Thursday, April 28, 2011

To market, to market!

Hey everyone.  I’m sorry that this post has been so prolonged in coming to the web.  We got a computer that was new to us, and we’ve had some slight problems and technicalities with it.  I had written over ½ of this blog post on it when it totally crashed and I haven’t been able to fix it yet to get anything off of it.  (Slight disappointment)  SO I was feeling extremely discouraged, upset, and not in any mood to blog.  BUT  now that you know my excuses let’s head to the MARKET! 

It was very important for us to go the market one of the first days we were in India, because we need to get ready for the wedding!  We needed to get our material for our sari’s so that our tops and under skirts could be “stitched”. I’m getting ahead of myself though, before we head out there are a few things you should know about shopping in India. 
#1: NEVER pay the price the person is asking for.
Isn't he charming?
Bartering is just a way of life in India, and in most of the foreign countries I have visited.  But what I found most interesting in India was how young they ingrain bartering in the children.  Ryan is four and he is the nephew of the family we spent most of our time with.  He is extremely charming and is going to an English Christian school where they are teaching him to memorize certain passages of the Bible.  His parents wanted him to quote psalms 23 for us.  He didn’t really want to so there was some bribery involved; they told him he could have a chocolate if he said the verse. Satisfied, Ryan starts the chapter. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me…” he stops mid sentence holds up two fingers and says, “TWO chocolates!” It was from this moment on that I realized how young the Indians learn to barter!

Me, Angelina, Emily and Rosie
#2 in most situations you should have an Indian with you so that you don’t get ripped off. Often if the sellers saw a white person the price would double and sometimes even triple.  And EVEN if you got the price to come down you still were paying much more than you should have.  In our case, Angelina, will be our amazing tour guide, and constant barterer.  I have NEVER seen anyone be able to haggle a price down like she did.  More stories of this to come!

 The bangle shop will be our first stop.  Make sure you watch out for the trash, and those power lines that are just laying everywhere!

  Under the canopy of the bangle tent we start looking at the multitude of colors and designs of bangles.  From what I heard, traditionally bangles were only worn by married women, but it’s not as common now, anyone can wear them.  In India the women LOVE their bangles.  I was talking to Angelina, our chatter box and constant shopping guide, about bangles and I asked her if she wears them to bed.  She said, “YES… I like to hear them jingle when I roll over at night!” We needed to find bangles that matched the material we had picked out… so we found them and now let the bartering begin.  The first price they are asking for is 1500 rupees which is 33 dollars.
Photo taken by: Emily Walters
  Angelina thought that that was an outrageous price and she starts talking a mix of fast English and Hindi all at once.  Meanwhile we all just stand and watch her pretending like we know what’s going on until we see her shake her head from side to side (the equivalent of nodding) and hear her say, “TK”.  She turns and tells us the final price, “500 rupees (about 11 dollars) for two full sets of bangles”.   Now I don’t know about you all but I’m amazed at this girl’s skills… over the course of 5 minutes she managed to pay a THRID of the original price! From now on we're not going shopping without Angelina again!

What’s that?  Did one of you say you’re thirsty?  Well you’re in luck; right next to our bangle shop is a man making chai!
He has a gas burner and he’s making chai for whoever would like to pay 30 rupees (less than a dollar).  The liquid boils up, he takes the pot swirls the chai so it almost sloshes over the edge and then sets it back down on the flame so it boils up again and he repeats the process. When he’s pleased with the caramel color he strains the tea into plastic cups and serves you your chai.
Please don’t be too anxious to drink the chai because it’s VERY hot, and I almost always burn my mouth! 

Let’s walk on and enjoy the sights, smells, and people.  I’m sure you’ve noticed there are a lot of cars, motorcycles and people everywhere and there’s NEVER a silent moment.  Horns are always honking and letting you know when you’re in their way.  All around you there are tables full of fruits and veggies.
Emily and our shopper, Angelina. 
Over there are some coconuts, yes the green round things are really coconuts!  They are the type that they slice open, stick a straw in and you drink the milk.  I don’t really enjoy it but everyone here says it’s good for your stomach if it’s upset.  They also have other coconuts too but the green ones seem to be much more common.
This face should have been a clue!
 Angelina has gotten ahead of us and has
joined a crowd of people standing around this street vender, holding paper bowls and eating something that the man seems to be making for them.  In her cheerful voice she tells us that we HAVE to try Panipuris, they’re Max’s favorite and he can eat FIFTY of them!  Emily and I decided to be brave and we step up in the circle and join the hungry crowd.  I hold my bowl and the man puts this small fried bowl (the size of the mini cream puffs) in my bowl.  He places a few cubes of fried egg, adds a red sauce and some cool broth into the fried bowl.  Joseph, the man shopping with us, has already gobbled one down so we ask him, “Is it good?” He smiles and says, “yeah kind of”.  Well that seemed safe enough so Emily and I decide to dive into the water together, you see because the liquid you have to pop the whole thing into your mouth at once.

