Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I heart our First Lady


First let me say that I personally can't stand Oprah, or as I like to call her "Pope-rah" (sorry Hody I know this is like sacrilege for you). Over the years I just think she has become so pompous and self-righteous. Which I suppose is hard to avoid when women all over act like you're, well, the Pope, and in such think you're somehow infallible.

But, I love Michelle Obama. It was because of her that I even began to look at President Obama as a viable candidate. I adore how she comes across as so genuine and I really find her to be truly inspiring...as an American, as a woman, as a wife and as a mother.

So although Pope-rah annoyed me with how she asked some of the questions (don't even get me started on the cover photo with her hands in that praying position) I did enjoy this interview.

I don't know about you, but I feel at this time more than ever we need her brand of optimism and hope...to remember it isn't about our differences but about our similarities...

Pope-rah: Okay, shifting gears now. How are you a different woman today than you were when Barack Obama announced his candidacy in 2007?

Michelle Obama: I'm more optimistic. More hopeful. It comes from traveling all over America and connecting with so many different people. And this was long before anyone thought Barack had a chance. This was the kindness of strangers. I think we should all have to get to know one another around kitchen tables. It changed me. It's helped me to give other people the benefit of the doubt.

Pope-rah: What did you see that changed you?

Michelle Obama: I saw our shared values. We fundamentally want the same things for ourselves and for each other. We want our kids to be safe and to grow up with some resources and aspire to a slightly better life than ours. No one's looking for a handout. People just want fairness and opportunity.

Pope-rah: That's so good to hear. Because you know what? We live in an American Idol culture where it seems like everyone just wants to be in the spotlight.

Michelle Obama: That's not the America I saw. People value their communities. They're rooting for one another. Even in places where I thought people wouldn't accept or relate to me, I always walked out feeling like, "Wow—that was fun." That changed me. And it helped prepare me for this. Because I think if you're going to be First Lady, you have to believe in the possibility of what this country stands for. You have to see it in action and know what you're working toward.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ancient Delphi & Meteora



Another road trip had us heading deeper into the mainland of Greece this weekend. Our destinations were ancient Delphi and Meteora.

We left Athens on Friday after the team got off work and arrived at Arahova in a few hours. Arahova is a skiing village very close to Delphi and promised to have nicer hotels and a better choice of restaurants and bars. Our hotel was really cute and the owners couldn't have been nicer. The one who spoke English made us reservations at his favorite restaurant and gave us some late night recommendations. The restaurant was wonderful (see food blog) and the bar, well we could have skipped the bar. It was a late night.

Morning arrived a little too early for me but it was a beautiful day out and we drove the short distance to ancient Delphi after breakfast.



Delphi was of incredible spiritual importance in ancient Greece. It was thought that when Zeus released the two eagles from opposite sides of the world it was here that they met, thus the center of the world. It was here that Apollo defeated the python that guarded the Oracle and where the python's body was said to send up vapors as it decayed. These vapors were used by the Oracles to speak the word of Apollo. These Oracles (women over the age of 50, usually peasants picked from local areas) were consulted by all leaders on all matters.

It was also here that every 4 years athletic games were held here to celebrate Apollo's victory over the python. These Pythian Games predated the ancient Olympics Games.

The ruins were really impressive and we spent about 4 hours hiking up and down the flower covered hills.



After this we had a long and very curvy drive to Meteora. Tired from the 3 hour drive we had an early dinner with hoards of senior citizens on a tour group at the hotel's restaurant and headed to bed for an early morning of sight-seeing.

Meteora has 6 or so monasteries that were built on top of isolated rock formations. Not only are they impressive from the outside but also held incredible treasures and paintings from the Greek Orthodox monks that lived there. Truly amazing...



Our drive back on Sunday was long but completely worth it. Once again, Greece dazzled us with its rugged natural beauty and drew us in with its long and rich history.

Next weekend we hit the islands!

