No doubt, the trifecta was in place when many said to me "You should meet Ashley, she's your age, American, and uh... doesn't have kids- but she has two dogs!!!" Beside the point, because I can save that for a whooolle 'nother post! Anyway, we have another friend who is Dutch. I will often forget that she is not American because it just never crosses my mind that "hey! you're not from where I'm from!" when we're hanging out. Marjon speaks very good English, contrary to what she thinks about her skills, and we all have a very similar sense of humor so it's easy to feel so comfortable around each other. 

One day, during our weekly quilting class (yes, I do take quilting), Ashley and I were reminded that Marjon was indeed not American, as she answered her cell phone and began speaking in a very very quick Dutch. We both looked at each other, wide-eyed and bewildered, and then said almost simultaneously, "THAT is NOT English." 

Which brings me to the meat of my post. As a kid I always wondered what people on the "outside" thought of people on the "inside." For example. If aliens ("outside") were looking down on us silly humans ("inside"), what would they think about large crowds standing together for anything (graduations, speeches, concerts, etc.) and then clapping to show our approval? Clapping is a very strange thing when you think about it. We are flinging our extremities about, hitting them together to make a noise, all for the sake of showing our appreciation toward something. Umm...Weird. 

I don't speak Dutch. I don't speak German. I don't speak Korean. I speak a sad amount of Japanese and an equally sad amount of Spanish and less than pathetic amount of French. I have yet to learn Hindi, and I'd love to learn Chinese. Languages are a thing that I've been interested in for awhile but I always had to giggle when I heard certain ones being spoken. No offense, Marjon and the rest of my Dutch friends, but I always thought Dutch was at least a jovial sounding language but one that is so waaaay, totally different than English that I can't help but giggle a bit when I hear it. Now when I hear German I sort of want to run and hide. Uh, yeah, no offense to my dear German friends too. ;) 

Living here has made me think about things other than, "What on earth do aliens think when we clap?" 
I now think, "Boy, if I think Telugu sounds wacky, I bet they must think English sounds preeeetty weird too." 

When Marjon answered her phone in front of us that morning, I was reminded of this video I found almost two years ago. I hope you enjoy it as much as do. It's very "what do aliens think when..." It's a video by Adriano Celentano, and it's supposed to sound like English-specifically American English. And for my non-native English speaking friends, if this is really what we sound like to you... well, I understand, because I'm dying to know what they are saying... OH wait, this isn't a real language. 
 

friends.

09/10/2012

1 Comment

 
Picture
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” 
― C.S. Lewis


You’ve probably noticed that I’m sort of a… “different” person. When I was younger this personality trait was the source of much teasing or more accurate, the explanation for any imaginary friends I might have had. It was a vicious cycle. It can't be said that I lacked friendships, but I can definitely say that I was not a cool kid and I was certainly not Miss Popularity. And I believe that I have always been an introvert, even if my parents would object to this. I knew them well, so it was easy to be my weird, loud self around them. As my years progressed, I found others like me, and there are few friends that I still remember fondly for being some of the closest friends I have ever had.

In Elementary school, I had Kristine. Don’t ever call her Kristina, but you could always call her Kris. Every December, near or on her birthday, we’d have a big sleepover at her house where we’d do ridiculous things. We'd get into near fatal pillow fights, prank call McDonalds, or play Crash Bandicoot until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore. Even if I talked to her all day in school, we’d still talk on the phone that night. Don’t get me wrong though. We didn’t talk typical girl things. We talked baseball. We talked Star Wars. We talked nerd. She was that kind of friend. When time took us to different schools, we grew apart, but I still miss her friendship and think fondly upon it as one of the best I've had.   