Into our mouths the concoction goes and I chomp down.  There’s NO way possible to prepare yourself for what was next to come.  Water gushes out, filling my mouth, the fried dough turns into crumbles and my cheeks are filled with swirling textures.  I don’t know what I’m supposed to do swallow it all or a little bit a time?  In the delay of swallowing my gag reflexes kick in, and I almost lose it all.  I quickly gain composer and just take 1 huge gulp.
photo borrowed from

You all are cheering and laughing and Emily declares that she “was fine until Erin gagged”.  Before we realize it the vender man is filling our plate with bite two.  The textures were too much for me, I drained the broth almost completely out and ate the snack that way, but after two I’m finished and ready to move on to our next adventure.

  I still feel a little hungry so we find another vender selling something like deep fried grilled cheese with a relish inside.  This is MUCH better and I enjoy a whole serving of this! 
 In this market you can find anything you need or want.  One shop is selling small tea cups, plates, and serving dishes.  Another vender is selling white material and next to him are the men dying scarves whatever color you need.  Men are sitting on low stools putting mehndi on hands and feet for about 200 rupees (4 dollars) and others with little carts selling soda. Something I find very interesting is all the men sitting next to sewing machines altering or sewing new designs.  I had to laugh and think about some of the guys at home sitting down to a sewing machine.  They think varnishing is “women’s work”, I can’t imagine what they would do if they had to alter or mend their own clothes.  

Most of the streets are just repeats of other streets we’ve been down, but it’s fun to see the people, smile at the children, and just experience it all!I can’t help but wonder what it would be like living here… day in and day out, until you know all the venders, and they no longer see the color of our skin.  

Let’s hop on a rickshaw and ride home.  Rickshaws are bikes in the front and a cart with two wheels on the back.  Most times you can fit three people on and the driver will peddle you where ever you’d like to go.  A good price from the market is about 30 rupees (less than 1 dollar).  I hope you don’t mind the bumping of the uneven streets or the panic of being in the middle of the intersection surrounded by honking horns.  Rickshaws are a fun, and cool way to get around and they let you see all the sights of India!

What are some memories of adventures this has brought back to you?  Have you even been to India before?  I know there are a lot of people who read this blog and I'd LOVE to hear some of your adventures!  Don't be shy, I'm waiting to hear from you!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

India, the land of Color

sorry the pic is blurry it's the only one we have :/

photo taken by Emily
I'm back again for day number 2 of our trip! On Saturday night the family told us that we would be going to church Sunday evening after Holi Festival was over. It was too dangerous to be caught anywhere in the city during the midst of the celebration.   People flooded the streets in a city wide water/color fight.   There was colored flour that would float down from balconies after a flood of water.  We enjoyed watching all the festivities from the safety of our balcony!  The neighbors loved posing for pictures and at one point they called Emily down and PROMISED they wouldn't put color on her.  They greeted her and gave her the special drink that they drink on this day.  And even though they didn't COVER her in color they did put some on her forehead.  At one point when we were standing on the balcony a group of guys gathered in the ally and we quickly asked, "what are they doing?".  It looked as though they had firecrackers and they were going to set them off.  WELL to our surprise it wasn't firecrackers. They were tubes filled with colored smoke and when they were lit colored smoke went every where!  Floating down the ally and up past the balcony into the, already polluted, New Delhi sky.  It smelled the same way sparklers smell on the Fourth Of July.   This celebration represents India's colors to me.  The flowers in all the parks, the colorful scarves and saris of the women blowing in the breeze, and the colorful characters of the people I have grown to love.
photo taken by Emily

Asa was still full of questions on day # 2 and at this point the family had given him the nickname, Question Mark.  It's good to ask questions though.... sometimes you are able to find out interesting facts.  In the case of Holi I really felt like none of our questions were answered.  

