Thursday, November 22, 2012

India - Erin's Perspective

Er, Erin's camera, that is. Enjoy these almost 200 other pics of almost the same things. :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A (post) birthday birthday post

Depending on where you are, it might still be my birthday. For me, though, it's over, and year 29 begins on a cool, cloudy Thai morning. (Yes, I'm 28, but that means it's the beginning of year 29, since yesterday I basically celebrated not getting myself killed for the first 28 years of my life.)

Today I woke up (relatively) early - I say relatively because it was early for me, but the birds, the farmers, and the neighbors had all probably been up for hours already, and I only felt compelled to join the fray when I remembered the mountain of greasy dishes from last night's birthday dinner still sitting in the kitchen (surreptitiously attracting ants). I also heard a funny noise that convinced me that someone was either attempting to (further) break or to fix our broken fence, so I figured I might as well get up and get something done before school.

The dishes were the aftermath of a hastily conceived and somewhat poorly executed meal of French fries (frozen, purchased Sunday), fried chicken, terrible beer, and "floor brownies."

Josh was responsible for the first three items, although the fact that the beer is terrible isn't his fault.

I am responsible for what turned out to be VERY chocolaty and a little bit  banana-y, not very sweet cookies.

They were supposed to be brownies, but in the manner of my mother, who once forgot to add the flour to the batter, I made some sort of terrible measuring mistake and ended up with something quite unlike a brownie batter. Thinking I had no sugar left, but needing to turn the "brownies" into something more like cookies (or else they would never fill the pan I had to bake them in, resulting in a thin layer of who knows what once baked), I added a little bit of coconut oil (sweet-ish, right?), some more flour, and then mashed a few bananas into the mix and called it a "cookie dough."

After we greased our hands and our bellies on the chicken and fries, I set about baking my new creation. First batch in and out of the oven and....
.... promptly dropped onto the floor.

And then from the floor onto the cooling rack because this is Thailand and chocolate is precious, and there was a worm in the garlic yesterday and I could ignore that, and there's always lizard poop somewhere and ants somewhere else, and further more, it's my birthday.

I managed not to drop the rest of the chocolate-banana cookies. And they were all delicious. And now we will call them "chocolate banana drops" and make them for years to come. But you can call them "floor brownies," if you like.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Blogs don't update themselves

In Thailand, people are rarely direct. If someone is concerned about something you did, or something you said, or that your hair is too long or your skirt is too short, or you forgot to close your fence last night, or really, anything at all, they wait until your neighbor gets home and then they gossip about you.

In the course of their conversation (something I've never been directly privy to), something happens and the person who wasn't originally concerned becomes concerned. And so they talk to someone else. Eventually, whatever you're doing wrong is communicated to you by the person determined to be the closest thing to an actual friend. This is how you sometimes find yourself at dinner listening to comments that begin with, "The yaais (grandmothers) are concerned about .... ."

It's also why I can really appreciate my American friends, who have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about saying things like, "I miss your blog." And then I know that it's time to write again. Thanks, friends. Keep the directness coming.

Today is my first day back at school after a month-long bit-term (school break), which, as you might have noticed from Josh's "pictures-are-worth-a-thousand-words-I-don't-have-time-to-write" blog post, included a trip to India. I haven't written about India because I haven't yet figured out how to write about it, but I'll give it a shot. The only word I have yet been able to use to describe it involves profanity, so I'll settle for this sentence instead: It was chaos--chaos of the senses, the intellect, the heart.

Chaos of the senses: The sights! The sounds! The smells! The cool, cool air! The fooooooood!
We arrived at night to a very modern-looking airport, and before we even disembarked from the plane, we were startled by an announcement that, "Prudy, passenger Prudy, we have a message for you." So Prudy, who had been with us for 10 days prior, seeing all sorts of crazy things at our site and in Bangkok, went and received the message that our "driver" had called to say he would be late. Our "driver" was actually our friend C. whom we'd gone to visit, and it turns out he was flying in the same day and his flight got in later than ours. From the minute we left the airport lobby with C. to the minute he dropped us back off at the ticket counters there 10 days later, we encountered a whirlwind of activity and confusion and excitement. Here are some highlights:

In Bangalore:
The bull temple, a monolithic bull (statue carved from a single piece of stone), that is still worshiped today and that is black because it is cared for with offerings of butter and oil that are rubbed on it daily.

Tipu Sultan Palace: The palace of Tipu Sultan and it's beautiful grounds/garden were one of the calmest places were went. A bit of an oasis in the middle of the city. The Sultan fought the British four times.

The ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) Temple: Chanting the Hare Krishna barefoot with devout believers was a compelling experience. Outside, we joined barefoot worshipers in their walk from stone to stone as they chanted the meditation 108 times. We blessed ourselves with fire and spent a few good long minutes meditating on the beauty of the inside - no pictures allowed - which was decorated in golds and whites, carvings and paintings of the Hindu deities adorning the walls. The walk through the gift shop (lots of pressure to buy) and the line for food (lots of pressure to buy) and the plans for the new ISKCON Center (which resembles an amusement park more than anything else) were less calming and slightly off-putting. But, that wasn't the only temple we went to where we were expected to "donate" for the right to worship and it seems to be common.

Indian Hospitality: C.'s cousin, D. was kind enough to let us stay in her home for several nights when we first arrived. She also served us incredible food, in portions large enough to feed a small army, night after night. Sometimes, we were so stuffed we couldn't imagine eating anything more, and then a new roti, chapati, or rice would appear on our plate, followed by a serving of some delectable, spicy, brightly colored dish, yellow dal, red chicken curry, green chutney. To die for.

The roads: hahahahaha.

The driving: I figured out that the rules of driving in India are just like those of downhill skiing: You are responsible for not hitting whatever is in front of you. That's it. But you also have this cool horn you can use to say, "hi!" or "I'm going to give you a love tap if you don't move over," or "holy *&^%!," or even, "I'm coming right for you and I don't plan on stopping!"

The directness: Like Thais, Indians don't seem to have any qualms about asking questions regarding money. But they will not politely tell you paid a little too much for something. They will tell you, with a horrified expression that you got ripped off. Then they will take you shopping and argue way more fiercely on your behalf than any Thai ever would. And you will get a good deal. And then they might buy you a present. (See Indian Hospitality, above.) They will tell you you are too skinny and that you need to get fat. (They will not understand why you can't get fat or why Thais think that's a bad thing.) They will attempt to make you fat. (See Indian Hospitality, above.)

In Madikeri:
I got sick. Mountain roads. Pollution. More mountain roads. Too much coffee.

In Mysore: Great food. People people everywhere. Festival. Palace!

In Hampi: Calm. Amazing views. Incredible landscape. Ruins. UNESCO Heritage Site controversy (google it). Sunrise hike to top of hill to see the Hanuman temple, at which the priest and other devotees read the Ramayana 24/7/365 (they have 3 hour shifts). Gift shopping. Delicious vegetarian food. Terrifying bus ride (see roads and driving, above).

It's not fair, really, to reduce the last six weeks to this post or the soundbites above, but it just doesn't yet seem possible to say more.

Plus last week other big things happened: Like, Amanda's English Camp, at which I did arts and crafts with the kids, broke up a fight, and got a new nickname (Pailyn, or sapphire).

Then Obama got elected, Karl Rove went crazy, and Petraeus resigned. And of course, school started again. I promise, I'll try to keep up the blog - but, who can compete with all that news?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lots of Photos from India