Friday, March 27, 2009

spoiled brats

okay, our life is ridiculously privileged. i am completely aware and thank my lucky stars on a daily basis. seriously, my one pledge to myself and the Wife is to keep us grounded. i don't ever want to take this opportunity for granted.

when i hear constant complaining from other such privileged people i want to shake them until their head comes out of their arse and ask them "just what planet were you living on before getting paid to travel and see this one?"

that said i would like to know just how many euros it would take for our laundry service to deliver our underwear and socks in a way just a wee bit nicer than damp and wadded up in a plastic bag.



i am in no way "above" folding our own unmentionables but you'd think for 10 euros a pair (that's right- $13 bucks per panty) that they'd come delivered by a white horse drawn carriage, folded into the shape of the acropolis and wrapped in an ancient greek scroll...or at least dry.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Independence Day- Take 2


We celebrated our second Independence day this year with Greece's yesterday. We had just arrived the night before India's and although it was nice for the Wife to have a day to settle in it wasn't much of a day. We unpacked, relaxed by the pool and talked about how strange it was that India doesn't allow alcohol sales on national holidays. Can you imagine a 4th of July without alcohol sales?

Needless to say things are a bit different in Greece. The GM of our hotel greeted us with shots of traditional alcohol at breakfast. I believe they were also serving Ouzo to anybody who would take it as we watched the parade from the restaurant windows. For a parade I guess it was okay...a lot of military stuff. It was cool how they flew jets over the city though. After we watched for a little while we headed to the coast to enjoy the ocean and have some coffee.

Christian was kind enough to drive us and we easily found the recommended restaurant and plopped ourselves down at a table by the water. It was extremely windy and a bit chilly but we were determined to enjoy the elusive Greek spring sunshine. After the wind sprayed the majority of the foam from my latte all over Jules and myself we gave in and went inside to finish our coffee.

We then headed down to the beach where we had seen tons of surfers but found it to be small, a bit dirty and too windy to enjoy. We hopped back in the car to drive along the coast and decided to go ahead and drive down to Poseidon's Temple.

The drive was really breathtaking. Greece has such raw beauty is it difficult to take it all in...rocky coastline, water the most gorgeous shade of blue and on the other side mountains dotted with white house and olive trees. So nice.

We stopped for a few photos and some fresh air...3 out of the 4 of us suffer from motion sickness so although beautiful the curves were taking their toll.



We reached Poseidon's Temple to find it closed but in truth the best pictures of it are taken from a far.



Breakfast was wearing off so we headed back for dinner. We stopped off at a one of the many fish shacks and enjoyed some of the local catch. Pretty good grilled fish, wonderful Greek salad (didn't think I'd let a meal pass without one did you?) and Jules had some de-lish prawns.

After refueling ourselves we went in search of a gas station. The low fuel light had been on for quite a few kilometers and the one gas station we had found was closed for the holiday. The sky was turning dark and the rain had already started so we were not looking forward to being stranded. Luckily, we ended up finding an open station so no pushing was required.

Although, I'm sure there are much worse fates than finding yourself stranded on the coast of Greece.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Resisting Change

I love the earth as much as the next guy...maybe even a little more than the average bear. I try to do what I can to lessen my personal impact and God knows after the Wife watched "An Inconvenient Truth" our home life became anything but convenient. Hello? Are those 5 gallons buckets in your beautiful shower? Why, yes, yes they are but doesn't our grass look nice?

Anyway, I know that paper money is not great for the environment. I know it has a fairly short shelf life and even though it is comes from a renewable resource coins are much better. They last longer and that means less energy is used producing them.

Got it.

Except I'm American and coins don't mean much to me. Back when we lived at home at even given moment there would be 100's of them floating around the bottom of my numerous handbags, inside our furniture, in our cars, under our dryer, on the floor...and I never missed them or really ever tried to use them. Just like the bobby pins that litter my life I took them for granted and only occasionally put them where they needed to go.

Indian ruppees come 50 to a US Dollar so you can imagine how careless I was with those coins. If I couldn't garner enough energy to pick up a dime back home no way I'm caring about a fraction of a penny.

Now here we are in Greece and using the Euro. It takes $1.30 US Dollars to make up one of these puppies so I care a great deal more. Except I'm dealing mostly with coins for the smaller denominations and it is driving me bonkers.

I can't seem to wrap my head around the importance of a coin and I think they are too small to keep up with. I want to casually stick them in this pocket or that pocket or just let them loose in my purse.

I'd like to appeal to the EU and suggest that if they're going to keep this coin thing going they should at least make them bigger...like the size of those Plinko discs from "The Price is Right"...I could keep up with those.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

She's no Glen Burns...

Okay last night the Wife and I were flipping through the 3 channels that sometimes have shows in English when we came across this girl...



