26 January, 2012

The Best of My India Pictures

I uploaded a project to my portfolio compiling my favorite photos I snapped while in India. Take a peek!

Capturing India

Cheers folks. :)

08 January, 2012

The Blogging Recommences on my Personal Blog!

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
~Martin Luther King Jr.

For those of you who have enjoyed my blogging during my internship at Innopark in India, thank you for inspiring me to keep going now that I'm back in America. It is my hope that you will enjoy reading my personal blog from here on out, which I hope to continue in a similar style which I fell in love with while I was in India. I am just as proud of my experience and what I accomplished in India, if not more so, than any design project I've ever done. It was an experience that tested me, challenged me, and helped me grow into a more open minded and stronger person.

In some ways it's been very difficult to reacclimatize in US, although in different ways than was difficult in India, as I have explained briefly before, and life in suburban America never seemed so tame. Now that I've been back in America for a couple of weeks, things have settled down, I'm adjusting again, but still everything seems different. It's like life here has stayed the same, but I'm different, I see it through a different perspective. Since it's winter, even the sky is grayer and the scenery is duller, which is why every year I look forward to the spring and the new green growth it rejuvenates. The thing about coming back home is that home isn't the same, because I'm not the same, and I don't really know how to describe it any other way than that. Anyone who has gone through a transformative process of self will understand what I'm talking about, and won't need any further explanation.

And for the first time in my life, now that I'm back from India, I have no certain plans for the future. I don't have college courses starting next semester, no campus clubs and organizations I'm volunteering for, I'm graduated from college, and I've never had more freedom. I'm working on my portfolio so I can get a job, and quite frankly not having concrete plans for the first time ever scares the shi* out of me. Then there are those "expectations" to live up to and all that jazz about getting job and being successful.   It's something no one seems to want to say, but freedom can be intimidating. What I want most is to find a job that I will be happy in, and you know, make enough money to live off of and pay bills. Everyone wants to be positive and have a can do attitude, and trust me, I'm all about being positive and optimistic as much as possible, because if you don't your thoughts will eat up any enjoyment of life you may have, but it can still be hard at times.

In school, everyone wants to be out in the real world, but in the real world, sometimes you want to be back in school where reality doesn't really exist yet. Where, in my case, you regularly spend nights with your college classmates making midnight coffee runs and working on design projects until 3 am until you nearly fall asleep at your computer. Then, suddenly, upon graduation, the familiarity of life and routine disappears, and the people you've seen around the Applied Arts building for the last 4 years you wonder if you'll ever see again. What follows is generally moving in back home and job searching, true on both accounts in my case, praying to God for a job, and a good job at that, to use that expensive degree. With the economy being what it is, and the design industry always competitive, it's hard not to judge the value of our work by comparing it to others. A designer's work is our blood, sweat, and tears, literally that's what it takes, some people may think I'm being dramatic, and in a way I wish this was an exaggeration (exacto blade injuries anyone?). It is like a part of the soul visualized in colors, and shapes, and typography. It is our perspective of the world, it is a rendition of thought, it is a sort of abstract autobiography, and it's hard not to want a positive acceptance of our work, nay, dare I say it, acceptance of our soul??? And if I've learned anything as a person, as an artist, as a designer, nothing is such a hindrance or so dangerous to our well-being, to our creative livelihood, to our confidence, as doubt. If you don't believe in yourself, how can you expect others to? By this, I don't mean you should be cocky, overly cocky designers are just annoying, but retain a quiet confidence, and part of that confidence is learning how to take constructive criticism and grow from that. The best designers are the ones able to look at their work critically, humbly, and unbiased so they can make it the best it can be, and encourage others in their pursuits as well. If I could change one thing about how I designed in college, it would be to focus on being the best designer I myself could be, not compared to anyone else, focused on developing my own design style and artistic personality, and I feel like this is difficult for a lot of design students. I feel like the competitive tendencies in the classrooms sometimes stop people from helping each other out and helping each other grow, and you'll never be a good designer if you don't listen to input or give input to your fellow students, you learn so much that way.

