Tag Archives: delhi

Unwritten part 2………………..

If you would like to read part 1, it is here.

We saw so much in India that we had never seen before. Some of it was absolutely amazing – the history, the people, and the beautiful children with charcoal lines painted around their dark eyes to keep evil from peering at them.

But a lot of what we saw sank in our gut like a meal riddled with hidden poison, so scrumptious in the consuming, so vile in the digesting and all of it leaving you sick for days. In some of the scarier moments, we saw a man beaten at the zoo, blind children begging in the middle of the night and the middle of the street, and children simply unattended. We saw a hoard of men lunging with lead pipes in hand toward the driver of a car sitting in line at a tool booth.

Once, when my friends came to visit, our car was stopped by a group of men on a dusty side road in the middle of truly nowhere. Our driver got out of the car and I feared for him and selfishly feared what would happen to us if something happened to him.

More than once, I saw a dead body strewn across the side of the road and completely ignored.

It’s hard to reconcile that. The very nonchalant way that someone can distract herself from a human being lying forgotten on the side of the road. Sometimes covered. Sometimes not. There are no reporters dreaming of headlines. No crowds of people gathering and gasping in disbelief. Mostly just people moving on – or moving around – busy with their own way, barely glancing over to see what happened other than to avoid the inconvenience of it all.

I always wondered who was at home waiting. Who did care that someone had stopped breathing through no fault of his own? What story would the family have to create with the absence of a caring witness?

Most of these memories simply dissipate into the haze. They fade and lose their sense of reality. In fact, unless you were armed with stacks of my own words right in front of me, it might be hard to convince even me that some of it truly happened. It couldn’t. It wouldn’t. But wait, maybe it did.

In most of those situations, I was eager to avoid danger and remove myself completely from acknowledging that anything dreadful was going on. Usually my kids were with me and I was trying to distract them so I would not have too much to explain later. I could busy myself with keeping them safe by keeping them unaware.

Words always failed me in those tenuous situations. I didn’t understand the “why” of what was happening any more than my children could and never found the strength to make sense of the different scenarios for my kids. So, if they could be preoccupied with counting people on a bus or looking for camels – so be it.

But there is always a moment when you can no longer pretend that you live in a world where suffering doesn’t fall like rain. There is always a memory you cannot escape or deny.

It happened to me right after a few of my friends and I decided to venture deep into Old Delhi. One of the best memories I have from my time in India was tainted and stained by one of the worst.

Many westerners are hesitant to travel into Old Delhi. But we were having none of that. Old Delhi is alive with all that India is about. It is a fascinating and wonderful corner that is best explored with open eyes, an adventurous spirit, and an old pair of shoes that can be thrown away later.

My friends and I donned colorful dupattas (scarves) and climbed the steps to the Jama Masjid mosque and removed our shoes and rang the bell at the Jain Temple letting the gods know we were there. We visited our favorite jeweler and his family and spoiled ourselves with shiny trinkets. We laughed that our new jewels were really for our kids and our grandkids and that we would just hold them in safe keeping until they were mature enough to have them.

We felt humbled by the seriousness of the students study and chants and prayers in the Fatepuri Mosque. We inhaled the dust and braved the stares of the male-dominated Spice Market, where we dined on delicious raw cashews and pistachios as we watched men bathe in buckets.

We enjoyed the Sikhs bowing in reverence as they entered their Gurdwara and admired their dedication to feed those who are hungry. We relished the fact that just up the street of Chandni Chowk was also the home to a Baptist Church and a Jain bird sanctuary. All of the world’s major religions had a presence on that street and we boasted how wonderful that was.

We moved on to the famed Karims restaurant and laughed as we asked for our sodas in cans and paper plates for our food, brave enough to eat the food but not brave enough to eat it off of their potentially uncleaned plates.

It was one of those days where everything clicked. We learned, we laughed, and we wore ourselves out. Our glow grew with every stop – the spirituality, the friendship, and the jewelry.

On the way to the car, we continued to marvel at the sights, sounds, and smells of Old Delhi. The alleys were alive with crazy electrical wires hanging from every single building serving as balance beams for the monkeys who danced across them over our heads. We did our own dance over unknown splats on the crackling walkway and tried to identify what each might be. Ultimately, we decided some mysteries were better left unsolved.

