Monday, March 30, 2009

It's Always a Holiday!

Right now it's the holiday time called Navratri. This happens 2 times a year in our area of South Asia - in the beginning of Summer and the beginning of Winter. This one is called Vasant Navaratri. This holiday lasts for 9 days. For this holiday, people do special fasting and they worship a goddess called Durga. They are only supposed to eat one time a day, so in some markets they set up tents and feed people. I was in a busy market yesterday and they had this tent set up. They blow a conch horn to tell everyone that they're ready to serve, and people get in line to eat.
I want you to notice the lack of Personal Space here :) Most of the people in line don't know each other, but yet they are REALLY close to each other :) You see, if they leave a space between them and the person in front of them (especially in a food line), then someone will get in that space :) So, you have to be close together. That, and their idea of personal space is WAY smaller than the American idea of personal space :)
They are only supposed to eat one meal a day (usually after sunset) and can have juice, milk and fruit during the day. When people fast here, they usually aren't fasting from food, but just from certain foods. For this holiday they aren't supposed to eat grains, garlic, onions, eggs or meat (some Hindus do eat meat regularly). Grains are a HUGE part of the meals here. In our area, they eat bread with every meal, so going without grains is a big deal. So, for this holiday, they make bread out of water chestnut flour - weird hunh? I didn't know you could make flour out of that!?! Here they are cooking food for a ton of people!
Some people say that, if they can, during this holiday, they are supposed to sleep on the floor or couches during these nights and not in their beds.
And one last picture...These guys were funny, so I took their picture :) Not everyone wants their picture made, but these guys did!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Funny Things - "I'm not sure what to say about this" Edition

OK, so this is something that is very common... it's something that I see almost every day... You see, people here LOVE Bollywood. They love the movies, they love the actors, they love the actresses, they REALLY love the songs, they love the dancing... well, you get the picture. Anyway, a large number of rickshaw drivers (maybe even a majority of them) have pictures of Bollywood stars stuck on their rear-view mirrors. They are usually cut out into a heart shape...
If you were a guy in America and had a heart cut-out of Brad Pitt or something on your rear-view mirror, your guy friends would totally make fun of you!....
.... But if they lived here, they would totally show you their Tom Cruise :)
hahaha! it totally cracks me up!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Threading

Threading is something that I learned about when I moved to South Asia.  I hadn't heard about it before I actually saw one of my friends get it done.  It actually originated in Iran and carried over to the rest of Asia pretty quickly and is now even becoming popular in the US.   
So what is threading?  Well, it's pretty much a method of removing hair.   In South Asia, they use it mostly to fix eyebrows and to get off other unwanted facial hair.  They use a thread and hold one end in their mouth and use both hands and rip out the hair at the folicle.  They can remove a whole row of hair at a time this way.  It's pretty crazy and it's supposed to be more painful than waxing.  Here's a video of it below:
It's only a short clip, but if you want to see more check out Another Short Threading Video.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Jaya's Engagement!

My good friend Jaya (Mayank's sister that lives in M-town) - just got engaged!  On Sunday, I took the trip to M-town to go to her Engagement Ceremony (or Ring Ceremony).  It was a lot of fun :)!  
First Stop - Beauty Parlor!  We walked a little ways down the street to a lady's house.  The beauty parlor was in one of the rooms in her house.  Jaya had already been to her house that morning to get her hair done, but now it was time for the makeup.  This beauty parlor was interesting because it only had 2 light bulbs in the whole room (and they were the energy saver kind that were dimmer than the regular ones), so it wasn't that bright inside the room.   Here's a pic of Jaya in the chair getting her makeup done.   Notice that her hair is crimped.  They use the crimper on people's hair when it's a special occasion - awesome!!!
They put a bindi on her head and then the lady painted more and made it super fancy.
Here's the finished product (after 1.5 hours)!  She looks awesome :)
Me and 3 of her other friends were with her at the beauty parlor.  When she finished it was about 12:45 (and the party was supposed to start at 12:00).  I am used to things starting late here in South Asia, but I'm usually just sitting around and waiting.  It was nice this time to be a part of the reason it was late :)   When we got to the party place (TimBuk Too), we stood outside for a few minutes (so that they could tell the people inside that she was there).  It was fun, it was like walking down the aisle and we were the bridesmaids.  We all walked inside slowly and everyone was taking pictures.  It was fun :)   

