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!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

homeward bound!

The end of the year started like it had begun, in a whirlwind of activity, and I wasn't ready for it.  Most of my work was in order - I'd completed what I'd set out to do - but there was certainly more that could have been accomplished.  Furthermore, there were missed and cancelled trips (like my trip with Kraemer to the Himachal Pradesh/Himalayas and my solo trip to Thailand), and an early departure meant rushed, and sometimes missed, goodbyes.

But no one let me stay in a funk for very long (I told you my friends and coworkers rocked!)

The DFP Cohort II organized an afternoon "party" for me, where one of them dedicated the ceremony with a song, another emceed and a number of others volunteered to come on stage one by one to tell everyone why they appreciated me or would miss me.  In typical Indian fashion, I was required to sit directly in front of or next to the podium throughout the talks.  They ended with a slideshow put to music (such talent! go DFP!), delicious Indian snacks and juices and, of course, countless pictures.
Not to be outdone, those who remained in town from DFP I pooled their resources to feed me even more Indian snacks and treats (including barfi, which I'd been wanting to try for ages - you wouldn't believe how good something with a name that bad tastes).  They presented me with a giant doll, since the girls in the office call Barbie and the DFP II fellows were convinced I looked just like the "Southern Belle" (that I'm from Ohio was irrelevant).  They still email me now, several months later, to see whether I've found the doll a partner (and we still talk shop, too).
The Deshpande Foundation staff took me out to lunch at Hotel Swathi, an office fave, where Vidya ordered all the dishes for herself (just kidding, V!) and the group presented me with beautiful gold hoop earrings.

Kraemer and I also went out to dinner with Naveen at Hotel Naveen, the site for several of my events throughout the year, so we also got to visit with one of our sweetest, favorite waiters, Samson.  Then we also headed out for one last evening with Shai and Kumar, probably laughing nearly as hard as we did last time and reminiscing about our motorcycle race home after the last dinner out.

Our apartment (Lesley, Arati and I) hosted a dinner for Durghamba's family (our housekeeper) with Kraemer and Pio.  We so badly wanted to share with them a taste of America, but we learned that besides roomali roti fajitas (which is, er, Mexican, I guess), not much comes close sans an oven and cheese.  Nevertheless, we sautéed up some spinach and garlic and served pasta with fresh tomato sauce … and ordered some pizza from the only pizza joint within a couple hundred miles.  So it was an attempt at Italian - but they didn't even like that.  Only Durghamba cleared her plate, probably because she's just so polite.

Sweet Durghamba also tried to make breakfast for me on my last morning in town, but we had already left for the airport when she arrived (and apparently Naveen, too).

Vidya wouldn't let me leave without visiting her home, either, so her mother, sister and Vidya spent the day in the kitchen creating her specialty, bisebele bath, and other deliciousness, including homemade gulab jamun.  We were impressed with their cute, well-kept home and their ingenious space-saving ways (check out the floating baby crib!)

After my last day in the office, Shai whisked me away to his home where his new wife, mother, sister, neice and other family members and DF staff were waiting to serve up a delicious lunch of all my favorites - baingan (eggplant), lemon rice (MMM), chipathi and a tangy mango dessert.  They presented me with a beautiful sari and blouse piece that I can't wait to get a chance to wear in the US.

Of course, in true SBF form, we had yet another early going away party for yet another two prematurely departing fellows, this time at the fantastic Sagar Palace.  The ladies + Anoop ordered K and I a going-away cake and smashed some cake into K's face just for good measure.

And on my last night there, my apartment hosted one last shindig, complete with as American snacks as we could concoct, including any goodies sent from the US throughout the year that might have gone uneaten.  We drank our favorite mixed drink - Blue Riband orange gin - with soda water, chatted about the year and generally avoided talking about when we'd all see each other again.  But with this group, I'm sure there'll be - and I'm looking forward to - a happy reunion. 

shai's wedding aka goa III

I somehow couldn't manage to get out of India without heading to Goa one more time.

But, as I've said before, Goa is a whole new world when it's tourist season, and I couldn't have been happier to go to see Shailendra (DF logistics coordinator aka "the man") marry Kavita.

We spent time chilling on the beach, only this time I was sand-challenged: crutches and a cast that opened AT THE TOE (ideal for inviting sand inside and not letting it back out).  But I managed, staying in fairly (fairly) good humor.  ;)  Am I talented or what?!  The first night we stayed at a hotel on the beach with Lesley and Pio, Brian and Heather and some of their other friends, but with no A/C and a huge, cotton-swabbed cast on my leg, I respectfully pardoned myself and moved to an A/C hotel the next night, convincing Dulcie and Kraemer to come, too.  And then I slept.

Before the big day, Kraemer purchased a dress kurta and pants and somewhat matching set for Brian, a friend of Lesley's from DC.  Dulcie dressed me in my sari, which I'd come to find even more difficult now that I had four legs.  I hobbled up the stairs into the wedding, much to the amusement of hundreds of guests, and sat myself in the back.

As expected, the colors were vibrant, the crowds large, the food bountiful and the music about blew us out of our seats (Shai later told me he didn't even notice it, he was so absorbed with the ceremony and intent on Kavita!)  We also got a chuckle out of the Indian love for Wonderbread.

Later we spent an evening investigating the one of the town's famed night markets, where vendors packed into countless cells and hung their wares on the walls and outer racks.  Clothes, jewelry, CDs, shoes, wooden pieces, food, beer, you name it - it was all there.  Many of the sellers were Indian, but there were also a fair number of hippy tourists who had come to India and never left.  Dulcie marched resolutely before me up and down the rows, swinging her arms from side to side in front of her like she was swatting away gnats and shouting at people to make room for "the cripple."  We stayed to watch some music, but we were too pooped to hang out very long.

Our taxi man was also less than honest, getting stopped by the police because he didn't have the proper license to cross the border as a driver and making us pay the fees.  Boo.