New Delhi, Weather from Weather Underground

Friday, September 17, 2010

Plants, Goats, & Bargains

Each day in India brings on another adventure. Today, my friend Uyen and I headed out to find some plants for our balconies and homes. We both came to India and moved into our new apartments around the same time. We also each have two girls of approximately the same age and lived in the hotel in adjacent rooms for 11 weeks. Needless to say she has become my newest bff. It is so much fun kitting up our new homes together and sharing our finds. I found some lamps, a place to get a good haircut, and the grocery store. She found the pest guy, the meat guy, and someone to polish our floors. It just wouldn't be as much fun doing all this without her. Alas, I digress.....back to today. We decided it was time to get some greenery in our homes. Our amazing driver/translator/security guard, Nemlal, took us to what I am starting to call "Nursery Row" on MG Road in Gurgaon. The lush plants and vibrant shades of green, yellow, and purples that welcomed us were incredible. Wandering among row upon row of tropical trees and bushes was extremely calming. Most business I have frequented so far in India have at least one minimal English speaker. No such luck at this place. Thankfully, Nemlal was with us and stepped right up. His English is so-so but today I will give him an A+.

The goats were running wild among the plants. I don't think they belong at the nursery but appear to feel right at home. I tried to jokingly ask if we could hire a goat to come prune the plants and bushes for us. Maybe it was lost in translation because it didn't even get a smirk.

Nemlal bargained with the plant guys and made sure they picked out the very best for us.

We also got to see where the pots are made at the back of the nursery as well as where the men live. Between the two of us we purchased 15 plants which were delivered by two bicycle wagons and three men.

Part of our final purchase and the men figuring out delivery.

All in all a good day :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Indian Cooking 101

Back to school again? Okay it's only one and a half hours, two days a week for six weeks but....for me, the whole idea of a cooking class seems odd. I am not that great a cook to begin with. I haven't even mastered the good old American standards. What am I doing taking an Indian cooking course? One reason, a good friend is taking it and this gives us an excuse to hang out together without children. Two, we are in India (duh?) so I may as well take advantage of this opportunity. Three, I am hoping that with this course I will learn a little more about what I see in the markets. The spice sections have always been a little overwhelming to me in the US. Add all the Indian spices and names I'm not familiar with and you've got me running for McDonald's. Thankfully, this teacher, Punita, really means it when she titled the class "Intro to Indian Cooking." She started from the very basics. We saw, smelled, and tasted most of the spices. She showed us how to chop a chili pepper without getting much of the juice on your hands. She gave us a list of all the commonly used spices with descriptions and their Hindi names. Check back with me in six weeks and see if I can make you a beautiful curry dish or not.....
The ingredients for the "basic sauce" as Punita called it. Not really a sauce in my vocabulary Tomatoes, curry leaves, ginger, garlic, onions, chilies, and coriander. She says to fry these ingredients up with a little oil and have the basis of many, many Indian dishes.

Cooking up the "sauce."

We also made Allo Tiki that day. It is a sort of potato pancake with chilies, onions, ginger, and a dozen other spices mixed in. You coat it with semolina, fry, and voila (there has to be an Indian word for voila, but I haven't learned it yet). They were delicious with a little kick to them too. I will have to learn to make two spicy for Dan, and another not so spicy for the girls and I.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Family Time

Life as an expat is exciting and fun. It is an adventure. Learning new languages, eating new foods, making friends from all over the world, traveling to interesting places, and seeing the world are just a few of the perks. On the downside, is also that it is a life full of excitement and new experiences. It seems we are always busy. All the errands take much longer than in the US. So much of our time is spent in the car getting from one place to another. One expat friend, who is part of a Vietnamese/Swedish/Australian family, sent me this text message the other day. (After I vented about being 100% fed up with how long everything takes in India) "Remember: one task a day! That's my motto here in India. Multi tasking is not an option. Just dashing in for a quick job does not exist...." She's so right. If I get multiple things done in the day, it feels like such a reward. Maybe after we are here longer I will have a better system down, but for now it's one task a day.

On Dan's side it is quite the same. He is dealing with cultural differences in the business environment also. Many of the offices don't open until 10:00 am. He often has conference calls to the US at all hours of the night since we are nine and a half hours ahead of the corporate office in Detroit. He leaves for work at 730 am after putting Rachel on the school bus and often doesn't get home before 730 pm. This with a commute that is under 15 minutes. The upside is that his job is always something new, always a challenge, and he is meeting some great people. does this relate to family time? We have come to really cherish our family time. The weekends are just for us and we try not to pack too much into them. This weekend we swam, splashed in puddles, had take out, went to church, took naps, and most important played Monopoly. Rachel is really into the game and is learning how to count money. She is talking about "mortgaging property" like an landlord. On Saturday afternoon she set up the board and had it all ready. Even Rebekah gets into the action and usually lasts for half or a little more of the game. If it's Saturday, it must be Monopoly, and it's all about family time.

I love how the girls are listening so intently as Dan explains.