We kept pace with the men and animals pushing and pulling carts and women covered in veils. Children coming home from school and merchants delivering their wares. Spices that made us sneeze a little, then gag. Brides shopping for invitations. Incense burning right around the corner from the used auto parts shop rich with its own smells of rubber and grease.

Old Delhi was vibrant in a way that my neighborhood in the Unites States never could be.  And whenever I visited this part of Delhi, I always tempted time by staying for just one minute more. There was forever a window that had not been seen before or a corner that had not yet been turned.

As time dripped away, we realized we had better hurry and bustled to the car in a little bit of a panic that we might be late for school pickup. We got in the car and immediately started calling the different school offices to be sure they knew we were on the way – explaining that just this time, we would be just a smidge later than normal. “Traffic is horrible,” we said and winked at each other while holding our hands just right so that our new rings reflected the sun streaming in the window.

As I was putting my phone down and sinking into my seat, I looked around at the busyness on the street. It was chaotic and endless. It was hard to pick out a single scene and soak it in.

But then just over to my left, a man came into focus. There was no reason, really, that I should be drawn to him. He was defined in the same dusty, brown haze as the foggy air that surrounded him. He wore a simple and stale, used-to-be-white robe and was standing in the middle of the road. In between traffic and blinks, he could have easily disappeared. He looked drunk and obviously wanted something. Help.

But it was not immediately obvious just how truly desperate he was. You can unfortunately and intentionally become numb to the desperation in India a little too quickly. Even with the biggest most generous heart, the realization that you simply cannot help everyone graciously lends you an excuse to ignore someone who is clearly struggling.

My friends were still on their phones and I am pretty certain that they never even saw what happened next. I do not know how my driver could have possibly missed it but he showered me with the gift of never discussing it.

As traffic slowed, the man in the middle of the road slowly began lifting the skirt of his tattered robe.

At first, I only saw his bare and wrinkled feet. His toes seemed to be bent in half from holding on too tightly to the melting asphalt. Then he revealed his far too skinny ankles. Followed by his knotted and bent knees. His skin was ashen and taut, stretched tightly over bones that were very likely brittle and deteriorating. They were bones that had probably never tasted milk. Maybe they had never even had the chance to be strong enough to allow him to hold up his slight frame with pride and determination. With hope.

It took me a few seconds to fully comprehend what he was doing. To really understand. To allow myself to believe I wasn’t just imagining it. But not enough time to distract myself from it. To delve into conversation and disappear.

With his skirt fully lifted, I finally realized what he was doing. This man had taken straw-colored raffia, or maybe it was old rope, and tied it around one of his testicles. His testicle had swollen to nearly the size of a basketball. He would lift his robe to show the passerbys how profoundly he needed help. Their help.

How are you supposed to respond to that? How do you digest that? How do you explain it? What are you supposed to do?

How do you say, from an air conditioned car with a full belly and new rings on your fingers, that you are not going to stop?

We drove away but I can never forget his face. His destruction.

This time I think I was so stunned that I could not act. Even if I had thought to empty my purse at his feet, I could not have done it. I was frozen. I never even turned my head away. Our eyes met as we were rolling away and he just looked at me as if to say, “Yes, my dear, you are seeing exactly what you think you are seeing and what are you going to do with it?”

I sat in disbelief that I totally and completely ignored a man who had intentionally mangled part of himself beyond all recognition. His marketing plan was to be the most disfigured – the most in need. And even that was not working.

I still am not quite sure what I am supposed to do with his image. I am not sure how to handle this experience. What to do with it.

Who really cares what this man across an ocean did. How does it relate to life here and now? I am not really sure. But I know I don’t want to forget it. Well, that will be easy enough because I cannot forget him.

But what now?

What I am missing…………

Living in India had huge highs and lows.

Meeting the President would have been a big fat tick on the upside. He’s in Delhi right now. And guess who is not. 🙁

Yep, b.u.m.m.e.r.

 

P.S. Thanks Kushal for the photo – that’s her with her eyes closed. 😉

Lots of Lotus………….

One of the things that I really wanted to do before we left Delhi for good was to go see the Lotus Temple. The inside of the Lotus Temple. I had driven by it a few times and marveled at its beauty and its architecture. It is a lovely, lovely building.

