Monday, September 3, 2012

Sunny Days Didn't Keep the Monsoon Away

So Saturday afternoon looked like this...

Beautiful and rare blue Mumbai skies on my rickshaw ride home from school.
And this evening around five o'clock it looked and sounded like this...

You know monsoon's finally arrived when many friends and colleagues post photos and videos on Facebook. Funny how many of us did. Sorry for the cheesy narration.

Now back to my perfect evening of listening to the rain with the windows open while reading a good book.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Grand Tour of my New Flat

Over the summer I shifted apartments (like the verb choice Goo?). Just one whole block to be exact. The move was pretty painless. With lots of help from school and Espe and a sister who was willing to pitch in during her vacation visit to India, the couple of moving bumps were smoothed over. You should also know the grand tour photos were taken the day I landed. Within 24 hours of moving, my new place looked like I'd lived there last year too.

I moved into a great new place where a former teacher, Tash; who'll we'll miss greatly, lived. One of the main reasons I chose my new apartment was with the good energy you felt when you walked in her door. Yeah, I'm one of those people.

Okay, enough talking, what you really want is the promised grand tour. And because it's so grand, please know the cheese factor is 10 which meets the requirements of my mom.

Love you Mom! And Mom, I know the slideshow moves quickly. You can adjust the length of time for each photo at the bottom and have more time to snoop, check out my new apartment.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

You Know It's the First Day of School for Teachers When...

  • You've set two alarms.
  • You talked with a colleague about "what you're going to wear" to school and are excited to see each other's outfits.
  • You talked with another colleague about who's riding on your van to school.
  • You drank both your cups of cofee out of a Starbucks mug you bought this summer and sigh as you are briefly transported back to a favorite summer holiday spot.
  • Your new school bag is packed...ipad, snack, new phone hoping to get it's new sim card and two umbrellas (one for you and one for a friend).

Happy first day back ASB friends!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I've Got the Power...

Whether you channeled He-Man's battle cry or Snap's 90's hit, "I Got the Power," you should know I'm one of the fortunate ones in India who has the power. Electrical power.

For two days, there were about 20 states in northern India without it. The number of people affected wout be as if the entire U.S. lost power times two.

I've gotten a couple of Facebook messages and emails about it so thought I'd write a post.  Rather than be ramble on, I found that NBC news did a pretty great job on last night's report so here's a video that has some great images and stats.
Second Indian outage in two days cuts power to more than 600 million people
(It's worth watching through the little advert. Sorry for those who are annoyed for 15 seconds.
At least you have electricity to watch the video and aren't stuck in 100+ temps in a rickshaw.)

Since I arrived back, I've been trying to be a bit more energy conscious here just hoping that my little effort helps. Lucky girl.

And for those of you who don't recall Snap's hit, a little morning (or evening) house dance party reminder...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

American Toiletry Hoarder

This post is dedicated to Fran and Lauren who appreciate the comparisions.

I know I've written before about my great appreciation of particular toiletries. I can't help it. I just know what I like and what works with my blonde, curly hair in a city that's extremely hot and humid majority of the year. I'll admit it. I have a problem.

My toiletry loves becomes amplified living abroad. I hoard them. While majority of the world's population buys what they need as they consume it; I condense my year-long shopping experience into 10 weeks. While those of you living in the U.S. may make a weekly or monthly trip to Target, I make about three or four a year. So when you buy one stick of Secret deodorant, I buy four.

Finding my loves in Mumbai compared to Brasilia is exponentially greater. I can buy so many things here that I couldn't in Brasil so I did try to take that into consideration this time however, I still managed to have three checked bags and an extremely overweight carry-on bag with fun new tech like a bluetooth speaker and new digital SLR camera.

These are my toiletry and kitchen piles. It's bad, I know.
So what things did I bring along that I didn't think I could get here or have a particular affinity to?

  • Curly haired products,
  • Blonde hair products,
  • Face washes and products for my crazy sensitive skin,
  • Coffee,
  • Chocolate chips,
  • Peanut butter cups (feel free to send more),
  • Shoes,
  • Bras and underwear,
  • Dresses,
  • oh and lots more.
I know, I have a problem but compared to Brazil, I only brought three bags rather than four. I think I'm improving a little, right?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Bootless Blondie Returns to Bombay

I woke up early this morning and noticed it wasn't raining so around 6:30 am (not too bad for day 1 jet lag), I slipped on my new sneaks and headed out for a wog.

As I left, I put in my headphones after saying hello to my new guards.

My new street was quiet. A couple of rickshaw drivers chatting. A man outside on his balcony stretching who waved and smiled at me. Turning the corner and heading toward the market, people were just emerging. Women in saris buying eggs. Men picking up tobacco. Lots of looks and smiles exchanged.