We thought it had to be a sketch comedy show so we watched her all the way through.

Only to realize that, nope, it was just the weather report. Her name is Petroula Kostidou and she is seriously the weather girl for a channel that we had thought of as the Greek NBC because of their logo and the fact they play old ER episodes.

I still can't get over it.

travel stuff

i get a lot of questions about surviving the hotel life. what kind of things we can't live without, how we cope, etc.

so many of our friends have graciously offered to send things to us and believe me one day soon we'll start taking you up on it.

the one good thing about us being delayed is that we had a lot of time to plan what to bring. of course some things work and some don't...we're definitely learning as we go.

hopefully you're all planning a trip to come visit as some point...so be sure to check out our weekly "can't live without" travel item. link will be on the sidebar.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Nafplio


We headed to the Peloponnese region of the Greece mainland this weekend. Our ultimate destination was Nafplio, a town that is supposed to be one of Greece's most elegant with a ton of ancient stuff to see on the way, so we were pretty excited.

I was even more excited not to be getting in a plane so I packed like a maniac...oh, that's right I brought as many over 3oz liquid bottles my short arms could carry. No need to worry about my stuff fitting in an overhead bin...of course I need these five sweaters and 2 coats! I'll be there for 2 days won't I?

Maria volunteered to drive us out of Athens and it really was lovely. Mountains, olive and orange groves, little herds of sheep...it was really nice. And better yet, our luck held out and it didn't rain. Which is apparently really good because Maria said she doesn't drive in the rain and we'd just have to sleep wherever we were when it started.

We got to our hotel without much hassle. Although it was here where my overpacking came back to bite me in the rear...2 flights of narrow stairs had to be navigated before getting to our room. Both rooms were very pleasant and with the help of the sweet woman from the hotel, also Maria, we headed out to the town square for dinner. Well, really we were headed out for snacks. Not even the elderly eat dinner at 7pm in Greece so our plan was to eat something light, have some wine then head to dinner by the water.

After our giant "cheese plate" (see the food blog for this story) and what I had thought would be a small cheese pizza we were too full to eat any dinner. We still headed down to the waterfront for some dessert and some of course more vino. We ended our night pretty early and had plans for a lot of sightseeing the next day.

Saturday morning arrived and it was clear Mother Nature had other plans so we hung in our rooms until the rain let up enough for us to venture out for a late breakfast. On our way out the hotel lady suggested taking the little train we'd seen out by the port to see a little bit of Nafplio.

Considering the weather we thought it was a good idea and climbed aboard. I'm not sure what we expected from a "miniature train tour" but when the kiddie music started we realized it was going to be a pretty painful trip. After this we decided to grab some lunch and try to salvage the rainy day with some massages and facials at the Nafplio Palace Spa.

Our late lunch allowed us to eat at a "decent Greek hour" and then we headed back down to the water to grab some drinks. We ended up in a little bar with decent music and a friendly owner that kept us entertained into the wee hours of the morning.

The sun returned on Sunday and after breakfast by the port we headed out to finally see some sights. We went to the ancient theatre of Epidaurus and the ruins of Mycenae. Both were beautiful, serene and definitely "must-sees" if you're in the Peloponnese region.

The wife did an amazing job driving us back to Athens and to our hotel. Although the rain slowed us down a bit on Saturday it was a nice weekend and a great way to start our stay in Greece.

After living in India for 2 months I can't tell you how nice it was to just be outside and enjoy such beautiful countryside. It really did our souls good.

Cuban, Greek = Same, Same, not so different apparently

Before departing for India I had thought my dark hair and complexion would have helped me blend in a little with the natives. I was very, very wrong. Without being dressed in full regalia (sari or full Punjabi suit) I stuck out almost as much as my red-headed wife…okay maybe not that much, but I did not in any way pass for Indian.

Coming to Greece I wasn’t worried about sticking out. Although our bit of celebrity in India could be amusing (I can’t imagine how many Indian photo albums we’re in by now- “hey look at these freaky foreigners we saw out today!”) I was ready just to be another face in the crowd, albeit a far less fashionable, non-European face in the crowd.

There is no denying that my Cuban genes are by far my most dominant. I look nothing like my mother and other than my short stature and easily rattled nerves I really inherited very little from the maternal side of my family. I am, as far as looks go, undeniably “not white”.