The Lotus Temple is a Bahá’í House of Worship. The Lotus Temple is open to anyone of any religion. No sermons are given but readings can occur and, although a readings can be accompanied by a choir, no musical instruments can be played inside Bahá’í Houses of Worship. Bahá’ís believe in three main principles – unity of God, unity of religion, and unity of humankind. They believe that God has sent messengers through the ages including Abraham, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and recently the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. They believe that humanity is in a process “of collective evolution, and the need of the present time is for the gradual establishment of peace, justice and unity on a global scale.” (thanks Wiki)

I didn’t know all that until I started writing this post and now I am super bummed that we did not make it over there.

Obviously, the temple is designed after the lotus flower which is also lovely.

Lotus flowers are often incorporated into the drawings of many of the Hindu gods – particularly Vishnu and Lakshmi and Ganesha.

And lotus seeds and stems can be eaten. I saw them in the spice market of Old Delhi.

And then, at the very last place I went to eat before we left Delhi, lotus stems were on the menu. You might have gathered that I am not the most adventurous eater out there but how can flowers deemed worthy of designing a temple after be too bad? Plus, my friend had tried them and said they were yummy. 😉

They were d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s. Yummy Yummy. They are sweet and crunchy and I liked them even better with a little bit of steamed white rice.

Buyer Beware…….

You might remember that I had two friends come visit from the United States in February. We had an amazing time and traveled through quite a bit of India. One of the places we visited was Jaipur. One of the things you are “supposed” to do when you visit Jaipur is go jewelry shopping.

So, we went to the historical sites first – then on the the sparkly stuff. We eeeew’d and awwww’d and tried on lots of fabulous jewelry. We joked how marvelous we would look in this piece or that piece. We tried on necklaces that cost more than a car and we laughed.

We also bought some jewelry. Yep, you know exactly where this is going. Downhill fast.

I want to be careful here not to say that we were not completely swindled. We were taken advantage of – no doubt. But to be honest, my friends trusted me to take them to a reputable place and then we all trusted that we weren’t totally being taken. When we handed over our credit cards, we did it willingly and after negotiating much better prices than we were originally quoted. We even got some free gifts – and yes, that should have been our very first of several warning signs.

The jeweler we met was charming and I am sure he saw us coming a kilometer away – we looked just like tourists straight off the elephant ride and I am sure he smelt rupees. He was patient and explained everything to us. He joked with us and, oddly enough, it turns out  he way over charged us. And like I said, we were happy to pay him because we foolishly trusted him.

Our first mistake was listening to me. I trusted someone with a jewelry referral who has done well by me in the past. But I should have gotten several names and we should have absolutely gone to more than one shop. And my friends and I don’t k.n.o.w. jewelry. Sure we know what we like and we know our price (breaking) points – but we didn’t really understand how the two coincided. That is what we call a big fat recipe for disaster.

So we bought jewelry. And a decent amount of it.

In fact, this ring was so fab that I decided to bring it home. I planned to wait on the bracelet and get it for a special occasion – perhaps my funeral when my hubby learned the full details of the story or my friends realized how badly I misdirected them.

I know, it is pretty, huh?

When we returned to Delhi and spread out our sparklees, my friend noticed that the ring she bought for her daughter was slightly off center. So, we called our guy. No problem. He had a friend traveling to Jaipur the next day and we could just give it to him and the jeweler would fix it and, yes, he would make sure we got it back in time for my friend to return to America with it in hand. Just as charming as we remembered. Promises, promises.

We were slightly concerned about giving this total stranger a pretty expensive ring and were having a hard time believing that it would actually end up at the jeweler in Jaipur. But we were armed with the knowledge that we paid with credit cards and had some protection. That turned out to be about the only thing we did right – pay with credit cards.

That same night we went to a party. My friend was standing with her new bracelet on her arm and it simply broke in 3 places. Nope, she didn’t bang it against a wall – and no, a kid on a skateboard didn’t rip it off her arm while scooting by – and no,  monkeys didn’t fly out of the sky and try to steal it – it just simply fell to the ground in 3 places. She had been wearing it for all of two hours.

That was also not a good sign.

So I called the jeweler and explained that we were not happy. No problem. He would gladly fix it. We asked what would happen if my friend wanted to simply return the bracelet – now that we are none too sure about the quality. We were starting to second guess ourselves about 2 days too late. “Oh,” he said, “that would take about 15 days.” When we explained that was not the right answer because my friend was leaving in less than a week, he simply replied, “that is how it works here. Fifteen days. Or I could bring you cash.”

Holy sapphire Batman.

