Sunday, February 21, 2010

"There's your home."

On the plane to Boston from London, I sat next to a nice gentleman from the UK. We chatted a bit and then I fell asleep. A few mintues after I awoke, he pointed out the window and said, "There's your home." The lights from the east coast were just winking into view.

I have to admit, I got a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I never expected to be affected like that after returning from a vacation. Sure, there's always the relief of a safe return to familar surroundings, but this time, coming from India, and realizing all I have that I take for granted...well, my reaction was more emotional.

Suddenly my aversion to the winter snow and cold seemed minor. And little things like being able to drink water right from the tap seemed huge. As we drove from Boston back to our beautiful home in New Hampshire, my husband I took stock of many other things that made our lives better than we realized.

Little things like, knowing how much things cost and being charged the same amount as everyone else; a quiet ride driving within lanes--not relying on the constant honking of horns to avoid hitting someone in overcrowded conditions; food that doesn't make you think twice about its effects; flush toilets and toilet paper...and big things like peace within our borders; knowing that most people don't go hungry day after day; lack of preventable diseases... I could go on. But I guess all I want to say is that we really are a whole lot luckier than we realize.

And I'm glad to be home in the USA.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

This shopaholic is all shopped out!

Wait until you see all the amazing stuff I bought over here. I took a couple of pictures yesterday. At first, I just spread out the items I bought in Chennai. But then I decided to put out the things I got in Bangelore and Mysore too. Oh my goodness! I have way too much stuff!

I managed to get it all into a carry-on, but one more thing in that bag and it'll explode! LOL. I don't even want to know how much I spent. It was worth it, though. I've experienced both sides of Indian commerce. The kind where the store manager greets you at the door, takes you to the items you're interested in, sits you down in a comfortable chair and shows you all their wonderful things. Some even serve you coffee or tea.

Now, the other side... I'm laughing inside as I remember yesterday's shopping experience. I got the high-end treatment first, then we went to a five story shopping mall. Same old western mall stuff. (I bought sunglasses, nothing more.) Then we hit the streets. Oh yeah. T-Naggar is the place for "good stuff cheap." My driver kept telling me it wasn't the best quality, but I was looking for a particular item and we couldn't find it anywhere. T-Naggar Street in Chennai has everything you could want, including tailors. I finally found the little sari blouse and underskirt but the blouse was a little tight. (Happily, it was tight across the chest.) LOL. But there was a generous margin which the tailor used to ease the fit.

Then I got home and discovered the colors not only didn't match, but were a horrible clash! Oh No! Now, I think I'll have to buy at least one, and perhaps two more saris.
Oh woe is me. Where the heck will I put them???

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Driving in India

I wish I could record the sounds here. Honk honk, hoooonk, honk, honk, honk...all day and most of the night. You know what? I think I can! Our camera takes short videos. I'll try to remember to record the noise and traffic from the rooftop deck.

Driving in India includes beeping one's horn every time you come up to a vehicle that might possibly get in your way. The concept of lanes is "merely a suggestion" as my cab driver in Bangelore put it.

According to what I hear, the reason there aren't more accidents is because everyone is only responsible for what happens in front of them. Who's doing what behind you is their problem. As long as you don't hit anyone, and the guy behind you makes sure he doesn't hit you, everyone manages to get where they're going.

I'm about to meet my cab driver in Chennai. I hope to brave the street markets for some bargains. I need a few things, I won't get slips to go under the saris I bought. I watched a couple of videos on you tube to show me how to put it on. It's quite a process. I also noticed the young women here wear a more fitted pant-like leggings under their churidars. I'd prefer those to the voluminous silk pajama pants. I should go to the mall for them. Yes, they have malls here. Only instead of spreading out, they're high-rise malls. It should be fun.

In the street level shops or markets, I hope to pick up some fun things for prizes to give away on my yahoo loop, Ashlyn's New Best Friends. I love giving presents to my friends, so if you want to be one of my new best friends, simply go to the home page of my website, click on the yahoo icon, and sign up!

I know the gang is still having fun even though I'm not there. Sherry and Dalton should be there to welcome you. Maybe Garry, our resident guy, will give you an excerpt or two from my books. Rhonda usually pops in when she's not busy at work. Plus we hear from Athena more now that she's back from Brazil. Monica in jolly old England has been MIA recently because of illness, but I hope she's right as the Enlish rain and back to post pictures of hotties which the groups greatly appreciates!

Jeez, I miss you guys!



Monday, February 15, 2010

Begin every day with chocolate!

We have a fabulous buffet each morning at the hotels. Some items are standard, like Vada, a little vegetable donut I've come to enjoy, and other items change. At the old hotel, a whipped chocolate was availale every morning. I smeared it on banana bread and it was delicious! I always ate it last to let the chocolate linger.
Now, the new hotel doesn't have it. (Bummer) But this morning they had a rolled ring with chocolate-raspberry inside. Yum!