I like to call High School the best days I had. This is of course pretty silly, but I definitely enjoyed my time there. I was social, even if in the nerdiest ways possible. I immersed myself in every band activity I could, as well as drama, art, JROTC, and even poorly attempted cheerleading. The last one didn't pan out so well. When I met Angela, whom I call Angie, the girl I could talk Final Fantasy with, and who remains a friend to me since, I knew I'd have a friend for the ages. These days we may not be as close, but 15 years later, I still want to play/talk FF VII conspiracy theories with her and we meet up when we can. At the same time, I met a kid named Brad, who was equally as strange as I am, although I can never forget the time he called me “eccentric.” We could, and still can, talk on the phone for hours, then go to school 2 hours later and talk more. In the summer, we’d spend hours driving the city in a rust colored car with no speedometer listening to fantasy novels on audiocassette. Somehow, through different cities, several universities, and continents later, I  can still call him one of my best friends. 
When you make it to college, you can find so many fellow weirdoes, it’s almost too easy to make friends. “What’s your major? Japanese? Oh, do you like anime?” You answer yes, and there you go. New best friend. Join the tennis team. The whole team minus the seniors who hate you, well, they are all your friends! I had some great friends in the three universities I attended. Selina, a girl who carried a shiv in her hoodie and outlined her lips with lipliner was my complete opposite. We met, I secretly judged, we were thrown together by the bonds of sisterhood, and suddenly, years later, she’s the Maid of Honor at my wedding.

Friendship is funny that way. In a way, the older you get the easier and harder it gets to make friends, if that makes sense. You can be forced together by work, or situation, or school even, which should make it easy, but if you think the people are nothing like you, it can get difficult. When I first moved to India I only contemplated friendship as a secondary thought. I didn’t think too much about how it might be easy or difficult to make friends, I just thought a lot about the friends I was leaving behind. I have a lot of great friends in Cincinnati, some made through work connections, others just randomly, and it was really difficult to say goodbye. When I got here a year ago, I met a lot of people who seemed really different than me. Many were about 15 years old than I was and pretty much all of them had children. Their husbands didn’t travel the way mine did, and the more they mentioned it, the more I started thinking how it might be difficult to achieve what I had before.

I was wrong. At the risk of sounding cliché, the friendships and connections I have gained here have totally surpassed my expectations and blown me away. For example, in a situational friendship, where it could have been “Hey, you will be friends now, because this is your husband’s boss’s wife,” Heidi became one of my dearest friends here. I can honestly say that since she has left, there is a hole in our Hyderabad world and in our hearts where their whole family belongs.
Any non-amazing people here are few and far between, however. One of my best friends in Cincinnati, Megan, has a sister who is dying from Mitochondrial disease. She wanted to help her sister Leslie make 1000 paper cranes so that she could have a wish, like the Japanese legend. I thought how nice it would be for some of us to get together here to make some and send them to her, so I posted it on Facebook. Within 2 hours I had over 15 replies, and a couple days later over 25 of us got together to make cranes at my house. Even people I did not know came to my house to drop cranes off for Leslie during the week. I was very touched that many of my friends here have hearts so big, and that even people I don’t even know wanted to help. 

Megan is very lucky to have a wonderful sister like Leslie, and Leslie is so lucky to have a great sister like Megan. I’m so lucky to have a good friend like Megan. I’m also so lucky to have friends like all of you- all over this big world- because without you, my life would not be the same. 


“Can miles truly separate you from friends... If you want to be with someone you love, aren't you already there?” 
― Richard Bach



Learn more about Mitochondrial Disease by visiting MitoAction.org and UMDF

 
 
Oh hello there. Yes, it's been awhile. I'm not going to make excuses. I have none...I'll just get right into it. Sometimes you live here for awhile and things lose their luster. Things sort of, stop amusing you as much as they did before, or maybe you can't even think of things worthy to blog about. This is rare of course, because this evening, I remembered how amusing things can be. 

For those of you who don't follow every word I write on Facebook, you don't know that for the last two nights now I've been hearing Survivor's Eye of the Tiger being blared in the neighborhood like we all were being summoned from our ultra modern, cookie-cutter, "suburban," gated community villas to fight. Oh, you didn't know? Every day is a fight here. Love is a battlefield. When we're not fighting we're winning. That's when the neighbors play "We are the Champions." Usually comes right after Eye of the Tiger. After all the fighting and winning we're probably coming down from our high. We sometimes get lonely here on the other side of the world and we've all left someone behind, as apparently our neighbors have... because, I heard them singing this as loudly as possible. Trust me, I know this, because this one goes out to the ones we love.