I had never purchased a large item on a credit card in India and I had not returned anything. So, I didn’t know if this guy was pulling a (nother) fast one or if that was just the way it worked.

There is a jeweler that a lot of expats use in Delhi and I suggested we give him a visit. While there, we asked about the value of our remaining items. The Delhi jeweler (who is well known and well trusted) said that some of the pieces we had he would not even buy – no matter how low the price. It turns out they were hollow and not solid gold/silver pieces – that apparently lowers the value s.i.g.n.i.f.i.c.a.n.t.l.y. hmpf.

So, just for giggles, we asked him to tell us what he would have paid, if he had been so foolish to buy them. None of the pieces appraised at even fifty percent of what we paid.

Yep, I know there is a double sided game going on – if we return the jewelry to jeweler A, we might just have some rupees to spend at jeweler B. But the appraisals were so far off from the prices that we paid. We felt sick to our stomachs and really angry. And of course, I felt the worst of all.

We also asked the Delhi jeweler what would happen if we paid by credit card and decided to return something. That part of the story actually checked out. It appears that it takes about 2 weeks in India to get a credit back on a return. Yikes. Yeah that would have been good to know as well.

(Just a side note – This makes jewelry shopping in India pretty fun though – because the jewelers will let you take pieces home and think about them without paying for them yet. They don’t like dealing with the hassle of returns, so they want you to be sure you like it. And even if a few months after purchasing something, you decide it’s not for you, you can just bring it back and exchange it.)

We left the Delhi jeweler after learning lots and trying on more fun stuff – shhh, don’t tell hubby that part. And we called the Jaipur jeweler. I firmly explained that this was no way to do business with Americans and that I would truly understand if the items were valued 20 or even 30 percent less what we paid – after all, prices are somewhat subjective. But, one piece appraised at 10 percent of what my friend paid. I was shaking. I was furious. And I told him so.

He tried to explain that the price of jewelry is in the eye of the beholder and I further explained that the eyes of these beholders were steaming mad. He (wisely) offered to bring cash to Delhi the next day and pick up the jewelry. Excuse me? You will do what? Okay then. So we set up a time and crossed our ever-loving, ring-encrusted fingers. We laughed that if he offered to reduce the price, we might just keep the jewelry. We did love it after all.

Hubby – ever the pessimist – could not believe that this guy was really going to show up. Now it’s a funny story – but then – hubby was none too amused. My friends had the luxury of having their husbands in the U.S . – 8,000 miles away – and not knowing all the details. Me, I had Mr. Pessimist in all his glory. Not that he didn’t have reason to be doubtful. It didn’t sound or look good.

But half an hour early – God Bless him – that jeweler pulled up in front of the house. He had American $100 bills and he returned our money and took the jewelry back with him. He did not even offer to reduce the prices. I think it was fair to say that he was as done with us as we were with him. It was a pleasant enough exchange that ended with us both agreeing that we simply weren’t meant to do business together.

After he walked out the door and we all started breathing again, my friend looked up and said, “any chance these are counterfeit”?

“Only one way to find out,” I said and we marched ourselves right back to the jeweler in Delhi and bought some replacement pieces.

I guess it really is hard to teach an old mom new tricks. 😉

The Flower Walla………….

I know I have talked about flowers on this blog. And I know I have shared lots of pictures of flowers with you. But I don’t think I have given you the skinny on the flower walla. The word walla means vendor. The flower walla sells flowers. The broom walla sells brooms. The sweeper walla sweeps the street. So now you speak a little bit of Hindi. You are very welcome. 😉

Every neighborhood seems to have at least one flower walla. This guy is in Vasant Vihar.

And these are some of his flowers.

and some more…

and some more…..

and then some more……

I don’t know why I was surprised to find so many “American” flowers in India – and by that I mean flowers that I know and love in the U.S. I am not sure what I expected – maybe tumble weeds or cactus – I have no idea. But just so you know, they have palm trees and coconut trees here too. Shocking? I know. Next thing you know they’ll have roses…….uh-oh….. it is a small world after all.

But seriously, I know I am just a country mouse on this grand big city adventure – but I did not know that flowers were universal. 😉 These flowers were not from the vendor in Vasant Vihar but I just bet he knows a guy who could easily get you these tomorrow.

And this bunch of flowers from these guys was…….wait for it…

a whopping 200 rupees or about $4 U.S. dollars.

