Welcome to my first attempt at a blog! I figured now is as good a time as any, having moved halfway around the world to Hubli. While I didn't know anyone on day one, I've since met many wonderful people, both those who have come from out of the country as I have as well as those who are native to India and have been teaching me a lot.

The plan is to update the blog somewhat regularly so that none of the posts get too lengthy (which is the case with the first several, as they were originally mass emails). We'll see how well I do at keeping up. Miss you guys!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

party like it's 1999

Clearly, I’m behind in my blog, and I’m not sure where to start in order to catch up, which should be fair warning that this post is going to be utterly and totally disorganized and a tell-it-like-it-is, no frills.

Let’s start with the good stuff: parties. Or here, perhaps “celebration” is a better word. India seems to celebrate at least one holiday a week (though Deshpande limits it to 12 a year, so there are many days shops and the university are closed while we plug away in the office). Festivities are characterized by food and more food, nice dress, lots of people, more food, pujas, firecrackers and a lack of alcohol. And there is never, never enough decoration.

Check out Shozen’s two-year birthday party, which kicked off with a Christian ceremony, of which I hardly understood a word (besides “happiness” over…and over…and over), and was followed by a huge buffet. We were worried that our gift was wrapped in pink paper, but we shouldn't have been. India loves pink, embraces pink. After taking in all the pink decorations at this little boy's party, I began to recall the pink I'd seen everywhere - entire motorbikes, backpacks, sweatpants, you name it. No gender/color bias here.

For Diwali, a holiday comparable in importance, so I’ve been told, to Christmas, Lesley and I trekked to a smaller village called Ramdurg, the “native place” of Jabshetti, one of her colleagues. We respectfully observed the family toss rice on a shrine, attempted to slurp a concoction of mashed bananas and coconut milk from our hand gracefully and stuffed our faces with homemade under the watchful eye of the mother, the cook . We were definitely the talk of the town, with neighbors and little kids strolling by and popping in, not necessarily invited. Then again, you don't really need an invitation here to join the party.

Post-Diwali deserves a festival of its own, so we celebrated that one from our front door. Our landlords, who are always forcing snacks and sweets down our throats whenever we go upstairs to see them about something, had family in and were celebrating just outside our window. Curious as I was to watch the men light the noisy crackers, I kept my distance; still, it’s the closest I’ve come to losing an eye, as a piece of firework debris made a beeline for my face. I’m amazed I haven’t heard more stories about little kids losing limbs or trees being set on fire. No one seems to take any precautions at all, yet miraculously, everyone is still in one piece, none the worse for wear.

For Halloween, the goal was to impart on our Indian friends a bit of American culture, so we threw a costume party in our apartment, and entirely new concept for them. Lesley invited her coworkers and I had nearly my entire DFP crew here, as well as a few members of the DF staff. My costume was entirely uncreative (since I’d been banking on a package from home that arrived, ironically, the next day, after being sent a month in advance) and was shown up completely by the Fellows. Kudos. We were also sure to provide two solid drink options: alcoholic punch and nonalcoholic punch (topped with ice cream!) The alcoholic punch needed to replaced much earlier in the evening – big surprise.

Last but not least? My birthday. Nothing at all like one I’ve ever had in the States, and certainly not one to be soon forgotten. My Sandbox Fellow buddies couldn’t have made me feel more loved, showering me with saris, sweets, flowers, a scarf and even a luxurious facial, and my DFP Fellows presented me with a beautiful necklace and earrings; later a couple of them special-delivered a handmade handbag produced by a local self-help group (SHG). Furthermore, in Hubli, you had better like cake and icing and like it a whole, whole lot, because you are going to get it stuffed into your face no matter how hard you dodge the eager hands. I had no less than four cakes on my birthday, and each one was cut served up by a score of friends eager to get their chance at creaming me with goo.

Thanksgiving was relatively low-key; no one was feeling up to the search it would require to find any ingredients necessary for producing anything slightly resembling a traditional meal, so we ordered pizza from the only joint in town, which we felt was decidedly American. Thank you, Smokin’ Joes. :)

And I think I’ve exhausted the party scene for now … check the album soon for more pictures!