When we got in the room, there were two rows of chairs on the right side of the room for the future groom and his family and some Friends, there were two rows of chairs on the left side of the room for the future bride and her family and some friends and there were mats in the middle of the room.   The engagement/ring ceremony is a smaller event than a wedding.  It's pretty much only for close family and a couple of friends of the future bride and groom.  I felt really honored to have been invited.
So, as soon as Jaya got there, Deepansh (the future groom) and his family & friends (mostly men) sat on the mats while Jaya and the future bride's side of the family sat in the chairs.  After this, they began the ceremony.  I'm not sure of everything that was going on in the ceremony, but Jaya's dad & brother (Mayank) were giving Deepansh (future groom) many different things and gifts and taking a lot of pictures!  This part of the ceremony was pretty short.
Then it was Jaya's turn.  First they put out & displayed all the gifts from Deepansh's family.  There was gold jewelry, makeup, saris, bangles, dolls, stuffed animals, sweets, and much more!  
Then Jaya sat down (and the other ladies there sat down) and her part of the ceremony began.
The men's part of the ceremony was very quiet and pretty quick, but this one was different.  One woman played the drum and everyone was singing songs.  It was really fun.  While they were singing, Deepansh's family was giving her all of the gifts.
They gave her this fancy sari (in the pic below).  They gave her all the gifts that were shown in the picture a little further up on the page, but with most gifts, they  didn't just give them to her, but put them on her.  The put the sari over her head, they put a little of the jewelry on her, they put some of the makeup on her, they gave her some of the sweets, etc. 
Here's the happy couple :)  Like most Indian marriages, it was an arranged marriage.  I think I'll do a blog post on arranged marriages soon.  They are a lot different than we in America think.  Jaya's match was really great and they're really excited about getting married.
Next, they exchanged rings.  These rings are fancy!
Here's Jaya's ring.
Here's Deepansh's ring.
Next, their family fed them sweets.   They had to take at least a bite off of every sweet that was given to them.  They had to take a lot of bites :)
After that, they took picture with the guests.  This picture is bad, but it is the only picture I have from the whole day, so I'm posting it :)
Here's Jaya and her family with Deepansh!
Then it was time to eat!!!!  I was starving - it was about 2:45.  Me and my friend Luxmi were very hungry, so we got in line, got our food, and ate.  As we were eating, I realized that only the grooms family was eating... I pointed this out to Luxmi and she said - Oops! We're supposed to wait for the grooms family to get served before the bride's side eats!  So we went in the corner to finish our food :)   
Jaya & Deepansh got to eat and share a plate :) 
Here are some cute kids that were at the party.  They kept wanting their pictures taken :)
At this event, the bride gets her gold necklace.  They only wear these on special occasions.  They are gold and super fancy!  It's a way to show that you're married.  I think it looks cool!
At the end, after a majority of people had left, Deepansh left in his car and then most of his family left.  Everyone came outside to say goodbye.  Jaya's family posed for a picture.
We are going to be a part of the entire wedding, so I'll be posting a lot about how weddings work here.  The actual wedding is going to be in the Fall, and it will be about a week long - so I'll have a LOT of pictures!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Holi Happenings!

Today was Holi! It was a pretty mild Holi for us... it was pretty calm in our neighborhood this year. The Capital is a lot calmer than M-town, and our neighborhood is pretty calm too. (If you want to look at past Holi blogs, click here!)
Holi is a very unique holiday. It's a holiday where both kids and adults alike smear colored powder on each other, pour buckets of dye on each other and throw water balloons. You can cover a complete stranger in dye and they can't get mad. It's pretty unique. Here's a pic below of a guy selling Holi supplies:
Another thing that makes this holiday unique is it's one of two holidays here in our part of South Asia, where a majority of people that celebrate, consume Bhang. Bhang is the large green leaves and flowering shoots of mostly the male cannabis plant... yeah, marijuana. It is most commonly served as a cold drink made with yogurt. They also batter and fry it as well as put it as a little ball in the middle of sweets. There have been articles in the paper all week talking about the benefits of Bhang. It's been pretty funny. Yesterday's paper said:

"Bhang & Holi become synonymous because this intoxicant is a great agent for decompression; it escalates the spirit of Holi, liberates the human personality as exemplified by Shiva to the point that the man becomes the festival and the festival, the man."
It also said:

"Bhang heightens the powers of such perception, but only if taken in right measure. in Hinduism, intoxication in therapeutic doses is permitted for meditation; that's why it's such a great way of life"
.
Just in case you were wondering...I'm not at all recommending it and no, we didn't have any Bhang - but I did think what the newspaper said was funny.
Here's Aashini as she's getting ready for the festivities:

Here's Adam & our neighbor Tusshar before they got dirty :)

This is when they first got started :)

Here's some of our other neighbors having fun:
This picture made me laugh :)
These people were biking down our street and were looking all around for people throwing things at them.
Here's a picture of Adam towards the end of playing... it wasn't very wild on our street this year, so he isn't too messy.
I didn't get any pictures of myself, but here are some of Aashini. She didn't like being dirty, so she was a little unhappy.
I didn't get a very good picture before she ran inside to get cleaned up... but this one is kinda fun :)

I hope everyone had a happy Holi!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

wow!

Today we were out in our rickshaw and I saw this woman. It's very rare to see blue eyes here. There are people here with blue eyes, but it's not very common to see. I thought she looked so cool!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Breakfast!

I'm not a breakfast person... I don't like breakfast foods... I know, I'm weird :) So some days I don't eat breakfast and them I'm hungry again at 10:00 and then I eat and it throws the whole day off :) Well, the other day my friend Kelley had a recipe for some breakfast bars... they sounded good so I thought I'd give them a try:Oat & Almond Breakfast Bars
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/2 c honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 lg egg
2 c old-fashioned oats, uncooked
3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1/2 c sliced almonds (if you can’t slice them, then chop or grind)
1/2 c toasted wheat germ
1/2 c raisins
Optional:
½ cup Mini Chocolate Chips (highly recommended)
Walnuts
3/4 tsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 13" by 9" metal baking pan with nonstick foil (If not using nonstick, lightly grease foil).
2. In 2-cup liquid measuring cup, stir oil, honey, vanilla, and egg until mixed. In large bowl, with fork, mix oats, flour, sugar, almonds, wheat germ, raisins, and salt until combined. With rubber spatula, stir honey mixture into oat mixture until blended; scrape into prepared pan. With wet hand, pat oat mixture evenly into pan.
3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until pale golden around edges. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.
4. When cool, transfer using foil to cutting board. Cut! Store in tightly sealed container at room temperature up to 2 weeks.
YUM! I finally have something I like to eat for breakfast! Thought I'd pass it along!