Disclaimer: I don't actually join in the game. It's a little embarrassing to say but I don't have the patience Dan does. Playing with a three and seven year old is often too much for me. I do hang out in the room and read or watch tv while they play. Then I supply the treats and entertain the little one when she has had enough.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Drive to school

Rebekah loves to play with the camera and take self-portraits as we drive around and are often stuck in traffic. Of course, her favorites are the funny faces.

Rebekah's preschool is about a ten minute drive from our apartment on a good day. It has taken us up to an hour on a bad traffic day. This is what we see out of the window on the trip. Some days, she and I are so busy talking and playing that I don't notice what flashes by the van. I think our driver thought I was crazy today since I decided to document our trip. Wonder how many times the thought, "Crazy American lady" runs through his head in a day??

The DELL call center is just outside our main gate. As are the Fed-Ex and Mercedes call centers. From Wikipedia : Over the past 25 years the city has undergone rapid development and construction.[4] A wave of multinational companies choose to locate their operations in Gurgaon after GE did so in 1997. Big companies like Airtel, American Express, EXL, IBM, Microsoft, DLF, Maruti Suzuki, Hero Honda, Infosys, Ericsson, Oracle, Bank of America, American Airlines, etc have made Gurgaon the call centre capital of India and an important financial center.[5]

This woman and her children are setting up their cart that sells spices.

One of the many tent villages that we pass. In the morning there are usually men taking bucket baths in this area.

Little corner place for eggs, milk, bread, and vegetables.

The Needs Supermarket is one of the few places that opens before 10:30. Therefore, we often stop by for a few essentials on the way to school. The girls think it is so cool that this is a two floor grocery.

Children playing and lounging in front of the tent village. Not so sure the older girls liked the fact that I was taking this photo. These children always look so happy.

Great spot to pick up fresh fruit in the morning.

Construction everywhere in Gurgaon. These sites are where most of the people in the tent villages are working. They will move on to another site once this work is completed.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

when it rains, it pours

Starting at the end of June, people kept warning us "the rains are coming." Day in day out of sunny, cloudless skies and hot, hot temps. I actually started wishing for rain to break up the heat. Then the rumors, followed by photos of rain in the south. This should mean it is coming to us. Alas, the rain stalled somewhere and then blew out to sea. All the malls were having "Monsoon Sales" that are a strong rival to "Back to School Sales" in the US. Being new to India, the idea of Monsoon is exciting and a little nerve wracking at the same time. Exactly how much rain will fall? Will we be stuck inside for days? Rachel was full of questions also. Can we swim to our friends house when it rains? What if our house floods? Friends who have been here for some time said, "Keep umbrellas, boots, old flip flops, and towels in your car." "Have snacks and extra water in case you get stuck for awhile." Again this added to the mixed emotions of apprehension and excitement. Finally sometime after the first of August it started. It doesn't rain 24/7 as I had been led to believe. But when it rains, it pours. I have never seen rain come down so fast, so hard, and in such large drops. The drainage and sewage systems here are poorly built which leads to areas of flooding in mere minutes. It has rained off and on for about two weeks in spurts of 20 minutes to three or four hours. I can now say I have experienced the monsoon.

These photos are from August 21 which is also the day we moved out of the hotel. As we loaded up the last of our suitcases and random items we had acquired during eleven weeks in the hotel, it started to rain. What is normally a 20 minute drive on a Saturday afternoon took us almost three hours. The larger SUVs and trucks that sped by us left our mini-van rocking in their wake. Dan was sitting in the front and could see the waves coming up over the hood. The girls were squealing with delight at driving through the floods. I was wondering what would happen if we stalled out since the water was too deep to get the doors open and where would we have gone in the pouring rain anyway. Obviously, we made it safe and sound and now have a very cool monsoon story to share. I think everyone in India has at least one of the stories in their repertoire.

Above is a tuk-tuk or three-wheeled open sided taxi. The driver was using a two liter bottle to scoop water out of his vehicle.

He eventually gave up and walked away to higher ground.

This woman was just pedaling along and probably making better progress than many of the motor vehicles on the roadway.

The step from the road up to the sidewalk is about three feet.

Slosh, slosh, rock, rock went our van as a truck went past making all these waves. At this point we were about a ten minute walk from our house, but it took us 25 minutes to drive it. One more adventure checked off my list of things to do while in India.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Preschool Days

So happy to report that Rebekah L-O-V-E-S preschool. She still has the occasional day when she would rather "skip it." It must be hard going from nothing to five days a week. Thankfully, it is only three hours and most days she skips right in. The class is about 75% expat kiddos and 25% Indian. The children are American, Italian, German, French, Korean, and Indian. Her teachers are Indian. They have celebrated two Indian holidays at school with fun parties. Today she is off for Krishna's birthday. See some photos from the first day below.

Filippo, Rani, Rebekah, Niko, Isaac. Yes, there are some girls in her class too.

The big blue thing on the right is the generator for when the power goes out. Just another item that becomes "norm" during day to day life in India.