As I continued toward the sea and down a hill, I thought, "The streets are slippery. Be careful," knowing my klutzy self. Suddenly I remembered last year's arrival to Bombay.

I was in an orthopedic boot. Starting to live in a new country while wearing a boot and having a sprained ankle during monsoon season is hard. I know others really do know about this (unfortunately). It felt confining. People would head out for adventures, dinner, shopping, riding the train and I couldn't go along. There were the issues of my boot getting soaked, slippery streets and with the humidity lots of swelling. I know, I know. Your little violin is playing for me.

So today being able to slip on not one but two sneakers,  felt great. I was able to enjoy the smell of the sea (not other things), dodge puddles and smile at the others who were up early and walking along Carter Road.

What a difference a year makes. Not only can I go on a walk on my first day back, but I actually know how to get to the ocean by myself too.

My new kicks. Sans boot!

Walking along the sea. It really smelled good today which was a nice treat. Sorry for the fuzzy shot.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Growing Clouds

Clouds over St. Theresa Church along with same orange blossoms I had outside my window in Brasilia
Clouds have been growing in the skies over Mumbai. Makes me think the pre-monsoon showers may be on their way.

The monsoon's hit Kerala in the South. It usually arrives there in late May. Not this year.

It usually arrives in Mumbai on the day of the 8th Grade Celebration. Again, not this year.

From reading in the Times of India, the monsoon system stalled while out at sea. And not just for a day, it was stalled for much longer. Weeks.

Today, while I was riding in a taxi, I saw some men helping a rickshaw driver who's rick had stalled.  I'm just ready for somebody to push this system along in the same way they did.

Monday, June 4, 2012


Many friends and colleagues here have posted about this year coming to a close. They've shared highlights of their year in India and thank yous. Photos and tidbits. Sorry, no final recap from me here. I'll do those in person if you'd like.

Today, Monday, is my first official day off and I'm relishing it.

I started the day by sleeping in until 8:50.

Then I met a dear friend for breakfast at the Bagel Shop. Yummy goat cheese bagel and chit chat.

Next I ran some errands while jamming to, paint store choosing colors for my new apartment and the cell phone company to pay ahead on my bill with the hopes that it won't be shut off over the holiday.

Now I'm home and ready for a nana nap but have some schoolwork and other business things to do first. That's a busy day before noon. Ha!

I probably won't post as much over the summer for numerous reasons but will update with photos sharing highlights of each week.

Enjoy your summertime. Play lots and relish the small things.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Today I went out for breakfast and wedding jewelry shopping with friends.

While at the jewelry store, my phone rang. Of course it was a number I didn't recognize. It's common to receive random numbers calling you here.  But I've learned that unlike other places I've lived, I need to answer because most times, it's someone trying to help me do something.

"Hello?" I heard a voice say.

"Hello?" I asked.

"Yes, hello?"

"Hello. Yes? You called me?" I said again.

Talking but nothing understandable.

"Yes, hello? Can I help you?" I asked.


Again knowing that someone's trying to tell me something I said, "Yes?"

"Something, something, internet." we're getting somewhere. This is someone calling about my internet.

"Yes, you need something about my internet?" I replied.

"Something, something, something," said a different voice.

"I'm sorry I can't understand you. It's loud where you are," I replied.

A third voice then said, "Hello?"

By this time I hadn't even too much patience yet. I'm thought I need to pay my internet bill. I haven't done it in a while.

"Hello?" I replied. "You are calling about my internet?"

So, the voice said, "Something, something, home."

"I'm out. I will be home after 3."

"Okay 3," replied the third voice and we hung up.

So here I sit. It's after 3 and hopefully somebody soon will come to collect my payment. It may have taken us both a little patience on the phone. That's a frequent thing in India for both expats and Indians. We all have a difficult time understanding one another. Some days it doesn't bother you and others can drive you crazy. Today I'm feeling the former.

But how can you complain when the internet company calls to tell you you need to pay your bill and they're going to send someone to your door to collect it?

A little patience paid off. And hopefully my bill will be paid off soon as well.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Heavy-Weight Champion of the World

Yep. That's my new goal. 

This goal begins with a little background information. 

My school's under construction. They're calling it 42 Tons. Meaning we've started major renovations during the final few weeks and we're moving 42 elephants worth of stuff. These gaurantuan efforts will lead to one new elementary campus and a renovated middle and high school campus in the fall. Very exciting. 

So, Thursday, the 42 elephants began their move. This includes relocating early childhood classes, the fourth grade, art, specialists (too many of these wonderful people to name) and the elementary office. The actual moving began at 1:00 p.m.  