We asked a number of different people what they were celebrating and we seemed to get different answers every time.  The lady who owned the hotel we were staying in told us that they were celebrating all the differences around them and how on this one day everyone could come together and be friends. Another person said they were remembering this woman who needed to burn her dead son, but the people who kept the fire wouldn't let her have a flame.  She decided to steal some of the fire and in the process she caught her skirt on fire and died with her son.  AND yet another person said they were sacrificing to the god of destruction.   SO in the end of the day we still didn't know what the country was celebrating or worshiping on that day.   All the celebrating something no one seemed 100% sure of really got me thinking just now. I'm wondering if there are things we celebrate that have been passed down generation upon generation, but the true reason of the celebration has somehow been lost in the passing of time.  Easter is right around the corner, stores all filled with candy bunnies and Easter grass all ready for baskets.  We dye eggs and tell our children that the Easter bunny will be coming... BUT I wonder how many Americans, if asked, would know the reason for the actual celebration of Easter. Do you know?  Just some food for thought....

photo taken by Emily

Monday, April 11, 2011

India, the land of Chai

Hey All!  I have been there, back again and now I'm finally sitting down to write.  Today is beautiful here in Guilford, the sun is kind of shining and it's 70 degrees!  THIS is the weather I was hoping for when I came back from India!  Honestly, I've wanted to blog, but I've had some computer problems and I just haven't known what to say.  I still don't know how to put into words all that I saw, felt and experienced over there.  There were times when I thought I had stepped back centuries into another time period, then someone would walk past me on their cell phone and I would be reminded that I was still in 2011!

photo taken by Emily
I think that for the next few weeks I'll be writing different posts about my time over in India.  That way you don't have to sit at the computer reading one HUGE post, you can simply sit down and read it as if it was happening day by day! :)  Blogging would have been possible over there, but I really wanted to soak up the experiences while we were there!

The Flight:

The flight was very interesting.  Our first flight was from JFK to London.  It was a very empty flight, which was wonderful.  Asa, Emily, and I all had a row of 5 seats that we stretched out on and attempted to sleep most of the night.  Our second stop was in Bahrain. This was the place that caused us most stress before the trip, people were calling us making sure it was safe for us to go and I was really worried.  We got through Bahrain safely though it was very  oppressive.  Emily and I felt naked compared to the women who were COMPLETELY covered there.  Another bit of culture shock was when the Prayer time came and their prayers were broadcasted over the loud speakers.  It just felt erie to me, and not understanding what they were praying was just a completely different experience.
photo taken by Emily
 The total duration of the flight was around 23 hours.   However because the time changes we actually lost time and got to India 1 and 1/2 days after we had left JFK.  We arrived in India at 7:30 am and promptly went through customs, got our baggage, and headed outside to wait for our ride.   We weren't very tired, just extremely happy to be at our destination.
photo taken by Emily
photo taken by Emily

We had our first welcome to India in the airpot.  While waiting for Conrad and his future brother inlaw we girls sat on the bench and Asa was wandering around.  Pretty soon we noticed a sheik openly staring at us.  He was dressed in all white and popping out of his pocket was a very large knife which was, no doubt, sharp and dangerous.  His gaze lingered for about 15 minutes until Asa's protective side kicked into gear.  Asa stood a little taller, stuck out his chest a little further, and promptly placed himself between the sheik's gaze and Emily and me.  WELL the match was on, it was clear that this sheik was not going to let some white boy spoil his view so he moved to a new spot and started his staring once again.  Asa quickly stepped up to the plate and intercepted the stare with a look that could kill.  The dance between the two went on for a while until the family of the man had gathered and were ready to leave.  Meanwhile Emily and I were having FITS that this man was going to get upset and do something serious, as you can imagine our gaze was fixed on the knife in his pocket! :)

The first thing we learned while we were there is how important it is to serve their guests and make them feel as comfortable as possible.  The second lesson, Chai is a STAPLE!  When you go into a house or even into some stores the first thing that is offered to you is chai.  If you decided that you wanted Chai they would scurry off to the kitchen, boil up chai and be back with a tray full of little tea cups to serve you the steaming beverage.  The hospitality our dear friends showed us was beyond ANYTHING I have every experienced.  You would hardly be in the door and they would ask if you wanted chai or if you were hungry?

photo taken by Emily edited by me
Chai was the ONE thing that I actually learned how to make and that can actually make just about as good as my dear Indian Family!!!  If you find some loose tea you should definitley try the recipe out! Since I've been home coffee hasn't tasted good to me, but I still love a good cup of Chai!

One Cup Recipe of Chai:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 TBS sugar
1TBS loose black tea

Heat water and sugar until boiling and then add the milk and tea.  Boil all together until creamy color, strain and ENJOY!  (this recipe is for a LARGE cup of chai)

The rest of the first day was spent trying to get adjusted to India time.  As you can see when Asa wasn't asking a MILLION questions he was catching up on some much needed sleep!

Tomorrow I will fill you in on The Festival of the colors, also know as Holi.