You'd think I'd be gaining weight over here with all the good food, but the truth is, I'm losing weight! I want to taste every new thing, so I take a tiny portion and savor it. I'm also getting a little more excercise. We're on low floor and take the stairs. This hotel has an awesome roof deck where the pool is, so I might use that more. The old hotel's pool was right in front of the resturant and all the rooms circled it. Yeah, SO not private. But I braved the humiliation and got in it once. I think I was the only person to use it all week. (They think it's cold here!) I don't know celcius temps, but it's in the high twenties to low hirties celcius. Feels like the eighties, farenheit. In order not to hate me, think,"Oh, poor dear, it's only in the twenties and thirties! And the Internet connection is spotty."

Hubby will be adding more pictures while he's at work today. Now I have to jump in the shower.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

try this link for pictures

This is only 111 so far., the day before (I'm so confused as far as what day it is, never mind what time it is there vs. here) anyway...Saturday we went to a huge national park and took a jeep safari trip through it. We saw lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Seriously!!! There's this ugly creature called a sloth bear and I got lots of pictures of those, a couple were standing right in the road in front of us and we had to wait for them to move.

The lions and tigers were pretty lazy. They looked well fed and more interested in napping than eating the tourists. Some were in large cages with people tending them. My husband said they were in time-outs. (No more tourists for you!)

Also in cages were large snakes, jackels, crocks, elephants, hippos, monkeys, you name it. But those pictures will have to wait until my husband can download them off his camera and onto photobucket again.

We spent the day with my husband's boss, Parag, and his family. They have the cutest little boy and it was fun seeing the park through his eyes. Unfortunately, we also encountered our first persistent beggars. He spoke to them in Hindi and I'm sure he was telling them to leave us alone. They didn't.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Here are some of what we have. More to come!

Friday, February 12, 2010

I officially love this country

I know I missed a day, but it's not because I fell off an elephant and wound up in the hospital...we just had a very long, very exciting day yesterday.

It was (and still is) the Feast of Shiva. A two day holiday meant to honor Shiva the destroyer. (The God who smites your foes and woes.) So my husband was off work for the holiday and we hired a cab for a day of sightseeing. Oh my! We saw so many cool things it's hard to remember it all.

First we went to a Muslim site. A Sultan's palace and lands, plus his burial place. Aparently he was a good king despite the many bloody battles depicted on the walls of his palace--or maybe because of them. There were potraits done in 1799 of the Sultan and each of his seven sons. (No, the women didn't get documented for eternity.) Pity, because the potrait artist was incredible. Each wel preserved likeness looked completely unique and detailed.

The next place we went was a bird sanctuary. It had a whole lot more than birds, although our guide said there was every type of bird in India there. I caught a picture of a monkey and her baby. So cute! I got a couple of shots of crocodiles with the telephoto lens. Sorry, wasn't getting close to those things!

My husband is going to put these photos in my photobucket account so I can post them here.

So, after that, we were well rested and it was a good thing since our next stop was a temple dedicated to Shiva. Oh my goodenss. Everyone showed up to honor the God on "his day." We had to take off our shoes to go through the temple--or I should say, be pushed and crushed through the temple. We had our foreheads' dotted with red insence, were given flowers to lay at different spots in the temple, and were blessed with some holy water. After that, we had to pay to get our shoes back and even though we'd already paid, no amount seemed good enough. If you're white, bring lots of money and expect to be overcharged for anything without a price tag...and sometimes, even with one!

As soon as we'd escaped the temple with our shoes, we had to make our way through the many merchants that lined the road back to the parking lot. I made it to the cab with only two saries and two sets of bangle bracelets. Whew!

So, after that, we'd earned a nice rest at a palace guest house. I wish I got more pictures. It looked like another palace. It was comleted in 1921 and had the look of the old British Colonil days. We had a drink in the bar and billiards hall. Then lunch was served in a huge banquet room complete with a fellow playing sitar music.

After that, we went to the actual palace. It was huuuuuuge! We weren't allowed to take pictures, and yet the guards took a bribe to let us in with our camera--even though we promised not to take pictures. Yeah, there was no place to "check" your camera. The place was very impressive--thousands of columns topped with gold, marble floors and staircases, tapestries, statues, weaponry, etc. All the trappings of royalty. Outside I got some good pictures. Including a couple of camels. Don't worry, we're uploading all of these on photobucket.

Today we're off to a national park. I'm told they have tigers and elephants! Can't wait!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Day three is just beginning...

and already I've seen some of my favorite hotties in the dining room. Don't let my husband hear that I've been noticing some prime examples of TDH (tall, dark and handsome) while I've been here, but I'm sure he hasn't missed the gorgeous Indian women either. You'd have to be blind!

I've tried to describe them in the writing journal I brought with me. Seriously. Their skin runs the gamut from the strong coffee we have in the morning--to the same with lots of milk. Some are built like the solid mahogany furniture. And many have that long, wiry frame with flat stomachs. Yet some of the guests in this 5 star hotel look like they've been living high off the hog for a little too long, and they carry all of it in their bellies. I'm not critiquing, believe me, my figure could use some major improvements. I'm just noticing details the way a good writer would.