I offered my efforts to the fourth grade team. They're moving from the bottom floor to the top. Up 5 flights.

Classes start again on Monday morning and it's important to me that all of the students who are moving spaces have easy transitions. I also know I've set up enough classrooms to offer my help and services that I could be a good resource for them. Pretty much I told them just to boss me around. 

Our campus has 2 elevators. Small ones. Tiny ones. Obviously to me the men carrying desks, shelving, etc had priority using the elevator over me. Plus I saw climbing the stairs as a bit of exercise. 

I went up and down the stairs several times. Bringing ladders to hang things on the walls, asking questions, making sure things were made as easy as possible for this team. 

To help with this, I made stops along the way to visit with colleagues in other divisions to cool off and take short breaks.  

I'm outta shape, I admit it. Badly. I passed the same group of people several times. Each time I passed, I said hello and smiled. They did the same.  

My final time up, I must have looked tired. It also was the end of the day too. And just before a 3-day weekend. 

One of the staff members I'd passed a few times, who's position and name shall remain nameless, said, "If you climb the stairs many times, you will be the heavy-weight champion of the world."

I smiled and thought, "Why not say "stronger" or "you'll loose weight" or have "strong legs?" Nope. Heavy-weight champion.  I replied, "You're right," and when out of sight just shook my head pondering the honesty.

Gotta embrace it, right? So get ready world and especially those of you who occupy the fourth floor, I've got a new goal and you're gonna see me on the stairs working toward it.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Roses are Pink and My Apartment Doesn't Stink

When I arrived home from Singapore on Tuesday, I anticipated an adjustment to Mumbai.  As we left the airplane, the differences between India and elsewhere were instantaneous. 

After riding in the van and entering my building and riding in an elevator, further differences invaded my mind and bombarded my senses.  

I opened my apartment door expecting to be greeted by a wave of hot air and stench from being empty for 5 days. Another difference.

To my surprise it smelled like roses. I turned on the lights and found these.
Beautiful, pink, belated birthday roses from my housekeeper, Espe, who's back to work this week. One of the wonderful ways that India's different from elsewhere. I love some of the differences. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Chicago Singapore: Same Same but Different

The past few days I've been away from India. I thought I was visiting Singapore for professional development, but shortly after immigration and baggage claim, I felt like we'd landed someplace else. I wondered if we somehow took a 5 hour flight and wound up in Chicago.  

Then I wondered, did Chicago have a secret twin? A twin city on the other side of the earth?

Singapore is nothing like Chicago. Really it's not. 

There are beautiful palm trees. Chicago doesn't have those outside anyway. 

There's loads of Chinese and British influence in the architecture. Again, not really Chicago. We've got tall buildings like the Sears Tower (I still can't call it Willis). We have beautiful gothic and art deco style instead. 

Signs throughout the city are in Chinese. There are some signs in Chicago in Chinese but not nearly as many and most are in Chinatown. 

For the past five days, I felt like went home. Let me try to make my case. 

Lovin' me some Sbucks on the street in  Singapore.
And look, benches to sit too!
Evidence #1. Starbucks
We landed early Friday morning and went to our hotel. Not being able to check in we went to a nearby mall to get our first Starbucks fix. Yes, that's right, Starbucks. Chicago has those too. 

Evidence #2. Garrett's Popcorn
The same mall that had a Starbucks also contained a Garrett's Popcorn. For Chicagoans, we all know our favorite blend. And yes it was listed on the menu and yes, I did buy a medium size mix. 

Evidence #3. Tap water
In Singapore you can drink water from the tap. You can do the same thing in Chicago. And that was the first thing I did after we checked into our hotel. From my hands. 


Evidence #4. Architecture (see above)
Both cities have great bridges, ferris wheels and are known for it.
Wrigley Building from river

Singapore skyline

Evidence #5. Reclaimed land 
Both cities claimed land from water. Chicago from Lake Michigan. Singapore from Straits of Singapore (I think, if I read the map correctly). 

Excited for some real meat. Yes, I wrote that.
Evidence #6. Dan Ryan Steakhouse
Chicago's known for its steakhouses. And this branch of the chain didn't let me down. Delic steak salad. Buffalo head on the wall and piece of evidence #7...

Evidence #7. Fountain drinks
Again, Chicago has those too. I heart fountain Diet Cokes.

Evidence #8. Riverwalk restaurants and bars
Both cities have beautiful riverwalks. These walks have wonderful restaurants and cafes along them. Granted in Chicago they're closed for almost half the year but they both have them.

Can you see why I was a bit confused?

My confusion could probably a combination of things. One part summeritis. Two parts homesickness. And three parts that I'm ready to take a break from my new home and the challenges it brings to daily life. Maybe the breakdown isn't quite right but whatever the case, it was nice to be home for a few days.