After my experience in India, I hope I'm one step ahead in getting what I want out of life. I have never been able to write such honest thoughts for a public audience before, but something about being in India gave me the confidence I needed to do so. I hope at least somewhere out there, it has inspired someone. If you are so inclined, please feel free to peruse the blog I will be writing in from here on out, The Blog of Kelli Fox, at your leisure, and I will attempt to keep it lively and interesting, and most importantly, honest. It will also be filled with design updates and projects I'm working on or have recently finished, as well as other random things I deem blog worthy.

If you read my blog, you will know the real me, the real me that I am in real life. I would hate for someone to say, "Wow, you're a totally different person in real life than in your blog." So here's to keeping it real, folks.


"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."
~Sylvia Plath

25 December, 2011

The Christmas Special: And That's Why Indians Think Americans Are Crazy About Their Pets...

"We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup." ~Buddy the Elf, Elf

This is not a super amazing blog post I have to say, but since I showed what Diwali was like while I was in India, I decided to post a tiny bit about Christmas, America's version of Diwali for people in India to see a few traditions in case anyone is curious. Although it was a "Brown Christmas," if there's one time of year we hope for snow it's always on Christmas so we can have a "White Christmas," it was still a nice one.

I did a little Christmas baking with my mom a couple days ago. I made a very common version of what we call "Christmas Cookies" which are sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles. Using cookie cutters, I cut the dough into different holiday shapes such as Christmas trees, stars, and bells.

The finished product after my expert decorating!

In case anyone from India wants to see a real American Christmas tree, decorated with the ornaments, lights, the angel on top, and the presents underneath which people will open on Christmas Eve or Christmas day. My family usually gets together Christmas Eve and Christmas day, and opens most gifts on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day morning is reserved for "Santa's" gifts... My family always has a fake tree, but many families will also get real pine trees for their home.

As my family was opening up our Christmas gifts, each gift labelled with a "to" and "from," I couldn't help but remark on a recurring label. My mom, bless her, labels gifts to and from Sammy, our family dog. Sammy Fox apparently has done quite a bit of Christmas shopping this year, as many gifts were labelled as being given by him. Miraculous, no? And that, yaars, is why Indians think Americans are crazy about their pets... I remember people from India also thought it was hilarious that I gave my dog a surname, and Americans will often give their dog their last name like I did. This reminds me I also forgot to mention a little thing that was pretty great. Some friends of mine gave me a Christmas gift and on the "from" label put "MN yaars" (aka Minnesota friends), which I thought was hilarious and nicely sentimental. Thanks guys :)

Christmas for me is mostly about spending time with family and extended family, eating a couple elaborate meals and sweets, listening to Christmas music, opening gifts, maybe watching a Christmas film, and going to Church. Then today I also relaxed, played games with the family, played guitar and piano, and then when my family started watching a football game (as in American football, not soccer) I blogged!

I've had several people request me to continue my blog, so I am deciding exactly where to go with it. I may continue blogging on a different site. Unfortunately, the type of blog posts that are the most rewarding to write and share also take up the most time and energy. But it means so much to me to have so many people write comments on my blog or facebook, or tell me personally how much they have enjoyed reading what I have to say. And I have found over the past three and a half months how much I really do enjoy writing and want to continue writing in some way, shape, or form. I promise I will do my best and see what I can do in the future. Regardless, I will keep my readers posted on blogging plans...

That's it for now. Happy Holidays everyone and all the best for the New Year!

22 December, 2011

The Return Journey and American Acclimation

"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
~Winston Churchill

"There's always room for a story that can transport people to another place."
~J.K. Rowling

My own personal saree, tailor made according to my measurements. First I picked out the material, then was measured and chose the design style I wanted for the blouse. I also had my saree made as a "ready-made" saree so that the pleats were sown in and I wouldn't have to remember how to wrap it, because it's fairly complicated to learn how to wrap a saree.