And yep, I probably overpaid.
Of course, they don’t last long and you
simply must change the water everyday
or your house will smell like really, really old man teeth.
And you might get a few gnats if you aren’t careful –
I always shake the flowers a little to make sure nothing flies out.
But these are certainly worth (more than) the asking price!
As we like to say at A Reason To Write – they are sufficient. 😉

On our way…………

As I mentioned, I recently had two dear friends come visit from the United States. In true me fashion, I totally mixed up the day they planned to arrive. So, I accidentally put us on the overnight train to Amritsar on the same day that they arrived. Now it takes a full day to get to India from the U.S., so they had not seen a bed or shower in essentially two days – the overnight train is not exactly like home. But, hey, they were a captive audience – what could they do? Thank God they also have adventurous spirits and forgiving hearts.

We started off their first day by going to Dilli Haat – a craft fair that is not too overwhelming – and Khan market – a market with a more Western feel. My thought was to “ease” them in to India before throwing them on the train.

We had a lovely day of shopping and a leisurely lunch at a place I knew they would not get sick, a place where it is even safe to have a drink with ice – they took a shower – we picked up the kids at school – ate a yummy Indian meal at home and then headed out. We were running a little behind because, heck, getting three women fed, showered, packed, and out the door ain’t easy. So we asked the driver to get us there quickly (during rush hour). Welcome to India my dear friends. We weaved and bobbed  and honked our way through 45 minutes of full-on traffic. Jet lag was hitting them hard and just as my friends would drop their eyelids, a horn would blast or the car would swerve and jostle them out of any sleep they hoped to catch.

Not too far into the ride, we had this conversation…

Ann: That car is going down the wrong side of the road.
Me:  Mmm-Hmmm. Yes, it is.
Ann: But he is kind of coming towards us.
Me: Yep. That is true – he is.

And then, let the games begin, we found ourselves on the wrong side of the road.

Our train was scheduled to leave at 7p. Most people will tell you that the trains in India are never late. So when our driver pulled in front of the train station at 6:53p, I told my buddies to grab their stuff and let’s go. I was trying very hard not to let on that I was very worried we would be too late and that I was not at all confident that I could navigate through the station, find our train, and then find our seats on the train.

We went up a very crowded stair case and then thru “security” and then down more very crowded stairs and onto the platform. I was crossing my fingers pretty sure that I could figure out what to do. Luckily there were some very helpful people on the platform. And unfortunately many curious people. Ann and Julia had never really been truly stared at before – but we fixed that right away – you could stare at them for about 10 hours straight now and they probably would not even notice.

Pretty quickly we found where I prayed we thought the train was supposed to come at 6:59p and looked up to find that the train would be about 15 minutes late. We also found our names on the list with one slight hiccup. We had purchased a ticket for Angel to reserve all four seats in the cabin for just us. Angel wasn’t actually coming with us and she wasn’t listed in our cabin. Our cabin had the name of another passenger listed.

Me: That never happens. Trains in India are never late. snicker. snicker. And passenger lists never get mixed up.
Ann: That’s okay, I can wait 15 minutes. It’s really not that long.
Me: Remember, expectations low. We’ll address the extra passenger when we get on the train.

The train station isn’t exactly clean – it is very crowded – and it feels a little unsafe if you aren’t used to it. I felt safe. But I think my visitors felt a little overwhelmed and super duper tired. I would argue that their impressions had as much to do with how tired they were as they did the surroundings – but the surroundings weren’t exactly what they were used to. There were no seats and the ground was filthy slightly dirty. Trash was everywhere. There were men not too far from us using the train tracks as a restroom. There were young children selling things. There were some older men begging. There were lots and lots of stares. And, not having a scratch and sniff blog, I really cannot begin to describe the smell of train smoke, cigarette smoke, trash, urine, body odor, and the like. Let’s just say Estee Lauder won’t be marketing it as a perfume any time soon.

I set my bag on the ground but my friends held tightly onto theirs. They were trying really hard to be patient, stay awake, and hold onto their things. The only thing I could say was “aren’t you glad you came?”