Okay, and finally a few photos that probably make Singapore truly different than Chicago... and mostly it's just that the people I met live in Mumbai. That's really all...
Singapore skyline from Marina Sands

Same skyline

Night out with ASB friends

Yummy margaritas - hey I forgot about the delicious Mexican food!

Last night in Singapore getting our Mexican fix.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hammer Time!

For the past 8+ weeks there's been construction in my apartment building. They've completely torn up the apartment on the 7th floor (2 floors above mine).

The construction, really I should say deconstruction, lasts about 8 hours each day. It begins (on the weekends) around 9:30 am and lasts until about noon. Then the work picks up again around 4 and ends at 8 pm.

I'm lucky that I'm not here most days. Just here on the weekends if I just stay in to relax. On those days I've gotten used to it. It hadn't bothered me much lately. Even during my yoga lesson last night I was able to concentrate and not even notice it. Guess my meditation's paying off!

But today the builders raised the ante. When I got home from school around 5 pm, today there was a noise that was just a little bit louder. A jackhammer! Truly. They've been jack-hammering on the 7th floor. The jackhammer stopped just before I started to write this post.

WAIT! Ironically as I write this post, my doorbell just rang. The guard came to my door with a letter's been written by someone in the apartment society complaining. It complained of the noise and especially the recent loud hammering between 2-5 p.m. which must happen during the week while I'm gone. This hammering has disturbed the senior citizens in my building. Finally somebody else noticed! The letter also noted worries about possible leaking during monsoon season. Leaks are a huge problem already in the building. Of course, I signed the complaint.

With all of the construction, there's not just the noise pollution. There's been dust and dirt.  Spit and grime.  Some of that's a product of just work happening. Construction = dust.  But the floors of the building haven't been washed since the construction started. The walls are filthy.
Construction workers usually carry large bags of cement and things up barefoot
Recently I asked school for support in making a complaint to the landlord who's completing the remodel. I wanted help, not about stopping the noise, but about cleaning the dirt and dust that coat our stairs and hallways.  They made the mess, so they should clean it up. School replied and said that unfortunately communication with my building was difficult and suggested I consider moving to one of the available apartments. 

The hammering may continue but the dust and dirt won't bother me any longer after this summer. I decided to take school up on the offer to move. I'll be a block away and down four floors from my current spot.

Here's to hoping the blessing across the hall (and the society letter too) helps to end all of the pollution happening inside my apartment building.
Garland across on the door across the hall

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My First Indian Birthday, I Mean Week

Every country celebrates birthdays differently but what's the same regardless is that the people who love you, share that.

It's not easy for me being away from home on my birthday because in my family birthdays are YOUR special day. They're a big deal. So I wondered what my birthday would be like here.

Well, it's been a birthday week. Truly a week. I always teased my sister, probably due to being jealous, about how her birthday by chance of where it falls on the calendar, about her birth-week.

My special week's included:

  • Enjoying special Sofitel lunches with great friends.
  • Serenading phone calls from my parents who definitely sing with feeling. I may need to tape this next year.
  • Reading birthday cards written with invented Portuguese spelling by a Kindergartener who used to live in Brazil.
  • Smiling after being surprised by my library family who shared cake, tea and snacks with my friends at work.
  • Reading Emails and receiving hugs from colleagues in the hall.
  • Opening lovely gifts from your new home including presents from India, Tibet, Indonesia and the U.S.
  • Reading special cards and notes and messages.
  • Enjoying beautiful gerber daisies.
  • Sharing a chocolate cake delivered to school from a friend far away who knows how much I like chocolate cake. 
  • Listening to phone messages.
  • Reading Emails and cards from friends far away.
  • Sipping caipiroskas while swapping clothes.
  • Licking fingers during birthday dinners with friends.
  • Deciding which yummy cupcake to try.
  • And smiling at photos of how you celebrated your birthday with your "family" who live in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

It's been a good week. It's been a wonder filled week. Thanks for making my first Indian birthday so special.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Forget the Porridge, this Goldilocks Found Her Just Right Hair Colorist

This blondie is finally the blondie she wants to be.

This year I've feel like Goldilocks at times, but instead of trying out beds or porridge, my evaluation was hair color.

The first stylist I tried made my hair too white.

The second stylist colored my hair a strawberry blonde which this week turned a brassy orange.

And now, after a busy week at work and less than 3 hours (an overseas record blonde record), it's...


It's the little things when you live overseas that give you that little bit of extra happiness sometimes.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Lovin' me some India

So just about 40 minutes ago, we arrived to our hotel. Check-in was a breeze and our room is great.