Before I delve into the reverse acclimation in America, I would like to thank everyone for their support, encouragement, and motivation throughout my 3 months in India. As I now view the stats on my blog, I can say that at this point my blog has had approximately 3000 PAGE VIEWS since I started it a little over 3 months ago, which is roughly a thousand page views per month!!! This is fairly astounding to me, as I never expected so many to anticipate my posts, but it has been just as rewarding, if not more so, for me to blog, and the fact that others have been interested in what I have posted makes it that much more rewarding. I hope that I have at least in a small way reduced stereotypes and provided an honest view into a culture halfway around the world.

I don't think I knew how hard it was going to be to leave India until I got to the airport to board my first flight out of Hyderabad. My last day in Hyderabad was full of goodbyes and farewells to my many new friends who wished me well in the future, hoping we would meet again.

Hyderabad, India

Delhi Airport

Delhi, India
In case you're wondering, yes, I'm THAT dork who will take pictures from my window seat on the airplane, watching the ground every take-off and landing with awe. And yes, I'm 22.

Munich, Germany
It was really kind of entertaining because several flight attendants on the plane ride from Delhi to Munich started speaking to me in German, and as soon as I gave them a blank look on my face as I tried to comprehend what they were saying, they were like, oh, English? Yes, please, English! A few times I knew what they meant if they were giving directions in the Munich airport, having quite a bit of experience at this point with communicating with people that I don't speak the same language, but what a riot. The funny part is that if they would have spoken to me in Hindi I would have had a better chance of grasping the general idea of what they were saying than German (not that I'm anywhere near fluent, mind you, in Hindi), but German I don't speak a lick.

The Munich airport is the only place I have ever seen indoor designated smoke zones like this, and there were multiple spots. The Camel Smoking Zone is specifically designed for smokers to light up in.

Chicago, IL, USA

St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN, USA
The last stop... I can still hear the relief in my mom's voice when she knew I had landed safely...

When I returned to America, one of the first things I did was have a sip of tap water from a drinking fountain because I knew it was safe, and it was the weirdest feeling. I can really appreciate the fact that the US has such an abundant supply of safe drinking water right out of the tap, hot and cold water straight out of every faucet. Americans really have no idea how luxurious our lives are, things like clean drinking water we take for granted, and yet, it is such a privilege to be blessed with that. And Americans don't have the constant power outages for a few hours a day, or the chance that there won't be any water pressure for a couple hours at a time. I remember several mornings in India going to take a shower, and wait, no water! The cities in America are cleaner, more spread out, and much, much quieter. There isn't a constant flow of honking in the streets. Driving for the first time again also felt very strange, opposite side of the road and the car, and people actually follow the traffic rules! I am really not enjoying the weather which has been about 0 C, or 32 F, which considering it has actually been a fairly warm winter so far, it's predicted Minnesota will have a brown Christmas, instead of the usual white Christmas, a rare thing in the Midwest USA not to have snow this time of year.

Since I've been home I've also been enjoying the simple things, like having an American cup of coffee, beer at a bar with friends, salad, pasta, pizza, and peanut butter sandwiches. Yet I will say I miss Indian food and the flavor, I think I will try my hand at cooking up a few things here that I always liked to eat in India. My first morning home I had my first bowl of cold cereal and cold milk in over 3 months and at first I was really excited, and then I took a few bites and was like, oh, this is kind of bland... For dinner one night my mom made tacos, a Mexican dish generally consisting of tortillas (America's version of roti/chapati except it's store bought, pronounced tore-tee-yas), cheese, tomatoes, onions, optional beef, and lettuce. The American way to eat it is to put all the ingredients inside the tortilla and wrap it up, but it just felt too strange for me to eat it like that after India, so I tore my tortilla into strips and scooped up the toppings just like how I would eat a roti and curry.

I like the fact that I'm in the same time zone as friends so I can just call them up again. I look around and I'm not a foreigner anymore, I don't stand apart, I'm much more normal, and that actually is very comforting. I love that my grandparents can have a 15 minute conversation about how long they think we have been or will be, waiting at a red stop light. Speaking of which, people from Innopark might be interested to hear that my Grandparents took me to experience my first real life casino gambling experience yesterday! Basically broke even, but learned how to play a poker game called Deuces Wild, and witnessed a lot of slot machine gambling.