I won’t bore you with how many times we were teased with what time the train would really arrive but we finally boarded at about 8:30p for a 9p departure. We had a cabin to ourselves (the mystery passenger never appeared) and I remembered to bring a bottle of wine and some very fancy plastic cups and lots of snacks. (If you ever travel with me,  you can be pretty sure you won’t starve – I am big on the bag o’snacks. I also almost  always have diaper wipes, hand sanitizer, gum, tylenol, and toilet paper. Yes, you’ll want to sit with me on your next Indian train ride.) We sat down thankful for a place to sit. The cabin, on first inspection, did not seem too bad. But you never really want to dig too deep here. We brought our own pillows and blankets and we had wine. All is well, right? Sure. We’ll go with that. Or maybe not…………

Ann: There is something moving over there.
Julia: It might just be the light reflecting in that silver thing.
Ann: I think it is a mouse.
Me: What?
Ann: Maybe it’s just the reflection.
Ann again: No, I am pretty sure it’s a mouse.
Me: Where?
Ann: Right above your bunk.
Me: Wanna switch?
Ann: I am the guest remember?
Me: Luckily they don’t charge extra for that.

So we broke out the wine and the snacks. I accidentally dropped one of the cups on the floor of the cabin and my dear, sweet friends made sure that was the cup I was served my wine in. After all,  I am more acclimated to the region.

We ate, we drank, and we tried to sleep. I have heard that the overnight train is fantastic. I guess that depends on what you mean by fantastic. I would say it was fine. But it is very difficult to sleep. The train had a slight jerking and many stops and a pretty nasty bathroom – oh, and did I mention that there was  a mouse? So, it is fine. But we didn’t sleep much.

We got to Amritsar at about 8am and went straight to the Ista Hotel. This was the perfect introduction to the reality of India because India is full of contradictions – highs and lows. And they jumped right in. From the train station to the Ista – it doesn’t get much more extreme than that. And we all took the most fabulous showers of our lives before heading out to the Golden Temple.

More to come………..

Walk for life……..

THE WALK FOR LIFE IS in Delhi ON SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 7th

Come WALK and make a difference in someone’s life.

Join CanSupport’s ”WALK FOR LIFE” and

STRIDE against Cancer down Shantipath,

on Sunday, February 7th at 9am.

Register early on the website, www.cansupport.org or

Registration desks will be at ACSA, AES, The British School, WHO, Khan Mkt, The French School, The Am Center and more…  the last week of Jan & first week of Feb

WALK on your own or form a group with family and friends.

RUN ahead of the Walkers with a new running club called “RUNNINGANDLIVING”.

Registration Fees are: Rs.250/- for adults and

Rs.100/- for students with a valid ID.

There is no fee for children below 12 years of age.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE- WALK FOR LIFE!

For more information or to Volunteer please contact:

Catherine Bali

natcatbali@aol.com

All CanSupport Services are free and aimed at the less privileged.


No Appointment Needed…………

If you have a blog about India, at some point you are going to post some pictures like these….

All along the streets in Delhi, you will see these roadside barber shops. They are charming spots where men stop to get a shave or a haircut and they appear randomly along the way. It is one of the few things in Delhi that still surprises me. I am losing some of my awe at the things I see because now life in Delhi is becoming so normal – things are just the way they are – not so amazing any more – still interesting but no longer shocking. But these little stands still cause me to turn my head and wonder. I am not sure why, but I find them so fascinating. They absolutely capture my attention every time I see them.

Update: I went to a lovely lunch today and, while there,  met some fellow expats who also blog about India – I have added their links to my blogroll (Mezze Moments and Mrs. Expat). Some of the other ladies at the table had questions about blogs and we talked about this post I wrote today. It finally occurred to me why these barber stands fascinate me so. They are the perfect example of how simple life can really be in India. To be a barber, you really only need a mirror, a chair, a pair of scissors, and a customer. You don’t need chairs that raise up and down, an assistant, fancy lighting, a receptionist, a certificate, or  a wall to hang a certificate on. When and where don’t always matter so much. Anywhere and anytime can be the simple answer. Right here, right now. I can imagine a man walking down the street, scratching his neck, and thinking “I need a haircut.” He simply turns a corner and – wahlah – there is a barber. He spends a few minutes and even fewer rupees and he can be on his way. I can certainly learn to approach things more simply just from watching the barber on the corner.