Since we've arrived I:
1. ate my yummy cheese sandwich from our fabulous hotel in Delhi (Colaba House).
2. swallowed my first dose of antibiotic prescribed by the dr on-call at the hotel. Sadly I know sinus infection symptoms by heart and that mine usually 36 hours later lead to a respiratory infection. I correct diagnosed myself.
3. connected to the internet without any delay.
4. got confirmation from our guide for our afternoon and morning tours.

Loving India and especially that I get to explore it with my parents. Time to rest. Don't wanna upset Mom and Dad. More exploration soon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Looneys have Landed

Sunday morning, very early, the Looneys; well more accurately, Bernie and Maureen, landed in Mumbai.

We caught up until about 3 a.m. Sunday morning.

Then we were up early and began seeing the sights of Mumbai.

We were up again on Monday and again today.  Pictures say more than words so enjoy Bernie and Maureen's first time exploring India.  I've included photos just from our first two days.  Still working on uploading highlights from today.

Actually, I've been able to explore and learn a lot too.

For those interested in itineraries:

Day 1 -  The sights of Mumbai
We started the day by meeting our wonderful guide Manasi at the Shivari Terminus (formally, Victoria Terminus) Station. Hiring a guide, rather than doing it on our own, was important to me since I could just point and read from a book, but instead wanted a chance for my parents, and myself, to truly learn about Mumbai first-hand.  

After touring the CS Terminus and getting acquainted with how many people use their heads to transport goods, we drove around a bit to see more sights of Kala Ghoda including universities along with cricket grounds and St. Thomas Cathedral.  

Then we went onto the Gateway and of course the obligatory trip to the Taj Hotel to obviously use the restroom but also see the beautifully restored dome.  

Our final stop was the Chhatrapati Shivaji Museum which includes history and from the Indus Valley to swords from the Maharajas to the stuffed fowl of India.  

After a jam-packed morning, we ended our tour by eating a light lunch including tartines and of course some dessert, at Le Pain Quotidien, a divine Belgium bakery, in Colaba.  And yes, Mumbaikers, of course we brought home treats for the next day.

Day 2 - Dhobi Ghat and Dharavi tours
Since my parents had their India introduction day on Sunday, we went full on into local Indian life on Day Two.  We visited Dhobi Ghat, the largest laundry in the city.  The dhobis, or washermen, work for about 150 rupees a day (equivalent of $3USD).  Manasi arranged for us to tour with one of the dhobis who works for about three hours (getting up at 4:30) in the morning, and provides tours as a representative of the dhobi association. We paid a small fee to go down into the ghat and truly saw how hard the men worked and their small homes where over 8 men live in one room. Definitely a humbling experience.

Next we visited Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the city. I knew this tour would be hard for us all just feeling overwhelmed and powerless.  Concerned about the children working in factories. The conditions of the workers cutting plastics and dying leather without wearing protective masks. In one area we walked, it was sewer cleaning day. Just so different than our American daily life "problems."  No comparison. Wow.

Toward the end of our visit; and a highlight for me, we went to a school run by an NGO called the Dhavari School. This school was founded and organized by The Art of Living so students not only come to school for half a day; they also receive two meals a day, breakfast and lunch and learn the practice of yoga (to help them balance their lives outside of school along with that within).  As I spoke with the principal about possible opportunities to provide professional development teachers, I glanced to the left and saw a group of kids, about third grade age, completing their Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar).  Possibilities among the despair.

Throughout we were told we could take photos but it's an intimate experience. People are welcoming you into their work and home spaces. I'd rather smile, be polite and learn than snap photos so you'll notice those aren't included.   Definitely a immersion for them and myself, into life in India.

So, they're full on.  Exploring and learning. And I'm loving learning with them, in the taxi, temple and especially on the couch in my living room in India.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Oh the Weather Outside is...

View from my living room window.  That's not real smoke, just lovely Mumbai pollution.
After I decided to move to Mumbai, I began watching the weather forecast.  Just curious.  Many days, when I checked it the Mumbai forecast said smoke.  I figured it had something to do with pollution and the heat.

Now I really know what that means!

It means not seeing the city across a not-so-large inlet.

It means people have sinus infections, sore throats, headaches and a hard time breathing.  I've had the last two today.

It means I resort to doing yoga at home because that walked I planned on doing just doesn't seem like it would be good for my health.

I just knocked on my desk for sea breezes and keeping healthy amidst the smoke surrounding me.  Here's to hoping the smoke clears soon.