It seems my features of dark curly hair, dark eyes and olive complexion do, however, pass quite easily for Greek. I’m not talking about by tourists. I’m talking about each and every Greek person I meet. Whether it is an employee of the hotel, an instructor at the gym, a waiter at a cafĂ© or just random people attempting to speak to me on the street I am spoken to in Greek.

Not so unusual right? It is the native language here.

It's after I give them a look of utter confusion and confess that I don’t have a clue as to what they are saying that I find funny. Each time I state that I don't speak Greek they seem so utterly surprised. Sometimes they even continue to speak to me in Greek as if I am pulling their leg. “No, no, really?” I confirm again in my plainly American (Southern American at that) accent and am almost always met with a look of defeat. Like, how could they ever confuse a non-Greek for one of their own…especially an American.

I may be far removed from my Cuban heritage but I’m more than positive there is no Greek blood running through my veins. Greeks aren’t the type to let lineage be forgotten.

I wouldn’t mind the confusion and actually find it a pleasant experience to not be seen as a bumbling tourist but I’m sure most of them believe I’m Greek-American. This of course is a title in which “true Greeks” find as offensive as “f&%k head”. If you are Greek you are Greek no matter where you live. And a Greek who doesn’t speak any Greek is even worse.

I had planned to really crack down on my Spanish lessons while here but now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t try my hand at some Greek…just enough to pass as a very shy and quiet Greek girl…although not too quiet because that and the fact I don’t smoke like a freight train might give me away.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A little late but better than never...

While in India you can't help but be overwhelmed by the cultural differences. Working in India proved to be just as different..

Just a few of them...

1)Back home, if the power were to go out in the Coke building, I am sure we’d be in the midst of some catastrophic problem.

In India, the power goes out as often as I go for a bathroom break. Usually the backup generators kick in quickly, but today we were left with about 2 full minutes of complete darkness… so dark my computer didn’t even produce enough light to see my keyboard… earlier this week I was stuck in the bathroom in complete darkness.

2)Back home, the cafeteria is a pretty sophisticated scene… 10 different stations for food of all kinds…. salad bar, grill line, desserts, salad bar, meat and 3, deli, etc.

In India, the cafeteria serves free lunch to all Coke employees out of 4 big cooking pots. The dishes are split between veg and non-veg options, always accompanied by rice and Nan (local bread similar to pita). I really enjoy the authentic India food, which is not as spicy as I had feared (although a lot of my team can’t eat the level of spice). I have also turned about 95% vegetarian since being in India.

3)Back home, I typically don’t feel like I am going to die every morning on my commute to work (unless it is of course raining in Atlanta).

In India, I typically don’t feel like I am going to live past my 5 minute commute to work.

4) Back home, we enjoy going to a cabin on the weekends to enjoy getting out of the city, especially during the fall.

In India, I work in a “cabin”, along with every other employee that isn’t stuck in a cubicle.

5) Back home, I understand and am familiar with all aspects of the Coca-Cola restrooms.

In India, I have yet to fully understand (although I have some ideas) the complexities of the bathroom situation. Between the hoses and drains I’m not sure if I want to understand.

6) Back home, although I look somewhat different than most people, I tend to blend in okay with the other redheaded, fair skinned people (or at least fair skinned people).

In India, I sometimes seek reassurance from my colleagues that I have not turned into the red-headed devil that all of the stares lead me to believe. I just looked in the mirror a few minutes ago – no worries, everything seems to be okay.

7) Back home, we tend to lay off employees that aren’t essential to our business.

Here in India, they tend to employ people with totally nonessential tasks. No lie, there are two full time elevator button pushers and one guy that sits at the coffee machine to push the button for whatever you want.

8) Back home, when you park your car the most you ever worry about is maybe parking too close to someone else and getting a scratch or ding in the door.