-L

 
 
Picture
It's not Friday anymore (or really even the weekend anymore), but weekends are for things like going to the movies. Especially here in India. If there is one thing India loves, it's the movies. And it seems like there are so many great movies out to see right now here. Batman, Spiderman, even the Avengers were here for a long time. 

Going to the movies here is always an interesting experience and oh! Such a pleasure. To see a movie here, you must first purchase tickets in advance or at the box office, sort of like in the U.S., with one main difference being assigned seating. I have not attempted to purchase tickets at the box office because I prefer to pick out my seat online as if I am on ticketmaster attempting to attend a Rebecca Black concert at the finest cricket stadium in town. Don't be silly, of course it's not like ticketmaster. But, it is sort of the same. And occasionally (or like, every time the first time) when your booking fails, you get redirected to a cute little page that says "Booking Failure!! :) We cannot confirm. We encourage you to try booking again!" If you didn't catch that, there is most definitely a big yellow smiley face cheering you up as you feel like a giant failure. Also, be aware that there are different classes of tickets. I said classes, not castes. For 5 bucks, the "Royale" treatment gets you oversized leather seats in the back row with a strange little tables next to them. For 2 dollars less, you can purchase "Executive" seats, or regular movie seats. Royale seats go quickly, as there are less of the them and reserved for the high rollers, so we tend to end up in the Executive seating with the common folk.

Once you've decided which seat you should take, booked them successfully, and the big day has come, you can proceed to the theater for your gender segregated frisking. After the extremely sad and ridiculously terrifying occurrence in Colorado the other week, metal detectors and pat downs actually do make me feel a little more secure for once. The more you know: These tiny little "security" guards will pry your foreign-manufactured chewing gum from between your jowls as well as well as your fists. Keep it secret, keep it safe. Carrots in a ziploc-equivalent, however, seem to be perfectly acceptable to smuggle on one's person.

Picture
My favorite thing about the movies here is INTERMISSION. Most movies you will go to will have an intermission, guaranteed to be at a very pivotal moment or most definitely right in the middle of someone on the screen saying a line you would never want to miss. This is when you can run to the bathroom, get more veg samosas, ice cream, microwave popcorn, or bottled water. It's something every movie needs.

In other words, I see more movies in a month while living in India than I'd ever see in a year in the US. I've become a movie-going expert, so far off from the days when I saw Lion King with my mom and got lost in the dark theater after taking a bathroom break (see! This is why we need intermission!). So take my expert advice: before Friday comes, consider what to do this weekend. Push off thoughts of psychos (because that's what psychos want- you to be scared!), remember the victims of the Colorado shooting, and thank the heavens you don't have to book tickets days or weeks in advance... then go see a movie. You'll remember how people all over enjoy this great communal pastime and know that even crazies can't take that away from the entire world.



P.S. For the record, if there is one thing that really gets my goat, it's when people say "Holy (insert whatever they are talking about here), Batman!" That really gets on my nerves, so I'm basically giving away my kryptonite. Use it wisely. P.S. I totally know that kryponite is like Spiderman's weakness, not Batman. I mean, come on now.

 
 
I have found that my job here in India involves many ceremonial duties that I never anticipated.  This week, it was judging the monthly ladies club cooking contest.  While many of our employees do eat meat, the tradition is for the contest to be 100% vegetarian.  The contest has the following rules:
  1. There is one seasonally fresh ingredient that must be used.
  2. There are 8-10 optional ingredients.
  3. Three judges will score based on Taste, Quality, and presentation in that order of importance.
The focus ingredient this month was sagoo or sago.  I found myself wanting to award points more for presentation than for the other criteria. 
I guess I should have taken pictures of the winners holding their dishes, but I didn't really think about it.

There were 27 dishes in all.  We picked the top three and three consolation prizes.  I don't know what the winners got, but they had gifts for the judges.  I got a pen.