Note!  Just read that this is all being caused by a HUGE dust storm coming across the Arabian Sea.  Read more about it here. I really wonder if it'll be gone by tomorrow morning and yes Met Dept, I already know that those allergic to dust should be careful. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Holi Hai! Ginger in Bombay Reporting

Thursday we celebrated Holi.  ASB had the day off and I was hosting a visiting consultant so my celebrating my first Holi in India was not only required as a hostess but also necessary as a first timer.

Holi, which is always celebrated on a full moon, celebrates the arrival of spring with a festival of colors.  The winter's gone so it's time to show spring's colors.  It also means people "loosening" of social norms when it comes to drinking and other behavior.  During Holi people toss/smear/spread colors on each other along with water and dance.  There's other things they do too which you can read about on your own here.

The days leading up to Holi, I'd received tips from my colleagues.  Some said, "Stay inside!"  Others, who realized I was go out to play regardless, suggested to slather my hair and skin with oil.  I did clarify which kind which makes a big difference in smell.  They warned me I'd be a target with my light skin and recently colored hair.
Gretchen, Janine (the visiting consultant) and I headed out early, around 8 a.m. We'd gotten tips to head toward a local fishing village nearby. We wore light colored tops so the colors of Holi would be seen.  Another warning we'd received told us to make sure to wear old bras and undies as those could be stained and also to wear a cami or choose your shirt wisely so you weren't revealing more than you wanted when you got wet.

We were out a bit too early as things in the village were very quiet but we managed to find sleeping pigs and piglets, a group of young women and children spreading colors and some mischievous boys tossing grocery-sized plastic bags of water.  I got soaked.

After that, we headed for a cup of coffee in the market.  As soon as we stepped out of the rickshaw, there were kids playing.  They asked if they could add color, which they did but we moved quickly as you could tell they were excited to add more.  The coffee shop had it's door partially shuttered to keep out the Holi players.

After coffee, met up with friends from ASB to attend a colleague, Payal's, apartment complex Holi celebration.   A safe and fun place to spread color, chase students with water guns and dance.  There were little children sitting in buckets, grandparents trying to stay off to the side to avoid the color and our students chasing us down to share the fun with buckets.
There was music, both drumming and then from Bollywood movies.  There were two inflatable plastic swimming pools.  There were huge plastic drums filled with water.  There even was a rain shower (yes I know water usually is part of a shower but it was fun to be drenched with "rain water" which we don't have any of right now)!

As you can see, more and more color was added throughout the day. Stained skin, hair and hands.

We noticed this on our drive back to Bandra as color-covered people stood in groups by shuttered shops (most closed today due to holiday and also to protect their wares) and waved at us through the windows.

It was a great first time playing Holi and I've got the orange hair, thanks to Will, to prove it.

Blondie + red powder = Ginger Fringe.
Yes, my ear is still a little blue too.  Photo taken by Deb Thomson,
At school yesterday it was fun to see which adults played and which children laughed when they saw the new color of my bangs.  When I told one third grader my sister has red hair, she laughed and said, now we could be twins.  Too bad the color didn't stick to my skin.  Or maybe that's good.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Magic Carpets of Mumbai

Last weekend I went on a magic carpet ride with a couple of friends.  We visited Manzoor's carpet shop.

In the fall Manzoor had a carpet party (there's a party for everything these days), a gathering, at a colleagues' apartment.  He brought carpets from all over Asia.  Iran, Turkey, India and Pakistan were just a few of the countries represented.  At that time, he brought a few carpets over to my apartment that I "tried" out.  Some other friends did too.  Kelli wrote a post about it as well here.

By "try out" I mean that you keep the carpet at your home.  You use it.  Walk on it, lay on it, play board games, whatever.  Manzoor will periodically check-in to see how you like them.  If you've narrowed it down, he'll come by and pick-up those you don't want.

 I've gotta give Manzoor credit.  It's a good business strategy.  Get the product into someone's home so they can see just how much they "need it."  My "trial" forced quick carpet attachment. I found I "needed" one.  One for my bedroom.  That carpet I fell in love with and bought.

From this purchase, Manzoor learned about the types of carpets I prefer, kilims.  My weakness.  More modern tribal designs.  Bright colors.

A couple of weeks ago, Manzoor sent me a text sharing that he'd gotten some more kilims and asked if I wanted to come to his shop and see them.  He said he'd arrange transportation for me and some friends.  Around 11:30, Manzoor arrived to my apartment with a carpet in hand.  A large one that he instantly rolled out onto the floor (I'm still thinking about that one too).

Then we got in the taxi he organized and picked up Jenn and Gretchen.  Manzoor's carpet shop is near Chor Bazaar in the central of Mumbai.  It took just about an hour to get there from Bandra.  It was the first day in a while where just riding in the taxi made you sweat.  Gotta love the heat in the city!