In India the employees have to worry about the cows that hang out all day in the parking lot eating trash getting into a fight and ramming their horns into vehicles parked in their way. Seriously, I’m not kidding-two team members actually witnessed a full on cow brawl that led to some pretty nasty damage to some poor soul’s red jeep.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

urgh!

seems my little 3 hour hike around athens was too much for the bum foot. for two days it has been swollen up like a freaking water balloon and burning like a house on fire. seems my tendinitis is back with a vengeance :(

yet again i find myself stuck. except this time i'm in an amazing city where i could actually go out every single day and enjoy my freedom...which makes it all the worse.

obviously i'm frustrated...i mean it has been 11 months of dealing with this and it seems there is no end (or high heels) in sight. i realize "chronic" means "chronic" but come on!

i'm giving myself until the middle of next week. if there isn't an improvement with the inflammation and swelling i'm going to have to go to a doctor here in greece. which i am sure is going to be an adventure.

at this point the only thing left for me is a shot of cortisone. my ortho in atlanta wanted this to be the very last option and told me it would "hurt like holy hell" and i "better pray the needle makes it to the right spot because the joints are so small it will be a miracle to find it the first time". can't wait!

please send some prayers and positive vibes my way.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

lost and found

I'm still a bit sick so I gave myself another day off from working out. I did feel well enough to get out a bit and had planned to go to the Museum of Greek Popular Instruments. Listen, I've never denied my dorkiness but it is supposed to be pretty cool and close to our hotel.

I checked out the map in our guide book, scrawled down some directions and set off. If you've never been to Greece you may not be aware of their lack of street signs or sometimes lack of English translations on the signs that do exist. Needless to say I missed a turn somewhere and found myself pretty lost.

The Plaka is full of shops and cafes so I was pretty okay with being lost. I'm fairly used to it considering my horrible sense of direction and after India was just happy to be walking around. I ended up going towards a main street to find myself directly in front of The Temple of Zeus. It was here I realized that although I had remembered my camera I had not remembered to put the battery in.

A little annoyed at missed photos opportunities I set off to go back to the hotel to retrieve it. I idiotically listened to my inner navigation system and took a left. I was more than sure that it would lead me directly back to Syntagma Square.

Of course, it did not. I walked for another 30 minutes or so and just as I began to feel concerned about how I would find my way back I looked up and saw...


(thank you camera phone)

At that point I wondered how lost I really was...I took a seat on some steps, listened to old man play the sax and enjoyed the view.

It took me over an hour to make it back to the hotel and I never did find that museum...all in all I think a pretty successful day.

Round 3!

Schedule is out and we're headed to....



South Africa!!!!!!!!

Needless to say we're thrilled!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dubai


On the way to Greece we stopped off in Dubai. We knew it would be a quick trip, with only one full day there, but it was almost the half-way point (at least the only point that two American girls would stop anyway) so we went for it.

Thanks to a stupid sick baby sitting in front of me on the flight back from Goa I have a pretty nasty head cold. After feeling as if my left ear was bleeding on the descent into Dubai I did not feel like getting up for the morning tour of the city. Luckily, we heard from others that after you've seen one big building you've kind of seen them all and the palm island thing doesn't look like anything when you're on the ground. I did get it together for our desert tour which is all I was really looking forward to doing in the first place.

Our tour began with "sand bashing" (think mud bogging with sand and over really high dunes) and ended with bbq and belly dancing. I've never really seen a desert much less gone an hour into one and I have to say it was pretty awesome. The nothingness was really just beautiful. The Wife of course loved the sand bashing. I, on the other hand, will mark it as a success solely because I didn't die from a heart attack or puke.

The bbq and belly dancing was pretty cool and next time I told the Wife I wanted to do the overnight desert tour. I think it would be a more intimate experience with both the guides and the desert itself...and the latter is a relationship I'm looking forward to exploring.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

the only thing i'll miss about india...


my indian bff...my trainer anil (who apparently refuses to smile for pictures)

last thoughts on India (revised)


I should probably wait a week or so after arriving in Greece to write this...I'm getting sick, didn't sleep at all last night and in all honesty couldn't be more ready to leave this country. I'll try to keep these emotions in check though and reflect back on our time here without too much bias.

As you’ve probably surmised from my other blog entries India is a bit of an oxymoron in and of itself. Its beauty walks hand in hand with its vileness at all times. Its poverty and filth is never more than the turn of a head from its rich culture and splendor.

My perspective is of course completely influenced by the facts that I am American, I am a woman and I am gay…that said, I won’t attempt to sum up our time in India but instead will just list out some random and not so random thoughts, situations and topics that the Wife and I have witnessed and talked about over the last 7 weeks…

•“Tikka”-Tikka means “okay” in Hindi and is always said with a distinct head bop to the left or right. Most of the time tikka is not even uttered and only the head bob is done, over and over as you speak. Sometimes the head just bobs continuously as they speak. It is purely Indian and difficult to get used to when having conversations. I am sure you’ve seen parodies of this and believe me it is no exaggeration. Although very unnatural for us I think you would be hard pressed to find an Indian who doesn’t do it…I’ve yet to meet one.

•“Dressing up”- I’m not sure what Indian women would wear if told to “dress up”…they look stunning all the time. There is no such thing as too colorful or too embellished for any part of the day. Hot pink with sequins seem a bit too much for the grocery store at 10am? Not the case here. This goes for rich and poor, old and young…and on these women it doesn’t look out of place or overly done at all…it is truly gorgeous.

•“Line Jumpers”-I’ve almost witnessed out and out fights in America if someone should break into a line in front of others. We don’t mess around with “line jumping” and I seriously feel fear and guilt if I ever sneak into a line with someone I know that is up ahead. Here in India line jumping is just the way it is. They do not wait for anything and even if you have been standing in line for 15 minutes you better believe 20 people will waltz right up ahead of you. Actually they may even push you to get ahead. It wasn’t until the last few weeks that I started standing my ground against these offenders. It is dog eat dog in the line business around here. I’m not proud to say it but last weekend while attempting to exit the plane I had to physically hold an elderly lady back with one arm to get out of my seat. Then when I stopped to let the row out in front of me she seriously pushed me from behind with all her might until the people got out and I moved forward. Wow.

•“Respect thy mother and father”- Here in India that is not lip service…that is a fact of life for children. Although I have a hard time with thinking I’d still be obeying my parents’ wishes well into my 20’s and 30’s I do find it refreshing to see such respect and reverence.

•“Same, same but different”- Getting what you want here is not that easy and this cannot always be contributed to any sort of language barrier as Indians have a fairly good command of the English language, just not the pronunciation.
Typical conversation with waiter/salesperson/driver/hotel staff:
Me: “Can I please have the same so-and-so please?” (pointing at whatever it is I want)
Them (while head is bobbing): “Yes ma’am”
I wait, they bring it…
Me: “This is not the same, I wanted the same as this” (pointing at whatever it is I wanted)
Them (while head is bobbing): “Yes ma’am”
I wait some more, they bring it…
Me: “This is not the same, I want THE SAME as THIS” (pointing at whatever it is I wanted)
Them (while head is bobbing): “Yes ma’am”
I wait even longer, they bring it…
Me: “This is NOT the SAME, I want THE SAME AS THIS” (pointing at whatever it is I wanted)
Them (while head is bobbing): “Yes ma’am”
I wait, they never return.

•“Chivalry is DEAD”- Or maybe it never existed here. Outside of our hotel if you think a man is going to let you into an elevator, through a door or ahead of him in any way you’re crazy. My advice is stand back and let them through because you’re likely to be pushed down if you attempt to go first.

•“Modesty”-Although I have no idea how they survive the summers without shorts I do think the fact that young girls dress modestly and that both boys and girls are kept from seeing overtly sexual images is a good thing. It is nice to see children here being children.

•“Personal Space”- Forget it; it doesn’t live here in India.

•“The Past”- There is no forgetting when it is still alive and kicking.

•“Down with the 2 party system?”- Here in India they have over 50 political parties and through reading the papers, watching the news, talking to people and just seeing their infrastructure I can tell you not much gets accomplished. I think there is wisdom in both “too many cooks in the kitchen” and “too many chiefs and not enough Indians”…so keep this in mind when complaining about our government.

•“Religion”- Hinduism is not a religion as much as a way of life. There is no question of “are you religious?” To a Hindu it is who you are not what you do or don’t do. The amount of sects, stories and deities is mind-boggling and truly fascinating…especially for a religion that has no actual set of rules or a book to go by.

•“Veg or non-Veg?”- I love Indian food but I do think it is strange that veggies and meat never seem to converge in the same dish.

•“Out to pasture”- Cows are of course sacred in India. They are, in the eyes of Indians, the giver of life. Many people have cows and depend heavily on them for milk, fuel and sometimes even shelter. It is a crime to kill a cow but apparently not so much to treat them like crap. Cows are seriously let out in the morning “to graze” although there is no pasture in sight and very little grass anywhere in the cities. They literally eat garbage for nourishment and do so all day as they wander the streets until they meander back home at night.

•“English,Spenglish”- Although almost every single Indian at least knows some English words and the majority of educated know a good bit they are quite happy to make up new “English” words and adopt them as proper. Like “prepone”… as in they have “preponed your 2pm flight to 8am” so you missed it. Or they will just make up new definitions of using a word…like “hyper” which I argued with my trainer about for an hour as he vehemently says it means to get angry.

•“What do you mean? There are gays everywhere!"-This is an actual quote (said with a Brazilian accent) from one of the guys on the team when the Wife was talking about how difficult it was to be closeted in India. He was unaware of the cultural difference here with "male bonding". Traditionally Indian children are separated by sex when it comes to interaction. This has led to an intimacy between males that would make anybody from other countries believe they had landed in the land of homos. Men, young and old, can be seen arm in arm or holding hands while walking down the street, snuggled up on a bike or stoking each other as they converse. Coming from America where men have to have a "homo-seat" in-between them at the movies to reassure themselves of their masculinity I found this to be wonderful. I remember watching a great documentary on homosexuality years ago and they showed boys/men dancing at an Indian wedding bumping and griding on each other so much you'd think you were watching "Bollywood night" at a gay club. Seeing this, I was aware before arriving but I have to say as a Westerner, even a gay one, it was odd to see. In a good way though.

Please note, this did not make it any easier for us as a married lesbian couple though. I would have to say that living in the closet was the most unpleasant thing about India for us both...more than the poverty, the filth or fear of "Delhi Belly" and malaria. It really made me think about my gay friends in the US who live in the closet and I have a new found empathy for how difficult it must be and what strains it must put on their lives.

Again, I don't think there is a way to sum up all my thoughts on India...all I can say is that I feel really blessed to have seen what I have seen and been able to do what we've done.

Goa


Our weekend in Goa was exactly what we had hoped for...relaxing.

We stayed at the Park Hyatt which was a pretty large resort. It had a HUGE beach, good restaurants and lush grounds. But, I would say the best aspect was how quiet it was there. It is very noisy at our hotel in Gurgaon so it was so nice to sleep without earplugs in at night. We didn't leave the resort at all and spent our days lounging by the sea, drinking beer and eating seafood. 3 things I felt were required for a good birthday weekend for the Wife.



We even had a beef burger! It was awesome and really just smelling it as it came to my lips was enough to make me tear up.

We returned with a very mild case of "Delhi Belly" but I'd say it was more than worth it...not to mention it was probably some stupid washed veggie that did it anyway.

As with almost all our beach trips I took almost no pictures. Sorry...guess I needed a vacation from the camera as well.




Goa is definitely a place we'd revisit if we come to India next year. I told Cloris that we should have come there the first weekend but she quickly pointed out that if we had, we would have never seen anything else because we would have just kept coming back. Cloris is such a wise one.

All in all I would say it was a perfect weekend to end our trip to India.


(Jules and her "beach bag"...hey we have to travel light)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Happy Holi!

India celebrates the Festival of Colours today with Holi. This holiday marks the coming of spring and Indians celebrate by smearing colors and colored water all over one another. I opened the door to two such celebrators yesterday...


Seems the girls "got their colors" at work.

I would love to go out today to take some pictures of this holiday in action but apparently you take the risk of being hit with water balloons and super-soakers loaded with very strong dye. So strong it will not only stain your clothes but also your skin. My main reason is not wanting my camera ruined.

One of the guys is going out today with one of the guys from Coke India so hopefully he'll get some shots. I stole this one from the web to give you an idea as to what "getting your colors" is really all about...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Happy Birthday Jules!!


Thanks to everyone who sent in birthday messages and photos for the birthday slide show. I literally finished it at the very last minute thanks to my lack of computer skills..but, I do really think it turned out great.

I played it for her first thing this morning. She was so surprised to wake up to her 30th birthday in India and still be surrounded by the love of her friends and family. It really meant so much to her to hear from everyone.

The file is HUGE and too big to post or send via email so if you would like to see the slideshow you can download it from this link . Be warned it is over 20 minutes long so it will take you quite some time to get the file. If you know of any other way to compress the file then please share.

Thanks again guys!! Much love to all of you!! Wish you were all here with us to celebrate...oh, wait...maybe I should wish that we are there and at a Mexican restaurant with you.

Be sure to eat some chips and cheese dip and drink a margarita today in honor of our girl!!