About a week after my arrival back to America, I've almost completely adjusted to the time difference of 11.5 hours, which really threw me off at first having my nights and days flipped. So now I'm feeling much better after a good couple nights of sleep. On top of that getting sick the last weekend in India and traveling home with virtually no voice didn't help things. Overall, it really has been quite strange adjusting to life again in America, and slightly overwhelming at first, still not nearly as difficult as adjusting to India, but I would say difficult in different ways, and physically and emotionally difficult in different ways.

Leaving India was definitely bittersweet. Wonderful to be home to see the "3 F's" family, friends, and familiarity (yep, I just made that up), and yet very sad to be leaving India because I know that I will really miss it. I miss the chaos, the daily adventures, the food, the crazy routine my life took on, and the people, I have many friends I want to keep in touch with! What made life challenging also made it exciting. But I hope to always continue the ultimate journey, the endless journey, the journey of self.

It has been so awesome to see college and hometown friends again, and to communicate in my oh so familiar American English, not having the frequent language barriers anymore. It really is such a wonderful feeling coming home to people that are so happy to see you again, and now I've got a few thousand crazy stories to add to the fun. My friends here tell me I seem so relaxed now, so much more confident, so comfortable, and more direct. And really, daily life just seems so much easier again in my familiar environment. And I know that this new sense of self I wouldn't have discovered without going to India, it changed me as a person.

I think that there are often things that people like to read, but don't want to personally write, either out of sense of privacy, fear, or not wanting others to be upset at their views. I hope I have provided through my blog a small outlet that can help people voice tough or contrary opinions, to stand up for what they believe in, and to be more accepting of people in general. It's not easy to publicly write things that are deeply personal, or that you think others might not agree with, it hasn't always been easy for me, but that's really the only kind of writing that can make an impact. And then something really amazing happens, as soon as you begin to open up more, it becomes easier and easier, and you become happier that you are being more honest, and then you keep expressing your true and honest opinions. And then you start becoming more of the person you want to be, and you're more satisfied with yourself that you're not scared anymore of being what you really want to be, behaving and believing how you want to behave and believe.

When I look back to who I was as a person just starting college, I can't believe how much I've changed since then. If you would have told me I was going to live 3 months in India, I would have thought you were suffering from some sort of mental illness. You never know where life will take you if you are willing to work for it, and recognize an opportunity when it comes. Stay committed, to all my design friends, if you love design, then really love design, live design! But also stay inspired, do things that inspire you just for the heck of it. In order to be a better designer, you also need to experience life, take up a hobby, read a novel, learn to play an instrument, go for a walk, or travel abroad. Because if you don't take the time to do things that make you happy, you'll be waiting your whole life to start enjoying your life. And what's the point if you're not enjoying life?

So now as I enjoy the holiday season, I know I will be applying for jobs soon in Minneapolis, which is still an intimidating prospect, but I hope that the adventure I have gone through has better prepared me for a life and career ahead. I have grown as a designer, but I have also grown deeply as a human being, and I hope it is a journey which never ends.

"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough."
~Mae West

09 December, 2011

A Little Heart-to-Heart

"Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world."
~Marilyn Monroe

"I'm a new soul
I came to this strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit 'bout how to give and take
But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear
Finding myself making every possible mistake"
~Yael Naim, New Soul lyrics

I won't claim that I'm a poet, but I believe in posting things that mean something to me, and the following poem means something to me:

This is the story about a girl, who was struggling when she arrived in a foreign world.
At times she felt lonely and at times she felt blue, at times she felt very homesick too.
Life was so strange and so new and so different, it was difficult to retain her shaky confidence.
She was often at a loss as to what to say, at a loss as to how to behave.
And then she started to open up and share her worries, she learned the names of clothing and curries.
She said what she meant, and meant what she said, she got up on the right side of the bed.
She grew out her nails and painted them pink, she wrote a few verses in order to think.
She learned just because she kept it classy, didn't mean she couldn't be sassy.
She sang a song to herself each day, to remember the little moments that took her breath away.
She walked into work every morning with a smile, and left every night with a cheerful goodbye.
She decided her troubles weren't really so bad, there was always something for which she could be glad.
She learned she had met real friends, upon whom she could depend.
She learned it doesn't matter here or there, people are people everywhere.
She walked with a little more bounce in her stride, she believed kindness was more important than pride.
She knew she couldn't change the entire world with her heart, but she could change herself and that's a start.
She dared to dream, she dared to live, she dared to share, she dared to give.
She had a thousand million plans, goals that stretched far beyond her own wingspan.
Dreams for the future, dreams for the now, dreams in her thoughts, dreams she voiced aloud.
She knew that never is a kindness too little or small, to not be important at all.
She believed in many impossible things, she believed in the wonders that life can bring.
She knew that below the surface of books and looks, there was a girl who just came out of her nook.
And suddenly she knew a bit about herself, something that she couldn't find atop her bookshelf.
And that's a beautiful thing, you know, learning to let yourself go, grow, and glow.

It's amazing how much a place can change you. I feel so different from when I first arrived, it seems like a million years and yet just yesterday that I stepped off of the plane and onto unfamiliar soil. Often people ask me how I've liked Hyderabad, and I can't even begin to sum up my experiences in one sentence. The closest I can come to is, overall, it's been good. But how do I describe to people in just a few words the initial culture shock, mentally, physically, and emotionally, as well as the constant and ongoing language barriers, the cultural differences, the steep transportation learning curve, the complete absence of anything or anyone familiar, and sticking out like a flamingo in a snow storm whenever I step outside? Add to this homesickness and loneliness, difficult to resolve visa paperwork issues, and establishing new social connections, and you have the making of a real survival challenge. And yet, I am so glad to have come and experienced this, which has undoubtedly made me a stronger person. Talking to so many new people, living here, and experiencing a completely different culture has taught me that, on the inside, how similar people actually are everywhere. Once I began to adjust to vast cultural differences, and understand the culture and people better, I began to realize on a deeper level that everywhere people still have many of the same fears, hopes, dreams, goals, and most importantly that we are all human beings. And no racial, religious, or cultural differences should stand in the way of seeing each other as such. And you know what? I can be just as sarcastic here with my friends as my American friends, humor is also everywhere.

I think it's also important for me to note that, I hope I have shown that Americans are also real people. The behavior of celebrities and the scandals in their lives aren't how the majority of the population lives and behaves. How life is in American movies is also not exactly accurate as to what life is like in America, just like Bollywood films don't represent the lives of a 'typical' Indian, whatever that may be. We get such distorted images from the media about cultural differences of people around the world who are different from us, creating twisted stereotypes, either positive or negative, of foreign lands and peoples. This is so unfortunate and has created so many unjust biases and prejudices. No country is so perfect or so awful as the media will portray it as, India's not perfect, America's not perfect, nowhere is perfect. There is no existing utopian society, but I think if we take the time to realize that everywhere people are people, the world can start to become a better, more accepting place.

Life will certainly be much easier in many ways returning to America, but I will miss life in India and all the craziness and chaos, the excitement and new adventures. And then I will get to dive into the joys of portfolio revising and job searching. I don't really know where life will take me after this, but wherever my path leads, I know that I have a new sense of self, new foundation of confidence, and I am more ready to take on new challenges that will come my way. It is a very empowering feeling that long-term traveling gives, no longer a tourist but a traveler, learning how to live in a culture and way of life completely unfamiliar. It makes you see possibilities. And I hope to always continue experiencing life with a sense of adventure, appreciating the simple things, celebrating the small things, being thankful for the important things. I hope to continue to grow into more of the person that I really want to be, instead of the person that people expect me to be. To stand up for myself when I strongly believe in something, to stand up for others when they cannot stand up for themselves. And I hope I more often have the courage do what I strongly believe to be right rather than what is easy. It's important to really sit down and think about life, otherwise before you know it, life could be or be taking you somewhere that you don't really want to go. But the good news is, you don't have to stay there, you can change.