Tastes like chicken…………

We don’t eat a lot of any street food in Delhi, so I was very surprised when my husband went all “game on” over the street food in Thailand. There seems to be more of it in Thailand, especially Bangkok, and he wanted to try some new things. I offered to take pictures – giving me the “oh, I would love to, but I don’t want to get anything on the camera” excuse. He did not eat all of the things you will see pictured, but he did eat chicken butt. I cannot find the picture of that. But here is one of hubby eating “canal” food. A lady on a boat will pull up to your boat and sell you some bbq chicken. And you will suspend your reality and believe it is chicken. Fascinating.

Number one hubby also ate crocodile – at the crocodile show.

Yes, you read that right – he ate crocodile at the crocodile show. Maybe it is just me, but I think there is something fundamentally wrong with eating crocodile at the crocodile show right in front of the c.r.o.c.o.d.i.l.e.s. Especially when one of your fellow humans is about to do this. No wonder they say revenge is sweet.

I personally have a v.e.r.y. hard time eating anything that is looking at me.

These were some of the biggest shrimp I have ever seen. In Asia, they are called prawns, which makes perfect sense because there is nothing “shrimpy” about them. And, you are right, they don’t look as appetizing before they are “prepared”.

I don’t know if these are chicken feet or octopus. I am thinking octopus but really, it could go either way. And, nope, did not try.

I am always happy to find something recognizable that is not staring at me. These strawberries looked delish.

These little gems are called Century Eggs. Yes, I completely agree – eggs are not supposed to look like that. No, we did not try them. Because of the way these eggs smell, there is a myth that they are soaked in horse urine. Yeah, that’s about all I need to know about them. This is what century eggs look like in a buffet at a hotel.

And this is what they look like on the street. I am off the school of thought that both of these are a big fat pass.

Not sure what some of these next things are … if you know, please enlighten us all….

(and yes, I am aware that there is a sign in this picture that probably tells me exactly what this is – but I have this little obstacle called “I can’t read Thai” – so I still have no idea what it is – they look like mini lunch bags though)

This is honestly a little more my speed – cucumbers.

We tried this coconut concoction when we were in Singapore. It was not all it was cracked  up to be.

I am so sorry – was that a little corny?

A Charlie Brown Christmas……………

About a year ago, I was decorating our house for Christmas and getting ready to move our family around the world. It was an overwhelming time and it felt a little rushed. In many ways, it is mostly a blur. Immediately after Christmas, I literally stuffed all the decorations into boxes, shoved them in the closets, and checked one more thing off my to do list. Christmas – done and undone – check. Then I began really focusing on moving my family to India.

What I didn’t realize is that almost exactly a year later, I would visit Singapore all decorated for Christmas and I would hear Christmas songs in every store. That I would buy candy canes in Singapore just because I could – they just don’t seem to be available in Delhi. And that when I got home I would just stick them in the cabinet. Because we were treeless. I don’t think I have ever been treeless. In fact, we usually put up two tress in the U.S. – one that has decorations the kids made and one that no one is allowed to touch but me. But now, all of our decorations are in the U.S. – except for a few that I bought at a craft show a few weeks ago.

My parents got divorced when I was pretty young, so I often celebrated Christmas twice. My mother’s birthday is Christmas day. It’s always been a wonderful time of year for me. After I got married, we started celebrating Christmas three or four times – just depending on how many different groups of family members were gathering together. Christmas Eve with number one hubby’s family is a wonderful, cherished tradition. Christmas morning with most of my family is magical. Then of course, we have our own party of five celebration. Throw in a few parties and some cookie baking and a white elephant gift exchange and you have yourself a Christmas season.

Well, most of that simply cannot happen when you live around the world from the people you hold most dear. Even putting up decorations seems like just going through the motions. But not being able to put up decorations is really depressing. We will be home for literally 20 hours Christmas day – the rest of the time we will be traipsing around the world. We are counting our blessings and know just how very lucky we are. But, something is missing.

Until last night. Last night, number one hubby brought home this. Now you know how he earns his status. Today after school we are going ornament shopping. We might even make some hot chocolate and sing a few Christmas songs.

Charlie Brown would be very, very proud. (For those of you not familiar with Charlie Brown – he is a cartoon character and one of his stories is about how he finds this little twig of a tree and brings it to life with love and lights. He turns nothing into magic with the spirit of Christmas.)

P.S. Someone is probably curious – so I will go ahead and answer the question now – yes, there are over a million Christians in India and they celebrate Christmas. Lucky for us! There are stores that sell trees and ornaments and decorations. It’s just that the town won’t be all decked out in red and green – it’s a big difference! But it feels better now.