We arrived to a building that was well over 100 years old.  We climbed the stairs that had impressions from years of wear.  We gripped a beautiful railing and saw the exposed wires that we've gotten accustomed to seeing which run along the walls.  We reached the third floor and entered a room.  A room about the size of my apartment living room.  The room was divided into 2 parts.  One part behind a wall seemed to contain a bathroom and kitchen.  We sat in plastic chairs and the carpet shopping or unrolling began.

Carpet after carpet was laid out before us.  Initially, as Manzoor always says, "Just look."  After they had unrolled about 20 carpets, they began to roll them back up. If any caught out eye, we asked them to pull them out and put them to the side.

This process continued for about 2 hours. First they showed us my preference, the kilims.  Then they shared other carpets that he thought Gretchen would like.  At the end of our time, we did a final check.  I found 12 carpets I wanted to try out.  Gretchen found several as well.  Jenn didn't take home any.

So this week, I've narrowed down the field as you can see.  There are still four carpets I'm testing out.  Three in the slideshow and one that I forgot to capture.  I'm taking my time and going to really "try" these carpets out to see if they'll join the other one I purchased earlier this year.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sweet Home Chi-mum-bai-go

Last Saturday night, I joined a few friends for Day One of the Mahindra Blues Festival.

The music was amazing.

The venue was Mahboob Studios in Bandra.  One of the big film studios, in the suburb where I live, that's tucked away behind a popular grocery store that until this weekend, I didn't realize existed. The studio grounds were great and the set-up perfect for the evening.  Complete with fancy flush port-o-potty toilets and running tap water.

There were a few different indoor stages.  We were able to get fairly close to the stage and to find friends easily.  It wasn't crowded so there was room to move, dance and get around easily.

One of my favorite moments of the night was when John Lee Hooker Junior and band sang "Sweet Home Chicago."  Got a little excited about the homage to my home.

It was a fun night with friends out dancing and enjoying music.  I didn't go back for Day Two but definitely will next year so I can hear the original "Sweet Home Chicago" and enjoy some more of the blues.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

Last weekend and the upcoming one, the Kala Ghoda Arts Association is hosting its annual art festival celebrating literature, film, theatre, music, visual arts and dance. It's open from February 4th through the 12th.

Saturday, I went to the festival with Barbara, Mike, Gretchen and Deb.  We arrived early, around 11, when things were just opening.

It was a warm, beautiful day.

I particularly enjoyed many of the sculptures on display, as you can see in my photos.  There were loads of local artisans selling their works, (I bought a diffuser with a lotus blossom design), non-for-profit organizations selling many hand-made items to support their work, beautiful saris, cool clocks and a stage set-up for performers.

A highlight for me included meeting some lovely teenage girl photographers.   A local NGO worked to empower the girls in their community.  They gave the girls cameras to capture family and friend moments.  The girl photographers followed their fathers (as best they could), mothers, sisters, brothers and grandparents in their daily activities. Daily life captured.  Their images included friends holding hands, a father at work in a hole and an adorable sibling eating their dinner.  The girls giggled through the introductions and the compliments.

If you live in Mumbai and haven't gone yet, it's worth a trip.  Beautiful artwork and if you link to their website, there's truly something for everyone.  I'm hoping to head back this Sunday for one of the heritage walks and maybe to connect again with the watch vendor I met as well.  

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Warmin' Up

Over the weekend, well, since Friday, Mumbai's warmin' up.  Think that winter may be coming to an end.  

Mumbaiker in a sweater.  Taken while I wasn't sweating in a blouse and jeans.
On Friday, ASB's Elementary School had its Sports Day.  Yes, American readers and I guess Brazilian too, a day which is usually celebrated at the end of the year was honored on February 3rd.  Why?

Ask a  Mumbaiker.  March, April and May are when it really heats up.  In the past, that's when Sports Day was celebrated.  Luckily I work with loads of smart individuals who pushed forward the date so we could take advantage of the cooler temperatures.

Now that I think about it, I haven't seen rickshaw drivers wearing ski hats in the mornings.  And I've had to shed the sweaters and scarves that were comfortable when I first came back during the day.  Over this weekend just waiting in the sun started to make me sweat.

It was nice while it lasted...
 Goodbye winter.  Hello spring which really feels like summer.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Flower Power

On Sunday morning, Mike and Barbara invited Deb and I to join them for a trip to the Dadar flower market.  I'd seen photos on Facebook from colleagues who'd visited before our holiday break and knew it would be a great place to explore, take a few photos and perhaps make a purchase.

We arrived to the market around 10 a.m.  The flower market, which immediately at the bottom of Dadar  Station steps, opens at 4 a.m.  I wondered what we'd be able to see going later in the morning.  Would there still be flowers and sellers?  Would we be greeted by brooms instead?  We definitely were not disappointed.

The market is a small area in and around the train station. Much of it is a narrow lane that crosses under the road overpasses and into the street on the other side.

Flowers are used in so many celebrations in India and this market is one that merchants and shoppers from across the city come to buy flowers as gifts, garlands for religious celebrations and we even saw a car draped in flowers for a wedding.  I'm sure during festivals, such as Ganpati or Diwali that the market is ten times as busy.

Baskets of marigolds, rose petals and jasmine greeted us.  We tried to keep out of the way while men carried large bags on the tops of their heads through the narrow lane.  It was hard to stay out of the way while admiring the brilliant colors along with flower vendors holding up bunches of roses and pointing out the garlands we should buy.

When it's time for new flowers, I'll definitely visit again and enjoy a train ride while it's still nice and cool in the city.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It's Not Just Coffee, It's...


The news is out in India and apparently in Illinois (according to my mom) that Starbucks is coming to India.

The Seattle Times says that between September - December of 2012 (only a mere 50 stores) with them opening in Mumbai (yes!) and Delhi.

For me, it's a little slice of home in a cup.  For India, however, it's a mix of emotions.  I read about the news last evening in a Times for India article.  People are weighing in on Starbucks' arrival.  They note the cost of a cup versus the poverty here, the globalization of brands like Starbucks, taking away business from Indian coffee chains, the weather (according to one person it's too hot in India for a large cup of coffee) and the youth using it as a status symbol.

Can't argue with some of the complaints and when I think about the U.S., we have some of the same issues but just not at nearly the extreme level as in India.

For me, I like Starbucks.  I've tried others here and just haven't been as happy here.  When I get a coffee, latte or cappuccino when I'm out, it's not that it's about Starbucks, it's just no place has delivered what I wanted.  Some of it is that I'm in a tea drinking nation so rather than complain, I sip my coffee with extra sugar, order some yummy masala chai (tea) or just make my coffee at home.

I'm looking forward to my first Starbucks in India and also for my next Starbucks shot as well.  Oh and as a friend said on Facebook, a new mug too.

Seattle Starbucks, the original outside Pike's Place Market

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Oh the weather outside is...

Lovin' this Mumbai weather.  Sunsets on rooftops with friends.  Beautiful places with lovely people and a few drinks too.
Dome @ the Intercontinental
Lately the temps have been in the 80s during the days with wonderful breezes.  No humidity.  Then at night the temps drop into the 60s and 70s.  My kinda weather.  Trying to make sure I get out and enjoy it as much as possible.  

Definitely did last night.  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

My Pad #2

Earlier this week and last I'd shared posts about water and my apartment.  I realized that I haven't shared an update and I've had a few inquiries so, here's the latest news with my pad.

1.  My geyser
School came and replaced the geyser which had crashed down earlier in the week.  I've got a new one but you may notice it's not quite in the same spot.  I'm sure there's a reason...  And more importantly I have warmish water again.

2.  My new desk
My apartment's is smaller than the one I had in Brazil and of course than the Goo's townhouse so I've been struggling with furniture arrangement.  This week I had a large table taken out because it was just too big and in its place I created the little office nook I wanted and needed.  I found a great console at Sanctum last weekend that I can see using here for a desk but in the future for another purpose.

3.  Curtains and Couch

No photos yet.  Tomorrow night I should (cross your fingers) have new curtain linings.  The couch fabric came in but was MUCH darker than what I ordered. Tomorrow night when the tailor comes to install my curtains, they're also bringing the couch fabric for me to check.  The shop I'm working with has had good customer service.  They've been helpful with the wrong fabric order and with helping to get the right plastic holders for the curtains.  I just need to remind myself to exercise a little patience, I can do that.

4.  Furniture rearrangements

I think I have pretty good design sense.  Thanks Mom for that.  With furniture and art arrangements, I also to like things a little askew or off.  I'm not a fan of straight lines so I play when I move things around.  Like my desk area.  You saw there are two pieces of furniture.  I spent 20 minutes playing with the angles and eventually found the option I liked best.  So, you can see the problem.  I've got ideas but I have to physically move everything inch by inch to get there.

I've been messing around a bit with layouts.  So, here are a couple of new ones for now.  I'm trying to bring more light into my place so I hope this new bed arrangement helps.

It used to look like this.

The living room is another problem for me.  We're gonna give this a try for a while.
It used to look like this.

I figure I'll try it out just to see which arrangement works better in the space.

So, that's the latest from my pad.  This week my goals include getting those curtains in, the couch recovered and visiting the framer to finally get some art on my walls.  Updates to come I'm sure.