"It's never too late to be who you might have been." ~George Eliot

On a random note, I was learning a few more Hindi phrases, and words like "must" and "zabardust" which mean wonderful, when someone told me the word "jakaas" also means wonderful. Honestly, when I first heard it I did a double take, because it sounded a LOT like the American word "jackass," which I promise does not mean "wonderful" haha... I also learned this useful phrase, "Mene kuch nahi kia!" which means "I didn't do anything!" And if I really want to tell an auto driver to "Get lost," I could now say "Dafa ho jao!"

Last weekend I also saw my first movie in a theater, and I thought it was interesting that all movies in India will have an intermission, or an interval as I guess it's also called here. In America, our movie theaters never have intermissions, no matter how long the movie is, only if you go to a live theater performance will you have an intermission. Theaters here show movies in 3 languages: Telugu, Hindi, and English.

The most unfortunate part of my return? The weather...and this isn't even the worst of Minnesota winters. One last weather comparison for the heck of it.

"There is a time for departure even when there's no certain place to go."
~Tennessee Williams

01 December, 2011

And Then I Saw A Sindhi Wedding...

"Nitwit, blubber, oddment, tweak."
~Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling

"I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying."
~Oscar Wilde

 This wedding was a Sindhi Wedding, very different from the South Indian Wedding I attended earlier. It was a very classy wedding, very posh. I didn't see the actual ceremony, the couple was already married, but I came with a few coworkers for an afterwards sort of celebration. In India, weddings last several days with lots of food served.

Food tables - so nice to see ONLY vegetarian food options! Hehe, this would never happen in America...

Warm Milk - very tasty. Weddings are popular for the food served, and a great way to try a lot of new foods. Let's just say I came away stuffed, after tasting quite a few new foods and desserts... My coworkers tease me about being health conscious, and they were joking about how many calories everything had, I told them I would just rather not know for the night, the food was much more enjoyable that way. Tried naan and jilebe for the first time, as well as a few other things I can't remember the names of.

I was surprised to find a little American touch! (the caterer had Liberty in the name)

Mandrap - this is where the wedding ceremony takes place.

Pretty lady!

"A day without sunshine is like, you know, night."
~Steve Martin

29 November, 2011

Helpful Expectations

"For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
~Jeri Smith-Ready, Shade

"If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise."
~Robert Fritz

Sometimes I like to go up to the roof of the hostel for some fresh air, and just look. At night, I see the stars, and I recognize the constellation Orien's Belt that I learned many years ago from Star Lab in Elementary School. Halfway around the world in India, I still see the same stars, it's just that I see them from a different vantage point. No matter where you are in the world, you can look up at the same sky and see the same stars, and no one argues whether they are stars or not, there aren't battles over who the stars belong to. And it makes me wonder, how many things is the world convinced are different when we're looking at the same thing from a different spot on the globe? How many problems could be solved and peace reached if people took the time to understand each other, maybe realize they're just calling a star a star in another language, rather than waging war on each other over ignorance and misunderstandings and ill founded hatred. The more I get to know the people and the culture here, the more I realize, no matter where you go, people are always people. And once you learn more about the culture, and understand the people, the more you realize you have more in common than you might think. It can be frustrating encountering the numerous problems that arise in this process of understanding, but the reward is so valuable it's worth all of the language barriers and cultural differences that must be worked through to get there. Seeing a different part of the world has made me more openminded, more ready to accept new ideas, more willing to give people that are different from me a chance.

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."
~Maya Angelou

Last week I went to Shilpa Ramam with a friend for help with bargain shopping. It is necessary to bargain on everything in the open market, but you can get great deals on some beautiful items, cheaper than in the malls. Bargaining in a place like this is an art form. Plus they see a foreigner and they hike up their prices, so good to go with someone who knows the market. Handmade goods abound, such as clothing, shoes, jewelry, woodcarvings, artwork, and stoles.

I also got Henna/Mehindi done, which is quite beautiful.

 Henna at Shilpa Ramam. Henna is like a temporary tattoo that is applied freehand in a paste. It lasts for about a week, and is a brown color. Brides will apply henna to hands and feet for weddings, or it's applied just for fun.