My husband is jealous of their thick, black hair. And seriously, it's ebony black. Sometimes I swear I can see a slight blue shine...not like Veronica's hair in the Archie comics, but almost. It's usually wavy. My hubby's is straight, more salt than pepper and it seems to be a little thinner each day. But he still looks good to me.

It's a good thing I'm in the business of spinning fantasies. This place is rich with inspiration! The men here seem to be just as interested in affairs of the heart as the women are. Valentines Day is new here, but it's taking off with bang! (Oops, pun almost not intended.)

So, I'd better get off this computer and either work on improving my first draft of Strange Confessions or jot down more ideas...or take a cold shower!


Day two in Bangelore

2/9 here /2/8 there.

Today my husband’s company sent a cab over to take me shopping. The driver was very helpful. He took me to the nicer shops and waited for me each time. We were gone from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. His English is a little broken, but I’d be no better trying to converse in French—and forget Hindi. It’s a beautiful language, both spoken and written, but sooo many syllables.

I spent way more than I expected to. And I absolutely suck at bargaining. What’s weird is that things I thought would be outrageously expensive weren’t nearly as bad as I would have thought. For instance, a bangle bracelet made of rubies…don’t know how many, it’s covered with them, only cost me 675 rupees. That’s about $14.00. I got two. And a few things cost more than I thought they should have. But did I try to get the price down? No.
Like I said, I suck at this. It probably all came out in the wash.

And speaking of clothes, have you ever felt way underdressed for the party? Well, that’s how I’ve been feeling wearing my jeans and t-shirts when all these women are wearing beautiful saris. I managed to get a few to pose for me. However, today I got some gorgeous silk clothing for myself! I got 2 beautiful churidars. They’re like silk pajama bottoms and a long tunic-often worn with a scarf. I'm trying to iron them, but silk is so hard to iron, I had to take a break! So, I probably spent too much and still haven’t found the massively big chandelier earrings I thought India was famous for. Maybe next week in Chennai.

Got some photos but will need my hubby to help me upload them, so check back later!
Back to the ironing board.


Monday, February 8, 2010

A day in India and I'm already overwhelmed.

We left at 8 p.m. Friday and arrived at 5 a.m. Sunday somewhat worse for wear, but that's International travel for ya. We spent hours packed like sardines with turbulence much of the way. It felt like months in a shipping container. Fortunately, we recovered from jet lag pretty quickly. Now it's Monday afternoon and I'm hanging out at the hotel while hubby is at work somewhere here in Bangalore. It's a good thing they sent a cab for him, because driving here is insane.

Yesterday, I saw a family of 5 on a motorcycle. Yep. Dad was driving and he had Junior in front of him. Behind him was his lovely wife wearing a full sari and riding sidesaddle. She held the middle boy on her lap and cradled an infant in her arms. I saw them take a corner like there was nothin' to it. Unreal!

There are so many little things that tell me I'm not in America any more. The five star hotel we're staying in would be considered "adequate" in the states. Maybe 3 stars. But the people are very hospitable and bend over backward to make you happy. That was until I got to the hotel's gift shop. Oh my.

I used to consider myself a champion bargain hunter. Now that bargaining is part of the deal, I'm completely out of my league. Just tell me what it costs and if it's on sale. That's all I want to know...but no. I'm expected to tell them what I want to pay for it! How the heck should I know what anything is worth? I don't want to insult anyone, but I don't want to be cheated out of my life savings on day one, either!

I found 3 things I really liked. I didn't let him sell me everything I looked at (even though he tried.) He had my things wrapped up before we even talked price. I'm SO not used to this method of "shopping." I went round and round with the guy as far as pricing. I showed him how much I had in my pocket and he wanted me to go back to my room for more. Fortunately, I didn't fall for that, and thank goodness I didn't have a credit card! I finally came away with the three items I wanted for the rupees I had on my person. I'm still not sure if I got taken to the cleaners or not.

I saw advertised a government store of local crafts with fixed prices! I never thought I'd be so grateful for the Saturn sales model. I think that will be my next stop. Maybe when I have a better idea of what things are worth over here, I'll try bargaining again.

Fortunately my hubby is the most wonderful man on the planet. He said not to worry about it. He could always take me to the ATM if I ran out of the cash I brought with me. "It's only $63 bucks," he said. Somehow that sounds much better than 3,000 rupees. "And if you really love the earrings, it's worth it." What a great guy.

So, I was just watching HSN on TV to get an idea on fair pricing...yes, the same kind of Home Shopping Network we have at home--just picture 2 beautiful Indian women talking about Indian jewelry in what I call "Hindish." It's a combination of Hindi and English. I understood only ever other word, but I knew exactly what they were saying.

This is a funny, funny and fascinating place. And, oh yes, I should mention that I've eaten some of the most wonderful concoctions, not knowing what most of it was. LOL. Fortunately, I have adventurous taste buds and an iron stomach.