After the paste dries (be very careful not to smear the henna), within a few hours it will start to flake off. Then you can start scratching the rest of the excess off, and underneath the design will be a stain on your skin. The longer you leave the paste on, the darker the color when you scrape it off. 

Handmade and dyed kurtie and Henna 

Hindi me, ye harlem pants hai. (In Hindi, this is Harlem Pants) 

Eating some sort of mithai (sweet), I don't remember the name. First you squeeze out all the juice, then you eat it whole.

Below I have compiled a helpful list of things that I believe make living here easier when they are an expectation rather than a surprise.

What to Expect:
1. Expect that, as a foreigner, you will not look Indian, therefore, you will never, no matter how long you live here or adopt the clothing or the language, be treated as a native.

2. Expect to draw stares and attention wherever you go, most people are very curious to see a foreigner, or "videshi" as it's called in Hindi. More people will remember you than you will them.

3. Expect that you should always have lots of small bills on you, unless you are shopping in a mall, it's hard to get change when paying for things such as autos, parking, and street food.

4. Expect to constantly face language barriers, both verbal accent and slang as well as nonverbal body language, this is one of the reasons I have tried to learn as much Hindi as I can while living here. Even Indians face language barriers fairly frequently because of how many different tongues are spoken in the country, and each state has its own native language. In Hyderabad, and in India, there is no one language that every person speaks. The most common three in Andhra Pradesh are Telugu, English, and Hindi. The new cook in my hostel, unlike the previous who spoke Hindi, speaks only Telugu, no English or Hindi. At least before I could speak a minimal amount of Hindi to get my point across about what food I wanted, but now I can hardly communicate at all, I only know a few words in Telugu, so I mostly resort to hand signals and yes and no responses. Many other people living at the hostel that don't speak Telugu, who only speak English and Hindi or others, are having the same problem with communication. The other night one guy was attempting to speak to the cook in Hindi, she was responding in Telugu, and they kept getting louder and louder, neither of them able to get their point across, and I just had to laugh.

5. Expect to face insane traffic any time of the day or night. Take extreme caution walking on the side of the road and especially crossing streets. Crossing streets is more like "weaving" streets around traffic.

6. Expect to walk past garbage on the side of the road frequently, and expect the smell of the air to be polluted. Expect roads to be bumpy and the sides unmaintained.

7. Expect that sometimes you will find genuine people that are perfect strangers to help you out in case of communication problems, as well as people trying to rob tourists blind (such as auto drivers).

8. Expect to need to prod people often to remind them to do things. It's not annoying here, it's necessary. A day is like a week, and a week like a month.

9. Expect to feel very homesick at times, it's natural during an extended stay in a foreign country, surrounded by unfamiliar territory.

10. Expect stomach upset upon arrival when adjusting to new climate conditions and food, or if you eat something that doesn't agree with you. Always drink bottled water.

11. Expect to wear pants in 100 degree F weather.

12. Expect paperwork to be a hassle and never go smoothly, and to get a different answer depending on who you talk to.

13. Expect to see beggars on the street whenever you go outside.

14. Expect to see a juxtaposition of very rich and very poor right next to each other.

15. Expect to see wild dogs roaming the streets constantly. They're fairly harmless and inactive during the day, but just be careful around them, especially at night. I often also see cows and chickens near garbage sites.

And now, as I have begun listening to Christmas music (being post-Thanksgiving I immediately started up the holiday tunes), I'm looking forward to the holidays, to be being with friends and family. Yet I am also sad to be leaving India, leaving my home of the past 2 and a half months, leaving wonderful people and the chaos of Hyderabad, just as I'm really getting the hang of things here. I think that going to another place, observing a new culture, and meeting new people makes you reevaluate your own culture, your own home, your own beliefs. It makes you more open minded, more understanding, and I'm not really sure if I will fully realize how I've changed as a person until I go home and am surrounded by familiarity once again.

"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do."
~Edward Everett Hale

"If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner."
~Tallulah Bankhead

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be."
~Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul